Monday, June 24, 2019

The Virtue of a Proportionate Response

I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I have been for a long time. He writes script like no one else, and he has a patter than sends my little playwright's heart into palpitations.  Nothing gets me going faster than good dialogue. Those patterns are the heart and soul of a character, the thing that makes  a play better than good. If you can't write superb dialogue, then don't write plays. It's just that simple. 

People quote Sorkin even when they don't realize they are quoting Sorkin. His language has become part of the lexicon over the last 30+ years. From the moment A FEW GOOD MEN opened on November 15th, 1989,  we have been quoting Sorkin. Unless YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! 

Whether it's A FEW GOOD MEN, THE WEST WING or STEVE JOBS, I love the way the guy turns a phrase. There are lines that stick with me, that I can quote at will...and have done so any number of times in this blog. THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, however, is the script that I can almost recite verbatim. Lord knows, I've watched the movie often enough. The podium speech about the ACLU is nothing short of brilliant. 

So, knowing his proclivity for liberal politics, I have to admit I was shocked when I heard Feckless Leader's interview with Chuckles the Toad on Sunday morning's MEET THE PRESS. Was my beloved Aaron speech-writing for POTUS? Was it possible? I anxiously awaited a transcript of the interview:
CHUCK TODD: Let me start right in, what happened last night?
Well, you had a situation that was very bad because the night before, they shot down an unmanned drone. And the unmanned is a very big factor. The fact that there was not a person on it, a U.S. person on it, or anybody. And that had an impact on me. I said, "Well, you know, we got a little problem." And I think they did that on purpose because they understand that they will be hit very hard if that were a plane with a person in it. And I think they knew that there was nobody there. So we had a very, you know, modest but pretty, pretty heavy attack schedule.
CHUCK TODD: And this is a pre-plan that you had, something that if they did something, you had something --
Yeah, we had it --
CHUCK TODD:-- these were sort of ready-made plans --
Sure, we have many of them --
CHUCK TODD: -- to use if necessary, right?
Oh, I have so many targets you wouldn't believe.
We have targets all over.
CHUCK TODD: So did you green light something? Or had you said --
Nothing’s --
CHUCK TODD: "If we do it, I'll do this." What was, what was the order you gave?
Nothing is green lighted until the very end because --
-- things change, right?
CHUCK TODD: So you never gave a final order?
No, no, no, no. But we had something ready to go, subject to my approval. And they came in. And they came in about a half an hour before, they said, "So we're about ready to go." I said, "I want a better definition --"
CHUCK TODD: Planes in the air? Were planes in the air?
No, no. "We're about ready to go." No, but they would have been pretty soon. And things would have happened to a point where you wouldn't turn back or couldn't turn back. So they came and they said, "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a decision." I said, "I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed, in this case Iranians?" I said, "How many people are going to be killed?" "Sir, I'd like get back to you on that," great people these generals. They said, came back, said, "Sir, approximately 150." And I thought about it for a second and I said, "You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead." And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was, I didn’t think it was proportionate. Now that doesn't mean --
I am so afraid to imagine what went on behind the scene to get them to script him like this. Take a look at the Aaron Sorkin version from THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT:

...The F-18's are fired up on the
Kimitz and the Kitty Hawk. They're
just waiting for your attack order,
Mr. President.

And we're gonna hit Libyan
Intelligence Headquarters?

The N.S.A. confirmed they're the ones
who planned the bombing.

What's the estimate?

We'll level the building.

Libyan I.H.Q's in the middle of
downtown Tripoli -- are we gonna hit
anything else?

Only if we miss.

Are we gonna miss?

No, sir.

How many people work in that building?

We've been all through--

How many people work in the damn

I've got those number here. There
are three shifts, so it--

The fewest. What shift puts the
fewest people in the building? The
night shift, right?

By far. Mostly custodial staff and
a few--

What time does the night crew go on?

They're on now, sir.


It's immediate, it's decisive, it's
low risk, and it's a proportional

Someday somebody's going to have to
explain to me the virtue of a
proportional response.

There's a SILENCE. SHEPHERD gets up and starts to head out
the door.

Mr. President?


Maybe it was on The West Wing:

Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?

It is not all there is.
It isn’t virtuous Mr. President. It’s all there is sir.


Excuse me Leo, but pardon me Mr. President, just what else is there?

Sir, Admiral Fitzwallace...

 A disproportional response. Let the word ring forth from this time and this place, 
you kill an American, any American, we don't come back with a proportional response, 
we come back (bangs fist on table) with total disaster!

Are you suggesting we carpet-bomb Damascus?

 General, I am suggesting that you and Admiral Fitzwallace and Secretary Hutchinson and the rest of the national security team take the next sixty minutes and put together a U.S. response scenario that doesn't make me think we are just docking somebody's 

damn allowance!

Nah, I don't really think Sorkin is writing for the Gang-That-Can't-Get-Their-Facts-Straight....those guys are just doing what they do best, plagiarizing. They are trying to make a guy who does not have the mental capacity to even memorize the right words sound like he made some sort of earth-saving decision. There is a difference between the two words. As The Grammarist explains:
"Proportionate means in due proportion. The distinction is subtle, but proportionate describes something that is made that way by an active agent, and it often describes quantities that are difficult to measure. Proportional doesn’t necessarily involve an active agent, and it is the preferred term where actual measurements are concerned."
And then today's rationale?  Wanna talk about all those fine Iranians he knows who are great people in New York? The man has no ability to self-edit, much less make sense,  and neither does anyone else associated with him.

Here's the thing: it's pretty common knowledge that Feckless Leader loves drama, and when there isn't any real drama, he creates a crisis he can solve. Do We, the People, possibly look that stupid?

These are all diversions. Whether it's initiating, then canceling the deportation of thousands, levying more sanctions against Iran, or even the half-baked health transparency executive order, this is a smoke-screen. Each one of those items is poised to present an image of a caring POTUS when, in fact, they all demonstrate the highest levels of dysfunction in the west wing. The speech-writers prop him up with a script that's supposed to take the focus off the real issues using bogus crises he has supposedly resolved. Yeah. Right.

It's kinda like buying a really snazzy sports car when you're a total wuss who can't drive a stick. You think you'll look really cool, girls will like you, and  the other boys will be jealous that you have suck a slick street penis. Yeah, this is dick-compensation behavior. That's when your proportional isn't, but you think you can fool everyone into believing it is... least not where children are sleeping on concrete floors,  conditions that that rival third world refugee camps that we claim to deplore. All the flash and boom is supposed to take our attention away from the reality that our air is rapidly becoming un-breathable once again. The amplified MAGA cheers are supposed to assure us he has followers...when in fact they were leaving the stadium during his speech. Smoke and mirrors, mirrors and smoke. Nothing they say is real is real. It's all a sham meant to delude.                          

Start paying better attention to the man behind the curtain, folks. Honestly, we don't know who is running this country, but when they begin using movie scripts as their model, we are in for a dishonest ride. The Manchurian Candidate is a possibility. Or maybe All The King's Men? I can't wait to see what they try out next. You cannot fall for the ruse. If you do and you don't like the outcome, you only have yourself to blame.

Ol' Abe Lincoln understood the dilemma quite well:
If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.
People, our butts are already smoldering. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week 

           People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.  
                                                                                      Otto von Bismarck

Monday, June 17, 2019

Master of My Fate, Captain Of My Soul

Tuesday at sundown begins Sivan 16, 5779. That date probably doesn't mean much to many of my readers. Nor does the date Sivan 16, 5769.  But it means something to me.

That date marks a decade of life on my own.

A decade.  That's a long time.

That's roughly one-third of the time I was married, and that sounds impossible.

That’s so long ago that sometimes I don't remember what's it's like to make a "group" decision.

That's such a long time that I have to think about whether or not it's a movie we saw together. . . or something I saw after.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

I still wake up in the middle of the night and automatically fling my arm out to see if Ziggy is there...or if he fell asleep on the couch downstairs watching TV even though he's never been in this house and there isn't a TV in the living room where the couch is.

I still stand in front of the array of herbs at the grocery store and automatically think twice about buying dill because Ziggy was mildly allergic.

I still wear a wedding ring. I don't know why, but I feel naked without it.

What I have learned over these last ten years:

Time is a telescope: you can zoom in and out at will but you never change where you are standing. There are days it all happened yesterday and days when I can't remember what it was like to even be married. All at the same time.

Nobody is interested in helping you make decisions: You're supposed to be a grownup and you're supposed to be capable of making your own decisions even when you know nothing about what you're supposed to be deciding.

You are a third or a fifth or a seventh or a ninth wheel: your condition upsets the balance of congeniality. Without your partner, there are places you no longer fit. It's just the way it is.

Nobody wants to feel your keppie: Yeah, I know that was last week's rant, but I just re-read it and it's still true. (But I am feeling much better, thank you.)

Dating is not a requirement: If you want another partner, go for it. Do what is right for you. Look, if some handsome guy sits down next to me on a plane and sparks fly, I might be amenable. But the truth is, I'm okay with me as a whole; I don't have a burning need to be someone else's other half.

In the low  moments, and there are some, I think about what the Senior Son keeps telling me:  
Look at everything you've done since Dad died. You haven't exactly been sitting around.

A couple of days before he died, Ziggy asked me for my dad's anthology of English lit. When I gave it to him, he quickly found what he was looking for and read this to me:

Out of the night that covers me,  
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,  
I thank whatever gods may be  
  For my unconquerable soul.  

In the fell clutch of circumstance
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.  
Under the bludgeonings of chance  
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.  

Beyond this place of wrath and tears  
  Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years  
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.  

It matters not how strait the gate,  
  How charged with punishments the scroll,  
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

 INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley ~ 1875   

"That wasn't for me," he told me, handing back the open book. "That was for you."

I try to remember I am, indeed, the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. Some days, it's easier than others. Tuesday night won't begin one of them.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

YOU are the master of your own fate and the captain of your own soul.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Best Laid Plans....

One of the great unsung joys of widowhood is what happens when you get sick. 


There's no one to bring you toast and tea, no one to feel your keppie (foreheadto see if it's hot, no one to bring you a fresh box of tissues when you've used the last one. And no one to say, "Let's get some clothes on you, you're going to the ER."

Actually, no one goes to the ER anymore unless they're dying in the middle of the night.  Nowadays, we have UrgentCare, Doc-in-a-Box, Minute Clinic, or that thing in the grocery store where they'll give you a flu shot. Being I'm up-to-date on all my vaccines, including pneumonia, shingles, measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, tetanus, and flu, I thought I was covered. Not so, Grasshopper. Whatever this was took me down like a lame horse going over a hedge. And for sure, Ziggy woulda made me put on sweats, loaded me into the front seat, and taken me to see a doc. 

Instead of Sunday morning sitting in shul for Shavuot followed by an afternoon on no-betting mah jong, I was examined by a lovely young doctor who pronounced me "really sick" with conjunctivitis and a sinus infection. That yielded two prescriptions, a solemn oath that my head would not detach from my neck from coughing, and an overwhelming sense of sadness that my 2nd Day Shavuot Adventure with Little Miss was about to be canceled. The conjunctivitis put paid to that. 

So, shoot me. I use tea-bags.
I'd planned a lovely morning with yizkor for me and junior services for her and her pre-school buddies, lunch at shul, all followed by a grand adventure to the Japanese Garden at Como Park, complete with bento box snacks and a new book called THE CRANE GIRL. Of course, there just might be a ride on Cafesjian's Carousel to cap the day. I love adventuring with her....and I was disappointed enough for both of us.

Drugs are great and by noon today (Monday) I'd turned a proverbial corner and could sit up. I even groped my way downstairs to make my own tea. And I slept. A lot. Be that as it may,  I don't have the wherewithal to write much. I'm amazed I've made it this far, and about here's where it's going to end. I have to cough some more.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Don't get sick. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

All the Presidents and One Queen

 One Queen to invite them all, 
one Queen to dine them,
One Queen to bring them all 
and in the palace bind them.
Sorta. Kinda
Almost but not quite
You get the idea.

With sincerest apologies to JRR Tolkien

Here's a lovely look at many of our presidents when 
they were invited to dine with the Queen at  Buck House.

Harry and Liz

Liz, Ike, Mamie, and Phil

Phil, Jackie, Liz, and Jack

Dick and Liz

Liz and Jerry - 
I just love this shot. Total movie musical

Liz, Phil, Queen Mum, and Jimmy

Phil, Nancy, Liz, and Ronnie

Phil, Barb, Liz, and George

Bill and Liz

Phil, Laura, Liz, and Dubya

Liz, Barry, Michelle, and Phil

You'd think, at the very least,  POTUS could manage to get the rental tailored. 
Sure doesn't look like a young, vibrant man to me.
Or anyone else, I'm guessing. 

What is wrong with this picture goes far beyond the guy's ability to show up looking like he cared. I think a pressed t-shirt would've been nicer. As my mother would've said, "He's a schlub." Between the ill-fitting waistcoat and pants, paired with the scowl, you'd think this is one very unhappy camper. . .or a seriously pissed off maître'd. Take your pick. 

And I can see why. No one gave him any medals or ribbons to pin on his coat, no sash, not even a runner's up tiara. No, he doesn't have any bling at all.

Shall we all make book on how long before he gives himself a medal?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Wednesday at sundown marks the start of Grandpa Moishe's 40th yahrzeit.
He wasn't just my grandpa, he was my dad's best friend.
And my gin teacher. 
Ziggy would warn you against ever playing with either of us
 His memory is truly a blessing.