Monday, September 18, 2017

The Broiler and figuring out where to go next.

I heard the news today, oh boy, the Saint Clair Broiler is closing down. 

The Broiler was around the corner from our first house, but we used to go there long before we lived there. They had great malts (Al Gore was a fan) and great grilled cheese sandwiches. It was one of the first places the kids could walk to on their own... with the summer mother's helper. Even after we moved to the 'burbs, it was still a place to meet my friends for a cup of coffee or to go to after something else. And after Ziggy had the poor form to leave the building, it was the place where I went to regroup. I wasn't regular enough to be recognized, but I was always welcome. I wasn't crazy about the recent updating, but I didn't go for the decor. It was about the place and the smell and the grilled cheese sandwiches. The last time I was there, the server was saying how the landlord wasn't taking care of the building and it was getting to be a problem. I worried after that...because I think I saw the handwriting on the wall. I just hoped I was wrong. 

But apparently not. Our beloved Broiler and its glorious neon sign will be leaving us too soon. And I will have to find another place to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and regroup. I am none too happy about this at all.

But, it's that time of year for new beginnings. School starts, new pencils are sharpened, New crayons are in the book bag. As the trees shuck their leaves, we can shuck some of our baggage without too many people noticing. It's a really natural starting-over point. 

And Jews all over the world get to do the year-in-review thing. Like I've said in other years around this  time, owning one's own behavior is a challenge for a lot of people. Owning up to one's own bad behavior can be even worse. Some people can make an entire career on not owning one's own behavior.

Unlike the wild party-hardy January 1st new years celebrations, this version is about introspection and growth. You can't have one without the other. Jewish or not, everyone should have a day when they take stock to decide what comes next. What worked and what didn't? If I could repair something in my own world, what would it be? What fight will I choose to make mine, and what fight will I abandon? 

These are never easy questions, and this year, especially, they may be exceptionally important. 

  • Do we continue to fight the White House and its minions, or do we lay that aside to focus on the elections to come? 
  • Do we stop fighting Congress about climate change and bring that fight to the local level where we can change things one municipality/county/state at a time? 
  • Do we continue to beat our breasts for things we cannot possibly control or change, or do we accept who we are and what we are as we begin the hard work to improve the world immediately around us?

These are not easy questions.  This isn't about running away or hiding. It's about changing the things we can change, then moving up the change ladder to bigger and better changes. 

My British grandmother used to chide me about being "penny-wise, pound-foolish," and she didn't mean my weight. She would to talk to me about how I spent my emotional and practical capital. 

"You can expend all your energy trying to change the whole world at once," she once told me after a particularly frustrating demonstration at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza in front of the UN, "or you can use up some of those pennies teaching the same thing to neighborhood children. One is a brick wall, the other is an investment in the future." Of course, I argued with her...but I recall knowing she was right. If we really wanted to change the world, old guys sitting in the UN didn't make for a useful target. We needed to be changing the world coming up behind us.

I once played "Teach Your Children Well," by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young for her, and she asked me to write out the lyrics. Years later, when my folks brought my grandparents to visit Ziggy and me in Poughkeepsie that first year we were married, she handed me a card, and inside was a cheque ...and the lyrics. I still have the card. She'd written, "In the event you ever need these."

If you want to change the whole world, you hafta start inside your heart and your home. Then, you get to step outside your front door. Look around your street, your neighborhood, your town, your state. What do you see? What works? What doesn't?

Now, what can you do to make something work better?

To those who observe the Yamim Nora'im: may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy new year. 

For everyone else, may you, too, be inscribed in the Book for Life for a happy and healthy new year. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Okay, people: step back. Look around. Figure out what you can fix. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

We Stand On Hollow Ground

Today is September 11th. All day. Until midnight. I was acutely aware of what day it was from the moment I woke up and turned on the morning news show, just as I had 16 years ago. Only this time, I did not see the fire in the first tower and then the plane flying into the second. I was upstairs, but there was no one downstairs to whom I could call : PUT THE NEWS ON NOW. This morning, I just saw boats littering the streets of one of the Keys. I'm not sure which one. 

One aunt was still safely ensconced in a shelter in Orlando with her nephew, his fiance, and the dogs. The other aunt managed to make it to Connecticut thanks to my cousins, one of whom just happens to be a hurricane disaster mastermind. Really. Like a rocket scientist but for extreme conditions. (Not a joke.) And by nightfall tonight, the shelter aunt was back home, happy to be there, even if there's no electricity. 

Yes, there is a difference between the destruction of the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania and a couple of savage hurricanes. One is man made and the other....well, that's open to discussion. 

I was all prepared not to write about 9/11, and then I made the mistake of listening to the speeches at the Pentagon this afternoon. Clearly, it was not written by the toddler-in-chief because it had words he could not sanctified. It came out as sacrificed...which almost made sense but not quite. But the one that got me...the one that absolutely convinced me this jackass had done nothing more than glance at the damn speech before he gave it was 
Today, as we stand on this hollow ground, we are reminded of the timeless truth that when America is united, no force on Earth can break us apart -- no force...
It's supposed to be "hallowed" according to the White House transcript, which, by the way,  had acknowledged the other gaff : The sacrificed [sanctified] grounds...

Anyone who has ever been around actors knows what an actor who is unprepared sounds like. That speech was totally green. And don't tell me he's not an actor because you know damn well that's all he is. If I was the speechwriter on that, I woulda quit before the ceremony was over. This orange troll does not deserve to have good speech writers. With that stupid finger thing he does with his teeny-tiny hands....they should be just lopped off at the wrist.

For one of the most important, emotional speeches he will ever give, the first 9/11 speech should've been flawlessly delivered....and it came out sounding like a frickin' cold audition. I was so totally insulted by his lack of preparing....that I'm pounding this keyboard in absolute anger.

Folks, if you're not getting this, let me explain: he just told our nation he doesn't give a flying fart in space about We, the People. We, the People, are not worth preparing for. This troll cannot be bothered to, at the very least, read the speech before he delivered it. He read flat. He read disinterested. He read boring. What's worse, he read bored. 9/11 is not a national tragedy; it's an American family tragedy. It touched every one of us...except, apparently, the current occupant of the Oval Office.

His words are, just to be very clear, TOTALLY MEANINGLESS. They are meaningless to him, they are meaningless toward us.

Now, hold on to that thought for a moment while I go get a glass seltzer. Noch besser. 

Now, where was I going with this. Oh, yeah; I remember.

This has been a week of totally meaningless in the West Wing. He played the Dems like a violin section, wooing them in to cut a deal on the debt-ceiling, funding hurricane relief, and assorted other garbage. This scene was right outta some movie. Brings in the two schlubs, Pelosi and Schumer, throws them a bone, then sits back to bask in the good press, all the while, thumbing his bright orange na-na-na-boo-boo nose at the GOP. This was so badly staged I cannot believe anyone fell for it.... but the lame-brain media did, lock, stock, and trash barrel. You see, he did not ask for anything in return, and folks, that is not how that pig-in-pearls behaves. Nope. He will turn around and demand something onerous back for that little indulgence...because that is exactly what it was. I mean, how blind do you have to be not to see that one coming down the pike? 

When I think about the terrorists, the guys engaged by Osama bin Laden to bring down those planes, I'm not thinking they were rocket scientists. I don't associate any of them with advanced degrees in science or math. I think of them as brain-dead simpletons who believe they were gonna get virgins in paradise for committing heinous acts of murder. It wasn't that they were simpletons; they were uneducated. And if you have uneducated minions, you get murderous foot-soldiers who do stuff like that. 

If you bring on the likes of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to head NASA, what message are you sending to the kids in school? That to head an august agency you have to be a moron? That having a degree in engineering or physics is a waste of time because racing model rockets will teach you everything you for running a space agency? When they say things like they don't think climate change is man-made, you have to wonder what century they're from...the 19th but certainly not the 21st. When the West Wing advisors cannot be bothered to present qualified candidates to the oval office, having done their jobs by vetting them before hand, what do you think is going to happen?

When We, the People, elect this level of stupidity (on BOTH SIDES, people; just to be very, very clear) al-Qaeda comes roaring back to life. And that's what they've done. For 16 years they have laid low, but now, fully aware of the powers of the brainiac occupying the Oval Office, they are back in action. If you believe for one New York minute that they are afraid of the toddler, or Mike Pompeo of the CIA and their ridiculous threats, guess again. They are not. Just read about Pakistan's clearing of Benazir Bhutto's assassins if you want to see just how scared they are. 

We make our own hell. We, the People, do it every day by wasting resources and tolerating a president who refuses to understand we do make our own hell. We enable the White House to hire the Pruitts, the Bridenstines, and the DeVoses who see only $$$$$ destined to line their own pockets instead of the children of this country. They never see We, the People. They never really look at what cutting funding to shoreline research really means, so when Houston is flooded and the water is full of toxins...they can't grok the idea that the poison is man-made.

You see, my cousins Arthur and Kenny Simon died in One World Trade. Father and son. And son was a new father. I remember them on a lot of days, not just 9/11. And I don't want to ever think that We, the People, allowed al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or North Korea to start a war because they knew the president was impotent. 

Yes, toddler-in-chief, you do stand on hollow ground. In fact, it's giving way beneath your feet with every wave or your teeny-tiny hands. Make all the speeches you want. But understand this, every time you appoint a know-nothing to an important post, you are aiding and abetting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and North Korea. They already know you're atoothless troll, and they know just to play you. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If the government won't act responsibly, We, the People, must do what we can.
Start small. Clean up your own act first. 
Re-use, recycle, buy less packaging.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

President Strangelove: “Have a good time, everybody!”

Labor Day is always bittersweet. The holiday marks the last day of mental summer and the first day of practical autumn. We always started school the day after Labor Day, so after that last day at the beach club with the smell of sand and surf, we faced that seductive aroma of new crayons, freshly sharpened pencils, and a new leather briefcase...or, when we were a little older, thick rubber straps with hooks that would take your eye out if you weren't careful. We didn't know from childproof anything. No car seats, no seat belts, cement playgrounds with monkey bars. Yeah, we broke a few bones here and there, but nothing we couldn't grow back. 

I don't know if it's because the High Holy Days of the Jewish new year usually fall in September, or it's the start of the academic new year, but whatever the reason, I really do think of this as the head of the year. All things are possible in September. 

Not all possible things, however, are good things to be possible.

During those years  I was sharpening pencils and sniffing crayons, I was also mastering duck-and-cover in case of nuclear attack. We absolutely believed our hallways and desks would protect us from nuclear exposure. Yep-a-roo, we sure did. All we had to do was get down on our knees and tuck into a ball and we would be safe. 

Well, 58 years later, we're not so safe. US Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley addressed the Security Council today, Labor Day, saying:
Kim Jong-Un’s action cannot be seen as defensive. He wants to be acknowledged as a nuclear power. But being a nuclear power is not about using those terrible weapons to threaten others. Nuclear powers understand their responsibilities. Kim Jong-Un shows no such understanding.
His abusive use of missiles, and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war. War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.
The idea that some have suggested of a so-called freeze-for-freeze is insulting. When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t.
The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means to end this crisis, and that means quickly enacting the strongest possible measures here in the UN Security Council. Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy. We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left.
I understand what she is saying. She may be closer to the mark than a lot of us want to believe. But what makes this terrifying is that we have a toddler-in-chief with access to nuclear launch codes. This guy is running this like a schoolyard bully. Fire and fury? Is he frickin' kidding us? 

At the same time he should be focused on North Korea, he also has domestic issues that required his attention. Houston is still under water, but he told reporters, after visiting a shelter, the people he saw were "pretty happy with what's going on." Really? As he went to hand out some boxes with hot dogs and chips, he said, 
There’s a lot of love. As tough as it’s been, it’s been a wonderful thing to watch....I’m going to do a little bit of help over here. Have a good time, everybody!
Meanwhile, chemical plants are burning, and this administration is rolling back more regulations. I checked with two of my chemical engineering buddies to see if any of the changes were involved in the Arkema fires. The answer was probably not at this time. In the end, it's all about risk management and it's unclear what process they had in place for floods. There are, at this time, too many questions and not enough answers forthcoming while even more people are evacuated due to excessive levels of air pollution. And then there's the matter of toxic waste sites that are now flooded...

But it's not that bad. After all, in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, where hurricanes hardly happen, but monsoons sure do,  the most recent has killed nearly 1,300 people and directly impacted the lives of 45 million. What are we complaining about? Our people are having a good time in the shelters. 

As if this wasn't enough for one weekend, the toddler-in-chief announced he's cancelling DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This is the act, started in 2012, that protects illegal immigrants who were brought here as children. Those kids are called Dreamers for a reason: they dream of remaining here as citizens, unafraid and free.  Here is DACA by the numbers as prepared for NEWSWEEK  by Julia Glum:
 1. There are more than 43 million immigrants in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute. 
2. About 11 million are undocumented immigrants.

3. An estimated 22 percent of undocumented immigrants are under age 25, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

4. The Migration Policy Institute said in 2016 that about 1.9 million people were eligible for DACA.

5. About 788,000 have had their requests for DACA status accepted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

6. In order to apply for DACA, immigrants had to be younger than 31 on June 15, 2012.

7. They must have come to the U.S. before turning 16. They must have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

8. In a Center for American Progress survey of roughly 3,000 DACA recipients, nine-tenths of respondents said they had jobs.

9. Their average hourly wage was $17.46 an hour, up from $10.29 before receiving DACA.

10. About 72 percent of respondents were in higher education.

11. After getting DACA, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they got driver's licenses. About half became organ donors.

12. A Morning Consult poll from April found that 56 percent of registered voters said Dreamers, another name for people who came to the U.S. as kids, "should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements."

13. The Center for American Progress estimated that the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in GDP over the next 10 years without DACA.

14. About 700,000 people could lose their jobs.

15. More than 1,800 governors, attorneys general, mayors, state representatives, judges, police chiefs and other leaders signed onto a letter supporting Dreamers and DACA recipients.
Look closely at #13. A $460 billion dollar loss in GDP. I wonder how much revenue from federal income tax would be lost as well. Gotta be significant. That's 700,000 losing their jobs, so the question must be asked, who will replace them?

Listening to MPR yesterday, I heard some GOP flunky explain how all those DACA jobs would be filled by Americans who are looking for work. Sure they will. The same way they're gonna sign up to be field hands harvesting crops. 

Who will run the businesses started by DACA recipients? Or will the local governments just hand those over to Americans to run? (Where have we heard that before?) What will happen to the employers who counted on their DACA workers to be contributors to their companies? And the students whose teachers are DACA recipients? And the patients whose doctors are DACA kids? Has anyone bothered to think this through? 

Yeah, I know there's a six month waiting period before it goes into effect; however, when has this Congress accomplished any sort of meaningful legislation? They had 8 frickin' years to come up with an alternative to the ACA, and they couldn't even present an idea that sounded sane. Now they say they're gonna tackle the tax system, something in dire need of overhaul, and the first thing they come up with is taxing earnings destined for 401k's. What planet are these morons on? The planet without oxygen because obviously that supply to their brains has been cut off.

When you have an imperial North Korea or Venezuela or the United States these days, the president can do whatever he wants. The Founding Fathers, who must be spinning in their graves, set up a system of checks and balances for our government that are now being completely ignored. I'm having trouble figuring out which one of these disasters is the real one and which are the smoke screens. 

In Stanley Kubrick's brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, it's the Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper who is unhinged and starts the bomb rolling, not the president. Frankly, I think the movie should be required viewing for all of We, the People right about now. I have to wonder whether or not there really is a Plan R or a Russian Doomsday device. Right now, nothing would surprise me. 

Or, it could be North Korea thinks it's The Mouse That Roared. Kinda hard to tell at the moment. 

It's all so ridiculous that it's hard to believe any of this is real. This is not the way to run a country...unless you're a tin-pot dictator running a banana republic as your own personal money-laundering operation. Juan Peron had nuthin' on our toddler-in-chief. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Go find some pencils and sharpen them.
You'll feel better. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's Not A Coup, It's A Junta

Let me make this as simple as I possibly can.

The current president knows jackshit about foreign policy. He knows even less about American civics. It’s highly unlikely he’s ever read the Constitution of the United States unless someone gave him the Classics Illustrated version.

Currently, there are three generals running the west wing: Chief-of-Staff Gen. John Kelly (Ret.,) Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis (Ret.,) and National Security Advisor, Lt Gen. H.R. McMasters. There are also 7 members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since Kelly has come on, there seems to be a general house-cleaning going on. The big alt.right faction has gotten the jackboot on the way out the door: Bannon is out, Mooch is out, Gorka is out.  That didn’t stop the toddler-in-chief from giving the Charlottesville raiders the thumbs up.

But then he gave an almost cogent speech on Afghanistan…which was a180° turn from his campaign platform…you remember, the one where he castigated President Obama for remaining in Afghanistan? Clearly not written by him. Too sane sounding.

Sane didn’t last long. He was back to weird the next day.

So while there may be adults in the room, there seems to still be a lack of toddler control.

Which may, in turn, be a smoke screen. While the toddler is saying incredibly stupid things either while sitting on the can or standing at the podium, all attention is focused on him.

Example: Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arapio was not only bizarre, it was a giant distraction from the real news of the day – Hurricane Harvey. At today’s press conference with Finnish President Shauli Niinisto, the toddler blurted out why he announced the pardon when he did: 
Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally...
It’s all about him. And he doesn't know the difference between a pardon and a commutation. 

Interestingly, former sheriff Arpaio was pardoned before he was sentenced. A pardon dismisses the crime that has been committed; it is an admission of guilt. A commutation shortens the sentence. Presidents are loath to give pardons; they mostly give commutations. This is how one respects the law. The toddler dismissed the idea that Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court, which means the court told him to stop doing something, in this case established racial profiling, and he ignored that court order. The pardon dismisses the rule of law.

We are watching the slow, systematic collapse of the United States government. I'm not sure We, the People, can do much except prepare for the possibility of the degradation of the rule of law. 

Which makes forming a junta even more fascinating. Is there an expectation of further degradation of the rule of law?

I want to believe Kelly attempting to protect the three branches of government and ultimately, the Constitution. I want to believe he is setting the pieces in place so if the toddler runs off the rails, the government will be able to shore itself up and pull itself back together. I want to believe they will do the right thing to keep fascism from our streets.

I want to believe this, but on the other hand, John Kelly is surreptitiously moving the pieces around the chessboard. Pay no attention to the guys behind the curtain?

Have you ever seen a good junta? I'm not sure they exist. 

Or, then there's the other scenario: the junta is in it for the power. Is Kelly positioning himself to lead a takeover of the United States, wresting the government from the tatters of democracy while putting himself in charge of the new order?

Now is the time we should be paying very close attention to the guys behind the curtain, otherwise, when we figure it all out, it might very well be too late.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Nice People didn't speak out in Nazi, Germany, because, after all, 
it was none of their business. 
Don't be a nice person. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Heel, America! Heel!

I'm not completely convinced HEEL was misspelled.

There are so many dog-whistles going off, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he really really meant HEEL in the dog-leash sense of the word. Maybe he's telling us to all get in line and to stop tugging. Or maybe he really can't spell. This is possible. Whatever the reason, the heel tweet was an interesting twist. 

And then, speaking of leashes, looks like someone is suddenly on a short one. Looks to me like the General has laid down new laws in the West Wing,  and one of them is a definite attempt to make the toddler-in-chief look less like a toddler. The speech was well scripted, sounded pretty rational, and even pretty adult like. Unless you began to break it down into its component parts. 

We, the People have elected a president who sounds the dog whistle for hate, and then talks about love:
When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people.

In light of his previous statements following Charlottesville, We, the People, already know these are not the toddler-in-chief's words. His unscripted remarks following Charlottesville are much more revealing. 

The White House is under the impression that a sane-sounding speech can fix everything. That speech was more, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" that confidence inspiring. The cast of characters changes so fast it's hard to keep up. But then again, isn't that part of the plan?

Here's a link to the transcript. Go read it yourself.

On a lighter note, Sunday, I was at the Twins' game with the junior son, mrs. junior son, and Little Miss. We were up in the top tier, last row, just left of home plate. The view was incomparable. When we all stood for the Star Spangled Banner, I removed my Twins cap and held it over my heart, like just about every other person with a cap. And we all sang along with a choir made up of retired folk. 

But here's the thing. Sitting at the top of the field, overlooking not just the diamond, but the large swath of the city, is a mighty powerful place to sit. And then they fire red rockets at precise the moment one needs a rocket's red glare. 

I am not one to be moved to tears by the national anthem, but I was on Sunday. I could give you lots of flowery reasons why, but the truth was it just made me sad. 
..the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Are We, the People, either of those things any more? Are we free enough to speak our minds and defy the establishment of hatred as a motivating factor in our conversations? Are we brave enough to stand firm like the people of Boston did this past weekend? 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Take nothing at face value.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Rally In The Valley With The Clue That Is True

Kander and Ebb - CABERET

The sun on the meadow is summery warm

The stag in the forest runs free

But gathered together to greet the storm 
Tomorrow belongs to me

The branch on the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea
But somewhere a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon says the whisper, arise, arise
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me

Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your children have waited to see
The morning will come 
When the world is mine

Tomorrow belongs...
Tomorrow belongs...

Tomorrow belongs to me

Not sure? Watch the whole thing:

After this past weekend, I cannot get this song out of my head. It's replaying like a theme song from a monster movie. Oh, the lyrics sound harmless, innocent enough, but so did the language of burgeoning Nazi Germany. Yes, this is from a musical written well after the war. Still, it captures the essence of the beginning. 

Here's a series worth reading, from the Museum of Family History
[Copied, quirks and all, from the website]

From Ilse Gerngrofs of Leipzig, Germany
A series of letters written in
June and December 1933, July 1934 and May1936
to Bessie Faine, Stratford, New Zealand.
From a letter dated Leipzig, Dau 28 Dazamber 33:
Now I will answer you last questions. You want to hear of the political events in Germany. 
Adolf Hitler is the Chancellor of the Reich and the leader of National-Socialism. He has been nominated to the place of Chancellor by Reichsprasident v. Hindenburg … He is supported by the confidence and love of the whole German people. He never abused his power to persecute communists, democrats or Jews. I think, finally the other countries will understand it and will not publish such lies as: The Jews are crucified in Germany …. And those who have gone abroad and say they must fly, if they wouldn't be killed in Germany; those are, as our Chancellor said, thieves and ?trundlers, who knew that they did better to fly away before justice reached them. 
We have not very much Jews in Germany, only 2%. But they ruled over all. They had the banks, they were judges, they owned and did the theatres, the newspapers, no important place in Germany, where you didn't find Jews. Dear Bessie, if you understand, what a great difference is between German and a Jew, you can understand too, that we could not bear this Jews-regime any longer. The average Jew is in his feelings and in his estimation of everything a contrast to the average German. And a mixing of Jew and German is very dangerous therefore, because the children of them are heirs of both the qualities.
No Jew is hindered to remain in Germany, to have his business etc. here; but Jews are drawn back to the part in every position; which corresponds to their number in population. I think, that is a sound defence of a people against " Ubenfreunding", that's: been overflowed by a foreign people and drawn back from places where no foreigners settle. ... not in the meaning of persecution. It's only a spiritual defence, which has visible consequences, of course. [Some numbers: in Berlin in a hospital there were 60% [procent] Jewish medicins, in Berlin there were 75 or 80% Jewish solicitors, 40% of all Berlin medicines were Jews, but only 9.3% of all German inhabitants are Jews! ] You see that's no proportion. 
I really liked how Ilse signed her last letter, the one dated May 5th, 1936:
With best wishes and a friendly Heil Hitler, I am yours Ilse.
The really funny part? Ilse did not know her "Dear Bessie" was a Jew. 

Okay, not that funny.

The all-inclusive hate fest, Unite the Right,  that was held in Charlottesville left no one out. Blacks, immigrants, members of the LGBT community, Muslims, and Jews were all called out by the protesters...and I supposed it's twisted badge-of-honor that Jews took center stage on the posters. Armed with tiki-torches poles, posters, and weapons, these marchers made sure everyone who wasn't their kinda white was in their crosshairs. Oddly, the Daily Stormer, in their list of what not to bring to Charlottesville, included guns, knives, and anything else that could be considered a weapon. (The link to The Daily Stormer's article, Charlottesville: Why You Must Attend and What to Bring and Not to Bring, has been taken down...but not before I read it this morning.) That notice had little impact with the marchers.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

You see, there were militias marching in Charlottesville. Not the National Guard or a state militia, but private armies, armed to the teeth with automatic weaponry. These guys are marching down the middle of the street and all I can think of is that it only takes one nervous guy discharging a weapon in the crowd.......

But instead of a weapon, a guy drove his car into a crowd in a crosswalk. 

The overall impact of Charlottesville has yet to be calculated. There were rallies held all over this country on Sunday to protest the events in Charlottesville. People gathered, not knowing quite what to do other than to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as a sign We, the People are stronger than hate.

I was at the rally in Apple Valley. There was a decent number gathered to light candles and talk about what happened and how we alter the trajectory. It was not a political event, but a few politicians were in attendance. Not, of course, our invisible Congressclown Jason Lewis who routinely hides from his constituents, but no one was talking politics. We were talking about fears and the new reality. Since the inhabitor of the Oval Putting Green could not be bothered to name the organizers of the event in his "condemnation" of their action, the overall sense was that We, the People, do so in his absence. His own party's condemnation of his condemnation was welcomed by all Americans as recognition that something major had happened and this president had, by his silence, been complicit in this approval, not disapproval of action at Charlottesville.

Some pundit said the great orange troll's refusal to call out the Alt.Right specifically was a dog whistle to those people that this is really okay. David Duke, that man-about-Klan, was real specific about White House. Before the UNITE THE RIGHT event, Duke stated,

This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back and that's what we gotta do,"
After the lukewarm condemnation of "all sides" by the guy on the green, Duke tweeted,
 Make no mistake about Duke's message. However in or out of favor he is with Alt.Right,  the former head of the KKK makes very clear the expectations of that cadre. 

If you're still sitting around thinking this won't go anywhere and nothing will happen, fine. But that's what Germans did in 1932. 1933. 1934. Until it was too late.

Not everyone agrees with that particular position. 
At the Rally in the Valley with the clue that is true.  (photo - the WP)

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
You are not powerless if you are not silent. 
If not now, when?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Life As I Knew It

Thirty-six years-and-one-night ago, I was at my desk at the theater where I was the artistic director, signing off on contracts for the coming season. We had just had the annual meeting, and I had spent a good part of the day and night running around like a headless chicken. There were no desktop computers to speak of in those days. I operated with an electric typewriter and a Xerox machine; I had a secretary whom I shared with other department heads, and she did remarkable things like take dictation, type stuff up, and keep me on track when stuff was due. Having worked as my dad's fill-in secretary for several summers, I appreciated what she did and marveled at how she did it. 

Back to almost midnight.

I was tired and cranky and wanted to go home. I looked at the stack of contracts and knew they would be there in the morning when I came back for the staff meeting/port mortem at 9:30. I did the one thing I swore I would never do: I left a messy desk. 

An hour later, I was tiptoeing into our flat...but that was pointless; Ziggy was up reading. We talked, I shucked my smelly clothes in favor of a clean, giant t-shirt and went to wash up. At the very moment I strolled casually into the bathroom, my life changed forever and ever and ever.

My water broke.
Tough day at Brit Milah

Within hours, someone handed me the break-dancing baby we'd been calling Fred for those past 9 months. We immediately changed his name to Moshe Lev for my grandfather and Ziggy's grandfather. Life as we knew it had ended. 

Fast forward thirty-six years. 

I'm not going to talk about all the things I learned from being a mother. That's prosaic and, quite frankly, boring. Instead, let's talk about the world then and the world now.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was president. The Iran hostage crisis was still going on. Reagan was not representative of the things we believed in, but he was president and he seemed to surround himself with competent advisors. Or not. We sorta stood by and watched with amazement as people bought into voodoo economics. My dad loved Ronny Raygun, but even he couldn't quite grasp how Reaganomics could possibly work. 

It didn't. 

On the face of it, things looked pretty good.  But underneath was a vastly different story. The national debt went from  $997 billion to $2.85 trillion, turning the US from the largest creditor nation into the largest debtor nation. The federal deficit went from 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in fiscal year 1982 to a peak of 5.9% of GDP in 1983. It would eventually fall, but it would not truly come down until Bush 41 took office. Federal spending was 21.6% of the GDP up from 20.3% while income tax revenue fell from 9.1% GDP in 1981 to 7.5% GDP in 1984. In other words, the numbers show us why the national debt ballooned. 
Job growth by U.S. President, measured as cumulative percentage change from 
month after inauguration to end of term. (chart by Farcaster)

Clinton did a better job with the economy, and then we got to watch Bush 43 bungle the economy into a huge hole. In the graph, you can see job growth by president. Clearly, some did better than others. This is not a surprise, this is not an indictment, this is math. Okay?

Now that I've set that up I want to talk about what we thought when the Senior Son was born. We thought the economy would ebb and flow. We thought that with Ziggy's work in super-computing, he would always have job security. We believed that we would do better than our parents, and we would give our kid a good foundation for being a responsible and ethical adult. 

As life goes by, so do governments. We began to see a shift toward untenable semantics under Clinton. This was a new kind of prevarication, a lie that wasn't quite a lie but really was a a blow-job the same as having sex? I'm not answering that question, but the peccadilloes of powerful men were suddenly front page news. Used to be people had affairs and it rarely made it into the news. Case in point, randy Franklin Roosevelt. Seems he had a chain of them. JFK? I'm not sure I even want to know. And here's the thing....I don't care. What I did care about was that it became a distraction and a ruse. It diverted attention from the business of government. It became personal. And it was mean. 

Personal and mean. That was a warning shot we all missed. From the moment they started running after Princess Diana, the cult of the paparazzi was taking control of the media. We stopped seeing news and started seeing personal crap that wasn't any of our business unless it was screwing up the government. Monica Lewinsky was not trying to run the government from under Bill's desk. Did anyone really give a damn if Hillary didn't bake cookies? Politics would be changed forever by the shrinking news cycle. The more connected we became, the higher the demand for instant, prurient gratification. 

By the time we lived through Bush 43, we were wondering what was happening to this country. Ziggy and I began to think about where we wanted to end up and would the kids want to come along. They were close to being adults; they would make decisions on their own. Still....Ziggy saw the beginning of the assault on the Constitution taking root under this barrage of questionable information, and worried about being the only one who saw it. He was not. He was very much alive for Barack Obama's first campaign, and he got to see this degradation in action. We were both disgusted by what we saw coming from the right wing. Hatred of the other filled the airwaves. Here we had the chance to have an educated, erudite guy lead our country after your basic confederacy of dunces, and instead of being relieved, we were terrified. The anti-Muslim rhetoric, the neo-racisim, the garbage out of the mouths of Bachmann and Palin even after the election was over. The attacks were just plain racist. There was no other way to describe it. The birth business was demoralizing; and it was evil. Somehow, we managed to elect President Obama, and for a moment we hoped the hate would stop.

Then Ziggy was dying and I stopped caring. 

For 8 years I watched our country devolve from a place that welcomed the tired, the poor, those yearning to breathe free to something closed-off and closed-minded. 

Then the electioneering for 2016 started. Instead of civil discourse about policy domestic and international trade, we were treated to name calling, tales of pussy-grabbing, smoke and mirrors on emails and tax returns, and lie after lie about stupid things like crowd size. Really? 

Sometimes, I try to imagine what Ziggy would say about this past election and the toddler-in-chief. Instead of a ticket to Tel-Aviv, I would be pricing tickets to New Zealand while he'd be checking on who he was going to work for once we got there. 

And I think about the newly-married Senior Son, the Junior son and his family, and I wonder: what world are we handing to Little Miss and any other grandkiddies that happen along? The world we once believed to be full of hope and promise seems to be folding in on itself. Will the air be breathable and the water potable? Will we have been tossed out because we are not Christian? I listen to the rhetoric and I cannot help but wonder.

Please to be understanding I'm not talking about Democrats and Republicans. I am talking about We, the People and our national character. What does it say about us when even one of us tosses a bomb through a window of a building where people are praying and the White House remains silent? What message are we sending the world when our president gloats to the Wall Street Journal in an interview how the national leader of they Boy Scouts called to tell him his was the greatest speech he ever heard:
TRUMP: ... from the time I walked out on the stage — because I know. And by the way, I’d be the first to admit mixed. I’m a guy that will tell you mixed. There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.

WSJ: Yeah, there was a lot of supporters in the arena.

TRUMP: And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful. So there was — there was no mix. 
Only there was no call. In fact, there was an apology from the Boy Scouts' chief executive, Mike Surbaugh, for the political rhetoric injected into the Jamboree. You can read it FROM THE CHIEF: OUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT.

That happens to speak directly to my concerns. What are we telling our kids? To earn lots of money and do stuff on a yacht that is unsuitable conversation for Boy Scouts? Or are we telling them close the doors, lower the shades, and hide the welcome mats because a boogeyman is out there? 

That's not what I want to tell my grown-up kids.

I want to tell my boys...and their wives....and Little Miss....that character counts. That We, the People have a national character that sure ain't perfect, but it wasn't supposed to breed hatred. We are supposed to grow and move forward on those things. We're supposed to understand We, the People, were strangers in this land and we treated it horribly. We are supposed to have learned from that. We are supposed to welcome those tired and poor yearning to breathe free because that's who we once were. At the same time, we have to respect and make amends to the peoples whose lands we took and whose lives we destroyed with slavery and racial hatred. It's all hard work but it can and must be done. 

Yes, we have made progress, but we are in danger of undoing it all. Preaching hatred of the other from the halls of our government destroys who we strive to be. If we lose that theoretical foundation of who we are, what are we?  If we don't stand up for ethics now, how do we explain NOT standing up to the next generation? Will we be doing the German National Apology dance because we allowed another Holocaust to happen?

What world are we leaving our kids, our grandkids, our great-grandkids?

If you don't have an answer, you need to find one in your head and in your heart. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hillel says: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 
But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" 
                                                Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14