And the FOS Award goes to . . . .

Before I tell you about the award and the winner, there is (of course) a back story:

It begins in WWII, when American Jews were angry with FDR for not bombing the railroad tracks to the concentration camps.  Let’s be honest, in 1945, no one really liked Jews.  And the war was not to save Jews, but to stop a tyrant’s domination of a continent.

Before that war, there was the annihilation of Armenians at the hands of Turks.  No one said anything.

And before that, so many atrocities dating to the Crusades and earlier.

And, a thousand years of slavery.

And, then, so much that it is impossible to list.

And, the the brutality of colonialism.

And then, the United States used Napalm against civilians in Vietnam.  CHEMICAL WEAPONS.  Our use inspired the international treaty against using such heinous weapons.

Fast forward to the atrocities in Africa.

And the mess in the former Yugoslavia.   President Clinton ordered the bombings of the bridges leading to those death camps.

And then President George H. W. Bush who took a moral and geopolitical stand against Iraq and its use of chemical warfare against its neighbors.  GHWB showed American willingness to smack down an ally who commits atrocities with weapons that we sold to it.

And then there was the Shrub, the little Bush, who didn’t find chemical weapons in Iraq (those reviled WMDs), because they had been transported to Syria.  But we destroyed that country anyway.

And no one called George W. Bush an amateur or a waffler or a liar or a cheat.  And he led us into a war with no strategery (his word) for the way out, let alone a reason to go in.

And, atrocities occur every day, all over the world, in every corner.  Most particularly against the children, women and the enfeebled — those who have the least power in society.

So, here we are with Syria, under a credible threat of force from the United States, telling the world that it has chemical weapons and agreeing to disarm.  And Russia is taking the lead, as Syria’s ally, to make sure that America doesn’t bomb Syria.  Pretty good outcome so far — an admission that eluded GWB, an effort to dismantle Syria’s WMDs, as the US armed forces are on stand-by if anyone doesn’t deliver on promises made.  Others are doing the work because a bombing mission would shake Russia’s influence and bring down Russia’s ally in the region.

Not a bad outcome for “amateur” President Obama.  But no one gives him credit [this is for another blog]

And yet, all I hear from the pundits is: how the President faring politically and whether it will affect his domestic agenda, and how there is no reason for us to stop the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Ok, this is not about a president.  This is about children.  It is not about politics.  It is about whether or not, to use a “quaint” analogy, to bomb railroad tracks to death camps.

I don’t know the right answer.  I don’t think there is one.

But this I know:

If you thought that FDR should have bombed the tracks leading to Auschwitz and you don’t support saving children from lethal gas, you have lost your moral authority;

if you ever thought that Napalm was one of the most heinous acts against humanity, sit down and shut up because you have lost your moral argument;

if you wanted George W. Bush to go into Iraq, G-d help you because you have no moral judgment and should “self-deport”;

if you are a “Progressive” in today’s politics, you have no backbone, and if you are a GOP hawk, you are just saying no because Obama is president, so you wouldn’t know a backbone if your doctor showed it to you on an xray;

if you say that there is misery and brutality the world over and why are we not protecting civilians in Africa, you have an excellent point;

if you don’t care about Syrian children and civilians (or Afghanis, or Kurds or African tribes), I ask, (paraphrasing the great Rabbi Hillel) if you are only for yourself, who are you?

if you say that there are too many risks to this action, when we have soldiers the world over, I ask (against paraphrasing the great Rabbi Hillel) if not now, then when?

And so, the Full of Shit (FOS) award goes to . . . . all of us, from the UN to Geneva to Oslo, from Wall Street to Main Street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from MSNBC to CNN to FOX, from me to you.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know we are asking all the wrong questions.

The right questions take guts and require that we talk about who we are and what we are willing to sacrifice (in lives and taxes) to do all the things we say we ought to do, until the moment comes for action. 

May G-d bless the children of Syria, the children of all countries and, please, let them no longer be the fodder of war, the currency of politics, and the blind spot of the world.

Please watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmux0xmrXUU

Blame it on Sequester

Friday was the first day of sequester.

I imagined the government in a beach chair, sporting sunglasses next to a sign that says, “out to lunch”.

otl

Whether you think the actual across the board cuts are good or bad for us, you have to agree that our government decision not to make affirmative decisions — i.e., not to govern — is treasonous.

What the Congress and the Administration did was the moral equivalent of my “deciding” to let the roof of my house cave in because I neglected to get it repaired.

Since the fourth branch of government is not G-d, we really need to fix this, just us humans.

In my business, a settlement means that neither side gets all that it wants, but each side gets enough. In fact, the sign of a good settlement is that each side feels a little singed. All the leaders talking about the free market and capitalism don’t understand the prime directive: “you don’t make money unless you make the deal.”

The electorate doesn’t understand it either if they vote out people who give up a little to get what they need. Then the electorate doesn’t understand our system.

The Tea Party’s idea that compromise means the other side comes to its way of thinking is, dare I say, a little Stalin-like. And really scary, unless you think springtime in the gulag sounds like a vacation destination.

So, Mr. President and members of Congress, stop pointing fingers and make meaningful and, necessarily, painful decisions. For you, as politicians, and for us, as citizens.

If you don’t lead, we are not going to follow. 

(And Bob Woodward, you need to stop attention-getting. You are supposed to report the news and not be the news.)

Countdown to Sequester and other problems

“Sequester” will be a reality in less than two weeks.  Economic and political chaos visible on the horizon.  The Congress and the White House are in their respective corners, blaming each other.

McCain is yelling “cover-up!” on Benghazi, while under Bush’s watch, the attacks on our embassies were incalculable and the lives lost a moral travesty.

Syria is being armed by the Russians, even though Britain made a statement that Russia had stopped, further isolating Prime Minister Cameron from the EU and the world.

The President golfs with Tiger Woods. It is ok now, say those who only speak on the condition of anonymity, because he isn’t running for re-election.  I guess Michelle Obama hasn’t taught Barry enough about the rage of women.

The White House rankles partisan divides by leaking an immigration plan. Marco Rubio flamed out in his response to the State of the Union.  So much for Time’s savior of the GOP.

The Keystone Pipeline and fracking are gaining momentum even as the dire environmental implications are clear.

Ashley Judd is taking on Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat.  He looks ever more like a chicken that Frank Perdue wouldn’t serve.

For anyone keeping score on this contest between the government and nation, the nation is losing.  Badly.

Tax Day is coming up and for the first time in my life (read, even under George W. Bush), I am not proud to pay my taxes.  Why? A bunch of clowns run our government.

GROW UP OR GET THE HELL OUT.

 

 

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Getting Out the Vote

Yesterday, POB, SOS and I joined a group of well-heeled, mulit-cultural (I might add) Upper West Siders on a bus to West Philadelphia to get out the vote for Obama.

We arrived at an Obama field office.

We were given clipboards with lists of voters who hadn’t voted in 2010.  We had to knock on doors to make sure that these citizens knew that their vote was important, what they needed for proper ID (and that the Pennsylvania voter suppression law was struck down) and the location of their polling booths.

POB and I were given names on opposite side of the street.  SOS tagged along with one of us.  People were so welcoming and glad we were out in the cold making sure that they knew where to vote.  Many people weren’t at home; the people who answered the doors said they were at work.

West Philly is not exactly the cushy part of town.  It was working class until the Great Recession.  Now, parts are boarded up.

High unemployment.  Crime skyrocketing.  See the sign in the pizza place below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in there buying a pizza, someone came in with a hoodie, and the cashier said, “take off your hoodie, or I am calling the police.”  The management is serious about the hoodie thing.

It seemed (to my white, upper middle class, eye) that many needed a reminder that their vote counts.  Certainly, with all the attempts at voter suppression, a person could give up hope.  But, more than anyone else, their lives are literally on the line — the poverty line — depending on the outcome on Tuesday.

Some places were scary and creepy.  SOS was a little unnerved by these places.  Especially, a young boy who was outside with no one minding him.  (Yes, sweetie, I thought, please think about this when you re-enter your rarefied world.)

Among the three of us, we knocked on 120 doors and got some very enthusiastic responses (once they realized we weren’t canvassing for Romney).

POB, SOS and I talked about our adventure over dinner tonight.  I tried to make the point to SOS that his great-grandparents were the working (or sometimes not working) poor who lived and raised their children in tenements and then, later on, in nicer places.  But his grandparents had a great public school system and there were jobs for them when they graduated.  And that I am one generation removed from this neighborhood.  And Grandpa got mixed up with a gang before his brothers intervened (and then beat the crap out of him).

I don’t know if he understood the importance of what we did, as citizens of this country, and as a way to pay forward our family’s good fortune and opportunity by re-electing President Obama.  I believe this.  And I always will.

an H-E-N-D

H-E-N-D?  Human-engineered, natural disaster.  Hurricane Sandy.  I would have called it a man-made natural disaster, but that sounded too oxymoronic (however, true).

And it would confuse the morons who don’t believe that humans are at least, in part, responsible for climate change.  Ok, I don’t have to be insulting, but let’s just leave it like this:  it has to better for the planet if we don’t dump toxins in the oceans or let toxins loose into the atmosphere.  If we were as gentle with the world as we expect our loved ones to be with us, then maybe we wouldn’t need a political-scientific war of words.

Since I am not good at the big theories, let me tell you about a small, unintended, consequence of H-E-N-D Sandy:  Dad’s care.

With power outages predicted, one of Dad’s children or children-in-law needed to be with him, even though he had a home health aide.  Why? What if he fell, or became confused and agitated, and the phones were down, how would the health aide — who cannot leave his side — get help?  What if, as happened, no one comes to relieve the home health aide because everyone is stranded?  One home health aide couldn’t leave for 60 hours; no one could get to Dad’s house to relieve her and she had no way of getting home.  We needed to be there to let her sleep and help with cooking and minding Dad.  And Dad needs minding.  Especially at night.

We are lucky.  Dad didn’t lose power.  We live nearby.  We married good, kind and loving people who were willing to treat Dad like their own dad and take shifts in Dad’s care.  I slept there twice; HOSOB once.  POB and SOS were there during the day.  SOB had to be in her hospital because other hospitals were evacuating very sick people to her ICU.

But so many of the elderly or infirm in this country are not so lucky.  Their children don’t live nearby.  They can’t come to the rescue in a disaster.

I bet a lot of people went without medications, good food, and proper hygiene during these past three or so days.  And I bet they were frightened.

So, don’t think about this on a global scale.  Think about your neighbors, whether they are elderly or the children who couldn’t fly to their parents’ rescue.  Then, think about your gas guzzler car, your over-processed food, your bottled water.  Then, consider how you (and I) contributed to the crazy weather patterns that made H-E-N-D Sandy an epic disaster.

Why It Matters

Why does it matter who is president?  Aren’t they so close on so many issues?  Can either really make the changes he says he wants to?

Yes, it matters.  It matters “big time” (to quote Dubya).

It matters that we push back against the forces that just said no for four years, watching this country flail around in order to make a transformative president look weak and ineffectual.

It matters that we don’t elect a man who takes the position du jour, as long as it pleases most of the people for some of the time during the 24 hour news cycle.

It matters that we don’t elect a party beholden to extremists in that party who would claw back women’s rights, leave the young and the old at the hands of “free enterprise” as it rolls back the safety net — the very beacon of light and hope that is the definition of American exceptionalism.

We applaud personal heroism but we don’t leave a man behind enemy lines.  We take care of the wounded, the poor, the terrorized, and those who have fallen on hard times.  Years ago, when we were a young country, we knew that one year’s good crop could be next year’s dust bowl, so when we were helping the poor and the stranger, we were helping ourselves because there but for the grace of G-d . . . .

Do the Bible Belters even read the Bible anymore?  At my Bat Mitzvah, I read from Leviticus, “when you reap your harvest, you shall not reap the corners of the field.  You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.”

Where is that social compact now?  I believe in those words.  That is why it matters.

I stand on the shoulders of our Greatest Generation, who relied on the GI Bill to become professionals.  And they stood on the shoulders of those who made the voyage to America to work hard and make sure their children had a good life.

I am the product of the greatest social compact in modern times.  The other part of the social compact is that I pay taxes.  Lots of them.  I would pay for the stimulus money and bail-outs and I would pay for ill-conceived wars, were they not put on a credit card.

Why would I pay for these things? I do not want to pay for the follies of the rich or oil-greedy.  But I am an American and we pay our debts.

Because we are in this together.

So, I will pay for the Iraq War, the bail-out and the stimulus and you pay for education and renewable energy.  You know that I will foot the bigger bill.  But this is America.

And we are in this together.

And so it matters who is president next year.  The very soul of our nation — our identity — depends on it.

 

 

Something. Anything.

Some days (ok, weeks), I feel in suspended animation, waiting for a sign, a direction, something.  I don’t think it is just me alone; the news, the economy, the pundits all talk about uncertainty and the absence of bold action.  Universal stagnation.

The Eurozone has been on the verge of collapsing, or recovering, for months.  Every day, European leaders are frantically accomplishing nothing while “contagion” threatens to spread.  

And who let Cyprus into the euro-zone?  Aren’t Greece and Turkey still fighting over that island?  Does it really need a bail-out or did it just get in line because it didn’t want to be left out of all the fun?

And, of course, we on the other side of the big pond are frightened and our markets volatile and businesses unsure. 

So we sit.  And we wait.  This is like watching a documentary on the Black Death Plague in slooooooow moooooootion. 

And the Supreme Court doesn’t often hand down a landmark decision that also tosses a curve ball into a presidential election (ok, other than in 2000) and so the Supremes are teasing this out to the very last day.  Ok ok ok, Messrs. and Mses. Justices, we all agree that you are so fabulous and powerful.  Now, give us the f%@#ing decision, ok?

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why some of the Justices don’t like broccoli so much, and why that seems absurdly relevant to the court decision. 

And then there is Taxmaggedon: the economic cliff that our nation slides off on January 1, 2013.  We spent too much on our national credit card and still no one wants to admit that, first, we need to pay the bill and, then, we can shoot the spendthrifts.

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why every event has to have a catchy (or actually not-so-catchy) name in order to signal that it is a big deal.  Taxmaggedon is apparently catchier than “elected officials not doing their jobs and compromising for the good of our nation and our economy”.  I think “Operation Nero” might be better, althought Congress is playing with something other than its collective fiddle.

And then there are Syria and Iran.  Syria has a vague “window of time” until it implodes with civil war.  Iran has a vague “window of time” before it can explode a nuclear bomb.  What should we do?  And when?

So we sit.  And we wait. And what does a window have to do with time, anyway?  And if it turns out we blew that window with Iran, do I really need to keep saving for retirement or going to the gym?

I could go on.  (No, really, I could.)  And I fear that either the resolutions that won’t come or, if they do, they give rise to more questions and more uncertainty.  

Sooo, I’m sittin’ and I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ . . . .

 

How I learned to Relax and Enjoy the Newtron Bombney

For many months, I have been tied up in knots over the contenders for GOP nomination. I am terrified that on the third Tuesday in January, 2013, someone will utter any of the following:  “President Romney”, “President Gingrich”, “President Paul” or “President Santorum”.

I watch the GOP debates, with all of the venal, xenophobic, hypocritical, self-serving garbage that the candidates spew.

Any of these people would destroy our nation.  Setting aside Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (who are not winning the primaries), Gingrich is just evil, mercurial and evil (it bears repeating) and Romney is clueless and changes position faster than some in our nation change underwear.

President Obama who was elected to fix everything in less time than it took to break it all.  And, he wasn’t supposed to break a sweat or a promise or make a mistake.  We were exuberant, irrational and naive about the true state of our nation.  No one — no Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party-ist, whatever — would face any easier re-election bid.

Let’s just accept that.  If McCain had won, he would be called the GOP’s version of Jimmy Carter.

And let’s be clear — Obama’s campaign fed on the hopes and aspirations that we were electing a messianic politician.  He rode high and won on outlandish expectations that his campaign encouraged.  Once elected, he had to tamp down the expectations.  Because he found out just what he inherited and it wasn’t pretty.

But the GOP nominee can be the next president of the United States.  We cannot ignore that scary possibility.  (To wit:  GWB won 5-4 in the Supreme Court.)  Too many people are comfortable that Obama can beat either Romney or Gingrich, but the economy is fragile and people are deeply divided over President Obama (some for political reasons; others, for reasons that are, let’s say, less than Christian).  So, nothing is a sure thing.

Why am I scared? We have never been more divided as a nation.  And President Obama has incited the angry passions in the left wing of the Democrats and all of the Republicans — Democratic left, because he wasn’t nearly as “progressive” as they had expected and the Republicans, because he wasn’t nearly the effete liberal, scared-y cat they were hoping to skewer.

Now that the GOP is divided and frantically scrambling to blow back against a Gingrich nomination or presidency, I smile and relax.

If I set aside what the mud-slinging says about us and our society, I can talk about the debates in the same conversation as others talk about the Real Housewives of Los Angeles.  And no one knows I am talking about the political debates and our (G-d forbid) future president of our country.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Life American Style

You want to know why our society is crumbling?  Why we are losing our preeminence in education and innovation?  Look in the mirror.

These are the items that get equal billing in the news re-cycle in the US.  These are taken from CNN, Yahoo, MSNBC and FOX.  Ok, I cherry-picked.  And I re-ordered to prove a point.  So what?  I bet that I gave us more credit than we are due.  In order of (my manipulated) importance, accompanied by my snide remarks:

  • US consumer confidence is at an all time low.  No one is buying off-road vehicles for the urban terrain.
  • Banks are not lending and companies are not hiring because of confusion over the new laws that will go into effect over time.  Would you like us to re-enact Glass-Steagull (that was eviscerated when the GOP was in control)?  I bet you would take Dodd-Frank in a heart-beat.  So, shut up.
  • Did Anderson Cooper flub a critical question to Michele (Night of the Living Dead) Bachmann (two n’s so she is not a secret Jew) in the GOP Debate on Tuesday night?  Does she have a cause of action if she loses the GOP nomination?
  • The housing bubble has not bottomed out.  So, the economy has to stop and wait for that.
  • Unemployment is over 9% which is a reflection of the last 2.5 years and not of the implosion caused in the years that preceded it.
  • People are occupying Wall Street and financial centers across the country because they don’t understand why the American Dream is out of reach, but aren’t they anarchists?
  • Lindsay Lohan has to go back to jail because she overslept on her first day of community service.
  • Stock prices are lower.  “Euro Contagion,” baby.  (Wait, don’t tell me, it must be an ad for “The Black Death Has Returned,” in movie theaters everywhere.)
  • Qaddafi is dead after an insurrection against his brutal rule, but enough about that, oil prices are dropping and it is a sign of Obama’s failed domestic policies (I am still figuring out the latter).
  • The Queen didn’t mind a curtsey malfunction in Australia.  She is a woman of the people.
  • Not all of the 99% pay federal tax (but they do pay state, local and sales tax).  Nevertheless, they should be deported.
  • The GOP candidates are talking crazy talk in their debates about how much less taxes we ought to pay (and Herman Cain would not tax used goods but food — which cannot be sold “used” or “pre-owned” — would be more expensive than ever) and how we need a fence across our entire southern border because Martians and other aliens are landing and illegally entering our country and taking our jobs.  Who said the GOP doesn’t believe in UFOs?
  • Israel negotiated with terrorists because the release of one soldier was worth freeing 1,000 Palestinians non-POWs (“If you save a life, it is as if you saved the world,” said a great rabbi; it was also a smart move to undermine Abbas and his UN bid for statehood).
  • There are almost 9 billion humans in the world, at least 8 billion of whom live in abject poverty.  And I worry about my retirement accounts.
  • There is a faster and easier way to lose flab around your abs.  You mean I can watch TV, drink red wine and eat french fries (not together) and the fat will melt away?
  • Ashton’s and Demi’s marriage is on the rocks.  I didn’t know they actually got married.  Apparently, he thinks politics is sexy because . . . RIGHT before he was shtumping (I mean, stumping) for Obama.
  • The best and worst Versace styles are available at H&M stores.  He is dead, so I don’t get it.
  • Jessica Simpson (who IS she?) wants money to talk about her pregnancy.  It may be cheaper to buy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.
  • There are ten HOT Halloween costumes for this year.  You mean the French chambermaid outfit won’t work again this year?

Res ipsa loquitur.