Believers without facts are slaughtering Jews again

Nationalists, populists, rightists, racists, antisemites – whatever you call them – are all over the world now. Merkel is leaving leadership of Germany, Brazil just elected a potential dictator. Ditto Italy. Russia is back to a dictatorship. China is becoming one.

Their populations traded democracy for security – and lost their freedom.

But here’s what’s different about us. Our freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution. It is – at its core – a defense of individual rights, including freedom of religion.

We can’t lose our rights. Right?

Wrong. None of them, no matter how revered, are guaranteed.

They can be weakened by other laws, by strong-armed leaders, by apathy or just plain bigotry. Unless the essence of the ideals are taught in schools and held high every day by you and me, they are in trouble.

Last Saturday, 11 Jews in Pittsburgh lost their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention freedom of religion, to a guy with an AR-15 and 3 Glocks. He shot them dead and wounded 6 others. It was the biggest killing of Jews – just for being Jews – in US history.

Why did he shoot them? Because he was scared, this guy who was carrying an AR-15 and 3 Glocks.  He was scared that Jews are going to commit genocide in the US. Really. He believed 2.2 % of the country is going to commit genocide on the other 97.8%, because “Jews are the children of Satan”.

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered”, he said just before acting on his beliefs.

He is a classic believer without facts.

He was spouting is Nazi propaganda, once left in the ashes of  WWII, now revived by the internet. While our public schools are dropping courses on civics and the Constitution, the internet is adding courses on hatred and bigotry.

I wonder if we’re approaching a time when being Jewish in the US is as unhealthy as being black.

Of course, 11 killed and 6 wounded is small potatoes, compared to, say, all those other mass murders by a deranged killer, right?

Wrong. He’s not mentally ill, according to the police, this guy, who I won’t honor by naming. He is not a just a lone, deranged killer who too easily got some guns and went on a killing spree.

And that’s the point. He’s not just a single guy at all. He’s an attitude, a conviction that started small in the late 1930’s and grew into the Holocaust. He is a belief system based on lies, not facts.

In another classic case of using tragedy to further his and the NRA’s agenda, our President skipped the obvious – that 80 year old propaganda targeted those worshippers – and immediately proposed adding guns to places of worship, just as he had for schools.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy guns.“

I could launch into the idiocy of “Guns don’t kill; people do”, but anyone who’s watched the increase in gun deaths along with the increase in gun rights knows that. I could write about Australia barring guns in 1986 and their gun deaths drop 70% by 2016, but facts like that mean nothing in the US.

Believers without facts have always caused trouble. The Crusades was a war by Christians on Muslims because Muslims had control of some of their holy sites. Christians, for God’s sake, the “turn the other cheek” religion.

“Onward Christian soldiers, marching onto war”. Remember that hymn?

Christians thought they won the Crusades. But for the Taliban, the war never stopped. The holy site issue is long gone – fact – but the Taliban brought down the Twin Towers anyway.

You can find lots of facts in the Bible, but not the fact that the Jews killed Christ, which is the single biggest motivator for people to hate Jews.

The Romans killed Jesus by crucifying him, a Roman method, not a Jewish one. There were some politics among Jewish leaders, which put Jesus in the bulls-eye, but the Romans killed him, not the Jews.

It is 2018.  How can someone still believe Nazi propaganda? How can 11 innocent people get killed and 6 more wounded – by a guy who fears Jews?!

Because we’re losing respect for facts over beliefs. Because we have a President who foments and manipulates bigotries and hatred to his own ends. Because civics and the Constitution are electives, not required courses. Because the internet spreads lies faster than truths.

Because a believer without facts, but with an AR-15 and 3 Glocks, can.

Share this column:

Braking news from the FEC

The FEC (Federal Election Commission) has asked the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) help in putting the brakes on the unintended physical and mental health consequences from the November 6 election. From now on, warning labels inspired by FDA drug warnings will be added to five parts of the election process: 1) cable, tv, and radio ads, 2) campaign rallies, 3) bulk email, direct mail, and robo calls, 4) voting places, and 5) all actual ballots.

This new set of labels results from the increase in fights, antipathy, and hurt feelings engendered by all those lies and attack ads about candidates (who we could easily name, but which courtesy and a sense of fairness precludes us from doing … but boy could we name names, Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump!)

These warning messages will be apolitical and focused on prevention versus cure.

Below are some of the labels being considered.

1) For campaign cable, tv, and radio ads:

“View or read only after a good night’s sleep. Do not view alone if taking anti-depressants, in an acrimonious relationship, or seeing a therapist more than once a week – as you might experience sudden and extreme bouts of virulent anger, depression and/or panic. When viewing alone, one must be seated and far away from knives, tazers, or Hari Kari swords. If approached by a canvasser, do not – repeat, do not – shoot on sight or on site. Do not yell or threaten; these people are simply some of your neighbors after the Kool-Aid party. Instead, lock the door and call the nearest campaign abuse counselor at 1-666-Vote (that’s for those of you who read).”

2) For campaign rallies:

“This rally is sponsored by the following candidates and everyone who pays them off:  (Candidate names go here______________.) People with high IQ’s will be refused admittance. Ditto those with critical thinking skills. For your own safety, full body searches of all attendees are mandatory.After the rally, all confiscated campaign tools, such as knives, guns, or nasty placards will be returned for a fee.

3) For bulk email, direct mail, yard signs, and robo calls:

“Please do not read or listen to these political messages if you drink a lot or are new to marijuana products.  Do not read or listen unless fully dressed (although not common, there have been known instances of people who, after too much exposure to political messages, strip naked and run outside, screaming political obscenities at total strangers). If you must scream obscenities, please do so inside and without removing any clothing.”

4) For voting places:

“To all who enter here, please be advised: politics is not a science; it is an art – of lying. Most politicians lie – legally, of course – because: everyone-wants-what-they-want-which-politicians-can’t-give-so-they-lie-which-makes-everything-ok-because-everyone-thinks-they-got-what-they-wanted-even-though-they-didn’t. Bad politicians tell tons of really horrible lies and promote what’s good for themselves and those who keep them in power. Good politicians tell nicer lies in order to do what’s right for their constituents. Unfortunately, in our system, it’s hard to differentiate between the two. It’s not fair, but hey, neither is life.”

5) For the voting booth:

“Each ballot will be in the shape of a dart board, with names of candidates arranged according to the office to which they aspire. The voter will be given an electronic dart for each elected office. Republican and Democrat representatives will –together, so there’s no hanky panky – place a blindfold securely over the voter’s eyes and then, to ensure voter privacy, leave the booth. On the command “Ready! Set! Vote!” the voter will blindly throw the electronic darts at the dartboard, one at a time or altogether, according to personal preference. The darts will register electronically on a master computer built in China and monitored by Russia. The results will be reported to the FEC, which will, without comment, forward them to FOX News which will, being fair and balanced, report them to the public.”

Ok, we were just kidding about the voting booth section. In reality you will get a ballot that says: “Hey, the system isn’t great, but it’s the best we have. So just stop complaining, hold your nose, and vote.”

Sincerely, Your Federal Election Commissioners.

Share this column:

Two Scared Women

After the Kavanaugh hearings a  Philadelphia area woman submitted a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the NY Times. They didn’t run it.

Here it is (shortened for space):

                                    “SOS”

“I was born in 1948. In the 1950’s I led an idyllic childhood.

“I remember Ike and I was horrified by Kennedy’s death. I did not particularly like LBJ and hated that he was sending my generation to be decimated in Vietnam, but was encouraged by civil rights progress.

“I was astounded by Watergate and cheered when Nixon resigned. I liked Ford and was sorry he did not get re-elected.

“I thought Carter meant well but was not very effective.

“I was too busy raising my children to pay much attention to Reagan.

“I thought HW was ultimately qualified and was sad when he lost, but I was extremely disillusioned by the Anita Hill hearings.

“I was disgusted by Clinton’s morals but thought he was an OK leader.

“I thought W was an inarticulate, unintelligent leader, who drove us into war and debt, but that he basically was a good man.

“I was thrilled by Barak Obama’s election and felt calm, optimistic andrelaxed during his presidency.

“Throughout my life I felt our Ship of State was steaming ahead,progressing with the environment, civil rights, women’s rights,reproductive rights, and was highly respected throughout the world.

“I had confidence in our country’s leaders and rarely felt anxious about my future and the future of my children and grandchildren.

“Since 2017, I have a constant feeling of dread. I feel anxious and Iam losing sleep. I have tried to disengage from the daily disruptions, but every day brings new fears about our future.

“I feel our noble Ship has been hijacked by pirates who do not have a clue about sailing and are determined to run us aground.

“I am afraid our Ship is off course and may even sink.

“Please, Save Our Ship.”

This woman is a 70 year old retired pediatric occupational therapist, a mother, grandmother, and happily married wife of 46 years. 2017 was the year Trump and his pirates took over the ship.

Now, to a song  written by a 32 year old college dance teacher in San Marco, Texas in response to Trump’s Kavanaugh comment: “It’s a very scary time for young men.” It went viral on Youtube last week, shortly after which she performed it LIVE on Jimmy Kimmel. (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/lynzy-lab-performs-a-scary-time-jimmy-kimmel-live-1151936). Here are the lyrics  (also shortened) :

                           “A Scary Time for Boys”

“But it sure is a scary time for boys.

Yeah gentlemen! Band together. Make some noise

It’s really tough when your reputation’s on the line

And any woman you’ve assaulted could turn up anytime

 

“Yeah, it sure is a scary time for guys

Can’t speak to any women or look them in the eyes

It’s so confusing: is it rape or is it just being nice?

So inconvenient that you even have to think twice.

 

“I can’t live in an apartment if it’s on the first floor

I can’t be wearing silk pajamas when I answer the door

I can’t have another drink even if I want more

I can’t make you feel invalid, unseen, or ignored

I can’t jog around the city with headphones on my ears

I can’t speak out against my rapist after 35 years

I can’t be taken seriously if I’m holding back tears

And I can’t ever speak earnestly about all my fears

 

“But it sure is a scary time for dudes

Can’t text a girl repeatedly asking for nudes

Can’t make her have sex when she’s not in the mood

And what gives her the right to give you attitude??

 

“Yeah, it sure is a scary time for men

Girls like to act like you’re to blame and they’re the victims

Her dress was short and she was drunk, she’s not so innocent

Thank God your Dad’s the Judge and you won’t be convicted

Oh wait…that’s right…

 

“It’s not such a scary time for boys

They’ve always had the upper hand, they’ve always had a choice

It’s time for women to rise up,

Use our collective voice

The day to vote’s November 6, so let’s go make some noise

Go Vote!”

 

One person remembers a gentler time, when leaders assuaged fear instead of triggering it. The other doesn’t speak to a gentler time; she just yearns for it.

Neither names Trump or others. But there’s another, bigger connection between them: they’re scared – for themselves and the country.

Why tell you about just two scared people – miles, years, and cultures apart?

If you’re scared too, vote on Nov. 6.

Share this column:

McConnell’s Rudderless Ship of State

The Ford-Kavanaugh was always just a “she said, he said”- never  anything else. Mitch McConnell, Trump, and the Republicans of the Judiciary committee made sure of that by: 1) limiting the Ford hearing to one day and 2) limiting the FBI investigation to….we don’t know for sure, because 3) they also put a shroud of secrecy on the report.

So now: 1) we have a Supreme Court Justice who may, as many of his college and high school friends claim, have lied his way onto the Cour; 2) an FBI now subject to political control; and 3) appointments to the Supreme Courts clearly based on politics over qualifications.

The idea behind lifetime Supreme Court appointments was to guarantee independence from political winds. It was to be the rudder of the ship of state, so that whenever Congress or the President tried to steer the ship for their own purposes, the Court would bring it back on course.

The Kavanaugh confirmation, by completing the politicization of the Court, has effectively eliminated the rudder. The person responsible is not, as we might assume, President Donald Rudderless Trump. It is Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, from Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky, is a very smart, long-range thinker, with genteel Southern manners and no-holds barred political combat skills. A Senator since 1982, he has been heavily involved in the ascension of every Republican now on the Supreme Court. For the last 20 years or so, he has been singularly dedicated to turning, not just the Supreme Court, but the entire justice system conservative.

As of August of this year McConnell’s Senate has confirmed 60 conservative judges (91% white and 81% percent male). McConnell’s deputy chief of staff, Don Stewart, told Bloomberg in late August: “In August alone, the Senate confirmed another 15 judges — with eight more locked in for next week. These are judges who will be in place for decades”.

Kavanaugh is McConnell’s proudest moment. Although he doesn’t speak directly to Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s age and fragility, he has said he’d gladly add another conservative to the Court in 2020.

While McConnell has been Senate Leader, the Court has weakened the Civil Rights Act of 1965 by allowing states with a history of voter discrimination to no longer have Federal supervision of their voting laws. It has decimated the notion of “one man one vote with the “Citizen United” ruling, which now floods elections with corporate and Super Pac money. Gerrymandering (drawing voting districts to benefit one party) has spread across the country. Concurrently, conservative southern legislatures have slowly and steadily weakened Roe v. Wade.

And that was pre-Kavanaugh.

While Trump takes bows for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Mitch MCConnell quietly sips a mint julep and predicts the Democrats’ outrage will soon blow over.

Maybe not.

Unlike Dr. Ford, whose entire family had to move out of her house and still can’t go back because of threats, Kavanaugh complained tearfully  about receiving threats, but has not had to move. He’s a whiny choirboy  and people know it.

In sworn testimony Kavanaugh shouted clear bias against Democrats and the “left”.  Democrats will shout that from rooftops. There was no real investigation by the FBI, so the notion that Kavanaugh lied will not blow over. 2400 law professors, one ex Supreme Court Justine, and plenty of Kavanaugh’s fellow students say he is not qualified for the Supreme Court. Even traditionally apolitical country singer Taylor Swift reacted to her own Senator’s conservatism by getting thousands of young people to register for the November election.

But the biggest reason it won’t blow over is what the McConnell Court can now do to the country.

It can allow further weakening of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It can legitimize gerrymandering. It may not overturn Roe V. Wade overtly (after all, Kavanaugh did say it was “settled law”), but it can hand it to the states to overturn, thereby dividing the country even more. It can allow insurers to eliminate pre-existing condition guarantees in healthcare coverage, and reduce Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs. It can weaken the First Amendment by allowing the banning of refugees based on their religion. It can undermine the rule of law by protecting the President from prosecution while in office (as Kavanaugh has proposed).

All these and more are highly possible with a politically aligned, rudderless, conservative Congress, President, and Supreme Court.

If that scares you, vote in November.

Share this column:

What a Supreme “Sham”!  What “Crap”!

Ever since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last Thursday I’ve been thinking about what she said, why she said it, and how she said it.

Ditto Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. And the President and the Senators.

What she said was clear. She has been sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh when she was 15 and he was 17. She feared testifying, having been chased out of her home by … Who? Good ol’ boys? Evangelicals? Anti-abortionists? Misogynists? All of the above?

But she also feared for the Supreme Court, which is why she testified. She wanted the Senate to know her story before they advised and consented.

How she said it was also clear. She was specific and open, without a hint of deception. She spoke carefully and respectfully. No anger. No self-pity. No entitlement. Even though it required reliving the trauma of the assault, she soldiered through. Her vulnerability was palpable, as was her determination.

If, as some have suggested, she was acting, move over Meryl Streep.

Judge Kavanaugh was also scared: of losing his nomination, his position on the Appeals Court, his teaching job at Harvard, his coaching job in girl’s soccer.

In his case, fear led directly to anger.

He furiously proclaimed his innocence. He blamed a conspiracy of Clinton sympathizers, Democrats, and left-wing opposition groups out to destroy “my family and my good name”. He flip-flopped between self-righteous rage and self-pitying tears, stuffing his tongue into his cheek and gulping water in between.

Instead of calm and candor, he offered belligerence, entitlement, and evasion. Heavy teenage drinking? (“I liked beer. I still like beer“). Drunken spells? (“do you like beer, Senator, or not?”). Blackouts?  (“I don’t know, did you have blackouts?”).

He lied about the 80’s slang he used in his 1982 calendar.

“Boof”? (Kavanaugh:“That refers to flatulence”) No, it refers anal sex.

“Devil’s triangle”?  (Kavanaugh: “a drinking game”) No, it describes sex between two men and one woman.

“Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor,” (Kavanaugh: “That probably refers to throwing up. I’m known to have a weak stomach.” No, “Ralphing” refers to vomiting from too much booze.

The contrast between his and Dr. Ford’s temperament and integrity was stark and disturbing. She was measured and open; he was a teenager caught partying on a school night.

Republican Senators showed their anger, too. Senator Hatch was angry that Democrats would focus on teenage years (“He was an immature high schooler. So were we all.” Senator Cornyn was outraged at the hearing itself: “I can’t think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings.”  Sen. Graham just raged – the whole thing was “crap!” A “scam!”

He was right. In fact, the hearings last week were just a distraction from the real show: the culmination of a decades long Republican effort to pack the Court with conservative, anti-abortion Justices, an effort they feared this soft-spoken woman might scuttle.

When Justice Scalia died in 2016, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell stalled – for 14 months – and stopped Obama’s replacement choice of moderate Merrick Garland. When Trump won, he was given a list of replacements by one of the most conservative groups in the country, the Federalist Society. And highly conservative Brett Kavanaugh was on a fast train to the Supreme Court.

With Ford’s accusation that train screeched to a halt. Trump, McConnell, and other Republicans accused Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of pulling a “McConnell”: holding Ford’s accusation until the last-minute in order to stall the confirmation process until after the November elections.

How underhanded! How dishonest! (Sanctimony is often the escort of hypocrisy).

They scheduled just one day of hearings, ostensibly to hear her accusation and his response, but really just to appease the public. The real goal was to make the vote look legitimate.

So, yes, “a scam”, Senator Graham. And “crap”. But your side ran the scam, not the Democrats.

But for one Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake who partnered with Democratic Senator Chris Coons, the scam looked unstoppable. Last Friday, Flake and Coons demanded – and got – an FBI investigation.

The scope of which, from the number of witnesses interviewed to the lack of subpoena power, was immediately curtailed by Trump, McConnell, Graham, Grassley, and the rest of the angry old white men of the Senate.  (surprise!).

At this writing, the FBI investigation is reportedly complete – after only 4 days – and the vote is scheduled for the full Senate this week. What’s in the report? Will the Senators vote on character, integrity, and judicial temperament? Or will they kowtow to the angry old white men?

We can only hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this column: