THE NOUVEAU ANTIS

 

Anti-Semitism and anti-black prejudice are no longer politically correct. The N-word and expressions such as kike and sheeny are seldom seen in print or heard on the media these days. However, racial and religious prejudice have taken on a new socially-acceptable guise. Obama and Israel are handy substitutes, fair game for expressing color or religious prejudice

          My friend Moe used to be a Democrat. He now plans to vote Republican in upcoming elections. I ask if he approves of Obama’a health plan. “Yes, more or less.” Whether he favors paying unemployment insurance to the jobless for another year. He admits that this would be the decent thing to do and might also help the economy, and he agrees that the banks and brokerage houses need some controls. But, he insists that we now need a good Republican President, Tim Pawlenty for example. “But Moe,” I tell him, “Any Republican President is bound to bring into his administration people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Sharron Angle.” I quote several of their recent far-out pronouncements and ask, “Do you really want people with these viewpoints, obviously contrary to yours, running our Government?”

       No matter what I say, he remains obdurate. I try unsuccessfully to find out what he really dislikes about Obama. He hems and haws, but the only answer I get is that he thinks that Obama doesn’t really love our Country. I didn’t pursue that for fear that his next statement might be that he wants to see Obama’s birth certificate. His final comment: “I like the Democrats, but I don’t like Obama.” Wow!

       I brooded about our conversation all evening, and could only reach one conclusion. Although he would never admit it, consciously or subconsciously, Moe just doesn’t like or doesn’t trust African-Americans. A light went on in my head. Quite probably, many Americans, who would never publicly admit their prejudices and would hesitate to use anti-racial slurs, just find it easier to express disapproval of Barak Obama. There is an old Yiddish expression about a mother scolding her daughter, using invective she would like to use, but hesitates to use, with her daughter-in-law.

       Thinking about it, I believe that many people in America and elsewhere aim their invective at Israel, when thy really have anti-Semitic feelings. Notice that, when Mel Gibson loses control and vents his anger by making anti-Semitic remarks, he is roundly chastised in many publications and repeatedly in the media. The latest story lasted for several weeks and still comes up on TV. Open anti-Semitism these days is taboo, not kosher, offensive and politically incorrect.

       However, when journalist Helen Thomas recently opined that, “Jews should get the Hell out of Palestine,”, and “go home” to Germany and Poland, her absurd remarks got good commentary in USA Today, but very little coverage in other major newspapers.. The vast majority of Jews in Israel are not immigrants from Germany and Poland. To suggest that they resettle in the sites of the Holocaust shows a horrible lack of sensitivity. More important,Thomas’ advice to them strongly suggests that the Jews are not entitled to a State of their own.

       Thomas has Lebanese roots, but these sentiments are of course shared by numerous individuals and Governments around the world. No matter what Israel does, she is in the wrong. No matter what Hamas and Hezbollah do in attacking Israel, Israel is still in the wrong. The Arab population of Palestine is much greater than it was when Israel was formed, but Israel is still accused of displacing the rightful owners of Arab lands. Criticism of settlements, occupation, blockades, Gaza all are really cover for the idea that Jews seeking a homeland in the Middle East (where their forefathers originated) is somehow illegitimate. Israel is of course not free of blame, but the international attacks on her are primarily emotional and spiteful. In short, they smack more of anti-Semitism, still virulent in many European countries, than they do of carefully thought-out commentary.

       Racism and anti-Semitism are still alive and well in America, Europe and elsewhere, but in a new garb. Using a trite expression which has become popular these days, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

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THE REPUBLICAN’S CARDINAL SIN

As a traditional liberal, I have many differences with Republican policies. However, one outstanding one sticks out like a sore thumb and has had a devastating effect on our Country’s progress. That policy, that sin, is to make taxation a dirty word.

For more years than I care to remember, Republicans have been harping on the claim that Americans are overtaxed. They use this as a club against the Democrats, claiming over and over that the Democrats are the “tax and spend” party, this despite the fact that the Republicans, under Bush, have spent more of the public’s money than any previous administration.

The Republicans have done more than just complaining about taxation; they have created an image of taxation as an evil practice. Unfortunately, many members of the public have accepted this erroneous concept.

By making taxes a dirty word, the Republicans have made it impossible for our government to raise money for necessary expenditures and, have consequently forced the government to borrow, borrow, borrow money from foreign countries (particularly China and Japan) to cover these expenses. This has not only vastly increased our national debt, it has put us at the mercy of other governments who are not necessarily friendly to our aims.

Taxes are necessary to finance our military machine, our police forces, our schools, our fire departments, our federal departments who protect the safety of our food supplies. Many other areas are starved for necessary financing. As a result, our military machine is in sad shape; our schools are deteriorating and we have had periodic reports of lives lost due to food contamination.

We also need taxes to keep our roads, bridges, water supplies and sewage systems in good repair. Because we have not raised sufficient money to keep up the quality of our infrastructure, substantial deterioration has taken place and we have been forced to apply bandaids where extensive replacements and renovation are required. As a consequence, for example, we have had bridges collapse with resulting loss of life.

Unfortunately, the Democratic opposition has been frightened by the possibility of losing elections if they press for proper financing to keep out country on the right path. With the Republicans constantly pressing for tax relief (particularly for the rich) and with the Democrats retreating out of political cowardice, the country is sinking deeper and deeper into a financial hole.

We are not overtaxed. This is particularly true of the wealthy segment of our population who are given special benefits and who are allowed to take advantage of huge loopholes in the tax laws.

Republicans may scoff, but paying necessary taxes is essentially a patriotic duty.

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BOOK BANNING

The Islamic mosque to be located two blocks from Ground Zero has been much in the news during the last couple of weeks. While our Constitution guarantees the right to practice one’s religion (which unquestionably must include the right to decide where my church, synagogue or mosque is located), strident voices have been raised all over the Country claiming that a mosque so close to Hallowed Ground is insensitive to the feelings of those who lost family or loved ones on 9/11. 

One should of course be sensitive to the feelings of our fellow human beings but, in a diverse Democracy such as ours, with millions pf people whose feelings are easily bruised, too much empathy can lead to censorship and  other undesirable “democratic” practices. A typical example is book banning in the libraries and in our English classes in many  public schools all over the country  because of sensitivity, not necessarily to the majority, but to a minority who complain.

A recent article in the AARP Bulletin highlights this practice. Over 50 banned books are listed, though there are undoubtedly many more. Included in this list are Classics, some of our most famous and popular books, books valuable to the education of our children but banned because something in them offends a number of bluenoses.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Doctor Zhivago; For Whom the Bell Tolls and 1984 are excluded because some people consider them “Too political.” Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is banned as “Irreligious.” Apparently, it is dangerous to expose our children to real science, such as evolutionary theory. For the same reason, the Harry Potter series is eliminated on the claim that it encourages “Witchcraft.” This, in the 21st Century!

Banned as being “Too sexual” are Ulysses  Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; Jaws; and Peyton Place. And then there is the catch all category “ Socially Offensive.” Believe it or not, this list includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was unquestionably a ladies’ man, and had the nerve to write about it. The Diary of Anne Frank; ; Catch-22; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Brave New World are unavailable under this category.  And, oh yes, so is Gone with the Wind. Ridiculous, isn’t it? What are our children supposed to read, Little Red Riding Hood?

Res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself.  Oversensitivity to people’s sensitivity can lead to dangerous and self-defeating results.

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SARAH PALIN IS A LOUSY MOTHER

The world, particularly the political world, is full of hypocrisy, but there should be limits. Sarah Palin is the darling of the fundamentalist right and the anti-intellectual right. These are the very same people who constantly tout family values, motherhood and child care.

       My liberated women friends will hate me for saying this, but I seriously feel that Sarah Palin is a lousy mother. Why? Because she is putting her career ambitions ahead of her responsibilities as a parent. It is wonderful to have ambitions of becoming President of the United States, however  pie-in-the-sky those aspirations might be. That’s fine if you don’t have five children (Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow and Piper), and a grandchild (Tripp) at home. Particularly problematic if one child has physical disabilities requiring special care.

       Wow! I can hear feminists,with whom I usually side,  rising up in outrage.  Don’t you think that a woman  should have the same rights as a man? Don’t you believe that a woman is entitled to a career as well as a family? You of all people should be in favor of women’s rights.

       Right on. I have always believed that women , if they are wiling to undertake the burden, should be able to have it all –– a family and a professional career. I honor women like Barbara Boxer, who has two children as well as a prominent career in the Senate. [For that matter, I equally admire Joe Biden who, as a single parent,  raised two sons while commuting to his Senate job for many years.] But there is a huge difference between two children and five children, not to mention that one has Down Syndrome and requires special time and attention . Not to mention that Bristol, a teenager, has her own child and both are living with Sarah. A rubber band can stretch and stretch and stretch, but there are limits.

       Furthermore, if you want to raise children and have an active career, it is important to choose a career that fits in.  Vice Presidents spend well over half their time travelling all over the country and around the world. A Senator, on the other hand, has a relatively stable residence, perhaps two, not more than that. He or she is able to spend substantial time with young children, when they need you most. [Biden was in the Senate when his children were young. As V.P., he travels extensively, but both the boys are relatively adult.] Sarah Palin apparently has her eye on the Presidency, which also requires a lot of travel and is essentially a 48 hour a day job.

       I know, I know. Her husband Todd can take over the job of raising the kids, though he must keep  quite busy working for an oil company and running his commercial fishing business. Her daughter Bristol can assist. If you can afford it, one can hire nannies. All true but, no matter how you spin it,  it is not the same.  You may dearly and deeply  love your children, and I’m sure that Sarah Palin does, they still need your presence and your time as well as your love if they are to grow up emotionally healthy.

       There are other matters relating to parental obligations. In one of her parting speeches, after turning the Governorship of Alaska over to Sean Parnell, Sarah Palin bitterly criticized the press. She hoped that the media would not attack Governor Parnell’s children the way they had attacked hers. Sarah, I’m sure that will not happen, unless he drags them all over the State as show pieces for political purposes.  Like somebody else we know.

       If my conservative friends really support family values,  motherhood and child care, they should think twice before they stand up at a rally and cheer for Sarah. I’m not holding my breath.

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KINDERSPIEL

I just spent a day watching the Sotomayer hearings on TV. I was appalled.  Was this a serious consideration by a major U.S, Government body of a well-qualified appointee to the highest court in the land? Not the way I viewed it. It was kinderspiel ––a serious piece performed by children.

       True, there were many serious questions about judicial decisions on a number of important court cases. However, these were overwhelmed  by the time spent on thinly veiled attacks on Sonia Sotormayor, a lot of them dealing with a flippant remark she once made in a speech, claiming that a smart Latina with a varied background might render a better judicial decision than a white male lacking such experience. Wow! What an exhibition of bruised egos defending their manhood.

       The remainder was spent making sure that Sotomayor understood that judicial decisions must be based solely on the law and not on one’s race, gender, experiences or biases. Veer from that and you become (horror of horrors!) an ‘activist judge.” Believe me, she understood.  Unfortunately, none of it is true. It is all a fairy tale.

       Over and over, one heard: “Do not countermand existing law;”“Every judge must be committed  every day to not let their personal politics interfere with their decisions”; “Ultimately and completely, the law controls”; “Show fidelity to the law;’ “Never overstep the law.” All of these statements are based on the concept that judges apply the law, not interpret the,law.

       Now, there may be a few laws where this rule applies.  If a law states that “two plus two equals four,” application is simple. You don’t need a lower court, an appeals court and a supreme court for this.  A single judge would suffice. Unfortunately, very few laws are that simple.  The suject matter is complex, and the legalese makes it more so.

       Let me provide a prime example –– the Second Amendment  to the Constitution of the United States.  The amendment states:

       “A well equipped Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people        to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. 

       Simple, isn’t it? All you need to do to apply this law is to understand what it mens?  But what does it mean? Does it mean that all Americans have the right to carry guns? Maybe.  But, if so, why is it coupled in the same short paragraph with the need for a well-regulated  Militia? Does that mean that only those in the Militia have the right to carry guns since it is well regulated?

       Many bright legal minds have grappled with this question, and it is only recently that the Supreme court decided (5 to 4) that the first meaning is the correct one. Still unsettled is whether that interpretation applies to the individual States. [Rotsa ruck on that.] But the question was not settled by applying the law; it was settled by interpreting the law. When it comes to interpretation, whether we like it or not, a judge’s race, religion, sex, education, biases, prejudices and upbringing all have their effect. 

       Though they would never admit it, this applies to all judges, regardless of their party affiliations .Just the contrary of the claims constantly made by Republicans during the Sotomayer hearing. This explains why there are so many 5 to 4 decisions. Unfortunately, as a matter of self preservation, Sonia Sotomayor joined the crowd  in this delusion. Politics prevailed.

       As to “ Activist Judges, I can only quote Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who defined an Activist Judge as “one who decides a case in a way you don’t like.”

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