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Thursday, August 30, 2012


After hearing innumerable 'Republican' politicos dilate on their, or, more often, their parents'--and still more often, their grandparents'--hardscrabble backgrounds, coming from nothing, basement apartments, tuna casseroles, etc., etc., ad nauseam, it occurred to me: if these bozos actually believe that being born poor and having to work hard for all they, or their families, now have is a virtue in and of itself, then they're only half-right at best. As with nearly everything with humans (including the DNA we inherit) so much depends on what we make of it! If either they, their parents or grandparents, came from nothing and worked their way up to wealth and power, why--literally--in God's Name are they pulling up the ladders to such success behind them?! Or is that actually the reason? Do they consider their families' success to be so precarious that they're afraid of those who would otherwise follow and they conceal their fears behind their hardscrabble anecdotes? Or, maybe, having heard these stories at a tender age, were they frightened by them (that is, by the idea what they now had could be taken away and then even they, the children, would have to go down the coalmines or into the mills), never outgrew that terror and, hence, are determined it'll never happen to them again? Or do they actually believe they inherit even their parents' or grandparents' presumptive virtue as a result of their way up the ladder? That last is so preposterous, even for 'Republicans', that I hesitated over it--but in 2012, who knows?
One thing none of them seem to mention, or maybe weren't told about, were those friends of their folks who, for one reason or another, fell by the wayside and never made it to the middle class or higher. Surely they had such friends; why didn't they mention them if only as cautionary examples? Are all these families so persuaded of their own superior virtue? Regardless of what they think, they're sure acting as if they really do believe that about their families and themselves. And since it looks that way, I have a hard time thinking of any group (except sociopaths and psychopaths) to be less trusted anywhere near governmental power, whether elective or appointive, than this lot! My own mother grew up poor until she was (I think) about fourteen or fifteen; so did many of the kids with whom she went to school at P.S.#221 and Tilden High School. Today, she is a pediatric oncologist recently retired from leading her department at a nationally known children's hospital. But I know of no one from her classes (including herself) who believes in their own exceptional 'virtue'; most of them remember and respect the people who helped them along the way. All her friends and relations from her girlhood I've ever known were, or still are, in favor of strengthening and broadening the upward ladders; all of them execrate the very idea of chopping them down! And this sentiment isn't just something I inherited but it's been reinforced through my adult lifetime almost every time I looked round to see how others besides myself were doing--and I think that's all I should write about that as I've no desire to vaunt myself herein.
A pair of sayings of G.K. Chesterton's are, I think, relevant here. 1)"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." 2) "Satan fell through force of gravity." And not Newtonian, either, but the kind which turns one's mouth's corners determinedly downward. If these scribes and Pharisees of today really believe (and from their actions, it is only too clear that they do) in their, and/or their families', exceptional virtue, the best thing we can do for our country (and maybe for the souls of our Pharisees as well) is vote them all--and I mean all; let none survive as an officeholder or candidate--out of office by as wide margins as we can honestly manage and don't let them or their descendants anywhere near political power for at least forty years! And this applies whether they have 'religious' affiliations or not. The disqualifier is not any set of religious beliefs but a belief in their own superior 'virtue', or that of their families. If a hardscrabble backgound produces such a misguided belief, it's very wrongly construed. If, on the other hand, it feeds a desire to make things not as hard for those that follow, and enable more to follow, then that is a blessing of such antecedents.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Without the Jews, without Israel, what would their land be now? Nothing. That's right--nothing.
It would be no different than the desolate, denuded and depopulated stretch of desert which Mark Twain described so vividly in Innocents Abroad.
When Twain published this book in 1870, there were no more then 250,000 people scratching out profoundly bare livings(if that) in what is today Israel proper PLUS Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Fifty years later, in 1920, the population had doubled. Now why would this have happened? The Arabs of 1920 were no better nourished (and, hence, more resistant to diseases) than those of 1870. Nor had Western medicine penetrated in what became the Palestine mandate. So--whence the increase?
Because the Jews had started coming back, that's why. And they brought jobs and business opportunities. Which, in turn, brought in Arab immigration as well. Also, the Jews started returning 15 years before Herzl's Congress of Basel in 1897.
So both the Arab and the Jewish populations increased by immigration--so that by 1920, Eretz Israel was populated by 500,000 'Arabs' and about 75,000 Jews. And between 1920 and 1948 (the 'Mandate' years) Arab immigration continued to be a bit more than Jewish immigration: 558,000 'Arabs'; 498,000 Jews. By 1948, the Palestine mandate contained 650,000 Jews and 1.2 million Arabs. Nearly all this population, both Jewish and Arab, had immigrated to Eretz Israel within the previous sixty years!! The 'Arab' population has no greater right to Eretz Israel than do the Jews and I for one say that the only way they have equal rights to the land is if they wake up and recognize the Jews as their brethren. For that, according to the work done by Tsvi Misinai in his Engagement Project, is exactly what they are!! Misinai has taken DNA samples from a large section of the 'Arab' population of Israel, etc. and found Jewish--not Edomite, not even ancient Hebrew or Israelite, but Jewish--DNA 'markers' on better than ninety percent of the 'Arab' population!!
Which gives rise to an interesting question: why did these 'Arabs' immigrate to 'Palestine' as opposed to their neighbors in Cairo, Damascus, Jiddah and so on? By the time they came to 'Palestine' they were, on the surface, indistinguishable from their Arab neighbors. When life came back into the Holy Land from Europe, was their something in these 'Arabs'' DNA or, more likely, their unconscious, which said, 'Time to go home'?
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I hope I can venture even Mitt Romney was at least not wrong to say, 'Culture makes all the difference'. The 'Palestinians' (with the apparent exception of Salam Fayyad and his acolytes) are far more interested in murdering their brethren than in building their own institutions. I just pray (literally) the 'Palestinians' haven't been completely ruined by being part of such a death-deifying culture!
I expect this post to infuriate a large number of people on both sides for many different reasons. But allow me to ask this question, which is especially addressed to all those who have begun to walk with, and know, G-d: isn't one of the things He is at least likely to do is to bring enemies to a face-off and then somehow arrange for the 'masks' to be removed and have brethren rediscover each other as such? To me (and, not meaning to boast, G-d graciously walks with me) it is very much something the G-d I know would do: part of His ways is often to either stand our preconceptions on their heads OR to knock them ninety degrees askew. I also invite my readers to check my facts (they can all be googled) and also to look up Tsvi Misinai and the Engagement Project. It's all there; it's all true.
Finally, however unlikely it may seem, I'd advise the Israeli government to prepare to 'assimilate' as many 'Palestinians' as may be possible to do over any period of time. The Haredi population might prove of considerable help in this, I'll venture! Or, in an Israel that needs all the secularity it can get right now, would that prove counterproductive? I don't know, so I'll leave those judgments to those on the ground of Israel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Elites are on my mind today: cultural, economic and those who, at first glance, appear to belong to both but, on closer inspection, still by and large act as members of the cultural elite. The (Paul) Newman family looks like a good example of this to me: Paul was, and Joanne Woodward and their family are, unquestioned members of both the cultural and economic elite. However, they still behave much more like members of the cultural elite than the purely economic elite: so far as I know Newman's Own still donates all its profits to charities and I imagine they pay their taxes pretty scrupulously too. Their primary class ties appear to be, still, with the community of media artists--that is, with those that follow the same professions by which the Newmans made their money in the first place. They don't seem to have ties with 'money' per se.
And this is true, by and large, of most members of the cultural elite. It is also true that most members of the cultural elite liberally defined as such are not among the economic elite. But those who become part of the economic elite as well (such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barbra, Oprah, etc.) still define themselves as members primarily of the cultural elite. Thankfully, they correctly see themselves as not having common political interests with the crooked three-card monte dealers now running the banks and Wall Street nor with the earth-rippers of the fossil fuel businesses but with fellow artists, educators and conservers. In this they are joined by some business builders (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind) and a healthy share of inventors, scientists and other technogeeks. I say if someone builds a business doing what they know and love, they will usually continue to identify themselves as that particular 'occupation' rather than as someone who got rich, regardless of how rich they actually become--and, hence, their politics will not change with growing wealth. And it is the cultural elite which shows, by far, many more of the traits which we in the West associate with an authentic elite: the traits covered by the wonderful phrase noblesse oblige, the anchoring and other strengthening of the ladders by which they themselves climbed so that an increasing number of talented and hardworking people can follow them up, arising from the understanding that as more real talent arises and as we increase our renewable resources--we all become richer, and not just monetarily either!
If a business person becomes an honest success doing something they can respect and enjoy, they too can become members of the authentic elite. Uncle Warren looks like that to me. Another part of the authentic elite is what's called 'old gold'--here, families such as the Adamses, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Kennedys, etc. I would also include public servants who actually seek to serve all their constituents in this designation.
To me, the counterfeit elite are those who did what they did only, or even mostly, in order to get rich. Then they flaunt their ill-gotten gains even as they seek to pull up the ladders by which they climbed because, whether they admit it or not, they are consumed by fear of those who might climb after them and devour them in turn! Those who know or suspect they're really 'nothing special' except for their money (hey, Trumpty Dumpty!) are the worst in this respect--Trump, Romney, Ryan, Stossel, Hannity, Limbaugh, Koch, etc. Fred Trump was a more authentic member of the elite than his son is!
I have no problem with anyone wanting to improve their monetary lot by honest hard work and/or real talent. I have lots of problems with those who seek to do so by means of legal theft and then claim elite status by virtue of their ill-gotten gains and then seek to pull up the ladders behind them and try to buy our government and convert it into their scapegoat as they increasingly impoverish the rest of us!
Every human society has, and will always have, an elite. The question is and should always be: what does the elite add to (or take from) the general well-being of society? To sum up (I hope!): an authentic elite cares for more than fattening its pockets and, when the society which enriches them in the first place may require it, is prepared to forgo such fattening for a time--because their status as elite members relies only secondarily on their wealth. The primary staff of their elite membership is their ability to continue to exercise, and exercise well, those strengths or talents which brought them into the elite in the first place. And that's also why the counterfeit elite must continually, unremittingly, fatten its pockets (and increasingly to society's detriment) or lose its elite standing altogether. The authentic elite may advise those lower down to make do at need, but not to the point of 'want of necessaries', to use an appropriately Dickensian phrase. The counterfeit elite will say even to children, 'thou shalt starve ere I starve'--and they always, or nearly always, fancy themselves a few steps away from starvation themselves!
Last point, I promise: the authentic elite remembers the struggle of early days and seeks to mitigate it for those that come after as they look and listen for real talent and a real variety of voices. The counterfeits seek to do the opposite and seek to convert our country into their country club and comfy echo chamber. I hope and believe our authentic elite mirrors our desire and our spirit far better than the counterfeit elite!

Monday, August 13, 2012


This is an open letter to all who consider themselves part of the 'religious' Right.
First, I'd like to say that if you know our common Scriptures as well as you claim (you certainly make a great show of it, something I recall our Lord warning his hearers against) then you also know that while Scripture contains hundreds of references to the poor (especially in warnings or diatribes against those who 'grind the faces of the poor' and/or 'sell them for a pair of sandals', etc., etc.) while it contains barely a half-dozen on homosexuality. And the 'relationships' condemned by Peter and Paul are directed against the Jerry Sanduskys of their time, not against pairs of consenting adults. And the only place where the sin of Sodom is defined, it is defined as follows: 'She (Sodom) was arrogant, overfed and unconcerned with the poor and needy.'
But let that aspect go for the moment. What really riles me is that the lot of you, apparently, have indeed sold the poor for a pair of (Gucci?) sandals! Some of you will wail and waul your denial and use your line that you only want caring functions to be handled by the church as was purportedly the case before F.D.R. ruined those oh-so-good old days with the completely awful New Deal! Well, if the churches were organized to handle such functions in a fair fashion instead of sporadically and spottily, would the New Deal even have been necessary? And nearly everyone except the biped dragons already sleeping on beds of 'plunder' agreed at the time, it was indeed very necessary.
However, could it be you've organized yourselves better since then? Are you, and the other churches, synagogues, masjids and temples organized enough to help the poor, sick and aged on a reasonably regular basis? And with voluntary contributions for these express purposes? Were you so, maybe that would be worth a try. But I suspect something else, considering what snakes your polemically political clergy are by and large: I have strong suspicion that your leaders intend to use such a scheme as a backdoor way to get their greedy, oily hands on tax monies--which they'd then use for purposes anything but charitable!!
How can you persuade me otherwise? Are you non-coercively charitable? That is, are you using charity as just a way to increase your flocks and incomes? Or are you ready to aid all, without pushing your beliefs on anyone? If you can show me you are, then I'll listen. Then again, why should you care? After all, who the heck am I to you? Just a 'fellow Christian' who considers the lot of you as pawns of today's Belshazzars and moneychangers and, hence, desecrating our Father's House again by reconverting it into a den of thieves!! The whip is being braided which will drive you and your real masters out of our Father's House, so consider yourselves warned: show real fruits of repentance or, sooner than you probably expect, you'll feel cats o' nine curling about your shoulders as your masters' benches are overturned. Show me I'm wrong and I will desist, but I'll say right now I don't expect you to pay a nanosecond of attention. Which will, in and of itself, reinforce for me and many, many others who your masters really are!!

Monday, August 6, 2012


That we progressives have serious work ahead of us in order to re-elect the President, vote out as many Smackwaters (aka Tea Partiers) as possible from both Congress and the state legislatures and replace them with progressives, is obvious. But even when (I'll be bold here) our efforts pay off on November 6, that will not be time to stand down. No, the real work will still be ahead of us regardless of who wins the election. A Democratic victory will make that work easier (not to mention it'll save our country from the resurgent Slave Power) but will by no means remove the necessity for it.
As of this moment, the polls tell us that 90 percent of us have already made up our minds which way we'll vote. But one thing we don't know is, even assuming the courts do their duty and strike down the odious voter ID laws passed by the Slave Power's minions, what percentage of those eligible will vote? If I recall correctly, some 64 percent of us voted in 2008. Far fewer voted in 2010, which gave us a House and too many state legislatures controlled by the Slave Power. This needs very much to change, and it's a change we, as progressives, must bring about. We need to increase voter turnout bigtime and across-the-board, for all elections from local to national.
How can we do that? We should probably start by looking over the registrations and seeing who's voted recently and who hasn't. In any case, our target here is those who haven't voted, either recently or for a while. We-you-coming-to-get, P.J.!! We need to find out who and where the non-voters are and ask them why haven't they voted for x amount of time. If their answers run along lines such as 'My vote makes no difference' or 'Big money buys the election anyway' or 'What's the difference?'--there's our 'target market'! Next, we ask our non-voters as to what would bring them to the polls. If they want their votes to at least have a chance of making a difference, find out the difference they'd want their votes to make. If the difference they want to make is largely in line with the changes our country badly needs--the repair and renewal of infrastructure, including educational and the 'greening' of it so that we rev up the switch to cleaner, renewable energies, the democratizing of capital and the economy, the shoring up of the wall between religion and the state (and the encouragement of state secularizers abroad) and above all the bypassing and then the breaking of the power of big money over our electoral process--then these are the people we want to organize!
We'll have to begin with a hard truth: the only way to counter the power of big money is with relational power. We all need to spread the message and do whatever we can to help these citizens organize. Yes, it's work. But maybe many of us can find some time to do less of such work than if we were doing it fulltime. And we may have to make time for the sharing of the message and the forming of relationships which will form the 'threads' in the 'honeycomb weave' of the progressive network we need to form. There are many progressive organizations that can help in this work--if they reach outside of the 'silos' into which many have put themselves and look beyond their particular pursuits and/or passions. This too is essential; we all need to work together. The cords of strong, honest and respectful relationships are what can form a strong progressive network that can both pull the Democrats away from Wall Street back towards Main Street and also be an independent progressive constituency. Next, we agree that too much money spent puts any candidate under suspicion of trying to play the squid (hiding his/her real agenda) automatically. The two essentials of such a network are active and respectful engagement with our fellow citizens and thinking for ourselves. Both are work, but if more of us do it, we each need to do less. And part of engagement can be asking each other the kind of questions that will encourage us to question the images fed to us by political admen. This is work, but if we want to not only keep what democracy we have but to make it flourish again, perhaps as it never has before, it is necessary work and we must all do our part! If we have it in us to do this, we could have a progressive, nationwide, local-to-national-office campaign ready for 2016 and, God willing, we may retake the Democratic party that year!
I can already hear a lot of snide observations from hammocks, followed by the clink of ice cubes as the cynics down another on the rocks. Let's try and prove them wrong, shall we? Let's get rolling on the real work ahead--now. Right now.