Dear Paul

Dear Paul:

I am not a Ryan, but I know members of your extended family. 

I know you come from such a good family, with strong community values based in religious precepts, like the one about taking care of the poor and the stranger.  Or the other one about not putting a stone in the way of a blind person.  And even though Rabbi Hillel said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” that is totally in sync with the Christian Bible.

Here’s the big problem with your budget:

No amount of spending cuts is going to get us out of the hole caused by waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Libya. 

Paying for these requires tax increases.   (Remember when the GOP just put the Iraq and Afghanistan tabs on the credit card and, oops, forgot to put these line items in the budget??????) 

Cut all you want from social programs, etc.  Go on.  

But one year from now, when the deficit is still essentially as large as it now, there will need to be a tax increase on all Americans. 

All you will have done is gutted the social compact that each generation has with another:  we will not leave those vulnerable in our society — the young and the old — to fend for themselves.   The very social compact that makes America great.

What are you thinking?

The Test

COB (colleague of blogger) is tired of my doom and gloom. (Really?  I thought it part of my magnetic personality. . . .)

And that, in and of itself, is shocking, since COB was discussing that the end of the world could occur on December 21, 2012.  Something about the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus and planetary alignments. Not that COB BELIEVES it, or anything.  But he was just putting it out there.

Probably to stack the odds before he dared me to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  ONE MONTH.

In case you didn’t read carefully enough, I was challenged to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  (COB is a poker player and probably has side bets on whether I will sink into despair in 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 2 weeks.)

I think it is funny that people are talking about the end of the world being in 21 months away, since Japan lies devastated (and its nuclear rods laid bare) by an earthquake and then tsunami, Libya is in civil war, Bahrain and Yemen are in chaos, the Ivory Coast is a bloodbath, we are in two wars, our deficit is out of control, the recession hasn’t ended for most Americans and we have a dysfunctional Congress, and on and on and on.  Sounds like the end of days now.

BUT, I digress, comme d’habitude.

Back to sweetness and light and kumbaya.   A dare is a dare and I have my pride.  So, forget the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Forget images of breadlines during the Depression.  Forget the daily carnage for an acre or two of oil fields.  I am going to be happy, hopeful and cheery, Gosh darn it.

So, here is what I did today to make good on the dare:

  • When I was at the gym, I didn’t tell the stinky man that he was curling my nose hairs, as we took turns on the same machine.
  • I made sure that all elderly, infirm or pregnant people on the bus had seats.  (Yes, I know I am too pampered to hang with humanity, but the recession hasn’t ended.)
  • I swore to POB (partner of blogger) that I would take a time-out from the 24-hours news REcycle, where the object is to scare us more than to provide information.  (Note to self:  If Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper is at the nuclear power plant in Japan, it can’t be releasing THAT much radiation.)
  • I kissed and hugged my son, as I asked G-d (and whomever else with power over these things) to protect him from the chaos.

Not bad for my first few hours of Blogger-High-On-Happiness.

Dragon Wimpering in the Year of the Rabbit

My son keeps trying to teach me how to say Happy New Year in Mandarin, but he is soooooo frustrated with my horrible tones (for those of you who may not know, Chinese languages are tonal).  At the tender again of 8-1/2, he has been taking Chinese for a few years and apparently has really good tones.  But I wouldn’t know since I am obviously tone-illiterate.

As someone totally demoralized by the economic bloodbath of the last few years, I have taken to looking up any horoscope in any culture in a — yes, yes — futile attempt to divine (or control, let’s be honest) the future.

Since it is the Chinese New Year, I looked up Dragon in the Year of the Rabbit.  But that isn’t enough information.  I need to know my elements: am I wood or metal, earth or water or fire?  I always imagined my elements would be like 1920s-30s modern furniture — brushed steel or carved wood structure with fabrics in deep red accents or bright thin stripes.

But, you can’t simply pick what you think works for you.  That is determined at your time of birth.  Not so simple, now that Mom is gone.  But it wouldn’t have been so simple either if she were still alive. Mom gave birth in a classically 1960s way:  she was under anesthesia before the first labor pain and woke up for the hairdresser (surgery can play havoc on one’s slightly poofy, Jackie Kennedy look).

So, even when my mother was alive, she couldn’t say, “I stopped screaming at 3:00pm, so that’s how I know that’s when you were born.”  It would always have been, “Oh, darling, you were born sometime between when I was told to breathe deeply into the gas mask and when the hairdresser woke me for an in-hospital hair emergency procedure.”

So, it isn’t as easy as one might think to get tired, trite and vague prognostications.  I needed information from a third party reliable source.

I got out of bed where I was web-surfing and I started hunting around for my birth certificate.  I found only half of it.  The copy I have was the original copy given to my parents and, well, after 47 years, the part with the relevant information had disintegrated.

POB (partner of blogger) asked if she could help and I told her she would laugh at me if I told her what I was doing.  She didn’t laugh but she did roll her eyes.  The Big Eye Roll. The one that means “I had a crazy day and now you are going off the deep-end trying to find out the time of your birth so you can read some free, on-line horoscope and use that to guide your and — therefore my — life for the next 12 months?”

Ok, she had a point.  I cannot control the future.  I cannot divine whether my loved ones and I will be financially successful, or happy, or healthy or . . . or . . . .  But, crazy is as crazy does, because I keep trying.

Fitch Downgrades Egypt

“Tarek El-Tablawy, AP Business Writer, On Friday January 28, 2011, 2:20 pm

CAIRO (AP) — Fitch Rating on Friday revised down its outlook for Egypt, dropping it to “negative” as mass protests in the country turned violent, engulfing the capital and other cities in the most serious challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in years.

Fitch said it was holding steady Egypt’s other ratings, including its long-term foreign currency issuer default rating, which was held at the investment grade BB+.”


As an aside, rating agencies generally condoned the “froth” and the bubble that almost ruined us financially.

So, here is the picture:  Egyptians are taking to the streets against its government, the military is locking down cities, airports are closed, the opposition leader is under house arrest and Fitch downgrades Egypt’s “outlook”.  But Egypt’s debt paying ability is holding steady, thank G-d.  That totalitarianism for you.   Because even though people are protesting and dying for change, the bills still get paid and the palace is still resplendent.  And no situation is negative until the financial markets say so. I think that is what we have learned from these last three years.

I wonder how many people are reading the articles about the protests, etc., and how many are reading about the financial impact on debt holders.  I don’t want to know the answer, because Jack Nicholson was right in a Few Good Men, I can’t handle the truth.

Calm in between the Storms

New York, along with most of the rest of the country is under a siege of extreme weather conditions. (Can you sa-a-ay, “global warming”?  I knew you could.)

I think it is part of the human condition to look at events like sappy metaphors.  (Proof positive: the popularity of Made-For-Lifetime-Channel movies.)

So, I think about enjoying the respites between the real snow storms as a reminder that we must enjoy the respites between life’s storms.  There are more and more challenges and less and less easy answers.  There is so much uncertainty about jobs, about global threats, about economic, social and emotional recovery in this nation.  As we get older, we understand that good health is a gift and not a right, and that our days are numbered whether they be measured in days or decades.

Now, I look for the small moments, not the big triumphs.   My son was so excited that I picked him up from school today (his babysitter flaked out a little).  He hugged me and introduced me around.  In the cab (of course, I am such a princess), he said, “E-Mom, this is maybe the best part of today.” I wanted to bottle that (even with the “maybe” qualifier). I wanted to record it to play it back when he is a teenager and he hates me.  No such luck (or quick thinking).  But what a beautiful moment in the middle of the calamity we call the “new normal”.

My son has already forgotten those words, but for me, for me, it made me feel as if all was right with the world.

a Day in the Life

This morning, I got on a plane to Chicago for a meeting.   The plan was, that after the meeting, I would take a cab from potential client back to the airport for a plane to take me home.

I hear they have these new-fangled things called telephones and video conferencing that makes one-day round-trip travel less necessary.  Actually, most times, the older and ever more quaint tradition of meeting someone and shaking his or her hand is really the best approach to sealing the deal that turns a potential client into a new client.  But I still need all of the gadgets and technology to meet somewhat far flung potential clients in real time and in the flesh.  So neither alone works as well as both do together, in the right proportions.  (If we are talking about teenagers and adult email/text junkies, then you need to send them to a monastery to start a 12-step program before even talking rationally to them.)

As I am floating along in a technology-induced empowerment daydream (it is early for me, remember), I realize that this morning’s trip is on a put-put plane.  The gangway doesn’t go all the way to the plane.  We have to step outside in the sleet and the rain and jump over puddles (that could qualify as rivers) in order to climb the thin (as in one-at-a-time only), small staircase into our claustrophobic airplane.  So much for my earlier comments on the power of technology.  I am no longer dreaming.  I am awake to the reality of a cold, wet, snowy day with wet feet and barely two inches separating me from my fellow passenger.

There is an woman in row 7 indirectly trying to get the attention of the flight attendant who is attending to things behind row 22. The woman is being very passive-aggressive about it all — telling everyone that the flight attendant is avoiding her.  Clearly, the flight attendant doesn’t hear her.  Finally, I ask the woman if I could help get the flight attendant’s attention.  She responds, “it’s her job to notice me!!!”  Ok, forget the personal touch.  Get me the hell out of this plane.  What is wrong with video conference?  I bet a new rainmaking tactic could be handwritten letters (in crayon, of course) sent by snail mail.  No.  No.  I will not let this woman ruin my dreams of global domination by charming and cajoling and pleading with potential clients far and wide.  No.  No. So I motioned to the flight attendant that the woman needed her.  Had it been an hour earlier, I would have left the plane and took a cab home and hid under the covers.

It seems that the woman — an oversized person — was promised a seat in an exit row because of the extra leg room but she was seated in row 7 — not an exit row.  The flight attendant couldn’t re-seat her until everyone was seated.  The woman was not pleased and she showed it by griping and grousing at an anger level and amplitude that was just criminal at 8am.

Ultimately, she was able to be re-seated in an exit row.  But the seat didn’t recline because there was a second exit row right behind the first one.  (The put-put plane that had more exits than windows.)  Sooooo, slowing our departure further, Goldilocks had to try the seats in the second exit row.  Those seats reclined.  Ah, she found the one that would do ju-u-u-ust fine.  [sigh] Wait, uh oh, the seatbelts don’t fit.  A cruel joke engineered by Papa Bear because he hates when Goldilocks comes, tries everything and leaves a mess.

So, in the end, she moved back up to row 7, opting for a reclining seat over leg room.  I would have opted for leg room with no reclining seat.  Ultimately, I am glad she was not in charge of the exit doors. I didn’t agree with her judgment call.

Goldilocks caused us to miss our place in take-off and we sat for one hour on the runway.  No wonder Papa Bear hates when she comes by, which happens many times, every night, given how many times the story is told on any given day around the world.

Back to my business meeting.  It went well.  Groveling in person is often effective.  Then I got in a cab to start the journey home.

I was able to get an earlier flight, at a cost of $75 (which I bet would have been $50 if I had checked luggage for $25). Regardless, getting home earlier is priceless and I did, in fact, use a MasterCard so I lived that commercial.

As I headed toward the gate, there was a plane boarding to JFK Airport at the next gate (I was flying into LaGuardia Airport). I wanted to switch again because it was another opportunity to get home even earlier.  Unfortunately, the two airports, although 10 miles apart, are considered different destination cities and there is a big cost differential to change destinations. The plane had been delayed for three hours and there was a line of disgruntled people waiting to board.  I decided that if JFK was that backlogged, that I would save money and not be on a plane ride from hell.

But recognizing the potential for delays and angry hordes, and even though I was assured that LaGuardia was running on time, I decided that an upgrade to first class (not too expensive) was in order, as a mental health prophylactic measure.  Sanity, priceless . . . Another MasterCard commercial.  I am living the dream.  And we were delayed on the tarmac before take-off and we circled before landing, so it was totally worth it.  I had plenty of room and I couldn’t smell anyone’s perfume.  Now, that the Sniffer (see prior blog entry) made me aware of perfume, I really appreciated only have that slightly nasty airplane smell we have come to expect.

So this all started on a put-put plane sitting on a runway on a cold, snowy, sleeting morning. And now I am in my jammies, having kissed my son before he fell asleep and then crawled into my cozy bed and smiling at my beloved.

Another day on the road to Utopia.

No pulse

Dick Cheney has no pulse.   Another fact that points to his being Satan.

He had a new procedure (read about it in the Huffington Post — Dick Cheney’s procedure) that inserted a pump that essentially overrides the heart.  As if he had one to begin with.

Let’s set aside whether he should be eligible for a heart transplant at his age and physical condition and whether it is right of the living to go hunting and shoot his friends.

Who in America can afford this procedure without insurance?  He had a pre-existing condition.  Luckily, he is wealthy and has a government health plan that will pay for him.  What about a 69 year-old factory worker? 

The health care overhaul is designed so that we don’t have to choose whose life is more valuable.  So, health care reform is the exact opposite of the “death panel” lies and propaganda. 

In fact, those who oppose health care reform don’t want to kill the Grandpa who is rich like Dick Cheney but they will let the Grandpa who is a retired factory worker die.

Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland

Today was the truest snow day ever.  18 inches of snow in New York City.  Stalled car and buses every where.  Blizzard-scale winds that made me believe in Mary Poppins.  Law firm offices closed.  Let me say that again.  LAW FIRM OFFICES CLOSED EVEN AS THEY TRY TO MAKE BUDGET FOR 2010.  Now, that, THAT, is saying something.  I live in the City and there was no way I was going to make it to the office except by walking, and the blizzard-scale winds would have taken me way off-course.  The Upper West Side of Manhattan is not even plowed 12 hours after the last snowflake fell (don’t they realize that we vote with our ballots and pocketbooks?  Has anyone noticed the UWS demographic has changed????)

POB (partner of blogger) was supposed to go east to the beach with our son (SOPOBAB) and his cousin, our nephew.  Oh, I think Mother Nature is a teeny tiny bit stronger than the sheer will of POB.  Although Mother Nature won, she was bruised and hospitalized.  Anyway, my beautiful prizefighter POB thought that we needed to go sledding.  I thought we needed to drug the boys (just kidding, for all the Child Protective Services personnel who read this).  How else do you keep two rambunctious 8 year-old in check?

So, a-sledding we went.  A winter wonderland.  Sheer, treacherous beauty on West 108th Street.

As I was fretting about the absence of protective gear while trying not to fall down the hill at scary velocity (I remember all too well flying down the hill with SOPOBAB when he was a littler kid.  I also remember buying another life insurance policy the following day, because SOPOBAB would bounce, as children do; I would not have survived another run.)

But, then, life has a way of keeping it all real.  A child, whose family apparently fell on hard times (they must have been slumming by spending year-end at home), stated with disgust, “There isn’t even a hot chocolate shack!” If that were my child, he would be enrolled at military school tomorrow.  Yes, I am passing judgment (and also stating a fact).

Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Aspen anymore. It was so pathetic and sad at the same time that I couldn’t, simply couldn’t, take a picture of the spoiled brat who uttered that line.  Ok, I almost did, but G-d intervened and the battery of my camera failed.  Lucky kid, but karma, as we know, is a boomerang.

BUT, THE BATTERY DID NOT DIE BEFORE I GOT A PICTURE OF A SARTORIAL/PSYCHO-SOCIAL TRAGEDY.  Before I share this vignette, I will note that my own outfit could remind a person of Pippy Longstocking — everything was mismatched in that way that you wear whatever will keep you warm.  In fact, I was wearing a serial-killer hat (depicted in every artist sketch in an all-points bulletin) that made me look particularly deranged and very much like a predicate felon.  But that isn’t what I am talking about.

I am talking about an outfit that could scar a child for life.


Later she yelled at her son who is out of control as he sled down the hill, “watch your kepilah [head]!!!” as if summoning G-d to deliver her from this pagan ritual that assimilation has thrust upon them. The only saving Grace is that this the Upper West Side of New York, with a Jewish population larger than the whole of Israel.  So, we understand.  Because was heard these humiliating stories from our parents as part of their own, very personal, Exodus stories.

A bastardized adage still holds true:

One person’s winter’s wonderland is another person’s proof that Hell DOES freeze over.

Zero sum game.

The lame-duck Congress finished a busy month that had me on the edge of my seat.  Really.  I believe in New START, DREAM Act, 9/11 First Responders Bill, and the repeal of DADT.  I was glad for the middle class tax cuts, but enraged over the need for tax cuts for high-income earners (and I am a high-income earner) because it contributes to the deficit that faces a fast-approaching day of reckoning.

Think what you will about these initiatives and deals, but one thing upon which I hope people of good will can agree is that the passage or defeat of any legislation is not a “win for Obama” or “win for the Tea Party” or win for [fill in the blank]”.  It is about us, our country and our future.

Someone told me something transformative years ago.  In a loving relationship, it should not be about who is right, but rather about whether both people are happy (or okay) with the outcome and remain committed to each other.  A loving relationship is not a zero-sum game.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Sens. Reid and McConnell, please consider our national interest ahead of ideology, what is best for our country rather than best for your political futures.  It is okay to have an “evolving” view; I promise I won’t call you a “flip-flopper”.  Stagnant views are short-sighted and doomed to defeat.

Most of us learned not to throw mud in the sandbox when we were five.  Time you all learned, too.

First, fire the pundits. Second, let’s talk about race.

Yesterday op-ed by Bob Herbert of the New York Times really got me nuts.  It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I don’t care which party “gets it” or not.  That is not even a relevant question.

That we have a president named Barack Hussein Obama is in fact a delivery of his campaign promise of change.  The fact that he is decried as not that much different from other presidents is another delivery of his campaign promise of being President of all citizens, not just blue states.

You see, you may not have noticed, but the President of the United States is African-American.  Now, I am a middle-aged, white, Jewish lesbian (MWJL).  And I have no idea what it is to be anything or anyone other than who I am. But from my perspective (for what it is worth):

The President may be post-racial, but the country is not.  (We are making progress and, as we do, sometimes there is backlash that makes us think we are losing ground.)  The fact of his presidency is a challenge to much of the nation.  The fact that he is continuing some of the Bush policies in matters of war means that his opponents (the Grand Old White Man Party) need to frame his domestic policies as so radical as to threaten our very existence as a nation.  Thus, the charged rhetoric.

Because it is, at least in part, about race.  (Please no eye rolls — I am a MWJL, remember?)

Lest we forget that John McCain and Sarah Palin got a lot of votes and stirred up fears of the end of the reign of the Old White Man.

Remember when he let a little of his anger show when Professor Gates was arrested?  You would think that he created an international incident.  All he did was call the actions of white cops stupid.  Imagine George Bush doing that.  Not even a blip on the radar.

Listen to the racist language of the Tea Party.  These people are scared that they will be treated the way they have treated minorities.  They know that karma can be a painful boomerang.  So, now that the Establishment is run by an African-American, they are fighting the Establishment tooth and nail.

I had an epiphany the other day about DADT.  The President is Commander in Chief of a military run by conservative white men.  When he leads, they need to follow.  So, he needs to show he will listen, too.  So, maybe he needs to protect DADT for now as it winds it way through the courts and the Congress.

The President is the embodiment of the American dream, with the picture-perfect American family.  But he is not a reflection of America yet, but an aspiration of what America can be.  We all have some work to do.