Saturday, April 30, 2005

Caroline or Change

Last weekend on Michael J. Totten's blog, there was a discussion about a series of posts by Neo-Neocon, a woman in her fifties who had been a longtime anti-war liberal, but had become a conservative because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Her posts resonated with Caroline, a commenter in her forties who was doing the same sort of self-examination in the wake of 9/11. She felt that people her age had been thrust into the counterculture, and that it was all they knew. In fact, she stated that she would be shocked to learn that anyone born around 1960 was not a liberal in their 20's and 30's, and that unless one was a political junkie, there had been no reason for them to challenge their political assumptions until 9/11.

I replied that although I was in the cohort immediately before hers--mid to late nineteen fifties--that I could relate to what she was saying about being thrust into the counterculture. But also, I thought that she was:

getting the counterculture and the youth movement confused with the kind of genuine liberalism that moved this country forward from WWII to the late '60s.

My sister, who was born the same year you were, registered as a Republican and voted for Reagan. Only the issue then wasn't terrorism, it was urban crime, and liberals had been positioned by the conservatives as being soft on crime the way they're now being positioned as being soft on terrorism, and before that, soft on Communism.

I'd been disillusioned with the corruption of liberalism into political correctness by 1980 but never bought Reagan or the Right, either. It just looked to me like a different flavor of Kool Ade. I switched from Democrat to Independent.

The commenter replied that my sister and I must have been political junkies.

To me, a political junkie is somebody who's into politics all the time just for the love of the game itself. My interest in politics has been peripatetic, flaring up when a national, social or local situation hits home.

The latest outbreak began with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, when I started hearing the kind of wildly irrational and polarized arguments in my house and among my friends in Real Life and online that I hadn't heard since 1970--and the music had been a lot better then.

As one side or the other tried to drag me into their camp, I thought, did I miss something while I was busy obsessing about finding a job during the longest period of unemployment I'd ever experienced? I looked for information online on blogs, in books, and in discussions. I looked for answers that made sense to me.

But this wasn't the first time I had done this, so my big question is: How can otherwise intelligent people in their 40's or 50's not have examined their political and social beliefs in the three decades between Vietnam and 9/11?

And will they now be unexamined conservatives for the next three decades?

Friday, April 29, 2005

I (Don't) Like To Watch

Ann Althouse can't just sit and watch a movie anymore; she's gotta be doing something. She attributes this restlessness to the Internet, and blogging:
Personally, I've nearly entirely stopped watching movies, though a few years ago, I went out to the movies three times a week, and I watched many movies at home. My old weekly total is more like my annual total, and my avoidance is almost entirely a result of enhanced awareness and consequent dislike of the passivity of sitting, trapped in the theater for two hours.
About three years ago, through the courtesy of a film reviewer neighbor, my husband and I acquired a couple of dozen reviewers' copies of feature films. No blockbusters, just some decent movies with people you've heard of, like Marisa Tomei. For the most part, those movies sat unwatched until a couple of months ago, getting moved from shelf to shelf and gathering dust.

We'd intended to watch them on nights when there was "nothing good" on TV, which, you'd figure, would be pretty darn frequently. But usually what we get is a half-hour or an hour between something else we're doing and some show we have to see. On the nights where there really is nothing worth watching for all the hours that constitute prime time, we end up having this conversation:

"You want to see one of the movies?"

"Nah, I don't feel like sitting for two hours."

Yet, when either of us is at the computer, we can end up planted there for four hours at a stretch, impervious to eye strain, migraines and sciatica so painfully sharp it feels as if your gluteals need root canal work. And telling ourselves, "okay, just one more site, honest, and then I'll get ready for bed."

But, as Ann points out, this can be a good thing:

Blogging has transformed the way I read. Before blogging, I was slogging -- reading, frustrated by the slowness of my own reading. Now, my old vice is a virtue. That draggy slogging from sentence to sentence was the pull of my own thoughts, which are liberated by blogging.

Hey, it beats arguing with the TV.

I hope to have some time to liberate some thoughts this weekend. Right now they're running riot through my brain, holding up little picket signs and champing at the bit.

Maybe I'll even have time for one of those movies.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Back Me Up Ladies

I was shopping for a summer pantsuit this weekend and the style for dress pants in all of the chain stores right now--Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, etc.--is something called "Fit and Flare." This means that the pants are really tight in the thigh, flaring out at the knee like bell-bottoms.

This is a flattering style only on women with really long, skinny skinny legs. Those of us who are amply thighed have to go up two or three sizes to have our legs fit. I tried on a size 16 and the thighs were still bursting at the seams, but I could store groceries in the waistband. Which, by the way, was too low for my liking.

The same with the skirts. Tight at the top and flaring at the knee, hem ending at mid-calf, which was a length I hated during the disco era and alone was responsible for my being into punk and new wave instead.

A perfunctory perusal of the discount and department stores revealed a similar trend.

I may have to resort to shopping the kind of catalogues that little old ladies get, which means having to resort to the dreaded Mom Pants: The ones that are high-waisted and too tight at the waistband, but so loose in the stomach that it looks like you have an extra butt in front.

Or I may just hang on to the suits I have, which, like the clothes I wore during the disco/punk era, are old, worn and ripped. Hey, maybe I can start some kind of retro-metro trend: Punk Ann Taylor Pantsuits.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Kaiser Chiefs

Since I'm an old person, many young people think I only buy music from the 60's, 70's and 80's. Nay, of course not, say I. I'm perfectly willing to buy stuff by contemporary bands...provided they sound like bands from the 60's, 70's and 80's.

I saw Kaiser Chiefs perform "I Predict A Riot" on the Letterman show and I thought they sounded like the Kinks and the Clash. So this weekend I bought their album, "Employment," and then I loaded it onto my iPod and pogo'ed happily to work.

It is very important to wear shoes with proper cushioning and support when pogo'ing, if you are an old person.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Belated Catblogging

Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
This is how Ashley looked when we adopted her last Spring. She's lost a little weight since then, but basically looks the same...beautiful and slightly indignant.

We removed the funnel from her head last night and she's been skittish all day. I think the funnel really was acting like a pair of blinders on a fractious horse.

I have another theory about it, though: Since she couldn't see very well with it on, she thought we couldn't see her, so she felt safe.

They're not rocket scientists, but we love them.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Pope Has A Cat Named Chico!

I'm totally serious. I read it on Political Animal where they quoted an article from Knight-Ridder newspapers.

It's not a big theological point, but I'm happy anyway.

Speaking of catblogging, I'll be back later with a picture of Ashley, although not Ashley with a funnel on her head.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Funnel Head

When we brought Ashley home from the vet's the other day, they'd put one of those high plastic collars on her that looks like she's wearing a funnel on her head. This is to keep her from reopening the cut on her front paw. She keeps running backward trying to get this thing off her head.

That and the smell of antiseptic is freaking Chico out. His usual method of locomotion is the strut, but since Monday night, he's been slinking away whenever Ashley moves.

Yesterday morning I was in the bathroom when it sounded like a cannonball hit the door. I opened it and Chico raced in and hid behind me like the turkey in the Daffy Duck cartoon: "Hide me! Hide me! Hide me! What a pal what a pal what a pal..." I looked into the living room to see what he was running from, and was just Ashley, who'd awakened and was stretching her funnel head upward.

This morning, Ashley suddenly dashed across the room like a demented jackrabbit, crashing into the furniture because her peripheral vision was impaired by the collar. She ended up behind a file cabinet in the bedroom, making pathetic sounds. I braced myself to see fractured limbs and prepared for another emergency trip. But she was calmly licking her foreleg as if nothing had happened.

"That's odd," I thought. "How can she reach her foreleg? That's what the collar's supposed to prevent." I felt around underneath and sure enough, she'd put her leg through the collar. I worked it back out.

The collar can come off tomorrow night, which is good in some ways. In another way, it's been easier to handle her and give her the squirt of antibiotics she's been prescribed. I've been soaking her foot twice a day and she's been amazingly cooperative. The collar's been like blinders on a horse, and I hope she continues to be tamed after we take it off.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Neoconservative Pope

As a young priest he was on the progressive side of theological debates but shifted to the right after the student revolutions of 1968.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cat Troubles

Normal weekend activities were cancelled on Saturday afternoon when one of our cats, five year old Ashley, began to yowl and spurt foul substances from both ends of her body. Fearing poisoning, demonic possession or at least a life-threatening blockage, we decided to take her to the emergency vet's.

Now, we haven't had to take her anywhere since we adopted her a year ago, and we were not looking forward to having to get her into the carrier. She's what you'd call "wary." Her brother Chico is Mister Personality, a real in-your-face kind of guy. But if you go to pet Ashley she's like, "Can I see your papers, please?" She's like a wild little woodland creature who's deigned to live among humans solely because she lacks opposable thumbs.

So in the course of getting her into the carrier, she not only darted into the usual cat hiding places, but somehow managed to get under the kitchen stove, where I thought nothing could fit except a field mouse or a big bug. We were afraid to move the stove because we didn't know how far we could move it before the gas hose pulled out and blew up the building.

Jim called 911 and in about fifteen minutes they send over a couple of cops. I was expecting the fire department, because you always hear how they get cats out of a tree. But the two cops knew what to do and didn't think our problem was unusual. They moved the stove slightly and tilted it forward, whereupon Ashley ran out like a maniac, went straight for the slightly open bedroom window and began to climb up the screen.

I caught her before she could escape out the top and fall to her almost certain death. She was hanging on to the screen so tightly that she cut her paw and also left a hole in the screen through which bumblebees will be sailing this summer unless we can get it fixed.

We finally managed to get the terrified, bleeding Ashley to the animal hospital, where three days, many tests and $2500 later they found an irritable bowel, possibly the result of a lot of swallowed hair. This doesn't surprise me, since you could weave a third cat from the hair she sheds.

We figured that while she's in there, they can examine her teeth and rotate her tires. Also they're going to remove a benign polyp from her ear. And meanwhile I'll go buy hairball treats and figure out what other tiny places in our tiny house a cat can manage to crawl into or under. We don't even use the oven on that stove, anyway, just the stovetop and a DeLonghi. We use the oven to store pots and pans. I should submit the problem to Apartment Therapy...maybe somebody can figure out a way to replace the stove with a den.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bye Bye Barry; Hello Michael

Finally returned the Goldwater book to the library, enriched by my further education in that pivotal year of 1964.

Did I mention that author Rick Perlstein has a bitchin' collection of 1964 campaign memorabilia, some of which was pictured in the book:
Upon returning Barry, I checked out "Left For Dead" by Michael Tomasky. Published in 1996 in the aftermath of the Gingrich Revolution, the book covers the same theme as many of Tomasky's columns in the American Prospect. In other words, he's been telling the Left to get its head out of its ass for a decade now.

I don't think this book (or his columns) will create a new New Left, but it can make thinking liberals think and disgruntled ex-liberals remember what it was about the radical movements of the '30s through the '60s that worked and made changes to the US that were long overdue and improved people's lives immeasurably. And for those of you too young to remember the late '60s-early '70s, this is where it got screwed up.

Another Shot of Binky

Originally uploaded by brunobaby.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Middle East Crazy

Dr. Lenora Fulani was back in the news this morning, on NY1.

She got in trouble with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith back in 1995 for a statement that many considered anti-Semitic:

A 1995 Anti-Defamation League report quotes Lenora Fulani as saying Jews had to sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism to function as mass murderers of people of color in order to keep it.
Whether Fulani's statement was anti-Semitic or not misses the point. The point is that the radical Left has had a habit since the late '60s of painting the Arabs as black and oppressed and the Israelis as white and oppressors.

They've been framing it that way since the IDF whipped the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the June 1967 Six Day War, which awarded Israel the West Bank, among other things. On Day Four, Moshe Dayan wanted to turn the West Bank over to the Palestinians as a separatist state that would be federated with Israel. Not because he was a bigtime peacenik, but because, to paraphrase the one-eyed general, "Who needs all those friggin' Palestinians?" He was roundly voted down by the Israeli hawks, among them General Ariel Sharon, who appears to be having second thoughts on the matter lately.

This is a topic I usually avoid, since as Tom Friedman says, everybody goes a little crazy when you discuss it. But it pisses me off as much as it pisses me off when right-wing Zionists--both Israeli and American--insist that God personally handed everything between the Sinai and the Jordan to the Jews, provided you're the kind of Jew the right-wing Zionists want you to be.

The truth is a lot more nuanced than either the right or the left want us to believe, as usual. And yes, I use the word "nuance" knowing that I thereby out myself as somebody who uses words in French.

What's actually going on in Israel is two Semitic tribes fighting over one diddly-shit piece of land, something that's been going on all over the Middle East for a long time. The founders of the modern nation-state of Israel were Caucasians from Eastern and Central Europe (driven out by "white" oppression) but Israeli Jews today can be of any color, as Arabs and Moslems are.

All countries, including countries in the Middle East, have their own propaganda. And even the word "propaganda" is means the bullshit the other guy is saying.

Having been uneasy residents of Europe for many centuries and open to assimilation and the Enlightenment makes it easy for Jews to be identified as Westerners, even though the uneasiness was largely the result of abuse from European Christians who perceived even assimilated Jews as being non-white. Much of Israel's population is now from Arab and North African countries. Put an Israeli and a Jordanian or a Moroccan in an outfit from the GAP and you'd have a hard time telling them apart.

Because Israel and Turkey are the only Middle Eastern countries that come close to being representative democracies, and because Israel, like the US, got its independence by fighting the British colonizers, Israel has been considered a friend of the US and was considered an ally in the Cold War. But we've poured money into Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran at least as much as we have into Israel.

Right now Israel, like the US, has a right wing government in charge, which has attained the clout it has by knowing how to use their citizens' fear of Islamic fanaticism. Only in Israel, the situation is complicated by the civil wars in that part of the world, and the sheer physical immediacy of the suicide bombers. And even in Israel, where there is no such thing as a Conscientious Objector, the rhetoric hasn't been as heated as it has been in post 9-11 America.

Hey, before 9-11, I just thought of any immigrant from Israel, Lebanon, Syria, etc. as being "The Middle Eastern Guy." Stupid me...I didn't realize I was supposed to be politically correct one way or the other. As a person of Eastern European Jewish descent, I gave Israelis a slight edge, although any Israeli will be quick to tell you there are huge differences between Israelis and American Jews.

India/Pakistan got their independence from the Brits at the same time as the partition of Palestine, but you don't see, at least in the US, hatemongers and academic bullies trying to polarize people over these countries in the same way. And you wouldn't want to be a Kurd in Turkey, but you don't hear that much here about their oppression. Only over the land where the Bible Belt is the scene of the actual Bible do you have everybody being such a zealous expert and holder of the absolute truth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Other "L" Word

Crazy busy today, but I've been sneaking a brief peak between projects at this post and its ensuing lively comments.

Thanks and a tip 'o the hat to Political Animal.

Ooops, gotta minimize the window again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Busy and Reading

Busy as all getout this week.

Tomorrow night I'll be at the open mike at the Cornelia Street Cafe, reading a medley of my hit.

Friday, April 08, 2005


I've finally finished Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. It was sitting on the table for so long that the cover photo of Goldwater with the cowboy hat and the rifle and the cactus was starting to feel like a relative.

This book came out in pre-9/11 2001 and enjoyed a resurgence on a lot of liberal blogs this past Winter. It's easy to see why, although a direct connection is more emotional than factual:

Whatever. But as a piece of history that reads almost like a novel, it's a great book. And as somebody who believes that seeing where you've been is an important part of knowing where you're going, I'm placing it in my pantheon. Except I have to return it to the library.

The Brothers Judd has a page of links to sites that reference the book, and to all things Goldwater.

Do We Manufacture Anything Now?

When I was a kid and we had geography class, we learned that different parts of the USA and different countries in the world manufactured different things and exported them to other parts of the USA/world. Like, we manufactured corn, wheat, tires, etc. and exported them and then we imported rubber, bananas, etc.

Do we still make those things or are they all cheaper from somewhere else?

Is there still such a thing as geography class?


Originally uploaded by brunobaby.

My "niece," Binky Konrad.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Yeah, What She Said

Suzanne Nossel of Democracy Arsenal comments on an article by Martin Peretz in this week's New Republic:
Peretz criticizes liberals for “churlishness” in the face of Bush’s achievements, noting that “One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. "

But it's not just churlishness that makes liberals reluctant to praise Bush:
Rather, we are convinced that key aspects of his approach – the arrogance, the deception, the lack of accountability, the cronyism, the dismissiveness of critics and questioners, the failure to uphold democratic values while purporting to promote democracy, the refusal to admit mistakes – are flat out wrong.

We’re not blind to the positive and important results of Bush’s daring in the Middle East. But we believe that over time, the negative sides of his foreign policy will likely overwhelm the positive, isolating America, making threats more difficult to contain, and undermining our influence and our security.

In fact, the attitudes and actions of "The Bratocracy" almost make you wish that these developments tank bigtime, which puts you morally on the same team as that jerkoff at Columbia who wished for "a million Mogadishus" to prove his point.

That's why it's important for liberals not to sit around with their fingers in thier ears pretending this all isn't happening, or waiting to be smug if and when this mission falls on its ass. Rather:

we must continue hammering at what’s wrong with Bush’s approach, and scheming to define a foreign policy that will be every bit as bold and visionary, but will attract rather than repel the rest of the world.

Democracy Arsenal is a foreign affairs blog with a progressive slant and a lot of great ideas. They would like Democrats and progressives to bring back the internationalism of the pre-Vietnam era. I'd like that, too.

Also, see this:

The Liberal Uses of Power
Clarity in dealing with terrorism, yes; and also in living up to our highest ideals. By Paul Starr, Michael Tomasky and Robert Kuttner.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Religious Question

You know how Pope John Paul II said that the Jews didn't kill Christ after all?

The next pope can't, like overturn that or something, right?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chico and Phoebe, 2002

Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
We adopted Chico after Phoebe's littermate Pongo died in 2001. Chico was about 18 months old at the time, and Phoebe was almost 17 years. But she was still pretty fiesty and strong, so we figured she'd either adopt him or kill him.

Basically, she hissed at him and swatted at him for a month while he continually pestered her, grinning like a monkey. Then one night she said, "Aw well, what the hell" and started cleaning his ears.

Thus began a wonderful "Harold and Maude" affair that lasted until Phoebe's death last April, at the age of nearly twenty.

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