Monday, June 29, 2015

Protecting the First on the Fourth

Well, this has certainly been one outstanding news week. President Obama lived long enough to see one of those transient moments when SCOTUS actually behaved like it was there to protect ALL the citizens of the United States instead of the designated corporate entities that have standing as citizens. The aftermath of both ACA and the same-sex marriage decisions served to remind all of us how just truly evil some segments of the political machines have become.

The aftermath made abundantly clear that the GOP has no plan to replace the ACA with anything at all. At the moment of truth, when they should've been showing up with plan-B, all we got was Killer Klowns from Kongress yammering about how they were going to repeal health care. NOT ONE of these morons mentioned with what....which should tell you everything you need to know about their secret plan: it's secret even to them. The only part they have revealed to the nation is the part about how people who now have insurance won't have it when they take control of the White House. 

And as if that weren't enough hot air polluting the atmosphere, it was immediately followed by the court ruling on same-sex marriage. As Stephen Colbert astutely observed,
Wow, history moves fast. It’s hard to believes that gays achieved full constitutional personhood just five years after corporations did.
This was followed by incredibly supportive statements from various GOP kandidates:
Bobby JindalThis decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. 
Rick Santorum: The Court is one of three coequal branches of government and they have an imperfect record. Stakes are too high to cede marriage to unelected judges.
Mike HuckabeeWe must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat. The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.
Y'know, according to Klown Kavalcade, G-d made everything to perfection. If that's the case, who are they to tell G-d that She made a mistake. Know what I mean there?

Meanwhile, I keep thinking about Loving v. the Commonwealth of Virginia. That was the case that removed the ban on interracial marriage. I would guess the vituperative rhetoric following that decision was similar to what we're hearing now, and I gotta figure that this is probably no worse than that, and now no one thinks twice about interracial marriages. I think more people are concerned about religious intermarriage that the racial kind. Whatever. These comments will fade away because this is not going to change. People have the right to choose their partners. The government does not have the right to tell  us who to not to love. 

On an even less pleasant side note, the Confederate flag debate rages on. One of my regular critics emailed me privately (as he is wont to do) to ask, "If we were talking about a swastika on a red field hanging over the MN state house, would you be as blasé?"

And then came the events unfolding at Golders Green in London. 

Golders Green is an area of London that happens to be a bit of a melting pot, a place where ethnic diversity is the rule, not the exception.  Lots of ethnic restaurants, including kosher ones, lots of different kinds of community centers. And about 40% of the population is Jewish, with a high percentage of those being the orthodox/ultra-orthodox variety. These are not people who normally mix it up with or in gangs.

On Saturday, the Sabbath, there is an anti-Jewification rally planned for Golders Green. It includes activities like burning selected "anti-White" pages of the Talmud, burning Israeli flags, and marching with "Jew Go Home" protest signs.

But if you ask a British Jew about what's happening in the UK these days, they will pretty much tell you that Joshua Bonehill-Paine and his cadre are not the anomalies they once were. Antisemitism is on the rise there just as it is in other places. But in this case, it's not Islamic radicals burning Bibi in effigy; Bonehill-Paine is a white Brit preaching white supremacy. 

When I first saw the poster, I thought it was a hoax. I checked Snopes. I checked The Telegraph. And I found out this guy has been around for a while. And he's known by various intelligence agencies. And apparently this was not exactly a surprise. And now, he's been arrested. 

A London Police spokesperson said,
Officers continue to assess all information and intelligence available in relation to the proposed demonstration and speak with the organisers to ensure we have an appropriate policing response in place.

We are aware of concerns in the local community about the negative impact this proposed demonstration may have on them and are working with residents to ensure that people can exercise their rights in a way that is lawful, while minimising this impact.

Now, the Ku Klux Klan is planning a Confederate flag rally outside the South Caroline State House on Saturday, July 18th. Granted, they say they are demonstrating to preserve their Southern heritage, but doesn't that sound a bit benign for the KKK?

Hate has taken to the streets. As a society with protections in place for freedom of expression, do either of these cross that invisible boundary? Since we cannot speak for the UK, the question here becomes, do we silence this or allow it to happen?

Here's where I haul out my favorite Aaron Sorkin speech, my version of the Superman joke, except this is something Sorkin nailed to perfection:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.                                                                                                 Andrew Shepherd; The American President
If the Klown Kavalcade can lie with impunity, do we have the right to silence KKK? Yes, folks, it is rooted in the same argument. Maybe the question is not where is the line...but rather is there a line?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Just because it's 4th of July, you are not required to be 
totally stupid about fireworks. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Scary Questions, Not Enough Answers

As I write this, there is a body draped across the sofa in the den. The television is on, but from my vantage point on the sun porch, I suspect TRUE DETECTIVE is playing to a snored-out crowd. The senior son is in residence for a couple of days. What was meant to be a surprise for Zayde has turned into a huge help for me. Happy to have the pitter-patter of size 10 and half sneakers on the stairs. 

Beyond that, I am in a perennial state of pissed off over the last week's news cycle. The incipient political circus has come to town, and by town I mean from sea-to-shining-sea....and then some. Which is pretty annoying all by itself, but when you couple it with a mass murder in a southern state, you really have to wonder about this country.

Question #1:

So this guy posts a manifesto on a website called THE LAST RHODESIAN. It's interesting reading in the worst possible sense of the word. It's not nutty, which makes it even more heinous. On the surface, it is well thought out and structured. It says exactly what Dylann Storm Roof wants to tell the world. It is a cold essay, devoid of emotion or rage or anything else. It's practical and matter-of-fact, and that's what makes it so scary. He deeply believes in what he is writing. Almost cogent, it lacks the "depth" of Ted Kaczynski's Unibomber Manifesto; that doesn't make it any less compelling.

Don't get me wrong, this is not in praise of Roof's Manifesto; just the opposite. This is about the clarity of this thinking that created his outline of destruction. It's didn't just happen. It didn't just fall off a bookshelf and crack him in the head. No. Dylann Roof had to be thinking about this for a long while. How was he educated to this point?

That is not a specious question; it's a real one. Who educated this kid? Who becomes responsible for feeding and sustaining this kind of thinking? Someone besides the kid has to own a piece of this.

Question #2:

So a candidate for president of these here United States refers to the events in Charleston as "an accident."
This is the M.O. of this administration anytime there is a accident like this, y’know…I… know, The president's clear. He doesn't like for Americans to have guns, and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message. [transcript of the NewsWatch interview 1:40]
Perry went on to say that although he didn't have all the facts, he knew "these people" are medicated. According to Rick Perry, people commit mass murder because they taking meds....not illegal or illicit drugs. [2:36] Excuse me? 

Rick Perry's campaign flubbered a bit and backtracked, saying he meant to say "incident," not accident. Okay. Sure.  But how do they explain the rest of that absurd interview? Surely, Rick Perry's campaign cannot possibly apologize for the entire content? Or can they?

Question #3

Everyone is talking about the Confederate flag these days. People are demanding that it be taken down and removed from government offices et al all over the South. I've heard it compared to having the Nazi banner raised over German government buildings, and yes, I get the comparison. So when the EKG tech doing Mom's emergency EKG on Saturday afternoon (and yes, Mom's doing just fine, thank you) said she had grown up in Mississippi, I asked the exceptionally lovely young African-American woman what she thought of the controversy and her answer damn near knocked me to the ground.

Me: Should they take down the Confederate flags in the South                     
Her: NO! Definitely not.
Me: [astounded] Really?
Her: You don’t accomplish anything by taking them down besides making people angry.

She went on to explain that flag is a part of that history, and that you can’t rewrite history without doing more damage. She said they have to leave it alone because those people who support that stuff are dying out. Why get them angry so you can start all over again trying to fix it? No point in alienating everyone.

Her answer made me really wonder if the greater African America community has the same or similar response to the question. After all, it's about perception and I imagine the African American community has no more unity than the Caucasians around here. Does one call this a terrorist act by a single person, or is it the culmination of years of subliminal suggestion fostered by the reverence to a lost cause by a crazy person? Is the flag issue just being used as a convenient excuse so more African Americans believe the GOP has their best interest of that community at heart?

The murders in Charleston were heinous. There is nothing one can say, no explanation one can offer, that can explain why Dylann Storm Roof did whatever it was he did. 

The one thing we do know is that he was able to purchase a gun. And bullets.  We do not live in the Wild West. We do not live in a war zone. We do not live in a place where we are under constant threat of attack by roving armed militias. 

If We, the People continue to refuse to allow the development and implementation of sane gun laws, massacres like Charleston, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Centennial, and Fort Hood will continue to happen. When compared to other countries, the statistics are startling.
Schildkraut and Elsass: Mass Shootings between 2000-2014
Someone has to ask the question. We, the People must demand that the conversation begin now, not later. If We, the People go into this election cycle as slaves to instant media and the 1-second-sound-bite cycle, we are opening ourselves to more violence, more mass shootings, and a greater racial divide.

Shouldn't we be past this already?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never call GE's Customer Care line expecting anyone who cares. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I Am Not A Scientist

Man in serious need of nose hair trim.
Last week, much to my chagrin and embarrassment, I was outed by Dr. Timothy Hunt, British biochemist and Nobel laureate. He spoke the unspeakable. He said out loud what scientists have been saying behind closed doors for all eternity: women are too attractive to be in the lab. 

I knew early on, I was going to be a frail flower who wept copiously with every criticism, who fell in and out of love at the drop of a beaker. I was so distracted by the handsome science teachers in junior high (including that handsome devil and poster boy for the Aryan master-race, Mr. Zopf) that I submerged my overwhelming ambition to be a nuclear scientist. It was a terrible struggle, I tell you. 


Now, all things considered, Dr. Hunt didn't say anything we didn't already know some guys think. We know this because this is a plank of the Repubiclown platform. You know...the one where gender equality in things like equal pay and equal access to medical care is your basic non-starter. Back in 1994, when the Jebster postulated on the plight of poor women, he said 
…women on welfare should be able to get their life together and find a husband.
In the same speech he also felt we had enough "victims," and there was no need for gays and lesbians to seek added protection under the law. More recently, Rick Perry has called equal pay "nonsense," and Ted Cruz has referred to birth control as "abortifacients." Beginning to see a pattern here?

The GOP Cavalcade of Clowns might not be slamming women scientists in the same cockamamie way as Dr. Hunt, but their position on women is clearly man on top. Really, people; is there some viable reason you are hell bent on careening right into the 19th century?  

How about what Mike Huckabee of the religious nutter wing told the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention:
Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE. I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.' You're laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn't it?
Back in 2014, Rand Paul, on NBC's Meet The Press, commented
You know, I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden; I see women rising up and doing great things. And, in fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world.
source: New York Times
Laugh about this all you will, but it's so perverse it's losing its sheen of ridiculousness. There are people in state legislatures that are pushing laws that reduce women back to chattel. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a Texas law that would require any clinic providing abortions to meet the same building, staffing, and equipment standards as a surgical hospital. It may sound okay on the surface, but what it really does is force women's clinics to close their doors. There were 41 women's health clinics offering complete services in 2012; after the law takes effect, there will be fewer than 10 clinics in the entire state of Texas. This means large swaths of Texas women will not have access to any reproductive health clinic.

So, I bet you're thinking, "What does that have to do with Tim Hunt?" A lot. Granted, he's British, but he is very much a part of this series of dominoes. When guys of Dr. Hunt's academic stature put voice to these absurd ideas, it gives those ideas "legs." It means that the morons who are out there will now attribute this to wisdom. It will provide them with a twisted proof that they are not alone in this thinking. That, in turn, will give leverage to the GOP Clown Cavalcade as they roam the country preaching misogynistic claptrap. Which in turn, will encourage an environment that tacitly allows much of the progress we have made to be undone. 

What really needs to happen here is for women to begin asking the question, "Why are you so afraid of a uterus?" Are you so terrified that once women are educated and fully vested in the work force that you will be unable to compete with a person with breasts? Or does having women in the workforce just mean you'll actually have to work harder to do your job....and that isn't macho enough for you?

The real reason I'm not a scientist is because when I was an archaeology major back at the beginning of college, a prominent woman archaeologist told me that the area in which I wanted to study was closed to women. I left archaeology for that lunatic asylum called theater, where I was once asked who I was planning to sleep with to get my graduate internship. Big difference. 


I hope that has changed over the last 40 years. I'm not convinced it has, but I'm hopeful. And let's all hope Dr. Timothy Hunt is pegged for being the asshole that he is. His mother, I am certain, is none too proud of his last set of statements.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
If your 90-year-old wants to eat ice cream for breakfast, it's okay.

Monday, June 8, 2015

If I Forget Thee

SCOTUS upheld an old decision that prevents people born in Jerusalem from having Jerusalem, Israel on their passports. This has less to do with Israel than it does with the question of who has the power to recognize a foreign government, and the court, in striking down a law passed by Congress in 2002 that allows ISRAEL to be appended to Jerusalem upon request, emphasized that only the President has that power. 

I understand the bones of this law, and I fully understand the decision the court reached, and on so many levels, I agree with the decision, as if anyone is going to ask me whether I do or not. But my visceral reaction is not as easily dismissed. My guts tell me that Jerusalem, no matter what Congress or the President or Bob down at the pub says, is the capital of Israel. 

The New York Times, in their op/ed piece The Supreme Court’s Jerusalem Passport Case, opened with the question: To whom does Jerusalem belong?

In the comment I submitted, I asked, "To whom does Istanbul belong?" After all, like Jerusalem, it has been conquered and liberated and conquered again. Should it belong to the Turks....or to the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, or the Persians? 

Of course, we could talk about to whom New York City belongs....or Mexico City built right over Tenochtitlan without so much as an apology to Aztec mass murder.

But we're not talking about those places, we're talking about a city that was probably established as a settlement about 4 millennia before the common era. A city that was built up by a guy named David who some people consider to be a mythical figure. Doesn't much matter if he was or not...the Temples, two of them, were there and we have the foundations to support that little piece of trivia. We know from contemporaneous documentation that people who are now called Jews have lived there for over 3 millennia. Our liturgy is full of the stuff. Verses 5-6 in Psalm 137, written after the Babylonian Exile, somewhere around 630 B.C.E sorta sum it up:
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its cunning.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,

if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
You could build Madison Square Garden over the site of the Temple, as the Muslims have done with the Mosque of Omar, and it would still be the Temple Mount. You could build Madison Square Garden right over the Kaaba, and it would still be Mecca, holiest site of Islam. You cannot change the nature of the place by building something over it. Jews did not disappeared; we never abandoned the land of Israel, even when we were denied self-determination. 

BUT...and isn't there always a but in there someplace......Israel isn't necessarily a Jewish nation for all Jews. Theoretically, it's supposed to be, but in practical terms, it is a place for the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of us be damned. 

The latest attack on non-haredi Jews came this week when the mayor of Rechovot, Rachamim Malul, called off a bar/bat mitzvah event for autistic  boys and girls because he objected to it being in a Masorti (Conservative, not orthodox) synagogue, even though the program has been doing this for 20 years. Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, became involved and ultimately refused to allow the ceremony to take place. Jewish communities world-wide are incensed. The Jerusalem Post has a good story on it: Masorti Movement and President's office trade accusations over Bar Mitzvah ceremony dispute.

This raises the same issue I raised in my very first blog post: what about the rest of us? The hijacking of Israel by the black-hatted, right wing religious fanatics is serious stuff. It's like the Jewish version of the Taliban without the beheadings...although they are known to throw rocks at women in short sleeves. Bibi's coalition is right wing. They deny non-orthodox Jews things like weddings. They push for segregated buses. They work to deny women rights. They live under the protection of the IDF, yet their young people rarely serve. This has been problematic since the day Ben Gurion realized there was going to be a State of Israel. And it's getting worse. 

Just as SCOTUS is saying "no" to self-identifying Jerusalem as Israel, Israel is denying most of us basic identification as Jews.  All Jews are not equal under Israeli law. Non-Jews living in Israel have some very distinct advantages because their lives are not subject to the absurdity of the rabbinate. The Ministry of Religious Services has nothing to do with most Jews and Jewish practice. They practice sinat chinam, baseless hatred, on a daily basis. They are bent on the destruction of world Jewry as we know it. 

And the coalition cobbled together by Bibi and his party are doing more to damage the position of Jews in the diaspora than any other single action promulgated by a Jew. Their complete disregard of marit ayin (how an action appears) is a cause of great concern. 

The denial of a bnei mitzvot for autistic kids who have worked for months and months in preparation for their b'nei mitzvah is unspeakably cruel. The Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly wrote to President Rivlin  to state the position shared by many, many non-orthodox Jews, and again in a rebuttal to some statements that came from the President's office. Doing this is a highly unusual move,  but one that is so necessary.

Just as we cannot remain silent in this country as the Know-Knothing Klownie Kavalakade of Kandidates leaves the GOP station, we cannot be silent in the face of Israel's attempt to disenfranchise Diaspora Jewry.

Whether our voices are raised here in defense of plurality in Israel or social activism here, staying silent is not an option. Every one of us is responsible for changing the world. We cannot leave it for others to do. This is our job.

So there.
The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Got a chocoholic in the family? 
Double, triple quadruple check pockets before washing 
and again before drying clothes. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Uncle Budge

My mom's younger brother, my beloved Uncle Budgie, died on Monday. At the podiatrist's office. Just sat down and that was it.

Mom and Budgie
My brother and sister-in-law just saw him last week while they were down in Flah-rida finishing up stuff for our folks. My bro commented on how well he seemed to be doing after a few setbacks earlier in the year. 

My Uncle Dave (z"l) and my Mom adored their baby brother. When their father died in 1936, before Budgie's bar mitzvah, his siblings circled the wagons around him, making sure that he would be okay and he would be able to go on to college. He was their darling baby brother.

Mom and Budge
Grandma Bessie and
her boys, Budgie and Davy
Uncle Budge was a remarkable kinda guy. He was a tail-gunner in the US Army Air Corps during WWII, was wounded while in his turret, and had great shrapnel scars in his leg. My guys admired him as a great war hero. He had a Purple Heart and everything. 

I thought Uncle Budgie was magic. He taught me how to look for the little holes in the sand, and then beneath those, there would be live clams. Not that I would eat them...but I believed there must be a useful skill in knowing how to find them. 

Uncle Budge was a labor lawyer. He believed ethics and morals were the principal assets of a good society, and that without them, we were less than human in our being. He lived up to that standard and set an example for the rest of us. Big time. He was tough to ignore on that stuff. 

Uncle Budge was the most laid back person I've ever known. Whatever it was, we would deal with it. If it happened, it happened for a reason, whatever "it" was, and we would deal with it. I think he was the philosophical inventor of "Whatever." Unk always saw the good in things. 

On his 60th birthday, the first one after Uncle Dave died, he was sitting in his office thinking about how his brother wasn't going to call him to wish him "happy birthday." The phone rang, and it was my Dad, telling him that David had just been born in Minnesota. A birthday twin named Dave. Uncle told me he thought it was a great big happy birthday from his big brother. I thought it was magic. Just like Uncle Budgie.

Aunty G and Unk made a great, adventurous pair. She organized, he went. She arranged, he beamed. She was the best other half for him. As she wrote earlier today: "I lost the love of my life." They were a couple you couldn't explain....but had to admire. They complemented and completed each other. Their kids, my cousins Ellis and Perdie, knew it. Their spouses, Tracey and Avishay, knew it. Their grandkids, Emma, Abie, and Jacob, knew it. And the rest of us knew it, too. 
Aunty G and Uncle Budge
with kids and grandkids

Uncle Budge, Aunty G and my folks lived in the same condo community. This was a big deal. Mom was in heaven the day they moved in. But when it was time to say goodbye on the day of the Big Move to Minnesota, they were painfully aware that they might not see each other again. No one thought this was an imminent possibility.

So, here's the really hard thing: Mom is 92, Dad is 94, Uncle Budge just celebrated his 90th last January, and Aunty G, still in her 80s, brings up the rear. We have been exceptionally lucky to have them all, as well as my dad's baby sister down the road a piece, Aunt Cynthia. The time we have with them is precious and counted moment to moment. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with all of them....growing up in our looney, close-knit family. I am grateful for all the cockamamie memories: Aunty Gladknit and the knitting machine, Uncle Budge and the dogs and the clam scouting adventures. I am grateful for the chance I had to get to know them as adults. There were good conversations, great discussions, and lots and lots of love thrown into the mix. We have to be grateful, thankful, and grateful some more for all the moments we were given.

I am....We very lucky to have had Uncle Budge. Everyone should have a totally ethical person with whom to hang around. There is no substitute for the experience.

And there is no substitute for Uncle Budge. 
Herbert A. Simon, Esq.
January 3, 1925 ~ June 1, 2015

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים 

May we all find comfort in this place, amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem