Monday, December 9, 2019

To Impeach or Not Impeach - Legislative Masturbation

When the kids were little, I made them do their "homework" whenever a significant purchase was on the horizon. This is because I, personally, overthink everything into oblivion and have been known to take up to a year to decide on a minor purchase like new dishes and up to four years for a new car. It's not that I'm wishy-washy, in fact, quite the opposite. I usually know exactly what I want and will patiently wait for it to be invented...or on sale. 

So, it was with some shock that the children heard the news I needed to begin thinking about replacing my 7 year old iMac now instead of waiting for a coming-soon-to-your-desk cataclysmic event. My intention, I told them, was to purchase one during this year's silly season when, I deduced there might be a reduction in price, that I could almost hear the gasps of slap-dash-homework-horror coming from their direction. But I persevered. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I needed, and in spite of well-intentioned pronouncements about what I should get, I kept to my original decision and started the great Mac hunt.

There were a few hiccups during the last few weeks as the Mac I wanted was on sale at Costco and I got shut out. followed by a momentary madness when I almost bought a lesser model, but my iron streak (and heckling by the Junior Son) won out and I waited. Then, as chance would have it, the iMac I wanted was actually not only on sale at Best Buy, but there was one in stock at my local store. In other words, I could do a quick grocery run and pick up an iMac on the same trip and be back home in under a hour. Works for me. (I'm a terrible shopper; no patience in stores. In and out, that's all I can stand having worked retail for over a decade in my last life.)

Side by side for the transition.
My desk never looked so clean!
Tonight, I am coming to you live and in person from my new iMac, looking much the same as my old iMac, but this one actually works the way a Mac should. Best part is that I plugged it in, it asked me who I was in Appleland, and whammo! I was back in business in less than 15 minutes. Of course, I then had to do some upgrades, move some files over, but pretty much it was a piece of cake. THAT is why I am a MacHead. I understand this format, this box, and my relationship to it, thank you very much.

In case you've never noticed, I am a process-oriented human being. When I direct, I give actors tons of background information to make an era whole. I believe in process. I believe in one-step-at-a-time, and making sure all the other steps aren't leaving a big hole either behind or ahead. I like preparedness and knowing I've got a handle on most, if not all, parameters. I don't like surprises.

Which is why I am not in favor of impeachment at this time. 
This does not mean I think Feckless Leader should not be impeached. He should. But rushing this process is a fool's errand. It will die in the Senate unless something radical changes in the next month: it won't. And then that toddler-in-chief will be really elected this time and there is every reason to believe, based on what he has said out loud in the public arena, he will extend his presidency past 8 years. RGB will eventually die, he will get yet another SCOTUS seat, and We, the People, will be permanently and inextricably screwed. 

But it can and should be stopped.

This is gonna get lots of "huhs?" but I want to know why they are not allowing Hunter Biden to be called as a witless. If he's so innocent, what does he...or the DNC for that matter...have to lose? Why not let the guy talk? It would totally shut-up the GOP. To date, Hunter Biden has been accused of no crime, but readily admits taking a seat on the board of Burisma was not a great idea. It was not illegal in any way, but it had the appearance of a conflict of interest and that is enough to be problematic. 

Let's say you see the rabbi sitting in Arby's, a sandwich in his hand, at a table with another person. If one draws the conclusion the rabbi is eating non-kosher food, it's an understandable conclusion. The rabbi is in Arby's taking a bite out of the sandwich. But what if what you cannot see is that the sandwich is from his bag lunch and in the soda paper cup is only water. Is the rabbi guilty? Not of eating tref, but of marit ayin:
Suspicious-looking action; doing something that may cause an observer to think that one violated halachah [Jewish law] and thus arouse suspicion, or alternatively, doing something that could mislead somebody to interpret than an action is permitted and then violate halachah him/herself.
Appearances count, especially in this kangaroo court..and yeah, our Congressclowns do constitute a kangaroo court on both sides of the aisle. In Hunter Biden's case, testifying would be sane, yet, the Democrats are afraid to let him be heard which, by the way, makes me think he did something seriously wrong. Or so it would appear.

And speaking marit ayin, I don't hear anyone talking to Ivanka who should know exactly what the term means and why she's dancing on that particular pinhead. The woman is holding a variety of patents in China, including one on a voting machine. A voting machine? In China? Sure, the Ivanka brand was shuttered in 2018 (2 years after Feckless took office) but she still has the patents. Sure, fake leather wallets I could understand, but a voting machine? The point being that recognition and coattails are recognition and coattails.

But I digress. 

Waiting in the wings for Feckless Leader to be hauled off is Vice President Pence. This guy makes Feckless Leader look like a feminist activist. This is the guy who can't be alone with any woman except his wife because .....well, let's not go there. It's too grotesque to consider. Anyway, this is the guy who think Gilead is a good idea and we are all handmaids designed to accept penis offerings resulting only in babies. Screw the babies once they're born, but if you have a uterus, you should be worried about this guy's positions on women (pun intened.) If you think laws regarding women's reproductive health are becoming draconian now, wait until Pence is in the oval office. Or didn't you hear about SCOTUS not hearing the new Kentucky abortion law? You now have to listen to the play-by-play and watch the video of your own abortion while it's happening. Never mind the heartbreaking decision that goes into the termination of a pregnancy. SCOTUS declined to hear the case because it was a violation of the free speech of the doctor:
Although this case is abortion-related, the plaintiffs' challenge was that the law violated the free speech rights of the doctors, as opposed to the abortion rights of the patients," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.     CNN: Supreme Court rejects challenge to Kentucky abortion ultrasound law
The ethics of the situation in regard to torturing the mother had no bearing on whether or not the case was heard. I understand the ruling in my head. I don't not understand it in my kishkas. Laws are created, challenged, and defended according to the Constitution. I get that. I understand the way the lawsuit was presented made it a free speech issue. I get that, too. What I can't understand, or ever understand with this administration, is when do the rights of the people count? In this case, the woman whose body is being acted upon has no right to decline the narration. 

And you wanna impeach Feckless Leader? Before you do that, you'd better have a path to taking down Pence with him. 

They can draw up the articles of impeachment 'til the cows come home. Unless they have figured out a way for the Senate to act in good faith...which they will not...this is legislative masturbation. 

And marit ayin. Even if they have the best of intentions, the Democratic congressclowns  appear to all to be sailing down a river of no return. The only thing they are gonna give us... unless they start acting with the few remaining sensible Republicans ... is at least 8 more years of Feckless Leader.  Is that what you really want?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Before any big decision, do your due diligence homework.
Make sure you fully understand what you are asking
and what you are getting. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

When Life Hands You A Compass

I don't know what it is about Thanksgiving, but people keep dying. I know there's that thing about people dying around holidays, but this is becoming one very tough time of year for me.

Dad died on Thanksgiving night 2015, and a few days later, our beloved Aunty Lil passed away unexpectedly. Mom said she felt untethered the night we heard about Aunty Lil, like there was nothing left to hold on to, no way to right herself in this storm. Then, she turned on the national news about the GOP presidential hopefuls...and she went back to exercising her moral compass by yelling at the television.

A year later, Peri, my erstwhile canine companion of the transition from being us to being me, lost her fight with life the day after Thanksgiving. Suddenly, I was on my own for the first time. I felt unthethered.

This year, on Thanksgiving night, cousin Sammy slipped out of the Alzheimer's waiting room and into the Olam ha'Ba at about the same time Maria, his wife, learned that her own sister passed away in Mexico. And as if that is not enough, the incredible mother of my friend Sara Lynn also left us on Thanksgiving night. This has become a week of shiva calls.

Grandpa Ben Simon
Oh, yeah; my Grandpa Ben's 83 yahrzeit was observed Monday morning in shul. I wore a tallit, had an aliyah, and wondered if my grandfather would've been scandalized. I hope not. 

Jews don't do Gregorian death dates; the annual yahrzeit occurs on the Hebrew calendar date, so even though my Dad died Thanksgiving night, his yahrzeit is not for another week. Like Thanksgiving itself, the date moves around a bit. Still, Thanksgiving is getting to be more like Memorial Day around here. I don't know what it is about this time of year that makes losing people just a little bit harder. It could be the cold, the incipient grip of winter. It could also be the relentless canned soundtrack of "holiday cheer" that makes us members of the tribe a little bit extra stressed.  But no matter the root cause, I find it increasingly hard to be cheerful when between shiva calls I'm lighting yahrzeit candles. 

Yahrzeits are a pretty amazing tradition. Instead of remembering a birthday, we commemorate the death date. It's not a morbid kinda thing; it's asking us to remember the whole life, not just the arrival date. When we think about a yahrzeit, we are recalling the total person we knew, usually warts and all. It's nice to think about the good bits, but if we are honest, we also remember the not-so-good bits, too, and hopefully put some kind of perspective to the memories. I can't speak for anyone else, but sometimes I wonder how people will remember me after I've left. 

I am not thinking Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn funeral scene here. This is much less grandiose and infinitely more subtle. It's about owning one's own behavior and taking responsibility for one's own actions. Easy to say, very hard to do. I don't think I'm the only one who wonders what kind of legacy will be left behind. But here's the thing: we actually control it. 

This past week, the news had reports of a Jewish family being vilified on the tube in London, and a Muslim woman in a hajib coming to their defense against the harasser. At McGill University  a Jewish student leader has been bullied and harassed for accepting a trip to Israel that will visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, DC has been defaced with swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs sometime overnight on Sunday into Monday. 

All of this comes on the heels of Rick Perry announcing on Fox News that Feckless Leader is "the Chosen One:"
God uses imperfect people through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared it with him and I said, "Mr. President, I know there are people who say that you say you were the chosen one." And said, "You were." I said, "If you are a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government." 
The Washington Post, November 25th, 2019
Sure he is. 

Where is our society going, and what are we as individuals doing to correct the course? Acts of hate are increasingly common. Do we turn a blind eye and ignore it? Do we say something? Do we act to formally organize to protect ourselves? Is there a prescribed course of action?

Which brings me back to the idea of legacy. Say what you want about President Obama, but his presidency was 8 years without a personal scandal in the White House. His legacy, whether you liked him or not, is one of decency and statesmen-like demeanor. 

The contrast between the two administrations is not a function of Republicans v. Democrats; it's communal expectation v. personal gain. In 40 years...if we survive that long, we will look back at this period and shudder. If you think it's bad now....wait 10 more elections. The trajectory we are on is not one that fosters peaceful co-existence. 

The White House is little more than an ongoing joke at the moment, but one with horrific consequences. Insert environment/nursing home/banking industry regulation here. As the regulations are peeled back, the environmentally risky industries exponentially increase profits. See Keystone Pipeline; that oughta curl your hair. The motivation sure as hell isn't the good and welfare of We, the People. Like Andrew Lloyd Webber said in EVITAWhen the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask how.

I can no more control the legacy of this administration than I can sprout wings and fly. I can encourage people to vote. I can continue to write this blog which, some weeks, seems to have a life all its own. I can continue to stand on my soapbox to preach personal responsibility. Or I can shut up and sit down. And don't think I haven't considered that option a lot lately. For right now, however, I cannot bring myself to do that. If I shut up, I am complicit; I become part of the problem. 

There are two little kids in my life right now. With no guarantees how long I'll last, I want them to remember their savta as their own personal Doña Quixote. I want Little Miss and Young Sir to know that they do not need to ever be silent in the face of bad behavior, bullying, or lack of ethics. I want them to call the king naked if the king wears no clothes. I want them to tilt at windmills if the windmills are just plain wrong. 

When I finally do leave the building, and if they remember me on my yahrzeit, I want them to remember a grandmother who believed the good fight could be fought. I want them to believe silence is not golden. But most of all, I want them to own strong moral and ethical compasses to follow on their own journeys.

The Wifely Person't Tip o'the Week
There is no joy in Mudville.
When it comes to Gophers and Vikings,
it's always best to keep your expectations low.

Monday, November 25, 2019


Ambivalent: having or showing simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward something or someone characterized by ambivalence.
Yeah, well, that about sums up me and Thanksgiving. To be sure, I cherish the memories of being ushered out from underfoot and spirited off to Lollipop Farm and the finger-biting ducks. There was the flying cranberry incident which Dad and I successfully hid from Mom forever. The older we got, the more interesting Thanksgiving freshman year when I brought enough marijuana home to keep me high for the entire weekend. Or our first fun-filled-family Thanksgiving at the Rodney in Bal Harbour on Miami Beach...when I unsuspectingly brought home a teeny-tiny souvenir that, 38 years later, still makes me laugh. We had great Thanksgiving dinners and relatively few of those dramatic explosions you always hear about. Yeah, we had our moments, but we were Schwaidelsons; we were really good at laughing a lot. 

But despite all those fun memories, I used to dread Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know what it was that bothered me so much about it. It started the year I learned about what happened to the Shinnecock and the Unkechaugi on Long Island. And then the Oglala Sioux in the Dakotas. The Ojibawe in Minnesota. None of it was pretty, ethical, or full of Thanksgiving spirit.

As I write this, I'm seeing that almost all the tribal names are underlined as spelling errors. Sioux is okay, but Oglala is not. That says a lot. This is the root of America and the spell-check dictionary doesn't even recognize them as real words, forget about First Nations. I once asked my grandmother about what we owed to the Indians we displaced to create America, and she told me in no uncertain terms we owed them respect and truth, that We, the People, had been less than honest with those who lived here long before Europeans invaded these shores bringing with them influenza and smallpox. At the time, it was a stunning, unexpected answer; she was going out on a limb to give it to me because, after all, she was British and her people were the initial invaders. She explained that the story of the first Thanksgiving was just that: a story. The truth was much harder to understand and accept. Until she said something, I thought I was the only person who thought about this stuff. 

Clearly, I wasn't.

But that doesn't really sum up the ambivalence. It runs much deeper than that. At least for me it does. I keep asking myself, what exactly are we celebrating? Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that the national institution of Thanksgiving has anything left to offer, except for Black Friday deals. Where is the moral/ethical/ communal imperative that creates that building block of society: the common calendar. 

When we share a celebration, it distinguishes one group from another. There's a Jewish calendar of shared events like Rosh HaShana and Passover. There's the Christian calendar with Christmas and Easter. Muslims have Ramadan and Eid, to mention two. And the there's the American calendar: Presidents' Day Sale, Memorial Day Sale, 4th of July Sale, Labor Day Sale, Veteran's Day Sale, Black Friday after Thanksgiving Sale, After Christmas Clearance Sale. Seems that if you get a day off, you're supposed to spend it shopping.

Where is the sacred moment of communal observance? Where is the through-line that binds us as a unique society? Is it spending money? Going into greater debt? Just buying stuff? 

Maybe, I'm looking too closely and should step back a bit. When I look at the big picture, I see not a society of souls who value the Constitution or the idea of We, the People. I see a bunch of people scrambling to get something for nothing...or close to nothing. The adverts on TV and social media drive this point home...there will never be a better time to buy [insert unnecessary object here] before the price goes up or it's sold out. Obviously, getting into the "holiday spirit" means spending, spending spending. 

What are we teaching our kids? I don't know.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my Dad left the building 4 years ago come the 26th of November. When I think about him, I remember the pocketful of commas, the jokes, the "Sidney face," the Schmuck Bench, Schmuckolas, and tales of the Village Idiot. These days, I mostly miss the moral compass that was my Dad. I miss the discussions about monumental things like ethics in politics (oxymoron) and whether or not a lulav is pagan. I miss have that sounding board, that person who would argue with me just to make sure I could make my points. I recall his take on Nixon's resignation (a damn shame,) Clinton's impeachment (you can't remove a president over a blow job,) and Obama's presidency (not a fan,) and I shudder to think what he would say about the testimony given on the Hill this past week. I suspect even he, that dyed-in-the-wool Republican, would have a tough time with Moscow Mitch and the Putin Puppet. 

I do know one thing, though. If I asked him about Thanksgiving, he would tell me (as he usually did) Thanksgiving may be reduced to commerce, but if one person considers the value of family for one minute, the holiday is worth it. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Be of good cheer
and all that jazz.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Random Thoughts On Our Leaders

If one more person asks me about what I think of the impeachment process, I'm gonna scream. No, I was not in favor of impeachment...not because I think feckless leader is innocent. I was against the idea of impeachment because it was going to be turned into a sideshow and the Democrats would be unable to stop the circus train from going off the rails. This is not governmental business as usual; this is something completely insane. More like Hitler and the takeover of Nazi Germany which We, the People, could never fathom; still  chanting NEVER AGAIN, we elected a less-than-benevolent despot. The man is a nutter and there is nothing to be done about it.

So, to remedy my own malaise, I have assembled some quotes about our government and our nation's would-be character from established leaders:

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.

When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.

                       Thomas Paine                                 (January 29, 1736 - June 8, 1809)

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.   
John Adams (October 30, 1735 - July 4, 1826)


The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.
                                   Alexis de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859)

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) 

Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. Both lessons hit home. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt -
Simple Truth - message to Congress, April 29, 1936


One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962)

Only a cheap politician, greedy for political gain, would try to single out one individual for blame. The fault lies not with the individual but with the system, and that system is Richard Nixon.  

Pat Paulsen (July 6, 1927 – April 24, 1997)

Being President doesn’t change who you are –            it reveals who you are.  
Michelle Obama (January 17, 1964 - )

When I listen to the testimony, when I read the tweets, when I watch the physical behavior of those who are purported to be our civic leaders, our representatives to Washington, I am saddened, disappointed, and at times, repulsed by what I see. I cannot fathom the bullying, the despicable language, the inability to tell the truth. It's sad, tragic, disheartening, and disgusting. We have no leaders, only schoolyard bullies dragging everyone in this nation down to their level. 

I used to think we deserve better than that. Now I am not so sure. Have we elected the government we truly deserve? 

I have no idea how to answer the question what do you think of the impeachment process? other than to say, "Open testimony is the only way to go. Get it out on the airwaves." Beyond that, no one has any control over the circus train wreck. 

For lack of any sort of role model these days, I must turn to one of my personal heroes, a lady whose soft hand I once shook when I was a child, a woman who talked to us kids in a way that made us proud to be American and hopeful that any one of us could be the next great leader of this country. Now, more than ever, we should strive to emulate Eleanor Roosevelt's grace, understanding, intellect, kindness and core inner strength. Most of all, we should practice what she preached:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events;  small minds discuss people.

That's more than just the Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week, it's a desperate cry for civility in all things.