Monday, July 31, 2023

Bewildering Times in U.S. and Israel

That Donald Trump enjoys a seemingly insurmountable lead over Ron DeSantis among likely Republican primary voters in a New York Times/Sienna College poll is not surprising. The Trumpster outpolls his main challenger among all demographic and ideological Republicans (

The most fascinating finding to me was their head to head scores on the question of morality. Forty-five percent think the Florida governor is more moral than Trump. I can see that. DeSantis projects a certain All-Americanism: married to the same woman, nice looking kids, nothing outrageous in the way he walks, talks, dresses, does his thick, dark hair. 

Compared to DeSantis, Trump has 30 more years of eating KFC buckets to explain his girth. He’s also used those decades for two more marriages and divorces, plus an unknown number of out of wedlock liaisons, failed businesses, countless civil lawsuits and now federal and state criminal litigations. All that and more. 

Yet, 37% think he is more moral that DeSantis.  

As Nate Cohen explained in an accompanying analysis in The Times, “The MAGA base doesn’t support Mr. Trump in spite of his flaws. It supports him because it doesn’t seem to believe he has flaws.” 

He is truly the Teflon Don. “Only 19 percent of the electorate said Mr. Trump’s behavior after his 2020 defeat threatened American democracy. And only 17 percent see the former president as having committed any serious federal crimes, despite his indictment by a federal grand jury on charges of mishandling classified documents and his receipt of a so-called target letter in the separate election interference case being brought by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith,” The Times reported. 

Which begs the question—have these Republicans forgotten what they learned, or what they were supposed to have learned, in school? 

My friend Arthur, who served our government for more than three decades, had the following comment after watching a CSPAN newscast of Trumpsters on line to attend Trump’s rally in Erie, PA, Saturday night:

“All I could think is that civics has not been taught in the American educational system for the past 30-years. These are decent people, many veterans. So clueless about what a Republic is; what Federalism is; what is checks and balances; how Trump is a threat to their receiving Social Security, a pension, and Medicare benefits. 

“So clueless that immigrants pick the vegetables that  they buy in Walmart; so clueless that immigrants work the Tysons poultry line, the chicken they buy at Costco; so clueless that immigrants work the take out coffee window at McDonald’s.

“What is so ironic is that many on line in Erie are veterans and don’t understand that Trump is such a threat to American democracy—the ideal for which they fought and bled overseas!!”

These indeed are bewildering times. Not just in America but in Israel, as well. Anti-Bibi observers, as I am, denounce his government’s watering down the power of the Supreme Court to use “reasonable judgement” to overturn government actions. Massive demonstrations, including threats by reservists to boycott military duty, could not prevent Bibi’s right wing and religious coalition from passing what it considers to be judicial reform legislation. 

On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that opposition to Netanyahu’s forces is a form of military coup. Take a few minutes to read the following: (

Now that you’ve absorbed that point of view, here’s a lawyer’s analysis of Israel’s predicament first published in The Algemeiner: ( 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Witch Hunt? A Catskill Festival; Bird Talk

Even as we wait to see if Donald Trump will face additional federal and state charges, an unsettling quote appeared in an article dealing with the trial of a defendant associated with The Donald’s presidential initiative to build a border wall. There in black and white was the cringeworthy nightmare special counsel Jack Smith, along with his legal team and all who seek convictions of Donald Trump in any litigation, must fear. 

“Eleven jurors told Judge Torres that the 12th had refused to deliberate, called them ‘liberals’ and referred to the trial as ‘a government witch hunt’” (

That quote alluded to the first trial of Timothy Shea that ended in a mistrial. A second trial convicted him of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and falsifying records. 

To achieve a conviction for the federal offenses lodged or to be lodged against Trump, a unanimous verdict is required. If any one of the dozen of Trump’s “peers” shares his belief in a government witch hunt, no amount of evidence will produce a guilty verdict. 


Oy Gevalt: How is it that organizers of the 1st Annual Borscht Belt Fest celebrating Jewish comedy, cuisine and culture in the Catskills chose July 29–a shabbat!!!—for their festival?

True, many patrons of Catskill hotels during their heyday of the 1940s-1970s were less than religiously observant. Still, it is more than slightly chutzpadik to hold the festival on a Saturday, the Jewish sabbath. 

Do you think they did that so attendees wouldn’t have to contend with the Sunday traffic back to the city, as our parents and grandparents did? 

“Dirty Dancing” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are trigger points for reconstructing the Catskill experience. For my money, however, three other films provide more fulfilling depictions of summer life “in the mountains:” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Taking Woodstock,” and “A Walk on the Moon.” 

A Little Crowing: The other day I lamented the fact that other media, especially The New York Times, often beat me into print despite my having the same news hook a day or days before. 

Well, here’s a little celebratory crowing—The Times ran a story last week about birds building nests with the very metal spikes property owners lay down to discourage their presence (

Readers of my blog back on March 26, however, would have already been apprised of metal spike inefficiency in warding off bird nests ( 

Is there a universal bird language?  How is it that within minutes of my putting out fresh food birds descend on the feeder? Not just sparrows, but cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, morning doves, and chickadees? 

These aren’t birds of a feather that flock together. So why do they congregate en masse within minutes of the first bird finding today’s meal? Perhaps they have a secret method of communication. Here’s a playlist of bird calls from The Times: (

Twitter-less: Shortly after Elon Musk bought Twitter I stopped posting on the medium. Not that my presence on Twitter made the site must reading. Nor did it do anything for my blog’s readership.  

I simply registered my personal disagreement with Musk’s policies. I am even more convinced my action was correct with his latest decree to strike the blue bird insignia in favor an “X.” Here’s an analysis of why an X has been incorporated into various brands: ( 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

We Can't Afford to Forget

 “When it’s finally over.

When the nightmare is done.

When he’s finished.

When he is gone.

I don’t EVER 

want to hear 

his name again.


Those words appeared on a friend’s Facebook page next to a picture from the back of a black-suited Donald Trump walking slightly hunched over through a doorway. 

Those words reflect a sentiment many anti-Trumpers feel. And yet, as much as I want to see him disappear from the public discourse, I felt obligated to contribute my reaction to the posting: 

“As much as I usually agree with you, we need to keep his name in our vocabulary as an example of someone who would pervert our nation for his own ego and benefit at the expense of our fundamental constitutional rights,” I wrote.

Sadly, Trump no longer is an anomaly among Republicans. He has managed to instill in Republican elected officials and party regulars a loathing of the truth, for what their eyes clearly saw happening January 6, for what they said at the time. Trump has been their vessel for disbelief in the sanctity of the electoral process, of our belief in the legitimacy and objectivity of our judicial system, of our appreciation for law enforcement organizations, of our dedication to precepts that have guided American supremacy for the last century. 

Just as we label disgraced Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy as a blight on our national heritage back in the early 1950s, so too must we designate Trumpism as a cancer on our country. 

How devilishly ironic that 70 years later another McCarthy, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of California, has attained a position of responsibility in our government that he has squandered in pursuit of power. He has forsaken the truths he expressed during the Trump-inspired insurrection at the Capitol.

We cannot afford to forget the evils Donald Trump has dumped on our country, even at the expense of saying and hearing his name over and over and over.

Day of Reckoning: Monday is sizing up to be a day of reckoning in Israel. As I write this, it is still uncertain if Bibi Netanyahu’s government will vote for the required third and final time to overhaul the country’s judicial system. 

There is something repulsively unseemly when the prime minister of Israel takes his leadership cues from the likes of Viktor Mihály Orbán of Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia. Each of them have undermined democracy in their countries including neutering their legal systems. 

There is no disputing the fact that Bibi’s government has the legal right to act. Its majority in the Knesset is four votes. The debate has been about the moral legitimacy of the vote and subsequent actions it could engender. 

If passed, the legislation would make it less likely that Israel’s Supreme Court could invalidate laws and action Bibi’s hard right and religious coalition wants to implement that would stifle dissent, approve unrestrained settlement in the West Bank, deny religious freedom to non Orthodox Jewish sects, possibly strip Arab citizens of their voting rights and, most important personally to Netanyahu, quash criminal investigations of his actions. 

Even as the West anguishes about the return of anti-women rules in Afghanistan and Iran, occurrences that no knowledgeable, realistic observer should be surprised about as they are repressive regimes anchored in 8th century thinking as it applies to half of their populations, there are troubling vibes about how Israel’s judicial changes would affect women.

The Israeli left wing newspaper Haaretz recently reported, “Protesters warn that the government’s plans to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate’s authority will damage the status of women in Israel. These plans include a bill that would expand the powers of rabbinical courts to adjudicate in civil matters, and a bill which would strip municipal rabbis of their independence” (for more details on proposed rules to control women, click on this link: 

Monday will be the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Three days later, the 9th of Av, commemorates the day in 586 BCE and again in 70 CE that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans. To many Israelis and friends of a liberal, democratic Israel, the 6th of Av might well be imbued with an equal sadness if the Knesset passes judicial reform they believe will strip Israel of its soul and standing as a light unto all nations. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Follow-ups on the News of the Week

The decision Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration to approve an over the counter birth control pill is not in itself a lifeline (I know—it’s a poor choice of word) for those seeking an easy, convenient, non-prescription means of avoiding pregnancy, especially for those women stuck in states that have banned medically induced abortions of unwanted pregnancies. 

The mass availability of OTC birth control pills will depend on the sustained courage of retailers to carry the product in the face of possible boycotts by conservative religious and anti-abortion activists and those who believe teenagers should not be allowed access to the pills without parental permission. 

Retailers and suppliers already have lost sales after offending special interest groups. Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light beer, once the best selling brew in the country, fell from that perch after an ad campaign featured transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Anti-LGBTQ groups attacked Target for its Pride Month merchandise campaign. 

Opill, from Dublin, Ireland-based Perrigo Company, will not be available until 2024. Expect negative reactions to build starting from today’s announcement (

Procrastination: I don’t think I’ve told you this before, but I’m a procrastinator by nature. The first segment of this blog notwithstanding, unless I have a deadline with unbearable consequences if not met, I often let my news commentary slide. 

Even though I want to write blogs, I don’t need to. It’s not as if you are paying to read my thoughts. I would imagine most people who read my blog also read The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal. That’s a lot of journalistic manpower and brainpower that I have to compete with. 

Thus, while I began writing a blog Monday on Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s pressure-packed position now that Donald Trump has sought to sloooooow down his trial, I dragged my feet, er, my typing fingers, long enough for The Times (and possibly other media) to chronicle the same theme. 

It’s tough competing against all those journalists, especially when my reward is just self-fulfillment. At least I get the satisfaction of knowing my editorial instincts remain as sharp as any paid performer. 

Pressure on Judge Cannon must be intense. Does she bow to the liege (and master?) who appointed her to the federal bench or does she commit to the Constitution and principle that no one is above the law and that everyone should be entitled to equal justice? 

Known for his delaying tactics in cases in which he is a defendant, Trump has asked Judge Cannon to postpone the start of his trial until after the 2024 election. He’s hoping to win the presidency and dismiss the charges against him. It’s a tactic anyone in his predicament would pursue. 

But Judge Cannon has to weigh the public good. Assuming a verdict would be reached before Election Day if the trial began in early 2024, aren’t voters entitled to know if they would be casting a ballot for a convicted felon or someone judged not guilty (not necessarily innocent, as it takes only one dissenting juror to thwart a guilty verdict by the 11 other jurors)? 

The consequences for our democratic government are enormous. One need only look to Israel to see what can happen to a democracy if a leader is elected whose only interest is keeping himself in power and out of jail.  

Weight Loss: Gilda and I record for later viewing virtually everything we watch on television, from the evening news to Saturday Night Live to most sporting events to PBS shows. Aside from making viewing more accommodating to our schedule it also enables us to fast forward through commercials. 

One ad in particular elicits a most negative reaction, even in fast forward mode. You might, make that probably, have seen it, as it airs during most newscasts. It features an overweight woman singing about the benefits of Jardiance. 

I was an early user of Jardiance, not because I was overweight. Rather, my cardiologist prescribed Jardiance as an alternative to my existing blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Well, after two months my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers stayed the same, but I lost six pounds.  

Losing weight was not on my bucket list. I already was thin. So after talking with my internist and cardiologist I stopped taking Jardiance. 

Kosher at Sea: Other news items have overtaken media frenzy over the loss of the submersible Titan with its five passengers on their way down to the Titanic. 

But did you know kosher meals were served on the Titanic?  And on other ship lines crossing the Atlantic? ( 

As we’re on the subject of kosher food, here’s a question to be pondered: Is laboratory created chicken meat kosher? 

CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on 

laboratory-grown chicken this past Sunday. It looked like only white meat was produced, but more to the point, would it be kosher? There’s no slaughtering involved, just harvesting meat from giant vats (

Continuing on this philosophical religious bent, now that we have elected an Afro-American and our second Catholic as president, are we any closer to choosing a Jewish commander-in-chief, not that any political member of the tribe readily jumps to mind as a potential candidate? 

No, I’d say that with extremist Christian nationalist on the rise, the prospect of a Jewish president, or even vice president, has been back burnered for decades.  

Here’s a similarly themed excerpt from a recent David French opinion piece in The Times: “Arguments for a “Christian nationalism” are increasingly prominent, with factions ranging from Catholic integralists to reformed Protestants to Prophetic Pentecostals all seeking a new American social compact, one that explicitly puts Christians in charge.”

It took 172 years from George Washington’s first election victory for voters to break from choosing a Protestant as president by electing a Catholic, John F. Kennedy. Sixty years passed before a second Catholic, Joseph Biden, became president. 

A Jewish president? Not in my lifetime. 

Friday, July 7, 2023

Correcting the Record; Ukraine as a Domino?

Several of my classmates, including one injured in a high school chemistry lab experiment gone wrong, corrected my description of the blow-up in a recent blog. The demonstration was to show how water and sodium reacted together, not, as I mistakenly wrote, water and hydrochloric acid. 

Our teacher, Julius Nash, was not trained as a chemistry instructor. Biology was his area of expertise, but he was drafted into teaching chem by the school administration. At the time, few in our class, including me, extended to him the respect he deserved. We did not know of his battle against McCarthyism in the New York City public school system. 

Mr. Nash’s back story in my blog, and in a separate note to my classmates, elicited many responses, including the following from one of the injured:

“For some strange reason, on that fateful day, I departed from my usual custom of sitting in the back of the lab where I would be working on the NY Times crossword puzzle, and moved to the front. Others in the class moved up (at Mr. Nash’s invitation) to better view the experiment, but I was the closest. Mr. Nash proceeded to take a chunk of sodium–a rectangular piece about 1” x 2” x 1/2”–from a bottle in which it was covered by a viscous liquid (not water!) and dropped it with a tong into a beaker or small glass tank of water. Before doing so, the lab assistant (a really humble, kindly fellow whom we referred to as ‘Igor’), tapped Mr. Nash on the shoulder and, gesturing with his hand, whispered to use only a sliver. Mr. Nash confidently replied to him, ‘No. This is ok.’


“Nash then dropped the sodium into the water but nothing happened–apparently because it was still covered by the substance that was protecting it from combining with any other element. A few seconds passed and then the sodium started to bubble and suddenly exploded. Slivers of glass hit me in the face but fortunately not in my eyes. The ensuing combination of the sodium and the H2O—sodium hydroxide—covered my face including my eyes. One or two other students were also hit but less severely. 

“Separate and apart from this incident Mr. Nash had not been one of my better teachers, but had I known of his heroic stance during the McCarthy period I am certain I would have had a greater respect for him.”


More typical was this note: “I am fascinated by the information about his life prior to Flatbush.

“I just finished a book on the McCarthy Era and the sufferings of those in the entertainment fields. Actors, producers, writers and others in Hollywood and on Broadway suffered the same experience as Mr. Nash and other teachers. Many of them as well, had their careers and/or lives destroyed.”

Another wrote, “I feel privileged to have been a student of Mr. Nash.”

A third expressed what many felt: “I am stunned, and somewhat ashamed, that I had been so oblivious to Mr. Nash’s quiet personal heroism and political courage.”

Still another put the story into greater context: “I remember hearing when we were in high school that just about all our secular faculty were men and women who refused to sign the loyalty oath for New York City schools and hence lost their jobs. But this is a much fuller story, and I very much appreciate your sending it to us. We were surrounded by quiet heroes, Mr. Nash not the least of them.”

Is Ukraine a Domino?: Whomever becomes the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates will have to grapple with Ukraine’s fate. We know Joe Biden is all in, so The Times capsulized the positions of the GOP contenders ( To me, the would-be autocrat-in-chief’s comments are the most disturbing.

Donald Trump says there are parts of Ukraine where the residents speak Russian, so why not let Russia possess those areas.  

“I could’ve made a deal to (allow Russia to) take over something,” he has said. “There are certain areas that are Russian-speaking areas, frankly.”

Trumpist reasoning, if taken at face value, would find nothing wrong with China invading Taiwan. The Taiwanese, after all, speak Chinese. 

And while we are pondering linguistic geopolitics, Trump’s good friend Kim Jon Un could argue a takeover of South Korea would be nothing more than language unification. 

Consider what could happen to Switzerland. In areas adjacent to their borders Swiss nationals speak German, French or Italian. A veritable three course meal of annexation. 

Arabic is spoken throughout Northern Africa, albeit with different accents, similar to what we have in America, though in some parts of the South, such as New Orleans, it is difficult for a Northerner to communicate intelligently with someone from the Big Easy.  

The same spread of language across a continent could be said of Spanish in Latin and South America. Does Trump envision hegemony south of our border? 

Mindful readers will note I have not included anything about Africa south of the Sahara. I simply do not know enough of the spoken languages there, nor of the mostly artificial borders created when colonial empires dissolved, to make a cogent statement. I’ll have to wait for direction from the provocateur-in-chief before commenting. 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Parsing Words: Four Examples

 It’s not easy speaking or writing for public consumption. Here are recent examples that stopped me cold when I read or heard them:

After Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and his Wagner troops’ mini-revolt against the Kremlin fizzled, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said his country would be “stronger and more resilient.” “If someone in the West has doubts about this, then that’s their problem.” 

He also said, according to The New York Times, Ukraine’s supporters were “misguided if they hoped that ‘the facade of the Russian government had cracked.’”

Perhaps his adherence to the Putin party line would have been more convincing if he had not used the word “facade,” which is defined by Oxford Languages as “an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.” 

He might well have been better off substituting “foundation” for “facade” if he wanted to convey stability.

Perhaps I am the misguided. Maybe facade is the meaning he intended as it would be what Westerners believe Russia’s government is, just a facade for a dictatorship. 

I doubt I will be able to get clarification from Lavrov.

Second Example: In rejecting race-conscious admission practices in higher education, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said, “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race.”

How, in all credulity, could Roberts not appreciate that the “experiences” of Blacks and Latinos as individuals are almost exclusively grounded in their race? Stop and frisk tactics were disproportionally leveled against Blacks compared to whites. When seeking jobs, Blacks and Latinos often are judged even before they are seen because of their names, names they were given to honor their culture and ancestors. Pre-college education for most Blacks and Latinos occurs in schools that are not comparable to those of whites. They are underfunded, understaffed. 

You get, or should get, the message, so on to the next example.

Third Example: Listening to Sirius Radio’s Broadway station recently I heard what can only be described as a showstopper. 

At the conclusion of the song “The Battle of Yorktown” from the musical “Hamilton,” the Sirius host took a few moments to comment on her origins in the theatre in Yorktown and other regional playhouses in the Hudson Valley. She even wondered if the region north of New York City thad any historical places commemorating the colonial’s victory over the British at Yorktown. 

Sounds nice until one realizes that she conflated Yorktown, NY, with Yorktown, VA. 

Am I asking too much for intelligence about our nation’s founding?

Fourth Example: As sure as the sun rises in the east—even if you cannot see it given the haze descending on us from Canadian wild fires—any verbal or physical gaffe by Joe Biden will be highlighted by Fox News and other right wing media, even by some liberal outlets, as proof he is unfit for office and definitely too fragile and senile to be given another four year term as president. 

I don’t read or listen to most of the news or gossip about celebrities so I ask in complete earnestness—was there a hue and cry for Bruce Springsteen to retire after he fell off a stage during a recent concert in Amsterdam? He is, after all, in his eighth decade. Should a man of his age—73–be trusted to be singing and sweating and strutting around a stage without fear of imploding before our very eyes? 

I am not surprised that calls for Springsteen’s retirement never arose. 

Bruce means as much to millions as Biden does, though the gravitas of the presidency is more than a tad greater in importance to the health and welfare of our country and, by extension, the world. Yet when Biden stumbled at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony—admittedly not his first slippage (where’s SNL’s Chevy Chase when we need him?)—his detractors couldn’t wait to certify him unfit for office, much less for an encore four years. 

Media ignored Biden’s commencement address to focus on his tumble which, it should be noted, happened because someone put a sandbag in his direct path off the stage where he had stood for two hours in the sun saluting and shaking the hands of graduates.