Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Maritally Misguided

The story "Kim Davis, Clerk to Refused to Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples Met the Pope" made me retract my former opinion heaping mountains of praise on Pope Francis. Sometimes I jump the gun before I wait to see if anything else is known. Now I will say the Pope meets the martially misguided clerk who pays no attention to the feelings and rights of others wanting to be married to the one they love. Ms. Davis says no you can't because my religious views trump your happiness. I say an emphatic no they do not! As a public clerk she has the obligation to perform her public duties and if she cannot then find another who can. No one is telling her what to believe but she has no right to impose her private beliefs on the public while doing her public job.

Still, Pope Francis's message generally, except on this issue and some others, was a humane one. I do believe Davis CAN refuse marriage licenses to gays but must let someone else who will issue marriage certificates do so. It is the law after all.

I think some in the Papal Curia are at odds with Francis's other liberal positions. He did say on homosexuality "Who am I to judge?" So he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. I have no idea why he chose to meet with this divorced four times and had-children-out-of wedlock lapsed former Catholic.

I would love to ask Pope Francis: Does he think homosexuals who have been ostracized, bullied, kicked out of their homes onto the street by their parents, turned to drugs and worse attempt suicide are less worthy of his empathy and support? I do NOT get it and yes I am bothered by what he did and loathe looking stupid myself piling tons of praise on him.

I tried to love him and still think he is better than Benedict and many other popes before Benedict but Pope Francis disappointed me on this one. Maybe someday he will say by meeting Davis: Father, forgive me, I know not what I did.

Soft Landing

Cardinal O’Malley said “Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States was something akin to a national religious retreat.” Never, the cardinal said, had he witnessed a papal visit generate such widespread interest, particularly from non-Catholics. I am one of them. I cannot believe that I, who have been laser sharp critical of Vatican history, could find a Pope Francis so wonderful.

I put aside my disagreements as no one is perfect but, in general, this Pope gave many a soft landing on the sharp vicissitudes of life. I watched his visit, hours of it, because I was mesmerized by his stamina and the message he delivered to so many so many times. People (including me) are hungry for humane and smart leadership. Will he accept women priests, married priests, and gay humanity? He is not Superman of the Catholic Church but he has changed the tone and the general feeling that comes from a man who knows hardship, poverty and knows how to use his intelligence promoting kindness and humane policy for greater good.

He came here with painful stenosis, sciatica, one lung and who knows what other physical maladies that sometimes come with age. The amount he did and the stamina with which he did it were miraculous. He was amazing to me and made me think twice about mending fences that were broken in my own life.

In the end we are the sum total of who we were in life. I want to be remembered for the help I gave, the kindness I showed and the humane political policy for which I advocated.

Jesus is said to have said "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me." Rabbi Hillel summarized Judaism by saying as I have repeated often: "Do NOT do unto others that which you would NOT want done to you. All the rest is commentary."

I could not have said it better myself!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Months After White Supremacy Scandal, Steve Scalise May Become House Majority Leader

(See link below.)  What happened to my country? I am just sad. Where did it go so wrong? It was always divided for as long as I remember but not this extremist badly. The president for the 2010 midterms I am sorry to say did NOT sell his healthcare plan well enough and logically enough. He needed to make a huge tour around the country doing so as if he were up for reelection. The Tea Bags and Republicans sustained a huge majority it still has and legislation ordinarily easily passed was/is like pulling teeth. The nation had suffered tremendous upheaval with bank bailouts and CEO's getting so much taxpayer money and bonuses to boot.

The Republican Party that is now the Republican Party's anti-government base revolted against the government debt and the spending of more taxpayer bucks. Instead of these middle class whites gravitating to the Democratic Party where they economically truly belong the Republican Party that allegedly hated spending lassoed them in taking full advantage of their opposition to social programs meaning their money perceived to go to persons of color and hence the basically all white, conservative, southern and Midwestern tea bag party was born and became right wing extremist persons with power. They literally economically stepped on their own toes because the at least old Republican Party is NOT about them. It is about the richest 1% but hey racism tops it all.

The Louisiana congressman had spoken to a group founded by former KKK leader David Duke.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis Makes Surprise Stop To Bless Sculpture Symbolizing Catholic Unity With Jews

Another wow moment. Pope Francis is touching every base and this base is particularly impressive to me! It is worth reading for Jews and Christians alike really for everyone emphasizing man's ability to right centuries' long wrongs and work together uniting us in our common humanity. It is nothing short of amazing. It is our 1962 Vatican II's "Nostra Aetate" (In Our Time) in 2016. Here is the link or below. I urge you to read it!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

God's Plan

"Hundreds Turned Away From Only Session On Gays At Catholic Meeting"

"The room was changed last minute from one that could hold 10,000 to another that seated just 1,000." Link here or below.
Justice and fairness are part of this papacy and should be no less so for gay Catholics. I love this Pope and have said it numerous times even though I am not even Catholic BUT the second class citizenship of Catholic gays is also a part of the Church and a view of the Pope's that has changed somewhat as he said when asked about homosexuality “Who am I to judge?  It has, though, obviously, changed not enough if hundreds of gay Catholics can be frozen out of a room lest it look like there are too many.  Guess what?  There ARE many.
It is ridiculous to assume everyone else on planet earth can enjoy another human being in the closest way possible but this is something if one is born gay, and I believe it is DNA directed for most, that no person should be denied. It is preposterous that they moved hundreds of gay people and maybe more so they could include only a small amount of gays in the room because it just looks better. I ask better to whom?  It is like persons of color being told it's natural for them to sit separate from whites in the back of the bus or that they cannot enjoy a movie in the same way whites can; indeed, told they are not the same or as good as whites and should not enjoy the privilege white bestows. 

Gays are human beings, part of God's plan but they are evidently to the Church not quite as good as straights.  I say baloney this cannot be coming from a Church just a decade ago that was a magnet for male homosexual priests whose thought process was often not celibacy.

I want to love this Pope and his papacy even more but until they make the human life experience acceptable and not an instrument of torture for their gay brothers and sisters I cannot say that I do accept it more ... yet.
I believe in time the Church will know the etiology of one's sexuality and accept it as it did Galileo’s understanding of the earth's place among the planets with the sun as its center. I believe in time the Church will accept women as priests, I believe in time that it will allow priests to marry in the same way it has lightened the load for divorced Catholics and brought the Church back into to the lives of the poor, the elderly, the sick and the dispossessed.
Until that time Pope Francis, though I love him much more than any other Pope I have subjected to my own historical analysis, will still leave an empty spot in the many hearts of his gay flock.


Methods to Some Madness

One should READ this article below instead of simply a knee jerk response that Russia is bad. There are methods to some madness and Putin's rationale might just be correct AND serve US interests in the process. Are there NO smart, prescient minds in our National Security state?

A World of Miracles

When I go to my email first thing in the a.m. I now am on an email list from the "Forward" newspaper, a long known Jewish paper created in 1897. It was (and still is) progressive, dedicated to the Jewish Community at that time. It was called then "The Daily Forward." The story it sent last night to me is a story of interest posted here or below.

Some I know saw the Therezen concentration camp (sometimes it said called Theresienstadt) and is entitled "Searching for a Photo of Childhood Friend Lost in the Holocaust." It is an amazing heart string-pulling story that has a rather miracle ending. It is truly a wonder in our mind numbing age of technology and the reach of Facebook.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I am not Catholic but I may become one. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this Pope!

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade." - Pope Francis, in his concluding remarks to the U.S. Congress

Bye Bye Boehner!

John Boehner Republican Speaker of the House resigned as I am sure most now know.  Many progressives and extreme right "conservatives" cheer but for significantly different and polar opposite reasons.

Who comes next?  I do not know but Boehner was, as Republicans go, not the worst of them.  Kevin McCarthy may -- I say may -- be in line which is a good thing because there are far worse nearly KKK like right wing extremist conservatives who could and would, God forbid, take the job.

Speaker Boehner says he is resigning and did it for the institution.  I wish he had said he did it for the nation's poor, elderly, disabled, the sick and the dispossessed but such is not how Republicans think.  They think big; big money, big business, big donors, big millionaires and big billionaires.  The tax decreases came NOT for the middle class but for the 1% wealthiest in the nation about which Bernie Sanders and other Democrats speak so eloquently. They have created the widest disparity of wealth in this nation's history -- some legacy.

It is imperative, no it is mandatory that if you care about the human beings about whom Pope Francis spoke so beautifully then you will make sure that you kick Republicans out the door and elect to the most powerful legislative body in the world, human beings that have a heart.

Speaker Boehner it is said by Republican extremists was too squishy for them.  God only knows what qualities would it take to get someone who was less squishy.  I shudder at the thought.

The Republcan Party, as it has evolved, is frightening.  It is made up of southern white religious fanatical often racists who yearn for the culture of the old south and the Confederacy it represented.  Well if they yearn for it so much maybe those House members should secede from office and let human beings with compassion and empathy take their place!


Letter to the "Forward": Jewish Fundamentalism kills even Jewish babies

"New Controversial Circumcision Rite Rules: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" related in today's Forward allow us to behold the fruits of fundamentalist irrational religious thought no matter the faith.

That disgusting piece about the dangers the ultra orthodox face due to their circumcision ritual -- you know the same sect that would love to stone homosexuals and adulterers to death -- of sucking the blood from an infant's circumcision and the disastrous infection which can result is staggering.

In the face of the faux excuse of "religious freedom" Mayor DeBlasio acquiesced to pulling the consent form that parents were compelled to sign because the ultra orthodox community was going to sue and did take the city to court. 

Now four infants have died due to Herpes infection probably transmitted by the rabbi or mohl's mouth because a large percentage of everyone has the latent Herpes infection which is transmittable by mouth.  Say this barbaric ridiculously backward and insane practice ain't so!

In the 21st century the rabbi puts his filthy mouth on the baby's newly bloodied circumcised penis?  Is that possible?  Those who are involved in utterly irrational fundamentalist religious practice are the reason for much of the murderous violence on our earth over fairy god myths and lies written by men. 

It does not matter whether it is Christian, Muslim or Jew -- fundamentalism kills even infants.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

JJ Goldberg - "Why Does Everybody Sound So Anti-Semitic All of a Sudden?" My opinion

Mr. Goldberg, you wrote what I thought was a most interesting opinion here and below in the Forward on the above referenced subject.  As a prolific letter, opinion writer and blogger on contemporary political and social issues your article to my own chagrin solidified views about which I had subliminally been thinking but which had not risen to the forefront nor articulated by me to spell danger, yet again, to our small Jewish group. I worried that some of my opinions might have stepped on toes I never would have stepped on before.
Yes, I am an ardent and forever liberal Democrat cemented in my opinion through decades of political thought beginning in the late 1960's with Howard Zinn as my political mentor against the murderous policy of the war in Vietnam and much later (perhaps a bit late) against ultimately the Iraq War and its contemporary Middle Eastern madness.  Most Jews, I dare say, were, as I was, vociferously, against the war in Vietnam and later even against the Iraq War.  The horrific debacle of Iraq and our present Middle East quagmire was promulgated by influential men -- the NeoCons – some of whom just happened to be Jewish – among them Paul Wolfowitz, Daniel Pearl,  Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby and others who were not Jewish.
Their views to me, like fingernails on a blackboard, screeched against my moral fiber.  Their alliances with Bush administration power was, in my eye, responsible first for the Trade Center collapse of 9/11 in that Bush was warned in his PDB but failed to act, and worse when he did act he was responsible for the worst, most costly and murderous foreign policy decision in US history – invading a country which did nothing to us and whose strong-arm leadership of Hussein we needed and even once supported in his war against Iran.  It gave Iran (supposedly our arch enemy) power and a major influence in that vital region.
The Iraq War killed, mutilated and dismembered thousands of American soldiers lured into battles they should not have fought and into a life of disability they should not have to suffer.  It killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (no one knows the true number) and displaced millions.  Worse it destabilized the Middle East tinder box we encounter today.  We placed, through our nefarious Neo-Con actions, Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant with its offshoot the murder machine ISIS/ISIL.  It subverted Middle East peace and encouraged Middle East eternal war madness.  My moral compass changed.
NeoCons, made up of many in AIPAC, to my embarrassment, have brought, as I see it, the US to perpetual war.  Along with this gargantuan Iraq failure comes criticism of the nation's symbiotic relationship with Israel toward which I was never critical until the trajectory of Bush's foreign blunder and AIPAC's, it seemed to me, undue influence on American military policy became a monstrosity.  AIPAC, I perceived, was against my first alliance, America, and for some in its group their first alliance is to Israel.  I love Israel and always have.  I was supportive of it often without exception but in the end I am not Israeli.  I am an American and my first allegiance is to the US.  If Israeli influence is oppositional to what I believe American interests should be then I reject it.
The icing on the cake, for me, a Democrat in extremis, was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Republicans in Congress with pointed opposition to the vital nuclear Deal with Iran; a deal which so many scientists, politicos, experts on foreign policy and many Israelis, too, deem a good one and one which will prevent yet another Middle Eastern quagmire against, this time, a capable nation, Iran, this nation could not afford.  Rejection of it would further isolate the US from the other P5 allies which support the Deal and would not back down from it.
Those who are waxing anti-Semitic in this nation and around the world are very worrisome, of course, to me but it is more worrisome to me that this nation be taken to a place in which its interests do not lie and toward which its morality should not go.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Papal Mass Washington DC--The Good News

The papal mass in Washington was an absolutely gorgeous ceremony. I was moved to tears and I am Jewish. This Pope is the one who made me enthralled in its ritual. At other times with other popes I would not have even watched. I watched now in its entirety and come away with awe and inspiration because of this gifted humane man.

I wish him long life and many moments in which he can spread his good news!

This man spreads our word -- comfort for the sick, the poor, the immigrant and the dispossessed -- the least of these as Jesus is thought to have said. Hear his words and then get out and vote accordingly!

Bella and the Pope -- Paradise Found

There are few stories that grabbed my attention more than the murdered "Baby Doe" later known as Bella Bond whose tiny lifeless body was first placed in a refrigerator wrapped in a trash bag then thrown into the ocean washing up on the Deer Island shore as if she were nothing but refuse. My mind drifted like the currents did to her small body yearning to know how anything so heinous could be perpetrated on that innocent 2-year old. What could she have done to warrant such a blood-curdling end? The answer, of course, is nothing. That innocent child could have done nothing to warrant her fate. My mind wafts to the apex of incredulity that a member of the human species could stoop so low as to do that unspeakable horror to a child. Truthfully, though, why should I be shocked when I examine human history's cacophonous squeal? From the legend of Lizzie Borden to Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler the human wreckage of man’s carnage can be seen far and wide over the ironically beautiful earth’s landscape. But this was an innocent child we say straining to make some sense of it all. We cannot because there is no sense to be made.

To save our sanity in our time I believe we must look at humanity with a carpenter's level. We must know that our fellow travelers on this planet do not come in black and white. There are many shades of grey as one can see so many offers to bury free-of-charge that sinless child. Even Cardinal O’Malley offered to say mass for her. One can see monuments of candles, teddy bears and hearts left in her memory. If one looks carefully one can even find a Pope.

There is a reason so many love Pope Francis, including this Jewess. He represents man's search for acceptance, search for love and search for goodness in what is an otherwise cold, lonely and war-like world saturated in violence. This Pope has managed to capture even the most implacable hearts. Is he perfect? No one is but there is, in our time, no better example of empathy, kindness and justice that embodies this man. I laud you, Pope Francis, and ask you to say one for Bella, the personification of goodness and innocence on our earth. I look to the youthful purity of Bella gone well before her time and the aged wisdom of a Pope among us now trying to teach us understanding, acceptance and love as Jesus in parables is said to have done. Through Bella and the Pope the Paradise lost is the way to a Paradise found. To that I say Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Great Con -- the "Debate"

The Republican “Debate” - Do NOT be Conned!

Republicans ALL are utterly awful. They may have different ways of saying it but they ALL say mostly the same thing in different styles. The ONLY thing, the one and ONLY thing on which I agree with Trump is that the top has to be taxed more and the middle class has to be relieved of its burden. Those who can afford it most must and SHOULD, as the Christians they SAY they are, assume greater responsibility instead of the opposite – giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

I thought we just went through the GREAT recession during Bush’s murderous administration. Even Alan Greenspan said before Congress that they with their Ayn Randian laissez-faire economic fallacy erred – trickle-down economics failed because Reaganesque economics does NOT trickle down it trickles up and jobs for the middle class are eradicated because unmonitored and unregulated Wall Street got away with literally murder. The accrued profits by those at the top went to their yachts and not to jobs for the middle class. Even trade policy was fixed by lobbyists for the very rich. Suicides and deaths resulted because people lost jobs and the money that comes from jobs to sustain their health and their life. Many lost it all and some ended up on the street. The banksters who perpetrated the fraud and trade policy fixed by the very rich created the Great Recession. The 1% had jobs alas they walked away with even more millions, hundreds of millions and the middle class got stuck with the bill!

RepubliCONS are CONS for the 1% and if people fall for the lies they peddle then they have themselves to blame when RepubliCONS take us backwards into a 19th century world!

ALL of the Republicon “debaters” would be a nightmare. They care more about fetuses than they do about living breathing fully human women! All are simply terrible. Trump connecting vaccines to Autism sells fallacy and even death as people eschew vaccines that have been scientifically proven over decades to prevent diseases that can kill. There has been NO absolutely NO proven scientific correlation between vaccines and autism but hey RepubliCONS do not believe in science now do they?

Evolution will wipe out those who do not accept its science instead of touting fantasy beliefs that have no proof and will probably take those of us who revere science with them IF they gain power. Do NOT be conned!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Who By Bullet: Rabbi Meszler's High Holy Day Message

A Rabbi's New Year Message beautifully written.  Tears roll down my face!

 From the Rabbi

Rabbi Meszler's Rosh Hashanah message:

On the High Holy Days, we read the disturbing prayer entitled Unetaneh Tokef, containing the famous passage, "who shall live and who shall die, who by fire and who by water." This prayer asks us to recognize our mortality and how much of life is beyond our control.

It is therefore all the more mind-boggling when there are dangers that are within our power to avoid and we ignore them. Reflecting on this past year, to me the most obvious needless danger that we tolerate in America is gun violence. In the Unetaneh Tokef prayer of 2015, we could easily add the phrases: "who by bullet and who by negligence, who by semi-automatic weapon and who by unlicensed handgun, who by lack of background check and who by accident."  We as a society have no one else to blame but our sick culture and our lack of political will.

Let me share with you just a few personal encounters I have had with this particularly American issue. I was in my last year of Rabbinical School when I got a call about my classmate Rabbi Joel Mosbacher. His father had been taken out of his store in Chicago at gunpoint. After the robbery, he was shot and killed. I remember driving up to the home to gather for the stunned shiva . My friend's life was changed forever. This is criminal gun violence.

But there is also accidental gun violence. A year later, I was in serving a congregation in Washington DC. I received the following letter from a congregant named Eve in anticipation of the Million Mom March, a march for gun control, which took place on Mother's Day, May 14, 2000. The march was in reaction to the Columbine High School massacre.

     Dear Rabbi,
     Nate and I are by nature not marchers. We do not enjoy crowds, preferring to promote causes privately. Almost in spite of ourselves, this year's Million Mom March will be an exception.
     In 1983, our first child, David, was shot and killed by another child. It was an accident that we have never been able to move beyond. For 17 years, our lives have been shaped, in a way deformed, by that event. It has hurt our souls, our marriage, our subsequent children, our families and our friends. It becomes a barrier between us and those who do not know because it is so difficult to say that there was a child who is not here anymore.
     People are kind but unless you explain they do not understand. There is no polite way to say that we had a beautiful, bright 22-month old baby whose babysitter loved him very much but they kept a gun for protection and one day their four year old son found the gun and accidentally shot David through the head and killed him.
     We really feel uncomfortable sharing that story because although we have been over every nuance for so many years, it is always a shock to bring it up. But there is no way we can go out for a meal on Mother's Day and know that others have given up their Sunday and we have not. So we will both be at the March and hope that you understand that if only there had been a safety mechanism on that gun, David would still be with us.
     Our hope is that you will think about us, and about David, and give thought to what it means to make our children safe through gun legislation.

I marched with this family and many others then. While the march brought many people together, it did not produce any change in policy.  More than a decade later, the epidemic continues unabated without any legislative response, even after Newtown. Proposed legislation focused on things I cannot imagine are objectionable: requiring background checks  on all firearm sales and on passing new and expanded assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans . Yet no legislation has been passed. I thought the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 would be the tipping point. It was not.

But mass shootings only account for 1% of the gun homicides in our country, even though they are the ones that get our attention. There are shootings that happen all the time. Last month, a 23 year old young man who just graduated from American University, Matthew Shlonsky, who grew up at a synagogue in North Carolina, got out of a cab in DC. A stray bullet hit and killed him in broad daylight. That could have been a member of any one of our families. In Baltimore, while I was visiting my family in Maryland this summer, fourteen people were shot in one night . It was in that moment that I decided I needed to speak on this issue today.

So what does Judaism say about this issue? Judaism is not just about lighting candles on holidays, life-cycle events and how to be a better person. Judaism is also a religion of ethics, law, and the street.

Make no mistake, Judaism is not a pacifist religion. We have a clear obligation for self-defense. Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity of human life. It also says that we are entitled to defend ourselves and even take a life to save ours. " If someone comes to kill you, kill them first" (Berachot 58a) is a fundamental principle in the Talmud. Rashi adds that a thief in the night better beware because the resident has a right to kill someone breaking in, assuming their worst intentions. Added to this is the obligation on us to assist other people who are in trouble: " You shall not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds"  (Leviticus 19:16).

On the other hand, these laws are not absolute. When it comes to owning weapons, the Talmud teaches ( Avodah Zarah 15b): " One should not sell [those of criminal intentions] either weapons or accessories of weapons, nor should one make any weapon for them."  Further, in the Talmud says (Bava Kama 46a): " Rabbi Nathan teaches: From where is it derived that one should not breed a bad dog or keep a damaged ladder in his house? From the verse [ Deuteronomy 24:8 ], 'You shall not bring blood upon your house.'"  If things that are inherently dangerous, like rabid dogs or broken ladders, are forbidden, all the more so should gun safety be maintained.

Finally, Judaism views weapons not as sporting goods but as necessary evils. This negativity can be felt in tractate Shabbat (63a): " One must not go out [on Shabbat] with a sword, nor with a bow, nor with a...shield, ...nor with a spear... The sages say they are nothing but a stigma, for it is written [ Isaiah 2:4 ]: 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'"

  • What type of weapons, magazines, etc., do people reasonably need for self defense?
  • How can we make sure that those with a criminal past or the mentally unstable cannot access weapons? This would include restrictions on weapon ownership by those with whom they reside.
  • We are obliged to use every possible technological means to prevent these people from acquiring arms under any circumstances, for example, a robust national system of background checks.
Now there is a very small Jewish minority who make the argument that we should all be armed, for if the Jews of Germany had guns, then the Nazis would have never been able to take them away. I do not think this is a reasonable comparison. Currently, we are far more endangered by the all-too-common instances of domestic violence, someone thinking of suicide having access to a firearm, or an accident than the relatively rare instance of an armed intruder much less a genocidal regime in our streets. Self-defense is part of Judaism, but licenses, background checks, and safety are within not just the spirit but the letter of Jewish law. The Union for Reform Judaism has long recognized the need for gun safety legislation, passing many resolutions to that effect.

I recognize that guns are part of American recreation and culture, and many people want them for home defense. My grandfather, of blessed memory, grew up in Pennsylvania and was part of that culture. He hunted regularly and belonged to the National Rifle Association. He told me he canceled his membership when the NRA insisted on the right to own assault weapons. He explained to me, "If you shoot an assault weapon in home defense, you'll take out a wall of your house. If you shoot a deer with it, there will be nothing left of the deer to bring home. It just doesn't make any sense."

The fact is, I believe we are talking about basic health and safety legislation, the same way we have laws for cars or medicines. While no gun legislation will prevent all shootings, we know that strong gun safety laws do reduce the incidents of gun violence. Gun safety legislation saves lives, unequivocally. States with more gun control have less gun violence, and states with less gun control have more gun violence.

Consider the 2014 study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which looked at how gun deaths in two states correlated with the repeal or enactment of permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws. After Missouri repealed its PTP regulations in 2007, it saw a 25 percent increase in homicides by firearm. Bordering states did not experience an increase, and the national murder rate declined 5 percent. Missouri murders not involving guns remained steady.
When Connecticut enacted PTP laws in 1995, over the following decade it experienced a 40 percent reduction in firearm homicides. It also raised the handgun purchasing age from 18 to 21 and required prospective purchasers to complete eight hours of safety training after applying for a permit with local police in person.

In other words, a 25% increase in one state and a 40% decline in another occurred solely because of a change in their laws. These laws did not forbid owning a gun but required a background check to see if you were a violent criminal or mentally unstable.

People sometimes point out that new legislation would not have prevented most of the major gun massacres. They also like to say the slogan, guns don't kill people, people kill people. As one of my high school classmates cleverly wrote on Facebook, "You don't blame a pencil for spelling mistakes or a car for traffic accidents; why should you blame a gun for shootings?" The difference is that a pencil is made for writing and a car is made for taking people from one place to another. An assault weapon is only made for killing a lot of people at once.
Even so, even if you believe you do need a gun for safety, which is well within Jewish tradition, why on earth should there be no background checks at gun shows the same as at gun stores? Why should assault weapons be permitted? Why shouldn't we develop and promote available smart gun technology that recognizes fingerprints in order to fire, much like a smartphone, so a child cannot shoot another child? We must learn to say: "Your right to own a gun ends with my family's right to live safely." "You shall not bring blood upon your house."

So what can you do? A bipartisan bill has been introduced into Congress called the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3130 ). The bill will close a loophole in federal law that allows some perpetrators of domestic violence to access firearms. Now obviously this is a small step, pitiful even, but at least it is a step we can take. Please take the time to write to anyone and everyone that known domestic abusers should not be able to buy a gun anywhere and there ought to be a background check.

Gun violence is a plague of our own own making. Even though we have not been successful in the past, we still must say, "This is not right. As a Jewish American, I protest." I believe, despite all of the past failures, that gun violence is an issue we can do something about. We cannot eliminate it completely, but we can reduce it. Change can begin with small steps. The proposed law is one such step.

Almost every attempt at gun legislation has failed in the past twenty years. Nevertheless, we have to keep dreaming of a better tomorrow, as it says in the optimistic song by Arik Einstein: " Ani v'atah m'shaneh et ha-olam : You and I can change the world. You and I, and then others will follow. It's been said before, but that doesn't matter. You and I will change the world."

Shanah tovah.

Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler
Temple Sinai of Sharon

Hostile BBC Interview of a Saudi Loyalist Shows Prime Journalistic Duty: Scrutiny of One’s Own Side

By Glenn Greenwald

The ongoing atrocities by Saudi Arabia and its “coalition partners” in Yemen reflect powerfully — and horribly — on both the U.S. and U.K. That’s true not only because those two countries in general are among the closest allies of the Saudi regime, but also because they are specifically lavishing Saudi despots with the very arms and intelligence being used to kill large numbers of Yemeni civilians.

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

The American and British governments have long been overflowing with loyalists to the Saudi regime (recall how President Obama literally terminated a state visit to India [where he ironically spent his time “lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights”] in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the Saudi King upon his death, along with top officials from both parties).

One of those many Saudi regime loyalists, conservative British MP Daniel Kawczynski, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight program on Friday night and was mercilessly grilled by host James O’Brien about support for the Saudi war in Yemen by both the British government and the country’s private-sector weapons manufacturers.

The BBC deserves all sorts of criticisms, but this interview was a master class in how journalists should interview politicians and others who wield power. The whole interview (video below) is well worth watching, as O’Brien repeatedly demands that Kawczynski address the war crimes being committed by the Saudi regime he supports. But I want to focus on one point in particular.

BBC Newsnight screen grab

Video here or below.

Each time he’s confronted with questions about the war crimes committed by the side his own government arms and supports, Kawczynski ignores the topic and instead demands to know why the BBC isn’t focused instead on the bad acts of the Houthis, the rebel group the Saudis are fighting, which the Saudis (dubiously) claim is controlled by Iran. Over and over, when O’Brien asks about the role the U.K. Government is playing in Saudi war crimes, Kawczynski tries to change the topic by demanding that the BBC instead talk about Iran and the Houthis: “You have an agenda at Newsnight and you don’t want anyone to dispute the way in which you are covering this war. You have an agenda against the Gulf States coalition. … Why haven’t you shown any coverage of the massacres … by the Houthi tribes?”
After noting that the BBC has reported on Houthi violence, O’Brien explains this crucial point about his focus on Saudi crimes:

Because the investigation is into whether or not weapons sold by British companies have been used in the commission of war crimes possibly committed by Saudi Arabia. … The Houthis are not our allies and are not our customers. Therefore, the public interest of British journalism is not served at this point by investigating what they have or have not been doing. We sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Embedded in O’Brien’s explanation is a vital point: The primary role of journalists is to expose and thus check abuses committed by their own nation and its allies. As O’Brien notes, “the public interest” is served far more by focusing on the bad acts of one’s own government than on the acts of foreign governments for which one is not responsible and over which one has little or no control.

This ought to be so obvious as to be axiomatic. But the opposite is true: The vast, vast majority of media coverage in the West — and of foreign policy discourse generally in the U.S. — is devoted to some formulation of “ hey, look at all the bad things that our enemy tribe, the one way over there, is doing.” It’s impossible to quantify with precision, but as someone who pays a great deal of attention to American media and “foreign policy expert” discussion in the U.S., I’d estimate that 95 percent of that discourse is devoted to the supposed bad acts of adversaries of the U.S., with maybe 5 percent devoted to the bad acts of the U.S. itself and its closest allies. It’s exactly the opposite of the “public interest” standard O’Brien accurately defends.

I first noticed this on a visceral level when there was a huge outpouring of protest and anger from American journalists over the Iranian government’s three-month detention of the American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi (until she was ordered released by an Iranian appellate court). What was notable wasn’t the anger itself: It’s natural, and noble, for journalists to defend free press rights of their fellow journalists. What was so notable was that their own country’s government — the United States — had imprisoned journalists for years without charges of any kind, including an Al Jazeera journalist for almost seven years at Guantanamo, and most of them said absolutely nothing about this. All of that was barely reported. How can you be an American journalist and focus extensively on Iran’s abuse of journalists while completely ignoring your own government’s?

That event for me demonstrated a critical point: It’s so fun — and so easy — to highlight and protest the bad acts done by the countries declared to be the Bad Ones by your own government. It’s not quite as fun or easy to highlight and protest the bad acts done by your own government itself or its closest allies. Yet as O’Brien pointed out, journalism is far more valuable, and the public interest served far more, by doing the latter rather than the former.
That’s true because journalists can serve as a watchdog over their government far more effectively than over the governments of faraway adversary countries. But even more so, there’s never any shortage of light being shined on the bad acts of adversary governments: Exploiting the bad acts of adversary governments in order to disparage, discredit and thus weaken them is something virtually all governments do. It’s called propaganda. Citizens in most countries hear a great deal about the bad things done by adversary governments. What they hear far too little of are the bad acts done by their own government, which is why journalism is most valuable when it shines light on that. That’s when journalism is informing rather than amplifying tribal propaganda.

There are lots of reasons why people prefer to focus on the bad acts of the Enemy Tribe rather than one’s own. A big factor is strategic: When the focus of Americans is on the bad acts of Putin or North Korea or Iran or whatever Villain of the Moment is being featured or on the injustice of those places, their focus is not on the things they can actually do something about: the bad acts of their own government and the injustices in their own society.

Constantly directing people’s attention to bad things being done by other tribes is simultaneously distracting and distorting: It creates the impression that Bad Things (imprisoning journalists) are only done by Them, not by Us. 

But at least as big a factor is a psychological one: Humans intrinsically feel better when we are condemning others rather than ourselves. That’s why bitter, judgmental gossip has long been a favorite pastime: It’s self-soothing to sit in critical judgment of others. There’s a reason the Gospels have to remind human beings to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”: It’s precisely because the universal temptation is to ignore our own flaws since that’s so much more self-flattering and pleasing.

None of these are absolute rules; some caveats are needed. There’s a benefit from knowing about the acts of adversary governments. We want reporting on those countries as well, and journalists assigned to those countries do their job by highlighting the conduct of those governments. Nor should the bad acts of adversary governments be expressly denied or actively minimized, as that becomes its own form of deceit and propaganda. And then there are times when the bad conduct of other governments produces such great human suffering that collective action becomes both possible and justified, in which case focusing on it can be justified.

But as a general proposition, the duties of journalism, and for that matter citizenship, are fulfilled by having one’s primary focus be on the bad acts of one’s own side, not those of the Others. As always, this quote from Noam Chomsky — who has spent decades being told that he spends too much time talking about the bad acts of his own government and society — most concisely explains the point:

“My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. 

“But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.” 

It’s not only “easy” to “denounce the atrocities of someone else.” It’s also profitable: strategically, propagandistically, psychologically and emotionally. That’s why it’s such a popular thing to do. It’s been true for decades in the U.S. and still is: Write or talk about the invasions, bombings, tyrant-support and torture by your own government and you’ll immediately face demands from nationalists that you focus instead on Russia, upon pain of being accused of being a secret Kremlin agent if you don’t. That is what also explains the obsession among some Westerners to depict Islam, rather than their own governments, as the Prime Force of Violence and Aggression. It’s also what drives the tactic of minimizing your own country’s sins by pointing to someone who is doing worse.

It’s just pure tribalism in its most classic and primitive form: It’s the Other Side that is always the Bad One. Journalistically, that behavior is as cowardly as it is inconsequential: Americans and other Westerners have been inundated for decades with demonizing language about U.S. adversaries from Russia to China to Iran to Muslim extremists. There’s very little valuable, and nothing particularly courageous or interesting, about sitting in the U.S. echoing those self-serving, self-pleasing and already widely accepted narratives. What Americans have lacked, woefully, is a journalistic focus on the bad acts done by their own government, a direct challenge to the propagandistic banalities they’ve been fed to glorify their own side.

This superb interview by this BBC host is an excellent illustration of the virtues of adversarial journalism. Even more significantly, it demonstrates why journalism is most valuable when it is devoted to what is most difficult: namely, focusing on the bad acts of one’s own side, holding accountable those who wield power in one’s own country and those of its closest allies, challenging the orthodoxies most cherished and venerated by one’s own society.
* * * * *
The British MP who was interviewed by Newsnight, Daniel Kawczynski, is now threatening to sue the BBC and its producer, Ian Katz, over the interview. He’s particularly upset that after the interview, Katz posted the documents showing that Kawczynski received a “donation” from the Saudi Foreign Ministry to visit. As is so often the case, the most vocal tough-guy-warriors are such delicate flowers.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Randy Rainbow gay rendition of Chicago's -- "She Had it comin!"

BRILLIANT! and clever here or below.

How much clearer could it be for the mandate of Democrats to win office EVERYWHERE!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

9/11 and the Belligerant Empire

You may not agree with this documentary (linked below) but you should when a nation's power structure wants to take you to war and death ask the question why and who does it benefit!  Howard Zinn

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 Remembered – 14 years later

I am a glutton for depression.  I have been watching MSNBC’s three hour tape of the nation’s 9/11 tragedy that was visited upon us 14 years ago today.  That bright crystal clear blue-sky gorgeous day in Boston betrayed the dark events which enveloped us and the world and, to this day, still do. 

Two events in my life’s historical memory have synaptic connections that are, I hope, as strong as iron.  The first is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the second is 9/11.  Through the diminishment of memory by age and through the onslaught of physical impairment by time, those events, for me cannot be erased.  They are seared into my soul never to be forgotten.  To my last breath I will remember them.

The Holocaust which, thank fate, I did not personally witness but the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the attack on the World Trade Towers with all the events surrounding 9/11 I did.  I can remember the details of both events like none else in my life.  I remember the time, I remember where I was, I remember who was with me and I remember a flood of other minutiae of memory one might forget but for the catastrophic nature of those events that were visited upon our nation and the world at that time.

I have watched endless documentaries explaining it all.  Many do not understand why I watch these again and again which remind me of those perilous, sad days and provoke not only a feeling of depressive powerlessness but also evoke the lingering question I have always asked with respect to man’s inhumanity to man – Why? 

The only way I can, as a person who does not set policy, but who still is able to raise a voice in objection to the nasty and the brutish Hobbsian characterization of life is to remember, historically, what has happened.

The better angels of our nature must prevail and decry senseless violence that begets only more violence.  We must remember those most impactful events which sear our collective souls and instruct us to find a better way. We must listen, we must talk, we must try to understand those who oppose us and engage in discourse to try to understand why.   

We must remember the words of those whom I think said it better than I ever could -- John Kennedy: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”  The US should strive by always remembering these historically horrific events and those who died in them so that, as Abraham Lincoln memorialized in the Gettysburg Address masterpiece “we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain.”  We must remember so that the proverbial admonition by Edmund Burke that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it, does not, again, ring true.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trump insults Fiorina 'Look at that face!' -- I ask ARE WE KIDDING?

The Trumpet regurgitates another nauseating comment this time against Republican candidate Carly Fiorina's looks.  I am no fan of Carly Fiorina but the class and articulate ability that woman has in her fingernail Trumpet does not have in his entire body.  I do not care if he has 100 trillion bucks would YOU want to live with Trump's face not to mention his insulting mouth?

The Quote:

Rolling Stone -- 
According to writer Paul Solotaroff, who was sitting with Trump watching a newscast when a video clip zoomed in on Fiorina. Trump said:

"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?" Trump said to Solotaroff. "Can you imagine that, the face of our next president."
Trump added, "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hillary's email to me and MY email back

If you want to read Hillary's email she sent to me and many like me who are strong Democrats and a supporter of her scroll below my response.

I support you, Hillary, but there is SO much at stake.  The very life of our country and the human rights of all human beings insist that a Democrat and ONLY a Democrat occupy the most powerful and sometimes threatening-to-millions office of the presidency. 

We have committed many egregious sins not the least of them since WWII spewing lies taking a people to war, bombing countries it was not out business to bomb, killing hundreds of thousands, making millions refugees, plundering and strafe bombing the innocent in nations plunging the world into the darkness we see it in today. 

There can be NO alternative to Democrats HOLDING the presidency and if possible retaking the Senate.  There is too much at stake.  I only hope the American people choose rationality, logic and science over ignorance, stupidity and hate. 

I still support you with the hope that time will erase this controversy from the public's concern.  I care ONLY about keeping Democrats in office.  As you present a more authentic, honest and candid view of yourself I will hope that works as I WANT to vote for you and certainly will if I see you can electorally win the day!

-----Original Message-----
From: Hillary Clinton <>
To: natalierosen <>
Sent: Tue, Sep 8, 2015 11:09 pm
Subject: My email

Natalie --

I wanted you to hear this directly from me:

Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I'm sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.

It's important for you to know a few key facts. My use of a personal email account was aboveboard and allowed under the State Department's rules. Everyone I communicated with in government was aware of it. And nothing I ever sent or received was marked classified at the time.

As this process proceeds, I want to be as transparent as possible. That's why I've provided all of my work emails to the government to be released to the public, and why I'll be testifying in public in front of the Benghazi Committee later next month.

I know this is a complex story. I could have -- and should have -- done a better job answering questions earlier. I'm grateful for your support, and I'm not taking anything for granted.

I understand that you may have more questions, and I am going to work to keep answering them. If you want to read more, including my emails themselves, please go here:

Thank you,