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June 24, 2009

Nerd Up: Laugh w POTUS

@dmscott embedded this video in his blog. Hilarious 14 minutes of John Hodgman riffing on POTUS.

Good to know I have something in common with POTUS (we've both met Spock). Sadly, neither the Kohanim priestly blessing nor the Vulcan salute come easily to me.

Shalom aleichem and good night.

Posted by cj at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2009

The Human Right to Health Care

I find it frightening that the mainstream media's coverage of the health care debate includes absolutely zero advocates of single payer health care. Instead, the Sunday talk shows drone on about what a drain that would be on the capitalist system. Politicians actually lament that if we allow the government to compete in the health care industry, it's a slippery slope to creating government corporations in computer manufacturing and every other capitalist industry.

Then the moderates pipe in that it's a shame Obama is flirting with subsidized health care, but it will be okay if the public option is a thousand and one tiny co-ops, never allowed to amass the scale needed to challenge the for-profit system.

Let's get real, folks. As the majority of US'ians know, health care is a human right, not another financial derivative waiting to be cashed in on. Being a female thyroid cancer survivor should not force me to spend $55 more than the average US'ian at CVS every single month. [My average monthly spend at CVS is $89, whereas the average US monthly spend is $34, according to Mint.com].

I noted my gender in addition to my cancer status because my dear health insurance company determined that I must pay a monthly penalty for choosing name-brand birth control; I am gouged $30 more per month than I was on my previous employer's health insurance plan.

Let's be clear: I did not choose to be susceptible to the environmental damage wreaked on my hometown by decades of military contractors. Since it is vitally important for me to maintain a steady dose of thyroid hormone, and since that hormone reacts to the levels of other hormones in my body, it's necessary for me to take brand-name birth control to ensure I always get the same amount of estrogen in my system. But nevermind all that nonsense, because a profit-seeking medicine gatekeeper decided that I must take generics whenever they are available. I can only be grateful that they didn't decide to gouge me for both medicines I take monthly.

Right, so to bring this personal frustration back to the political sphere, let me just repeat: the state of ease or dis-ease in my body is something for my doctors and me to control. No one should be able to complain that I'm not a great customer because I'm a cancer survivor: I'm a wonderful customer, since I help keep those damn pharmaceutical companies in business!

Do you know the modern health insurance industry was born in the 70s? In forty short years, they've bamboozled us out of more money than any other industrial country and created some of the worst health statistics.

What is so frightening about single payer health care? Is the upper middle class really afraid the poor will over-crowd their hospitals? (This is the argument I heard while waiting 2 hours to be admitted to Cedar-Sinai Hospital for pre-scheduled radiation treatment...as I sat, slightly delirious because I was off my meds, famished because I wasn't supposed to eat 3 hours before swallowing the toxic treatment, in the admitting waiting room while other about-to-be-patients ate their lunch and the entire intake staff took lunch at the exact same time.)

Do people really think government bureaucracy is more inept than corporate bureaucracy? At least the government has citizens' needs as their number one priority. When your primary motivation is profit, what does it matter if you kill someone by denying them treatment?

I'll never understand why more US citizens don't rise up and demand single-payer health care. I'll never understand why the former darling of the Democratic party, Senator Max Baucus refuses to allow single-payer advocates a seat at the negotiating table.

Posted by cj at 9:44 PM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2009

Listening to Alternative Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Today, the Consul General of Israel, Jacob Dayan, spoke at my synagogue, Ohr Hatorah.

Israel is a very difficult topic for me to deal with, as a practicing Jew and as a peace activist. I desperately want to respect the opinions of people with whom I disagree. I want to be able to listen to opposing viewpoints without running away. I still do not know how to have a meaningful dialog on this issue and this troubles me greatly.

First, I want to review my positions. I respect that the leaders of my congregation have declared the temple to be Zionist, but I hope I am allowed to continue to participate in the community even though I disagree with them.

Judaism is my religion. I am a post-Orthodox, neo-Hasidic Jew and I go to temple almost every Shabbat. It is also my ethnicity: both of my parents are Jewish and I have never heard anyone in my family call us Ukrainian or Russian (even though most of my ancestors came from the Ukraine back when it was part of Russia), because my people were never accepted into those nationalities. So, yes, it is my ethnicity as well. But it is not my nationality.

In my view, a religious state is inherently undemocratic. Any religious state is inherently undemocratic. Why? Because the act of declaring a state religion isolates and subjugates citizens who do not share those religious beliefs.

I believe Israel is occupying Palestine. I believe Jewish-only highways are an obstacle to peace. I believe all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace. I believe the Israeli blockade of Gaza is an obstacle to peace. I believe Israeli checkpoints surrounding and within the West Bank and Gaza are an obstacle to peace. I believe until US'ians recognize Israel's inherent power over the Palestinians, we will never be honest brokers, nor will we ever help create peace.

I believe all Palestinian political leaders deserve a space at the negotiating table for peace. I believe this should occur with absolutely zero pre-conditions. Negotiating occurs at the peace table, not before you sit down. Hatred abounds on both sides of this conflict, and Israeli distrust of Hamas cannot trump democratic elections.

I denounce all acts of violence. This includes Palestinian suicide bombers. I denounce Palestinian attacks on Israel. I also denounce Israeli attacks on Palestine. Violence begets violence and there was nothing just about Israel's attack on Gaza in December 08 / January 09.

Right, so now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's a bit of what Mr. Dayan said this morning. I did not take notes for the entire speech (at first I was just trying to breathe), but here's what I did catch (this is not verbatim):

The world is very different today than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. I know this because the best rapper in the world is white. The best golfer in the world is black. The Germans don't want to go to war. And the French call Americans arrogant.

We face a huge threat from non-state actors. Terrorism is the scourge of the world. There are many different terrorists, but the thing that unifies them is that they all believe in fundamentalist Islam. And Muslims suffer the most from these terrorists.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. His denial of the Holocaust proves that he is an enemy to Jewish people. The possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons is the biggest threat to peace in the region.

This threat in the region provides us with a great opportunity to work with other countries in the Middle East.

Israel made a decision not to control the lives of Palestinians.

Israel was established not because of the Holocaust, but because we have roots; 3,000 years of roots in Israel. Theodor Herzl's original Zionist plan was to create a Jewish state in Uganda. It was only after that plan was defeated at the Seventh Zionist Congress that he realized there was only one place where Jews can establish and should establish their homeland.

Israel has a three track approach to peace:

  1. Economy: Without a middle class, you cannot create a stable economy. The West Bank was extremely quiet during the military operation in Gaza, especially in comparison to Europe, because they see an alternative to Hamas.
  2. Military
  3. Political track
  4. Good governance: Israel is not a part of this track, but the Palestinians have to build their institutions. In the face of corruption, Palestinians turned to Hamas as an alternative.

The most immediate threat that we face globally today is the Iranian threat.

Israel agrees with President Obama's strategy for peace in the Middle East. We may disagree on a tactical level, but that's okay. The United States remains our strongest and most important ally.

With hopes for a peaceful future for all people of the Middle East, including Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, Palestinians, and Iranians.

Posted by cj at 5:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 7, 2009

I'll be a Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

I don't know why I torture myself on Sundays. I've dedicated this entire weekend to self preservation, but lately I've been starting my Sundays with some mild torture.

See, on Sundays I clean (up to a week's worth of) dishes, chop vegetables, and make myself breakfast. I listen to / watch the Sunday morning talk shows while doing this. And thus remind myself of how far from the mainstream my views are.

It seems like every female pundit on the planet firmly believes she lives in a post-feminist world. They laud Michelle Obama as the poster girl for post-feminist femininity. I often wonder what alternative reality this mindless hypocrites live in. Why must they disparage the evolution of women's place in public society by denouncing all demands for equality? Why do they accept the right-wing definition of "feminism"? Why do so many intelligent people define feminism as the movement of middle-class white women to assert their ability to go to work?

Let's be clear: feminism did not start with The Feminine Mystique. Further, acknowledging your right to be a girly housewife does not make me a post-feminist. Believing that society has already achieved gender equality is the most myopic, Eurocentric statement a Westerner can make. Pray tell, how does rape as a weapon of war fit into your post-feminist construct? What about the lack of affordable child care? Or how about the fact that most US'ians can't decide to allow one parent to stay home with the kids because there is no middle class left in this country and two incomes are mandatory to survive?

Look, I fully acknowledge that I am a lucky woman who lives in an extraordinary time. My professional opportunities are not hampered by my gender (though as a thyroid cancer survivor, my need for adequate health care does limit career paths).

But there is so much more to be done. Binary gender does not adequately explain the human condition. Physical anatomy cannot be used to assign gender identities. Around the world, women are not equal. They suffer a disproportionate burden in conflict regions. Western countries daily violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal involvement in conflict and post-conflict resolution. Want to know why Iraq and Afghanistan are more screwed up now than 7 years ago? A major reason is that the US government and its coalition of the willing blindly ignored the women of those countries as necessary, influential, and important partners in peace building.

Stop telling me that wearing makeup on a daily basis and getting excited about going on dates with my boyfriend make me a post-feminist. Stop telling the American people we live in a gender-neutral society. Stop defining feminism as bra-burning, man-hating lesbians.

Until women hold 50% of elected offices, until every workplace is family friendly, until women are equal participants in conflict resolution, until rape and sexual violence cease to exist, feminism will continue. The movement for gender equality will not die simply because it is an uncomfortable notion to the mainstream American punditry.

I will be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.

Posted by cj at 4:40 PM | Comments (1)