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Apr 9 16

NYSIF (Problems of Privilege)

by Editor

If you employ a regular babysitter, you are supposed to report their income and pay a portion of their taxes, or else. (Remember “Nannygate“?) It’s expensive but, hey, business opportunity! offers to ease the way, and if you can afford their services, they do just that. (Unpaid endorsement: they are great to work with.)

In New York State, however, you are also required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. And this is where both the bureaucracy and the law are what is politely known as a fucking mess. Not only do you have to have insurance or face stiff penalties…you then have to endure an endless stream of paperwork and reports designed for businesses with hundreds of employees, not a single household worker.

I just received the renewal for another year of coverage through the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF). And I once again find myself frustrated by the insanity of the process and the opacity of NYSIF. Which reminds me of a letter I sent to the Fund’s Executive Director and CEO, Eric Madoff, in 2014. It still says it all.

Look, I think worker’s compensation insurance is generally a social good. I support the idea of these social safety nets, and I pay my “nanny taxes” because I believe in these systems–in the abstract. But the practical application of them is the sort of thing that drives people to the cause of smaller government.

Oh, and the renewal price? $780. That’s a 27% rate increase in just two years. What’s the current rate of inflation in the U.S.? Never mind, don’t answer that.


P.S. Ron Lieber’s 2009 New York Times article on the subject remains relevant and worth reading.

Oct 13 13

Of Confederate Flags And Other Bullshit

by Editor

A rally on the National Mall, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was intended to show that Tea Party activists — supporters of the House Republicans who forced the shutdown over their opposition to the new health care law — were in no mood to give in. Some waved Confederate flags and called for President Obama to be impeached.

Senate Leaders Talk but Fail to Reach Deal on Shutdown,” Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times, October 14, 2013

Is it OK for Southerners to carry a Confederate flag at a rally of like-minded people, the same way it’s OK for African-Americans (but only African-Americans) to call each “nigger”? I don’t think I approve of either of these things.

Oh, sure. The presence of the Confederate flag at this rally on the National Mall? Just a sign of “states’ rights.” No doubt! The linkage between the Confederate flags and calls for impeachment proceedings against President Obama? Surely just a reflection of these people’s anger that the Affordable Care Act imposes actual healthcare on millions of people without it.

If you believe all this, I have a bridge to sell you; please do get in touch.

The Affordable Care Act was deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Note that no one is calling for five Justices to be impeached. After all, this is the same court that has loosened gun regulations, loosened rules on money in politics, and transmogrified incorporated businesses into individuals for the purposes of Constitutional rights. Was their decision about “Obamacare” just an aberration?

I digress. Here’s the thing: that flag–the Confederate flag–has connotations as clear as a swastika. Just like the symbol of the Nazis also embodied the German’s desire to get out from under the thumb of repressive post-World War I sanctions, and to re-arm and re-establish themselves as a true, powerful, independent European country … the connection to virulent anti-Semitism and the holocaust is hard to escape. In the same way yes, sure, the Confederate flag represents an era of very specific politics. And that flag also represents a war fought over the enslavement of millions of people and (following the Civil War) a century long, multi-generational period of sustained and often violent discrimination.

It is pathetic that people like Senator Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin do not denounce such activities. To do so would actually elevate the Tea Party and make clear that theirs is a movement not driven by racism–by a deep-seated racist hatred of an African-American president. But alas they cannot and do not repudiate such things, either because they, too, share those sentiments, or because they value too much the support of such people. Equally pathetic is our national news media which reports such details in passing, but fails–out of fear?–to delve too deeply into the underlying issues.

I’m no fan of President Obama. I admire his oratory, but frown on much of his politics, from the vast limitations of the Affordable Care Act to the vast increases he has sustained in our national “security” infrastructure. Still, I am not afraid to call out racism when I see it. And these people–people marching on the National Mall, demanding the president’s impeachment and waving the Confederate flag? These people are racists, and their motivations are of the most base variety. We must resist this behavior and the intellectually impoverished faux-ideology behind it.

Oct 8 13

Whack Him Back & Walk Away

by Editor

It’s 6:35am, I am in the kitchen making coffee, and NPR has just confirmed that the government remains shut down (as I think to myself, yes, and Speaker John Boehner is still ineffective; #LetsTalk about that), the US is still holding a freshly captured alleged terrorist on a boat, and that it’s going to be a lot cooler today than yesterday. The radio is also, apparently, screaming at me.

Oh, that’s not the radio. That’s my children. “Mommmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” Well, they’re not calling me.

“Mommmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! He’s hurting me!”

She’s 6, he’s 4. And Mommy is apparently indisposed since after two minutes of screaming….the 6 year old is still screaming.

It’s now 6:38am, and my blood pressure is elevated.

I locate the children. I say: “Stop screaming. Mommy is not available right now. Why are you screaming?”

“He’s hurting me,” she says. The two of them are in their pajamas, in our bed, under the covers. It’s a big bed. There’s plenty of room for the two of them. There is no need for this.

“So get up and walk away,” I say.


My intelligent, beautiful, sophisticated 6 year old daughter has a problem. Contrary to the indicators above, the problem is not her 4 year old brother. They love each other, and most of the time they play nicely together.

My daughter’s problem is that she has no sense of self-preservation, no instinct for self-defense. And this worries me. Screaming? Screaming is good in some situations, can attract attention and alert people that something is wrong. But these days, at home, it’s hard to discern the degree of seriousness that goes with the scream.

I have been trying to teach my daughter self-preservation and self-defense. “If your brother is bothering you, hurting you, tell him firmly to stop. If he doesn’t stop, remove yourself from that spot–the bed, the couch, the floor, wherever. And if he still doesn’t stop hurting you, whack him hard on the shoulder and then walk away. Eventually, he will learn that if he hurts you it will result in him getting hurt, and he will stop.”

Whack him back, and walk away.


Certainly–certainly!–when the 4 year old hurts the 6 year old, it isn’t the 6 year old to blame! We take all the right steps with the 4 year old. He loses toys (especially if they’re the whacking object) or his dessert or a bedtime story. He gets quiet time by himself or with one of us. But I say, without making excuses: he’s a 4 year old boy. This is, alas, what many boys do, especially younger siblings.

And granted, I grew up with a younger brother (whom I love very much) who also spent time in childhood bothering me in much the same fashion. As boys, we would wrestle and fight, whack each other and whack each other and whack each other and … eventually move on. I wasn’t an older sister, and I know–know–that girls can be differently wired on these matters. I understand that.

But still, I say: whack him back and walk away.


When it comes right down to it, life is not always so simple. Things you want need to be fought for, obstacles need to be overcome. Mostly–hopefully–these are not physical obstacles, these should not be obstreperous (or, worse, sociopathic) people standing literally in your way. But conceptually, the instincts are the same. Self-preservation and self-defense are key life skills, whether with bullies of either gender in school or on the playground, or with a date with wandering hands [gulp; hopefully many years away], or against colleagues who try to thwart you or people who try to rip you off. It is not always about physical retaliation; in fact, mostly it is not about physical retaliation, but some other form of self-preservation, from arguing your point all the way down to counting your change in a store. Life requires a little bit more than just waiting for someone else to help you out.

Screaming? Screaming can be good. But sometimes, you just need to whack ’em back and walk away.

Apr 21 13

“Separating Islam From Acts Of Terror”

by Editor

Danger In Conflation: Separating Islam From Acts Of Terror.” That’s the headline from an NPR piece tonight in which the host interviews Omid Safi, a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (fuller bio here) about reactions to the Boston Marathon bombings and accused bombers, and their apparent identification with Islam.

It is worth a listen. It is a clear-headed defense of Islam, yes. More importantly, Safi provides a very coherent rebuttal of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

The Onion, ever brilliant, published an item last week titled: “Study: Majority Of Americans Not Informed Enough To Stereotype Chechens“. Sadly, this is probably true. But while it points to a specific weakness (our “exceptionalism” tends to lead to an exceptionally weak understanding of geography) it also highlights rather clearly the problems with trying to profile people and make assumptions about behaviors based on stereotypes and only the weakest understanding of world geography and other cultures.

Between Safi and The Onion, we can learn a lot. And that’s no joke.