Can I trust my memory? Just to be safe, I asked Sally. “Do you recall any active shooter drills when we were on the beach?” She shook her head and said “No”. “Do you recall any alarms or even well-armed patrols in the resort?” Again, her answer was “No”.
I laugh when people express shock or fear when we tell them that we spend a week in Mexico each year. They wonder if we are afraid. They feel compelled to tell us that they have heard stories.
You may be forgiven if you aren’t aware of the latest shooting. From this morning’s Washington Post:
“Two people were killed and four others were injured after a shooter entered a campus building Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and opened fire.”
Picture – A Safe Place – David L Cunix
It had been 48 years since I had earned a certificate from my synagogue. 48 years since my last days of Sunday school. But the world is changing and I, and close to 50 others, gave up our time to take another class. A life or death class. The certificate above is from the STOP THE BLEED training we took to be prepared for the unthinkable, a shooter invading our place of worship.
Yesterday a shooter invaded the Chabad of Poway, California, a synagogue just like mine. It was Saturday morning and the last day of Passover. I had been in services at 11:30. The terrorist attacked at the same time. The initial reports are that one congregant was murdered and several others injured. As terrible as that is, it could have been a lot worse. The congregation, like mine and so many others, had taken active shooter training.
President Trump went before the microphones on his way to a campaign rally. “Looks like a hate crime. Hard to believe.” NO IT ISN’T. There isn’t anything surprising about another disaffected white guy, trapped in his insignificance, looking for someone to blame. The terrorists that burned down the Black Churches in Louisiana, raided the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, or the Chabad in Poway weren’t Radical Islamic Terrorist. They weren’t members of MS 13, Mexicans, or even Hondurans. They were white supremacists, the fine people who were yelling “Jew will not replace us” in Charlottesville not so long ago.
Yesterday’s white supremacist admitted that he was responsible for last month’s fire at the Islamic Center of Escondido, too. There is a fear and hatred of the other. If only the U.S. could get rid of the Jews, the Muslims, the Hispanics, or anyone else that doesn’t fit their particular vision of who is really American. And if they were able to cleanse America, who would they then blame when they are still irrelevant?
The Rabbi reflexively raised his hands as the gunman shot him and had a finger blown off from each hand. He was released from the hospital this afternoon and addressed the media. He spoke eloquently of his friend, Lori Kaye, who was murdered by the terrorist. He talked about the 33 years of community that he had helped to establish with his wife. He asked how this could happen and why would a 19 year old believe that he had the right to invade a house of worship. And then he asked, damn near demanded, that we do something – that we bring light into the world. The Rabbi’s answer to darkness is light. Not just Jews, but everyone of good will who could hear his message was charged to combat the darkness by bringing light into the world, to perform random acts of kindness.
I will heed the Rabbi’s call and I will donate money in memory of Mrs. Kaye. But while we are waiting for his message to take hold, I’ll continue to participate in my synagogue’s security and hope to never need my training.
Your house is being robbed. You can
- Do nothing. Appreciate that the thief is only taking the stuff you don’t like.
- Do nothing since the thief is entertaining and his comments are hilarious.
- Do nothing. This same thief broke into your neighbor’s home and took all the good stuff. No sense in stopping him since he isn’t taking anything you value. As a bonus, he promises to go back to your neighbor’s house and take more of their stuff.
- Stop the thief.
It would appear that the Republicans have chosen option #3. They don’t want to do anything as long as the thief only takes the stuff that someone else values. And if you look out in the driveway, that’s Mitch McConnell driving the getaway car.
Picture – Not Enough Locks – David L Cunix
Some of the Jews living in Germany, Poland, and other European countries were in denial. They couldn’t believe that Germany, and in many cases their own non-Jewish neighbors, could be so inhumane. The evil was beyond their grasp. But others were well aware of the danger they faced by staying in Germany. President Roosevelt was also aware that many Jews were trying to escape. An effort was made, in 1939, to relocate 5000 Jewish settlers over a five year period to Alaska. The full program would be part of an economic development program designed to bring up to 50,000 settlers to the territory. No one was fooled.
“The proposal won few fans in the far north. Widow Emma de la Vergne in Fairbanks was one of those who thought it was a good idea. “Let the German-Jews come to Alaska if they want to. Alaska is a big country. Give them a chance,” she said when interviewed by the city’s Daily News-Miner. But most of her fellow Alaskans disagreed. “German Jews Unsuited for Alaska Settlers Is Prevailing View Here,” read the paper’s headline on November 21, 1938. A few days later, an editorial declared: “Alaska wants no misfits and none who are unprepared to make their way without becoming a burden upon the territory.” The mayor of Fairbanks compared the proposal to one that advocated turning Alaska into a penal colony.”*
Let’s be clear, nothing has changed. There will always be people fleeing violence and oppression. And there will always be people prepared to barricade the doors. President Donald Trump recently declared that “our country is full”. Editorial writers and economists from around the country presented logical reasons for welcoming immigrants. Logic is irrelevant. There is never enough room for those who look or pray differently. We were full when the Irish were coming. We were full when the Italians were coming. Hell, there wasn’t room in Alaska for a couple thousand Jews. And now, there is no room for women and children fleeing Honduras.
I see my grandparents when I see these families huddled on our border. Yes, we came in legally, like the displaced families who waited in Europe for years to get to the U.S. after World War II. Success, LIFE, was dependent upon being someplace where you could wait. Not everyone was so lucky.
Picture – No Place To Go – David L Cunix
*Quote – Anchorage Daily News
“Can I ask you a question?”
I was distracted. Agitated. My guard was down. “Sure. What?”
“Do you identify as a Democrat or a Republican?”
“I’m a Democrat.”
“I’m a Libertarian. I just want to know how a Jew can be a Democrat.”
“I don’t know how a Jew can be a Republican.”
He was surprised. “No, I mean”
“I know what you mean. You still have Steve King.”
“Kingmaker in Iowa. Every four years the entire Republican field goes to Iowa to kiss his ring.”
“I wasn’t trying to start an argument. I was just trying to”
“You were just trying to get me to agree with you. I don’t.”
Let’s be clear. Two freshmen Congresswomen do not represent our entire party. And no matter how badly Donald Trump and his media outlet, FOX News, wish to make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) the faces of the Democratic Party, they are not. The most recent election, the Blue Tsunami, was a victory for the party’s moderates and suburbanites of both parties from around the country.
It is easy to understand why this acquaintance was surprised by my push back. First, I not only didn’t know his politics, I had no interest in that or any other opinions he might have. More importantly, his limited world consists of people who either agree with him or ignore him. This is not uncommon. So many of my liberal friends isolate themselves from conservatives. Defriending people on Facebook is easier than guessing which right-wing memes were funnier in the original Russian. And many of my conservative friends have found peace by surrounding themselves with like-thinkers. Railing against the mainstream media only works in certain circles.
FOX, Limbaugh, and some of the other stars of right-wing media do a great job of creating villains. You can watch CNN for weeks and never hear a mention of George Soros. Our soldiers are still dying in war zones around the world, but there is no time to discuss them or even the men who died in Nigeria in 2017. That time is still reserved for Benghazi. And now, now the focus will be A.O.C., a Hispanic, and OMG! a real live Muslim, Ilhan Omar. These two young women could have spent their first term hiding in the cloak room and they still would have been the focus of intense scrutiny. Instead, they decided to make the job easy for FOX.
Republican friends have been wielding Omar like a blunt instrument. Is she an ignorant, dangerous anti-Semite? I can’t say for sure that she is anti-Semitic. But she has managed to find and use age-old tropes, derogatory words and images, which have been targeting Jews for centuries. Is this an accident or on purpose? I can’t say. Can one be anti-Israel without being anti-Jew? Yes, that would seem possible. Her most recent remarks, covered in a more balanced fashion by NPR, show her to be both naïve and inartful. But she certainly isn’t dangerous. It seems that she is immature and drunk on her new-found power and platform. FOX is happy to highlight her latest kerfuffle, an attack on former President Obama. Nancy Pelosi is giving Omar the opportunity to clean up the messes she’s made and learn to be a member of Congress.
The selective outrage of our friends on the right is tiresome. The guy who saw “very fine people” wearing khaki’s, carrying Tiki torches, and shouting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlotte is in no position to point out the bigotry in others. Prejudice and intolerance, even when directed at others, should still be fought by Jews. Hate refugees? That was us not so long ago. Claim that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into the country and couldn’t possibly serve in Congress? Is that so different than those who question whether a Jew, a Catholic, or a Mormon is fit to be president?
The Republican Party has long harbored an interesting collection of anti-Semites. This past November, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, ran a post-election article detailing the successes and failures of Republican candidates who had campaigned with anti-Semitic tropes. Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca) makes an appearance in the report. Does my acquaintance know or care about any of this? Does he even know that McCarthy is the Minority Leader? Probably not.
My ignorant acquaintance reminded me of Roger, the proselytizer who wouldn’t take no for an answer. There are Jewish Republicans, Jewish Democrats, and Jews who may not even vote. Our religion may inform our decisions, but it can’t make a definitive choice of American political parties. This selective outrage in the time of Trump isn’t really outrage at all. It is just another example of inartful political speech. And I’m also sure that my acquaintance isn’t dangerous.
Picture – Cooking American – David L Cunix
The New Democratic Leadership Council (NDPC) was the Ohio version of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in the mid-1990’s, the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. It had been formed, in large part, after the humiliating defeats of our candidates in the 1984 and 1988 elections. Al From and others attempted to move the gravitational center of the party back to a more electable middle. And an insurance agent living in South Euclid, ME, became the chairman of the Greater Cleveland chapter.
In the fall of 1995 I attended a political event and was introduced to Jimmy Dimora, the recently elected chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. He said that he was aware of the NDPC and asked me how many votes we controlled in the party. That hadn’t been our focus. We were issue driven. We were working across the state to develop a platform that could attract a cross-section of Ohioans. I answered him honestly, “a few”, and he quickly moved on to people who were more important to him. The individual who had taken the time to introduce Jimmy to me, an elected official, was surprised and apologetic. I wasn’t offended. I had just been taught an important lesson. Ideas are important, but you must be able to count and control your votes.
Howard Schultz would like to be your next president. He is not alone. The election of Donald Trump has caused any number of Americans to scream at their TV’s, “WTF?” Real billionaires and successful businessmen know that he isn’t in their league. Policy experts from the Left and the Right gasp at this ignorance. Lots of elected Democrats believe that he can be beaten. And over a dozen Republican Senators and Governors must live with the constant reminder that the Republican electorate viewed Donald Trump as a better choice than any of them. So it is no surprise that Mr. Schultz would like to do what Mike Bloomberg should have done a few years ago, run for the highest elected office in the land.
Mr. Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, won’t compete for the party’s nomination. He has decided to run as an Independent. Unencumbered by party rules, primaries, or any other part of the vetting process, Mr. Schultz can self-fund his way onto the ballots of all 50 states. The other reason, the official reason, he has chosen to explore the Independent route is because he sees himself as uniquely alone as a presidential hopeful. He believes that he is the only candidate who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. That may, or may not, be true. There may be even be an unquenchable thirst for this particular mix. I hope we don’t find out.
Much has already been written about the possibility of a Schultz candidacy pulling anti-Trump votes away from the Democratic Party standard bearer and inadvertently reelecting Trump. Dems seem to be hoping that this is all a vanity project and that his attention will be drawn elsewhere. Republicans are cheering him on. This post isn’t about that. This post is about an unlikely Schultz victory.
Just to be clear, if I was describing my own politics it would be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I would have welcomed Mike Bloomberg into the 2016 race since he had real experience in both business and government. My objection to a Schultz victory would be the legislative outcome or lack thereof.
The last ten years have shown how our system can be manipulated. The villain, the most cynical man in Washington, is Mitch McConnell. It is only within the last ten years that nearly every piece of legislation needed 60 votes to pass the Senate. Mitch has yielded the filibuster in ways previously unimagined. And when Senator McConnell would ask President Schultz on the first day of his presidency, “How many votes do you control”, the Schultz presidency would be over before it got started. A President Schultz would enter the legislative battle alone, friendless, and with limited influence. The current president wields his twitter feed and Fox News at his opponents, in and out of his current political party. He can threaten to support a primary challenger if a member of Congress doesn’t fall in line. President Schultz wouldn’t have any loyalty or clout with either side of the aisle.
2020 is still a way away. I welcome Howard Schultz into the race as a Democrat. Let’s vet his ideas. Let’s see if he is willing to do the hard work of campaigning in the snow of New Hampshire and the county fairs of Iowa. Let’s see if this is more than a vanity project and that he has the fire in his belly. Let’s see if he can count and control his votes.
Picture – A Cup of Joe – David L Cunix
The movies depict an “out of body experience” as a moment when the protagonist literally floats above his body and watches the medical team perform heroic efforts to save his life. Will he return to his physical body and live? While there, hovering between life and death, he is gifted with a moment of clarity, an understanding of what really was/is important.
I am fortunate to have not one, but two, “out of country experiences” each year. Though not as dramatic, and with a round trip ticket without any mystery about my return, these trips do provide moments of clarity.
I just spent a week in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t see a single MAGA hat the entire time, not at the resort, not even in either airport. The current president’s name seldom came up in conversations we had with Americans and never with people from other countries. If I had stayed off Facebook and turned off CNN, I might never have heard the name “Trump” the entire time. This is not to say that the resort didn’t have Trump supporters or, more broadly, Republicans. People were just happier talking about the football games, the beautiful beaches, or how awful the weather was back home.
A week without Trump is a luxury. He dominates the news at home like no previous president. The legitimate press dutifully explains the emoluments clause in the Constitution, his negative impact on insurance premiums and the cost of goods, and the court cases involving his inner circle. His defenders, FOX, the National Enquirer, and his TV lawyer Rudy split their time extolling his virtues (real or imagined) and attacking female Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi. It is all so tiring, and it is meant to be. We are being distracted while Mitch McConnell is living the dream.
What have two years of Trump and McConnell given us?
- Two Supreme Court Justices
- Countless federal judges appointed for life
- A massive tax cut for the wealthy that will balloon the federal deficit
- The dismantling of federal safety and environmental regulations
This might excite some of you. You have a real shot of ending legal abortion in the next decade or so as the courts get packed with right-wing judges. Or, your income might be high enough that the tax cut benefits you and your company. But the rest of us? I bet most of you, the ones that voted for Trump, thought you were getting something else.
Republicans blamed Democrats in 2016 for an economic that moved at a glacial pace. Sure there was job growth and the GDP, but they claimed it was too slow. In truth, the DOW had rebounded smartly from the 2008 Bush meltdown. What didn’t recover, what hasn’t grown, are wages. Ask a retail worker what she is making per hour. Ask your friends at the local tool and die shop. Better yet, do you even know anyone working in a machine shop? What I see is a lot of people treading water. What I see is wage stagnation. The price of gasoline may be down, but almost everything else is going up. When our wealthiest increase their income through effort or tax break it is celebrated as an opportunity for the “job creators” to do what they do best. When the working class gets a raise it is considered inflationary.
I suspect that you are less concerned about blocking your neighbor’s daughter from having an abortion than the possibility of the Cleveland Clinic blocking your access to their facilities because you don’t have insurance. What’s important to you? For many Americans the answers are reasonable wages, access to health care, and the assurance that our kids are going to be OK. Which of our elected leaders, if any, seem to be focused on any of those?
I’m not saying that you should/could ignore the shenanigans at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I just think we have to put it in perspective. They didn’t bury me when they discovered my cancerous kidney. They removed the kidney. No out of body experience necessary. My out of country experience reminded me of all that is good about our country. Almost 250 years of democracy, opportunity, and freedom will not be destroyed by Mitch and Donny.
Picture – A Day At The Beach – David L Cunix
Editor’s Note – If you are easily offended, why are you still reading this blog?
Some of my friends are shocked, SHOCKED, that a newly elected Congresswoman from Michigan proclaimed at a rally, “We’re gonna impeach that motherfucker!” Can you imagine anyone talking like that? Oh, the pearl clutching. It is as if the last eight years didn’t exist. We all remember the guy who attacked a sitting president as foreign born, lied constantly about having a team of private investigators, called most Mexican immigrants rapist and murderers, and made countless other offensive comments. The pussy-grabber in chief, the guy who referred to Congressman Adam Schiff as “little Adam Schitt”, was extolled by his followers as someone who fights political correctness and simply says what everyone is really thinking. And now? Now they are upset. But is this really just an example of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) engaging in “locker room talk”. Isn’t she just saying what everyone is thinking?
I must admit that NO, I wasn’t thinking any of the horrific things Donald Trump said before and after he was elected president. And, just as importantly, I don’t agree with Ms. Tlaib. It is too late to put the genie back into the bottle. Ms. Tlaib is simply a symptom of a time where decorum is not only not revered, but denigrated. What we once considered as civilized is now thought to be a sign of weakness. There are already two dozen Democrats contemplating a run in 2020. The question hanging over every campaign is whether to take on Trump, dirt for dirt, or to attempt to rise above the fray. Male or Female. Candidates with real resumes, real experience, real talent, yet that is the question – “Can he/she handle the lies, the derogatory nicknames, and the degradation of a contest with Donald Trump?
The last ten years have been contentious and the next two won’t be any better. It is only going to get worse first. Will Trump be impeached? I don’t know. So much depends on Robert Mueller and his team. It is possible that only the people, ALL OF THE PEOPLE, around Donald Trump stomped on campaign and tax laws and he was simply an innocent bystander. But, shouting for impeachment now doesn’t help move us forward. We lived through what can only be described as a failed bloodless coup in 1998. We saw Republican Congressmen run to the cameras decrying the misbehavior of the then president in the day and then go back to their mistresses at night. Impeachment, the reversal of an election, is serious business that needs to be conducted by serious people. The people that saved us from Richard Nixon didn’t do a victory dance when he got onto that helicopter. They breathed a sigh of relief.
There are going to be a lot of unfortunate remarks in the next few months. From both sides. Leave your pearls in the jewelry case. We have work to do.
Picture – Clutching Your Pearls – David L Cunix
The entertainment team of the resort hosts activities throughout the day. It was 4 PM and time for Poker, a $20 buy-in, winner take all, Texas Hold ‘em tournament. The last to join the table was a newlywed and his bride. John (all names changed) was surprised when Bridget asked for $20 to play, too. Jasmine of the entertainment team was dealing poker for the first time. Her inept shuffling and flattering bikini were distracting, which was a problem since many of the guys at the table were easily distracted. It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t Bridget’s first time at a poker table. She ruthlessly dispensed with John and a couple of the guys who were more interested in Jasmine and alcohol than cards. I’ve played poker with Sally. I had been leery of Bridget from the start. Rule One of Poker is that if you can’t find the sucker at the table, it’s you. One by one Bridget and I knocked off the people who weren’t focused on the game. She had scored early and often and was now playing big stack poker. She bullied the table and pushed most of the guys out of the game. And finally it was just the two of us. She pushed and I let her. She pushed and I let her. And when she pushed again, too confident to play her cards or to know her opponent, I pushed back and won the tournament.
Donald Trump is a big stack poker player. He has pushed around smaller players; contractors, employees, small-time local politicians, for years. And when he has lost, which has been surprisingly often, he was bailed out by either his father or the bankruptcy courts. Congress will not be pushed around so easily. No one can bail him out. The famous Trump negotiating style is to make his demands, loudly, and to watch his opponents cave. Congress will not fold. Congress will not be easily distracted. For the last two years Donald Trump has had a Republican House and Senate. Mitch McConnell got his judges. Paul Ryan and Mitch got a budget busting tax cut for their donors. What did Trump really get other than two years of profiteering at the expense of the American taxpayer? That all ends next week.
There is an art to playing big stack poker. Bridget wasn’t an artist. Neither is Donald Trump.
Picture – A Full Deck – David L Cunix