Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Underpinning Kamala Harris' Popularity Wave


Turns out I am part of the wave Kamala Harris is surfing towards the lead of Democratic Party presidential hopefuls. 

Right before dinner Monday evening I did something I normally resist: I answered a land line telephone call from a number I didn’t recognize because the screen indicated the caller emanated from New Haven where Gilda and I lived 42 years ago. 

An elderly gentleman—I could tell he was elderly by his slow, raspy voice, his cheerful colloquial demeanor and the way technology challenged him—said he was calling from the Quinnipiac University national poll. 

Having employed consumer researchers for my magazine for more than 30 years, I am a sucker for surveys if they don’t interfere with what I am doing. He caught me at a good time. 

I haven’t chosen a preferred candidate, though I have opined that Joe Biden should be given a chance to strut his stuff to determine if he is 2020 qualified and not stuck in a 20th century time warp. Sadly, last week’s initial debate revealed him to be slow-footed in word and thought. Donald Trump must have been salivating at the prospect of squaring off against him.

On the other hand, Harris followed up on her sharp questioning of Trump Supreme Court nominees with a piercing attack on Biden. For those who later complained that she bushwacked Biden with a well planned foray, I say it showed she would be adept at confronting and countering Trump during a debate (assuming the chicken-in-chief agrees to participate—mark my words, he will at first reject any debates and then, in what he, in his own mind, will consider a majestic concession, will agree to debate three times). I want a candidate who prepares, does homework. Biden’s people had prepped him, but he failed to rise to the occasion. 

So I gave Kamala Harris a vote of confidence, though not an unqualified endorsement as I yet don’t know enough about her.

“A new national Quinnipiac University poll, released Tuesday, July 2, shows Biden, who once led the field by around 20 points, now clinging to a two-point lead over California Sen. Kamala Harris, 22 percent to 20 percent,” The Daily Voice reported. (For you political nerds, follow the link to Quinnipiac's release: https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2631)

Now, one debate does not a president, or a party nominee, make, or break. But the winds of change are blowing hard, fueled by Trump’s take-no-prisoners stands on immigration and the detention of asylum seekers, census citizenship questions, tariff wars, relations with allies and Russia/North Korea/Iran, climate change and a host of other issues.  

Biden’s early strength came from the Afro-American community and senior citizens. It is dissipating. Biden is a “Yeah, I’m comfortable with him” vote. Harris, on the other hand, will ignite passion among black and hispanic voters, and among old-time liberals. Unless he shows more vigor during subsequent debates Biden would be no match against Trump. Harris has shown herself to be a sharp inquisitor and someone who could hold her own against a man.  

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Be Careful Whom You Trust


Some people are trusting. Perhaps too trusting. 

Take, for example, this recent message on a residential association bulletin board: “We live on XYZ (I redacted the actual street name) and will be travelling during the last two weeks in July and need someone from July 17th through July 29th to come by once a day to feed our cat, take in the mail and water our vegetable garden.”

Hello burglars, or at least those who monitor the Internet for leads on which locations are most vulnerable to easy pickin’. I’ve often wondered why people post pictures of their extended time away from home during their trips. Couldn’t they wait until they returned to make their friends and family envious of their time in the sun or on the slopes? Those postings are open invitations to those with less than socially acceptable behavior to drop by for some extra curricular “play while the cat’s away.” 

In the above cited message, of course, the cat will be home, but it probably is not trained to protect home and hearth. Given today’s Internet-capable ability to hone in on addresses, providing the dates one will be away and the street of one’s home is pretty, oh, let’s just say, it, STUPID!

Oh, one more thing. The person in need of a daily house monitor included their name! Again, STUPID! Why not just leave a key in the front door or, better yet, leave it unlocked?

Am I being paranoid? I don’t think so. What do you think? Are people too trusting for their own good?


Speaking of trusting, Donald Trump’s just completed trip to Japan and Korea, both South and North, if you consider 20 steps inside a corrupt, repressive country a bona fide visit to Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship, exemplified his foreign policy approach. It is all based on personal appeal. 

George W. Bush thought the same way at first, as when he initially met Vladimir Putin and said he “looked the man in the eye and found him to be straightforward and trustworthy.” Bush said he looked into Putin’s “soul” and believed he could do business with the man, so much so that he trusted him enough to invite him to his ranch. 

Yeah, Putin gave him, America and its allies the “business,” all right. 

Trump believes Putin didn’t interfere in the 2016 election and accepts his word that he will not interfere in the 2020 election. Trump’s security and intelligence chiefs tell him otherwise. He rejects their analyses. 

Trump believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had nothing to do with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Why, because MBS, as he is known, told him so. But U.S. and United Nations intelligence findings say he is responsible. 

Trump trusts autocrats over his own advisors. 

Trump seeks personal relationships with despots, believing, somehow, they are eager, or at least willing, to enhance the position of the United States over their own country’s interests. 

By contrast, when he has to deal with substance, such as the issue of climate change during the just concluded G-20 meeting in Japan, he is incapable of displaying mutual cooperation with our traditional allies (https://beta.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/as-g-20-reaffirms-fight-against-climate-change-trump-again-stands-apart/2019/06/29/d3d96f22-9a68-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html?outputType=amp).

Trump is a world class spinmeister. Without achieving any concrete breakthroughs, he has positioned his photo-op meetings with Kim and with China’s president Xi Jinping as building blocks to foreign affairs victories. 

Even his detractors hope he is on the road to success. But wariness abounds that he is being played and that America will wind up no closer to achieving Trump’s objectives of denuclearization of North Korea and a more even-handed trade agreement with China.


Can You Trust The NY Times? The Times is still the gold standard of reporting. But its copyediting/proofreading increasingly leaves something to be desired. As a former editor I read most things with an eye toward what might be wrong (I’m not perfect myself, but at this juncture in my journalism career I am not being paid to get everything right). 

Twice in the last few weeks I spotted the same mistake in two different articles—the printing of “though” instead of “through.” I blame whatever spell check program The Times uses and the laziness of copyeditors/proofreaders to actually read content for clarity. 

A June Op-Ed by Thomas Edsall on meritocracy contained the following sentence: “Much resentment focuses on the way in which the meritocracy is selected, though the education process, and on the winnowing effect of extensive standardized assessments that seek to measure and validate cognitive skills” (https://nyti.ms/2IC9RbK).

Did you catch the mistake? He meant “through the education process.” Hours after I read the piece The Times corrected it before I could send off a note to Edsall.

But a June 2 profile of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi and who The Times called “the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates” still contains the “though/through” mistake: “His military is the Arab world’s most potent, equipped though (should be “through”) its work with the United States to conduct high-tech surveillance and combat operations far beyond its borders” (https://nyti.ms/2EMnuE4).

I know spell check has been a godsend to many a writer. But copyeditors/proofreaders need to be more careful. They are supposed to be the last line of defense against errors. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Detention Centers or Concentration Camps: A Disgrace, Inhumane and a Blot on US Conscience


Most of my relatives on my father’s side killed by Nazis and their collaborator thugs never made it to a concentration or extermination camp. My father came to America in January 1939, two months after Kristallnacht. His family was rounded up in Ottynia and surrounding shtetls in what is now western Ukraine. Back then it was part of Poland. They were transported to Szeparowce Forest near Kolomya to be slaughtered and buried in mass graves. 

My mother came from Łódź in 1921 when she was four. Not surprisingly, she never talked about family left behind, family she never really knew. I’m sure they existed, only to be interned in the Łódź Ghetto, the second largest ghetto after Warsaw’s. Its victims included 210,000 Polish jews. Tens of thousands died in the ghetto. Tens of thousands died in the Chelmno extermination camp or in Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

A ghetto under Nazi rule was a defacto concentration camp. Unsanitary conditions. Meager food provisions. Overcrowding. Restricted egress and ingress. Involuntary confinement. Illness often resulted in death. 

If many if not all of those conditions appear strikingly similar to what asylum detainees, particularly children, are experiencing along our southern border with Mexico it is not surprising that activists are labeling detention facilities as American concentration camps. 

Throughout our centuries-long history Americans have not been inclined to view repressive conditions of non whites as problematic. Too few demonstrated against the sardine-like packaging of captured Africans in the holds of slave ships bound for North America and South America. Visit a historical plantation outside Charleston, SC, and you’ll see accommodations were not much better for slaves that survived the ocean crossing.  

Native Americans did not fare better. They were restricted to less than optimal land. If their land later proved valuable they were physically displaced, even in violation of treaty or a favorable Supreme Court ruling. Donald Trump’s hero of a president, Andrew Jackson, disregarded a Supreme Court decision in favor of the Cherokee Nation and marched them in a trail of tears to the Oklahoma territory. To this day life on a reservation—even with new-found gaming income—is not what one would covet. 

Japanese Americans were forced to live in so called internment camps during World War II. George Takei of Star Trek fame spoke out from personal experience, having been interned in two camps with his family from the age of five. He agreed concentration camps have sprouted up along our southern border (https://mol.im/a/7164365).

Here’s another person who knows evil when he sees it: Ben Ferencz. He is 99 and the last surviving prosecutor of Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. Trump’s family separation policy is a “crime against humanity,” he says (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-border-crisis-nazis-nuremberg-trial-ben-ferencz-family-separation-migrants-un-a8485606.html).

Let’s be clear. Though deaths have occurred, there is no government program to kill undocumented immigrants, be they outright illegals or asylum seekers. But there is also no viable program to deal in a humane way with those crossing our border. The answer is not to build a higher, impenetrable wall. 

As my friend Rabbi Robbie Harris posted on Facebook, “These detention centers may not be ‘concentration camps’ in the sense that the Jewish people suffered under Nazi Germany. But they are in any case a disgrace, inhumane, and a blot on the conscience of the United States of America. So it probably does not matter in the end what we call them.”

Sometimes it takes a face, or a body, to aggregate the rage and compassion felt by strangers around the world. So it was when the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, Syrian of Kurdish background, washed ashore after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in September 2015 as he was trying to flee his country’s civil war. Earlier this week 23-month-old Valeria and her father Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico, the last leg of their journey from El Salvador.

And, of course, the face of Anne Frank is well known. A victim of Nazi persecution, Anne did not die in a gas chamber. She died from typhus contracted from the unsanitary conditions in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (here are two stories on conditions in the Clint, Tex., border station where children are being detained: https://nyti.ms/2Iw1fEH and https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/inside-a-texas-building-where-the-government-is-holding-immigrant-children).

On Thursday Gilda and I, with her cousins from Israel, spent three-plus hours at Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage walking the special exhibit, “Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.” 

I’ve been to many Holocaust memorials, in America, Israel and Europe. New facts always reveal themselves. New images. 

One such image chilled me. It was from 1928. Hitler was at at outdoor event. He was standing next to what became known as the “Blood Flag,” so called because the swastika banner was bloodied during the failed Nazi coup of November 9, 1923, in Munich. He wasn’t just standing next to it. He had a tight grasp on the lower quarter of the flag.

I don’t suspect Trump of knowingly emulating Hitler when he caresses the American flag at his rallies, but his oratory of demonization and dehumanization of his enemies, real and imagined, powerful and weak, is a page right out of Hitler’s playbook. With a melding of such images in my mind, how could one disagree with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee when he said during the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night: “The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump, and there’s no question about that.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Will Biden or Trump Be Target at Dem Debates?


Chum is filling the waters surrounding Joe Biden, bringing in political sharks eager to rip his candidacy to shreds. At times, inadvertently, Biden himself contributes to the bloody waters. All the while his Democratic rivals are doing Donald Trumps’ unspoken bidding in weakening his appeal. 

With each passing day, each revelatory past and present quote or vote, Biden is discovering for the first time that being a campaign frontrunner means the dissection of the corners, sometimes the dark, obscure corners, of his public life and his family’s private lives is fair game (
https://mol.im/a/7167911).

Biden can take small comfort that other candidates are under intense scrutiny. For Bernie Sanders it has meant explaining how a self-proclaimed socialist became a millionaire (a book contract and book sales). Bernie’s wife also has had to answer questions about her business conduct. 

Elizabeth Warren has earned veteran status answering queries about her heritage. Native American or not? Who really cares? Only those, including Trump, who care more about appearances and less about the substance of a campaign to ease the economic burden of struggling families. 

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is finding out how one nationally reported incident involving the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white policeman can dispel the tranquility and image of a well-run city. 

But it is Biden who has the most baggage from four and a half decades of public life in Washington. Votes he is proud of. Votes he regrets. Votes he once was proud of but now regrets. The press is eager to cite his shortcomings either through its own investigations or through “oppo” research provided by Democratic and Republican detractors. 

Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination—the first debates are Wednesday and Thursday nights in Miami—he or she will face an incumbent whose integrity and character are shameful but irrelevant to much of the electorate. Yet, he or she will be held to a higher standard. 

Not fair, but surely true. Which leads us back to Biden. How should the acknowledged-by-all-frontrunner deal with the Chinese-water-torture drip of negative stories? Should he explain those were different times? Should he apologize? Should he recant and state new positions as he did with the Hyde Amendment restriction on federal financing of abortion (he’s now against any restriction)?

Or should he let the voters decide if he is Trump-challenger worthy? I’m inclined to pick that course, combined with selective usage of the recant and restate option. 

No candidate will emerge perfect and unscathed during this looooong nomination process. The media will do its share of nitpicking and hole punching. Other Democrats, on the other hand, must refrain from poisoning their brethren. They must remember the real objective is unseating Trump. It means nothing to secure the nomination if the prize eludes the nation because of party fratricide. 

They also must keep in mind that national elections are won by appealing to the broadest section of the electorate. Most Democrats and Independents are centrists, not radicals. The country is tiring of Trump’s extremism. It is not looking for a pendulum swing all the way to the left. Voters are seeking equilibrium with traditional American values. Democrats would be wise to heed the words of Charles Sykes, a conservative Wisconsin-based political commentator on how not to blow the election (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/06/25/democrats-trump-election-2020-227215?cid=apn).


“She’s not my type.”: In other words, if she was, then, yeah, maybe I would have done it. 

That, in essence, is Trump’s latest defense against a claim of sexual assault in his pre-presidency days. Pictures at the time repudiated his alibi of never having met E. Jean Carroll. So he falls back on a frat house response to date rape. Nah, I wouldn’t touch her ’cause she’s not my type. 

As if that ever mattered to an oversexed, entitled-believing misogynist who has been outed for cheating on his two previous wives and on his current spouse just days after she delivered his fifth child. He at first denied the Stormy Daniels tryst but her version of their encounter apparently is the factual one. 

Undeniably Unreliable: I was amused by this AP headline above an article on fallout from Trump’s last minute decisions not to strike Iran for shooting down an unarmed American surveillance drone and for postponing the start of an ICE roundup of illegal aliens:

“AP Analysis: Trump moves show him to be unreliable partner” (https://apnews.com/a47ecf2848ee4df5a6cf62e84c35bed8)

I was amused because Trump’s personal history has time and again shown him to be an unreliable partner. He has cheated on all three of his wives. He has stiffed numerous contractors for work they have done on his properties. He has defaulted on loans. His businesses have declared bankruptcy six times. He has bilked thousands of customers who enrolled in his “university.” He has reneged on deals he made with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. 

People! Hello! What more proof do you need before realizing he is not to be trusted?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Supreme Court Nightmare


I had a nightmare last night. Not while sleeping. I had woken up as I often do in the middle of the night. I picked up my iPhone to view the most popular stories on The New York Times website. 

I read several articles before opening an analysis by Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan Law School professor (https://nyti.ms/2Y7UsXg). If he is correct, the country I have inhabited for more than 70 years might radically change. 

In that newly formulated country programs such as Social Security, the Food and Drug Administration and Medicare would be invalidated because their rules and regulations were not voted on by Congress. Rather, they were formed by administrators never elected by the people. 

This topsy-turvy approach to government could come about if a conservative majority on the Supreme Court reasons that rules regulating these programs violated the Constitution because administrators and not Congress authorized them. 

For decades it has been the conservative dream to exterminate New Deal and subsequent liberal safeguard and safety net programs, beginning with Social Security. Politicians might consider Social Security to be the third rail of politics, to be touched at the risk of losing election or reelection, but the justices on our highest court sit for life. They need not worry about tenure. 

The nightmare I am describing has already started to form. Long-held legal precedents have been overturned. Though they might have sworn allegiance to “stare decisis” during their confirmation hearings, justices may conclude that verdicts by earlier Supreme Courts were flawed, thus releasing them from their vows of upholding precedent. 

It can be only a matter of court terms before Roe v. Wade and other key liberal beliefs are put asunder by the currently constituted court. The result will be government by the powerful, increasingly represented by special interests and Big Business, with little or no congressional or federal oversight. 

This nightmare is a legacy of those Americans who so reviled Hillary Clinton that they voted for Donald Trump or Jill Stein of the Green Party. Or didn’t vote at all. Elections, we are seeing, have consequences. 

My nightmare kept me awake for an hour. There were no imaginary monsters to dismiss from memory. There were real life demons—Trump, McConnell, Thomas, Gorsuch, Alito, Roberts, Kavanaugh. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Trump Is at Yogi's Proverbial Fork in the Road


I wonder what his good friend Bibi is telling Donald Trump about the need to show strength in the face of unprovoked attack, about the need to strike quickly to teach miscreants a lesson that Israel, er, the United States is not to be trifled with. Of course Bibi Netanyahu would like nothing more than the U.S. annihilating Iran’s power. Ditto the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Trump and some of his advisors, notably National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, want regime change in Iran. They hope to see an Iran not led by a religiously despotic ayatollah. Iran’s last regime change occurred in 1979. Since then the United States has had six regime changes led by half a dozen presidents with divergent world views. Given this historical perspective it is more likely there will be a new president of the U.S. before a new ayatollah with a fresh view that America is not satan. 

Rather than react rashly to the downing by Iran of an unarmed intelligence gathering drone early Thursday morning, Trump trod cautiously, even providing Iran with a plausible explanation for the assault, that a stupid officer went rogue and fired the surface to air missile that shot the drone out of the sky above the Strait of Hormuz. It was an uncharacteristic response from Trump. 

Or was it? A certified bully, Trump, it could be said, reacted just as any bully would when confronted. He cowered at the prospect of actual confrontation. Iran is not like Syria that was in no position to retaliate when Trump twice ordered cruise missiles to strike Syria after Bashir al Assad rained down chemicals on rebels. 

Perhaps Trump’s wariness was the result of an underreported fact about the incident. The drone was capable of flying at 55,000 feet, a height believed to be above Iran’s defensive capabilities. Wrong. “That is a demonstration by the Iranians that they have that capability, something the United States will take note of in the future,” according to The New York Times.

Perhaps Trump’s pulpit has more than bluster. We learned Friday morning he authorized three strikes on three targets. But with 10 minutes to spare, he cancelled the counterpunch. 

Politico reported he said he felt such a move was “not proportionate” to Iran’s attack on an unmanned drone. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights (sic) when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump tweeted.

Besides Bolton and Pompeo, and perhaps Vice President Mike Pence, the only disappointed faces most probably are in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem. No one should embrace the idea of a war, but a proxy war by America against Iran would be welcome in those Middle Eastern capitals, even if Iran fulfilled a threat to retaliate by launching missiles into their countries. “Minor” damage and casualties would be a small price to pay for the elimination of an existential threat. 

Iran has complicated the calculus, asserting it exhibited restraint by not shooting down a military transport carrying 35 servicemen that accompanied the drone (how they knew the number of passengers was not explained). 

Trump is at a critical juncture. Yogi Berra allegedly said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Trump must now choose the path his administration will take and project during his presidency. He blasted Barack Obama for not following through on his threat to punish Assad for use of chemical weapons. 

Few people especially politicians believe Trump is a man of his word. With scant credibility to marshal international or domestic allies Trump must engage a strategy few believe he has any idea how to originate, much less implement (https://nyti.ms/2L3jliS). 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Questions for Democrats From Me and The Times


To get an Op-Ed piece published in The New York Times you have to give the paper a three-business-day window to review your submission. The Times says it will contact you if they plan to use it. Otherwise, you’re free to publish it anywhere else it might be deemed worthy.

Last Friday night I emailed to The Times 10 questions that should be asked of each Democratic presidential hopeful during next week’s debates. Apparently, great minds think alike, because The Times had been working on a similarly themed idea which it unveiled Wednesday. The Times formulated 18 questions to which 21 candidates provided video responses (https://nyti.ms/2NbBe1Z). 

Having not heard back from The Times by Wednesday night, herewith are my questions (since expanded to a dozen): 

1. Will you support the eventual Democratic party nominee and not run a third party candidacy?

2. What will be your first five executive orders upon taking office?

3. Given what we now know about Donald Trump’s activities before and after the 2016 election, would you support a criminal prosecution of Donald Trump?

4. What action by the Trump administration has most enraged you and how would you counteract it?

5. If the Senate remains in Republican control, how would you counter Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stranglehold on legislative affairs moving forward?

6. What steps would you take to improve our trade position vis-a-vis China?

7. How would you stem the flow of undocumented immigrants across our southern border?

8. Which country or entity or concept is America’s number one enemy today and in the future?

9. Should the Palestinians have their own state or should they become citizens of Israel and other Middle Eastern states where they reside?

10. What is your position on the impact and viability of technology companies, banks and investment houses that have grown “too big to fail.” Should they be broken up or more intensely regulated? 

11. Are some Afro-Americans entitled to reparations? How would you define reparations?

12. What steps would you take to improve health care?

For those who chose not to click on the link to The Times feature, here’s a list of its questions (added benefit: each question is linked to the candidate responses). You decide whose queries, mine or The Times, were more incisive. 


















Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Trump Off and Running Leaves Me in Wonder


Inexplicably to me, the official start of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign began Tuesday night in Orlando. Silly me. I thought the dastardly deed had been baptized back on January 20, 2017, when papers were filed with the Federal Election Commission by the Trump campaign declaring his intention to run again. 

Why the rush when other presidents waited years to formally register? Follow the money, as we learned from Watergate. According to Huffington Post, “Trump’s paperwork renewing his campaign committee allowed him to collect donations and spend money for an election three years and 10 months away. It also permitted him to continue diverting some of those donations into his own private businesses, which he still controls and from which he still profits.

“In that same time period, the Republican National Committee, which Trump effectively took over at his nominating convention in 2016, spent $690,181 at Trump’s golf resort in Doral, Florida; $403,259 at his hotel in Washington, D.C.; and $289,335 at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

“In all, the Trump campaign and the RNC together have funneled $4,341,083 to Trump businesses since Trump took office, with some of that going directly into the president’s own pocket.”

There were some who held out hope Trump would tire of the demands of office. Ha! They didn’t compute Trump’s creative use of “executive time.” Nor did they appreciate how he could turn golfing into a government paid job. He clearly has shown Barack Obama was an amateur when it came to leisure world activity while the world heats up from man-made climate change and assorted tension spots. 

Some had hoped the Mueller Report and a Democratic House of Representatives would shame him into early retirement. How little they know the bully. He relishes combat, or should I say, verbal haranguing. He has debased our modern modes of political decorum (for the record, numerous presidential contests were much more rancorous in the 1800s). 

Trump has fashioned an extreme presidency that some, including myself, fear could result in the ultimate constitutional crisis. Should he lose the election he may well invoke emergency powers to challenge the legitimacy of the vote. After all, before the 2016 ballot he said he might not accept its validity if he lost. He has since repeatedly questioned the tally and has done nothing to protect the sanctity of the election process from interference. 

Prior to his Tuesday night rally, as I drove to one of my errands, I heard a Floridian interviewed by CBS News exult in Trump’s accomplishments. He is “looking out for the common people,” the man explained. 

I wondered, how does undermining Obamacare help the common people? Trump claims he has a great replacement with more coverage at less expense, but like snake oil salesmen who plied the country in the last two centuries he won’t reveal what’s in his elixir. 

I wondered how the common family was helped by a tax reform bill that gave the lion’s share of benefits to the one percenters and just crumbs to common working folks, especially those who relied on mortgage, state income tax and charitable contributions to reduce their tax burden. 

I wondered how common people would benefit from a change in the way the federal poverty line is computed. According to ThinkProgress, a progressive news site, “The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, has released its analysis of a government proposal for updating the inflation rate that determines the federal poverty line. The study suggests that if authorities adopt a “chained Consumer Price Index” — which calculates the cost of living at a slower pace than the current method — millions of low-income Americans will lose health and food benefits within 10 years.

Who would suffer most? The technical change would disqualify 300,000 kids and pregnant women from receiving health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

I wondered for how long the American people will remain gullible and susceptible to re-education according to the Trump-is-great doctrine. Trump and his propagandists erase all mention of the positive economic performance under his predecessor. They only tout the rise in the stock market since Trump took office.

To put some perspective onto what has transpired economically, Fortune magazine recently compared how Wall Street fared during Obama’s and Trump’s respective first 28 months in office:

“So, how do the two presidents measure up in terms of growth in major indexes, measured between their inauguration and May 31 of their third year in office?

“The short answer is that Trump has quite a way to go. Under Obama, the S&P 500 grew by 56.4%. The Dow Jones Industrials Average was up 50.6% and the Nasdaq, 92.9%.
“The numbers under Trump were 21.4% for the S&P 500, 25.2% for the Dow, and 34.2% for Nasdaq.”

I wondered how common people would do better with dirtier air and water from Trump’s push for more fossil fuel use and lower pollution standards, how deregulation of health and labor safeguards would make their lives better.  

I wondered about a lot more before reaching my destination. I pondered the idea of a consecutive term for Trump before settling onto a variation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s comment, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” For me, “consecutive terms” would refer to consecutive prison terms.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day Edition: Army Eggs and French Toast


Father’s day. Contemporary wisdom suggests a day of leisure for the male head of the family, interrupted by his donning an apron and cooking mitts as he tends to the barbecuing of hot dogs, hamburgers and possibly steaks on a gas or charcoal briquette grill. 

Perhaps my father knew how to cook.  If he did, Kopel Forseter successfully camouflaged that ability. For sure he knew nothing of outdoor barbecuing. Once, when my siblings and I were already adults with children of our own, we complained to our mother that we never barbecued in our back yard. She vehemently defended their parenting, asserting we in fact did have cookouts—she would prepare sandwiches which we would eat in the back yard!

Gilda and I have a longstanding division of kitchen labor. She cooks. We both eat. I clean. 

I cannot recall my father doing any KP chores (for those unfamiliar with military terms, KP stands for kitchen patrol), except the occasional repair of the dishwasher, a task that required him to lie on the floor to get to the motor. Those repair sessions were the only times I recall seeing him wear jeans. 

To be fair, my dad did make the occasional Sunday breakfast, either French toast from leftover challah or what he called “army eggs,” an omelet with round slices of fried salami. He also skillfully handled a paring knife, cutting the skin off apples or pears. By contrast, our son and son-in-law are enthusiastic cooks. Often they consult with Gilda on specific recipes. 


Mostly, my father’s presence in the kitchen was his influence on what was served on the dinette table. Every dinner began with either a slice of cantaloupe or honeydew. Or half a grapefruit. If we had grapefruit on Friday night he would pour some of his Manischewitz kiddush wine onto the citrus to sweeten its taste. 

Every meal had to be accompanied by bread, preferably a seeded rye. He believed everything tasted better with bread. 

He did not care for vegetables. An otherwise good cook, my mother boiled the life out of any vegetable, so it was prudent he didn’t require anything but a potato with his meat, chicken or fish. 

He would drink one beer with dinner, usually leaving the dregs at the bottom of the bottle for any of his three children who wanted a taste of his Schlitz. 

He always finished dinner with dessert, some canned Del Monte fruit cocktail or Bartlett pears or peaches. He was never overweight but by meal’s-end his belt would be loosened and his waist button opened. 

After dinner he would take a nap. It was not the healthiest thing to do, but he never seemed to suffer from it. Nor was he affected by the coffee and cake he would enjoy when he awoke an hour later. Sometimes, he would treat himself to some My-T-Fine chocolate pudding or Jello or ice cream. With a dab of Reddi Whip whipped cream.

My brother, sister and I had household chores which led to my being comfortable doing dishes, laundry and vacuuming, though I will admit I prefer to do those tasks on my schedule, not Gilda’s. I would credit a dishwasher in our second apartment with saving our marriage.  

Though he grew up in a shtetl in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in what is now Ukraine (Austria-Hungary before World War I, Poland after it), my father had a courtly presence. He had a confident stride and always encouraged his children to walk as he did, with shoulders back and head held high. Perhaps it was his way of keeping us from developing a hunchback, a common condition among many Eastern European Jews, especially among Hasidim who suffer from scoliosis. 

At 16, he realized life in Ottynia was too limiting. How courageous it must have been to travel more than 645 miles to Danzig (modern day Gdansk) where he became a traveling salesman. Eleven years later, in January 1939, with Danzig increasingly influenced by Nazi Germany, he embarked on an even greater separation from family and country. He sailed to America.



Thursday, June 13, 2019

Time for Another Criminal Edition


The first sentencing of a guilty defendant in the college admissions scandal escaped incarceration in prison. Instead John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach of Stanford University who directed $770,000 in bribe money to the sailing program in exchange for finagling entry to the prestigious school, received a punishment that included just one day in jail (already served), six months of home confinement and two years of supervised release. 

So, he will be locked up at home for 180 days. I dunno. Sounds kinda soft to me. Prosecutors had wanted prison time of 13 months to demonstrate the seriousness of the crime. Home detention seems no more daunting than when one grounds a teenager to his or her room for staying out past curfew. 

Yes, being confined to quarters can be depressing but given the amusements and distractions available today the punishment seems light. Perhaps it needs some tweaking, such as a concurrent loss of Internet and cable television privileges. And maybe throw in restricting conjugal rights to four times a month. 

I am joking, of course. Still, as the some 50 cases of college admissions fraud proceed through the court, observers will be monitoring how the privileged fare compared to less powerful and wealthy defendants in all non-violent crimes.


Contrition is an essential component of regret, an admission of wrongdoing. One reason I find it hard to embrace Al Sharpton as a qualified human rights leader is his failure to accept responsibility for his actions in the Tawana Brawley affair. As noted last year in a profile published in The New York Times, “He is known best for the worst thing he’s done: His loud support of Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager whose claims of abuse and rape by a gang of white men turned out to be a hoax” (https://nyti.ms/2G8hZPx). 

The failure to adjust one’s position after new, often exculpatory, evidence comes to light, is an egregious sin. With the airing of the Netflix series on the Central Park Five wrongly arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for between six to 13 years, for the rape and beating of a woman jogger in 1989, the fallout has been long-coming but steep. Though the convictions were overturned in 2002, it has taken more than 16 years for the for prosecutors to be held accountable. The lead prosecutors, Elizabeth Lederer and Linda Fairstein have resigned from faculty position at prestigious universities (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/13/entertainment/elizabeth-lederer-resigns-when-they-see-us/index.html).

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has yet to recant his belief that the five accused Black and Hispanic youths should have been executed. In full page newspaper ads at the time he advocated for the return of the death penalty. 

Trump’s failure to apologize is symptomatic of all his actions. His current claim of presidential executive privilege for almost everything and everyone Congress has subpeonaed reflects his belief that, as in his private company, he has the final word as president. He does not countenance anyone questioning his authority or decisions.  

He also has a very discriminate view of the rule of law. To him, everything he says or does is legal, as in his admission to ABC News that he would listen to dirt on any political opponent offered by a foreign entity without committing to informing the FBI. Naturally, legal scholars question his interpretation of the law (https://apple.news/ASrww_lp6Qt2vJSAEI0cygw).  

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Hip, Hip, Hooray to the Queen's History Lesson


Let’s give a traditional British cheer to the Queen—Hip, Hip, Hooray; Hip, Hip, Hooray; Hip, Hip, Hooray—for her nuanced yet clearly distinguishable and distinguished public rebuke of Donald Trump’s disruptive attacks on global institutions that have safeguarded democracies since the end of World War II.

Speaking in what the Daily Mail called “code,” Queen Elizabeth II’s toast during the formal state dinner for her visitor included the following: “After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard-won peace.” (https://mol.im/a/7100721)

It could hardly go unnoticed that Trump has questioned the value of NATO, has sharply criticized several of its members including the leaders of Germany, France and even Great Britain, has sided with NATO’s chief adversary, Russia, and has sought to undermine the European Union. 

The queen’s foray into tactful but forthright diplomacy was a deviation from her normal, at least in public, arms-length distance from politics. Contrast that long held behavior to that of Prince Charles who has been reliably reported to be eager to confront, or shall we say, educate, Trump about the realities of climate change. 

For his dinner toast, Trump  lavished praise on the 93-year-old monarch who has provided “seven decades of treasured friendship.” He called her “a great, great woman.” 

“On behalf of all Americans, I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations, and to the long-cherished and truly remarkable reign of her majesty, the Queen,” he said. 

Trump also said he was toasting the “common values that will unite us long into the future—freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law and reverence for the rights given to us by Almighty God.”

By including “self-determination” Trump may have been signaling his support for Brexit, a stance he has openly endorsed. 

How Trump will react to the gloved hand rebuke by the queen is unknown at this time. It is doubtful he will call her “nasty,” as he did her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle). Trump loves pageantry, even if it casts a shadow on him. All he will remember is the sumptuous surroundings of a state dinner in Buckingham Palace, with all eyes on him and the queen.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

It's Not Too Late to Roll Up Britain's Red Carpet


If the Brits had any balls they would immediately cancel Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom. Yes, I know The Donald and his family entourage are about to board Air Force One to wing across the pond. 

Why would the Queen and outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May allow a blowhard like Trump to violate the norms of diplomacy on their territory? Keep in mind that several times Trump has injected himself into British politics, a diplomatic no-no for any leader of a foreign country. 

Trump backed Brexit. He has criticized May’s stewardship. He has expressed a choice for her successor. He has pressured Britain to abandon Huawei, the Chinese chip maker. He offended royal protocol during his initial trip to England by walking in front of Queen Elizabeth. He dissed Meghan (Markle), the Duchess of Sussex, by calling her “nasty.” Trump is now claiming he never called her nasty, but the quote came from The Sun, a British tabloid owned by his buddy Rupert Murdoch, and has been broadcast on television. 

Why would the British roll out the welcome mat to him? It is almost a certainty he will overstep normal bounds during his time with them, as he did a week ago in Japan when he sided with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un over his host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the danger of recent North Korean missile tests. 

Yes, he is in Great Britain as part of the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.  But that does not entitle him to the trappings of a respected visitor. 

As a country the United States believed it was important to stand up to dictators. Under Trump we now believe dictators like Kim and Vladimir Putin are more credible than our own state department and intelligence community. 

Some would argue Britain owes its continued existence to the aid we extended before we entered World War II and the military might we brought to bear against Germany after we engaged in the conflict. True. But it could also be argued that Britain’s valiant fight 1939 through 1941 benefitted America. Moreover, had Britain succumbed, many military analysts believe the United States would not have been able to defeat the Axis Powers.  

For sure Trump would explode if his ego were damaged by a late disinvite. He would lash out verbally and perhaps economically against the British. But somebody has to start demanding that America and its president behave not just in their own best interests but also in those of the Free World. As too many countries slip under the iron fist of autocrats it is imperative that Trumpism not be allowed to fester and plant roots in democratic countries. 

Seventy-five years ago America led the D-Day invasion to save the world for democracy. This year Britain can stand proud once again if it rolls up the red carpet before Donald Trump soils it with his dirty shoes. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Thoughts on Anti-Semitism


The first time I heard, in person, an anti-Semitic remark I was 24 or 25. It was not directed at me. I was in the Ansonia, Conn., bureau office of The New Haven Register writing a story while two late-teenage girls in the next room discussed their car buying adventures. Unhappy with the price she was offered, one of the girls said she would try to “Jew them down.”

I remember recoiling at the words but remained silent. The bubble I had grown up in had been punctured. I was no longer in Brooklyn. 

In the Brooklyn of my youth almost everyone I encountered was Jewish. I went to Jewish day schools through twelfth grade. My summers were spent at Jewish sleepaway camps. Brooklyn College was overwhelmingly Jewish. All my friends outside school were Jewish. 

Indeed, the only gentiles I interacted with were the workers in my father’s factory and the housekeeper-cooks my mother employed so she could join my father at what she euphemistically called “the Place.” I knew most of them by name and task: Eloise who sewed lace onto the slips and panties pieced together by Big Mary and Little Mary, Solita who packed the finished goods, a dozen to a box, Ricky the piece goods cutter, James the shipping clerk and overall heavy lifter, and Lucy, the floor lady who supervised all the workers and who, in my parents’ later years when they no longer required a full-time housekeeper-cook, came every week to their home to clean and sit with my mother. Our housekeeper-cooks were mostly black—Bertha and Virginia being the most prominent and long-tenured. Bertha baked the best butter pound cake I ever tasted. Virginia was a better cook than baker. She and James chaperoned my sister Lee’s Sweet 16 party in our basement, though our parents were not too thrilled to discover Virginia had laced her several glasses of milk with scotch. 

One of my high school social studies teachers tried to enlighten his students about ignorance in the outside world, ignorance that can lead to violence. Lou Morose grew up in Albany in the 1920s and 1930s. Often, he told us, gentiles would rub the top of his skull. They were searching for his horns. Boys and men who barely had an appreciation of any artwork were instilled with the canard transmitted down from Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses from whose forehead the sculptor fashioned two goat horns, a misrepresentation of the Bible phrase that light emanated from the lawgiver’s head when he descended a second time from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. 

While I was enjoying a shtetl-like sheltered life among fellow religionists, Gilda’s childhood in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York was far different. During the winter gentile boys threw rocks encased in snowballs at Jewish children as they exited a school bus outside their Hebrew school. When they sought relief from their rabbi he simply suggested they move faster from the bus to the school door. 

I didn’t encounter any discrimination at The Register. If anything, I benefitted from reverse discrimination. The managing editor who hired me grew up in Brooklyn, went to a rival Jewish high school and, perhaps most serendipitously, shared my first name. Murrays stick together. 

To my knowledge, I never encountered any anti-Semitism during my subsequent career as a journalist at Chain Store Age, though I do recall a Rose’s discount store manager in rural North Carolina saying he immediately recognized me and one of my staff, Marty Brochstein, as visitors from New York the moment we walked into his store. Marty and I had no difficulty understanding his drift.

As parents, Gilda and I observed incidents that challenged the protective bubble in which any good parent tries to envelop their children. 

One December, when Dan was about seven and Ellie four, he asked why so many Jewish homes displayed Christmas lights. For him and Ellie their only reference were friends from their Jewish day school. They thought everyone in White Plains was Jewish. Thus began their education into the real world. 

Five or so years later Dan and his school basketball teammates encountered overt anti-Semitism. Players on the opposing public school team taunted them by throwing pennies on the court. 

Though my brother and I attended modern Orthodox religious day schools, we never wore yarmulkas before or after classes. It had nothing to do with fear. Our safety was pretty much assured in our neighborhood. At Brooklyn College our friends, almost all graduates of similar Jewish day schools, didn’t wear them either, even when eating. The symbols of religious observance were not as openly displayed 50 years ago. At least not by my crowd.

I suspect no Jew, even the most religiously garbed, presumes he or she will be attacked on the street, much like the public at large does not feel they will be mugged when outside. 

For a time back in 1968 assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions seemed to be daily transgressions in New York City. To combat the appearance of Jewish passivity Rabbi Meir Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League. The objective was “to combat anti-Semitism in the public and private sectors of life in the United States of America.”

I recall discussions about the JDL among my friends as we sat in the Brooklyn College cafeteria, but no one I knew joined the JDL, for sure after it turned more extreme, eventually to be labeled a “right wing terrorist organization” in 2001 by the FBI. 

Antisemitic attacks domestically and abroad have risen to intolerable levels. Some reasons can be traced to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Some to religious bigotry. Some to gang membership practices. Some to economic imbalance. Some to the very conditions JDL identified 50 years ago: “political extremism” and “racist militancy.” And some to that same condition my teacher Mr. Morose related—ignorance. Plain and simple ignorance that shuts out the humanity and tolerance of anyone different. 


Monday, May 27, 2019

Three Weeks Since My Last Post


With Donald Trump a) threatening to totally annihilate Iran, b) obstructing congressional inquiries by ordering subordinates past and present to ignore subpoenas, c) vindictively planning to send asylum seekers to Democratic strongholds in Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida, d) hurling insults at Democrats and Republicans who question his fitness for office, and while Mother Nature imposes her will on the heartland through rains, floods and tornadoes, and a human traffic jam at the top of the world kills those making the quest of their now ended lifetime, you might be wondering what have I been doing since my last post May 7?

An appropriate question. Let’s see. For two weeks beginning May 5 I was engaged with the eight guests of Shalom Yisrael Westchester, eight extraordinary women from the communities in the northwestern Galilee in Israel close to the Lebanese border. 

This was the second consecutive year Shalom Yisrael hosted women from the north after eight years of bringing first responders from the border area with the Gaza Strip. The north has been comparatively quiet since the second war in Lebanon in 2006. But memories linger of rocket attacks and firefights. 

Life in a free fire zone can alter everyday events. Pizza delivery became dependent on the range of Hezbollah rockets. Prior to the second conflict, any address north of a specific street in coastal city Nahariya was too risky for drivers as it was within range of Hezbollah rockets. With greater firepower, Hezbollah rockets can now reach Haifa and beyond.

Engaged with the everyday concerns of work or what movie to see, the long-term concern of war with Hezbollah is never far from their thoughts. “It is not a question of if, but when will be another war,” said Alegra, a social worker from Nahariya specializing on prevention of violence toward the elderly.

Two weeks is a long time to be separated from family, even if it’s for a well-deserved respite from tension. During their fortnight in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, they visited some of our national treasures, monuments and museums, including the Freedom Tower, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials, the Liberty Bell, the Capitol. But perhaps the most relevant and impressionable parts of their trip were visits to three Jewish day schools in Westchester and Rockville, MD, and a community-wide commemoration of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) at the JCC of Mid-Westchester where they met American Jews who were fully invested in the people and future of Israel.  


Okay, Time for Some Trump: Naturally, some of my time was spent in Internet dialogue about The Donald and the many contenders for his Oval Office seat. One, in particular, centered on whether Democrats had become the party of freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her in-league-radicals Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

“The Democratic party will be the party of whomever secures the presidential nomination,” I wrote. “Last I checked she wasn’t running for president.”

I also provided some cautionary thoughts about getting too crazed about the three showstoppers: “Stop falling into the trap of making her and Tlaib and AOC the Democratic Party. They are merely the media’s squeaky wheel getting all the attention because they are different. Trump was different. He got the attention. He was running for president. They aren’t. He changed the GOP. They cannot change the Dem Party unless you fall into the media trap and let them.”

But for a more dystopian view of our political future, I wrote the following to a friend this morning: 

“Regardless of who wins the presidency, stability in our democratic republic is lost for the foreseeable future, a legacy of the Tea Party or actually to Newt Gingrich’s ‘us vs. them’ governing strategy rather than a joint governing philosophy. 

“If Biden or any Dem wins we will have a more mature, hinged person in the White House. If Dems don’t carry both houses then GOP will thwart any initiatives and they will investigate everything.  

“If Trump wins and GOP controls both houses he will unleash Armageddon on all aspects of federal government. Say goodbye to social welfare programs and every regulatory agency. Dems will be powerless to stop the dismantling of more than a century of progressive government. 

“If Dems keep the house they will continue toothless investigations but not be supported by a gutted judicial branch. If Dems win the Senate but lose the House expect no more court confirmations, though Trump would try to make executive appointments. If Dems win both House and Senate expect impeachment and perhaps conviction which Trump would challenge and set off a never before experienced constitutional crisis. 

“I stand by my months ago prediction that if Trump loses Electoral College tally he will invoke emergency powers to void election results by claiming fraudulent voting. 

“In other words, wear your seatbelt at all times. The road ahead is rocky and we have no brakes.”   


Death on The Mountain: During the course of my 30-plus year business publishing career, I must have listened to more than 150 motivational speakers. Terry Bradshaw gave one of his first public speeches at one of my publication’s conferences, a talk he mostly reprised when he was inducted into the football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. During the first keynote speech I heard back in 1977, I learned from Ken Blanchard how to be a One Minute Manager. 

Perhaps the most memorable keynote speaker was Jim Hayhurst, the oldest member of the 1988 Canadian Mt. Everest climbing expedition. Hayhurst used his experience to craft a message that explained success comes from teamwork, from trusting in the competence of others, that you can’t do everything yourself. 

He related those truths as he told of the moment during the climb when his 20-year-old son lost his footing and got wedged on an outcropping over a sheer drop of several thousand feet. Hayhurst wanted to be the one to toss him a lifeline, but he realized someone else had a better chance of success, for one inadvertent move by his son reaching for the rope could mean he would lose his balance and fall to his death. His trust in another was rewarded. 

I can still picture Hayhurst as he delivered his talk. Middle aged—47–when he undertook the climb, Hayhurst did not project the image of an intrepid, athletic climber. Rather than stride confidently he seemed to galoomph across the stage. 

Aware of his limitations, Hayhurst emphasized the value of preparation and setting realistic goals. Death can come swiftly without warning in the frigid, oxygen deprived atmosphere near the summit. Many expire on the trek down. Caution is more than a byword for climbers. 

Ultimately, the expedition failed to reach the peak—two climbers came within 2,000 feet of the summit—but they all came back alive. That was their realistic goal.

I think of Jim Hayhurst every time I read or hear about the unfortunate men and women who have lost their lives clinging to their dream of conquering Everest.