Friday, May 11, 2012

Capitol Gains, Unholy Acts, Billions and a Beauty

Capitol Gains? He’s tall, lanky, decently good looking, but not my type, and I’m not talking about sexual attraction. I’m talking politics. Paul Ryan, the wunderkind of the Republican Party with the widow’s peak dark hair line (a little like Eddie from “The Munsters”), passed me on a walkway into the U.S. Capitol. I realized too late who it was to stop him and express my thoughts. Besides, he was engaged in conversation with another man. 

As he paused at the steps where only congressmen may enter the Capitol, I alerted the eight Israeli women I was chaperoning they had just seen one of the most powerful men in the country. It was a far more exciting moment than what they had just witnessed from the gallery of the House of Representatives. The House was in session, if you could call it that. Barely a dozen members sat in the seats reserved for 435 members. We watched parts of two presentations, the congressmen speaking to the balcony, or more precisely, to the cameras affixed to the balcony so their words could be beamed back to their districts and recorded for posterity. 

It wasn’t easy explaining American politics to women who daily tend to trauma victims along the Gaza Strip or in a shelter for battered women and children in Jerusalem. They have political concerns of their own, especially after a major initiative was announced this week to forge a coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party with the more left-leaning Kadima. One of the hopes among many Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world is that this new government majority will be able to reduce the influence of ultra-religious parties in the daily lives of Israelis. Israel is a Jewish, democratic state; it was never intended to be the religious state it was increasingly being turned into by the power ultra-religious parties exerted because of their ability to make or break coalitions.  

Holier Than Thou—Not! Deviant behavior is not restricted to any one group. The “pleasure” many in the Jewish community took in the decades-long troubles of the Catholic Church with sex abuse cases while virtually nothing came to light among their brethren has vanished now that details of extensive abuses and cover-ups within Hasidic communities have been reported in The NY Times

Whereas in the Catholic Church perpetrators were shielded from punishment by leaders of the church, the Hasidic sects, from their rebbe leaders to their “blind” followers, ostracized the victims and their families for coming forward, not those who assaulted and abused. 

It’s another shameful example of religion working against, not for, the benefit of those who need it most.

So How Come I’m Not a Billionaire? Or at least related to one. 

After I returned from Washington, Gilda was very excited to show me an article in New York magazine. It was the cover story, “The Zuckerbergs of Dobbs Ferry.” Zuckerbergs, as in Mark Zuckerberg, he of Facebook fame and fortune.

Seems the Zuckerberg parents bought their Westchester home in 1978 (so did we). Seems Ed Zuckerberg was an early adopter of home computer technology, especially online banking using a Citibank modem (so was Gilda). Seems Ed’s wife, Karen, ridiculed him for using a computer to pay bills rather than simply writing a check (as I ridiculed Gilda). 

Ed and Karen Zuckerberg still live in Dobbs Ferry. We still live in White Plains. The similarities end there, except for the fact Ed has a scraggly salt and pepper beard like mine. He might have more money, but I have more hair.

Bio Pic: I heard Vanessa Williams talking on NPR about a memoir, “You Have No Idea,” she and her mother Helen wrote about their lives, particularly her selection in 1983 as the first Afro-American Miss America. For those not familiar with the full story, Williams was stripped of her title late in her one-year reign because of nude pictures she had posed for prior to her selection. Release of the photos did not jive with the pure-as-driven-snow image the Miss America pageant wanted to cultivate.

During her reign Williams was a spokesperson for American Greetings. The Cleveland-based greetings card company brought Williams to the annual Houswares Show in Chicago. It was there, as editor of Chain Store Age, I met Williams and had my picture taken with her. She was (still is) beautiful.