Monday, December 23, 2019

A Different Look at Gun Control Laws

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but is it politically unwise for Democrats to unequivocally support gun control laws? Hear me out—generally, the most vociferous Second Amendment advocates are hard right, militant militia members, crazies who fear they won’t have any guns around to protect themselves from left wing nuts who may take over our government. They claim they need long guns and assault rifles to combat the demise of the republic.

Far fetched, perhaps, but what if they are onto something, only in a bizarro, reverse world? What if it’s right wing conservatives—led by an orange-tinged elected president and his intolerant-Constitution-be-damned cronies—who want to strip the populace of rights after rights and liberties after liberties, leaving just leftists who want to save America? How could the left offer resistance if their right to bear powerful arms was denied them?

I’m not saying it’s going to happen, that we should all march down to our local guns and ammo store to stock up, but you have to admit, if you’re a progressive thinker, it could. Of course, we could negate the possibility by voting the orangutan out of office November 3.

So there you have it—either mark off the Democratic candidate (whomever he or she may be) on your electronic ballot, or pull down the Democratic lever on your manual voting machine, or register for firearms instruction at your local shooting range before it’s too late. America’s future is in your hands. 

(In case some of you didn’t realize it, what you have just read is a piece of satire.)

Classified Material: I opened the Sunday New York Times to find something rarely seen over the last decade or longer: pages of classified ads. Advertisements for jobs ranging from an advisory consultant at an accounting firm to vice president of a bank. Two and a half pages in tiny agate type. 

Now, the volume was nothing like it used to be, pre-Internet. It wasn’t a separate section. The ads were tucked into the back pages of the SportsSunday section. But just as Web-based retailers are opening brick and mortar stores, perhaps we are at the dawn of a rekindled age of newspaper classified ads.

I have a soft spot for “help wanted” ads in print. Between jobs back in early 1977 I answered a classified ad in The Times. We were living in New Haven. Gilda had said she would relocate anywhere but New York, but four months into my unemployment she consented to my responding to the ad. She further agreed to return to New York after a job offer was extended during my interview in Manhattan. Thus began my 32 year career with Lebhar-Friedman, publisher of Nation’s Restaurant News (my first year’s assignment as a field editor) and Chain Store Age for the remainder of my tenure. 

Section By Section: Not everyone reads the Sunday Times page by page, section by section. I surely don’t.

So this item is for those who offhandedly toss the SundayStyles section into the discard pile. Take a moment to read how the spirit of the holiday season in Washington has become another victim of the polarized political climate in the nation’s capital. It’s a humorous if not nostalgic remembrance of better, bygone days (

Gilda’s New Nickname: I have a new nickname for Gilda—Corduroy. Not the fabric. Rather, the winsome Teddy Bear now considered a classic children’s book character. 

In the second book of the series originated by Don Sussman, Corduroy notices his green corduroy overalls lack a pocket. His escapades at a laundromat endeavoring to find a pocket is a warm-hearted adventure tale that ends with Lise, his young owner, sewing some plaid material into a pocket on his right overall leg.

Around our house Gilda often wears sweat pants. Some have pockets. The ones that don’t, however, have continually frustrated her ability to keep her cell phone nearby. Until she recalled the story “A Pocket for Corduroy.”

For several hours Friday she rummaged through leftover fabric swatches, picking out a grey plaid pattern with enough material to adorn two sweat pants with pockets deep enough to hold an iPhone. Just like Corduroy’s, the pockets are angled on the right pants leg.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Personal Days Tied Into Historic Days

I number about a dozen and a half dates as important milestones in my life. Birthdays and anniversaries of family members account for most of them. Today, for example, December 16, is special as it marks the day Ellie was born in 1981. Next month, on January 28, Gilda and I will celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary.

December 16. Separated by 44 days from January 28.

Until I read the accompanying linked article I had not realized those dates were forever tied into one of the penultimate battles of World War II. On December 16 the German army launched a counteroffensive against Allied forces in Belgium and Luxembourg. It became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The battle, which resulted in a crucial victory for the Allies in the snow covered cold terrain, is said to have concluded on January 28 (

I’m sure most of you could find significant events on your milestone dates (for years I used to reference my March 6 birthday as the day the Alamo fell). So take a few moments to research how your lives have intertwined with history.

The Last Word: Exiting a Second Stage production of the “The Underlying Chris” last Thursday night I started a conversation with two women ahead of me. One asked me, “What was the last word of the play?” I did a double take. I was discombobulated for a moment, unable to answer.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know. It was because five days earlier at a Playwright Horizons production of “The Thin Place” I had uttered the last word of the play from my front row seat in the audience ( Could these ladies, strangers to me, have witnessed my off-Broadway acting debut? No, they were not there. I shortly regained my composure and to their amusement explained my momentary dumbfoundedness.

Front Row Events: My brush with stardom was the latest in front row happenings. At another Playwrights Horizons production at which I again was sitting in the first row, an actor with excellent elocution but unrestrained expectoration showered me with, er, spittle.

Some 50 years ago, during a Broadway performance of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Rosencrantz, or was it Guildenstern, tumbled off the stage and landed in my lap. I quickly eased him back onto the stage with nary a thank you from Rosencrantz, or Guildenstern.

I, on the other hand, apologized to Dick Kniss, the long-time bass player of Peter, Paul and Mary. During a concert in Saratoga Springs, also some 50 years ago, from my front row seat I made eye contact with him and caused him to miss a beat in one of the songs. As I had a college newspaper press pass at the time I managed to go backstage after the concert and expressed my regrets.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Voting Choice for Patriots: Live Under Authoritarian Rule or Constitutional Law

(Editor’s note: Some articles can be written days, weeks, months before an actual event occurs. This is one of them.)

And so, after years of investigation by an independent counsel, impeachment by a Democratic controlled House of Representatives and acquittal by a Republican controlled Senate, Donald Trump’s future, nay America’s future, will finally be decided November 3 by the people. John Q. and Jane Public finally will be given the opportunity to express their values over and above what they registered in the 2018 congressional elections.

Will they vote for the founding principles of the greatest land on earth, or will they choose to reward an egotistical autocracy because the economy jumpstarted by Barack Obama continued to surge under Trump? Equally important, will they vote at all, or will they take their freedoms for granted even as they are slowly but inexorably whittled away? 

There is no denying more people are working (though the type of jobs they have often are not the high wage ones that instill financial security); the stock market flirts with record after record highs (though the benefit accrued from such heady heights is limited to the already well-off); corporations have reported top flight earnings (though they did not reward their employees with higher pay and they did not widely invest in capital expansion).

It is also true that the national debt has soared, tax revenue has shrunk, air and water quality has deteriorated because of reduced or eliminated environmental safeguards, and consumer protections have been watered down.

The gap between the haves and have-nots has widened.

The gap between truth and falsehoods is now a chasm dug deeper every day by a huckster-president and his sycophantic followers.

Will the public at large acquiesce to Mitch McConnell’s transformation of the Senate from “the world’s greatest deliberative body” into a “chamber of death” where forward-thinking legislation passed in the House dies upon arrival, without even the courtesy of debate?

The Democratic standard bearer (regardless of who it will be) surely is not the favorite of many party faithful. But if we have learned anything from past elections, when Democrats splintered their votes to whimsical third party candidates or simply chose not to vote at all, it is that every ballot counts. Democrats must bury the hatchet in Trump, not in their own party’s back. Trump became president because he won three key states—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—by less than 80,000 votes. His claim of a mandate was hyperbole, but it still allowed him to appoint two conservative Supreme Court judges while packing lower federal courts with equally regressive jurists.

It is often said voting is everyone’s patriotic duty. A patriot puts the country’s interests above their own. A patriot looks beyond personal financial gain, focusing instead on the government’s capacity to lift the downtrodden from educational and fiscal poverty. A patriot invests in the industry and defense of the nation while recognizing the obligation of America to act fairly as part of the family of nations. A patriot cherishes the values enshrined in our Constitution and does not accept the notion that a president can be above the law, that a president becomes our sovereign. A patriot believes in a viable, legitimate checks and balances system of executive, legislative and judicial bodies of government.

We have already witnessed the abandonment of principles by party poobahs cowed by fear or enraptured by allegiance to a false messiah. Trump’s coterie in Washington and capitals across the land is based on their lust for power and the monetary bounty that can be reaped from political office.

To what end has he corrupted the values of America’s citizenry? Will they recall the civics lessons of their youth on the choices made by our Founding Fathers to reject authoritarian rule in favor of living under a nation of laws equally applied, even to our highest official?

A patriot votes. Here’s hoping patriots come out in droves November 3.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Impeachment, Even Acquittal Are Good Outcomes

I have a confession. Political junkie though I may be, I stopped watching the impeachment inquiry marathon after the initial testimonies during the hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. No need to listen further to each side drone on. They were not deliberating. They were not changing any minds. They were posing for sound bites to flash back home and, in the case of Republicans, to beam into the White House where the TV-fanatic-in-chief monitored each presentation and tweeted accordingly.

Passage of impeachment charges by the House Judiciary Committee, and next week by the full House, along straight party lines was a foregone conclusion. As is, barring revelations from Mount Sinai, acquittal by the Republican controlled Senate.

No one should expect anything different. It is, as God found at the time of creation, “good.”

I reach that conclusion for the good of the country. House Democrats had to expose Trump’s violation of his oath of office and the Constitution. They needed to reassert the equality of the legislative branch in our tricameral system of government, even knowing that it would be a pyrrhic, incomplete victory given the outcome in the Senate.

Exposure of another kind is the “good” legacy awaiting Republicans.

Trump has challenged the limits of presidential power and propriety. His behavior and policies, while often repulsive and abhorrent, are not in themselves impeachable offenses. But soliciting foreign government involvement in our elections is. As is thwarting constitutionally empowered congressional oversight of the executive branch by refusing to respond to subpoenas and by ordering his aides not to appear before Congress or to provide requested documents.

I have heard Trump defenders say he has done nothing his predecessors did not do. Putting the veracity of that claim aside, it matters not that Congress previously gave a pass to impeachable behavior. Two, or more, wrongs do not make a right.

By condoning Trump’s actions Republicans have chosen power over principle, partisanship over patriotism. They are repudiating 230 years of constitutional government in favor of opening up our nation to abuses never before tolerated and, once Trump is found not guilty by the Senate, potentially more egregious and damaging to the republic.

It is a shame that courage and putting country over self have virtually no quarter among our political class. If there is any silver lining in this exercise of impeachment it will come from an invigorated electorate that chooses to reward honesty and bravery in government and in so doing will flush the offenders down the drain, thereby cleaning the swamp of its greatest miscreant.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Off Broadway Acting Debut A Telepathic Success

I made my Off Broadway acting debut Saturday night.

In a Playwrights Horizons production of “The Thin Place,” I uttered the last word of the one-act play. Without any rehearsal or advance preparation. I hit my cue. To the utter amazement of Gilda and the rest of the audience. 

It wasn’t the first time I strutted my thespian talents. When I was 13 I played Rusty Charlie in a summer camp production of “Guys and Dolls.” I knew my lines back then as well, though, to be honest, the director asked me to silently mouth the last word of the “Fugue for Tinhorns” opening song because I could not master the desired harmony.

There was no music involved Saturday night. I simply had to project one word from my seat at the extreme right of the first row of the audience.

Wait. First, a little background on “The Thin Place.” Written by Lucas Hnath who also authored “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Hillary and Clinton,” and the “The Christians,” “The Thin Place” deals with the possibility of an alternative universe and paranormal communication, sometimes between the living, sometimes between the living and the dead.

A young woman, Hilda, recounts how she and her grandmother would endeavor to communicate telepathically. Sitting in an armchair on a stage devoid of anything else but a narrow table lodged between a second identical armchair, Hilda said her grandmother had subsequently died. Looking directly at me she said I somehow reminded her of her grandmother. That I looked like her.  I stroked my beard in amazement, but she just continued reminiscing about her young life with her granny and her later adult life which had become entwined with Linda, a medium who acknowledged that conjuring up the dead was a trick she performed as a less expensive but more result-oriented therapy than professional medical help to relieve the anguish her customers had from some unresolved conflict with the departed.

At the end of “The Thin Place,” sitting in the chair from which she had never moved over the play’s 90 minute span, Hilda again faced me. She wanted to demonstrate telepathy, the way she did it with her grandmother. She took a pad and marker pen out of the table drawer, wrote down a word, held it to her chest and implored me to concentrate on this unknown word that she would be trying to transmit to me, her imaginary grandmother.

I thought “meatloaf” would be an appropriate homey memory but when she looked at me and asked what I had heard in my head, just behind my forehead, I replied, too softly at first for her, let alone for the audience, to hear. Louder, I said, “Umbrella.” Turning the pad toward the audience she revealed what she had written—Umbrella. The audience gasped. The stage went dark. The audience clapped.

Immediately my 15 minutes of Off Broadway stardom began. Audience members approached me to ask, Did I really receive a telepathic message? Had I been primed by the theater staff prior to the performance to say umbrella? Was I an actor planted in the audience?

No, on all counts. Just before I was ready to say “meatloaf,” I heard a faint but distinct metallic voice say, “Umbrella.” I quickly processed my role, though to be sure I at first whispered “umbrella,” hoping Hilda could read my lips. With her encouragement I repeated aloud the last word of the play.

Seated next to me, Gilda was the most confounded. She had not heard the electronic transmission. I checked around my seat. No receiver or speaker anywhere. My seat was no different than anyone else’s.

My 15 minutes of fame was nearly up, we were already standing outside the theater when I recalled retailers have sometimes used narrowcasting technology to direct messages to workers or shoppers in specific locations so as not to alert or bother customers or staff throughout a store. Messages such as a special sale for those currently in the housewares department. Or staff should clean up a spill in aisle eight. 

The theater must have targeted a narrowcast to my seat alone. I couldn’t prove it but it is the only rational explanation. I was, after all, not Hilda’s grandmother. And though “meatloaf” would have been a much better word, I had no license to alter the playwright’s dialogue. So with a smile as my umbrella, I uttered the last word of the play. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Impeachment Charges, Biden Lets Loose and Historic Facts

Here’s an example of what one of my graduate school journalism professors called a “nothing new” headline:

“House Impeaches Trump.”

Here’s another example:

“Senate Acquits Trump.”

It doesn’t take a genius to know as sure as the first headline will be realized before Christmas, the second will follow in short order, possibly before the end of January.

Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has an epiphany and switches his allegiance from the autocratic orangeman in the White House to the U.S. Constitution there is scant expectation Trump will face any penalty greater than history’s assessment of his guilt. 

However, in the debate over what charges the House of Representatives should level against the nasty-man-in-chief, there is an important bit of politics that must be played out. Should Trump be charged merely with abusing the power of his office for personal and political gain through an attempted bribery of the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in return for arranging a White House meeting and unfreezing Congressionally approved military aid, or should the House lay out a laundry list of offenses including obstruction of justice? 

Those in favor of the former argue it would be a more focused indictment, easier for the public to wrap its mind around. That argument, however, presumes the possibility of a conviction. 

Ha! It will never happen (not “would never happen” which implies “maybe;” under McConnell it is a certainty the Senate will not convict).

The Democratically controlled House, therefore, should engage Republican hands by throwing the kitchen sink at Trump, forcing GOP senators to go on the record to condone each and every behavior that is injurious to American interests and constitutional norms. Make each senator run on his or her compliance with actions they would never tolerate if a Democratic president undertook them. 

A Biden Bite: A show of raw emotion was just what Joe Biden needed to spark his candidacy. But I would suggest the former vice president should not have called an Iowa farmer a “damn liar” during a campaign stop Thursday for regurgitating Trump and Fox News charges that he sold access to the Obama presidency and helped his son Hunter obtain a lucrative job with an energy company in Ukraine, a position for which he had no experience.

Instead of directly insulting the 83-year-old retired farmer, Biden should have countered thusly: “You’re repeating falsehoods, lies, that were created by Russia and Vladimir Putin and promulgated by his corrupt ‘useful idiot’ in the White House and his unscrupulous supporters in the House and Senate. You’re repeating a false narrative which is undermining our democracy.”

Biden took a more in-your-face response. It displayed fire in the belly that has been lacking and, if he is fortunate enough to secure the Democratic Party nomination, will be required if he is to successfully confront Trump.

Historic Facts: Just when you thought the public could not get any crazier, here are two stories that boggle the mind:

A majority of Republicans believe Trump is a greater president than Abraham Lincoln ( I’ll let you parse that one without further reflection on my part.

Here’s the Mideast Problem in Brief: In a speech in November, Riyad Al-Aileh, a Palestinian political science lecturer at Al-Azhar University, said Jews only came to the region “as invaders 70 years ago.” Another Palestinian “intellectual,” Abir Zayyad, an archaeologist and member of Fatah’s Jerusalem branch, asserted “We have no archaeological evidence of the presence of the children of Israel in Palestine in this historical period 3,000 years ago, neither in Jerusalem, nor in all of Palestine.” 

So there you have it—A rejection not only of Jewish heritage in the land of Israel but also, by inference, of the existence of Jesus, his visit to the temple in Jerusalem and his later return to the city, his trial and crucifixion. A rejection of Roman historical records. It makes one wonder how any peace can be achieved when one side is so delusional. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

139: Memories of the Draft Lottery 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago today, December 2, I walked into Brooklyn College’s Boylan Hall cafeteria a depressed senior. The night before, my birth date, March 6, had been selected as the 139th number drawn in a televised national draft lottery. With my educational deferment set to expire in six months I sadly expected a letter inviting me to a physical examination to assess my fitness for assignment to Vietnam. We had 549,000 soldiers stationed there in 1969.

As I sat commiserating with friends at the Knight House table, Ronnie Sperber (now Tokatlilar) set up shop a few tables away. She was selling yellow buttons with large brown numbers, lottery numbers, on them. The daughter of one of my father’s landsleit from Ottynia, Poland, Ronnie cheerfully handed me a 139 button, no charge. I wore it through May of 1970 when the expected letter from my local Selective Service board arrived. I had 10 days to report to Fort Hamilton for my physical.

I immediately sprang into action. I had not wasted those six months. I had researched ways to beat the draft. Flunking the intelligence test was not an option, eventually confirmed by the sergeant who administered the exam. Merely correctly filling out one’s name assured a passing grade, he advised.

As the military could keep you for three days after your physical the idea of doing something to momentarily alter blood pressure or blood sugar level was not feasible. I also rejected enrolling in divinity school, a path chosen by some of my friends. Nor, for practical reason, could I seek further deferment by registering for medical school—I still had another half year of undergraduate classes before I would earn my degree as I had changed majors too many times. Uncle Sam didn’t care. My 2S college deferment status expired after four years, not when I received my sheepskin.

My only hope was found inside the pamphlet “1001 Ways to Beat the Draft.” Or so I thought all these years until I scrolled through a PDF copy last night and couldn’t find the relevant section ( What I do remember is discovering my escape plan while sifting through a similarly named book in the college bookstore located just yards away from the Knight House cafeteria table.

Inside that blessed book was a table defining height and corresponding weight acceptable for admission into the armed forces. Anyone 6-foot tall had to weigh at least 131 pounds.

I stood 72 inches tall when the Selective Service Board letter arrived. I tipped the scales at 134 pounds. I had spent 21 years trying to put meat on my bones. To no avail I had swilled milk shakes laced with raw eggs. I had been threatened with being sent to a special summer camp where they would fatten me up. I had, to put it bluntly, made my mother sick with anxiety over my skinny malink physique.

The letter transformed her. Oh, she continued to dote over how much I ate. But her mission now was to reduce, not increase, my consumption. She became a partner in my plan to beat the draft by adhering to the Stillman Water Diet to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.

Dr. Stillman’s diet permitted only proteins. No starches, fats or carbohydrates. No fruit. No vegetables. Only meats, poultry, fish, hard boiled eggs, all accompanied by 80 ounces of water a day.

On the day of my physical—May 6, 1970—I weighed 124 pounds. A seven pound cushion in case the military chose to keep me for three days to fatten me up. Today, I am still a six footer. I weigh 165 pounds. I think I am skinny. Just imagine how I must have looked 40 pounds lighter.

I received a one year 1Y physical deferment. The Army didn’t keep me for three days. To celebrate, I walked over to the mess hall for a truly delicious meal of breaded veal cutlet, corn niblets, mashed potatoes, rye bread, banana cream pie, Coca-Cola. 

Lottery number 139 never came up again in the military’s need for more fodder in Vietnam. I’m forever indebted to Dr. Stillman. He died in 1975. He was 79. Ronnie is still adorning people—she designs and sells her own jewelry.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Streets of New York Are Just Not the Same

Every weekday a copy of Gothamist Daily arrives by email. Gothamist, its Website says, is “about New York City news, arts and events, and food, brought to you by New York Public Radio.”

More often than not I just scan the headlines, but one tickled my interest last week. Written by Jeremiah Moss, the article was entitled, “The Diamond District: ‘One Of The Last New York Blocks Left In Manhattan.’” 

I share these with you because my family has a link to the Diamond District, the stretch of West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. The wedding band I wear on my left hand, the wedding band and engagement ring Gilda has worn, the same for my brother’s wife and my sister, and the baubles that adorned our mother, all came from the Diamond District. But not from just any merchant of jewels along that street of treasures. Ours came from the shop our mother’s sister, Aunt Vicki, and her husband, Uncle Harry, had at 55 West 47th Street. They had prime real estate in the Diamond Exchange building—a window kiosk to dazzle the imagination of any lady and her paramour. 

Fifty years ago, when I was most familiar with 47th Street, the Diamond Exchange housed a honeycombed floor of activity. It might still do so today. I do not know. Aunt Vicki and Uncle Harry relocated their business to Los Angeles in the 1970s. 

For a more personal perspective, I emailed the Gothamist article to one of their sons, my cousin Stanley. Also a jeweler, Stanley shared his memories vis-a-vis those of Jeremiah Moss:

“Interestingly....this is obviously the 47th Street of today....not the 1960’s and 70’s.

When we were there, there was no falafel and such. It was Berger’s deli, the Smokehouse restaurant or the Blarney Stone. 

“The Persians came to America, especially Great Neck (where his family lived), in the late 1970’s, the Israelis in the 1980’s. 

“The character of the street changed dramatically, both the people and the jewelry itself. 

“Many of the sons of successful jewelers actually moved off the street and into offices upstairs, away from the “new” riffraff. LOL 

“By the late 1990’s, the old timers, the Eastern European Jews....many with numbers tattooed on their arms were gone. Passed away or retired to Florida. 

Walking down 47th Street is just not the same.”

Broadway Blues: I could say the same for Broadway from 8th Street to Houston Street. It was on that stretch of pavement that my father’s factory jumped from one address to the next as his leases came up every five years or so forcing him to relocate either because the rent became too high or the landlord, in many cases New York University, opted to turn factory lofts into upscale apartments. 

718 Broadway. Then 692 Broadway (above Tower Records). Then 683 Broadway. Then 611 Broadway (above what is now a Crate & Barrel). From the mid 1950s to the late 1970s the factory ricocheted along Broadway. It was one of many owned by small manufacturers sewing lingerie and knitwear in buildings 10-12 stories high with service establishments on the ground floor. 

When residents, not businesses, started populating the buildings, NYU turned street level space into a shopping and restaurant mecca. Even Bloomingdale’s chose to open a store on Broadway as the retail district expanded to Canal Street. 

A mall without doors. As my cousin Stan said of 47th Street, Broadway today is just not the same. 

The Rent’s Too Damn High: Sunday’s New York Times provided another sad glimpse of the changing Manhattan landscape. Chelsea Convenience Hardware is closing, a victim mostly of a steep rent increase and the evolving way consumers shop (

After reading the article, take a few moments to read some of the comments. Mom and Pop stores close not just because of rent increases, or Amazon, or competition from big box retailers. Or maybe because their service and selection were sub-par. Or a combination of all factors. 

But whatever the reason(s), one cannot disagree that the landscape of a neighborhood changes. It’s just not the same. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Go Ahead, Investigate

Let’s assume for a moment that Joe Biden remains the frontrunner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination and becomes its standard bearer. All the while he would be subjected to a withering attack by Donald Trump and his henchmen about his alleged improper interference in Ukraine’s investigation of corruption.

Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to Biden and the Democrats to welcome an investigation of his activities in Ukraine, even if it is by a Senate committee chaired by Republican Lindsey Graham ( If Graham’s committee displays bias the Democrats could always convene a House investigation that would afford Biden a more evenhanded venue. Such a House probe could call witnesses Graham might not wish to testify.  

If Biden is telling the truth, that he did nothing improper, imagine how that would buttress his candidacy and undermine Trump’s. It’s a play he should be willing to undertake to squelch not the drip, drip, drip of Trumpian tweets but the deluge of misinformation and outright lies cast his way. 

Republicans also want to investigate Hunter Biden’s role as a director of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. For someone with no background in the energy field, Hunter was paid a ridiculous amount of money. Millions, it has been reported.

What Republicans are forgetting is what transpires in the Senate can be replicated in the Democratically controlled House. Donald Trump’s children can be investigated by multiple House committees for their international and domestic businesses. Just as Hunter Biden is maligned for trading on his father’s position as vice president the Trump progeny can be scrutinized for how their businesses benefitted from their relationship with the president.

Taking advantage of familial ties to our nation’s chief executive is nothing new. Presidents with siblings or children who created some embarrassing moments include Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan.  

Service to The Crown: If you are among the fans of The Crown, the fictionalized Netflix series on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, you might have already seen episode two of the third season of the series. It is 1965 and the new government of prime minister Harold Wilson is facing a financial crisis. The country’s deficit is running some 800 million pounds. Its only hope of avoiding economic ruin is to receive a cash infusion from the United States. But president Lyndon Baines Johnson is no friend of Wilson (Wilson didn’t support the Vietnam War), so despite the special relationship enjoyed for decades by the two countries, Johnson is loathe to bail out the British.

Spoiler alert—The solution concocted by the Brits is to stroke LBJ’s ego, to soften him up to give them what they want.

All this maneuvering 55 years ago has a very current ring to it. The key to currying favor with Trump parallels the same path. The Saudis knew this and did their best to shower affection on Trump during his state visit. The British did as well. So did France. And China.

Ego enhancement and money in his pocket ignite affection from the grifter-in-chief. Politicians, foreign dignitaries and business executives with their lobbyists know this, too. They have eagerly paid top dollar at Trump hotels. In addition, Trump has squeezed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars from the U.S. treasury to pay for his frequent golf and weekend visits to his various golf courses and resorts. In just the first five months of his presidency, the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties ( 

Though Trump was shamed into cancelling the G-7 economic meeting at the Trump National Doral in Miami, the Republican National Committee has jumped in to pick up some of the revenue slack by booking its winter meeting at the resort. 

Taking Credit: Even fabulously successful businessmen get caught up with Trump infallibility. In Texas Thursday Trump took credit for the opening of a plant that makes Apple computers. He did so while standing next to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer.

Cook knew the plant had opened in 2013, during Obama's presidency, but he chose not to correct Trump, not to his face or in subsequent comments. 

It is speculated that truth-talking is less important than corporate profits which Trump could affect through his tariff policies (

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Expect Impeachment But No Conviction

After three sometimes gripping, at time contentious, sometimes pedestrian days of hearings by the House Intelligence Committee, the questions to be answered are, Did Donald Trump’s actions rise to the level of an impeachable offense? And, given the Democratic Party majority on the committee and on the Judiciary Committee which would have to pass impeachment charges, and its majority in the full House of Representatives which has to affirm the charges which would then be sent to the Senate for consideration, is there any prospect that the Republican controlled Senate will vote to convict and thereby remove Trump from office?

Yes, the House will vote along party lines to impeach; no, the Senate will not vote to remove.

There was no smoking gun testimony as there was during the Watergate hearings and impeachment inquiry. No secret tapes (as far as we know). Nothing and nobody to testify to direct person to person dialogue with Trump about his actions to withhold congressionally approved military aid to an ally unless Ukraine investigated Joe and Hunter Biden.

Unless, and it is a big unless, former national security director John Bolton chooses to testify. Assuming, of course, that he would finger Trump for actions specifically in violation of his oath of office. 

At the end of the day Trump will get off with no more than a slap on the wrist. Like a cookie jar pilferer who gets caught by an admonishing mother, he no doubt will return to equally provocative acts, believing that as long as the Senate remains Republican controlled he will be immune from removal.

Here’s another question central to our democracy—when, if ever, will Republicans return to their long held beliefs? When will they once again condemn executive office overreach? When will they recall their opposition to a ballooning national debt and their desire for a balanced budget? When will they again champion unfettered foreign trade not hamstrung by tariffs? When will they advocate for strong and respectful international alliances? When will they rebuke a president who trusts Russia more than his own intelligence agencies?

Is the answer only when Democrats regain the presidency?

Have we so tribalized our politics that we cannot accept any action by a president from the opposition party, and the corollary, that we blindly accept whatever “our guy (or  gal)” does?

Has our politics become so toxic that anyone we disagree with immediately becomes the object of smear campaigns and physical threats? 

Don’t expect answers from me. I’m as perplexed, as depressed, as woebegone as you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

News of the Day and Tomorrow: Nikki Haley, Trees, Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Profile in Discouragement: Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning. In a segment of the interview conducted by Norah O’Donnell about the impeachment inquiry, Haley said, “The biggest thing that bothers me is the American people should decide this. Why do we have a bunch of people in Congress making this decision?”

For a public figure who many are touting as a future Republican presidential candidate, the former South Carolina governor demonstrated a naive understanding of government. Haley should realize that senators and representatives are sent to Washington not just to rubber stamp their state’s voter preferences or to blithely rubber stamp or reject a president’s agenda, but also to be leaders, to exhibit profiles in courage by supporting positions that are good for the country even if they are not compatible with the narrow interests of their respective electorates or political parties. They, after all, swore an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. No such avowal is required of the general population, though newly enfranchised citizens and members of the armed services swear their allegiance to our country.

Moreover, to follow through on Haley’s premise, surveys have shown a sizable majority of Americans believe in compulsory background checks before a gun may be purchased. Similarly, other gun control measures are majority-favored. Yet Republicans continue to refrain from enacting any such proposals. 

Taken a step further, what Haley seems to be endorsing is the supreme executive, a president who really does not require any other branch of government. His or her way or the highway for anyone who disagrees with the chief executive. 

The impeachment proceedings and a Senate trial will show in startling relief just how far Republicans have subsumed their allegiance to the Constitution in favor of service to a president who has obstructed justice and encouraged foreign interference in our “free” elections. 

Later in the interview Haley acknowledged that Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on four first term congresswomen, telling them to go back to their own countries even though they are all U.S. citizens, was unbecoming from a president. But she defended his actions, saying of the representatives categorized by Trump as “the squad,” “Don’t bash America over and over again and not do something to try and fix it.” 

Huh? Has she not been keeping abreast of policy initiatives they have put forward? I don’t agree with all of their proposals but clearly they have been trying to do something to improve our country.

Tree Time: Last week a Norway Spruce from upstate New York started its travel to Manhattan for its crowning as the annual Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center. The tree will be festooned with appropriate decorations—some 50,000 lights— in time for a December 4 unveiling on live television. 

Gilda and I are “big tree” fans, and by that I mean we really like trees, especially big trees. Our favorite is a copper beech, or mostly any beech variety. 

One of our more interesting days while visiting Scotland recently was a visit to Dawyck Botanic Garden, a 65 acre garden and arboreta eight miles south of Peebles. The trees are magnificent, especially the Douglas firs. 

You might be interested to know that the majestic Douglas fir, so common in the Pacific Northwest, is named for a Scottish botanist, David Douglas, who “discovered” them during an 1824-27 expedition. He brought seeds of the Douglas fir and about 10 other conifers back to Britain.

While on the subject of trees, Normandy, France, is known for its apple trees. But the French, at least in Normandy, don’t eat the fruit. Rather, they wait until their particular specie of apple tree drops its fruit. The apples are then gathered and fermented into hard cider. As the climate in Normandy is not conducive to growing grapes for wine, cider with an alcoholic kick makes life très jolie. 

Once an Editor …: I’ve been retired for more than 10 years now from Chain Store Age but my LinkedIn page still attracts onlookers every week. Recently I’ve been inundated by one head hunter organization sending me job opportunities. I’m flattered but not interested.

Perhaps my admirers are impressed that retailers are coming around to my way of thinking, at least when it comes to one of my fervent opinions. About a dozen years ago I editorialized that the madness of Black Friday was demeaning to customers and store employees. As retailers desperately tried to corral more consumers they chose not to wait until Friday morning. Many opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself, another intrusion on family get-togethers, particularly for store personnel who had to leave hearth and home to harness hostile shoppers intent on beating anyone in their way to a desired purchase.

It’s not a tidal wave yet, but I am encouraged by the number of chain store companies that will be closed all day on Thanksgiving. Here’s a list of the retailers I am aware of: Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Ace Hardware, BJ’s, Costco, Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Lowe’s, Marshalls, Petco, Sam’s Club, Sierra Trading Post, Stein Mart, T.J. Maxx, True Value. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Historic Moments in Berlin, a Personal Perspective

Thirty years ago today, the first cracks in the Berlin Wall appeared. Not cracks in the wall itself, but rather in the restrictions East Germans had in traveling to West Germany. Through a fortuitous, confusing and seemingly uncharacteristically incompetent set of actions by East German officials, unfettered access to and from East Berlin began 30 years ago on November 9 (for an hour by hour playback click on this link:

Hanging on a wall in my home office is large chunk of the Berlin Wall. Another sizable portion, next to a picture of me chipping away at history, rests on the built-in wall unit of our living room. I wasn’t in Berlin November 9. I didn’t get there until February 16, 1990, a few days before the wall near the Brandenburg Gate was knocked down.

I flew in from Dusseldorf from where I had been attending EuroShop, a once every three year trade exposition devoted to store design and construction. I headed to a Woolworth store (btw, Germans for years thought Woolworth was a home grown company, not an America import), to buy a small chisel and standard-sized hammer. When I arrived at the Wall that rainy and snowy day, I discovered how pitiful my purchases were to the task at hand. I barely made a dent in the reinforced concrete.

Standing next to me was a man with a huge sledgehammer and 30-inch chisel. He was breaking off softball-size or larger chunks. He took pity on me and offered his tools. I still failed to break off pieces larger than a pebble. He pitied me once more. He gave the Wall a few choice whacks for me. I left Berlin with a bagful of souvenirs, most of which I gave away to family, friends and colleagues at work.

My memories of the Berlin Wall are tinged with personal links. November 9 is more than just the date unification of Berlin began. On that date in 1938 the Nazis began a massive pogrom against Jews under their control in Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia and the Free City of Danzig. Known as Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the assaults continued into Danzig on November 12-13. My father lived in Danzig (now known as Gdansk). He would leave for America within two months. 

February 16, when I visited Berlin in 1990, marked four years since my mother died on that very same date.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Look Past 2020 To See Future of the Republic

While most political views are focused on 2020, a longer lens to 2024 and beyond may be more informative as to the future direction of our republic.

Some never-Trumpers retain a pipe dream that an alternative, such as Bill Weld, Nikki Haley or John Kasich, could wrest the Republican Party presidential nomination from the incumbent, Donald Trump. They are seeking the remnants of the soul of what was once a Grand Old Party. At one time it could be argued, and was, that working with Trump inside the White House and in Congress helped to restrain his excesses. But that argument for too long has not held water. Anyone who continues to take a federal paycheck inside the current administration or is a Republican member of either house of Congress, ostensibly as a public servant, has clearly sold his or her soul. Moreover, those who already abandoned ship should be under a patriotic obligation to reveal on the record Trump’s illegal and unpresidential acts.

Almost any Republican of stature and integrity would be better than Trump not because their domestic social and fiscal policies and international agenda would be markedly different, but rather because they would convey their positions in a more statesmanlike, mature fashion. Abortion rights still would be restricted; conservatives would be nominated for federal court appointments; Iran and North Korea would still be trouble spots; Israel would be favored over Palestinians. But their tone would be better. They would be more appealing to suburban women. They would not be a constant source of lies. A less provocative president would probably have long enough coattails to secure a GOP House and Senate. Democrats would try but mostly fail to influence legislation.

In this Age of Trump, party apparatchiks have sold their souls. At his behest, they have stacked the deck against any inside insurrection. One can hardly blame Trump for doing what comes naturally to almost all incumbents.

The lurking dilemma for the GOP and the nation is, who will win the battle for control of the party come 2024. Will the party look for a Trump protege or will it seek to revert to its traditional policy planks and level-headed leaders? The answer may depend on how much Trump loses by or how much he wins by in 2020 (assuming, of course, he doesn’t declare an emergency if he loses and refuses to accept defeat, and if he wins doesn’t try to repeal the 22nd Amendment limiting terms of office, or simply ignores it).

Trump has shown he is like a dog gnawing on a bone he will not give up. He fixates on a topic, abetted by social media that, regardless of 2020 results, will continue to carry his mean spirited, divisive missives. Win or lose he will defend his legacy to the extreme, making it difficult, but not impossible, for the rational wing of the party to appeal to mainstream Republicans.

Our democracy works best when we have robust dialogue between Democrats and Republicans, when compromise is virtuous and the public welfare is foremost in the minds and actions of our elected and appointed officials. Grifters, incompetents, party hacks, and outright liars have reduced America to a shell of its once internationally-held glory, a status held under Democratic and Republican presidents.

We could return to those halcyon days when our word was our bond, a post-Trump world, but only if enough Republicans reconnect with their souls.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Can Ghermezians' Dream Come Through Again

I was wrong.

Well, not exactly wrong. More like, overly pessimistic about the potential for the Mall of America to fulfill its dream.

Back in September 1992 I editorialized in Chain Store Age the August opening of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was a Herculean feat that would be hard pressed to attract at least 40 million visitors a year to achieve its financial goals. At the time, 27 million people lived within a 400 mile radius of the retail and entertainment complex. It was not uncommon for Iowa farmers to travel hundreds of miles to visit the Twin Cities to shop Dayton’s, the local department store. The Mall of America with its indoor amusement park, varied dining and entertainment venues and hundreds of retail stores banked on its uniqueness to draw crowds, especially during harsh northern winters when family recreation options were limited.

Fast forward to 2019. Mall of America’s website affirms the dream has become a reality. It proudly boasts more than 40 million visitors a year.

Now, the people who dreamed up Mall of America, and before that the West Edmonton Mall in Canada—the Ghermezian family of the real estate firm Triple Five Group—have placed another big bet, aptly titled American Dream, that a huge, multi-faceted retail and entertainment complex could transform the New York metropolitan area’s spending patterns. Last week it began a months-long phased opening extravaganza of American Dream in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, in the shadow of MetLife Stadium where the New York Giants and Jets play football and concerts are held. Aside from more than 300 stores (currently not open), American Dream features a water park, ski slope, ice skating rink and an amusement park with a roller coaster (

American Dream was not a Ghermezian dream from the outset. Originally named Xanadu, the mall was conceived by The Mills Corporation more than 15 years ago. Repeated financial setbacks stymied construction for Mills and subsequent developers. For more than a decade its semi-completed skeleton was a poster-child example of excess consumerism. The Ghermezians bought the concept in 2011.

They have invested heavily in transportation plans to bring New Yorkers the 10 miles across the Hudson River, one of the most densely traveled paths in the country, be it by bridge or tunnel. Just miles from Newark airport, shuttle buses may take travelers to the mall. Already it is common for foreigners to make excursions to Woodbury Commons, an outlet center some 60 miles north of the airport. American Dream is less than 15 miles from Newark.

Unlike the Mall of America, American Dream has a much larger population pool from which to draw visitors. Attracting the 40 million-plus customers a year the Ghermezians say are needed seems possible, even with the more varied entertainment and shopping options available in the New York metro region. But, more to the point of attaining a solid financial return, American Dream is located in Bergen County which prohibits retail sales on Sunday. It is hard to turn a profit in a location that cannot process retail transactions on one of the busiest shopping days of the week.

Bottom line—American Dream probably won’t turn into a nightmare, but I doubt it will provide contented sleep to the Ghermezians.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, The Court Should Now Hear The U.S. House of Representatives v. Donald J. Trump

The time has come to find out if we live in a constitutional republic or in an autocratic state. It is time to go directly to the Supreme Court for a decision on the House of Representatives’ powers of impeachment and whether the executive branch can withhold documents and other evidence the House deems crucial to its investigations. 

By an 8-0 vote in 1974 the Supreme Court ruled Richard Nixon had to turn over secretly recorded White House tapes that ultimately revealed criminal behavior by the president in the Watergate scandal coverup. But that was back then, when respect for the rule of law was central to our political essence, regardless of party. We did not have a president who demeaned courts and judges who disagreed with him. And we did not have a president who openly flouted the law, often doubling down on the very crime he is accused of committing. 

Today’s Supreme Court must decide if the Constitution is still relevant. If a president can stonewall due process. If the Founders’ belief in equal branches of government is an 18th century anachronism or if it remains a document a democratic republic nation can live by. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi must give up any hope of White House cooperation for surely Donald Trump has provided no reason or action to maintain that illusion. She must immediately authorize an expedited challenge to the Supreme Court to verify the House’s absolute right to obtain material relevant to its inquiries. The court must reaffirm its 1974 ruling that the claim of executive privilege has limitations when it comes to a legitimate House investigation, that no one, not even the president, is above the law. 

It is counterproductive to waste the nation’s time and patience with thrust and parry politics. The Supreme Court must be asked to accept the challenge and must rule expeditiously. 

Nancy Pelosi, it is your move!

A Red White House: To those who bicker that Democrats are trying to take over a White House they couldn’t win in 2016, let me remind them that a Trump removal would not turn the Oval Office blue. A solidly conservative Republican vice president, Mike Pence, would succeed the dumped Trump. 

In many ways Pence could prove to be more anathema to Democrats as he is more deliberate, more focused, more of an ideologue, more conservative, more religious, more schooled in the ways of governing, and less of a lightning rod than Trump. 

One of the more vexing questions confronting Americans, New Yorkers in particular, is the transformation of Rudy Giuliani from “America’s Mayor” after 9/11 into Trump’s rabid attack dog. 

So, naturally, I was drawn to a New York Times Op-Ed Tuesday with the relevant headline, “What Happened to Rudy Giuliani?”. When I looked at the byline I was more intrigued. I thought the name looked familiar, the uncommon way it spelled Frydman. Hadn’t a Ken Frydman worked on Nation’s Restaurant News, a trade newspaper, shortly after I did some 40 years ago? Sure enough, it was him. 

I checked out his online background discovering Ken not only worked for Giuliani but was actually married by him in a city hall ceremony. For decades Ken carried a picture of the ceremony in his wallet. 

Here was an intimate witness to Rudy’s transformation. So, without further ado, here are two links, the first to the Op-Ed piece, the second to a bio of Ken who has quite an accomplished resume:

What Happened to Rudy Giuliani?

Ken’s bio

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Tribute to Those Who Fought in Normandy

I have been watching war movies almost my entire 70-plus years, one of the earliest I remember being a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis romp called “At War with the Army,” set in 1944 in a stateside training camp. A sergeant, Martin is chafing at the bit to see real action overseas. As I recall it, by the end of the film he gets his wish and is part of the D-Day invasion. Being a comedy, “At War with the Army” does not relate the fate of Martin’s character. 

The beaches of Normandy, code named Utah and Omaha (for American assault), Sword, Gold and Juno (for Allied forces) are hardly sources for humor, as Gilda and I observed during our recent trip to the battlefields. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, and the ensuing campaign through August 30 to rid Normandy of German forces, more than 53,000 Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen died in the largest amphibian-based attack in history.

Britain and America treated their dead differently. Britain buried casualties in the soil on which they perished. 

Next of kin of U.S. dead had three options: burial of a deceased where they died, internment in Arlington Cemetery, or burial in a plot back home chosen by the family. Three times the choices were provided the next of kin. After the third time, if the remains were buried overseas, moving them would be at the expense of the next of kin. 

Today’s U.S. military treats the fallen differently. All bodies are returned to America. As Arlington is running out of room, the privilege of burial there is restricted to those awarded military honors.

More than 9,380 gravesites in rows upon rows of white crosses sprinkled with the occasional Jewish star is a solemn, beautiful sight at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. A cross or Jewish star were the only religious options. As the saying goes, “There are no atheists in a fox hole.” Nor in American military cemeteries. Nor, apparently, were there any Muslims. If dog tags were not found on a fallen serviceman the grave was marked with a cross. 

Only about 150 white Jewish stars break up the uniform look of white crosses. As many Jewish servicemen removed their dog tags prior to entering combat, it is suspected casualties among them were buried under crosses. A rabbi is painstakingly researching Jewish sounding names on crosses to determine if a change in grave marker is warranted.

The only serviceman buried in the NAC who died without service in the Normandy campaign received presidential dispensation to be laid to rest next to his brother. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, died during World War I, on July 14, 1918. He was a pilot in the Army Air Service shot down in an aerial dogfight. His body was relocated in 1955 to a grave next to his oldest brother, Ted, a brigadier general who died of a heart attack July 12, 1944, weeks after leading the first wave of troops ashore at Utah Beach.  

Last week’s crash in Connecticut of a B-17 Flying Fortress World War II bomber coincided with my viewing a worthy HBO documentary, “The Cold Blue,” aired last D-Day. The film uses outtake footage taken by director William Wyler in 1943 for a morale-building promotional film about the Memphis Belle B-17 and its crew that flew 25 missions. 

Released last year, “The Cold Blue” was directed by Erik Nelson. It intersperses the reminiscences of flight crews (not from the Memphis Belle), now in their 90s, with film shot during missions over Germany and occupied Europe. 

Do the math—more than 70 years ago, the now elderly men were in their low 20s, or younger, when they took to the skies in planes that were not pressurized or heated. At 25,000 feet, with gunports open to the wind, temperature inside was said to be equivalent to the top of Mount Everest, in the minus 20 to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit range. Frostbite could occur within 10 minutes.

At the beginning of the war, according to the documentary, America had but a few hundred B-17s. By 1945 our wartime arsenal had manufactured 12,731. Close to 5,000 planes were lost in combat over Europe. 

The Flying Fortress was known as a durable aircraft which makes last week’s tragedy all the more sad.

Military Units: As noted at the beginning of this blog, I’ve spent many an hour watching war flicks. But I never quite understood how many soldiers comprised each unit size until Rob Dalessandro, deputy secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, provided an overview during our recent Smithsonian Journeys trip to Normandy. So, here goes:

Squad. 12 men. Led by a sergeant.
Platoon. 50 men. Led by a lieutenant.
Company. 184 men. Led by a captain.
Battalion. 900 men. Led by a major.
Regiment. 3,200 men. Led by a colonel.
Division. 15,000 men. Led by major general.
Corps. 75,000 men. Led by lieutenant general.
Field Army. 300,000 men. Led by general.
Army Group. 600,00+ men. Led by general.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Walk in the Park Celebrating God's Creation

Second day Rosh Hashana. Most Jews I know spent Tuesday in synagogues reciting most of the same prayers they did the first day of the New Year’s holiday. Not our family.

Five years ago we decided that a walk through a park was a more intimate and visceral way to celebrate what Jews believe was God’s creation of the earth. It would be more meaningful for our grandchildren (Finley 9, Dagny 7, CJ 4 and Leo 2) and their parents.

We traveled to Ossining at 10:30 am to walk Teatown Lake Reservation’s wooded trail around a lake. The kids picked up acorns and interesting rocks. They observed the occasional caterpillar and turtle in the lake and saw what we assumed were thin tree trunks gnawed down by beaver.

When we stopped for a midway rest we discussed why communing with nature was an appropriate way to honor God’s work. One ritual of Rosh Hashana is a ceremonial casting away of one’s sins by tossing bread into water. As we were not supposed to give food to the wildlife, we instead cast stones into the lake.

At the conclusion of our simple but heartfelt ritual we blew shofar. The kids had plastic ones. Even two-year-old Leo made noise with his horn. I managed quite a few long blasts on our three foot long ram’s horn. I trumpeted several “shevarim,” bursts of three notes, but was windless when it came to “teru’ah,” the staccato nine note sequence. I did blare out a pretty good “teki’ah gedolah,” an extra long call of awakening to the faithful. 

We returned home a little after 1 pm, the same time we would have had we attended services at our temple.  

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ostrich Should Replace Elephant as GOP Mascot

The 19th century political cartoonish Thomas Nast is credited with creating the symbol of the Republican Party, an elephant. Perhaps the mascot should be updated. I suggest it be an ostrich.

An elephant, after all, is said to have a good memory, but today’s GOP fails to remember the values that once made it great—equality of the races (under Lincoln); reverence for the environment and anti-monopolies (under Teddy Roosevelt); disdain for the military-industrial complex (Eisenhower); strategic diplomacy and environmental protections (Nixon, yes Nixon); abhorrence of deficits (Reagan); respect for foreign alliances (Bush I and II).

Under Donald Trump the Republican Party has turned its back on all of these foundational blocks. Moreover, elected congressmen and senators have metaphorically put their heads in the sand so as not to see how Trump is clearly dismantling the rule of law and our constitutional protections of checks and balances.

With the House of Representatives embarked on an impeachment probe after a whistle-blower revealed Trump seemingly pressured the president of Ukraine during a telephone conversation to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender for the presidency, and the subsequent cashiering of the transcript of their talk to a top secret file, perhaps we need to paraphrase one of Trump’s earliest examples of abuse.

Instead of “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Hillary Clinton) emails that are missing,” let’s say the following: “America, if you’re listening, we hope you’re able to see the transcripts of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president and other transcripts of his talks with foreign leaders that have similarly been  hidden because his staff feared they would reveal Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

Not everyone is convinced an impeachment proceeding is necessary or wise. Surely most Republicans don’t. Some worry it might turn people off, that they might feel Washington has sunk further into dysfunction. On the contrary. An impeachment investigation is the ultimate constitutional function.

This is a test of the American public. Does it want a democratic republic or an autocracy? If Trump is not held accountable for his actions, if his minions are not held accountable for their coverup attempts, we can expect him to continue to stretch the limits of presidential invulnerability. We’ve already seen the pattern being set—one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress without clearly stating Trump was guilty of obstruction, Trump had his conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Very Next Day!!!

The time to impeach has arrived!