If God had wanted guns to have silencers He would never have made them SO LOUD in the first place. I believe it was God's plan that guns be REALLY LOUD. I think that it's somewhere in the Old Testament, though I can't be sure where. My understanding is that it's somewhere in the part where God created light and the world with living creatures and animals and birds and mankind in His image and saw it was all good and then rested. After all, when a gun goes KABOOOOOM, it gives the target a fighting chance.
Earlier today Trump declared Sunday to be a national day of prayer. (As if people don't general pray on Sunday. Maybe he could have picked another day to widen the spread. But I digress...) I'm not sure what he hopes to accomplish by this. I suspect that if God actually had plans to get involved helping out the needy in Texas, He never would have caused the hurricane in the first place.
Serious admiration for Billy Joel for his wardrobe stance during his recent Madison Square Garden concert, a reaction to the White House response after Charlottesville by a reminder to WWII when the Nazis overran Denmark. By way of reminder, they ordered Danish Jews to wear a yellow Star of David so that Jews could be singled out and always identified -- and pretty much the entire nation wore one, including the Danish king, which rendered the decree meaningless.
Joel wore this jacket during the encore of his New York City concert. It also had a second Star of David on the back.
Today, Republicans are expected to bring up their version of national health care up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Critically important as this is, it may not be the most important piece of legislation to be dealt with on Thursday. Mind you, this isn't to say it's not seriously important -- it is, obviously. It's just that even if it passes the House (no certainty, though you'd think Republicans wouldn't bring it up for a vote unless they were sure it would pass -- but, who knows? Maybe they're only close and think the vote might pressure those on the edge), it chances of ultimate passage into law is still uncertain because it stands a very difficult time passing the Senate. That's why the other matter may be more important -- besides which it has a great deal of deep and far-reaching importance of its own.
It's that Trump is expected to sign an Executive Order that would allow religion to have a greater involvement in politics than it does now. At present, of course, because of 1st Amendment protections which allows for religious organizations to be tax exempt, the restrictions against them participating in political activity directly are high. If Trump does sign, then that barrier will drop.
This is a horrible matter. Significantly so. Not just for matters of fairness or for dancing the line too closely of Constitutionality, blurring the protective wall between Church and State. But much more substantively with real-world ramifications. Consider --
Not only are money donations to religious organizations tax exempt, but there are no restrictions on how much money a person can donate to a religious entity. Donate $10,000, a million, whatever you want. Every year, every month. Leave your entire estate to the religion of your choice in your will, if you wish. In some religions there's almost a requirement to tithe a portion of your income to them. And if the Executive Order is signed, then that church, ministry, temple, mosque, whatever the house of worship can use it to push its (or in essence, and as much to the point, the donor's) political agenda.. There will be no restrictions. We're not just talking preaching from the pulpit to the flock. Several houses of worship can pool their resources, an even larger religious group could form a PAC. Make TV ads, buy time on the radio, put up political billboards. Expand your thinking, as well, to include televangelists into the mix. And better still, the donor can take a deduction on it, to boot, since it is all tax free.
And for anyone who still thinks this is a great thing, consider that once you allow religion to cross the street into the secular world, that street is two ways. And government laws and restrictions can come into play on how that political money can be used, blurring the line even further that divides church and state.
Decades ago, Stan Freberg made a classic comedy record called, "Green Chri$tma$," in which one of the lines spoken by the greedy chairman of the board Mr. Scrooge was, "Christmas has two "s's" in it, and both are dollar signs." The premise was about the slippery slope when religion and business are mixed in advertising, but little did Freberg know how prescient he was in a far-worse, even politically-dangerous arena,
("Wake up, Cratchit, it's later than you think," the meek junior executive is brusquely told off when he speaks up about how wrong it all is. His response, the last spoken line, almost-whispered in sorrow is, "I know, Mr. Scrooge. I know.")
By the way, it's actually even worse than all this, hard to believe as that may be. Because in either a separate Executive Order or part of this same one (I can't quite tell),private employers will be allowed to use religion as a reason for denying specific issues of coverage to their employees, including -- and likely, most notably -- reproductive health care. This goes under the disingenuous heading of "Religious Freedom."
Assuming the signing does occur today or whenever, this would be an absolutely terrible Executive Order. One of the worst "dark money" situations we've had for politics, on a level with the Citizens United ruling. If Trump signs the Executive Order. I think it's fair to assume he will.
Which will be the only fair thing about it.
My pal and fellow board-member of Elisberg Industries, Rabbi Jack Moline -- who in his spare time is president of the Interfaith Alliance -- sent me this. It's not only quite funny, but particularly timely, thanks to dear Sean Spicer with his chain of Holocaust Centers. And since it fits well into today's theme, it seems a fine time to post it.
This is a musical number from the TV series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I've never seen the show, but checking some details out, it seems as if they do a lot of musical sequences on the show.
There are a couple of small tidbits worth nothing. In addition to two-time Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone – who's very good in the scene, but particularly funny for not being Jewish, though playing a rabbi's wife here – the other “mother” in the scene (who joins her at the :39 mark singing and dancing about the Holocaust is Tovah Feldshuh, who's a semi-regular on the show (as the mother of the main character) and also has a very long Broadway career, with three Tony nominations, and among for many credits starred as “Yentl” in a short-lived stage adaptation of the story. And most recently she was in the current revival of Pippin. So, the TV show got some pretty good names for the sequence.
Last night at the Passover service I attended, there weren't the traditional Four Questions. It's not that they weren't asked -- they were, but rather that there was a fifth. The additional question was, "So, do you think Donald Trump will attend his son-in-law and daughter's Seder tonight?"
Actually, I thought that was a much easier one than the others, even taken into consideration that everyone at the table all had heard, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" annually for several decades since childhood and knew the correct response by rote. I answered the Fifth Question immediately. "No," I said. Really??, I was asked in return, You don't think so? (And for people keeping track of such things, no, that doesn't count as a Sixth Question.) "No way," replied.
And not shockingly, to me at least, the answer came in this morning's news. I particularly like the sub-headline –
The only difference between the empty seat left for Elijah and the one for Trump is that no one should have left the door open for Trump in case he might show up.
What would have been a shock is if it were otherwise. After all, this is a man (using the term loosely) who on Holocaust Remembrance Day, released a statement that didn't remember to mention the six million Jews who had been the far-largest victims killed in the Holocaust. And he's someone whose chief adviser ran a White Supremacist news site that's virulently anti-Semitic. And whose foundational support comes from racist groups. And who throughout the presidential campaign often re-tweeted postings from known White Supremacist accounts. And who is, it's my personal observation, among his many attributes, a racist anti-Semite. So, what would have been a shock is if he had attended a Seder, and dared offend his base...along with his own delicate sensibilities. Trusted son-in-law and daughter be damned.
The author of this news story here about Trump's non-attendance postulates that specifically because of the Holocaust Day omission it seemed likely that Trump would have attended a Seder, to smooth over bad public relations and bad relations period with Jews. But that strikes me as a foolish analysis. The omission wasn't a gaffe, but intentional.
Indeed, if Trump had attended a Seder, that would have been the answer to the First Question, and explained precisely why the night was, in fact, incredibly different from all other nights.
Donald Trump finally said something about the growing wave of anti-Semitic attacks around the country. The good news is that he's apparently against them.
What he said is that “Anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop." He added that anti-Semitism was "age-old, and there's something going on that doesn't fully allow it to heal. Sometimes it gets better and then it busts apart."
Certainly this is hardly the soaring, eloquent level of response one hopes for from a president, but given his silence, at least it's something.
On the other hand, his comment that "there's something going on that doesn't fully allow it to heal" is tone-deaf. What's going on is that we had a presidential candidate who took a leading anti-Semite on to run his campaign (and then making him chief adviser) and stirred up up intolerance and racism in his run for the presidency and kept quoting from white supremacist website and in his refusal to denounce these groups throughout the race gave them winking approval that their actions could enter the mainstream.
That's what busts the healing about.
Bomb threats against Jewish community centers have greatly increased in recent weeks. In fact, anti-Semitic hate crimes against Jews in New York City have already doubled this year...and we're only in February. And thus far -- silence from the White House.
At his event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Trump was asked about charges that his administration "is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.” Rather than take the opportunity to at least try to explain (whether accurately or not) why that was not true, he used the question to talk about how he won the election with 306 electoral votes. No, really.
(Note for those keeping scoring: 306 electoral votes is not that many -- especially when you lost the popular vote by almost three million.)
The next day, at his now-infamous out-of-control press conference, Trump was asked a similar question, what he planned to do about the 48 bomb threats in recent weeks against Jewish community centers and do to combat growing anti-Semitism. Rather than answer, or talk about his electoral votes, he actually cut the reporter off, told him to sit down, and instead replied, “See, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question, and it’s not.”
First of all -- yes, it IS a simple, easy question. "What are you going to do about growing racism of any sort?" is an incredibly easy question. You start by saying, "I'm against it. " And then, if you want to go on, you then add that there's a reason it's called a "hate crime" because it's hateful. And you denounce it and call on all Americans to denounce it.
You can even stop right there if you want, if you're stumped and can't think of anything else to say. It wouldn't be a great answer, but it would not only be an passing-grade C- answer, but a simple, easy answer.
Instead, Trump continued to avoid the simple, easy question by going on to say, "I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life." Adding that,. "I hate the charge. I find it repulsive.” Okay, never mind that the reporter didn't make "the charge," as true as arguably it might be. And okay, never mind that we have zero evidence that Trump is even remotely not anti-Semitic, let alone "the most anti-Semitic." Actually, given that he's now the most powerful man in the world and yet he is avoiding not only doing anything about growing anti-Semitic hate crimes, but avoiding even answering any questions about them -- which gives aid and comfort and tacit approval to those committing them -- it could be argued that Donald Trump therefore could be the most anti-Semitic person we've ever seen in our entire life.
(For the record, just because he brought it up, I know a whole lot of people who are less anti-Semitic than Trump. I'm guessing everyone reading these words, whatever their politic positions, do, as well. Indeed, I think most people I know are less anti-Semitic than Trump. I've bumped into angry strangers on the street off their meds who I'm sure in their isolated world are less anti-Semitic than the powerful Trump. My childhood friend Jack Moline -- one of our fine board members here at Elisberg Industries -- is a rabbi and president of the Interfaith Alliance. He is monumentally less anti-Semitic than Trump. Every day, he writes and speak about bringing peace and unity among religions. It's his job. And his personal core. So, there, we have at least one person by name to prove Trump wrong. I'm going to guess that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel who Trump shared the stage with only the day before, is much less anti-Semitic than Trump, as well, so there we have another. I'd keep the list going, but we'd be here for a very long time and never get to "second of all."
Actually, we'll have to still wait and get to "second of all" in a moment.
That's because later in the same press conference, Trump was again asked about the same issue of growing anti-Semitism, and he shunted it aside as fake news created by his political opponents. Note: in real news, only days later, on Monday, there were five more bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers. And that same day, nearly 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis were discovered vandalized.)
Which finally brings us to second of all.
In what alternative fact universe does Trump think that the president of the United States is only supposed to get "simple, easy questions"???????!!!
President of the United States may be the most difficult job in the world. And the whole point of "most difficult job in the world" is that it's...well, difficult, and so every day there will be a roaring stream of difficult, challenging, pounding questions that require being answered.
And Trump is going to tell reporters to sit down because their questions aren't simple and easy?? Well...that sure isn't going to fly very far. You stop answering challenging questions and leave them open, and not only will they come pouring at you from all directions, but soon the public starts seeing the problems aren't being addressed. And they get really pissed off.
Besides, how hard is it for a high-level politician (or any politician) to dance around a question and obfuscate without actually answering? It's part of the job requirements, it happens regularly throughout every day. Only yesterday, in fact, vice president Mike Pence was asked at a European press conference if people are supposed to believe what he says when it contradicts the president, or believe what the president tweets when it's different from Pence's subsequent correction? Pence waltzed for a few moments without answering and then moved on. (Though believe it or not, he did begin by saying "That's a good question" -- which it is.) When Trump was asked his simple, easy question that he didn't want to answer, he told the reporter to sit down.
It was a simple, easy question. "What are you going to do about growing anti-Semitic hate crimes?" It's a softball question that most politicians should be happy to get. "I'm against hate." How hard is that??! But Trump said absolutely nothing.
In the end, I guess we really did get his answer.
The Victoria Islamic Center in Texas that was burned down by arsonists hours after Trump signed his Executive Order on immigration has now, within days, received $1.1 million to rebuild, for a need of $850,00 Quite a great response from Americans -- except for Trump who, as far as I can tell, has been silent. Bringing Americans together, indeed. What a nurturing response from the president of all Americans.
In the meantime, while the rebuilding takes place, the local Jewish synagogue contacted the Muslims about letting them use their temple. The president of the synagogue, Robert Loeb, told a newpaper, "We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in Victoria, and they probably have 100 Muslims. We got a lot of building for a small amount of Jews."
One of the leaders of the mosque, Shahid Hashmi, said: "Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue."
The man who began the online GoFundMe campaign, Omar Rachid, said: "Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the tremendous support we’ve received. The outpouring of love, kind words, hugs, helping hands and the financial contributions are examples of the true American spirit."
Donald Trump has said nothing.
If you're interested, the crowdfunding page is here.
Ah, simpler times. Remember back when the far-right spun themselves into a tizzy and was outraged (!!) when Barack and Michelle Obama made a supposed fake-terrorist fist bump? The good ol' days.
Imagine this from them.
I think the screaming would have been even louder and more horrified than when Starbucks changes its holiday cups from red to green.
On the other hand, I did figure out why Trump sent this! He must have been watching an old rerun of Seinfeld and instead of "Festivus" thought they said they were celebrating..."Fistivus"
What I still can't figure out though is why, in a family card, it didn't include his wife and children. Just him and his tiny fist.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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