[Expletive deleted]

The president of the United States is a racist, anti-Semitic, lying, paranoid, philandering, nepotistic, potty-mouthed, narcissistic, reality TV personality, who makes everyone uncomfortable when he talks about his daughter.

Unfortunately, none of those things make him unfit to be president.

As a person with a background in history, I try to think about events in a larger frame than the 24-hour news cycle.

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JFK was a philanderer and gave his brother the Attorney General position.

LBJ was a racist. He used the N-word. A lot.

Nixon was a paranoid anti-Semite and a crook. His secret tapes brought into the public lexicon “expletive deleted.” He pointed out once that while he swore a lot, LBJ was worse. He resigned before the impeachment process started.

Ford and Rockefeller were the only people who held the office of president and vice president and were not elected by the people to either office.

Ted Koppel’s count of the days of the Iran hostage crisis brought down the Carter administration (Carter, by the way, also had anti-Semitic tendencies) and ushered Reagan, an actor who had some governing experience, into office and Reagan proceeded not to remember anything about Oliver North or Iran or the Contras.

Bush Sr. cleaned up the Iran-Contra mess with 6 pardons in his last days in office.

Clinton was a philanderer, made improper use of a cigar in the Oval Office, and had too many whatever-gates to count. But that’s not what he was impeached for. His crimes were perjury and obstruction of justice. There were not enough votes to remove him from office.

Bush Jr. was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he managed to convince the American people to go to war in Iraq to dispose of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and to fight Osama bin Laden, a Saudi who was actually hiding out in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.

There is a lot floating around about Obama, but in historical time, it’s too soon for an analysis.

I bring all this up because I’m still annoyed by Fire and Fury and the short-sighted debates of the 24-hour news cycle.

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Two books came out this week that don’t talk about all the petty relationships within the White House: It’s Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston, and Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum, senior editor of The Atlantic. They talk about how the Trump machine capitalized on all the holes in the system, how the presidency is based mostly on tradition and Trump has thumbed his nose at all that (which is not technically illegal), how previous presidents may have been flawed but at least they put forward their ideas of how to improve America and Trump is doing nothing of the kind, and how everything that the Trump administration is doing in every department is destroying the foundation of US democracy as we know it. Just reading the excerpts available on Amazon is blood-chilling and nightmare-inducing.

How did the internet respond? Crickets, as the internet is wont to say.

Meanwhile, Fire and Fury is set to become a TV show and is currently #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.  (To be fair, we’ll have to wait a week to see the numbers for the other two books.)

What will bring down the president?

Verifiable impeachable offenses. According to the Constitution, these are “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” And then a vote to remove him from office. Get busy, Mueller!

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His own choice to resign. Nixon resigned when he saw that he lost all political support in Congress. Republicans! Are you listening?

But I’m worried. The American people would rather read a journalistically problematic book of gossip. Two journalists wrote serious critiques of the Trump administration and few people even noticed. The GOP won’t recognize that the emperor has no clothes. I’m not even sure where the Democrats are.

So come election time, will a slim majority vote for another episode of the circus? It sure does make for riveting TV.

Thinking about the Constitution reminded me of the SchoolHouse Rock song about the Preamble of the Constitution (We the People), but Youtube suggested another oh-so-appropriate video: an explanation of the Separation of Powers depicting government as a three-ring circus. Sadly, the analogy is apt.

 

 

“True”

The news has taken a lot of my attention this week and I want to share a thought about the controversial book, Fire and Fury. There was this quote (image from the Kindle preview and full disclosure, I haven’t read the book)

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It sounds like what he’s saying is that untruth is part of this book. So then what do you believe? This is something that has been touched on in different reports, but is not explored in depth.

It reminded me about biased journalism against Israel that reporters often deny. One well-known example of this is the battle in Jenin in 2002. Journalists faithfully and accurately quoted the residents of Jenin and Palestinian spokespeople who said that 400-500 Palestinians were massacred in Jenin and that the Israelis committed war crimes. These allegations spread throughout all the news outlets because they were indeed accurately reported. It’s just that what was said was not at all true. In fact, 52-54 Palestinians and 23 IDF soldiers were killed in the fighting. By the time that came out, no one was listening and so when people think of Jenin, the first thing they usually think is “massacre.” (It’s also true that Israel did not handle the media properly at the time and restricted their access.)

I’m not defending the Trump White House here, but Michael Wolff has basically done the same thing. He has faithfully and accurately reported things that were said to him, but he has no way of knowing which parts are true unless he was a witness. Does DT go to bed at 6:30pm with a cheeseburger? Who knows? Did all those people call him different variations of stupid? Only if Michael Wolff heard it with his own ears. Did he not want to win the presidency? Unknown.

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Some in the media think that it’s enough to say that what they are reporting is “true” simply because it is exactly what someone said. They need to also check that what is being said is objectively true. When Sean Spicer said that the crowd was the biggest that there had ever been for an inauguration, the media did their due diligence and showed that this was objectively untrue. They need to apply the same standards across the board to all their news stories. They need to remember that they are not just reporters of statements (or tweets), but investigative journalists who have a responsibility as the Fourth Estate to find out what is true, and not limit their investigations to what fits their own personal agendas and the story they want to tell. That means that whether a journalist is pro or anti Trump or pro or anti Israel, their first responsibility is to get as close to the objective truth as they can.

I saw an interesting piece about journalists in the Netherlands grilling US Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra about false statements he made about Dutch politicians being burned and “no-go zones” taken over by Muslim extremists. The Dutch journalists banded together and no one asked any other question except if he would give an example or retract his statements. They asked quietly and respectfully, but did not back down.

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If we can get the media to investigate something, what I’d like to know is: If the president is playing golf and cutting back on his schedule (starting his day at 11am and scheduling “executive time” for hours every day), then who is picking up the slack? I can imagine that the ship of government continues to sail without a strong rudder, but shouldn’t someone be at the helm? Is there an autopilot? Can the ship run aground? And if so, what happens then? Or, and I may be veering into conspiracy theory territory here, perhaps there is someone in the background (who did not run for president) who is actually steering the ship? Is the apparent chaos in the White House a distraction?

The 24-hour news cycle and ratings/clicks-driven stories don’t necessarily leave a lot of time for journalistic integrity and investigation. But maybe we as consumers need to demand more, demand better, and demand verifiable and objective truths.

The Year That Was

Like everyone else, I took a few moments to reflect on 2017 in relation to the blog.  I have to admit, it was hard to keep up with it this year because I had a lot of other projects going on, but I’m glad to see that I wrote consistently.

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The purpose of the blog was originally to share insights about Israel and life in Jerusalem, but I see that my recent posts about travel got a lot more attention than other posts. Maybe I should travel more in 2018! I’ve often considered expanding my subject area and I may explore that this year.

But for now, here is 2017 in review.

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I had readers from 42 countries on 6 continents. Does anyone have readers in Antarctica?  Israel and the US are not a big surprise.  Most of my readers are in the US followed closely by Israel. Rounding out the top 5 are the UK, Canada, and China.  The biggest surprise on the list was Pakistan. One person from Pakistan must have accidentally stumbled upon my blog.

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In analyzing the posts, 2017’s most popular post was The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Vegetables, which I did not expect.  The next most popular for 2017 were How to Travel Well and You Should Travel Solo (At Least Once).  Also in the top 5 for 2017 were two posts from 2016: Tai Chi in Israel and Observation: The Streets of Jerusalem.  Those two are also the most popular for all time,  followed by Holocaust Remembrance Day (5 May 2016) – Yom HaShoah.

I guess if I want to increase my readership I’ll have to be more observational, or very serious, or silly, or focus on travel.  To be honest, the Tai Chi post is most popular because it was featured on the website of the Tai Chi school, so it got readers from all around the world.  But since my blog doesn’t focus on Tai Chi, those readers didn’t stay.  All the other posts were popular on their own.  Well, I guess we’ll see what 2018 has in store.

Happy New Year!

May you have good luck, good health, good friends, and excellent adventures!

 

A life well-lived

This week I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the President’s House honoring a distinguished gentleman who I’ve indirectly worked with over the years, Smoky Simon.  He’s 97 years young and at the ceremony I finally had the chance to hear his life story.  I cannot do his story justice in a few lines, but I can provide a sketch. He and his wife came from South Africa as volunteers to fight in Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949). He was part of the first group of soldiers that eventually became Israel’s Air Force.  After the war, he and his wife stayed on for another year and a half.  Then, since they were just young volunteers, they went home to South Africa to start their family and save money for aliyah.

They came to Israel in the 1960s. He built his business and they raised their family (that now includes 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren).  He became the president of the World Machal organization (Machal is a Hebrew acronym for “overseas volunteers”) and since 1993 he has been the treasurer of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.  He was not a guy who did things for glory or accolades.  He did what he thought was right and just got to work.  In his speech, he shared the important parts of his life and only at the very end could you hear his voice shake with emotion as he thanked the president of the State of Israel for honoring him.

This post isn’t actually about Smoky.  But his story is important.

As we’re approaching the end of 2017, we might make resolutions to finally get to the gym or meditate more or finish writing that novel or manage money better or … We’re all just trying to be better people.

Then you hear a story like Smoky’s and the questions you ask yourself change:

  • Are you living a life based on your principles?
  • Are your choices reflective of your best self?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Does your life have meaning?
  • Do you have any regrets?

The key is to live so that your 97-year-old self will look back upon your life and say, “Indeed, it was a life well-lived!”

Happy New Year!

May 2018 be the best year yet!

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Fluff!

There’s too much to process from the news about Jerusalem and Israel, so please enjoy another fluff piece!

Solstice

I like marking solstices and equinoxes.  It reminds me that our little blue planet continues to revolve around the sun and the problems in our day to day lives are minuscule when seen through the lens of the galaxy or the universe.  I like the winter solstice because starting now, the days are getting longer.  We’ve passed the darkest day and it will only get better from here.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … oh, wait, no it isn’t

I enjoy seeing the Christmas tree in front of the YMCA.  I’ve even seen a picture of Santa riding through the Old City on a camel.  But Israel doesn’t do the commercial version of Christmas.  Black Friday is just a shopping day that has no relation to Christmas.  In fact, December 25 and January 1 are regular workdays.

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Santa

Issa Kassissieh, wearing a Santa Claus costume, rides a camel during the annual Christmas tree distribution by the Jerusalem municipality in Jerusalem’s Old City December 21, 2017. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) SOURCE

Wishing you all a

Happy Holiday Season!!

December in Jerusalem

I took a walk this week and took in the sights of Jerusalem in December. It happened that it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 C) and while that was a little warm for Jerusalem in December, it’s a nice feeling to get out into the sunshine on a pleasant day.

I’ve been passing this new statue on the street.  Part of me wishes it really was a talented street musician.  Maybe they can pipe some music in…

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There is an interesting photo exhibit on the walls of the Old City.  It seems to be reflective of the faces you see in the city.

And in the cool evenings, we are celebrating Chanukah by lighting candles, eating donuts and illuminating our best selves. We choose not to curse the darkness in the darkest days of the year (not to mention these “days of rage” lately, but that’s another story).

Oh, Jerusalem!

I’m not a good chess player. I know how all the pieces move, I understand some opening gambits, and I might be able to see one or two moves ahead. What I lack is any sense of strategy. This week feels a little like my chess-playing.

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Of course it’s great news that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! Yay! (Though let me just note that we don’t need anyone to tell us where our capital is, but it’s good that it is recognized on the international stage.) Even with the recognition, moving the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, which has been in process for 20+ years, was still deferred.

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(I like to use alternative pictures of Jerusalem. How many times can you see the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Seriously, Jerusalem is so much more.)

Everyone knows that if you keep doing something exactly the same way, you will not get a different result. Trump is not a “business as usual” president and the Middle East might just need a shake-up to get things moving.

Alright, let’s assume this is a covert, L-shaped knight move. We don’t know where it came from or where it’s going.

What’s the next move?

Condemnation by leaders around the world, veiled or unveiled threats from Arab leaders, Palestinians protesting.

Ok. That’s probably a rook making a strong appearance in the center of the board.

And then what?

The middle of the board will be messy, so we’ll have to sacrifice a few pieces to clear the way.

Bishops will certainly be involved. Pawns will be strewn everywhere.

Real life is not a game of chess (thankfully!). If it was, it would look more like this.

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But I’m still left with questions. Why recognize Jerusalem as the capital now? Israel gains on the international stage to some extent, but there will likely be a price to pay. So what does the US gain?

I’m not a good enough chess player or political strategist to have an answer for that.

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(Yes, I went a little crazy with the Pixabay chess pictures.
What does this one mean? I don’t know.)