Monday, December 15, 2008

Throwing Shoes at George Bush is WRONG!

It's no secret that I can't bloody stand President George W. Bush.


I object mightily, however, to the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the President during a joint news conference with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday. Shoe-throwing may seem a small offense in comparison to the war crimes Bush stands accused of in the forum of world opinion, and ultimately, I hope, in a court of law. Bush's own wrongdoing, however, remains irrelevant.

The crux of Bush's offenses turn on his lawlessness: his unlawful invasion of Iraq and his flouting of the Geneva Convention and of the United States Constitution. Another act of lawlessness -- an assault against an individual and an act of aggression against a visiting head of state -- remains unjustifiable. Two wrongs do not make a right.

A shoe is the least of what I would like to throw at George W. Bush. More than anything, however, I would like to throw the book at him: specifically, my very thick book of United States Constitutional Law and my book of international law, including the laws against torture.

The act not only dishonored George Bush. It dishonored the office of the United States Presidency. It also dishonored the rule of law, which is the very foundation upon which civilization stands. Those proclaiming Muntader al-Zaidi a folk hero might well argue that the journalist dishonored the office no more than President Bush himself has, during his disastrous 8-year reign. That doesn't make the shoe-throwing incident right.

Those who ache for the restoration of respect for human rights must practice such respect for precisely those individuals we personally revile the most. If we cannot protect them and levy punishment in accordance with the rule of law, then we cannot protect anyone.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Much-Needed Ned for the United States

Barack Obama is the United States' "Ned," the guy you meet shortly after coming through a crazy, traumatic experience -- like being abandoned in a foreign country by a superjerk travel buddy or suffering through eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration.

Just when you thought all hope was lost, this guy shows up out of nowhere and reintroduces you to what normal is and what normal feels like. Following in the wake of an ordeal that beat you down and made you wonder if you were crazy, the rediscovery of normalcy feels like a revelation:

"Oh yeah, that!"

To illustrate the meaning of Ned, I offer this story: On my post-bar-exam jaunt through Europe in late summer 1989, I had a falling out with my travel buddies. One night in Bologna, they called me to their room to advise me that I would not be welcome to join them on the next leg of what had until then been "our" trip. If I wanted to get from Italy to anywhere else on the planet, I was on my own.

I wish I could say they ditched me for having very audibly hooked up with the swarthy, green-eyed Venetian down the hall at our pensione...or for inviting the Italian Olympic skiing team to crash in our suite...or for being the one who magically never had cash when restaurant bills or admission fees turned up and who never quite got around to settling up with fellow travel mates for amounts owed. If I was going to take the penalty, it would have been nice to at least have had the pleasure of having committed a satisfying crime.

Alas, the real reason was not nearly so glamorous or fun. On the first night of our trip, before we made it out of the gate at JFK, my travel buddy -- let's call him "Dick" -- got himself arrested. Our British Air flight to London had been delayed by two hours, and our luggage had been loaded onto an earlier flight, which was now in the air, over the Pond, without us. Plus, our seat assignments on the flight, which we had booked months in advance but apparently never checked, sucked.

So of course, merely six months after the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, with our flight delayed, our baggage out there in the ether somewhere, and our seats positively sucking, it somehow made sense to Dick, standing at the check-in desk, trying to change our seat assignments, to make a joke about bombs in our bags.

I was in the waiting area reading People Magazine and blissfully unaware of the colossal act of stupidity that had just transpired behind me. As Dick returned from the check-in desk, a bunch of cops and men in burgundy polyester coats and walkie-talkies closed in around us. Next thing I knew they were putting Dick in handcuffs, taking him away to the Port Authority jail and asking me if I knew what he had said.

I must have looked sufficiently baffled, shocked and clueless to fit the profile of the "stupid little blonde girlfriend," because the cops dismissed me immediately, a development that eased my panic at the prospect of getting searched.

Then, with the law of bodily searches still so fresh in my post-bar-exam head, a dreadful realization dawned on me. We were in a fucking international airport terminal, the one place on earth other than a Turkish prison where you would have the least possible protection against against bodily invasion by law enforcement authorities. Not only could Dick and I get searched under the usual state laws of arrest and probable cause, the guys at the international airport could do a cavity search if they felt like it, just to keep in practice….

Mind you, had Dick's verbal diarrhea occurred after 9-11, we both would have woken up at Guantanamo, with our luggage blown up by the bomb squad and every orifice on our persons sore, chafed and emptied out. We were lucky.

Fortunately, this was 1989, so we simply missed our flight and spent several hours at the Port Authority jail awaiting disposition of Dick's case. By 3 or 4 a.m. the FAA and FBI had decided that Dick was more stupid than dangerous and, therefore, not worthy of their charges or time. New York State, however, slapped him with a misdemeanor, amounting to the airline version of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, gave him a court appearance date, and cleared us for departure the following morning.

Two mornings later, upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, Dick took a good ten minutes at customs while I breezed right through. This inspired Dick to make a joke about drugs in our bags.

You know how you make an ugly face, so that your mother tells you, "Don't do that, or your face will freeze like that"? From that moment on, my OMFG-I-can't-believe-how stupid-you-are expression -- the squinty eyes, the scrinched up nose, cheeks, forehead and mouth, as if I was sniffing Elizabeth New Jersey -- was permanently frozen on my face and pointed at Dick. It also didn't help that Dick kept telling me to "Shhhhhh."

It can't have felt good to be on the withering end of my holy-shit-you're-an-idiot face. By Amsterdam Dick and I started taking separate rooms at hotels. We hooked up with two other law school friends, who happened to be following about the same route as ours through Europe. Dick shared a room with them. This new arrangement seemed to take the edge off and eased tensions between Dick and me. Together we traveled from Amsterdam to Munich to Salzberg to Bologna, where our new travel mates took me aside and advised me that on our next leg to Paris, Dick's delicate psyche would require the comfort of the absence of me and my emotionally devastating face.

The next morning, they headed off to Paris and left me behind in Bologna, to fend for myself. First, I had a transatlantic cry over the phone with my obviously worried mother. Then I set out to look up another law school classmate, Ned, who had done his junior year abroad in Bologna and had returned this summer to recover from the bar.

I found Ned at a nearby pensione, one that happened to be nicer than mine and that had a vacant room right next to his. So I moved over. That day Ned took me on a tour through Bologna. As we meandered through the intimate, porticoed streets, with their reddish brown walls and pale gold and white ceilings, Ned took the time to point out all the highlights: the Piazza San Pietro, the Chiesa San Domenico, where Guido Reni is buried, the tower at the University of Bologna, where Da Vinci first used a telescope to gaze into the stars. Next we went to the University art gallery, where we saw paintings spanning from the cartoonish renderings of the medieval period, to the brilliant color and representational fidelity of the Italian Renaissance, and finally to the delicately brilliant light, elegance and lyricism of the Italian Baroque, all represented through one common theme, which Ned encapsulated perfectly in his comfortingly familiar "Lawn Guyland" accent: "Madonner-and-child, Madonner-and-child, Madonner-and-child, Madonner-and-child…."

That night Ned brought me and his guitar to one of his favorite trattorias. The food was inexpensive and delicious, and the long tables invited socializing and celebration. We discovered we knew a ton of songs in common and sang ourselves into the early morning hours. Equipped with a spiky hairdo, bigass earrings, a hearty red table wine and the voice for it, I did a mean version of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," accompanied by Ned and the laughter and applause of our Bolognese hosts.

As we wended our way back towards the pensione, a revelation came over me:

"Hey, I'm having a normal vacation!"

You know, where you have fun and don't feel self-conscious and go on adventures and actually enjoy the company of your companion.

Oh yeah, that. Normal.

The next day, Ned introduced me to Florence. Florence, Italy. First, Ned set me up at a nice, reasonably-priced, well-situated pensione in Florence. Then he took me on a tour of the city, to help me get my bearings. The attractions were too many to list, so he pointed out the key landmarks: the Duomo, the marketplace, the Piazza Della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio, and what turned out to be my favorite: the Chiesa Santa Croce, with Michelangelo's tomb and its magnificent Giotto frescos, capturing the moment when the mind of humanity turned a great, big corner: linear perspective.

Ned introduced me to the most fascinating and overwhelmingly beautiful city I had ever seen, and not once did he even remotely hint that any quid pro quo was involved. He was a perfect gentleman.

Oh yeah, gentlemen. They're good. Keep them.

Having a blast with Ned reassured me that there was nothing wrong with me that had led to my having been being so rudely ditched. I was perfectly capable of having a good time and being charming, so long as my travel buddy didn't make stupid jokes, get himself arrested, give all my potentially-searchable bodily orifices a heart attack, or tell me to "Shhhhhh."

Ned headed back to Bologna that evening and left me to explore Florence. I planned on staying there for a few days before going back to meet Ned at the end of the week and contemplate another city or heading back to the States.

That night I found myself at a lovely trattoria. Barely two pages into my novel -- (I was reading Mary McCarthy's The Group.) -- I was befriended by five absolutely adorable Italian soldiers, who paid for my dinner and entertained me enormously. Among these nubile young men was one cute little Bolognese fellow who ended up taking the train back to Bologna with me later that weekend.

The rest of my trip was a magical journey of joy and discovery. I went wherever I wanted to go, without rancor, without having to negotiate or compromise and without having to worry about cavity searches. No matter where I went to eat, I wouldn't get two pages into my book before someone struck up a conversation with me and bought me my meal. I made friends and influenced people. I had such a good time, I stretched one week in Italy out to three.

Florence immerses you so deeply and densely in art and history that it utterly overwhelms the senses. It takes time and to absorb all the visual input. On this trip, I hadn't been prepared for everything I ended up seeing. I needed time to decompress, just to sort through it and make sense of it all. I was determined to return after taking a couple years to read up and educate myself on Italy and Italian art history.

I did, in fact, return in 1991, all by myself for 21 days in Bologna and Florence. I went on a quest to find the female artists of the Italian Renaissance. I found them, along with the Italian Baroque. Met up with that little Bolognese soldier boy, too.

Back to the story. Because of Ned, I not only rediscovered normalcy, I launched into on a whole new epoch of my life, something begun when I was lost and abandoned in a foreign country. I could have returned home in defeat, but instead I ended up having a great, confidence-building adventure. Because of Ned, I discovered some of the greatest passions of my life: history, art and all things Italian. Ned not only showed me "normal," he hooked me up with transcendence. Cool.

Hey Ned, I can't remember your last name, but if you're out there, friend me on Facebook, okay? I mean, you changed my life and everything.

Now, every time I hear President-Elect Barack Obama speak, I get the same feeling of relief and revelation as I did when Ned rescued me in Bologna.

Obama talks about things like filling positions in his administration with people who are not only competent. They are the premier experts in their field. Oh yeah, looking for people who are actually qualified for their responsibilities is so sensible, so refreshing, so normal.

Today Obama said that he wants his cabinet to be filled with experts who will provide him with a variety of opinions on the issues and that he prizes "vigorous debate." So he cares about finding out what is actually going on, so he can make informed decisions, based on the facts.


This is what a President is supposed to feel like -- smart, thinks on his feet, capable of listening and giving a spontaneous, responsive answer, one that comes from his brains and heart, not from a pre-fab list of talking points.

Here is a guy who can not only tell you what newspapers he reads. He can tell you what they said and why he agrees or disagrees with them. He also can tell you who wrote the articles and what their bias or interests are likely to be. This guy can most definitely point out quite a few Supreme Court cases with which he disagrees. Why, he can show you recent Supreme Court opinions with which he agrees but which he would have analyzed and written differently, had it been up to him to write the opinion.

There's grey matter between them thar big ears! Hallelujah! What a refreshing change.

I can only hope that our journey over the next four years with the Obama Administration will turn out to be as enjoyable, revelatory and paradigm-shifting as the one I got by the good grace of Ned.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


With Barack Obama's victory in the Presidential election of 2008, we the people of the United States can rejoice at having once again fulfilled our potential to become "a more perfect union," this time in a HUGE way, with the election of a black man to the Presidency of the United States. And yet this milestone, which has inspired joy in so many, has also, somewhat understandably, aroused apprehension among those who voted against Obama.

To be happy that an African American won the election is not an indictment of or accusation against those who did not vote for him. Nor is it a statement that his supporters voted *for* him because of his race.

After 372 years of subjugation of people of color in America and 232 years where only Caucasians have held the office of the US Presidency, to not recognize the quantum leap forward that Obama's election represents is to dismiss a key moment when we as a society realized the true potential and promise of our founding principles.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal....

What is significant, indeed crucial, is that Obama himself did not run on race. He spoke of race only when absolutely pushed to the wall, when the Hillary campaign started blasting him on his association with Reverend Wright -- a strategy which sought to arouse and exploit fears among white people that Obama conformed to the stereotype of "the Angry Black Man."

That was the situation that prompted Obama to write and deliver his speech on race:

When the McCain campaign, particularly through Palin, started rousing fears with their accusations that Obama was "palling around with terrorists," and Representative John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, -- a man who had personally witnessed the church burnings, the fire hoses, the murders of Goodman, Scherner and Cheney, as well as the murders of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King -- called the McCain administration out on these tactics, the Obama campaign distanced themselves from Lewis' statements, expressly rebuking the association Lewis had made between John McCain and George Wallace.

The Obama campaign statement pulled the emphasis of the discussion away from race and back towards a more neutral critique of "angry divisive rhetoric" and then, even more notably, they moved the message back into the "positive" column, by stating the need for unity "a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together."

I think it was this constant, steady, consistent and *color-blind* emphasis on unity and the positive that won over the Independents to Obama's side and ultimately led to his victory in this election, not to mention the intense affection of all those who gravitated to his cause.

I think the more people saw and really got to know Obama, the more they liked him and saw that, even though he was relatively inexperienced in terms of years spent in public service at the national level or in an executive capacity, he had the brilliant mind, judgment and temperament to be an outstanding chief executive. He was the most qualified candidate for the job.

And then there was that breakthrough....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What It Means to Elect a Constitutional Scholar as President of the United States of America

For me, having come from New York University School of Law, my orientation towards the title of "constitutional scholar" is the same as that held by the members of that community.

At the law school, the term "constitutional scholar" was no more remarkable than "electrical engineer." It held a certain prestigiousness, not unlike that of "neuro-surgeon" or "nuclear physicist," because it is one of the most highly-esteemed areas of study and practice.

That said, I am sad to think that the term, "constitutional scholar" would be regarded as somehow romantic. If the study and mastery of constitutional law has come to be regarded in the American consciousness as some kind of quixotic ideal, then it is a testament to how low we have sunk as a republic and how little regard we have come to have for our civil rights and our constitutional principles and aspirations.

We can find the evidence for this intensely regrettable decline in the passage of The Patriot Act, the eavesdropping on American citizens without warrant or probable cause, the avowed American disregard for the Geneva Convention in international warfare as codified by the US Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales, the active practice of torture and physically coercive interrogation techniques, imprisonment in offshore locations without a hearing, the attempt to suspend rights of habeas corpus....

The urgency with which Americans have handed over their civil liberties, hand-over-fist, in the purported interest of security, out of fear, has established a poignant occasion for the restatement of the words of our founding father, Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I hope that with the election of a constitutional scholar to the United States presidency, that we will see over the next decade the redemption of regard for our constitutional rights and that the title of "constitutional scholar" will be redeemed from trivialization as a merely quixotic ideal. My sincere hope is that the vocation of "constitutional scholar" will at least attain the status of a routine and unremarkable specialization, if not total restoration of the high esteem it once held.

Why I Am Not "A Globalist"

I would not describe myself as a globalist. I don't think "whether globalism is a good idea" is the right question.

Globalization is inevitable, given the prevalence and ubiquity of modes of communication and travel -- the telephone, the Internet, satellite technology, television, radio, airline travel, etc. These are the means of export, import and exchange of ideas, culture and trade...into a constant intermingling.

The right question is HOW do we effect this intermingling? So some resistance to unfettered "globalization" is in order to ensure that the values (economic, moral and ethical) inherent in the ideas, culture and products in the intermingling are fairly and ethically regulated and distributed.

To have one value dominate all others via globalization could be a bad thing. For example, if globalization favors inexpensive labor...resulting in the concentration of manufacturing or sourcing of materials only in countries that abuse or mistreat laborers...then globalization is bad, and I am against it.

The all-or-nothing orientation towards globalization doesn't really work very well. Because the channels of transmission and transportation are irreversibly open (or at least because their restraint is so prohibitively expensive and difficult), trade in and the exchange of ideas and products will continue and expand. The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no stuffing it back in.

There needs to be regulation of global markets in trade to preserve fairness, to protect workers in terms of wages, hours and safety, and to preserve and protect the environment.

In terms of political globalization, there are certain universal principles that should be given global expression -- the universal rights of human beings to self-determination, to government of, by and for the people, the right to elect one's own leaders, the rights to free and unfettered expression, the right to bodily integrity and reproductive freedom, and so forth. At the same time, there is also a need to for certain checks and balances that will allow these principles to manifest in ways that preserve and are respectful of variations in culture and ethnicity.

We need to make sure that globalism does not become the means of economic, cultural or moral imperialism due to the advantage held by stronger and more potentially dominant participants.

What an Epiphany: The Prospect of Putting a Constitutional Scholar Into the Oval Office

I love that Barack Obama is a Constitutional Scholar. He approaches all the issues as a scholar would...with an open and curious mind, eager to hear, appreciate and truly understand the philosophies and arguments with which he does not agree. As the brilliant legal scholar that he MUST be to have graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, he has to be able to anticipate and argue ALL sides of an issue. This will give him the ability to take in all perspectives on any of the issues he will face as President and to synthesize them into a decision, a solution.

I am so excited for the election today. I am eager for Obama to be elected. I'm not counting my chickens, but if he wins, I think he will be a great president...great for the country and great for the standing of our country in the world.

My deepest hope on the International front is that he will end the habit of the US to prop up dictators and for us to return to our roots as a force for the promotion of true democracy in the world. Now that the cold war is over, there is no need for us to prop up dictators, just to have a force that opposes the Soviets or China.

It has long been a counterproductive strategy that has come back to bite us all too often -- from our propping up of the Shah of Iran leading to the Iran Hostage Crisis to our propping up of Sadaam Hussein so long as he was fighting Iran...and we all know what THAT led to.

Once again we will start to make substantive progress in environmental matters, trade pacts that require the elevation of conditions for workers worldwide...and that will reduce the unfair advantage that work forces in countries like China and Mexico have over American workers.... I feel like our country will FINALLY start moving forward again.

Why I Support Barack Obama

As the Democratic primary process got under way, I started out genuinely torn between Hillary and Obama. I loved the Clinton presidency. I had heard Hillary speak several times before she ran for the presidency, and I always loved what she had to say.

But I was angry that she voted for the authorization of power to Bush to go into Iraq. I was also apprehensive that the vicious partisanship and polarization that had been directed towards both Bill and Hillary Clinton during the first Clinton presidency would recur. I wanted something different from the array of Clintons and Bushes who had held the Oval Office for the past 20 years. Something inside me felt that we needed someone new.

The more I've learned about Obama, the more I've grown to like him and to love him. Many are worried that he is too liberal, but the more you examine him and delve into his past, the more you will see that he is actually a closet centrist. He started out at the anti-establishment margins -- in the black neighborhoods of Chicago, where he had to join a somewhat radical congregation to establish his street cred as a black leader. Hence Reverend Wright.

BUT -- as he has risen from community organizer to state senator, from the tough streets of Chicago to the hallowed precincts of the Senate in Washington D.C., he has gravitated to the center. What I have learned about his childhood and schooling through law school tells me that this movement towards the center is more in line with who Obama truly is.

Obama is a biracial man who was raised in a white family. To have peace within himself, he had to have found a way to reconcile and harmonize both sides of his heritage and identity. I can absolutely see the parallel in his mission and drive to reconcile and harmonize the competing and all too often conflicting sides of our American heritage and identity. He is a unifier by nature, all the way down to his DNA.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is Tom Delay Stupid or Just Fucking Evil? What "Negative Liberty" Really Means

Tom Delay was just on Hardball, stating that Barack Obama hates the US Constitution because Obama has described the Constitution as being composed of "Negative Rights."

HOLY SHIT! I didn't know you could be THAT STUPID without your head exploding, but apparently Delay has mastered this art. Either that, or he is deliberately lying on the meaning of "negative rights." (Oh yeah, we're talking about Tom Delay.)

"Negative rights," also known as "negative liberty," is an essentially CONSERVATIVE philosophy regarding the rights granted under the Constitution. It does NOT mean that "the Constitution is Bad."

"Negative rights" or "Negative Liberty" means that the Constitution does NOT obligate the Government to grant citizens a bunch of entitlements. The Constitution does not give citizens the right to GET anything. Rather, the concept of "Negative Rights" means that the Constitution requires the Government to LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE.

THAT is the meaning of "Negative Liberty" or "Negative Rights." It is a perspective on Constitutional interpretation that has been developed most extensively by scholars at The University of Chicago School of Law. As a lecturer at U Chicago, Obama would have been very familiar with this essentially Conservative and Libertarian philosophy on Constitutional rights.

Accordingly, it should be clear that Obama was referring to an interpretation of the Constitution best summed up by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis:

"The makers of the Constitution conferred the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by all civilized men — the right to be let alone."

To claim that Obama's description of the Constitution as made up of "negative rights" meant that Obama was saying that "The Constitution is bad," or that Obama doesn't like the Constitution is so stupid, ridiculous and deliberately misleading that an army of Constitutional Scholars need to be invited onto Hardball to personally kick Tom Delay HARD in the keester!!!


Friday, October 24, 2008

John McCain on NYC and DC "Elites": Who died on 9-11 you dirty fuck?

There isn't much that John McCain and his Caribou Barbie running mate, Sarah Palin, can say that doesn't make my skin crawl. In their interview this week with Brian Williams, McCain dropped some remarks that have me spitting blood:
New York, D.C.: Snooty elite central
McCain and Palin did differ on exactly what they meant when they criticized “elite” segments of American society, which they have mocked in an attempt to connect with what Palin called “hard-working, middle-class Americans.”

Palin said “elite” was a state of mind — “just people who think that they’re better than anyone else.” It cannot be identified by geography, income or level of education, she said.

McCain disagreed.

“I know where a lot of ’em live,” he said, laughing. The out-of-touch elites are “in our nation’s capital and New York City.”

“I’ve seen it. I’ve lived there,” he said, referring to Washington. “I know the town. I know what a lot of these elitists are — the ones that she [pointing to Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown.”

These elites, he said, “think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

Oh, you mean like the people who were murdered on 9-11? Those bad guy members of the financial "elites" from companies like Cantor Fitzgerald, Thacher, Proffitt & Wood (a law firm, damned dirty lawyers!), and Oppenheimer Funds -- all companies that were housed in the World Trade Center, along with their elitist employees?

Who do you think died that day, sir? Who are the Americans who paid with their lives for the sin of engaging in free enterprise? For the sin of benefiting from deregulation policies that YOU supported? How could you forget those 658 employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, all trapped in the top floors of the North Tower, without hope? Do you mourn only for Joe the Firefighter? Joe the Port Authority Police Officer? Joe the Court Officer on his day off? Joe the Paramedic? But surely not Joe the Illegal Alien busing tables at Windows on the World...or should I say, "Jose the Busboy"...

Your out-of-touch elitists in Washington couldn't have included the people murdered at the Pentagon, could they? You must be so disappointed that the members of your hated Georgetown cocktail party set escaped with their lives, thanks to the heroic self-sacrifice of the passengers on Flight 93. How sad for you that that plane, believed to have been aiming for the White House or the Capitol Building, crashed instead in an empty field in Schwenksville PA. If only it had reached its target, there would be several hundred fewer Washington "elitists" for you to hate.

How quickly you forget, Mr. McCain, that these "elites" in NYC and DC are the envy of the world. Funny that your hatred and bitterness towards their vibrance and enterprising drive has taken on a creepy similarity to the contempt that motivated the mastermind of their murder, Osama Bin Laden to target them as the Root of All American Evil. And yet, here you are, giving tax cuts to their living peers. Olbermann nailed it: truly "McCain in the Membrane!"

The exploitative financial elites are your Frankstein monster, sir. You abdicated your responsibility as an elected official to reign them in with reasonable regulation. You're 120 years old, and you still haven't figured out that these guys on Wall Street push everything to the outer envelope of what is allowed by law? The crash of the housing and financial markets actually came as a surprise to you? And now you hide behind your bogus-populist facade, you flip-flopping fascist fuck.

Go ahead, shit all over the greatest city in the world, Ground Zero in the attack on the United States. We elitist residents of New York City, including all here who depend on the economic activities of the Financial District workers for our livelihoods -- Joe the Hotdog Vendor, Joe the Shoeshine, Joe the Waiter at the Blarney Stone, Joe the Stock Boy at the legal forms shop -- will never forget that it was our city, New York City and DC that took Bin Laden's hit right in the gut.

So we were American enough to be attacked by Bin Laden, but not American enough to be represented by you? So that's how it is, eh? Well that's just fine. Turn your back on my city. We New Yorkers never needed your shit anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Random Thoughts on G-d and Good and Evil

Something got broken. G-d created everything, including good and evil, but G-d delegated responsibilities to human beings. Once things got delegated to us, everything got all screwed up. That is one theory.

I keep coming back to Job in the desert, covered in boils, having lost his wealth, his family, and his health, and he RAGES at G-d.


And G-d's response pretty much amounts to..."Excuse me, do you have an appointment?"

We are specks, flecks, dancing dust...with self-awareness. We are a miracle. And we are here to partner with G-d, to mend a broken world, to make connections, to send sparks of healing spirituality out into the world.

How the world got broken, I'll never completely understand. And G-d could certainly fix it without us. If humans disappear from the earth, G-d will still go on. The earth and the universe will still go on without us. Higher realms too. But while we are in the middle of this miracle of being here on earth, our job as humans, our duty to G-d, is to leave the world better for our having been in it.

Rep. John Lewis' Exact Words on McCain Campaign Hate-Mongering

Hear, hear!

"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

"During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

"As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bobby Murcer Was a Mensch

Bobby Murcer, Yankee broadcaster, former Yankee Center Fielder, philanthropist, author, and one of the best human beings you'll ever have the good fortunate to know of, passed away earlier this week, on July 12th, after a year-and-a-half battle with brain cancer.

Bobby wore many hats in his life, but one word sums it all up. He was a Mensch -- a truly good person. One of the finest gentlemen ever, Bobby carried himself with class, but what really made him special was that he was approachable -- warm, gentle, self-effacing, and FUNNY! Bobby Murcer could make anybody smile, or at the very least, during Yankee games, he would never grate on you if you happened to be in a foul humor.

On Saturday, as my mom and I talked about Tony Snow's death, I mentioned Bobby Murcer and his amazing fight with brain cancer -- how it had aged him 20 years in the space of a year. I had no idea that Bobby was dying at that very moment. I had wondered why we hadn't seen him calling any more games since May, and I hoped he was okay and would be coming back soon. I had no clue that our Bobby was in big trouble. It's so goddamned sad. Bobby had so much more left to give. I wasn't close to being finished with him. No one was.

When I got the news a few hours later that Bobby had died, I cried out in shock. I really thought he was getting better. I remember my game-watching buddy, Phil, mentioning that he was worried about Bobby earlier in the 2006 season. Bobby was forgetting things, losing some his clarity during games. I remember a few younger fans on our baseball site making fun of Bobby when he said something absent-minded during a game. The older game-watchers shut the youngsters down with a little history lesson on Bobby's importance and why he was a HUGE figure with the Yankees...the link to Mantle, Mattingly, Munson and more. It is really scary and sad to think that once again, Phil had called it when he detected that something was slightly off in Bobby --something we all made little of at the time.

I remember the Old Timer's Day when Bobby picked Alex Rodriguez as his batting coach. Alex explained to Bobby that he had prepared a special bat just for Bobby by scratching on the sweet spot the words, "Hit it here."

Bobby was a better player than his career stats reveal, as about one-fifth of his at-bats in Pinstripes took place at Shea Stadium, during the renovations at Yankee Stadium. Interestingly, his BA and OBP were about the same (.299/.365 at Shea; .293, .369 at Yankee Stadium), but his slugging percentage at Yankee Stadium (.521) was more than 25% greater than his slugging at Shea (.407). Bobby's power hitting suffered greatly, due to the Lefty-hostile dimensions at Shea.

Bobby's leadership at the time of Thurman Munson's tragic death may be his most memorable contribution to the Yankees. We all mourned along with Bobby and felt his tremendous heart in his eulogy of Munson, his incredible performance in the Farewell to the Captain game, and his superhuman endurance in getting through everything in the immediate aftermath of the death of his best friend.

Bobby played that night's game without having slept for 48 hours and single-handedly beat Baltimore by putting up 5 RBI, the only runs scored by the Yankees in that game, with a clutch 3-run homer in the 7th inning and a walk-off single liner up the left field line that brought in the game-winning 2 runs. I get choked up remembering that Bobby gave his bat from that game to Diane Munson. You know how much it meant to him to come through for his friend and his friend's family. Just tremendous heart and soul.

I was at the Stadium, for the season opener in 2007. My seats are very close to the YES booth, so when they flashed Bobby's name on the scoreboard after playing the "Forever Young" montage on the Jumbotron, I called out, "Bobby's HERE?" I turned and saw Bobby standing there, in the YES booth, and waved at him directly. You just couldn't believe all the love, adoration and respect that was flowing to Bobby in that moment. Imagine having that -- all of Yankee Stadium filled to the rafters with people cheering for you out of sheer love and wishes for your well being. Overjoyed simply by your presence. What kind of a person do you have to be to get that?

That was Bobby Murcer. So easy to love. A pleasure to listen to during games, with his soothing baritone voice, lilting Oklahoma accent, his understanding of baseball from having lived it, and his gentle, good-humored delivery. I always loved how, on those many occasions, when Michael Kay would say something that betrayed extremely low baseball IQ, Bobby would kindly but firmly set the record straight, without attitude or shaming.

Bobby was just such a fine person, a lovely man, a gentleman.

Godspeed, Bobby. We all love you so!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Estrogen Warrior: On Fighting Fibroids

I've posted in a private discussion forum, on Craig's List, about my experience with fibroid tumors and the surgery I underwent in 2005 to remove them. The responses I received tell me I need to post this information in a place more readily accessible, so it won't get buried after a few weeks.

I worked very hard at the time to research Fibroids, their physical and emotional symptoms, and various treatment options. If what I learned can help other women, then this space will be well-spent:

Any kind of change in your cycle as noticeable as follows calls for a gyno visit:

How old are you? Any spotting between periods?

When I had fibroids, particularly one that broke through my uterine wall, my periods were heavier and lasted 10 days, with spotting in between.

I experienced RAGE and feelings of clinical depression. When I got my period, the hormone spikes would KNOCK ME ON MY ASS. At times I got so spazzed out and hyper-stimulated, speedy-feeling, I felt like I would have a heart attack. I was lashing out at people twice my size, but I did not care.

Like that one day when this big oaf of a guy insisted on pushing his way into my subway car before I could get out: I'm sure he has no idea what a miracle it was that I did not stab him through the heart with my umbrella.

I asked my general practitioner and my surgeon about hormones and their effect on my emotions and sense of well-being. They pretty much threw up their hands...but not first without offering to put me on The Pill. When in doubt, write a script. No one could explain to me why the hormones were affecting me or even how the hormones worked. The literature said that hormonal tests were not reliable because hormones can fluctuate so much during the course of a woman's menstrual cycle.

Thanks for nothing, assholes!

Well, almost nothing. Once I got SURGERY -- not therapy, not anti-depressants, not prescription hormones, just straight up surgery to remove the offending fibroid -- my hormones went back to normal and the insane mood rushes and RAGE disappeared.

Poof! Happy again.

It blew my mind to see how a treatment that was purely physical (surgery) could have such a dramatic effect on my emotional state.

Now, I'm 44, back to totally normal 5-day cycles, and happy as a lark. Go figure.

Fibroid tumors are very common in women aged 30-55. If you have some combination of the symptoms described above or notice any change in your normal menstrual cycle, get it checked, poopsie.

Gitchyer Scalpel the Hell Off My Uterus: Alternatives to Hysterectomy

Oh HELL YES, I Kept My Uterus! And it should not be exceptional. Until recently, however, doctors would routinely remove uteruses, reckoning that once a woman had had children, the uterus was merely occupying space -- useful only to the odd roving cancer, seeking a place to take hold.

That's right ladies, according to traditional practitioners of patriarchal medical science, once your uterus stops making babies, it becomes either excess baggage or a ticking time bomb -- regardless of your family history or personal risk of developing cancer.


As soon as I was diagnosed with fibroids, I researched the hell out of treatments for it, and I learned that there are several techniques for removing fibroids that leave your uterus and ovaries intact.

I had a vaginal myomectomy. That is, the gynecological surgeon went in through the vagina and dilated my cervix to gain access to the inside of my uterus and removed the offending fibroid from there. The surgery was performed under general (maaaan, that was sweet -- pure oxygen ROCKS), and I went home the same day.

This is a COMMON procedure. I got a surgeon who had performed MANY of these surgeries, so she was very experienced with it.

There is also a procedure where they go in, surgically, through a small incision in your abdomen. Also a common and uncomplicated procedure.

A couple weeks before surgery I was given a hormone that shrinks the fibroids, making it easier to remove them.

I was hellbent on keeping my reproductive organs and my fertility intact, so *I* could decide whether and when I would have children.

My Uterus Is Not Excess Baggage, TYVM!

1) My surgery was totally covered under my Health Insurance. (Aetna, at the time.) I had the procedure done at NYU Medical Center by Dr. Maria Betancourt. She was AWESOME.

2) I was extremely proactive about researching fibroids and remedies for them and for their symptoms -- medical, natural/nutritional and surgical treatments.

3) I learned that women who undergo hysterectomy are 300% more likely to develop *heart disease.* That little stat blew my mind right out. You are also more likely to develop problems with controlling urination and other health issues. The uterus is a powerful muscle that helps to keep your other abdominal organs in place. So patriarchal doctors' assumption that the uterus is just excess baggage after child-bearing is HORSE HOCKEY!!!

4) I learned that the state of women's health research and doctors' understanding of women's reproductive organs and of hormones and their roles/effect on our mental and physical health is woefully deficient. So we owe it to ourselves to learn as much as possible about our health, to research issues like crazy, and to ASK QUESTIONS. I was HELL-BENT on keeping my reproductive organs and fertility and not letting anybody cut into me unless they could convince me that it was absolutely necessary and the LEAST INVASIVE METHOD POSSIBLE.

This is why I make a point of posting openly about this stuff. If anyone has any questions, they can ask me about it. The women's movement has made a big difference in improving our health options and forcing more attention and research on women's health, but they still have a looooooooong way to go, and we have to keep the pressure ON.

Woman = Camel; Fibroid = IUD

Here's my theory on the fibroids ability to trigger hormone-rushes and hormone-caused mood swings...

I think the fibroids, particularly those that embed in the uterus, function the same way an IUD does. And IUD fools your body into thinking it's pregnant. It's very common in pregnancy to get hormone rushes that make your moods swing like crazy.

I read a long time ago that the idea for the IUD traces back to the Bedouin tribes, who would push stones up into the uteruses of female camels to keep them from getting pregnant.

So a fibroid is like a little stone that fools your body into thinking it's pregnant, and your body, thinking it's pregnant, starts producing estrogen out the wazoo and goes hormonally bonkers, resulting in mood swings, from deep depression to intense rage.

Also, having a fibroid embedded in your uterine wall will make you incapable of actually getting pregnant, because it will prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the inside of your uterus.

I researched fibroids by Googling "Fibroid" or "Fibroid Tumor" or "Fibroid Surgery." Unfortunately, I had my surgery in 2005 and have since gotten a new computer, so I don't have all the web sites I saved.

Before I started spotting between periods -- which is what got me to go to the doctor -- my periods started getting heavier. They were noticeably heavier for about 2 years...and yeah, they got clotty too.

If you're having these would urge you to go to the gyno. Get a "transvaginal ultrasound" and see what it says. If you have fibroids (which are very very common in women 30-55), then do your Google search. There's lots of stuff out there, some of it conflicting, so read as much as you can...and sift out the crap by paternalist doctors (the authoritarian, arrogant a$$holes) and look for woman-centered, woman-positive materials, things that treat you as an individual with dignity and a brain -- not a potential guinea pig who can be drugged up and cut up in the Name of Science.

I'm Hormonal: Get Over It.

We need to talk more about PMS and hormonal issues -- not as an excuse for bad behavior but to demand that more resources be allocated towards medical research into female cycles and hormones and their effects on that there can be SAFE, non-cancer-causing treatments for hormonal irregularities.

The state of medical understanding about hormones and their function and effects on women is so deficient, it would BLOW YOUR MIND.

As late as the 1990s, doctors were prescribing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to women to counteract menopause-related symptoms. In one series of studies on HRT, the evidence that HRT CAUSED breast cancer was *so strong,* the researches had to cancel the studies because they could not ethically continue them.

When I was having fibroid-related hormone rushes and spikes, I regulated the swings very effectively by eating soy products (a mild estrogen substitute that *reduced* the effects of estrogen rushes on me and also progesterone cream derived from yams.

The estrogen in pharmaceutical HRT is derived from HORSE PISS. It was named "Premarin."

Get it -- Pre-MARE-in. Unreal what Big Pharm subjects us to. And too many doctors buy into drugs uncritically cuz the sales reps give them gifts and kiss the doctors' butts. It's a real racket, and we've got to protect ourselves from it by arming ourselves with as much knowledge as possible.

Fighting Fibroid Symptoms With Diet & Natural Treatments

In the time leading up to my fibroid removal surgery, I had very little energy. Just a trip shopping or to the Botanic Gardens with mom would leave me very tired and cranky. In the last couple months before surgery, I felt very weak. Just one drink of alcohol would WIPE ME OUT.

I didn't realize how weak and sick I felt until after the surgery, when I went back to feeling normal again. I had totally forgotten what normal felt like.

It creeps up on you over time, so it can really fool you. I was probably anemic and should have been taking an iron supplement to make up for the blood loss.

I did make some changes in my diet and started taking certain vitamins:

Diet change was the "No white carbs diet." Low fat, nothing fried, no sugary sodas, no fruit juice, nothing with high fructose corn syrup.

Lots of fruits and veggies. Dried fruits, preserves, honey and molasses were all fine. No white flour or wheat gluten. Subbed instead with Wasa Bread, rice wafers, brown rice, and that cool German bread that has no wheat gluten in it.

At least one dose of something with soy in it every day -- Soy yogurt, edamame, tofu, etc. That controls estrogen naturally by occupying estrogen receptors in your bod. Fools your body into not producing so much estrogen.

Evening primrose oil
Vitamin E & C (combined in one pill)
Vitamin B Complex
Calcium & Magnesium (combined in one pill)
Flax Seed Oil (Omega 6 & 3)
Should have included an iron supplement.

I'd take them at breakfast, lunch and dinner, which also assured me of getting plenty of hydration.

I also used Progesterone cream (derived from Sweet Potatoes); you can get this at any Health Food Store.

All the above was recommended in a book Susan M. Lark, MD, who specializes in fibroids, endometriosis and other hormonally-related maladies.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oh yeah, the Giants Won the Super Bowl!

It's February 24th, and I still can't believe the Giants won the Super Bowl. This is also the first time I've updated the blog in 2008, so I officially suck as a blogger. I appreciate the comments and kicks in the ass to update. I've missed you too, and I've really been derelict in doling out epiphanies, especially since I promised them on a Daily Basis. So here's just a little one....

Holy shit, the Giants won the Super Bowl. Their run to Glendale and victory over the 18-0 New England Patriots was the nicest surprise of 2007-2008. We figured, our team is young. Eli hasn't clicked yet. Our Super Bowl is 2-3 years away. Then we played the Patriots in the last game of the season and lost, 38-35, by only three points.

That meant we could beat them. Then we beat Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. That's an improvement over last year right there. Then we beat fucking Dallas and make Terrell Owens cry. Giants fans are like, "Whoa. What the fuck is going on here?" This is also the 9th Road Win in a row.

Next we're playing the Packers, led by that old Geezer, Brett Favre, and we're starting to think, "Hey, you know, we can beat these assholes." In minus-4-degree weather I'm putting my money on the nubile young quarterback from New York, not on the 40+ brittle, beat-up senior citizen from Green Bay.

Apparently, Eli never got the memo that wearing gloves would screw up his ability to pass or drive the ball down the field. He missed the script where he got outplayed, outshown and beat by the grisled veteran, Favre. It was, after all, Brett's last chance to make the Super Bowl. This was supposed to be Brett's Year.

Or not. We beat the Packers. Holy shit we beat the Packers! Really beat them! With Tynes' field goal in overtime. In dramatic fashion. After missing two previous attempts, he boots a frozen football that in those temperatures must have felt like a lead balloon. Tynes' foot was totally black and blue after the game. He booted that bitch!

Wait a minute. What the fuck? We actually BEAT the Packers??? You mean we're going to, wait. No wait.

No way, are you kidding me? The New York Giants are going to the motherfucken Super Bowl. We are not! Holy shit. We are going to the Super Bowl. These Giants are NFC Champs! Holy shit! What the fuck? This wasn't supposed to happen this year. This is great! This is fantastic!

Holy shit!

Against the Patriots, led by Mr. G.Q., Tom Brady. 18-0, on the verge of making history with a Perfect 19-0 Season. In the Giants' corner we have dorky baby brother Eli, with the childlike, aw shucks, Huckleberry Finn face.

Only by this time, I'm thinking, we can win this bitch. We have now had 10 road victories. In the last game of the regular season, we lost to these assholes by only 3 points. That means we can score on em...score high...and we can beat them.

In the playoffs, we beat every team that had beaten us in the regular season. And at the Super Bowl, the Giants would be the visiting team. We can beat these Beantown mother fuckers. 19-0 tee shirts and commemorative magazines my balls! No, no, no. I'm talking eleven consecutive road wins. We can win this.

The game starts, and the Giants D beats the living shit out of Brady. The O hangs onto the ball in the first period for more than ten minutes, breaking a Super Bowl record, and then scores a field goal at the end of the drive. At the time we bitched that it was only a field goal. But we had kept the Patriots from at least 2 driving opportunities, had we gone 3rd and out, and oh yeah, we won the Super Bowl by 3 points. Even though the Pats came out with a touchdown on their drive, that field goal right there won the game.

The difference between this game and the last game was that the Giants D showed up and dealt a brutal relentless beatdown on Brady. They threw him off his rhythm and held him to his lowest score all season. And once again, as he did throughout the playoffs, Eli played mistake-free ball. He didn't give up interceptions. Eli's arm, the one vaunted to be better-than-Peyton's, showed up. To whit, that gorgeous slow motion spiral to Plax in the end zone to win the game. But I've gotten ahead of myself.

The 2nd and 3rd quarters were a chess match. Each team keeping the other from scoring. Then just as the 4th quarter got under way, a couple of friends sitting in the Giants family member section at the Super Bowl, enlisted the aid of one team member's father, in finding a discrete place to release some of the ashes of Bob in Annapolis, a season-ticket holder, fixture at Giants training camp and legend to the members of, who had died unexpectedly, early in the season, of complications following back surgery.

As Bob's ashes whirled around the edges of the field, magic started to happen. David Tyree catches his first touch done pass of the season. Brady, that prick, drives down the field and gets another touch down.

Eli has less than 3 minutes to drive down the field and get a touch down. No fucking way. Yeah, right, but thing is, Eli has always had this weird ability to go bonzai in the final 2+ minutes and come back to win games. Our young kid sticks around for the whole game. I look at my brother and say, "He can do this."

We are standing, pacing forwards and backwards in front of the sofa as Eli drives the Giants down the field. We're kind of swaying to and fro like we've just drunk 12 beers, and we're 50th on line for the Porta John.

Then Eli miraculously escapes that sack attempt and launches that crazy pass to Tyree, who with a Patriot hanging off of him, catches the ball with his fucking helmet! What the fuck was that??? And then comes that magnificent 13-yard pass to Plax.

There are still 35 seconds left. I'm not allowed to get happy until we stop Brady on this last campaign. BOOOOOM, Alford slaughters Brady. Well, why shouldn't he be allowed to get a good pop in? Rookies need to learn too. "Here, this is how to clobber a star quarterback. Isn't it fun?"

Patriots go for it on 4th down and blow it. One second left. Ball in Giants' possession. No we haven't won yet. What? What the fuck is Belichek doing? He's shaking Coughlin's hand and running off the field with one second on the clock? One last snap, Eli kneels.

Super Bowl Won. Not only the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, but also the Best Play in Super Bowl History. Best Super Bowl Game ever.