Monday, September 26, 2016

When A Village Loses Its Idiot

The evening started out well enough. I went to Talmud class, only we didn't have Talmud class. Instead, we participated in restoring a Torah. It's a pretty big deal to go through the ritual of "helping" to restore a letter in a Torah scroll that has been deemed unkosher because the letters are flaking off or the scroll itself is damaged.

I took Little Miss on Sunday to participate in the mitzvah, and despite a brief meltdown, she watched our sofer (scribe) intently as he inked in her letter. But tonight, I got to do it myself. This particular Torah scroll is between 100-125 years old. It's in relatively good shape, but much of it needs re-inking, a very arduous process performed by someone specially trained to work on a Torah. Usually, you send the Torah out.  We at Beth Jacob happen to have a staff member who also happens to be a sofer.  So we participated as a class, understanding that this is a sacred moment that connects us not as a class, but as part of a long line of people who have interacted with this scroll in one way or another. 

Which was the perfect lead in to the debate....from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

I will admit I was live feeding on Facebook, mostly with my cousins, and while satisfying to some degree, it was also kinda scary. Even though the libertarian/former Republicans are pretty much supporting Hillary, I found some of the commentary amongst some of my less liberal leaning friends disturbing. I mean, let's not pretend we didn't notice the sniffling Trump. I know I'm not the only one who made cocaine jokes. But these people only saw Hillary as left of Lucifer. Trump was yammering and yammering and yammering....and saying absolutely nothing coherent...and Hillary was the failure? What are these people thinking. 

I love Charles Durning, but this character sums up what we saw at the debate this evening:

Donald Trump had some great lines, like the one about how Hillary doesn't look presidential. And a guy with a rat's nest on his head does? Or the part when he said,
Well I have much better judgment than she does. There's no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has.
Okay, maybe he's really smoking crack and not doing coke before the debate. Hard to tell which one.

In a lot of ways, I was disappointed with the debate. Not because Lester Holt (whom I generally like) was a total wuss, and not because I thought Hillary was unprepared (she was very prepared) but because Donald Trump came off like a total jerk. He had no facts, no statistical information, no grasp on reality, no substance. i wanted him to be, at the very least, prepared to debate his positions. He was not.

Somewhere in the United States, a village is missing its idiot. It could be Manhattan or it could be Palm Beach. Doesn't matter. Donald Trump has proven that money cannot buy smarts and he lacks any semblance of smarts. How could he stand there for ninety frickin' minutes and say absolutely nothing?

What he telegraphed in those ninety minutes, besides that he is a moron, is that he is a dangerous moron. 

CLINTON: And, in fact, his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling. That is the number-one threat we face in the world. And it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get their hands on any nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned. 
TRUMP: That line's getting a little bit old, I must say. I would like to... 
CLINTON: It's a good one, though. It well describes the problem.
TRUMP: It's not an accurate one at all. It's not an accurate one. So I just want to give a lot of things -- and just to respond. I agree with her on one thing. The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your -- your president thinks.
Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we're losing a fortune. That's why we're losing -- we're losing -- we lose on everything. I say, who makes these -- we lose on everything. All I said, that it's very possible that if they don't pay a fair share, because this isn't 40 years ago where we could do what we're doing. We can't defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million...
Can anyone explain what he just said? 

Folks, a lot of global leaders are watching to see what we elect for the next president. To many, Donald Trump's big advantage is that he is an ignoramus, that if elected, he is unpredictable and temperamental. His inability to appropriately respond to a tweet opens the door for attacks on US installations world-wide, and in America itself. If you want to talk about scary stuff, go think about the advantage a Putin or a Xi Jinping would do with that opening. If nothing else, they have learned, by Trump's own admission, that flattery gets you everywhere.

On the other hand, Hillary is a seasoned professional, not the person they want in the oval office. 

And now, a taste of a future Trump administration:

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Would you let a guy who once read THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO SURGERY
do your liver transplant?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gravitas, Folks

I took a day trip on Sunday to attend my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower. It was a good time. Seriously. 

I'll admit it; I love airports. I love flying. And I really loved going to Chicago and back in a single day. Yeah, yeah, I know. Lots of people hate airports and flying is sardine city. I get that. But there is something almost mystical about sitting down in one city and walking off the plane into another. It's magic. 

Maybe I would feel differently if I traveled a great deal, or had to travel for work. But I can tell you with absolute certainty, I love take-offs and landings. I am the antithesis of a nervous flyer. I want to be on the plane going somewhere. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am sick to death of this campaign, its tone, its tenor, its hate. The first debate is next Monday night and I cannot wait. I want to see what happens when Trump faces Clinton. All I want her to do is present hard, cold, well-established, un-embellished facts. I want her to hand out copies of her tax return. I want her to hand out copies of her last blood panel and annual check-up. I want her to get on a scale to prove how much she weighs. I want her to take a blood pressure check on camera. I want her to be plain-spoken and dispassionate. I want her to be the total opposite of bloviation.

She is not the perfect candidate, and she has some reputation to live down. But the real bottom line here? She's not using bankruptcy as a crutch, and she pays her bills. She's human and so what if she's not cuddly; she's a world class diplomat and leader. She knows her stuff, she knows how to ask questions, and she knows the difference between leaders and tyrants. And she has actually met Putin...and negotiated across a table with him. As First Lady and then as Secretary of State, she's met most of the world's leaders. She knows the language of diplomacy.

I don't want anyone to call off the food police; I want federal regulations for the food supply chain. I want a government that is a system of laws tempered with checks and balances. And I really want someone in the White House that knows what Aleppo is. 

Folks, can we please get past the gladiator phase of this election and start paying attention to what it means to be the leader of the free world? 

Gravitas, people. It's all about gravitas. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
My dad used to say if you need a veracity check, ask yourself this:
Would you buy a used car from this man?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Scary Stuff

When the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked on January 7th, 2015 in Paris, the second thought, after retaliation for an anti-Muslim cartoon, was antisemitism. That thought was shored up by the attack on the kosher supermarket 2 days later, on January 9th. In all the chest pounding and acts of anger, one heard little about Jews being under attack, only that French freedom was. That's because the Jews brought this on themselves. Or so some people said. 

When Black Lives Matter published their manifesto early in the summer, the only country singled out for a variety of offenses was Israel. There is no mention of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, or Lebanon, all countries where Palestinians are only one group of people indiscriminately abused. That's because Jews have no place on this earth, even they are the original indigenous people. Archaeology supports this as fact, not fairy tale. Just ask any Muslim what was on the Mosque of Omar mount before the Mosque of Omar.

There is significant movement in the direction of antisemitism during this presidential cycle. Alt.right, the shorthand for the alternative right, is self-proclaimed as white supremacist and virulently antisemitic. Don't believe me? Here is one link to another blog: Alternative Right. Read it and weep. They support one candidate en masse.

What does this all mean? Well, if you're a Jew of a certain age, and fewer and fewer of those are left, the rhetoric is not-so-vaguely familiar. It's very familiar. Too familiar. There's a charismatic leader with no experience in governance and he is promising that he, and ONLY he, can solve all problems. He rarely provides a proposal or a program that would be instituted, but makes broad sweeping promises that, from day one, he will fix everything because he alone knows everything. 

Hitler was good at blame: 
For this reason the Jewish-democratic press of America had to accomplish its masterpiece - that is to say, it had to drive into the most horrible of all wars a great peace-loving people which was as little concerned in European struggles as it was in the North Pole: America was to intervene 'in defense of civilization,' and the Americans were persuaded so to do by an atrocity propaganda conducted in the name of civilization which from A to Z was a scandalous invention the like of which has never yet been seen - a farrago of lies and forgeries. Because this last State in the world where social aims were being realized had to be destroyed, therefore twenty-six peoples were incited one against the other by this press which is exclusively in the possession of one and the same world people, of one and the same race, and that race on principle the deadly foe of all national States. [April 13, 1923]
Trump isn't so bad at tossing the baloney either: 
John Dickerson: Let me ask you about, what does the Mexican heritage of the judge in the Trump University case have to do with anything?                           
Trump: I think it has a lot to do with it. First of all, I've had terrible rulings forever. I had a judge previous to him and it would have been a very quick case. This is a case I should've won on summary judgment. This is a case -- and nobody writes this, and they all know it, but they don't like to write it -- the plaintiff in the case was a woman.  She was so bad that under deposition it was over. I mean, she couldn't have been the -- it was a disaster. They went before the judge, they said, "We don't want her to be the plaintiff. We want to put somebody else in." So we said, "Well, that's fine. Dismiss the case. You have to dismiss the case." Wait a minute -- she gave letters, the most incredible reviews of the college you've ever seen, of the university. She gave the most incredible -- then on top of it, we have a tape where she's talking about it in the most glowing terms. You wouldn't speak about your college --   
Dickerson: But Mr. Trump, what does this have to do with his parents being from Mexico, how does that --     
Trump: Excuse me, excuse me, I'm just saying. We're getting terrible rulings. We go to the judge, we say to the judge, "Hey, you can't let her out of the case." He let her out of the case. We said, "Well, if you're going to let her out of the case, she's the plaintiff. If you're going to let her out of the case, the case is over." No, the case isn't over. OK? Now -- 
Dickerson: Give me the thought process, though, why -- how does this work?   
Trump: He has given me -- my thought process -- 
Dickerson: No, no, for him, how do his Mexican parents have to do with him not ruling for you? 
Trump: He is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he's got bias. I want to build a wall. I'm going to build a wall. I'm doing very well with the Latinos, with the Hispanics, with the Mexicans, I'm doing very well with them, in my opinion. And we're going to see, you're going to see, because you know what, I'm providing jobs. Nobody else is giving jobs. But just so you understand, this judge has treated me very unfairly, he's treated me in a hostile manner. And there's something going on. When a woman can be a plaintiff in a case and then say, "I don't want to be" -- and you know why they don't want to be a plaintiff? They don't want her, the lawyers asked that she not be a plaintiff because they would have lost the case immediately.                                                                                                                                  [Transcript from FACE THE NATION, June 25th, 2016] 
So what does this have to do with the rage of antisemitism that's happening now?


The door has been opened to very public ethnic profiling in the guise of political rhetoric. That's the kind of action that, once let out, cannot be dismissed. That blatant hatred is coming out as mainstream in the form of BDS - Boycott, Divest, Sanction. What masquerades as a pro-Palestinian movement shows not one whit of effort to assist the Palestinians in actually creating an economic entity that can morph into a self-supporting state. Instead, the focus of their actions is to delegitimize the existence of Israel. It's about pushing the Jewish population into the sea despite absolute recorded historical fact that Jews are the original indigenous people on the land and have been there continuously since before the founding of Jerusalem. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, Palestinians were Jews, Christians, and Muslims. If you lived in that area, your passport called you a Palestinian. It had nothing to do with religion. Just like being a US citizen is not based on being a certain religion. Just like being a citizen of Israel is not based on being a certain religion. Yes, kiddies, that is a true and certifiable fact.

But let's not let facts get in the way. It's easier for the Black Lives Matter folks to align themselves with BDS because they think there's some sort of oppressed relationship upon which to capitalize. They seem not to have thought this through at all. Where is their angst over the real human rights Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, or Turkey? Where is their outrage when homosexuals are thrown off rooftops? It has nothing to do with civil has to do with Jews. 

And it's not just the US. Antisemitism has become a major issue in the United Kingdom. Jeremy Corbyn's recent handling of antisemitism in the Labour Party was a shondeh. That Corbyn sympathizes with anti-Israel politics is a source of great consternation for Jews in the UK; 92% of the Jewish Labour Movement, an arm of the party for over 100 years, has polled against their own party's candidate. 
Mr. Corbyn himself appears bemused. The mantra he repeats — that he is opposed to racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (he rarely speaks solely of anti-Semitism) — suggests that he is wedded to the idea that anti-Semitism is chiefly a right-wing phenomenon. It is true that Mr. Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was the target of some thinly veiled anti-Semitic slurs from Britain’s tabloid newspapers. But the notion that well-meaning people on the left might also harbor bias against Jews seems to pass him by.                                                               New York Times September 12, 2016
Sound familiar?

The problem We, the People, are facing is a much more complicated one. We have a candidate who has garnered significant support from far right groups that model themselves after Germany of the 30s and 40s. They actively solicit support to remove "undesirables" from the United States. Those undesirables consist of any group that is not white, Christian, or American born. We have someone running for president who openly talks about mass deportation and his disdain for minority groups in this country. 

I want you all to understand that mass deportation means rounding people up and putting them in camps. It does not mean you pick 'em up in a Chevy Tahoe and drop em' off at the border. No. It means camps. Like Manzanar. Like Shatila. Like Dadaab. When politicians begin to put those things into practice, they start with one group and go on to the next. 

This is the tip of a very large, very dangerous iceberg. When you allow Jews to be singled out for hate speech, when you see large numbers of people joining organizations whose sole purpose is to commit "ethnic cleansing" of Jews even from their own homeland, you begin to look a lot like you're encouraging Hutus to go after Tutsis in Rawanda. You are tacitly encouraging gangs of youths to burn synagogues and beat up old men and women in the street. You look like blood libel is an okay thing to publicize. Never mind, where do you stop? The real question is: How do you stop? 

You don't. After you've rounded up the Mexicans, the Muslims, and the Jews, can you think of who might be next? 

As we head into election season, think about the people you love, and who will be targeted. As you listen to the media and news and the hype, consider what happens when the United States become dotted with deportation camps. NIMBY? Guess again. Wherever you are, there are illegals; they will be rounded up and have to be put somewhere. If you're a typical American, you have friends and relatives who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations. Are you going to stand silently by as their rights are stripped away? Are you strong enough to fight for them, or will you just hide your eyes like so many did in 1930s Europe. 

Not too long ago, I would've considered this blog episode to be great hyperbole. I don't think that any more. I think we are in real danger of fracturing these here United States. 

United we stand. The question is, what are we united for. I'm not sure I know anymore. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Re: Hillary and Pneumonia.
Have you ever known a woman who stopped because she had a cold? 
For the record, this is the first time the GOP has ever cared about a woman's health. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

The First Amendment ~ Part Deux

My friend Orit passed away on Friday. She'd been battling cancer for about 14 years, and I do mean battling. She waged ceaseless war on that disease. Bound and determined to live long enough to see her 4 sons all b'nei mitzvah, she lived on to see them graduate from high school, then college. Long enough to see one married. She was possibly the bravest, strongest, most determined person I have ever known. Our hearts are broken. May her memory be a blessing for her husband, her boys, her family, and all of us who had the unique privilege to know her. 


For today's rant, I want to begin with The Constitution. Specifically, I want to talk about freedom of expression and the boundaries set within that august document. It's important to know about those boundaries and civic responsibility. It's so important that the Supremes have ruled on this issue several times. 
  1. Until 1969, flag burning was illegal in most states. That year, SCOTUS extended the freedom of expression protection of the First Amendment to the flag. The person who set fire to the flag, however, could be charged with a misdemeanor for starting a fire without a permit. 
  2.  Texas v. Johnson491 U.S. 39 (1989) - The courts affirmed the protected nature of freedom of expression to include non-verbal expression under the First Amendment.
  3. Congress passed an anti-flag burning law called the Flag Protection Act of 1989 under George Bush I, but it was struck down in the Supreme Court in 1990
  4. United States v. Eichman496 U.S. 310 (1990) - SCOTUS reaffirms Texas v Johnson, and goes further by invalidating a federal law against flag desecration as a violation of free speech as protected by the Constitution.
  5. In writing the majority decision, Justice William Brennan states: If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,”    
....Simply because society finds the idea OFFENSIVE OR DISAGREEABLE.

That is one ginormous statement. 

The First Amendment is not nearly as simple as it sounds: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances .
We've had this conversation before. We've had it several times in this space. But today, I want to address the decision of National Football League player Colin Kaepernick not to stand during the national anthem:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color....To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.
Freedom of expression is a Constitutionally guaranteed right. If We, the People are to cherish and protect the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, we cannot cherry-pick who gets to exercise those freedoms.

Okay, now that we've established that. Let's look at the other side. 

Exercising the right of free speech is not without peril; there can be backlash. Mr. Kaepernick has been condemned by many for his refusal to stand. He puts his contracts and endorsements in jeopardy. His refusal can ultimately cost him his job. He right to express himself does not come with immunity from negative response and the fallout from that response. Still, whether you agree with him or not, Mr. Kaepernick is definitely within in rights not to stand during the national anthem. 

You don't have to like it, you don't have to respect his opinion, you don't even have to agree with this action. But if you want to live in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free, you don't get to tell anyone how to what constitutes free expression. 

I like what President Obama said: 
Sometimes it’s messy. That’s how democracy works.

That same rule happens to apply to Donald Trump and his ongoing stream of hate speech. We're not talking about lying here. I'm talking about the hateful rhetoric that falls out of his mouth with some regularity. Short of shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, he can pretty much say whatever he wants about Hillary Clinton, African-Americans, immigrants, and Martians for that matter. The issue becomes the people who  believe what he says, and expect his so-called policies can be enacted if , G-d forbid, he takes office. 

Bit of a conundrum, dontcha think? You can't force this guy to tell the truth, just like you can't force him to release his tax returns.

There's this Mexican wall thing. The guy changed his story mid stream.

Trump's statement:
Number one. Are you ready? Are you ready? We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall. 100 percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall. And they're great people, and great leaders, but they're going to pay for the wall.
NPR Fact check: 
[Trump told reporters after meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City that they had discussed the wall but not who would pay for it. Peña Nieto says he made it clear Mexico will not pay, and Mexico's foreign minister says this position is nonnegotiable. — Sarah McCammon]
Nor can you stop him from saying blatantly stupid stuff like, "Gee, I always wanted one," when telling the story about being handed a Purple Heart. He is well within his rights to continue to say really stupid stuff at will. That's freedom of expression; there's nothing in there about being quasi intelligent or if those two things are mutually exclusive. 

But people sign on to support this guy. It doesn't matter that his proposed policies are unconstitutional. As long as those lips are flapping, people will continue to believe that he can bully his way through Congress. My guess would be he was absent the day they taught checks and balances. Looking at how President Obama has struggled with an obstreperous congress, it's hard to believe Trump will do any better. Unless he continues to end run and countermand the Constitution. 

No discussion about Donald Trump's tenuous grip on reality would  be complete without mentioning his visit to Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit...and the draping of the tallit. My weird-shit-o-meter went off the scales with that one. I know some sects adopt aspects of Jewish ritual in their beliefs; this was gruesome. I can only hope Ivanka, herself an observant Jew, told him that was just wholly inappropriate. And just too creepy for words.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
For those in the's Elul. Time for a bit of introspection.