Monday, September 30, 2013

Not In The House, Not With A Mouse

Congressclown Cruz, during his exercise in Theatre of the Absurd, chose to read that classic of classics, GREEN EGGS AND HAM aloud. This was positively one of the most brilliant, enlightened, prescient moves this clown could’ve made. He used a children’s classic, so simple, so straight forward, so easily distilled that my kids could discuss in its native Hebrew, to illustrate precisely, concisely, and exactly what is wrong with his argument.

You see, Sam-I-Am is bugging the unnamed narrator to step outside his box and try something new. But narrator-guy has formed a belief without any empirical evidence to support it. It’s foolishness, but he’s got one excuse after another as to why he won’t try the green eggs and ham. Interestingly, the excuses aren’t excuses at all. He just insists over and over that he doesn’t like them and will not try them here, there, anywhere, in a house, with a mouse, in box, with a fox, in a tree, on a train, in a car, in the dark, in the rain, on a boat, with a goat…until he finally agrees to taste them just to make Sam-I-Am just go away. And of course, he loves them.

But Congressclown Cruz won’t let Obamacare happen because, as Republican Sen-nutella Mike Lee of Utah pointed out, health care is just another entitlement:

It's a reason to stop it be with because what we discover about entitlements, Rush, is that once they're in place, they're almost impossible to get rid of.  You got death, you got taxes, and you've got entitlements.
Sen. Mike Lee on Rush Limbaugh Show
July 31, 2013

Right. An entitlement. Like Medicare, Sen-nutella Mike? Or Social Security? Like the stuff that’s supporting your rapidly aging base? You mean those entitlements?

This is not to suggest Obamacare is a great program. Anything short of single-payer national health coverage is merely a stopgap measure. But it’s a start. And Sen-nutella Lee is right; once people have access to health care, they’re not gonna give it up.

If this wasn’t so ridiculous, it could be a plot line on sitcom, but unfortunately, these assholes are playing roulette with the nation. They will hold the nation hostage to their view and their view only, trying to  cast millions of We, the People, onto medical and financial ice floes. And the really bizarre thing is that a high preponderance of those floatees will be the less affluent members of that cabal.

The GOP, led by the Teabag Brigade, is actively pursuing a course of economic terrorism. They seem to believe that Government Chicken is gonna win friends and influence people. Au contraire, mes amis! So the National Parks close. Who cares? So some strangers in bloated Washington get sent home and not paid. So what? If these clowns wanted to really impact the nation, they would close the shop, lock, stock, and barrel. Do exactly what the GOP has dared this nation to do: shut the whole thing down.

You wanna get things moving? Shutter the clinics in the VA system and stop taking in new, non-emergency patients. And by emergency I mean bleeding on the floor emergency. Dialysis isn’t an emergency…unless you don’t have a functional kidney. But it won’t matter because after there’s no health accessibility, you won’t be able to get dialysis anyway. No chemo, no bone setting, no nuthin’. Send the air controllers and the TSA home. Shut down the locks and dams, the ports, and the customs stations. Close up the federal courts, and go to skeleton crews at the federal prisons. Hoo ha!!! Then you’ll see some movement…probably with pitchforks and torches headed toward the Big Top on the Hill.

You think I’m kidding, right? Nope. Start with the air traffic controllers and the TSA. Get those clowns right where it hurts the most…in their frequent flyer accounts. Boy, will you see some negotiating then!

By the bye, I’m not just blaming the GOP on this. The Dems own a fair sized chunk of the problem, but economic terrorism isn’t really their thing. When they want to hold hostages, it’s usually about environmental issues, but they already know they’re fundamentally right and they don’t have to do much more than sit back and wait for the next hurricane to hit the east coast. Still, they could’ve done more to bring the conversation to the table. They had the opportunity to be the adults in the room and pretty much failed.

As I type this, it’s 11:36 PM in Washington, and this is what the GOP leadership just issued:

“It’s regular order,” a House Republican leadership aide said. “It means we’re the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats’ refusal – thus far – to negotiate.”

Sure. And I’m Madame Defarge. 

Did you know you can’t accuse someone of treason during peace time? Well, we have one open front and one potential front. Oh, yeah, and then there’s Iraq that we’re supposed to be out if. Here’s the legal definition of treason:

Under Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution, any person who levies war against the United States or adheres to its enemies by giving them Aid and Comfort has committed treason within the meaning of the Constitution. The term aid and comfort refers to any act that manifests a betrayal of allegiance to the United States…. If a subversive act has any tendency to weaken the power of the United States to attack or resist its enemies, aid and comfort has been given.

So, gentle readers, you tell me: Is Speaker Boehner and his minions committing treason? A rose by any other name……
Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

CNN posted a poll today that showed Congress’s approval rating at 10%.
This means 90% of We, the People, think they’re doing a lousy job.
Someone really ought to tell them we’re on to them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Stuff Is In The Balance

suspect 5774 is going to be a year of changing. Again. I cannot say the thought is thrilling; it is not. In fact, it's terrifying. I know that my folks and my father-n-law, all in their 90s, are growing frailer. I worry about FIL going up and down the stairs. I worry about my mother's recent forgetfulness. I worry about my father's stress level. I worry but at the same time I marvel that at 92 for the two gents and 90 for Mom, they are all managing with incredibly grace, fortitude and a healthy dose of stubborn...which is the part I suspect keeps them all going. 

But it occurred to me the other day, as I was changing the furnace filter, that there's a dining room set in the basement that’s older than my parents, long with my late mother-in-law's hideous walnut table and chairs, the senior son’s futon, a zillion books...and the remnants of that intrepid starship, NCC-1702: Beit Ya'akov. That should've been decommissioned years ago, but it turned out to be a good thing it was there when we were sitting shiva. The crew reconvened. Most of them, anyway. All grown up, all adults (sorta), they sat amidst what had, once upon a time, been their bridge and talked long into the night. But I digress. 

There are collections down there...including back issues of The Freedonia Gazette and the first year of SHALOM MAN comic books. There's a stack of wooden puzzles awaiting the next generation. Stuff that should've gone away, but was set aside because we thought we'd use it for the grandkids. Some stuff I'm pretty sure will go to proper new homes. Other stuff should be sold off or tossed. I keep threatening the guys with a dumpster, but they've thwarted me at every turn. I worry about what to do with it all....and then....

Then there was the collapse of sweater pile in what is still called Dad’s closet. Suddenly I found myself dealing with sorting of stuff I didn’t want to deal with but it had to be done. And suddenly they weren't just a bunch of crew neck sweaters all over the floor....they were bits and pieces of my life. 

This edifice is our house. We built it. We raised the kids here. Steve died here. And while my father-in-law is alive, it's the place he wants to be, stairs and all. But this barn has become symbolic; it’s everything my life once was but is no longer; a personal limbo. It's just doesn't feel like my house. 

In a perfect world, they would carry me out the way they carried out Steve – feet first. But this is not a perfect world and even though I will soon own the house outright, it will be too much for me to keep up. Even with my tractor. I will need to sell the house to protect myself from the day that I can no longer work. I have no serious belief that there will be Social Security…or at least enough of a supplement… to keep me from living under a bridge in a cardboard box should I have the bad form to live for a long time.

But here’s the thing. I look the Congressional Clown Car and I resent like hell that they’re playing roulette with my tax dollars. I can’t shut down my house and decide not to pay my bills without the government and its corporate minions showing up at my front door to toss me out on my striking butt. I don’t get to waste $10,000,000 of their money each day to not pay my bills. And instead of working toward keeping the country afloat in tough economic times, these clowns are going to pay themselves while the military gets IOUs?

am the middle class but a part of me thinks the only way this is ever going to get resolved is if there is a shut down, Obamacare is un-funded, the EPA is scrapped, and all gun control repealed. Let the people who voted those CongressClowns into office live under their Libertarian regime for a while and then decide when life was better. Until the villagers are marching on the Three Ring Circus on the Hill with pitchforks, torches and AR-15s, the GOP and its ilk will continue shredding what’s left of the fabric of the United States.

I am so tired of this whole conversation. But for the record, I think John Boehner is the worst Speaker of the Circus We, the People, have ever had. I think the lack of leadership is not in the White House; I think it’s in the House and, to some degree, in the Senate. Until the leadership of both the House and the Senate figure out that American Spring isn’t too far off, they will continue to play Russian Roulette with our lives, our livelihoods, and our country. None of them get it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, what I’m really worried about is what happens next. Once, the unknown was exciting. These days? More like terrifying. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
There are people you can hire who will come and take away your junk. For a price.
Getting rid of it without having to ask for help? Priceless. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Second Amendment ~ Part 5: Gory, Gory, Hallelujah!

This morning, at about 8:15 AM Eastern time, a gunman began shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.  CNN reports he was initially armed with an AR-15 rifle and a semi-automatic Glock. When it was over, 13 people were dead, including the shooter. [Updated information: the shooter was not carrying an AR-15. CNN is reporting that a shotgun was recovered and it is believed he brought that into the compound.]

Tonight, there were no cancelled programs. The Million Second Quiz went up on schedule. Some piece of drek called SLEEPY HOLLOW premiered on Fox (about three minutes of listening to Ichabod Crane explain how George Washington called him into his tent to ask him to save the world was definitely more than enough to know this had nothing whatsoever to do with Johnny Depp, much less Washington Irving.) And I had trouble finding a straight line time line of the shooting in the usual news junkie haunts. This was all very bothersome.

Wanna know what I wanna know? I wanna know why there isn’t an ongoing conversation about gun control in this country that doesn’t sound like adversarial harangues. I wanna know why after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown and that almost-was at McNair Discovery Center in Decatur, Georgia…all of which involved assault weapons, we still cannot find a way to keep them out of our schools, much less make them out and out illegal to own. No one uses them to kill Bambi and to date they seem to be the weapon of choice for mass shooting sprees. I wanna know why after 8,232 shooting deaths since Newtown, our Congress still cannot have a conversation that recognizes gun violence in this country is an issue. And I wanna know how come a gunman can waltz into a military installation like the Navy Yard with a gun even if he as a valid pass. Or did no one notice he was toting a rifle?

With more than 200 mass shootings (4 or more people killed constitutes "mass") in the United States since 2006, I am stunned that there isn’t a single CongressClown in the lot who is willing to stand up and call the rest of them irresponsible loonies for not taking this on. How can it be that after Fort Hood and Newtown this isn’t front and center on the congressional table? And how is that Colorado managed to recall elected officials who were pro gun control without the rest of the state going completely berserk?

And this is all brought to you by the same people who have their bungies in a knot over gassing 1000 people in Syria, but it’s okay to kill 8,232 with guns? Granted both are terrible tragedies, and both, theoretically are preventable, but one of them isn’t being perpetrated by a single, maniacal despot. One of them is being perpetrated all over this country by people who can hop over to the local Wal-Mart to pick up an AR-15 along with their skim milk and toilet paper. How is that okay?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the tradition of Ushpizin in the sukkah. Well, this year, if I were to list the folks I want to visit my sukkah, it would look more like the Constitutional Convention. I’d ask Benjamin Franklin, John Rutledge, George Mason, and Robert Yates for sure. Add to that George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. I think I’d invite John Adams and John Hancock who weren’t at the convention, but would be good to have at the table.  And the first thing I would ask them to discuss is “what the hell did you mean by “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Founding Fathers weren’t prescient and they weren’t perfect. It becomes the job of subsequent generations to build on the framework they gave us. The lack of gun control in this country is turning us into a nation of victims; no one is safe. And owning a gun does not make one safe; it makes you a bigger victim.

We, the People are rapidly reaching a denouement on the matter of gun laws and gun control. We can continue to allow our CongressClowns to be bought and sold by the gun lobby like so many head of sheep, or we can insist that they stand up for our right to be safe on our streets and in our public spaces.

This is an issue of national importance. We, the People, have choices here. Sitting back and saying, “nothing is going to change this,” should not be one of them.

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
Do everyone you know a favor: write to your very own CongressClown;
tell him/her what you really think about gun control.

Monday, September 9, 2013

On The Other Hand....

Well, it has been a fine start to 5774. Rosh HaShanah was lovely, full of good company, good friends, and good food, followed by a bonus Shabbat dinner on Friday night because the senior son had flown in for the weekend.

                                     Photo by Phil Pierson
Saturday afternoon, we headed up to Duluth for the wedding of his oldest friend. The guys, a mere 2 days apart in birthday land, met in preschool, and despite very different paths, both are musicians…axemen with day jobs. There was no way we were going to miss Evan marrying the woman of his dreams, Breanne…another musician with a day job. One thing that made this wedding so incredibly sweet came at the reception. Ev and Breanne wrote and recorded a song for their first dance. I Do (Today And Everyday) is lovely and touching. Do take a sec to listen. It's just lovely. It makes me totally misty.

And having the senior son to myself for 5 hours (2.5 up and 2.5 back) in the car? Priceless.

Meanwhile, back at blog central, stuff has changed big time in world events, and I'm not talking about Prince Randy Andy getting taken down by the Buck House goon squad while strolling in the garden. 

In the last 24 hours, there has been a serious shift in Syria. 

To be real honest, I was almost relieved when President Obama said he was going to Congress for support on a no-boots-on-the-ground military response. Look, let's be real here: if the President says "day," the putzes in Congress are gonna say "night." That's just how they work. He could not possibly believe he was going to get their blessing. But by going to Congress, any lack of action is no longer his issue. He gets to say, “I was hawkish on this, but Congress forced us to back down.”

The delay, however, may be the mostly timely tactic at all.

I do not believe for one New York minute that Secretary Kerry's offhand suggestion that Syria turn over their chemical weapons to international control was offhand. Bull-oney. It was delivered with the perfect amount right of flip. This gave Russia the opening to pick up the ball and run with it…all the way to Syria. Since they're the only ones talking to President Assad, Putin's pals were in the best possible position to float the idea with Assad.

Amazingly enough, in his interview with Assad, Charlie Rose asks if he would give up chemical weapons if it would prevent an American strike. Assad continues his grand jeté around whether or not Syria even has chemical weapons. He keeps saying he will neither confirm nor deny because the information is classified. Uh, Bashar, if I’m not buying tickets to this ballet, no one else is, either.

Syria...who controls what
Thankfully, Charlie Rose also asked Assad saw how the war should end. Assad continually refers to the rebels as terrorists, but Rose presses him on the issue until Assad says he will talk to them only if they give up their weapons. He says the “armaments of the government are legal armaments,” the others are not. Which translated from the Assad-speak means there is no negotiation from that position. The rebels surrender and winner takes all.

And if the Russians convince the Syrians to turn the chemical weapons over to an international monitoring body with the end result being the destruction of the stockpile? President Obama is off the missile-firing hook, the Russians regain a bit of their much-desired “good guy” status, and Bashar Assad gets to continue prosecuting his civil war without much comment from the West. Everyone wins…except for the Syrian people who continue to die in their villages, live in horrific refugee camps, and stress the resources of refuge countries…all of which destabilizes the region.

In several comments in the NY Times, I asked, “what is the expected outcome of American intervention?" At no point was any sort of expectation made clear. Same thing for the rebels. I keep trying to figure out what, besides getting rid of the Alawite regime, are they fighting for? Are they trying to establish another Islamist nation-state? Are they fighting for or against a secular state? The only remotely sane, quasi believable thing I heard come out of Assad’s mouth was that the death of a secular state would be the death of Syria. 

That might just turn out to be the seriously big elephant in the room. 

Grandma Bessie (z"l), commenting on the death of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, said, “Sometimes its better to know your enemy than to wish him dead.” This might turn out to be one of those moments. It’s beginning to look more and more like a no-win situation.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Never underestimate the ability of a skilled community organizer 
to actually get a community to move one way or the other. 

Bonus Tip
For thems that do....have an easy fast!

Monday, September 2, 2013

L'Shana Tovah ~ 5774

For Jews worldwide, the penitential season as commenced. This is the time when we are expected to look deep within ourselves for the failures and shortcomings of the last year. This is not meant to be an easy process, nor is it meant to be public fodder; this is supposed to be a highly private experience when one is completely honest with oneself. And trust me when I say it is always painful. 

Admitting one has fallen short of the mark is difficult, but finding the right place in the chain of events, the single questionable choice, the exact moment when something, anything went awry is daunting and, quite frankly, terrifying at the same time. You want to believe you know where it went wrong, but truth is, you usually don't. The errors we make are rarely the result of an isolated action, but are the culmination of life experience that has led us to this moment, this place in time, this instant where we could've done better. It can be as simple as admitting I should not have tried to shlep two garbage bins to the curb on an icy driveway, to as complex as being able to own my own intemperate behavior. It's not easy to admit you're wrong, and it gets harder when the absolute expectation is that amends are made. Admitting to yourself is one thing. Going around to those whom you have wronged in order to make a sincere apology is something else completely.

Owning one's own behavior is not exactly a popular thing to do these days. Our politicians are really good at blaming the nearest member of the opposition. Members of the House of Representatives are such total pros at this that they've managed to stymie virtually any and all governmental activity. You have to admit it's pretty astounding stuff when the people who are supposed to be governing this nation cannot manage to pass sensible gun law. The Congressional Two-Step Shuffle is certainly the dance o'the day in Washington. 

But I digress. It wouldn't exactly kill any of us to take good look inside to see where we can do better. We all need to recognize where personal outreach can happen. Whether it's support art and artists, immigration reform, civil rights, or some other cause that need attention, we all need to find the boundary that can be stretched, the hand that can be held, and the time that can be given. Living within our heads, only between our ear buds, is a sure fire way to isolate ourselves. And it's pretty clear that isolationism is not really the best of all possibilities. Not as a nation, not as a person.

At the traditional Rosh Ha'Shanah table, we have a round challah to symbolize a crown for the head of the new year as well as the cyclical nature of life, honey for a sweet year, and apples. Why apples? No, it's not a Garden of Eden reference (that would probably have been a fig anyway) instead, one midrash that explains it's because the way the fruit is formed. The nub of the fruit appears before the leaves that will protect it as it grows, the way Jews accepted Torah...we said okay even before we knew exactly what was there.

Whatever the reason, it all serves to express the hope for a sweet new year. 

 Shana tova u’meetuka….a happy and sweet new year.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה