Monday, January 27, 2020

Laughing and Not Laughing

What's left of my basement
When we last left our intrepid blogger, she was slogging her way through a wet basement worrying about water mitigation, insurance coverage, and the dreaded Angsty-Doodle-Damn-It. Since then, the water mitigation guys have come, done their magic for 4 days, reattached the washer and dryer, and have disappeared into the night...except for when one of the guys realized he locked his backpack in the house with the keys from the lock box. That was the comic relief. 

Or might have been until I was sitting in the kitchen eating my cottage cheese and granola dinner when a mouse skittered across the floor and dived under the fridge. Yes, I was startled; no, I did not yell EEEEEEEK and jump onto the counter, but I did call the junior son who told me to go to Home Depot and get a mouse trap. He told me this is part of adulting, and I needed to do this on my own. Google would help. Sure, it will.

Peanut Butter Bucket
Having had a wonderful mouser dog and a husband who didn't mind battling critters, my experience with mice and mouse traps was almost non-existent, and what little experience I have had did not end happily. I floated around Google for a bit, and decided I need more help than it was providing, so I did the most adult thing I know...I called my machatunim* who know everything about this kinda stuff. My wonderful machatennister** immediately cried, "What you need is a peanut butter bucket!" and said she had one all put together, I should come over and get it. She also provided the Mousy Ramp for getting said critter into the bucket. She never once mentioned the word "adulting." I love this woman. Good thing they're only 5 minutes away!

BLOG UPDATE: PEANUT BUTTER BUCKET WORKED LIKE A CHARM. MOUSE HAS BEEN DISPATCHED...but bucket remains in case he had mishbucha*** with him. 

On the escapist side, I went to see YidLife Crisis at the Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival last Saturday night. I thought they were screamingly funny. IMHO, this is baseline Jewish humor. It's warm, it's funny, and it's hamish. The guys are from Montreal, but they did an enormous amount of prep work on Jewish life in the Twin Cities and they were spot on. 

For the record, I cannot abide the following: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, or Phillip Roth. I don't think any of those guys are funny. They're like Borscht Belt Gone Bad. I know, I know, I'll get hammered for saying that, but too bad; it's an opinion and I get to have one. The YidLife guys, on the other hand, are seriously funny, so if you appreciate classic Yiddish humor in the modern world, click here. 

So much for the comic relief and the plug...everyone back on his/her head. 

I write this in the waning moments of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. I cannot help but reflect on the beginning of the Holocaust, when so many people shook their collective heads and thought, "This, too, shall pass," when in fact, millions of people would pass through the gates of the camps and never came out. We remember...but for how much longer. Fewer and fewer people, when asked, know what Auschwitz was. My kids have seen numbers on arms, but will my grandkids ever see an arm with a number tattoo? 

YidLife Crisis really made me think about that time shift and the subsequent juxtaposition. Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion make us laugh at ourselves. They are giving a glimpse of a world that once was, is now fading, and will one day just disappear. Elman and Batalion's humor is an act of cultural preservation. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I am thankful someone is out there doing it.

Laugh at ourselves in times of crisis we do. Of course, one always skirts the issue of laughing at us v. laughing with us. That will never change. Jewish humor tends toward the self-deprecating. Is that a good thing? I don't know. Did Rabban Gamliel tell jokes about his mother-in-law? Did Rashi like a good comedy routine at Purim? Did Spinoza even laugh? Who knows! Is it possible that Jewish humor as we know it is a more recent development? And is it good for the Jews?

There is a difference between the Yidlife guys and the self-loathing Jew like Larry David, and that worries me. As the self-loathing Jew routine picks up fans, there is an inevitable increase in laughing AT us. And that kind of comedy opens the door to antisemitism based on perceptions of how we see ourselves. If Larry David consistently portrays Judaism as pointless or as worthless tribal fodder, why should David Dukes think anything different?

I'm not suggesting we stop laughing or even stop laughing at ourselves. That's who we are, but at the same time, perception is everything. 

And speaking of perception...

Right now, too many people are laughing at the Senate. They have a perception problem. Too many of We, the People seem to be of the opinion that this administration is either a joke not to be taken seriously, or a passing phase we will outgrow. Sitting on the fence is not helpful. We, the People can either begin to take what's happening in Washington seriously enough to get out and vote, or we can draw the living room drapes because that other stuff is just not our problem.

But it is our problem.

Now that John Bolton has dropped the advanced copy of his bombshell book on the New York Times, it appears our Senate is still refusing to hear witnesses in the trial of Feckless Leader. While the Dems laid out a case with evidentiary support and lots of video clips, the GOP has not addressed the actual articles of impeachment. No one seems to be saying he didn't do what all those videos and testimony show he did. No, they're simply denying his actions were abuse of power. Their refusal to allow witnesses makes me figure they are afraid and have something really big to hide. If the public ever wakes up to the reality of who is running that show, there will be revolution... from both directions. 

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this impeachment is tantamount to political masturbation. The only one who's gonna get off is the president because the Senate will let him. Everyone else is just going to be left with know. 

In the end, the most terrifying aspect of this coincidence of Holocaust Remembrance Day and the impeachment is that We, the People have a moment of opportunity when we can stand up united to stop incipient tyranny, or we can emulate the Germans, the Poles, the Austrians, and the rest as we sit in our living rooms and do nothing. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

If someone knocks your spigot outta the wall, don't forget to plug up the hole. 

*machatunim: child-in-law's parents.
**machatennister: child-in-law' mother
***mishbucha: family
[not shown but what the heck] machutin: child-in-law's father

Monday, January 20, 2020

My Cosmic Disconnect

I have had better weekends in my time. This one would've been perfectly lovely had the snow-blowing crew NOT demolished my outdoor spigot with the fancy upper turn-off, causing water for flow for almost 24 hours down the front of the house and into my basement. I thought it was the drain plugging up again...but stopping to get the mail on Sunday, I noticed the front of the house was wet. At least Spartacus had the presence of mind to run down and shut off the water main. The plumber had already been called and I was waiting for him at that moment. I shan't go into the gory details, but let's just say I got lots of exercise using a push-broom to get the water to the drain which didn't help for the first 20 hours since the spigot was running and I didn't know that part. But, it's frickin' cold in Minnesota this time of year which means it's also suck-the-moisture-outta-yer-face-and-eyeballs dry which in turn means the basement floor is reasonably dry at the moment, although it does smell increasingly funky down there. My HOA president is on board, the insurance claim has been filed, the snow-removal people have been notified, the property management group has already tried to blame me...and failed, bids are being solicited for water mitigation, and my buddy Curt-the-floor-guy...yeah, the same one from the old stopping by tomorrow to see what's left of my basement floor. We have pictures of the spigot, not much to see in the basement, but I am pretty confident this will all be covered. And it's still frickin' annoying. Almost as frickin' annoying as the fact that I have a cold. I am cold. All I want to do is crawl into bed. 

But no, I have a blog to write. 

I had a bit of a cosmic disconnect with the Senate this past week. See, Moscow Mitch and his buddies were gleefully announcing on the telly that their minds were made up and they didn't need no stinking trial to know Feckless Leader is innocent of all charges. It was the claim of innocence that really got me into a was saying never mind the Constitution; we don't need no stinking Constitution to tell us how to think:

I'm not impartial about this at all. I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.                             Senator Mitch McConnell December 17, 2019

On January 16, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts administered the oath to 99 of the sitting Senators of the United States (One was to be sworn in later due to family emergency) The oath was taken:
Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws: So help you God?                                                            administered by Chief Justice John Roberts
followed by the Senators' signing of the oath book. Signing. Like a contract signing. 

Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, told Newsweek:
There really is no mechanism for enforcing the oath that senators take before an impeachment trial.
I guess that means it's a playground cross pinkies, say something scarily unbreakable and then completely forget about it until you're in a Hallmark movie or being chased by aliens. It has absolutely nothing behind it to guarantee those senators will actually listen, pay attention, and/or even think about the good of the many versus the good of the 1%. 

This is the part where I get into trouble with the ALL the senators, right and left together.

If the president tells a lie, extorts favors from another government, lines his own pockets with rental/booking fees from housing guests of the US government in Trump property, and other emollumentative actions and no one in Congress actually cares, has a crime been committed?

You can easily make yourself crazy lining up statements from the same people about the importance of impeaching Bill Clinton versus Feckless Leader. Makes you wonder about the following:
  1. What planet are they on?
  2. How is the air on their planet?
  3. Is there any way they could just stay there and not return to earth in this lifetime?
All joking aside, the deeper we get into this, the less I believe there is a sanity path in there somewhere. The divisions seem only to be getting deeper, and not just in the usual ways. There are plenty of folks out there who think the issues facing this country are a joke, that two sides spitting and hissing at each other is a form of entertainment. Personally, I have trouble with that if only because I cannot view the vitriol as amusing, or the espousing of hatred as showmanship. 

This feeds into the social media stream quite easily. Once the hate makes the news, it's automatically infotainment; all pretenses of veracity disappear. Add freeze-frame and the creation of memes, and you've stepped it up a notch. The gravitas of reality slips away into a punchline. Gone is the need to make sense of the news; we only need to be able to laugh at it.

And as much as I laugh with/at Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver, they are, if not the root, the leafy canopy of this genre. And it's not a good look for either of us.. 

We do ourselves and our future a disservice when we stop taking it seriously. Laugh all you want, but will you still be laughing when misguided North Korean nuclear test explodes sending massive amounts of radioactive particulate into the air we breathe? Or when FDA "misses" a bacteria in the milk processing supply that kills thousands of children? Will it still be funny that the inspectors were pulled off and the standards were reduced or removed?

My late father-in-law, a big-animal epidemiologist for the USDA, used to rail against the lessening of animal health regulations because he believed, after years of experience in the field, that if farmers believed if you can do it cheap it's better than having to live up to regulations, public health be damned. As he used to constantly point out,
we don't have the same immune systems we once had. Keep using that anti-bacterial crap and you, too, can die from an infected ingrown toenail.
 (He had a thing about ingrown toenails being the root of all systemic evil. )

Ultimately, the harm we do by not calling out the lies, the extortion, the abuse of power is subtle and hard to see in the short term, but we damage our moral immune system. We allow corruption and it becomes the standard, not the deviation. What will our kids and grandkids take forward about honesty and ethics if they are growing up in a world where they are little more than a joke? You need to be terrified by that thought in order to grok the whole life-is-comedy-fodder routine. 

The impeachment process, quite frankly, is a national joke. It's a sham and red herring, a distraction for the real issues We, the People are facing. Senators on both sides took the oath, signed the book, and then will vote whatever way they decided to vote two months ago. They can call a million witnesses, but if those closed minds are made up, what's the point?

This trial isn't about Feckless Leader; it's about what We, the People, will tolerate. In the end, the behavior of the Senators is a reflection of We, the People, not the occupants of the West Wing. If we have elected a body to represent the interests of the citizens of these here United States and those Senators vote to permit the continuation of rampant narcissism to rule, then our anger may be misplaced. They  are voting as the vox populi. 

Maybe We, the People are best served by being angry at ourselves...and then actually doing something about it. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

This week's tip comes from Professor Lawrence Tribe:

The argument that only criminal offenses are impeachable has died a thousand deaths in the writings of all the experts on the subject, but it staggers on like a vengeful zombie.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Uncles, The Duchess, and Character

L to R: Uncle Lenny, Uncle Marc, Dad...
My family will note 2 yahrzeits this week: my Uncle Marc and my Uncle Lenny. Both men were married to my dad's sisters. If Grandpa Moishe was my dad's best friend, his brothers-in -law were his partners in crime. The three of them could not be left unsupervised for a moment. If they were not improvising new and unusual ways to make my grandmother crazy, they were asleep on the couch...didn't matter which couch, or whose couch, it just needed to be an available couch. They played poker at SFC meetings, but mostly they laughed a lot. Uncle Marc, the oldest,married to dad's older sister Ruth, was an accountant who loved opera and bridge; then came Dad, a manufacturing VP, who loved baseball and building stuff; and then Uncle Lenny, the youngest, married to dad's younger sister Cynthia, a furniture salesman who made new best friends every day with his endless supply of really bad jokes, and made the meanest, bestest malteds this side of paradise. Three very different guys who found a common bond in family.
...and how they saw themselves

We all benefitted from that...especially when French Toast was involved. 

Uncle Marc left us quite unexpectedly back in 1983 when he passed away after seemingly minor surgery. I think we were all in shock. Uncle Lenny, who battled a variety of issues over the years, none of which dimmed his light bulb humor even at Sloan Kettering, left the building shortly after Ziggy. Somehow, I think Ziggy was there to meet him with a whole new slew of bad jokes. 

Dad was the last man standing for a few years and that weighed on him. He missed his buddies. A lot. When he was getting ready to leave, Dad kept telling me Uncle Lenny was in the room and he was taking him to Aunt Ruthie's where Uncle Marc was waiting, the martinis were cold and there were cold cuts and fresh rye bread. And pickles. Lots of pickles. I asked him if there was pastrami and he assumed me there was, and tongue, too. I think my dad was reaching out to my uncles because these were the guys who supported each other and watched each other's backs. 

So all this uncle stuff got me to thinking. My big brother, although he lives half-a-continent away, is a terrific uncle to my sons, and a pretty special gruncle to Little Miss who thinks he's very funny. And Uncle Miiiiiiisssssshhhhhha is adored by both Little Miss and Young Sir. The senior son and Mrs. Senior Son do a good job of coming in regularly so they are part and parcel of the kids' existence. That makes my heart sing. 

So what's this all about?

It's about relationships. 

I attended a group thing about women, aging, and friendship. It was an illuminating experience and I am glad I went. Being a non-Minnesotan, I have anxiety about living here in the Land of PassiveAggressive. I find saying things like, "Oh, that's so interesting on you!" to be anathema. I've come to the conclusion that I am pretty much a formed entity and the odds of my suddenly being acceptable to the native Minnesotan population is slim to none...and what's more I'm not particularly worried about any of it. Sitting around with a bunch of women on a Sunday morning went a long way in reassuring me that I'm okay with me, and I'm not in need of validation. I'll keep the family I've woven together, the one made up of immediate family, cousins, friends, in-laws, and dearest out-of-towners. These are the people I want around me, and I'm pretty sure they want me around them, and I'm okay with that. We support each other. Like we're supposed to.

But I still haven't told you what this is really about.


It's about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and, I imagine, soon to be known as Mrs. Windsor. This is about watching a woman who is seemingly pretty strong get knocked about for reasons so disgusting it's hard to even write about them. And oddly enough, it's about the Queen who is really a smart, savvy, and admirable woman. 

Let me explain.

I never watch SUITS. I didn't know who Meghan Markle was...except I found out her first husband was Jewish, not that it mattered one whit. This is about her marriage to a kid whose mother was just so much public fodder and died as a result. Princess Diana's death (and I was a huge fan of hers for a whole lotta reasons) was devastating to her children. No kid, and I do mean NO KID survives the death of a parent without issues. And in the case of William and Harry, their mother was the most famous woman in the world and was meat for the tabloids. It is no wonder that Harry, the younger of the two, picked an especially strong, independent woman for his wife. He knows she will never be queen. He didn't care that her mom is black and her dad white. He fell in love and has every right to expect to be able to establish a loving home with his wife and children. Being a prince has nothing whatsoever to do with that. 

What no one really expected was the savaging of the Duchess of Sussex by the press. A simple comparison of actions and headlines demonstrate the horrid, racist, slanted, biased reporting that has dogged her. I don't think anyone thought that in this day and age so-called journalists and their editors would stoop to that sub-basement level. 

Of course, she's not all right. Would you be?

There are real problems happening right now all around us. As I sit here typing, Iran is rightfully under siege by their own people after admitting they shot down a Ukrainian passenge plane. Feckless Leader is selling the services of our troops to a variety of governments because "they pay us." We have become the new Hessians. 

They pay us.

Is that what we have become? Are we for hire? What happened to bringing troops home, and fake wars and all that other stuff? And if we are being hired out, where's the money going? Into whose pockets?

There are no relationships in the West Wing any more. There is no team pulling together for the sake of the nation. There are no under-secretaries or admins or anyone else in there battling to pull the nation back from the brink of the abyss. When I think of the simplistic bonds between my grandfather, my dad, and my uncles, I remember that from them I learned loyalty and the importance of a unified familial front. When I look at Duke and Duchess of Sussex, I see a family circling the wagons to figure out how best to salvage an untenable situation. Doesn't matter what the motivation is....they are behaving like any family experiencing an external threat. 

The only family not doing that is the one We, the People of the Unites States are supposed to be. The continual fracturing of our national identity will prove to be our undoing. We will lose our shared identity, our shared values, and our shared history. I know there are deep divides on a variety of issues, but it''s precisely those differences that create America. No, it's not perfect, and it's not all kumbaya moments of harmony. But a shared history is crucial to the character of a nation.

Funny, these days that's what we are missing most. Character.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Friendships are fluid; they change with time and circumstance.
The trick is being able to float along for the ride.

Monday, January 6, 2020

I Am A Jew. I Do Not Hate. I Do Not Fear.

I supposed I could write about Iraq and Iran, but the truth of the matter is that no matter what I write, the various truths of the last few days won't matter. In short order, here they are:
  1. Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was a rotten egg and getting rid of him probably wasn't a bad idea.
  2. Getting rid of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani via assassination while bypassing the normal checks and balances before launching such an attack is problematic. Actions that can start wars are supposed to go with oversight processes to lay out possible scenarios. Indications are that process was skipped.
  3. The relationship between the US and the few allies we have left has been further damaged by this unilateral action. 
  4. Responding to threats with tweets declaring he's gonna blow up cultural sites is moronic, not to mention a war crime. It's not how the US wages war. Ever. The tweets do not produce a show of strength and fortitude, they are the ravings of a playground bully only this one doesn't have a red rubber dodge ball in his hands, he has a red button. 
  5. Can you say "wag the dog," boys and girls? He tried accusing President Obama of that very action against Iran, but like everything else, it was hot air then and it's hot air now. 
  6. When he reads a speech, he sounds like an early version of Disney's Lincoln automaton. He can barely read multi-syllabic words and he stumbles over simple ideas. For a guy who used to be dynamic on this TV show, he is a pancake now. And that's a professional professional opinion. 
  7. If your neighbor was behaving like this, you would wonder if the guy was doing drugs to produce such erratic (no, not erotic) behavior. It's gotta be a whole lotta drugs or the guy is moving along the yellow brick road to the Dementia City at a pretty good clip. He can't stand up for long periods of time. You would be thinking, "Social Services." Yeah. You would. 

    But I'm not going to write about Iraq or Iran because those wheels are already turning and no one will be able to stop them. We will reach the brink of war...and the only thing that will stop that will be an act of Congress. But when your bread is buttered by Putin, and every action is rubber stamped by a Senate that is interested only in its pocketbook and  power, not We, the People, you can expect nothing less that abject failure to do one's duty to the nation. 

    Once upon a long time ago, I said, "Follow The Money." Actually, I've said that a lot in this blog, so use your imagination....and a world map. You'll figure it out.

    Meanwhile, there are more immediate needs...ones we can do something about. Together.

    Truth be told, I am not a great fan of Bari Weiss; I often disagree with what she writes, but respect her ability to voice her opinion to the august audience of the Grey Lady. However, this past Sunday, January 5th, 2020, thousands of people around the world gathered together for the SOLIDARITY MARCH: NO HATE NO FEAR and about 25,000 of them were in New York, where that same New York Times columnist addressed the crowd. At this moment, I am Bari Weiss's greatest fan, and since the text of her speech has been reprinted all over the net, I decided once more, with feeling, wouldn't hurt
    My name is Bari Weiss.

    I am a proud American. I am a proud New Yorker. And I am a proud Jew. 
    I am not a Jew because people hate my religion, my people, and my civilization. 
    Not for a single moment does Jew-hatred, like the kind we are seeing in this city, make me a Jew. 
    I am a Jew because of the audacity and the iconoclasm of Abraham, the first Jew of all. The whole world was awash in idols and he stood alone to proclaim the truth: There is one God. 
    I am a Jew because my ancestors were slaves. And I am a Jew because the story of their Exodus from Egypt, their liberation from slavery, is a story that changed human consciousness forever. 
    I am a Jew because our God commands us to never oppress the stranger. 
    I am a Jew because Ruth, the first convert to Judaism, told her mother-in-law Naomi, “your people will be my people and your god will be my god,” reminding us of the centrality of the Jewish people to Judaism. 
    I am a Jew because of Queen Esther, who understood that she had attained her royal position in order to save her people from destruction. 
    I am a Jew because the Maccabees were the original resistance. Because they modeled for us — and for all peoples — how to resist the temptation of self-erasure. 
    I am a Jew because when Rabbi Akiva was being tortured to death by the Romans he laughed. He laughed and he told his students that he could finally fulfill the commandment to love God with all of his being. 
    I am a Jew because even after the heart of Judaism and Jewish sovereignty were destroyed my people refused to accept the logic of history and disappear. And I am a Jew because some of our greatest renewals took place in exile. 
    I am a Jew because my people has been targeted and despised and murdered by the Nazis and Soviets. 
    I am a Jew because evil hates my people. 
    I am a Jew because my people managed to turn destruction into redemption by returning to their land after 2,000 years. 
    I am a Jew because our Founders saw themselves as new Israelites. 
    I am a Jew because the biblical words on the liberty bell — proclaim liberty throughout the land! — rang out from the righteous mouths of this country’s abolitionists as they fought for universal freedom in this New Jerusalem. 
    I am a Jew because it was Emma Lazarus who etched the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger onto the consciousness of America when she wrote the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 
    I am a Jew because of the martyred of Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway and Jersey City. And I am a Jew because of the courage of those who fought back in Monsey and who then, immediately after the attack, gathered together to sing. And I am Jew because of my brothers and sisters in Crown Heights and Boro Park and Williamsburg who refuse to hide their Judaism.

    I am a Jew because of students across this country who refuse to be smeared and denigrated because of who they are, who are standing up against humiliation, pressure and abuse to affirm the justness of Zionism. 
    I am a Jew because my brothers and sisters in England and France are battling the anti-Semitism of populist thugs and the anti-Semitism of politicians in parliament. 
    I am a Jew because I refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. I am a Jew because I have no patience for leaders who speak boldly while failing to take the actions necessary to protect our community. Or for partisan hacks that claim anti-Semitism is the exclusive domain of their political opponents. Or for leaders who believe they can fight Jew-hatred while making political alliances with anti-Semites. 
    I am a Jew because I refuse to lie. 
    I am a Jew because Jews are of every color and class and politics and language. And I am a Jew because hatred of us has no color or class or politics or language. 
    I am a Jew because Jews do not cause Jew hatred. Ever.

    Today, as in so many times in history, there are many forces in the world insisting that Jews must disappear or die. Some say it bluntly. Some cloak it in the language of progress. 
    But I am a Jew because I know that there is a force far greater than that. And that is the force of who we are and the force of our world-changing ideas. 
    The Jewish people were not put on Earth to be anti-anti-Semites. We were put on Earth to be Jews. 
    We are the people whose God never slumbers or sleeps, and so neither can we. 
    We are the lamp-lighters. 
    We are the ever-dying people that refuses to die. 
    The people of Israel lives now and forever. 
    Am Yisrael Chai.

    The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day 
    from Elie Wiesel's Nobel acceptance speech
    December, 10th, 1986:

    “We must always take sides. 
    Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. 
    Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."