The Test: End of Day 2.

Ah, ’tis the Spring of my Content.  (Apologies to Willy Shakespeare.) Because the Test continues.

COB (colleague of blogger) felt bad that I thought he was stacking the deck against my being upbeat for one month (the Test), so he was in and out of my office all day saying cheery and pithy things.   He also wants to be known as THE COB, because there can be no other colleague who merits mention in the blog.  Well, he is right about that.

I am trying, really.

But there is so much static interference.

Yet, I didn’t curse the man who crushed my arm by swinging open a door and catching my arm. The EXCRUCIATING pain only lasted a few minutes and the bruise is not so bad.  So, I remain cheery and hopeful and am spreading that karma like a boomerang, I tell you.

I am waiting for POB (partner of blogger) for our Wednesday night date.  I arrive early and sit at the bar. The drunk man at the other end (who is talking too loud to be ignored) is pontificating to his poor date about 1888 Germany being an example of an evolved society. Funny, how it devolved into chaos and demagoguery in just a few, short decades. But I digress.

Ok, so I am being grateful for all that I have and now I hear the drunk man claiming that, although he is Caucasian, he is Indo-European because we all descended from that part of the world.  So, now he gets to go off on Indians and Europeans.  Whoa.  He needs to stop, because even I am offended and our family fled Germany and Central Europe.

But using his theory, he can rail on whomever because we all came from Adam and Eve.  He, on the other hand, definitely came from apes or, possibly, the ever-adaptive rodent family.

Ok, a history book is committing suicide every minute this guy speaks.

I am good with his being pedantic, insufferable, and patronizing because I am focusing on the good in the world notwithstanding the current chaos. So, THE COB, you haven’t won this bet yet.  I am in a good place.

But I am drawn again into his conversation because his date is countering his ramblings with a little fact checking. Mobile Google is awesome. She is in solid fighting form now that she decided there is no future in him.   So, if I could paraphrase, “Dumb@ss, you got your facts from reenactments on the History Channel”.

He realizes, too, that this date is going nowhere.  So, he says he is rich. Dude, you need the wealth of a Saudi prince to save this date and she sounds like she has too much pride for that anyway.  Good for her.  Tragic for you.

Now this is adding to my month of contentment and karmatic equanimity.  Boy meets girl, gets drunk and offends everyone within earshot.  Girl ditches boy with facts, fabulous diction and perfect grammar.  Boy tries to get girl back with money.  Girl gets the check.

In full disclosure, I negotiated a clause in the Test that I could think about the people, not only in Japan, but all over, whose lives have ended, or been upended, by natural and man-made disasters.  So, in the midst of my ramblings, I don’t forget about them and their suffering.  I hope that relief comes in time.


I hopped a cab tonight because I really, really, couldn’t deal with the humanity that crowds the subway.  Well, actually, it was late enough that the trains wouldn’t be crowded, but still.  There was a chill in the air (frigid, perhaps) and I needed to get home.  A long-ish day.  Not like the “old days” but then again I am not in my 20s or 30s any more (barely still in my 40s).

The cab driver was talking on the phone.  His driving skills were basic:  if your foot is not on the gas (accelerating in a way that gave a born-and-bred Manhattanite motion sickness), then your foot must be on the brake.

Ok, so I needed him off the phone and off the gas pedal.  Hmmm.  I struck up a conversation.

“Where are you from?”


“What do you think of the elections?”

“I don’t think it will change much.  There will be fighting.”

“Are you from the north or the South?”

“North.  Independence won’t change anything.  People will fight each other now in the South.  Many different peoples.”

“Same problem in the North?”

“Government there is strong.  So, no fighting in north.”

I offered “brutal” as a more apt description.

He said, “way of life there, not here.”

I had no response to that simple statement of relief and admiration for this country.  I asked him what he thought about Egypt.

“Now the world knows what has been happening there.”

I was silent.  Maybe I should have known before.  I just didn’t think about it.

He offered up, “no one speaks to police.  too much bribes and danger.  not here, government is less corrupt.”

I had never thought of our government in terms of lesser corruption.  Not the superlatives we were raised to expect of our government.  But he meant it as a true compliment.

My world view, turned on an incline — “less corrupt” as a compliment and an ideal.

Another lesson in life from a stranger.

WikiLeaks made the world way more dangerous.

Mr. Wikileaks, the self-appointed arbiter of world politics, is a cyber-terrorist and not a crusader.   But the information is not revelatory; but its publication is like yelling fire in a crowded theater.   

And really, is the world a safer place because we know that a diplomat thinks Silvio Berlusconi is feckless and a womanizer? Or that Quaddafi travels with a voluptuous nurse?  This suggests that Mr. WikiLeaks is out to embarrass people and not to save the world.

And does the world (and specifically terrorists) need to know that the US is SECRETLY (oops, WAS SECRETLY) trying to secure some of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal?   And did anyone doubt that the Afghan government is corrupt to its core?

To review.  Before this weekend, we knew, among other things, that:

  1. China is our biggest creditor;
  2. China can be an immense military and economic enemy if threatened;
  3. China views North Korea as a buffer between it and the Western sphere of influence in the Korean peninsula;
  4. South Korea is one of our biggest trading partners and buyer of US goods and thus key to our economic recovery;
  5. North Korea is ruled by lunatics and they have a nuclear arsenal; 
  6. Iran probably has or is about to have nuclear weapons making the Middle East evermore the powder keg of the world;
  7. Secretly every ruler in the Middle East hates Ahmedinejad and wants Iran disarmed;
  8. The US cannot afford to fight another war; and
  9. Hamid Karzai and his merry band of traffickers run one of the most corrupt governments in one of the most ungovernable areas of the world.

Now we know that:

  • The US and South Korea are planning for a united Korea (assuming North Korea implodes) allied with the US which will freak out China;
  • Some Middle East countries (other than Israel) hate Iran enough to want the US to attack;
  • Iran is really close to having nuclear weapons; and
  • Karzai’s brother regularly shakes down countries and is paid millions of dollars in unmarked bags.

Net Gain:  Zero Information. 

Net Loss:  Now countries may have to respond with harsh words, sanctions or firepower because delicate diplomatic balances have been disrupted and bonds of trust breached.  Gee, just what we needed. 

Ramifications:  In this world, this diplomatic crisis could as easily result in political breakthroughs or peace or devolve into war and/or global economic collapse.  

A hero for our times — Aung San Suu Kyi

The Burmese military regime just released the rightful leader of Burma from 20 years of on-and-off house arrest. 

She has committed her life to democracy in the country renamed as Myanmar by the military so much so that she didn’t see her dying husband in London for fear that if she left her homeland she would not be allowed back.

She is a hero by the example of her life and should not be measured by whether or not she brings democracy to Burma.  And no one knows what democracy means to a people under totalitarian rule for at least two generations.

I visited Burma on a lark shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi was popularly elected and then prevented from seating her government.  It was a crazy time to be there.  Stupid in retrospect. 

Burma is a beautiful country with natural and archeological treasures.  

The military desecrates these treasures as easily as it does cemeteries, houses of worship and monasteries.  Some of the country is as ungovernable as are parts of Afghanistan, where tribes and drug trade rule.

A National Day of Sanity

It has been said that uncertain times make great leaders.  That was said about FDR.  But it can make for deranged leaders, like Hitler, and their followers.

The fevered pitch of the extremists in our society have enabled ill-qualified, borderline personalities like Glenn Beck to figure front and center in our national discussion.  (I might add, to give the appearance of even-handedness, that Keith Olbermann didn’t have appropriate credentials when he started Countdown.)

It has even forced a comedian — Jon Stewart — to sponsor the Million Moderate March on Washington on October 30th.  

A totally average (yet incredibly funny) man is taking a stand to tell everyone to sit down, shut up and chill out, complete with signs like ” I may disagree with you, but you’re not Hitler,” and “Got Competence?”

If this goes off well, October 30th should be celebrated every year as the “National Day of Sanity” because, at least, once a year, America needs a reality check. 

Instead of saying things like, “Happy Thanksgiving” or “have a great Memorial Day weekend,”  our national greeting on that day will be:

“Really? really?  You think so?  Really?” 

The Children’s Hour

Every year, before and during Yom Kippur, I wonder if I will forgive G-d.  Then, I wonder if I believe in G-d.  (Ok, the order makes no sense.)

I wonder whether either or both statements are blasphemy, although the rabbi of my synagogue believes that G-d accepts non-believers.  Ok, so I may be in trouble for the first statement.  (Big trouble.)

And even if anyone (other than me) would venture that I had the right to stand in judgment, one has to tread lightly with the One who created Heaven and Earth, etc., because, well, power is as power does.  (If I were to make these statements in my sister’s presence, she would step away from me in anticipation of a lightening bolt striking.  It has gotten so routine that, with an almost imperceptible nod to her, she knows to move for safety and brace herself for the heresy that will follow.)

(As an aside, I wonder why G-d or anyone else would want to hear from me if I don’t have caffeine in my bloodstream and my teeth brushed.  Also, Yom Kippur is the one day each year when you have a guaranteed, no cancel-at-the-last moment date with G-d.  What’s wrong with a little lipstick?)

I recognize that humans created most, if not all, of the problems that are endangering our planet. But G-d let evil and injustice in the world, assuming one accepts the existence of G-d.  (You can see that I am having trouble both believing and not believing.)

Ok, so where are the miracles?  Where is the redemption?

Children.  They are the miracles and they are humanity’s redemption.  (Let me say that I feel this mostly when I am cuddling with my child or checking in on him after he is asleep.  Some of the time I think the devil lives in our house and he is our son, as evidenced by unseemly tantrums.)

Children.  They have wonder in their eyes.  Their emotions are real.  They play with any kid who is around, without regard to differences that parents point out.  They embody the best of humanity, until we ruin them.  They also embody the frustration and angst that we all feel, except they do it in tantrums in shopping malls or in front of our in-laws.  But, compare their tantrums to those adults in politics these days and you’ll find that they are more becoming on a 5 year-old than a 50+ year-old.

Children.  My mother (z”l) and my father always worried about what we were teaching “our” children.  They always looked to the children as a measure of society’s successes and failures.

Children.  Jews only believe in original guilt, not sin, so we are responsible for how our children treat Earth and each other.  In these times, when I feel a little lost and a lot hopeless about our country, our world, our common humanity, I look to the children.  My child, your child, our children.  They can change the world and we have to do our part.

G-d bless the children.

G-d, (assuming you are there), are you listening?  If so, tap me on the shoulder and freak me out.

What is France thinking?

Never known for its warm and welcoming manner, France has outdone itself.

First, it has deported Gypsies, an act condemned by the European Union.  But no sanctions were levied.

Now the legislature has banned burqas — the Muslim full-on veil.  Maybe people — me included — think that it is a little imprisoning to be totally covered at all times.  But the government of a politically democratic (and culturally snobby) country outlawing an outward sign of piety?  What if France wanted to outlaw the kipah (the beanie worn by religious Jewish men and cardinals and popes) or the sheitl (wig worn by religious Jewish women), would there be an outcry??  I think the answer is clearly yes.

Deportations . . . singling out customs of a religious minority . . . hmmm. . . . Is it Germany 1933?  Sad, but true, it is France 2010.

And don’t think this is an aberration.  Belgium and Spain are considering a burqa ban, too.

Lest we forget . . .

First, they came for the Jews.  But I was not a Jew, so I did not speak up.
Then they came for the communists.  But I was not a communist, so I did not speak up.
Then they came for the trade unionists.  But I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak up.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

(Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984))

Rand Paul, the Prophet with the Pitchfork

That crazy Tea-Party-er is good for America.  You’re thinking: some crazy person is guest blogging.  Nope.

Rand Paul is a false prophet.  He is rationalizing our nation’s three-decade long drift into a selfish, ego-centric theocracy.  He is giving us a way to rationalize and even celebrate our nation’s screw-your-neighbor-because-it-is-your-G-d-given-right hypocrisy.  Yes, if we listen to him, we will surely perish.

He lays bear the essential pathos of the Tea Party movement — the fight for white supremacy and control over diminishing resources.  Neo-Nazis and Neo-Klansmen with an apocalyptic rapture.

I am over-reacting, maybe?

  • He said that the President’s criticizing British Petroleum was un-American.  Does being American mean I have to applaud and support corporate greed that despoliates the earth? (Psssst, Randy, BP is headquartered in Switzerland to avoid US taxation).
  • Then he drew a line in the sand — saying that an individual’s right to be a racist is improperly impinged upon by the Civil Rights Act.  (If a black proprietor refused to serve a white man, I don’t believe Mr. Paul would be so sanguine about the protections of the Civil Rights Act.)

No, I am not overreacting.

After thousands of years of human civilization and evolution, it still all boils down to the epic battle between good and evil.  On one side of Mr. Paul’s line is our common humanity and sense of decency, justice and fair play.  All the things that — we say — define us as Americans.  On Rand Paul’s side of that line, there are only Freud’s id, chaos and brutality.

Good versus Evil.  Yes, it is that simple.

One thing leads to another

I started the weekend early by slipping out to go to the ear doctor.  Most people wouldn’t call that the start of a weekend.  But my ears have been clogged and itchy on and off for some time and more and more people have told me that they’ve been to the ear doctor and the problem was wax.  Deriving from a deep-seating egotism or martyrdom — I am not sure — I assumed that the ear doctor would look into my ears, faint at the sight of the wax and then, once regaining consciousness, would suit up (a HazMat, of course) and begin excavation.

He looked into my ears, my ears and my throat.  He said, “No wax.  Your ears are clean.”  He looked at my expression and asked, “You were hoping for serious wax, weren’t you?”  I nodded.  He felt bad.  He said, “I am really sorry, but your ears naturally dispose of excess wax, just the way they are supposed to.  And it just may be allergies causing the itching and clogged feelings.”  I was so dejected.  He started to feel really bad.  He continued, “Look, I kept you waiting for 30 minutes and there was no wax, so I am waiving the co-pay for the visit.”  I protested, after all, it wasn’t his fault about the wax and he apologized for being late the moment he walked in the room, so my anger at that was assuaged.  “No,” he insisted, “give it to charity.”

I walked onto the street and tried to hail a cab during that ridiculous time of day when ALL cabs are “off-duty” — why every cab company must have the shift changing times is beyond me.  I inadvertently cut in front of a guy and ran to an off-duty cab because sometimes the driver will take you if the destination is on his way to the designated shift-changing location.  I felt bad — I don’t usually cut a line and this was right after the doctor waived a co-pay.  The guy looked odd but harmless enough.  So, I offered him a lift to his destination — Port Authority. This is a very non-New York thing to do.  A cab is one’s (rented) private domain from the beginning to the end of the ride.  Don’t get between a New Yorker and his or her cab.  It would get ugly fast.

It turns out the stranger in my cab was a doctor and a sheep farmer near Binghampton, NY and was in the city for a medical conference.  He hates the city and the thought of living on a farm gives me hives.  So, total opposites and that does not bode well for the 20 minutes remaining in our time together.  That is an eternity in a small space with a stranger who somehow feels beholden to make conversation.  And he was clearly not a natural conversationalist.  For example, he mentioned that not only does he get wool, milk but he also gets hides.  Picture a dead Bambi starring in the movie, “The Silence of the Lambs.”  He had noooooo sense of humor and seemed somewhat sad.  When we got to Port Authority, I declined his offer of payment and told him that my doctor waived the co-pay, and telling me to give it to charity and so I am doing the same here.

As the cab driver and I continued on to my destination, I said congenially, “Was I crazy to give a stranger a lift?”  The cab driver looked at me in his rear-view mirror and said, “You seem like a very nice spirit and a professional, educated person.”  I knew that that was a compliment and a way to say he thought I wasn’t crazy doing a good turn for a stranger, but it is fascinating how different cultures and the “immigrant experience” shape our language.  He then asked rhetorically, “You are Jew?”   Turns out Moustafa is a Muslim from Egypt and a civil engineer.  (A weird factoid: he is the third cab driver — all were Egyptian — to ask if I were a Jew.)  We had a wonderful chat about life, happiness and universality of humanity.

It is crazy how a doctor’s waiving a co-pay led ultimately to a conversation with Moustafa.  A conversation that lifted my spirits and reminded me of our common humanity.

Out at Work

I “out”ed myself today at work — not as a lesbian [remember, I am here, I am queer and I am over it] but as a blogger.

While I didn’t give away the site, apparently some of my coined phrases, like “schlepic” — in the passages I cut and pasted for a colleague — can lead straight to this blog.  So, the secret is out.  I will never be on the Supreme Court as a result of my writings.  That’s okay.  First, I am not qualified.  Second, I am one of the few New Yorkers who doesn’t look so good in basic black.  Phew, intellectual and sartorial disasters averted.  Our nation is safe again.

Although, come to think of it, I would dispense justice, tempered with mercy.  As in, “would you like extra fries with your LAST meal?”  I fear that most people would be horrified if every opinion from the bench started with, “Schmuuuuuck, what were you thinking when you . . . ?”  I would imprison people who tortured the words of laws or statutes beyond all recognition to fit their desired ends as violations of the Geneva Convention.  You know, the Geneva Convention, the so-called “quaint” doctrine discredited by Dick Cheney and his highly educated legal “scholars”.  Just using fancy words doesn’t make an idea good; it just makes it high-fallutin’ bullsh@t.  But I digress.  See, I would get on a roll and mayhem would ensue in my court room.  Maybe I should get the Presidential Medal of Honor for having the patriotism not to seek a judgeship.

Anyway, today was a regular day without many gross things to report.  Other than the fact that the Virginia governor forgot that slavery was part of Virginia history.  That’s like a Texan forgetting the Alamo, for G-d’s sake.  But the governor’s omission did hit an impressive trifecta:  gross, idiotic and inflammatory.

And then there is the mining company that put profits ahead of lives and now 25, possibly 29, miners are dead. I think Lady MacBeth found that blood stains your hands forever.  That crazy Bill Shakespeare.  Our very own Elizabethan Nostradamus.

Starvation in the Sudan is at a humanitarian crisis level.  (There are so many centers of humanitarian crisis, wouldn’t it be easier for the UN to list where there ISN’T a humanitarian crisis?)  We really should think about how lucky the majority of us are in this nation (and remember and help the less fortunate).  But, tea party-ers are crying over taxes, which most of them don’t pay anyway.  Children starving in the Sudan.  Spoiled Americans are protesting a functioning government that protects their liberties and provides a safety net from starvation.  Let’s put these two concepts on the scales and balance them.  Ok, why are the tea party-ers still talking?

Associate Justice 40andoverblog of the United State of America.  It has a nice ring to it.