Saturday, June 26, 2021

Fighting Birds, Escaping Heat, Roasting Weiners, a Holocaust Survivor Passes

After painstakingly and with great trepidation while standing on a ladder, I recently installed metal spike strips across the base bar of our 35-foot patio awning. It was a tactic of last resort in a battle to prevent sparrows from making their homes behind the awning frame, a perch from which their hungry chicks chirped constantly and the whole family soiled whatever was stationed below. I thought that behavior inappropriate considering how often I supply all birds from starlings to cardinals to blue jays and finches with food and water. 

Repeatedly tearing down three half-finished nests hadn’t discouraged the sparrows from starting over again and again. Nor did placing rubber snakes in their desired domicile locations. Our landscaper erected a fenced off area along the bar—they simple went around it and used the screening as a foundation for a nest.

I reluctantly decided that stiletto spikes were my only recourse. I thought I had finally won the nesting war.

But like solitary Japanese soldiers on remote islands of the Pacific who maintained a state of combat for decades because they were not informed Imperial forces surrendered in 1945 to end World War II, at least one pair of sparrow has not given up the homesteading fight. 

For the last few days I have come across twigs on our patio. Today I saw twigs placed between spikes, not enough to make a nest but sufficient in mass to suggest the intrepid pair was eager to solve its housing crisis no matter how penetratingly uncomfortable the spikes would make their home. 

I hooked the twigs down and await their next move. Hopefully it is to a different address.

No Escaping Heat Wave: Three decades before global warming became a reality of everyone’s life, New York suffered through an extended heat wave—seven consecutive days in July 1991 of 90 degrees or more. Several days recorded three digit temperature readings.

With our kids away for seven weeks at Camp Laurelwood, Gilda and I were feeling quite smug about our plans to escape the heat. We had a two week vacation planned for the Pacific Northwest where ocean breezes, intermittent showers and the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges were said to keep the region cool. 

We left New York’s 95 degree weather only to arrive in Seattle to an almost unprecedented 95 degrees! Alas, the charming downtown hotel we were staying in was, like most picturesque hotels in the city, devoid of air conditioning. Groan. 

Lying in bed that night, unable to sleep because of the room’s stale air, a small night light illuminating the ceiling 10 feet above us, I saw the shadow of a stagnant ceiling fan. I turned it on. It wouldn’t chill the air but at least it would keep it circulating. 

I’ve thought about that “relief” whenever heat waves occurred during the past 30 years, never more so than the present, what with almost daily stories about another scorcher in the Northwest and the region’s residents finally recognizing the value, no, the need, to air condition their premises ( 

Weiner Roast: New York City has always supplied its fair share of, shall we say, interesting politicians. Some good, some bad, but lots of colorful characters. 

No, I am not currently referring to Rudy Giuliani, though one would be hard pressed to find a more deserving prototype of a politician who aspired to greatness, nearly achieved it but has fallen to almost certain disgrace. 

I am intrigued by the fact that not one but two pols with the same last name—Weiner—have been exposed for sexual peccadillos. Former congressman Anthony Weiner, you may recall, wound up serving time for exposing his wiener online to a minor. 

Zach Weiner, no relation to Anthony that I am aware of, had a fling with a dominatrix exposed by The New York Post a few days before running in the primary to represent the Upper West Side on the City Council. Zach owned up to the video of his private behavior ( 

Alas, among six candidates, Weiner finished last, with just 810 votes. Gale Brewer won, securing more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. 

Passing of an Eyewitness: Nearly two weeks ago another witness to the cruelty humans can inflict on others passed. David Wisnia was 94. He survived the Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz. Read his story: 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Overcoming Complacency Is Challenge Democrats Face in 2022 or Future Elections Will Be Russian-like

As he publicly and privately seethes over his two year ban from Facebook and indefinite removal from Twitter, Donald Trump is labeling the 2022 election for U.S. senators and congressional representatives as the most important in our history.

Hyperbole, perhaps, but he is not alone in his assessment. If your email inbox is anything like mine you are inundated with multiple urgent messages declaring a crisis of possibly Armageddon size if an immediate (and generous) donation is not forthcoming to a candidate or cause dear to your, or should I say, their, heart. All will change for the worse, the entreaties insist, if “our” side doesn’t win so we can throw the bums on the other side out.

Trump has always cast himself as a media Megatron force. It is easy to visualize him stalking through Mar-a-Lago ranting to anyone who would listen that his First Amendment right to free speech is being trampled by Facebook and Twitter.

For the record, as private enterprises the social media giants have a right to censor anyone, especially if the transgressor pollutes their forums with falsehoods. 

It is also quite illuminating that Trump’s primary mouthpiece in trying to overturn the 2020 election, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, had his law license temporarily suspended by a New York State appellate court Thursday because he “sought to mislead judges, lawmakers and the public” in his advocacy that the election was fraudulent. 

New York is a liberal state, for sure, but one wonders if other state judiciary systems will have the courage to slap down Trump loyalists who have impugned the validity of Joseph Biden’s election and the consequences of the insurrection inside the Capitol on January 6. 

Indeed, a recent count of congressional candidates for the 2022 election included 18 professed QAnon members. It is almost certain some will be elected and become part of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s posse. 

Extremists, on both sides of the political divide, harangue about the virtues or detriments of socialism or unbridled capitalism. What most Americans really want are a decent paying job they enjoy, affordable housing, quality healthcare, a solid education for their children, security from evil doers, a safe and up to date infrastructure network, and a stress free retirement. 

How to fulfill those wants separates Democrats from Republicans. Democrats believe achievement can come if government plays a part in balancing a field made steeper for the disadvantaged, be it by racism, sexism, or ageism. Republicans believe the free enterprise system is all that is needed to achieve equality and equanimity. Capitalism, they believe, rejects inherent bias. It does not require any government intervention.

Throughout our nation’s history there have been inflection points that altered government’s involvement in its citizens’ everyday lives. We fought a civil war that ended slavery (though not racism). When businesses became too monopolistic and exploitative, Washington passed anti-trust and consumer protection laws during the Teddy Roosevelt era. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered in the New Deal to reverse the unemployment scourge and related woes Republican Herbert Hoover could not manage. Lyndon Johnson pushed through voting rights laws and anti-poverty programs. 

With income inequality rising sharply, with a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service oriented workplace, with a depleted middle class, with racism still a blight on our country even as our population evolves into a more colorful pattern, with global warming affecting agriculture and land use, and with the Internet transforming the way we communicate and work, we appear to be at another inflection point that would require government intervention.

A major difference between past eras and the present is that the opposition party, in this case the Republican Party, has turned its back on reality and the decades-long national interest in expanding voting rights. 

Former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich says his party does not have an agenda beyond culture war issues such as being anti-LBGTQ rights and trying to end a woman’s right to control her own reproduction. The party’s platform, to Kasich, is simply to stymie any action by President Biden and Democrats. 

Throughout our history we have witnessed how one man can change the trajectory of our nation, be it in politics or business. Jeff Bezos transformed shopping. Steve Jobs transformed communication. Donald Trump transformed politics.

Trump, as are all politicians, is entitled to believe his programs are best for America. But in advancing those beliefs Trump altered relationships long held by the public.

No longer can we rely on the sanctity of our electoral process. No longer can we rely on the wide acceptance of facts. No longer can we rely on the integrity of a president to adhere to and protect the Constitution. No longer can we rely on the innate goodness of the American public to distinguish between right and wrong. 

Consider that a recent poll found that almost a third of Republican voters believe Trump will be “reinstated” in August ( Did these people not study civics in school? Are they not aware there is no such thing as “reinstatement” in the Constitution? 

In 2020 the electorate decisively chose an agenda of action advanced by candidate Joe Biden. But voters failed to provide him the legislative support needed to push through his agenda in Congress. 

Razor thin majorities in the House and Senate are at risk in 2022, especially when past midterm elections show that a president’s party usually loses seats. 

Rather than support the programs Biden has put forward to help middle and lower class voters, voters are being manipulated by Republicans to care more for wedge culture issues than their own economic welfare ( 

Recently, a post from Laura C. Keeling made its way back onto Facebook. It succinctly described our national predicament:

“America will not be destroyed by undocumented workers, same-sex marriage, Muslims, atheists or abortion, but rather by unreasonable fears, uncontrolled hatred, divisive politics, unethical politicians, deliberate misinformation, and a gullible population.”

“The Biggest Threat to America Is America Itself,” screamed the headline of Nicholas Kristof’s latest opinion piece in The New York Times (

Compared to other countries American students are mediocre, Kristof wrote, particularly in math and reading proficiency. 

What really is worth worrying about, I believe, is the population’s failure to know history and recognize the traits of demagogues and the easy, almost imperceptible, way they can lead us into an autocracy, a dictatorship. 

It is not just those free range Western state libertarians who challenge Washington and state capitol authority. Immigrants who came here for a better economic life, or to escape repression, violence or limitations on their freedom of thought are vulnerable to a Trump-like figure. Perhaps the last thing they want to embrace is a government seeking compliance, even if a program is well intentioned, such as wearing a face mask or getting a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Complacency is the ultimate enemy of democratic values. In the past, too many Democratic voters were contented by having a Democrat in the White House. They failed to elect sufficient House and Senate members and, even more importantly, they neglected statewide elections, ceding powers to Republicans that only now are being realized. 

Trump is right. 2022 may be our most important election as a democratic republic. Elections after that may be as free and fair as they are in Russia if complacency keeps Democrats, Independents and patriotic Republicans away from the ballot box in 2022.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Questions My Father Never Answered, Questions I Never Asked

There are so many questions without answers. So many questions I never asked. So many mysteries my father never exposed of his life in Poland before the war, before his whole immediate family, save one of his brothers, was lost in the Holocaust.

Today is Father’s Day. Kopel Forseter has missed the last 23 commemorations. I remember few if any celebrations when growing up, just an oft repeated comment from our mother that she should be the one feted as without her Kopel would not have become a father. Sylvia never entertained the corollary on Mother’s Day.

My brother, sister and I knew the broad outlines of his story. Growing up in Ottynia, a shtetl in Galicia that became part of southeastern Poland after World War I, then part of Ukraine after World War II. He had two younger brothers—Willy, who survived the war, and Max—along with a sister, Klara, and an older half-sister, Bracha, from his father Moses’ deceased first wife. Bracha died before the war.

At 16 he moved to Danzig, now known as Gdańsk, but after WWI labeled by the League of Nations as the Free City of Danzig, though it had a decidedly Germanic presence. Yad Vashem estimates that 96% of the residents were German. Not surprisingly, German influence was great. So much so that after Kristallnacht terrorized Jews in Germany on November 9-10, 1938, Danzig had its own Kristallnacht pogrom November 12-14. Until recently I never computed that Kopel’s departure from Danzig to New York transpired two months later. 

It should have been obvious to me. Throughout the 1930’s repressive anti-Semitic laws were imposed. According to Wikipedia, “In 1938 (Gauleiter Albert) Forster [how eerie that this Nazi persecutor’s name is one letter, an ‘e,’ shy of my last name] initiated an official policy of repression against Jews; Jewish businesses were seized and handed over to Gentile Danzigers, Jews were forbidden to attend theaters, cinemas, public baths and swimming pools, or stay in hotels within the city, and, with the approval of the city’s senate, barred from the medical, legal and notary professions” (ńsk).

After arriving in Danzig Kopel became a route salesman hawking stationery in towns surrounding Danzig. He made lifelong friends who, like him, fled Danzig for the Americas, Israel and Australia.

Going to Australia with her parents was his girlfriend, Dora. Her parents died shortly after reaching the safe haven. Though she tried, Dora never could reconnect with Kopel who, in 1942, married my mother. Fifty years later they met again, the full story a link away (

My father carried himself with the posture of a Prussian, not a Polish peasant. He enjoyed wearing nice suits and, for my taste, some raffish looking sports jackets. Of course, he always bought his wardrobe from a wholesaler he knew. No full price purchases for Kopel Forseter.

I suspect he was a ladies man. One photograph shows a buxom blonde perched on his shoulders. Was this Dora or another girlfriend from Poland, or was the picture taken in New York? I never asked. 

One Passover, seeking details of their past, my brother Bernie and I videotaped our father and Uncle Willy. We would ask for specifics of life in Ottynia and Danzig. We would receive generalities. Except when Willy related his years in hiding from Nazis and their Ukrainian sympathizers (Here’s a link to that saga:

Dad never talked about his family in Ottynia, if he felt helpless or guilt stricken at not being able to save them. He never showed us or translated the postcards he received from his mother while the family was first under Soviet Union occupation and then Nazi rule. He never talked about Dora. Though offered reparations for his lost business he never made a claim; he would not return to Danzig.

Like many of his generation he focused on the future, not the past. His repertoire of stories from the Old Country never failed to amuse family, friends and customers. His stories no doubt contributed to his success as a businessman as well as being a civic and social organization leader.

We did not always get along. He chafed at my idea of pursuing a journalism career. Mom probably talked him into paying for my master’s degree in the hope of giving me enough rope to hang my interest in becoming a reporter. Yet in the end I think he was proud I edited and published a magazine read by many of the companies that were his customers.

But did he ever tell me that? No. Did I ever ask him? No.

(Editor’s note: This entry was inspired by the cover story of today’s Sunday New York Times magazine section (

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Late Spring Musings: My Portrait, Lilibet, Boom

Ever wonder what makes the most lasting impression on a child’s mind?

For my birthday three months ago my six-year-old granddaughter CJ in Omaha, who had seen me only through FaceTime for more than a year, drew my picture with a laptop in front of me.

She captured my curly hair, but for some reason didn’t put a beard on my face. What she did include, though, was an identifying marker visible to anyone who has observed me more than casually—inside my shirt breast pocket she drew a pen!

She no doubt recalled my saying that I always have a pen with me, a habit cultivated from my earliest reporter’s days. Some people like to make notes on their smartphone, and indeed I often write blogs on my iPhone before posting them, but I prefer pen and paper for note taking (even though my handwriting is so atrocious that I often have difficulty deciphering my chicken scratch). 

CJ added a beard to my face before presenting her framed portrait to me when we visited Omaha in May. It has a position of prominence on my desk.

Speaking of grandchildren, I am intrigued by the presumption that Americans really care about the brouhaha surrounding the naming of Harry and Meghan’s newborn daughter after her grandmother and great grandmother (I know the giddy parents have official titles, but if they’re going to live in the United States they should get used to just being called Harry and Meghan). 

Lilibet Diana, or Lili as she will be called by her parents, family and friends, is in a unique historical position. I know it’s farfetched, but she could be at the same time both the British monarch and the president of the United States.

She is eighth in line eligible to ascend to the British throne. As she was born in the United States, she is eligible to be president upon attaining her 35th birthday.

The first presidential election in which she could run is in 2058. I know people are living longer these days, and the fastest growing age cohort are centenarians, but I doubt, at 109 in 2058, that I would be alive to witness this possibility. For my younger readers who will be around, remember you read about it first in my blog.

Boom: Complaints about noise on the ground associated with supersonic air travel was a key factor in its limited use across the United States. The Concorde stopped flying in 2003.

So it is hardly reassuring that a company named Boom Supersonic is trying to bring high speed flight back to our skies. It has a tentative order from United Airlines for 15 planes with the hope that supersonic air travel will start anew by the end of the decade (

One wonders, however, if the corporate name, Boom, might pose an added burden on getting regulatory approval. One usually tries to avoid any mention of an objection when filing a request for approval. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Reflections on All the News Fit to Print

The New York Times devoted a full page of its Thursday Styles section to the new cache of metal detectors. Not only does one need a designer model detector, but from the accompanying pictures in print and on The Times web site you apparently also have to dress like a super model to search fields and shores for lost objects of junk or treasure (

It was not always a pursuit of the rich and famous, or those who aspired to such status. Back in 1976, during my time as the bureau chief of West Haven, Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge for The New Haven Register, I was required to write a Sunday feature on a topic of my choosing. 

Driving around looking for an interesting idea when I came upon a treasure hunter on the West Haven city green. He was a quirky looking dude, just a little more presentable than a homeless man might appear. He was bent over his metal detector, earphones propped atop his heads, listening for the telltale ping of metal. It was a few minutes before he realized I was standing next to him.

After identifying myself and asking if he would be willing to talk about his hobby, I proceeded to find out he had been moderately successful at this enterprise, having released from the earth many rings, a necklace and bracelet or two, plus valuable coins. His treasure was worth close to a thousand dollars, he estimated. I concluded the interview by taking his picture and recording, as was the requirement of The Register for any article, his name, age and address.

You’ve probably guessed where this story is going.

Sure enough, two days after the article appeared, I noticed in the police blotter a stolen property report. The scavenger’s house had been burglarized. Gone was his treasure trove lovingly dug up over many years. If he hadn’t already lost it, also gone were his innocence and sense of trust in his fellow man.

I have few regrets about my years as a reporter. But I do regret adhering to the newspaper’s policy of printing addresses. Sometimes, too much information is a bad thing. 

Say My Name: As a journalist I am always drawn to stories about press suppression, the incarceration of reporters and editors, and their deaths at the hands of tyrants. Last week Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, was arrested at the airport as he was about to leave the Southeast Asian country (

I  had never heard of Danny Fenster. I might have merely skimmed the article if not for his last name—Fenster was a high school nickname I acquired after an Israeli teacher repeatedly mispronounced my name (he must have had difficulty reading my Delaney card). 

Back in 2010 a weekly notice from our temple said Matt Fenster of Riverdale was seeking bone marrow donors to treat his acute myelogenous leukemia. In the past I’d always shied away from even considering the thought of a bone marrow donation. I shuddered at even the test, though I learned it was rather benign, a simple cheek swab to determine compatibility. The actual bone marrow donation also has passed from being needle-scary to the painless routine of giving blood.

With his name as a sign of to be brave, Gilda and I drove to the testing site, only to be turned away because we were 61, one yer older than the donor age limit. We gave a donation but were bummed out we couldn’t do more. 

A year later we learned Matt Fenster passed away.

Critical Eye: As could be expected Nicholas Kristof’s criticism of Israel’s actions in the recent conflict with Hamas has attracted numerous comments plus a followup essay, “Were My Criticisms of Israel Fair?” (

The short answer is, “No.” 

To reach his view that Israel overreacted to the thousands of rockets launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Kristof compared Arab violence to terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan plotted inside Pakistan, the separatist movement of ETA Basques from Spain, and the bombings by the Irish Republican Army to secure freedom from Britain in Northern Ireland. Those attacks did not induce the type of overwhelming response Israel leveled on Hamas and innocents in Gaza, he reasoned.

He suggested, “Yet, slowly, almost imperceptibly, restraint helped make a path to peace possible. Moderation dampened extremism instead of fueling it.”

Kristof is not usually so naive. All of the terror unleashed by the IRA, ETA and Pakistan is no match for what Hamas sent to Israel—4,000 rockets in less than two weeks.  All of the terror unleashed by the IRA, ETA and Pakistan never had the intention of destroying a sovereign state. Hamas wants to eliminate Israel.

Without preconditions, Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinians in 2005. Hamas turned the strip into a rocket launching pad.

Palestinians repeatedly have rejected a two-state solution because it would mean recognizing Israel’s right to exist in secure borders. 

Until Hamas (as well as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority) accepts Israel’s existence, Kristof and other myopic observers will have to learn that their analogies to other conflicts offer a false equivalency to the reality on the ground.   

Thursday, June 3, 2021

A Year of Living Dangerously

A year of living cautiously is morphing into a year of complacency. A year of living casually. A year of living dangerously.

A semblance of pre-COVID normalcy returned to my life last Tuesday evening—the once monthly poker game resumed after a 15-month hiatus. All vaccinated, six friends played indoors at my house, without masks. Munchies were individually packaged pretzels, potato chips, popcorners. Even leftover Halloween chocolates (leftover from 2019—still good if you like chocolate). 

Over the Memorial Day weekend Gilda and I attended in-temple services for the first time in nearly a year and a half. We visited a museum, ate outdoors on the deck of a restaurant, had dinner inside friends’ homes not once, but twice.

A return, however tentative, to normalcy. For us. 

For the rest of American society, however, it seems memory of nearly 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 is no reason to be careful. Over the Memorial Day weekend, bars were packed with boisterous, unmasked patrons. Restaurants were full. Theme parks were crowded. Movie theaters played to near capacity. Stadiums and arenas were full of roaring fans. 

Despite warning from health officials that the pandemic is not over, caution has been discarded to vent a year of pent up demand for pleasure. 

2021 has become a year of living dangerously. 

Dangerous not just from virus transmission but from man’s seemingly insatiable need to harm others. Sheltering in place in 2020 had a silver lining: fewer mass shootings. 2021, on the other hand, has been awash in blood from the more than one a day mass shootings that have returned in a vengeance. Innocents have been annihilated and injured, along with anyone unfortunate enough to have been part of a grievance, legitimate or not, with a shooter. 

One would think that a nation bathed in blood would push to stem the evil tide. Rather, states controlled by Republicans have rushed to make gun possession easier. Texas, for one, approved a slew of laws which, in the words of Governor Greg Abbott, made the Lone Star state a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary State.” 

The Dallas Morning News reported, “Hotel guests could soon pack a gun in with their luggage. School marshals could carry one in the classroom. And firearm-criticizing companies could forget about doing business with Texas. (

The indecency of a return to the Wild, Wild West is being played out in less lethal actions. Long cooped up in their homes and man caves, effervescent sports fans have disparaged players, on visiting and even home teams, at a pace seemingly structured to make up for lost opportunities. 

The casual conduct of far too many makes careful planning a must for those with respect for science, their own health and that of anyone else. 

Carrying a mask at all times, wearing it when entering a store or restaurant, is still Gilda’s and my standard operating procedure. 

Pity the “poor” retail, restaurant and service industry worker who no longer feels safe because mask requirements have been relaxed in light of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines permitting the vaccinated to go barefaced in most indoor locations. 

“The effect of the change appears to be most acute in politically mixed or conservative areas, where many people have chafed at mask requirements and vaccination rates are lower. In liberal enclaves, where public support for masking has generally been high, many customers continue to wear masks whether or not they are required.

“In mixed and conservative areas, workers said, employer policies were often the only thing standing between them and customers who were neither masked nor vaccinated. As a result, they feel far more exposed now,” The New York Times reported.

Masks and vaccinations have become part of our “normal” political discourse. How sad. 

Moreover, the historical record of our country is being whitewashed to reflect conservative doctrine. A former Republican U.S. senator says on a CNN news show, “We (meaning colonial whites) birthed as a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,” dismissing the heritage of the hundreds of Indigenous peoples tribes living in North America, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Black slaves in the 13 colonies; a Republican congressman photographed manning the door of the House of Representatives to prevent insurgents from entering the chamber says there was no deadly riot on January 6; just weeks before the centennial of the Tulsa massacre of Blacks, the governor of Oklahoma signed into law a bill that would ban “the state’s schools from teaching about notions of racial superiority and racism.”

Oklahoma is not alone,” wrote Hannibal B. Johnson in The Times. “This bill is part of a national movement aimed at racial retrenchment, a backlash against the embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion. And this state is not alone, either, in the way this backlash threatens to prevent us from confronting and repairing the sins of the past. Though the Tulsa Race Massacre may be distinguished by its scale, American history between the end of Reconstruction and the victories of the civil rights movement is marked by bouts of mass anti-Black violence.”

As a nation we have to ask ourselves, “What is normal?” Has the Trump factor so warped our senses, our sense of right and wrong, our sense of truth versus falsehood, our sense of honor? Has it become “normal” to disparage people rather than simply disagree with their ideas? Has it become “normal” to see conspiracy in every corner of our government? Will claims of unsubstantiated “election fraud” be our new “normal,” forever casting doubt on the legitimacy of elected officials?

We are living in dangerous times.