Ah-Choo!

In Hebrew, the word for the sound of a sneeze is “ap-chee” (אפצ’י).

This week the almond tree in my back yard bloomed, practically overnight. It’s a sight to behold! And even though I just passed my 18th aliyah-versary, I was reminded that in some ways I’m always going to be American. Those beautiful white blossoms make me “ah-choo” not “ap-chee.”

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And now for something completely different …

***This is a work of fiction.  Mostly.***

INTERIOR, Oval Office

[Side view of Donald Trump staring out the window. He turns to face the camera.]

Yup. I’m still here. I know. I can’t believe it either. I mean, seriously, what does it take to get kicked out of this office?

Look. I know how I got here. America was mad at Washington and voted to shake things up. But I’m not sure you all planned for a tsunami.

I get it: elect someone who is famous for being famous and says things that you like to hear. “Drain the swamp!” But, folks, being president is supposed to be public service. Serve the public? Come on. I don’t even serve dinner.

How hard could it be to be president? Say stuff. Sign stuff. Shake hands and stuff. Being president is tougher than I thought.

I wanted out, like, A. S. A. P.

So I brought in massively unqualified people for Cabinet positions, and the turnover is insane, no stability at all. Absolutely no one should be surprised that I fire a lot of people, I mean, I’m famous for firing people (“You’re FIRED!” HA!). And I like to do it via Twitter because it’s so disrespectful and headline-grabbing.

I thought surely giving top secret information to the Russian ambassador would get me out of here. I mean, even Dersh thought it was pretty bad (although not criminal!). Nope.

I’ve met with Putin and Kim Jung Un. But there are no notes of our meetings. Is that any way to run official diplomacy? Apparently, it doesn’t bother anyone enough to get me the hell out of here.

I’ve said on many occasions that the world was laughing at us for paying for everything. I meant laughing figuratively. With me in office, they are literally laughing. On camera. At my expense. And unfortunately, at your expense too. After all, you elected me.

Well, to be totally accurate, I gamed the system. I said the Electoral College is rigged and my team used it to our advantage. It’s not rocket science, folks. Get a bunch of small population rural states to vote just a little bit more Republican and they’re in your pocket. A few big Democratic states aren’t going to beat that. So lose the popular vote and win the election.

Speaking of which. There’s that saying “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” The friends who got me elected are in jail. To be honest, you’ll never prove my hands are dirty on this one. If you watch enough TV (and I do), they always say, “Follow the money.” There’s no money. It’s all loyalty. Remember the Teflon Don? The only reason they finally got him was someone turned on him who had nothing to lose. Everyone I know has something to lose.

I think some Americans might like that I tweet all the time. You feel like I’m talking to you personally. I talk like you (the best words!). I make typos like you (unpresidented).  I make dumb mistakes like you do (why is Kansas City in Missouri?).

But did you forget my administration no longer has White House press briefings? Going on a year now. I control the message. I control the time, the place, the questions. I’ve called the press “the enemy of the people.” You know who loved that phrase? Stalin. And still. It’s not enough to get me out of here.

Speaking of my communication: I lie. A lot. I lie casually. “Hey, Janice, that skirt is so slimming!” (Not really.) “Hey, Jim, thanks for the feedback on the report.” (Not a single useful comment.) “Mexico is paying for the wall.” (Hardly.) Article II of the Constitution says “I can do anything I want as president.” (You probably haven’t read it, so you wouldn’t know.)

Why don’t I resign? Good question. Well, you know, I still love America. America has been good to me. I couldn’t be The Donald in any other country. Even if I’m not a leader by any stretch of the imagination, I feel a duty (if I can use that word) to roll back the carpet and show Americans that their apathy and ignorance have created a government of self-interested politicians looking to the next election rather than leaders who represent their constituents’ interests and serve the public that elected them.

I mean, come on. I was impeached, acquitted in the Senate, and then went on a vindictive firing spree (“You’re fired!” So much fun!). And I’m still here because your representatives in Congress can’t or won’t take action outside their party line. If they represent you and what you want for America, then they’re doing their jobs. But if they aren’t, get them out of there. The US government is not WWF Smackdown. Congresspeople should not be sinking to my level and crafting snarky one-line zingers. That’s not leadership, and it’s not the business of governing.

My sitting in this office is proof that the system is broken. Kowtowing to the party is proof that the people in Washington are not representing you or trying to make your life better; they are just sitting around collecting a salary and resting on their popularity in their home state. Electing more people like me will not fix the government; ignoring it won’t solve anything either.

Somebody – I don’t know who – said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. So if you sit on your ass on election day moaning about how your vote doesn’t matter, then the next four years of bad government are on you. You don’t just vote for a president, you vote for your representatives and senators. You live in a state, a county, and a town. The less you pay attention, the worse it’s going to be. Are the people running the country/state/county/town those who want to make it better for everyone? Or are they banking on winning a popularity contest for a salary and benefits?

I can see that nothing I do will get me out of here. I’m begging you voters: Get me out! I hate it here.

Democrats, I’m counting on you. Get your freaking ducks in a row. Get a candidate. Support that candidate. Vote. Remind your friends and family to vote. Do your civic duty!

If you don’t, four more years of this are on you personally. You’re going to see more taxpayer money stuffed into Mar-a-Lago’s (ok, my) pockets. Be thankful I’m golfing and not working. Who knows what other crazy stuff I’ll do at the office to try to get out of this awful job?

And I have to do all this dumb stuff every day so that you’ll pay attention. You’re tired of it? So am I! But you have to admit, you didn’t pay this much attention to Washington until I got here. You’re welcome, America!

[Trump picks up the phone.]

Yeah. Fire up the chopper. I’m on the way.

[Trump looks back at the camera.]

I gotta go. I’m gonna yell some nonsense at the reporters. I love how they run around on the lawn. It’s the only joy in my day.

(In case you forgot how the circus was supposed to work…)

 

 

Big news week. Or is it?

If you read any of the insane headlines this week, it might seem as if the world is on a high-speed crazy train to WTF-ville. But we’ll keep the focus on Israel.

Two and a half “big” things happened that got a lot of people talking, but the public seems to have responded with a collective yawn.

The Peace Plan

Finally, the “deal of the century” was delivered. Since we are in the middle of our third election, both major party leaders, Netanyahu and Gantz, went to Washington to shake hands with Trump and accept it. As I’ve said in many blog posts, Israel wants peace with its neighbors, without sacrificing security. In this case, neither party has anything to lose by showing early support.

Lots of people in Israel don’t like the plan, but most are pretty sure it will never happen. It’s simply not worth getting excited about. Palestinian leadership called for a “day of rage” while the Palestinian people said “whatever.”

So: Whose election is this good for? Will this nearly impossible-to-implement plan win enough points to overlook corruption and abuse of power?

Release of Israeli in Russia

A young woman passed through the Moscow airport coming home to Israel from India. She was accused of having drugs in her bag. The charges spiraled and she was eventually sentenced to 7.5 years in a Russian prison. She maintained her innocence all along.

This week Netanyahu got her out and went to pick her up in Moscow to fly her home on his private plane. Photo ops abound. They led to a lot of cynical (but hilarious!) memes.

Because again: Whose election is this good for? What did Netanyahu offer Putin to get this deal?

Immunity? I don’t need no stinkin’ immunity!

Netanyahu gave up his bid for immunity in the Knesset and corruption charges were immediately filed against him. The trial will likely get pushed to after the election.

If he wins the election, he expects to come up with some kind of deal to keep himself out of jail.

And that’s where we are

Elections are on March 2. Do we live in a country where handshakes with Trump and Putin paired with gargantuan hubris win elections? Let’s hope not. But I’m afraid that voter apathy and maintenance of the status quo will be enough to secure a fifth term. Perhaps that will finally start a conversation about term limits.

…And they live happily ever after

Admittedly not very high on the news radar and not life-changing to anyone but them, I found myself thinking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle “stepping back” from the royal family. (I’m sure Harry has a last name, but you’re probably not confusing him with other Prince Harrys.)

I’m a fan of rom-coms, Korean dramas, Austen/Bronte novels, and all things with a happy ending. I counter my wild romantic notions with a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism. I can differentiate between fiction and fantasy. These stories do not happen in Real Life.

Enter Harry and Meghan starring in their own rom-com Starstruck.

Meghan is an American divorcée who works for a living and has a difficult family. She has a good attitude and a bright personality. She is Every Girl. One day she meets this guy. He has a history of being a bad boy (wounded boy who lost his mum acting out), but turned himself around and served in the military (for real, two tours in Afghanistan) for ten years flying helicopters. He’s good looking and seems to have a lot of money. And it turns out he’s a British prince. He’s a composite of every male character in every rom-com, chick lit, romance movie/book/series.

They get married in a fairy tale wedding. And they live happily ever after.

Until . . . the sequel in which Harry decides to leave the royal family (dun, dun, DUN!). The British media have dubbed it Megxit.

The romantic in me is a bit sad that the fairy tale fell apart. The feminist in me is quite happy and is able to spin this in a good way for my romantic side.

So Harry’s not a prince now. He’s still most of the romantic package (bad boy, wounded soul, veteran, pilot, has money, etc.). Meghan no longer has to sit around looking pretty at the behest of the queen. She can fulfill her own dreams and live her own meaningful life.

The best (read: romantic) part is Harry chose her. He didn’t wimp out and buckle to his family’s wishes, and he defends her against the media (in the UK the coverage tends to be borderline racist and mean toward Meghan). He is going to be the supportive husband she deserves and the father Archie deserves. He is their champion, not their savior.

In fairy tale terms, Cinderella marries the prince and becomes the CEO of her own environmentally friendly cleaning products corporation. The kingdom becomes a democracy with elected officials and Prince Charming gets to use his private tutor education to help those less fortunate (like the shoeless, for instance). He could even take on the responsibility of raising the kids and making sure dinner is on the table every night.

Harry and Meghan’s story is the kind of feminist romance I’m happy to celebrate. And in Real Life too.

As the story continues to be written, let’s let them live happily ever after.

Movie Review Roundup

As much as I’m glued to YouTube watching the world unravel, I’m still a movie buff. In the past few weeks I saw three.

On Christmas, I saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.  On New Year’s Eve, I saw The Operative. Today I saw Ford vs. Ferrari.

Short non-spoiler reviews

Star Wars. Generally thumbs up. Lots of fan service and a good send off for a movie series that has been part of my world view for most of my life. I saw it in 3D 4DX, which helped me ignore the plot holes and ridiculous writing.

The Operative. Hand waggle. I wanted to like this movie. Martin Freeman is in it. A female Mossad operative in Tehran. The movie has lots of good parts that simply don’t hang together well.

Ford vs. Ferrari. Generally thumbs up. I miss driving. I miss amazing cars. This movie should have been about a passion for something that deep in your soul you have to do, instead it was about a race and spirit-crushing corporations.

Longer reviews (mild spoilers)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Seeing this movie in 3D 4DX means that I felt like I was *in* the movie. Things are coming at me (3D) and my seat moves like a roller coaster, wind blows through my hair, I’m sprayed with water, and then during fight scenes, my seat turns into a massage chair and I’m (gently) bonked in the back in time to the fight scenes (4DX). I literally held on to my seat for two hours. BEST TIME EVER!

It was enough to distract from the poor writing (Stormtroopers using jetpacks. C3PO: They fly now! Finn: They fly now? Poe: They fly now.). But even with all the distractions, I was quite disappointed in Kylo Ren’s redemption arc (because it wasn’t believable, not because it didn’t have a Hollywood ending) and ambivalent about Rey’s lineage and ultimate rejection of said lineage.

We get to say goodbye to the original characters and the story that brought them to the screen. It’s the end of an era and I’m glad I was part of the story all along the way.

The Operative

Based on a novel written by a Mossad officer (The English Teacher), directed by an Israeli, and featuring Israeli actors, there was a lot that I wanted to like. I had to suspend a lot of disbelief starting with a British citizen as a Mossad handler who doesn’t speak Hebrew, but understands to a level that he can be in briefings. (Story of my life in Israel, but I’m not in the Mossad!) And a non-Israeli female operative is sent alone into a deep cover mission in Tehran and she speaks no Farsi (Persian)?

There’s a weirdly pointless mission in Turkey and all I thought was: “Am I supposed to believe that this Mossad operative has had no weapons training and no close quarters fight training and they still sent her alone to meet with Muslim men in the middle of a desolate desert in eastern Turkey?”

And then it just ends. My mouth dropped open because I was so shocked that it just suddenly ended. I felt like a reel was missing.

Ford vs Ferrari (in the UK Le Mans ’66)

The movie stays true to history and if it had stuck to the passion, it would have been a better movie. I felt like studio execs read the original script and decided they needed a strong woman and a family life (Ken’s wife and son) so women would go see the film and they needed a villain (Leo Beebe and the corporate line) so that there would be “tension.” Whatever. The parts of the movie that work are the relationship between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby and the blinding passion they have for cars, speed, and beating their own best record.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are fantastic actors – honestly, I would watch them in anything – and they are the heart and soul of the film. I liked seeing Lee Iacocca struggle against the ordinariness of the Ford Corporation, but seeing these passionate guys go up against Big Business shouldn’t have been what the movie was about.

I’m glad it wasn’t about good old America and Ford sticking it to the Italians and Ferrari. There’s a  moment when Enzo Ferrari tips his hat to Ken Miles. We understand that the moment is about the love of the perfect lap in the perfect car at the best speed possible (so far). Ford is just in it for the optics of winning. It’s in these moments that the movie really works.

For me, I love classic cars and there are some real beauties in this film. My favorite moments were when the engine would rev at 7,000 or 8,000 rpms and Ken would shift into higher gear and just fly. In real life, those are the moments we live for.

 

Priorities in Order

Things not on my list of priorities

  • Hints of war with Iran. Not in my skill set and way above my pay grade.
  • Prime Minister’s corruption and request for immunity. I think this is taking longer than the Mueller Report.
  • Third election. As if anything will be different.
  • Putin and Zelensky are going to be at a Yad Vashem event together. I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Impeachment in the US. I can’t remember that far back.
  • Potential constitutional crisis in US. Meh.
  • Harry and Meghan break from the royal family. Yawn.
  • Lunar eclipse during full moon. Missed it.
  • Massive rainstorms in Israel. Didn’t go outside.

My #1 Priority

  • Catsky-Doodle’s teeth.

My poor little cat was getting skinny, but it seemed like she was still eating. This past week, I noticed that she was avoiding kibbles but could eat soft food. I called the vet who makes house calls and wrangled her into the carrier.

It was like a prison riot in my living room while we waited.

Tranquilizers. Oral surgery on the coffee table. Shots of painkillers and antibiotics. And then my poor drunk monkey was finally coming out of it (no video to protect her dignity).

Around 5am the next morning, she loudly declares her desire to go outside. In. The. Rain.

I regret my decision to let her out a few hours later when I can’t find her anywhere. I do a few laps around the neighborhood. Where are her new hiding places? She usually doesn’t leave the yard.

Finally, she comes home. She’s anxious, noisy, pacing, shivering. She won’t stay on my lap. She won’t curl up anywhere. She won’t be swaddled. Arrgh!

It’s a long night, but we make it.

Today, she is closer to her normal self. Playing, less vocalizing, wandering in and out. It’s sunny, so I left the door open.

This afternoon I found her like this.

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Catsky-Doodle is under Kit Kat Monster. I was airing out the Cat Condos since there was a bit of sun today.

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Later, they rearranged themselves. I put the lid back on and since I last checked on them, they are both still in there. I mean, it’s not like they have a whole apartment at their disposal.

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Psycho Kitty is inside, swaddled, living her best life with her human. The white cats could take a page from her book.

Update: Catsky-Doodle is in the house, but it may be another long night of prison riots.

Israel Is Ready

Let me introduce Israel’s response the targeted killing of Qasam Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran, with two quotes.

“If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.”
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1

“[I]f an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. . . .

[A] Jew must learn to defend himself. He must forever be prepared for whenever threat looms. . . .

[S]tand united in the face of the enemy. . . .
Menachem Begin, 1981,on the lessons of the Holocaust

I scanned the analysis pieces from all over the political spectrum of Israel and found that for the most part, everyone is in agreement: Soleimani was a bad guy and no one is really sorry to see him gone. Israel will deal with the consequences.

Netanyahu says he stands with the US. The opposition also applauded the US action. Israel is on high alert and “braced for retaliation.”

From the left, the analysis asks how this assassination fits into a broader strategy in the region. After all, Soleimani has been on the US and Israeli radar for 21 years (and sometimes Soleimani suited the US agenda in the region by fighting ISIS). Bush Jr. and Obama both had opportunities to take him out, but chose not to. What goal is served by doing this now? Without seasoned professionals around him, does Trump have a plan?

I looked at two analyses from the middle-of-the-road news site. The analysis more to the left reiterated the question: “Is this strike worth it?” And reviewed the positions of previous US administrations. The analysis more to the right also mentioned previous administrations and took a jab at Obama’s conciliatory methods, which allowed Soleimani “to run wild in the region” and increase Iran’s influence. But it also brought up the age-old conundrum of whether it’s better to stick with the devil you know or go with the devil you don’t. He illustrated the point with how Hassan Nasrallah came to lead Hezbollah in Lebanon after the targeted killing of Abbas al-Musawi in 1992.

The news site the most to the right hadn’t posted an analysis yet, but did have a round up of reactions. Earlier in the week, in response to the US attack Sunday on militia forces influenced by Iran, they published opinions of former generals about what Israel can expect if Iran wants to retaliate via Israel. In short, the Golan Heights might be vulnerable and that would be a huge security threat to Israel.

Even though Netanyahu is under indictment for corruption and is trying to get the Knesset to pass legislation to give him immunity for his crimes, he still won the leadership in his party’s primary by a landslide. Still, he can’t get a national coalition together and that’s why we’re heading to the third election in a year. Even so, what Israelis know for sure is that Netanyahu has led Israel for a long time (with periodic legitimate elections) and he believes in Israel. He laid his own life on the line in an elite commando unit and his brother lost his life during the rescue of over a hundred hostages in Entebbe. Israelis trust that Netanyahu will not send the sons and daughters of Israel into pointless battle. Israelis will always choose to preserve life, which goes hand in hand with self-defense. Israelis also know that since the birth of the State of Israel our neighbors have tried to get rid of us. They didn’t succeed then. And they won’t now.