Archive for the ‘POLITICS & THE ECONOMY’ Category

THE OTHER F-WORD

On December 17, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) stated re the upcoming trial of impeached president Donald Trump, “I’m not an impartial juror.” On January 16, Chief Justice John Roberts swore in the Senate. McConnell pledged to “do impartial justice.” Anyone for cognitive dissonance?

Then McConnell doubled down. Before preliminaries this past Tuesday, he asked, “Can we still put fairness, evenhandedness and historical precedent ahead of the partisan passions of the day?”

Alas, fair is a word generally honored in the breach. Trump’s trial likely will be a great deal less than fair to the American people. Procedures and voting will reflect near-total partisanship. It’s a given that Republicans will acquit Trump.

Personally, I believe Trump’s phone call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky constituted abuse of his office for personal political gain. This calls for removal from office. But I stress the word believe.

Impeachment is somewhat similar to indicting someone in a criminal case, although it’s a political matter and involves interpretation of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Still, an impeached president, like anyone indicted by a grand jury, remains innocent until proven guilty at trial. That’s fair.

Trial in the Senate roughly approximates a court trial although with major differences. It’s also political. And the 100 senators are not jurors like citizens summoned to render verdicts in criminal courts. Senators are not randomly selected but elected (or appointed) politicians. Prosecuting and defending teams cannot dismiss them at will (peremptory challenges, usually limited) or by showing cause( unlimited). Importantly, unlike criminal jurors, Senators vote on rules pertaining to the trial’s conduct.

Still, fairness demands that the Senate conduct itself according to criminal jury standards: Be open-minded, place the burden of proof on the prosecution, listen to and evaluate the evidence, put aside personal preferences.

So, in spite of what I believe, I consider Trump—whom, to be forthright, I find reprehensible—innocent until and unless the House impeachment managers make a convincing case. To be fair to justice, this may require witnesses and documents not available or requested during the impeachment process.

Citing the imprecise parallels with criminal trials, attorneys may call witnesses who did not testify before a grand jury. They and new evidence may clarify the case for either party by revealing truth.

Senator McConnell at best hedges. Republicans voted down Democratic-proposed amendments re subpoenas to secure new witnesses and documents now. The matter is tabled. Note that whether new witnesses and documents will help or hurt the impeachment management team remains open for discussion.

Still, Mitch McConnell wants to be fair—as he was fair to America by blocking a Senate hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court. According to McConnell, Obama had less than a year to go in his second term. A new president should have the right to fill the vacant seat. A sitting president in his last year should sit on his hands.

In the name of fairness, I propose a deal. Trump goes Scott-free without further prosecution. The Senate goes back to its regular business. In return, Trump, less than a year remaining in his term and no assurance of re-election, retreats to Mar-a-Lago and relinquishes the responsibilities of the Oval Office.

Given the integrity modeled by Mitch McConnell, nothing could be more fair.

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WHAT IS A JEW?

On December 11, President Trump held a Chanukah party at the White House where he signed an executive order combatting anti-Semitism. The New York Times reported that the order defines America’s Jews as sharing a national origin. It doesn’t. So what is a Jew?

The order relates to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on, among other things, national origin. But the order targets not discrimination against Jews but those who call for the delegitimization or destruction of Israel. It also states that federal agencies “shall not diminish or infringe upon any right protected under Federal law or under the First Amendment.” Confusing.

There should be no confusion that Jews are not defined by country of national origin. Many American Jews were born overseas. Most were born in the U.S.A. So what is a Jew?

To many Christians, a Jew is an adherent of the Jewish religion. But Judaism defines only part of the Jewish world. Most American Jews maintain no synagogue affiliation yet still identify as Jews.

Jews are a people. We’re joined not only by religion but any combination of secular factors such as family descent; shared history; use—even limited—of Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino or Jewish Arabic; Israel; humor; education and attitudes; and to no small extent food.

Jews do not constitute a race. For over 2,000 years, Judaism identified anyone born of a Jewish mother as a Jew. Four decades ago, the Reform movement accorded Jewish identity to children of non-Jewish mothers but Jewish fathers if the children received a Jewish education. In either case, the “other” parent can be of any ethnicity.

Sadly, genetics have doomed non-Jews. Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws  defined a Jew as anyone with one Jewish grandparent. Many “Jewish” Holocaust victims were Catholics or Protestants. In response, Israel’s Law of Return allows anyone with one Jewish grandparent to reside in the country, although he or she may not be considered Jewish by government-sanctioned religious authorities.

More reason to abandon the racial hypothesis: Anyone may convert to Judaism. At the recent Biennial of the Union for Reform Judaism, URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs pointed out, “Between 10 and 20 percent of North American Jews are Jews of Color.” Many are born-Jewish children and grandchildren of converts.

Anti-Semites, alas, will keep hating Jews, even if they have no idea what a Jew is, believes or stands for. Sadly, the White House again offered anti-Semites a measure of support.

When the president signed his executive order, guests included the evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress. An ardent supporter of Israel, Jeffress, like many evangelicals, believes that only when all Jews go to the Holy Land will Jesus return. Jews then can accept Jesus or go to hell. As Jeffress said in 2010, “You can’t be saved by being a Jew.”

I wonder how the president’s daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared and grandchildren take the news that they can’t go to heaven.

Here on earth, Jeffress’ and other pastors’ statements, made in the name of theology and thus supposedly above reproach, create an image of Jews as “less than.” As Chanukah nears, they not only fail to light a candle in the darkness, they add fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism the president claims he wants to put out.

Happy Chanukah, Marry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa—Peace!

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BLACK IS WHITE

In 1949, George Orwell published his iconic novel of dystopia, 1984. It presented the world divided into three with Orwell’s England part of Oceania, ruled by the tyrant—or perhaps an avatar—Big Brother. The key to Big Brother’s power was twisting language: war is peace, freedom slavery, ignorance strength. The two articles of impeachment brought against Donald Trump bring Orwell to mind.

On November 21st, Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle assessed Republicans’ take on the impeachment inquiry. The conservative writer Brent Bozell tried to undercut a witness who appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Sondland testified that yes, there was a quid pro quo. Bozell’s tweeted observation: “Listen to Sondland and you’ll understand why Americans elected Donald Trump to get rid of people like Sondland.”

Black for Bozell and countless others is white. Gordon Sondland, whom Donald Trump claimed not to know all that well—after Sondland testified—donated one million dollars to Trump’s inauguration. Hard to miss a guy like that. In turn, Trump appointed Sondland, who made his fortune with hotels, to his ambassadorial post. (Reminder: Wealthy donors with no experience in statecraft often receive such posts, sometimes critical ones, from presidents of either party.)

It appears that Americans had no intention of electing Trump so he could get rid of people like Sondland, because Sondland represents not the “deep state” but the moneyed state to which Trump caters.

And there is another Orwellian-type term: Deep state. This nation has—at least, had—a large roster of career professionals in the State and Defense Departments, among others. These folks, unlike Sondland, are not political appointees but career civil servants carrying out the nation’s business with hard-earned expertise.

But what better way to whip the far right into a frenzy than to claim a plot by these unelected professionals without whom the nation faces dissolving relationships with other countries, challenges to forming and maintaining economic and military alliances, and roadblocks to gathering intelligence regarding hostile nations and terrorist groups such as ISIS.

Then again, the far right believes in Fortress America going it alone. Yet for me, the image ofDeep Stateconjures not a threat by invisible men and women bent on violating our Constitution but the classic TV show, X-Files. The show loved conspiracies and portrayed a fictional deep with tongue in cheek.

During one meeting of the deep state’s small committee of movers and shakers, their leader, the Cigarette Man (played marvelously by William B. Davis), takes the group through the day’s order of business. In concluding, he insists that the Buffalo Bills never win the Super Bowl. Football fans got the joke. The Bills had appeared in four straight Super Bowls from 1991-94 and lost them all.

Now let’s go to last Monday. The Justice Department’s inspector general determined that the FBI had mishandled some of the processes regarding investigating foreign interference in the 2016 presidential campaign but the decision to investigate was proper and devoid of political prejudice. Trump’s response: The report was worse than he thought it would be. The FBI engaged in an “attempted overthrow” of the government.

So yes, black is white. Take it from the Oval Office. Or should I say, the Ellipsoid Headquarters of Alternative Reality?

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GOD SETS THINGS STRAIGHT

Days before Thanksgiving, energy secretary Rick Perry reassured Donald Trump that God mandated his election to the Oval Office. Perry told the president “. . . if you’re a believing Christian you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government.” As a Jew, I wondered. So I went to the Source.*

God anticipated my first question. “This guy wrote this book God’s Others. He says the Jewish view is, I’m the universalistic God—the God of all the earth—of a particularistic religion, in his case Judaism.’” This guy, I said.That’s me! “I figured you could use a plug. Anyway, long story short, I created the heavens and the earth and all humanity. Religion? Whatever’s comfortable. But no religion can claim to know it all. All I ever wanted from any religion was two things.”

What’s the first? I asked. “Go with some form of the Ten Commandments. Eleven? Twelve? That’s cool. The Jews, I gave 613. But you don’t have to have a formal list. Which means? “Just be good to each other. I said that in that old movie, Oh, God. Well, George Burns said it. Nice casting.”

And the second thing? “Be careful about claiming to speak for me.”

But Rick Perry said you put King David and King Solomon on the throne and like Trump, they were imperfect. “Perry—anyone—really knows what I was thinking? I saw potential in David and Solomon, and they delivered on some things. They also screwed up. Bigtime. David with the killing and the women. Solomon with the 300 wives and 500 concubines, and all those taxes. I didn’t let David build My Temple, and after Solomon died, his kingdom split in two. After that, I left people to their own choices—if and when they could make them. Know why?” No, why? I asked. “Parents have to let their children grow up.”

God was on a roll. “Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Kim Jong-un in power? Wasn’t me, either.”

But some Christians insist You made Trump president. “I fixed 63 million votes for Trump, 66 million for Hillary and six million or so for third-party-candidates? I made other voters stay home? You want a president, you elect him. Or her. You screw up? It’s on you. Besides, I have better things to do with My time.”

Like what? “Crewel work. There’s also My nightly mahjongg game with the heavenly host. You sound like my mother. Blanche is her own dynamic force and I respect that, so she sits in on Tuesdays. Sometimes, she lets Me win. In return, I keep your father Morris well-fed in My Great Deli in the Sky. Not to mention supplying him cigars ten times better than those four-for-a-buck Garcia-Vegas he had you pick up at the candy store when you were a kid.”

So then maybe you could . . . “Break the rules? Make you president so you can fly on Air Force One and on Chanukah light the national chanukiah in one of the White House’s front windows? I love to see you enjoy yourself, Dovidl, but fixing America’s elections is someone else’s shtick.”

You mean? “Yup. That job was seized by the Kremlin.”

*God’s comments constitute fiction and are not meant, in whole or in part, to represent God’s actual thoughts as related to me in confidence.

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CIRCLED WAGONS

Lindsey Graham (R.-So. Carolina), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a startling statement last Tuesday before flip-flopping on Wednesday. It revealed much about the impeachment inquiry and how a large segment of the country is circling the wagons.

Graham said he wouldn’t read the transcripts of closed-door hearings—open to Republican committee members—released by House Democrats. “I’ve written the whole process off . . . I think this is a bunch of B.S.” Translation: Evidence be damned. This mirrors the attitude of much of pro-Trump white rural America.

“To rural white conservatives,” Robert Leonard wrote in the New York Times (10-14), “their culture is being rubbed out right before their eyes.” Whites see themselves enduring religious prejudice. “Democrats have banned Jesus from the public sphere at great cost to society and the potential salvation of millions.”

Ethnic cleansing in America? Native Americans can sympathize.

Yet according to the Times (10-29), Ralph Drollinger, 65, founder of Capitol Ministries— “Making disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena”—has been teaching the Gospel to President Trump’s cabinet. So Christianity is very much present in the public sphere. That’s fine—when Bible classes take place before or after working hours.

Are whites really under the gun? Many in post-industrial and rural America are hurting economically. That’s bad for all of us. But examine the economic circumstances of many African Americans and Latinos. Whites now suffering the loss of jobs and hope long have had a great deal of company.

What whites seemingly can’t abide is their loss of majority status and its accompanying power. Who created Jim Crow? Rich whites have always controlled the nation’s wealth, leaving poor whites with one comfort: They could see themselves as superior to all other ethnic groups. Yet in a decade or two, whites will become a plurality—the nation’s largest minority.

If America’s minorities now enjoy increased visibility “at white expense,” the phenomenon is relatively recent. When I was a kid, only one TV show portrayed then-called Negroes—Amos & Andy. It originated as a hit radio show created and performed by whites. Only one TV show presented Jews—Gertrude Berg’s The Goldbergs. Other minorities? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Jewish characters in movies? Rarely. Jewish movie stars? Many, including Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, John Garfield, Judy Holliday, Lee J. Cobb and Shelly Winters—all assigned screen (non-Jewish) names.

To whites who support Donald Trump, who vowed they could again celebrate Christmas, I ask: Has America ever not? I rarely see anything in the media or the public square relating to Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religious holidays. Christmas in liberal, secular San Francisco? Inescapable.

The truth that frightens so many Trump supporters is this: Whiteness does not constitute the standard for good citizenship and patriotism. What part of “liberty and justice for all” is hard to understand?

Here, let me say that no white person should ever think he or she is second-rate. Condemning anyone for being white also constitutes racism.

So, will Jesus-fearing whites abandon their persecution complex? I don’t know. I do know that  America’s minorities have experienced the real horrors of racism and anti-Semitism. Still do.

If whites can step outside those circled wagons and demand a better America for everyone, they’ll join all Americans in moving forward.

The post will take off next Friday and return on November 22.

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MY FATHER, THE SPY

Last week, Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the impeachment inquiry. Some guardians of the land of the free and the home of the brave suggested that LTC Vindman was not loyal to this country. My father faced the same accusation.

Vindman, a Jew, immigrated from Ukraine at three, grew up in Brooklyn and received a degree from elitist Harvard. All tip-offs. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he swore to protect and defend the Constitution. No real patriot would be fooled by that. Twenty-two years in uniform? A combat infantryman’s badge? A purple heart? Deceptions.

As to my father Morris: When America entered World War Two, he sought to become an air-raid warden. A routine investigation followed. Someone accused him of having been a spy for Tsarist Russia before and during World War One. Made sense, I suppose.

In 1906, Dad arrived at Ellis Island with my grandparents from Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. He was 2-1/2 (whether he was smoking a cigar remains undetermined) and obviously impressionable. Also clever. He claimed he remembered nothing about Warsaw. He spoke fluent English (with a New York accent). Ruses.

In 1914, the Perlsteins became citizens just as the Great War sent Russia reeling and in need of all the assistance it could get. Citizenship obviously enabled my father, 11, to go deep undercover. His smokescreen included baseball—playing in the schoolyard and rooting for the Yankees and Giants.

Russia sought information about American intentions. And what revealed American thinking more than baseball? Was Yankees right fielder Doc Cook a favorite of young boys? Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson? Did immigrant fifth-graders, America’s future soldiers and mothers of soldiers, really prefer penmanship and learning times tables to working in the fields? Were they exposed to endless propaganda about the countries from which their families fled for better economic opportunities and safety, particularly after Jews streamed to these shores following the 1905 pogroms in Kishinev and Kiev?

More proof against my father: Excellent report cards and a bar-mitzvah in 1916. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he lacked kinship with salt-of-the-earth Christian-American kids packed off to coal mines, stockyards, fields and factories.

Ridiculous? Sure. No one accused my father of being a Tsarist spy, although he did have to submit a lot of paperwork before becoming an air-raid warden in Queens. And for the record, his love of cigars started at 12.

But there’s a point to be made. Defenders of President Trump tend to go off their meds. It’s not that they refuse to believe that he withheld from Ukraine American aid appropriated by Congress until Ukrainian president Zelensky agreed to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden and his presidential-candidate father Joe. And investigate Ukrainian interference in America’s 2016 election, although U.S. intelligence agencies pointed the finger at Russia, and William Mueller got indictments on 17 Russians.

It’s that they prefer character assassination to facts. So some attacked LTC Vindman to make a point of their own: If you weren’t born on American soil to American parents, you’re suspect.

Where then does that leave First Lady Melania Trump, who came to America from Slovenia in 1996 at age 26? I take her loyalty for granted. Does that make me, a native son, disloyal?

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SHAME ON AMERICA!

The Syrian Kurds fought alongside Americans and suffered 11,000 dead. American troops hailed their bravery. So what did Generalissimo Donald Trump do?

After a phone call with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump ordered the withdrawal of 50–100 Special Forces advisors from Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria and 1,000 troops elsewhere in Syria. Turkey attacked the Kurds.

Our military is aghast.* They appreciate the Kurds’ efforts to help destroy ISIS’ “caliphate” and resist Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad. Even Republican congressional leaders called Trump on his horrendous abandonment of the Kurds.

A self-proclaimed “island of one,” Trump remains committed. “It’s not our border,” he said of the area dividing Turkey and Syria. As it happened, the presence of a few American troops held the Turks at bay. (A Turkish pause gave the Kurds five days to leave the border zone—or else.) To the south, American forces helped block Iran from supplying its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies, who seek to destroy Israel, which also isn’t on our border. Israel now knows that despite Trump’s rhetoric, U.S. support is limited.

Trump opposes “endless wars” in the Middle East. Who doesn’t? Yet the 1,000 troops he’s withdrawing from Syria will likely go to Kurdish Iraq. The Generalissimo is also sending additional forces to Saudi Arabia to bolster the Kingdom against Iran. Saudi Arabia, whose strongman Prince Muhammad bin Sultan ordered or permitted the killing and dismemberment of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. The Kingdom, not on America’s border but awash in oil money the Kurds lack to pay for American weapons and troops.

Trump sees things in black and white. Life’s filled with grays. In 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated the famed “Pottery Barn theory”: You break it, you buy it. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Chaney thought otherwise.

In 2003, Bush sent Powell to the United Nations Security Council to make America’s case for war: Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and had nuclear weapons. Powell failed. He later called the experience “painful.” An understatement.

We invaded Iraq. Victory came with lightning speed. Remember “shock and awe”? Not peace. The Bush administration had no understanding of the Middle East, no plan for transforming Iraq into a stable nation, only an insistence that it become an American-style democracy. Sectarian and tribal fighting erupted. Americans died. Barack Obama withdrew our forces. The Islamic State arose. Obama sent troops back.

No, we never should have been involved in Iraq. Yes, we broke it, we bought it, we needed to fix it.

As to the current disaster, the risk to American forces in Syria was relatively minor. (I don’t make light of even a single American death.) The risk of fueling further Middle East instability? Yuge! Kurds are dying. Syrian refugees fleeing. ISIS prisoners escaping. Who’s filling the power vacuum? The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Speyer (10/16) offers, “Vladimir Putin is now the indispensable strategic arbiter in Syria.”

Is America better off? It’s not far-fetched to imagine American forces returning to Syria in large numbers or, by staying away, permitting increasing bloodshed and heightened threats to our allies.

Wait. Strike the latter part of that sentence. Because Donald Trump has no shame, America has partners of convenience but no allies—to our shame.

*For an enlightening and depressing look at the military’s pre-Kurd views of Trump, read “What the Generals Think of Trump” by Mark Bowden in the November 2019 Atlantic. See also the 10/17 New York Times opinion piece by Rear Admiral William McRaven (Ret.), former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

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UNCERTAINTY

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “…nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Mark Twain repeated that. But the real author was Englishman Christopher Bullock in 1716. Recent decades have supported Bullock and Franklin (and Twain) with the dictum that the only certainty is change. Look around.

The President of the United States fills each day with uncertainty. Will policy indicated in last night’s tweets be overturned in this morning’s tweets? This afternoon’s? Probably. So how do we as a nation plan for tomorrow?

Last Tuesday, the Federal Reserve sought to counter economic uncertainty. The economy’s tax cut-fueled sugar high is wearing off and our trade war with China continues. The dreaded “R” word (recession) is making the rounds. So the Fed lowered interest rates to 2.00 percent, its second cut of the year. I’m not betting that investors and economists are reassured.

Uncertainty is keeping us in the dark regarding the recent attacks on Saudi oil processing facilities. Directly or indirectly, the finger points to Iran. But where’s the proof? Washington hasn’t been terribly forthcoming. And how to respond? The president wants more information and a sense of direction from Saudi Arabia. Isn’t that turning things inside out? Shouldn’t the Kingdom be getting guidance from the United States? I’m uncertain, although I suspect some American and Saudi leaders have common financial interests.

I’m sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks an act of war. But on whom? Will the U.S. place more sanctions on Iran and Iranian leaders? Will we strike limited Iranian military targets? Sit on our hands? Of this, I’m certain: Whatever we prepare to do could change in a heartbeat. That happens in international matters, so let me be more accurate. America’s response may change on a whim (or Fox News editorializing).

The Middle East being a region of great uncertainty, let’s turn to Israel. Last April’s election was so close, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t form a government by assembling a coalition requiring 61 seats (a majority) in the Knesset. A new election took place this past Tuesday. The Blue and White Party, headed by former IDF commander Benny Gantz, seems to have a seat—or two—advantage over Netanyahu’s Likud party. Not yet certain since final results won’t be announced until next week. Who will President Reuven Rivlin charge with forming a new government? Also uncertain.

Uncertainty in Israel can bring grave consequences, as it can in the United States. At the last minute, Netanyahu pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank. That would bring one certainty: the impossibility of a two-state solution. But few Israelis—even those who support that position—believe Netanyahu will do what he said. Still, Israel, the Palestinians and the rest of the world remain uncertain about where things will go.

Let’s be honest. People talk about loving adventures. That’s fine for a road trip or getting off a plane overseas and winging the experience. But it doesn’t work well for managing an economy. And it’s particularly dangerous for maintaining peace and stability anywhere in the world, especially in the volatile Middle East.

So I’ll paraphrase Bullock/Franklin/Twain: Nothing is as certain as the danger of uncertainty. Will world leaders take heed? I’m not sure.

Big Truth: New and Collected Stories, is available at Amazon and bn.com in paper or e-book. Or, ask your favorite bookstore to order a copy. And, please leave a review on either or both sites.

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DUMB AND DISLOYAL

You’ve doubtless heard what the Sage of Mar-a-Lago declared on Tuesday: “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” My goose is cooked.

I’m a Jew who’s a registered Democrat and voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016. I wasn’t wild about Hilary but consider the alternative. In 2008, I might have voted for Republican John McCain given Barack Obama’s inexperience, but McCain chose Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Deal breaker.

Trump’s statement concerned Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) recently planning to visit Israel. Trump suggested that Israel not allow them entry. Israel blocked them. Let’s be clear. I don’t like Tlaib’s and Omar’s positions re Israel. They’d basically like to see Israel disappear. Israel won’t do so any more than they represent the majority of the Democratic party.

So what was gained by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barring two legally elected United States representatives? Nothing. Unless you consider Netanyahu believes he must kiss Trump’s rump given a new Israeli election takes place in several weeks. Israelis like Trump, though most American Jews don’t. But Netanyahu has his work cut out for him. In the April election, his Likud Party won all of 35 seats out of the Knesset’s 120. Not even one-third. That’s not unusual. What is: Netanyahu couldn’t assemble a coalition government.

Which brings me to loyalty. Evidently Israelis, with more to lose in the unsettled Middle East than Trump, must be disloyal since more than two-thirds voted against Netanyahu’s party. Or they lack knowledge. Although many know Netanyahu seeks to stay in office to keep from being tried on bribery charges and possibly imprisoned.

Me? I’m so dumb, I think The New York Times’ Tom Friedman was right when he wrote that barring Tlaib and Omar makes Israel look like “a Jewish banana republic.” Israel’s a thriving democracy, although Netanyahu seeks to curtail a free press and independent judiciary. He’s a Trump fan. This decision made Israel look weak.

If I’m not dumb, obviously I’m disloyal. But to whom? The United States? I served three years in the U.S. Army—as a volunteer. Trump claimed phony bone spurs to dodge the draft during Vietnam. I’ve always paid my taxes. Trump avoided paying federal taxes for years. Smart? He lost over $900 million dollars. Dumb.

Disloyal to Israel? I support Israel every chance I get. You’ve read that in previous posts. And Carolyn and I love visiting family there. Like Israelis, I call it as I see it. When I disagree with Israeli government policy, I say so. But I’ll always support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. It’s the only one we have.

Or am I disloyal to Donald Trump. On Wednesday, Trump declared himself “the chosen one” and repeated conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root’s claim that Israelis think of him as the “second coming of God.” Alert: Jews don’t believe in a first coming. That’s Christian theology, and Jews refusal to accept it has spurred centuries of persecution by Christians. As always, Trump’s cluelessness produces offense.

In 2020, I expect to dumbly and disloyally vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. But then, I’m a stubborn Jew who values conscience above rhetoric.

Big Truth: New and Collected Stories,is available at Amazon and bn.com in paper or e-book. Or, ask your favorite bookstore to order a copy. And, please leave a review on either or both sites.

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YOUR HUDDLED MASSES

In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote the poem “The New Colossus” to help raise funds for a base for the Statue of Liberty. We all know, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” What to make of those words today?

I love the Statue of Liberty. In February 1906, Chaim Shlioma and Kayleh Perelstein, their 2-1/2-year-old son Moishe—my father Morris—and two daughters, Elka and Etka, sailed into New York Harbor. They’d left Warsaw, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, because opportunities there for Jews were scant and pogroms frequent, like those in Kishinev and Kiev in 1905.

I fantasize that my grandfather held little Moishe aloft and pointed to “The Lady.” America!

From 1885, Eastern Europe’s huddled masses—Jews, Poles, Slavs, Italians, Greeks (many Germans and Irish came earlier)—entered America by the millions. In 1924, Congress slammed the door shut. America, which long excluded Chinese and savaged its black citizens, had grown increasingly anti-Semitic. Only white Protestants need apply.

Sounds familiar? Yet the huddled masses continued to bring their dreams from every corner of the planet and helped build—and defend—this nation. In one generation, the descendants of the “wretched refuse” became “real” Americans. Should America now fear new additions?

It’s sensible to continually reassess immigration policy, because while history may repeat itself, it’s neither cyclical nor entirely linear. But change is real.

The Perlsteins (we later dropped an “e”) arrived in New York only 12 years after the American frontier was declared closed. Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona were territories. (Alaska and Hawaii became states more than 50 years later.) In 1906, America’s population was 85 million. The nation sought immigrants to work on farms and ranches, in mines, steel mills, factories, stockyards and urban sweatshops. Immigrant laborers would swell production and also serve as consumers.

The dream of America in a challenging world continues. But our population is 330 million while our land mass remains the same. That population has shifted. As eastern and northern cities aged, we flooded the Sun Belt. Oklahoma City has more people than Baltimore, Albuquerque more than Cleveland, and Phoenix—the nation’s sixth largest city—more than Boston and Detroit combined. Our most populous state? California.

We’re now post-industrial with artificial intelligence threatening millions of jobs. We need fewer strong backs, more education. As always, the poor will need help. A century ago, family along with religious and community groups helped pave the way. Public assistance wasn’t an option. There was none. Today’s non-profits will need to step up their game.

This stated, we can and should welcome new immigrants. We still need farm workers, meat packers, restaurant workers, roofers and healthcare workers. More doctors and nurses, too. So, how many of who?

We’ve yet to hold an objective, expertise-based national discussion. Congress concerns itself with the immigration’s politics. The president, a nativist, and his far-right supporters want educated Europeans—whites. The far-left preaches virtual open borders, leaving unconsidered impacts on federal, state and local budgets, as well as on social upheaval.

It’s critical to salute the ideals represented by the Statue of Liberty while seeing things as they are—to be hard-headed without hardening our hearts. I believe that “The Lady” I love gets that.

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