Monday, October 27, 2008

Help the women of ...

South Dakota. I know. I don't personally know anyone in South Dakota. Neither do you probably. But we need to help protect reproductive rights in South Dakota because if a proposition passes there that severely restricts and criminalizes abortion rights, the same laws could be coming to a state near you.

Donate NOW to to help fight the proposition banning safe abortions for women in South Dakota. I am personally going to donate one hour of my salary from teaching Adult ESL to fight the proposition.

This law just makes me angry. If you disagree with abortion, then don't have one. You can even choose not to go to a doctor who agrees to peform one. But don't tell other women what to do with their bodies or their lives.

If all of the pro life money went to something productive, like protecting children who are already born, then perhaps the world would be a better place.

If you donate, let Scarpeta readers know!

Also, this is what I listened to this morning (they also have an article if you are not interested in the audio) that inspired this blog:

Hudson's horror highlights a city in crisis

Imagine this scenario: terrorists attack one of America’s greatest cities: the city of Chicago. Four hundred thirty people are killed and countless other are injured. Survivors are traumatized. Children are afraid to go outside. In support of the victims, people all over Chicago and the country patriotically display American flags in their windows and on their cars to send the message that they will never give in to the terrorists. The United States works tireless to plan to retaliate to defend its people, assert its international authority, punish the aggressors and to help Americans, especially Chicagoans, feel secure again.

The mayor of Chicago, the police, and the everyday people turn out to be heroes during this crisis. Measure are taken to study why the attack has happened and how to prevent another attack

This scenario is not so far from reality in Chicago today (except for the heroic parts). About 430 people have been murdered in Chicago in 2008, designating the city the notorious title of murder capital of the United States. The murderers may not be foreign born terrorists, however, the killers are no doubt terrorizing the citizens of Chicago, making the decision of the Batman producers to film Gotham City in the Second City a sadly suitable choice beyond the fitting aesthetics of the dark streets of lower Wacker drive. Indeed, Chicago could use a Batman NOW! in this crime ridden city when the head of the police department and the mayor only demonstrate effete leadership qualities in this crisis.

If the number of people who have died from violent crimes in Chicago had been the victim of Al Quaeda, there would be hell to pay and the greatest minds in the country would be searching for solutions to alleviate, avenge and prevent the tragedies. Instead, there have been nothing but excuses (including that because top gang leaders have been jailed a war is going on for control on the streets.)

Chicago’s violent crime problem has come to light this weekend in the wake of the murders of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew in one of the City’s most violent neighborhoods on the South Side: Englewood.

While I hate that my beloved city is highlighted for this horror, I think that it could be a good thing for the City. It may force Chicago, with the help of the state and federal governments, to seek innovative and creative solutions to help lower the murder rate.

The reason that the focus on this issue has been limited is because most of the victims have been poor minorities as Chicago is still largely a segregated city. I only know of one murder in my neighborhood this year.

However, 8 miles south of my residence, people live in fear of going outside. While I hear the sounds of drunk 20somethings coming from the bars, they hear the sounds of screams and gunshots.

What is the solution? I have no idea. However, I do know that just as if there were a terrorist attack killing 430 people in Chicago, we need to focus our resources both intellectual and monetary to solve the problems and stop the killings.

Chicago is home to two top 10 universities: University of Chicago and Northwestern University. In addition, other top thinkers teach and work at University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul and Loyola universities. Why not bring the top thinkers of these universities, in addition to police, educators, church officials, community organizers and even some politicians (as long as they are quiet and just listen) to brainstorm solutions? Just like the 911 commission, they can publish recommendations at the end of their findings to be implemented by the City.

The Hudson tragedy is horrific. But perhaps, due to her celebrity, she will give voice to others who live in her mother’s neighborhood who have suffered similar losses. And perhaps this case will shed light on the problem of violence that is plaguing some of Chicago’s neighborhoods with seemingly no end in sight. Whatever the reasons, gang violence, drugs, the downturn in the economy, solutions need to be found and they need to be found now. And the fact that the problems are not easy to solve is no excuse for not trying.

Because if these deaths were caused by foreign terrorists, you can be sure that solutions would be found, and found immediately: just because the victims are poor and largely from minority populations, does not make their deaths any less tragic. Their deaths should not be in vain and justice should not just take the form of incarcerating the killers. Justice requires solving the underlying problems that are causing the crimes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The perfect piano teacher

It was a day I had been waiting for what felt like an eternity. Six. I had to be six years old before I could begin. Six was the magic number. First grade. I had to be able to read well. That was the rule. I sat cross legged on the living room floor with bright blue early 80s carpet that summer watching my brother Eric play. When he would finish, I went to it, shiny, big and black with ivory, and pounded away until someone would yell at me to stop because it was annoying them.

My excitement was palpable. We pulled up to her driveway in August of 1982. Her neighborhood had cozy houses with huge, beautiful trees. As I entered, the entire house smelled of cookies. There she was in her trademark sweatpants and bare feet.

“Hello, Sharna. You look just like your dad. I’ve known your mom since we were young girls. Are you ready to begin?”

Hers was different from ours. More modest, but more approachable. Worn but still perfect. A candy bowel sat atop the wood.

“Ok, Sharna, now take your right thumb, no the other thumb, put it here, no here. Good! That is the letter ‘C.’”

Week after week when I was so small that my legs dangled from the bench, I would come to Mrs. Peters’ house and play the piano.

“You played very well this week,” she said to me when I had learned my first song.

“Thank you,” I said. “I can also sing and dance.”

She would laugh this amazing laugh. A laugh filled with hoarseness and vigor. A laugh from her belly. An uninhibited, unapologetic laugh.

I elicited the same laugh a year later right before my brother’s bar mitzvah.

“What are you doing this weekend, Sharna?”

“It’s my brother’s bar mitzvah,” I said. “Are you coming, I’ll be wearing my hair like Princess Leah from Star Wars?”

“No, Sharna, I wasn’t invited,” she said.

I paused and assured her, “Oh Mrs. Peters. Your invitation probably just got lost in the mail.”

She told those two stories to everyone she knew. They were her favorite stories for years.

Every week I would come and play the piano.

“Did you practice?” she would ask.

“Yes,” I would tell as a half truth. I did practice, once maybe twice that week.

She didn’t care if I practiced. She didn’t care that I lied even though she knew every week by how poorly or well I played. We spent a half an hour filled with laughter, music, next week’s “homework,” and that coveted candy. When she would go answer the phone I would pet her dog (I forgot the name!) and shoo away Oscar the mean cat.

The truth is, if Mrs. Peters wanted to, she could have fired me as a student. Most music teachers definitely would have. I barely practiced, I lied about it (eventually she stopped asking), and I wasn’t particularly talented. It’s not like my parents were paying her tons of money to teach me. Maybe $10? Less?

But Mrs. Peters loved me. She just did. I felt that love every time I entered her house. I felt it every time she played the “left hand” and I played the “right hand.” I felt it when she waived good bye from her front door when I walked to my mom’s car. I felt it when occasionally I would play well and she would clap. I felt it when she bought me special Chanukah music (because all she had in her stock pile was Christmas music).

Week after week I would take lessons, almost every week until I was 18. Even when I came home from college I would take lessons. By the time I was in high school, I could play Mozart, Bach and Beethoven-as they rolled in their graves. But as it became clear (when I was 8) that I would not become a concert pianist, Mrs. Peters introduced me to popular music to hold my interest (which we played after the classical music).

Playing piano brought me great joy, even though I wasn’t great at it. When I was upset about something, when I was nervous, I would play on my parents’ piano, and pounded away until someone would yell at me to stop because it was annoying them. When I went to college my freshman year, I played on the baby grand in Foster Harper. When I lived in Israel after college, I played piano in the dining hall at the kibbutz. At the high school I worked at, I would play in the student lounge.

Again, let me be clear. I am not good at piano, but I can play piano. I miss notes, I change rhythms, I have no ear and I can’t memorize a piece to save my life. However, the hours of joy that my limited skill has brought to me are innumerable. I hate playing in front of people outside of my family. It is hard for me to play in front of close friends. My hands shake terribly and I feel sick and insecure.

But that neurosis is not because of Mrs. Peters. She somehow overcame my low self esteem to give me this incredible gift of music. As a kid with Mrs. Peters I wasn’t insecure, I wasn’t fat, as a middle schooler I wasn’t unpopular or ugly, and as a high schooler I wasn’t boyfriendless wearing the wrong clothes. With her it was always about the love of the sound of the music. Put a piece of sheet music in front of me, and I will make it come to life. I will play it. My hands will hit the white keys hard, the passion of the notes enveloping my fore arms. My foot, hitting the pedal, amplifies the notes so that they are probably louder than the composer intended. And if I’m really feeling comfortable, I will sing along, and if I’m there long enough, even harmonize.

When friends (who aren’t pianists or musicians) hear me play for the first time that are incredulous. “I didn’t know you played.” I offer full disclosure that I don’t really.

But the truth is, I do. I can play for hours. I play Natalie Merchant, Fiona Apple, Mozart, Ben Folds, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, show tunes, Rent, Phil Collins, Disney Music. I’ve played a couple of times in public. I played in a band for one performance with as a keyboardist on my stomach because someone forgot the stand. I played at my youth advisor’s wedding. I played in contests (always earning second in a competition against myself).

Had Mrs. Peters given up on me, had she “fired” me, my fingers would have been silenced. Instead she gave me an incredible, irreplaceable gift: the gift of music.

As a teacher applying to jobs, you are asked to write these hideous educational philosophy statements. I always struggled with that. Teaching is such an innate skill for me, that even after a master’s in education, it seemed to be an impossible task.

Because to be completely honest, sometimes as an educator, I embrace mediocrity. I don’t see the point in telling a kid that she has to be perfect, when perfection isn’t a realistic goal. My standards are high. I still give readings to the equivalent of Mozart. But some kids aren’t going to get there, and making them feel like shit about it serves no useful purpose. And the only times in my life where I quit something was when the coach or teacher used perfection as the standard of success.

I understand that this can’t work in every aspect of life. But really, how many of us are ever actually perfect at anything? And how many of us have stopped doing what we love because we weren’t good enough?

I want the writer who can’t spell to write. I want the dancer who is clumsy to dance. I want the soccer player who can’t run fast to play. I want the actor who isn’t Broadway bound to act.

And I’ll tell you, the times when I sacrificed my joy of something to meet the standards of someone else’s definition of perfection, I lost a part of my soul and only regained it once I reclaimed whatever it was that brought me happiness.

I wonder if anyone ever counted how many children Mrs. Peters taught to play the piano before she died on Sunday. I wonder if anyone knows how many people are out there to whom she gave the gift of music. I wonder how many people remember the different candies for every season that they received after a lesson. I wonder how many people can still hear her laugh in their ears and in their hearts and most importantly at their fingertips.

View Mrs. Peters Obituary

My educational philosophy

Monday, October 20, 2008


The question that is being asked around the world is should Pope Pius the XII be granted sainthood by the Catholic Church?

The canonization is being opposed by Jewish groups given Pope Pius the XII’s seemingly lack of intervention on behalf of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust.

The Times (England) has published a letter submitted by six Catholic and three Jewish scholars asking the Catholic Church to continue to postpone the canonization process of Pope Pius XII.

The scholars write that they are: "deeply concerned about the impact of beatification/canonization on the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, making the rush to canonization seem inappropriate."

In Israel, the notion of the canonization has caused great protest from Holocaust survivors and scholars. This is no surprise given that Pope Pius XII is deemed by a plaque at Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust museum) as a bystander who did nothing to protect Rome's Jewish community members when they were deported to death camps.

The Catholic and Jewish scholars suggest, as many have, that the Vatican open its archives from the time period to study "whether the Pope did all he could and whether he did it soon enough."

Although I understand the response by Holocaust survivors and other Jews to the possible canonization, I think it's unnecessary. If the Catholic Church, with declining numbers, wants to remain relevant to its own, it must come to this decision from within, ignoring outside influence.

The evidence, as available thus far, is that Pope Pius XII's failed to use his vast power to try to act to protect Jews during the Holocaust, turning a blind eye to massacres even in predominantly Catholic countries.

The blind eye mentality also could be the cause of great Catholics suffering. Isn't it possible that this paradigm led to great inaction by Church leaders in response to revelations of sex abusing priest until victims began bringing law suits against the Church?

Unless the archives are opened, and unless they show that Pope Pius XII did indeed made a concerted effort to help Europe's Jews, the canonization of the Pope is not just a slap in the face to those who suffered under the Nazis, but more importantly to those who have suffered from clergy abuse.

It is an assertion that the Church still rewards those who stood by while others suffered, despite the assurances by leaders that the Church has turned a new leaf.

By not opening the archives, the Church is embracing the same culture of secrecy that led to priests abusing children for decades.

This is not an issue of dogma, this is not an issue of theology. To make this Pope a saint is to embrace a template of inaction in the face of evil.

Unless an examination of the archives proves differently.

sources: Letter from Scholars

Article about letter

An Israeli newspaper's coverage of the issue


Here is a poem/song written during the Holocaust. It was running through my head as
I researched and wrote this piece.


On a wagon bound for market
There's a calf with a mournful eye.
High above him there's a swallow
Winging swiftly through the sky.

How the winds are laughing
They laugh with all their might
Laugh and laugh the whole day through
And half the summer's night.

"Stop complaining," said the farmer
"Who told you a calf to be?
Why don't you have wings to fly away with
like the swallow so proud and free?"

Calves are easily bound and slaughtered
Never knowing the reason why.
But whoever treasures freedom,
Like the swallow must learn to fly

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bill Maher called me a mafia wife

As I left the film Religulous on Friday night, my chest and throat aching from laughing so much, I asked my friend if he knew what the reviewers thought of it.

He told me that they criticized Bill Maher for interviewing the most vulnerable of religious people instead of high level philosophers who may have been actually able to answer his questions.

Bill Maher probably couldn't interview them because he is not their equals, nor thinks of religion on that high of a level. It is much easier to interview people who are less educated and less intelligent than you.

On the other hand, the people he interviewed spend much (if not all) of their time engaged in their faith. He did prove the point (that probably didn't need to be proved) that most religious people have no basis for faith except, well, faith. Maher equated faith to fairy tales.

As a Jewish professional, educator, member of a Conservative synagogue and someone who grew up a five minute drive from the University of Notre Dame, I've spent my entire life discussing faith.

However, I am not a theologian or a Rabbi.

Therefore, unlike the Joes, Yosephs, and Assaphs in the film who Bill Maher interviewed, or the theologians that Bill Maher did not interview, I am going to claim to be Bill Maher's equal in terms of intelligence and thought given to religious dogma. He may or may not agree. I don't know.

So what did I think of Religulous? First of all, it was funny. It just was. Religion is funny and Bill Maher is funny. I LMAO.

Until the end. Until he was talking to me.

He told us Joe Moviegoers that if we are affiliated with religion in any way, we are contributing to the eventual destruction of the world. He said it is analogous to being a mafia wife: someone benefiting from thievery and murder without actually committing it herself.

(By the way, the theater was very quiet when he said this with visuals of impending nuclear and environmental doom in the background).

My problem with his theory is that he is saying that only bad can come from religious belief. He implies that religion is the cause of all that is bad in the world. What about Nazism or Stalinism? Those were not beliefs motivated by religion, yet they were the cause of tremendous human suffering and murder.

What he does not recognize is that there was, could and would be bad in the world without religion and that indeed much good does emerge from religious beliefs. However, perhaps the good is harder to measure and isn't as visually exciting as explosions, chants, and extravagant buildings.

Are the countless poor people helped by Catholic Charities and the Jewish United Fund a bad part of religion?

How about the Imam, Rabbi or Priest who visits a sick person in the hospital?

How about the chaplain in Iraq?

Or the schools funded by Jewish and Catholic organizations?

What about the meditation taught by Buddhists that relieves emotional anxiety?

Or what about Yoga? Is Yoga bad?

According to Maher then, wouldn't it be bad to claim American citizenship given the mess in Iraq? If I'm a proud American am I Mrs. Bush? If Senator McCain wins the election and all the people who supported Senator Obama do not move to Canada, are they now supporting Senator McCain.

I do not subscribe or adhere to much of Judaism. But that doesn't mean I see no value in it. If you return to the first sentence of this blog, I saw the film on Friday night. I do not "keep the Sabbath." But I see the value in doing so, I just choose not to.

If Bill Maher wanted to make a funny movie, he succeeded. However, if he really wanted to prove the ridiculousness of religion, he failed. He just demonstrated that you can take a video camera, seek out some religious people, and they are going to sound really funny and stupid.

2 best items of the weekend

1. General Powell's endorsement of Senator Obama. See video. Love the point about Muslims.

2. The hyped Sarah Palin and Tina Fey meeting I found a little dull. However, this gem from weekend update was incredibly funny.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin Pregnancy a Problem

I am concerned about Levi Johnston and his pregnant girlfriend, Bristol.

And although Senator Obama has not attacked Governor Palin on this issue, because as he said the issue is personal and his own mother was 18 when she had him; I think she should be criticized.

And not with the hateful rhetoric that emerges from a google search Levi Johnson or Bristol Palin: red neck, knocked up. This is criticism based on the reality of their situation.

I don’t blame them (entirely) for the unwed pregnancy. On the other hand at most Governor Palin is to blame for her daughter’s situation and at the least she is a willing bystander to this disaster. How can we expect her to lead the country (as she is heartbeats away from the presidency) when the future of her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend is smashing into a melting polar iceberg?

You don’t have to be a governor of a huge state to understand statistics. And if Governor Palin doesn’t hold weight in her own family, how can she possibly influence world leaders or even the U.S. Senate?

What prompted this post was in a recent interview with the Associated Press, Levi Johnston said that will no be returning to high school to complete his degree: “Johnston has dropped out of high school to take a job on the North Slope oil fields as an apprentice electrician.”

According to U.S. census data from the last decade, a high school drop out can expect to make about $23,000 a year; a high school graduate: $30,000; a college graduate: about $52,000. The numbers are slightly dated, but the ratios have likely not changed. If anything, with the most recent economic crisis, worse times could be coming. Why would Governor Palin not insist that her daughter’s boyfriend finish high school? It’s almost laughable to hear her talk about school reform when underachievement is a marker of her own family.

Another decision, also misguided according to statistics, is their decision to get married. The AP reported: “While Johnston provided few details about next summer's wedding, the planning has started.”

I wonder if Governor Palin told her daughter and son-in-law-to-be that 70 percent of teen mothers are no longer in their first marriages by the age of 40, according to the National Campaign, an organization that discourages teen pregnancy.

Even if they defy the odds and stay married, according to The National Campaign, the Levy child is likely to suffer. The study shows that children of teenagers have lower cognitive abilities, lower academic achievement, are more likely to have behavior problems and be jailed.

And what if Bristol Palin (and Ms. Spears) serves as a role model to young girls who do not come from affluence? What if this abstinence only evolving to pregnant teens becomes the norm? It’s a possibility given there was a 3 percent increase in teen pregnancy in 2006.

According to the National Campaign the cost to the mother and to society is great. Teenager mothers cost U.S. taxpayers 9 billion dollars when you figure in welfare for child and mother, lost taxable income, and other elements.

I thought Republicans wanted smaller government and to discourage a welfare state?

Look, I hope Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston stay married for 75 years. I hope that their child grows up to be healthy and happy. However, the statistics don't lie. They are a symbol of the problem with Governor Palin and the Christian Conservatives that Senator McCain hoped she would bring to the table to unify the Republican Party. Teaching your children, teaching our children, abstinence only education leads to sociological and economic disaster for both the teenagers having children and their babies. If your religious or moral beliefs teach that sex before marriage is wrong, that’s fine, teach that it is wrong, but as my mother, who married at age 20 said to me (totally unnecessarily by the way) before I went to camp when I was 16, “I don’t want you to have sex. I think sex before marriage is wrong. But if you are going to have sex, use a condom.”

How can you argue with the legitimacy of that advice? And if you do, how can we trust you to be Vice President?


The report from the National Campaign

Rise in teen pregnancy rates

Education and salary data

Interview with Levi Johnston

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obesity as the American Dream

A health topic that is featured in the news at least weekly, and this week more frequently, is the obesity epidemic. However, unlike the flu pandemic which was caused by germs, what causes obesity is simply American values and American culture.

Whenever an epidemic emerges, or any problem in our society, people want someone to blame (read: sue). The initial target was McDonald’s. I don’t blame McDonald’s for the obesity epidemic. To eat or not to eat McDonald’s is a choice. As Americans we have the freedom to choose what we want to eat, just as we have the choice to choose who our elected officials are. If I were to sue someone for gross negligence in terms of causing the obesity epidemic it would be our politicians. They are to blame for the rising cost of health care due to complications from obesity leading to the decreasing age expectancy rates.

If I were to put politicians on trial, with the charge of making Americans fat, the witnesses for the prosecution would include educators, fruit growers, doctors, and environmentalists.

As funding for education declines from the Federal and State levels, programs are cut. Although most schools do have some sort of physical education program, much of it is underfunded and undersupported. Many schools do not have after school programs beyond basic varsity sport that would encourage active behavior. Instead at 3 p.m. (or earlier) students are let loose and typically go home, eat, and play video games or do homework which are sedentary activities. Increased funding for after school programs would allow intramural sports or other non-television related programming that would get students moving and help them value an active lifestyle. The well funded suburban schools have hiking, biking and running clubs. We need these clubs for all students, not just the rich ones.

The United States grossly under subsidizes fruit growers. The subsidies are appropriated to the makers of corn and soybeans. Typically this food is not used in grocery stores - we’re not talking corn on the cob or tofu - it is used as feed for animals. The very fatty animals that when eaten lead to obesity (although admittedly the cows need the food for milk, which allows the production of the healthy, but cholesterol filled dairy). It’s amazing that while the food pyramid is filled with fruit, growers can’t afford to provide it. Produce is a huge expense at the grocery store and why buy apples when Stuffed Pockets are cheaper.

When I would call a physician to the stand I would ask her about U.S. support of preventative medicine. While the FDA is busy putting on drugs that cause heart attacks and then taking them off the market, there is no funding or agency for increasing measures that would help people prevent obesity. For example, allowing gym memberships and yoga classes to be tax free would be a first step. Or even to allow the cost of the membership to be covered by flex plans would be a great benefit to workers who spend their days sedentary at the office. In addition, for the first time in human history the fattest people are the nation’s poorest, the ones without health insurance. If children do not receive regular health care, then how are parents supposed to be aware if their child is receiving good nutrition or is on track in terms of weight and height.

And lastly the environmentalists. The Associated Press printed last year that "The Bush administration, in one of its biggest decisions on environmental issues, moved Thursday to open up nearly a third of all remote national forest lands to road building, logging and other commercial ventures." What does this say about our nation’s values if we are planning to cut away at places where people hike and camp? It says we are not serious about promoting an active culture. The forests help maintain the air quality. I can’t tell you the number of times I became sick after exercising outside on an Ozone Action Day. But why shouldn’t I be able to utilize the beautiful Chicago lake path? Pollution as an answer is unacceptable.

It is up to us to elect politicians who will not be beholden to the agricultural and loggers lobby. We need to change our focus from Bextra to exercise. We need to stop complaining and start advocating for our children before insulin shots are sold in coffee shops and oxygen bars are not novelties but necessities.

Why the hell are you so sad?

With one in every 10 women on anti-depressants, and 30 million Americans swallowing the pills with their Cheerios the question that begs to be asked is why are Americans so depressed? We live in the richest nation in the world. We have to do very little to get what we want in terms of food, entertainment and relationships. Most of us can live to be 100 if we don’t smoke. We can all read. We won’t be wiped out by a plague from above.

If life is so great in the 21st century, why is everyone so sad? Most of my answers will be women-centered because that is my gender bias. But guys, keep reading. You’re popping pills too.

1. The 24-hour news cycle
Everyone likes a good horror film. We like the suspense, the adrenaline of fear. However that fear is unhealthy when it is brought in to your homes, and sometimes in your cars, on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Fox News especially, and CNN and MSNBC constantly instills fear in to the hearts of its viewers every day, several hours a day. Watch at a given moment and you will think that (insert scary cable network digitized theme music) that a Scott Peterson like fundamentalist Muslim is going to attack your pregnant friend with cancer after she eats a hamburger with Mad Cow disease.
Even the FoxNews web site makes me anxious. Here are some of the headlines:
Dangerous Obsession: Researchers brand phenomenon of tanning addiction as ‘tanorexia’
Cabbies in Crisis: Soaring gasoline prices are hurting big city taxi drivers
Now tanning is bad for you and the rise in gas prices is terrible, but tanorexia, crisis?
I’m scared are you?
2. Commuting to Work
My commute last year was 55 minutes in the morning and 115 minutes in the evening. I risked my life every day, no joke - I live in Chicago, to get to work. Take the train. I can’t. I would if I could. God bless NPR. But during the pledge drive the road rage ensues and my blood pressure rises.
"Solo commuting really grinds people down," said Darrel Drobnich, Director of Government and Transportation Affairs for the National Sleep Foundation. "People are working longer hours, experiencing greater stress in the workplace and at home, and sleeping less. When they hit the road they’re encountering more and more traffic. All of these factors plus too much time alone behind the wheel can spell trouble."
Most solo drivers say they can deal with their commutes. But Drobnich and other authorities from the transportation and psychology fields say people who drive alone usually don’t realize the effect their commutes have on them, a fact which makes them more susceptible to a wide range of hazards. (
3. porn
Porn is great. It’s terrific. But like, it’s also a problem. A big problem. As young boys view porn at a younger and younger age their view of women is skewed based upon the non average woman and the fake sexual experience. Their ability to be intimate with a real person is stunted. What? Her stomach isn’t perfectly flat? What? Her legs aren’t 9 feet long? What she’s not screaming in Ecstasy every time I touch her? Men are disappointed and women are frustrated because they can never live up to the other sex’s expectation.
This can make us a very lonely society.
4. nothing’s fun anymore
alcohol= liver failure, smoking = lung cancer, sex = std, walking alone = rape, meat = heart attack and mad cow, McDonald’s=obesity and diabetes.
5. Pressure
There is so much pressure to be perfect. Skin too pale? Tan. Teeth not like pearls? Whiten them. Have a wrinkle? Have surgery to remove it. Bald? Grow back your hair. Have thighs? Suck the fat out. Boobs to small? Make them bigger. Boobs to big? Make them smaller. Going to college? Better go to a good one. ACTs too low? Take a class for $5000.
We have so much pressure to be perfect that we don’t have time to stop and just, sorry to be cheesy, love each other. To send their kids to that perfect college, both parents work and work and work and don’t get to see their children grow up. But without the love of parents, how can any child really succeed in life? That’s sad.
6. And even more pressure for women
Need to be thin. Need to get married. Need to be smart. Need to be charming. Need to cook. Need to have kids. Need to raise kids well. Need to have a great job. Need to make money. Need clothes. Need makeup. Need surgery. Need 401K. Need health insurance.
Ok, I’ve made my point. So…
Life up your bottles of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Welbutrin, and Effexor and let’s cheer to the post-modern world which is making us all crazy.
Let me know what you think is making everyone so sad.

High Holiday Healthcare

Maimonides, a revered Jewish scholar, listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city had to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23).

Almost all self-governing Jewish communities throughout history set up systems to ensure that all their citizens had access to health care. Doctors were required to reduce their rates for poor patients, and when that was not sufficient, communal subsidies were established (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:16; Responsa Ramat Rahel of Rabbi Eliezer Waldernberg, sections 24-25.)
Source: Religious Action Center

Some of the most stressed out people in the United States this month are Conservative and Reform Rabbis. While most of us spend our last Sundays of fall enjoying the sun, they are busy preparing their High Holiday sermons trying to find words to inspire Jews (and some non Jewish spouses) who only seek this spiritual guidance one to two days a year.

Their mission is difficult. Before the 19th and 20th centuries, the Rabbi was most likely the wisest person in his small community. Today Rabbis have to intellectually, emotionally and spiritually stimulate attorneys, teachers, scientists, writers, politicians, CEOs, and physicians in a 20 to 30 minute speech that relates to their 21st century lives and incorporates the values of a books of laws and ethics that are a couple of thousand years old.

Sometimes the Rabbi does a great job and his/her words are remembered for years to come and requests are made for the sermons to be published online. Other times, Mrs. Cohen’s 40 day bout with insomnia is cured in three minutes and Tammy’s right contact pops out because she rolls her eyes when she hears about how she should get more involved at her synagogue. Less frequently, the Rabbi gives a controversial sermon that causes an uproar and either he/she leaves the synagogue or the congregants may even start their own synagogue.

The High Holiday speech that I want America’s Rabbis to deliver some day might lead to angry congregants, canceled memberships, new synagogues. But it doesn’t have to. If it’s done right, perhaps the results could lead to real progress in this area without needing to bring out the guillotine.

The title: Why Universal Healthcare is a Jewish Value
No scratch that. I already see people walking out angry.
The title: Is Universal Healthcare a Jewish Value?
Much better.

Yes, you are correct. I saw Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” The film makes the compelling argument if every country in the Western world provides universal health care, why doesn’t the United States?

Moore provided anecdote, after anecdote, after anecdote, of poor or middle class people unable to afford adequate health care leading to their great physical, psychological, and economic suffering or even death.

You cannot help but leave that movie feeling embarrassed by our health care system and how we treat our poorest people.

The difficulty is how do you dismantle a system in which so many people make so much money off of? As a capitalist country, and given the years and years of school that doctors complete, how can we limit the salaries of our greatest resource?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. What I want is for the Rabbis of America to mandate their congregants to works towards fixing
America’s health care system. There are numerous Jewish sources that support universal healthcare. The speech should write itself. The difficulty will be writing it in a way that motivates congregants, and especially Jewish physicians and policy makers, to work for change.

The following responses, “you’ll have to wait for hours in line, you’ll have to wait for months for surgery, you receive substandard treatment,” are refuted by Moore, but also are irrelevant when so many poor and working and middle class people experience the above problems because they do not have insurance or their insurance companies have denied them funding for treatment.

If the United States ever offers Universal Health Care, it will be because of the private sector, not the Congress. Rabbis must ask their medically insured congregants and physician members, “What are you going to do to help fix this broken system?” They must explain why Universal Healthcare is a Jewish Value and that as leaders in the community they must commit to reforming it before the "book is closed and sealed. "

Darfur delineated

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings. -Elie Wiesel

So what’s the deal with Darfur? First let’s start with where it is. Darfur is a western region of Sudan. Sudan is bordered by Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, C.A.R, Chad and Libya. The climate is mostly desert in Sudan besides the fertile grounds near the Nile River and the Red Sea. Unfortunately, the Darfur region is far west of the Nile river. There is little water and fertile land is sparse. The issue of land is key to the current conflict.

Basically, in Sudan there is a regular army but there are also government supported militias who attack civilians. Imagine if in Florida a large militia emerged which started raping, beating, and killing the elderly. This militia would surely be put down by the United States government. In Sudan, the government actually funds or offers military support to these militias.

The militias are the "Janjaweeds." They were initially sent to the Darfur region by the Sudanese government to clear the region of rebel groups opposing the Sudanese government. (This is somewhat separate from the Sudanese civil war which lasted for 20 years and recently ended after a peace agreement was signed in 2005.) Instead of fighting just the guys fighting the government, they scorched the earth and displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of African civilians. If the Janjawee can eliminate a large percentage of the population, the land is theirs, as are the limited resources.

The Africans driven from their homes by the Janjawee are living in displaced persons camps. Sometimes humanitarian aid can’t get to the camps because it is blocked by the Sudanese government or the Janjaweed.

The estimated death toll in Darfur is currently at more than 400,000.

So this is the thing. Ten years ago there was a genocide in Rwanda. It took a Hollywood movie for anyone to care about it and then it was too late. President Clinton said the biggest regret of his presidency was not doing more in Rwanda.
We, as voters, need to pressure our government to do more about Darfur. I’m not saying invade or anything, but we can allocate more funds to aid agencies, we can help train the African Union troops. Whatever we do we have to do more than we are doing now.
So write your representatives, call the President, and donate money.

Here’s an idea for a little quicky fundraiser. Print out a blank map of Africa. Charge $1-$5 for the map and distribute to coworkers. Whomever can identify the most countries will win the pool and their winnings will be donated to the Save Darfur campaign in his/her honor or in honor or in memory of someone else. (Don’t let anyone cheat and use the Internet!)

Please forward this to anyone who might be interested.

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent. -Elie Wiesel

Will the Walgreens on Belmont carry guns?

I have had conflicting feelings over the Supreme Court's decision that the hand gun ban in Washington D.C. is unconstitutional.

Unless I've misheard the local news, there are deaths or injuries due to gun violence, in a city which has the ban, just about every day.

Therefore, is this decision even relevant? The Mayor of Chicago thinks so.

"Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?" Daley asked while speaking at a Navy Pier event. "If [the justices] think that's the answer, then they're greatly mistaken. Then why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets?"(Daley Vows to Fight for Chicago’s Gun Ban)

The new Chicago police superintendent was also angry about the ruling:

"From a law enforcement perspective, this will no doubt make a police officer's job more challenging than it already is, particularly since a firearm is used in 75 percent of all murders committed in the city of Chicago." (Daley Vows to Fight for Chicago’s Gun Ban)

And the above quote is exactly why this decision is not tugging violently at my liberal heart strings. There simply is not clear cut evidence that the gun ban has reduced violent crime. If someone wants to kill someone else, or if someone feels he needs a gun for protection, he will acquire one, no matter the ban.

The Chicago Police Department seized more than 13,000 guns last year, but only a handful of people were arrested for violating the city's handgun ban, records show. Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said 74 people were arrested in 2007 and 83 people in 2006 for failing to register their handguns, an ordinance violation. "Criminals will continue to carry guns, and law-abiding citizens will continue to keep them in their homes for self-defense," one commander said. (Cops: Few arrested for violating ban)

Still I can't help but think that it's a bad idea for every person in the city to have the ability to go out and buy a handgun for their personal use.

My concern has nothing to do with social justice. Hand gun violence affects the poor no matter if guns are banned or not. In fact, I am very Republican about this issue. I fear that lifting the gun ban will affect my own personal safety.

The practical concern with this ruling is will an improbable lift of the ban lead to a proliferation of hand guns throughout the city of Chicago and cause my life to be at risk? For example, when I cut someone off, and if he has road rage, is he going to shoot me, whereas before he might just have run me off the road? Or will my neighbor, who I’ve heard fight with his boyfriend, one day in a drunken rage shoot his lover with the gun he just purchased at the local gun shop, the bullet ricocheting somehow into my bedroom leading to my ultimate demise. If a Republican wins the next election, will the people in the high rise across the street shoot guns out their windows, and will a bullet slip through my open window leading to my paralysis?

The majority opinion argued that the right to own arms is based on the principle of self defense as provided by the Second Amendment. Assuming I would buy a gun, how would that help if someone shoots at me intentionally or unintentionally? Perhaps I should invest in my own type of missile defense system that I remember hearing about when the President of my childhood, Ronald Reagan led this country during the Cold War.

When the Second Amendment was written, were there high rises and urban crowding? Was there road rage? Were there even hand guns?

Chicago’s gun ban probably isn’t solving the tragic loss of life of inner city youth. This decision by the Supreme Court is merely a distraction from the hard work that needs to be done to fight poverty and gang violence.

With that said, here is my question:
why is my right not be killed by a hand gun less valid than my right to own one? I guess the right not to be killed by a handgun is not protected in the Bill of Rights. Although I do remember reading something about “life and liberty.”

(Daley Vows to Fight for Chicago’s Gun Ban),0,1997533.story?track=rss

(Cops: Few arrested for violating ban),CST-NWS-trace27.article

Doctor saves my dad's life; tugs at my feminist heart strings

The following writing could be gender neutral or appositive towards men. However, to write as such would be disingenuous to my current state of emoting feminism. With that said, feel free to apply it to whomever you choose.

A 6:30 a.m. I entered the surgical prep room where my dad was already in bed donning a hospital gown. My brother, a physician, was chatting with friends at the hospital and making my dad feel at ease.

Then she walked in. Dr. Talia Baker. Transplant Surgeon. At age 41 she is one of the top transplant surgeons at Northwestern University Hospital. She is about 5’6, thin build, blue eyes and dark hair worn in a hybrid layered cut/bob.

Talia has three kids, all under the age of five. She majored in history and then decided to go to medical school. She speaks confidently that “your dad will do just great in the surgery.” I believe her.

Eight and a half hours later she emerges from surgery looking tired but cheerful. She explains with depth and precision why my father’s surgery took so long and complications that she anticipates. I imagine her standing in the surgical room (did I mention it took 8 hours!) cutting my father open, maneuvering through the layers of scar tissue, flipping his liver, and then resecting it and resecting it again until comfortable that the margins are centimeters free of cancer. I imagine her wearing her mini binoculars on her glasses so that she can see precisely the hernias from previous surgeries and the hundred or so bile ducts that have formed as a result of liver damage.

As she anticipates my dad’s recovery, I resist the urge to tackle her with a huge hug of thanks. As soon as I can, I go to the intensive care unit to see my dad. He is doing fine. Many tubes, a mask to help him breathe, but he is just fine. He is even cracking jokes half true to his personality and half fueled by the pain medication and left over anesthetic.

As I return to the surgical waiting room I see the magazines that my sister in law bought to entertain us while we awaited my dad’s emergence from surgery: People and US magazine.

To be fair, I read US Magazine especially if I’m feeling stressed because it helps get my mind off reality. But then I wondered…

How would our world be different if we lauded the Talia Bakers in the world? What if the top selling magazine covers featured women whose contributions mattered, instead of focusing on Britney’s drug problem, Lindsey’s drug problem, Paris’ drug problem, the extra fat on so and sos stomach and the 30 pounds someone was paid to lose by a diet company whose results are unreliable. Why are we focused on who got what plastic surgery and who is dating or cheating on whom?

In addition, why do we fuel the hyper commercialization of young people with marginal talent whose biggest achievement is attaining stardom because of aggressive publicists or being related to famous parents?

Imagine a magazine that features the winner of the Science Olympiad. Or an artist that created art. Or a composer of music. Why are we not featuring these kids’ successes instead of solely focusing on the rich, famous and f-ed up? What if we knew the stories of the genetic counselors who guide a woman at risk of having a child born with a genetic disease through conception and pregnancy; or the special education teacher who teaches her students to read; or the speech language pathologist who teachers her autistic student to speak; or the volunteer in Africa who counsels victims of rape? Or the attorney at the ACLU who protects a woman’s right to choose? Or the aid who cares for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s?

Perhaps in this post feminist age, in this uber obsessed celebrity culture, this is the final battle women must fight: the battle to celebrate and promote achievements, even permeate the culture with such accomplishments, which are completely unrelated to looks or sex appeal.

Imagine young women dumping the Hillary Duff and Hannah Montana posters for ones of Condoleeza Rice shaking hands with a Saudi Prince? Or of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor at the U.S. Supreme Court? Or of the top doctor of their town with her arm around a patient she saved after a car accident?

If the day comes when women are revered for what in reality benefits our society rather than the materialism that overwhelms Americans then perhaps this next generation of young women will become “the greatest generation” of the 21st century. If we continue to revere women only based on their breasts, hair, and waist size, I have no doubt that the future of our country is bleak and Barbie better watch out or her next job will be as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.”

In memory

Several years ago an adult publicly berated me in front of more than a dozen other adults. One of my student’s parent, who I didn’t know very well, Mrs. Fox, witnessed the public scolding and within 24 hours called the adult to tell him/her that his/her behavior was way out of line and that he/she needed to apologize to me. In addition, Mrs. Fox called my principal and insisted that she call in the adult to apologize to me in person. Mrs. Fox then called me to make sure that I was okay and to assure me that I had done nothing wrong.

And then life went on.

Six months later, I experienced a broken engagement. While my close friends and immediate family were amazing, most people were extremely uncomfortable - understandably I guess. Not Mrs. Fox. She called to check in, not in a nosy intrusive way, but just out of concern, and then invited me to her home for Shabbat lunch.

“Any time,” she said. “And please call me Bev.”

And then life went on.

Until last month. Until Mrs. Fox passed away.

Mrs. Fox has touched the lives of many. As a wife, a mother, educator and community member she was loved and respected by all who knew her. She had a bounce to her step and an infinite amount of energy. And, when I did finally go to her house, for Sukkot lunch, I learned she was a fabulous cook – rivaled by her daughter Renana’s gift for baking

Whenever someone that I admire passes away, I think about how I can honor their memory. When my Bubbie died, I honored her by hosting meals for friends to celebrate Shabbat. When my Zadie died, I promised to be as generous as he was, giving charity to the homeless asking for a dollar because, as he used to say, “you never know who is the righteous one.”

I promise to honor Mrs. Fox by refusing to ignore injustice even when it would be easier to continue walking. I promise to make uncomfortable phone calls when someone has suffered: be it a break up or the loss of a loved one. I will comfort those in need to the best of my ability.

I have been lucky to know many amazing people who [hope to] influence change through politics, activism, volunteerism, teaching and preaching. However, what I learned from Mrs. Fox is that you change the world not through [only] addressing the meta issues, but by how you care for individuals in distress and need. I can’t help but think if every person in the world cared for one another the way that Mrs. Fox cared for the people she came into contact with, the global problems would work themselves out. Think about how many other people witnessed my scolding or knew about the broken engagement. They were all good people, but perhaps they were uncomfortable, perhaps they felt awkward, perhaps they didn’t have time. Mrs. Fox prioritized my well being, a virtual stranger, but nevertheless a stranger in need.

With the passing of Mrs. Fox, there is a little less benevolence in the world.


Unless we transmit her recipes of kindness through our own selfless acts so that she lives on - not just in all of our hearts but the hearts of others who never knew her.

May her memory be for a blessing.

My nerves: your nerves?

There are some things that have been getting on my nerves lately. I'm going to list 10 of them and then just stop being annoyed by them. I'm purging my nerves in honor of the Day of Atonement. If there is something you would like to purge, please feel free.

1. As everyone at work knows, I get very upset when I receive and email that asks me at the bottom, "Do you really need to print this email?" This is the most patronizing question ever. If I want to print the email, yes I need to. Why is it any of your business? And by the way, the line makes me want to print the email, fax it to you and then mail it to you and make copies for everyone I know.

2. The Cubs. I mean fine, don't win the World Series. But 0-3, or I guess more appropriately 0-6!!!! Seriously, your fans are indeed minimalists, but to support you after this debacle is even a little much.

3. People who don't respond to evites. I mean, can't you just give three seconds of your time and respond?.

4. The presidential debates: I mean really. How much more can they say? They've said it all. Let's just drop it and vote in November.

5. Look, why are we blaming the government for subprime mortgage crisis? I mean really. Do we have no personal responsibility for any of our actions? Unless your mortgage broker lied to you, you really didn't know what it means to have an adjustable mortgage? We are turning into a nation of wussies. If you spend more than you earn you are going to be in debt. The end. If you eat too much fast food you are going to get fat. Not everything is the government's fault.

6. When John McCain says we are winning the war in Iraq. What does winning even mean anymore?

7. People who write thank you notes in their baby's voices. Ok, I'm so used to it doesn't bother me. But it is a little weird. Can your baby write? Read? Talk? Probably not. I don't even know your baby. I know you. So you, write me a thank you note.

8. People who respond to blogs but don't take the time to spell words correctly even though the blog provider has underlined every misspelled word.

9. Spam instant messaging

10. People at the gym who sweat all over a machine, and I mean not just a little sweat but like a pool of water, and don't even attempt to wipe it off.

I feel better already. Thank you.

Conversation with My Cable Company

I call RCN and 182 minutes later:

RCN: Hello this is ... speaking

Me: Hi, for some reason the number of cable channels that I have has been reduced by about 70 percent including TBS (the network showing the Cubs playoff games) since Monday. I've reset my cable box five times hoping the signal would work. It's not. Can you help me?

RCN: Ok I am sending you the signal now. Go to your t.v. and see if it worked.

Me: Ok, but please, please don't hang up.

RCN: I won't, mam.

[I walk to the t.v. and no TBS]

Me: It didn't work.

RCN: Ok mam, I'm going to send you the super duper extra strong signal. It should work in two to three hours. But it may work in ten minutes

Me: Ok, but what if it doesn't?

RCN: You can call us back and we will be happy to help you.

Me: Look I'm not blaming you but do you have any kind of indicator of how long I've been on hold.

RCN: No, mam.

Me: I've been on hold for 182 minutes.

RCN: Oh, well, we have been hearing that from other customers. But we get about 500 calls an hour and there are not many of us working here.

Me: Ok, well can you tell someone, like a manager that this is unacceptable and ludicrous.

RCN: Yes, and the bad part is that the people who call are quite cranky when they talk to me.

Me: I'm sorry to hear that.

RCN: Yes, and there are not many of us working here you know. And these calls are recorded so when people become abusive we have to be nice because the calls are recorded.

Me: Well, I would never been abusive. But what should I do if the super duper extra strong signal doesn't work?

RCN: Well, let's set up an appointment with a service person and if you don't need him then you can cancel.

Me: Great

RCN: Oh My God.

Me: What?

RCN: The next available time is at 1 p.m. next Wednesday.

Me: Forget it. I'm not scheduling that. I work.

RCN: Well, Mam, I have a great feeling about this super duper extra strong signal.

Me: So if it doesn't work I'm supposed to sit on hold for three hours again tomorrow?

RCN: Yes, I guess so mam.

Me: Ok, well let's hope the super duper strong signal works.

RCN: Good luck, mam. i have a feeling that it will.

Conversation with RCN

I call RCN and 182 minutes later:

RCN: Hello this is ... speaking

Me: Hi, for some reason the number of cable channels that I have has been reduced by about 70 percent including TBS (the network showing the Cubs playoff games) since Monday. I've reset my cable box five times hoping the signal would work. It's not. Can you help me?

RCN: Ok I am sending you the signal now. Go to your t.v. and see if it worked.

Me: Ok, but please, please don't hang up.

RCN: I won't, mam.

[I walk to the t.v. and no TBS]

Me: It didn't work.

RCN: Ok mam, I'm going to send you the super duper extra strong signal. It should work in two to three hours. But it may work in ten minutes

Me: Ok, but what if it doesn't?

RCN: You can call us back and we will be happy to help you.

Me: Look I'm not blaming you but do you have any kind of indicator of how long I've been on hold.

RCN: No, mam.

Me: I've been on hold for 182 minutes.

RCN: Oh, well, we have been hearing that from other customers. But we get about 500 calls an hour and there are not many of us working here.

Me: Ok, well can you tell someone, like a manager that this is unacceptable and ludicrous.

RCN: Yes, and the bad part is that the people who call are quite cranky when they talk to me.

Me: I'm sorry to hear that.

RCN: Yes, and there are not many of us working here you know. And these calls are recorded so when people become abusive we have to be nice because the calls are recorded.

Me: Well, I would never been abusive. But what should I do if the super duper extra strong signal doesn't work?

RCN: Well, let's set up an appointment with a service person and if you don't need him then you can cancel.

Me: Great

RCN: Oh My God.

Me: What?

RCN: The next available time is at 1 p.m. next Wednesday.

Me: Forget it. I'm not scheduling that. I work.

RCN: Well, Mam, I have a great feeling about this super duper extra strong signal.

Me: So if it doesn't work I'm supposed to sit on hold for three hours again tomorrow?

RCN: Yes, I guess so mam.

Me: Ok, well let's hope the super duper strong signal works.

RCN: Good luck, mam. i have a feeling that it will.

Problematic Palin

When John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, I, like many around the world, googled her and read the brimming news coverage featuring scattered details about her biography. I admit that even though she is a Republican, I couldn’t help but give kudos to John McCain for making such a “maverick” move. [How ridiculous is it that choosing a woman is seen as unusual given women make up more than half of the population, but regardless it was bold given that only one other woman has ever been nominated.]

And then her speech! I found myself enjoying her jabs at Barack Obama. Yeah, small town people are an awesome part of America Yeah, she probably does know a thing or two being governor so it’s fine that she is a heart beat away from the presidency. Yeah, come to think of it, pit bulls are like hockey moms.

But Sarah Palin, with all her charisma and rhetoric prowess is most definitely dangerous. And I believe that Americans will see beyond the superficiality and recognize that the prospect of a McCain-Palin presidency will not lead to a safer America, but a more perilous one. Their legacy could include unsafe abortions, an increase in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, continued environmental damage, a retraction of basic freedoms, a continuance of the health care crisis, and more failed foreign policy degrading the United States’ reputation as a world leader.

McCain, no matter how independent minded he was at some point, has recently switched his stance on a woman’s right to choose. He has always been “Pro Life” but until recently he was opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. If he is elected president, and pressured to appoint conservative judges, there is a real possibility that women’s lives will be in danger if forced to perform unsafe abortions.

You would think that the “Pro Life” crew would want women not to have unplanned pregnancies in the first place. Sarah Palin supports abstinence only sex education. Again, this is dangerous for our young people. Putting aside teen pregnancy, an abstinence only curriculum does not provide young people with the information that they need to prevent contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Besides STDs, expect more kids to develop asthma due to Republican disregard of environmental protections. Watch wildlife and sea creatures die if Republicans expand drilling.

Freedom will suffer from a terminal illness as the Patriot Act is renewed under a Republican presidency.

Horrible diseases will continue to kill as progress is stunted without federal funds for stem cell research.

And those who contract those diseases will not be able to afford health care because the Republicans are not committed to providing affordable health insurance to all Americans, just as they are not committed to improving public education (with vouchers reducing fund for schools).

With joblessness rising, the sub prime mortgage mess, instability in Georgia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, the security of our country both domestically and abroad cannot be left to a senator who has compromised his values to appease the Republican Right and a governor who has the hubris to think that God supports her policies.

While both Palin and McCain are likable and even worth admiring, if elected their policies will make America a worse place four years from now.