It promises to be the greatest show on earth: the first presidential debate to be held Monday night at Hofstra University in New York. Rarely has a political event attracted this kind of Super Bowl-level excitement, curiosity and anticipation. Then again, rarely have we had two presidential candidates who light up the political sky like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
I haven’t read Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, “Born to Run,” but I read Dwight Garner’s review of it (NYTimes 9/21/16) and was incredulous about the following declaration: “Mr. Springsteen’s father was a frequently unemployed bus driver among other blue-collar jobs; his mother a legal secretary. They were fairly poor. In their houses - half-houses, more often - there was generally no telephone and little heat.” Bruce grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in the state of N.J. - not in Yoknapatawpha County in the backwoods of Mississippi. In America during the the 50’s, two thirds of all homes had phones and though air conditioning was not yet common, heating certainly was. I won’t quibble about whether or not these statements are partially true but I will say that a boy whose mother was a legal secretary was not poverty-stricken, so why the desire for that illusion? Does it increase his creds as a man of the people to boast that despite being a member of the 1% now, he came from dirt-poor beginnings?
In his ongoing blindness towards the reasons for reluctance to allow mass immigration of Muslim refugees to the U.S., Nicholas Kristof inverts them in his article titled “Would You Hide A Jew From the Nazis?” (NYT 9/18/16) During the thirties, Jews were victims of increasingly harsh and restrictive laws imposed on them in Nazi Germany and once the war began, they became dead men walking throughout Europe until 6 million of them were finally exterminated. The comparison of this unique genocide with the situation of Syrian refugees is preposterous. Despite the epidemic of Muslim terrorism throughout the world, the current refugees have been accepted into many countries in Europe as well as the U.S. There are numerous refugee camps that have been created for them in Turkey as well as neighboring Arab countries which share their language, religion and culture. The outcome of this generous in-gathering as well as previous welcoming immigration, has proved profoundly problematic and tragic for European countries where the incidence of rape, assault, murder and massacre has altered the lives of all these populations. In post 9/11 America, we are experiencing similar outbreaks of terrorism and wholesale murder by stabbing, shooting and bombing innocent men, women and children. Today’s news reports several bombings in the tri-state area as well as serial stabbings in Minnesota; the bombs were similar to those used in the Boston Marathon.
When I go to Target with my wife, I’m like a bored 6-year-old. She’s busily checking items off her list, muscling slabs of paper towels into the huge red cart while I wander off, not quite humming “la la la,” but gazing dreamily around finding . . . what?
The media coverage blares that Anthony Weiner has been “at it again” - sexting to women, this time with his 4 year old son next to him in bed. But the date on the text tells a different story; this actually occurred more than a year ago on July 31, 2015. Why then has it just been splashed across front pages and tv screens? The eponymous legal title - Latin for who benefits - may offer some plausible explanations.
Every news cycle brings more and more outrageous news. I’m talking about the Washington Post and the New York Times pursuit of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Opening the paper in the morning was like getting the latest baseball box score when it came to Watergate. Enterprising reporters were finding more links and leaks about Nixon’s burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate office building and about his ultimately failed attempt to cover it up.
People seem plenty panicked about recent reports of Russian war planes using an Iranian air base for bombing runs into Syria as part of its ongoing support for the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The guns of August — a phrase first used to describe the outbreak of World War I — is a real phenomenon. Maybe it’s the heat, but there’s something about the eighth month that seems to inspire armed conflict. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The collapse of the Soviet Union began with a coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991. Reports of North Vietnamese attacks against U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 gave President Lyndon Johnson the pretext to win broad congressional approval for an expansion of the war. Adolf Hitler readied the invasion of Poland in August 1939 and attacked on Sept. 1.
At a prestigious Eastern college, non-Hispanic students wearing sombreros at a tequila party are chastised by the administration and punished for their insensitivity and “cultural appropriation.” Same story for a non-black person sporting dreadlocks at another campus, and we all know the narrative of Yale’s concern for its minority sensibilities during Halloween of 2015. So it’s with some amused shock that I read Nicholas Kristof’s article in Thursday’s Times titled “Anne Frank Today is a Syrian Girl.” Kristof wrote this piece without a trace of irony, notwithstanding the fact that had Anne been in Syria in 1941, she would have been persecuted by a Syria controlled by the Vichy French who were as intent on persecuting Jews as the compliant Dutch were. In addition to Syria, the vicious Vichy-ites controlled Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and their denial of rights to Jews and internment in camps were imposed in all these jurisdictions. Henri Dentz, The Vichy High Commissioner, was planning to open concentration camps when the British and Free French occupied Syria in 1944. Had Anne Frank survived the war, the independent Syrian government would have prohibited her from immigrating to Palestine and continued to persecute her until her family, like other Syrian Jews, fled without their earthly belongings.
Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently unveiled economic plan was roundly praised for its aggressive pro-growth, job-creating proposals. He would cut income tax rates; increase exemptions for individuals; reduce the number of personal income tax brackets from seven to three; slash the corporate tax to 15 percent, taking it from the highest in the developed world to nearly the lowest; and eliminate the death tax and the destructive alternative minimum tax. Dramatic tax reform is a political winner given the oppressive burdens imposed by the current Byzantine tax code.
In Election Year 2008, I recall thinking that here we are in the middle of jihad, and yet we’re having this rather quaint national fight about race. I felt in a time warp. Eight years later, jihad has ratcheted up from al Qaeda to ISIS, and from one major attack a year to one or two a month. And unbelievably, our race war throwback has escalated to the physical and is playing out in the streets regularly, this time in Milwaukee. After almost 50 years, Charles Manson is suddenly relevant again.
Every four years like clockwork, the two major presidential nominees present their competing visions for the future of the country. This year, however, those visions are so starkly different as to be nearly irreconcilable. They may, in fact, indicate a breach far deeper and more searing than previously thought.
True to its brand name, Fox News styles its women as vixens with furry false lashes, short pencil skirts and stratospheric shoes that might be dangerous if anyone had to actually walk in them. But seated so that their long legs show more thigh than one-time bathing suits, the women cross their legs and let the camera help their heels to send a loud, clear message of sexual availability. With the except of Greta von Susteren, whose name alone sounds like an admonition to step back, the Foxy ladies exude sex appeal - Kimberly Guillfoyle, Megyn Kelly, the erstwhile Gretchen Carlson even had glamorous names to go with their form-fitting latex dresses, their sleeveless arms even in winter, their long wavy hair, their perfectly made-up faces no matter the time of day. Since all the Fox women are super-bright and ambitious, one can only question how they failed to get the message of the part they were designed to play. Were they so naive that they didn’t think their attractiveness was essential to their being hired? When they looked at their boss and heard his instructions as to their Stepford-similar make-up and get-ups, did it never cross their minds that this gig might come with the expectations of extra-curricular activity?
According to the media, not all grieving parents of fallen servicemen are created equal. Whether those parents are protected, defended and respected or ignored, dismissed and smeared depends on their political affiliation — and how useful they are to the “right” side.
I haven’t read Phillip Roth’s “Indignation,” but the most interesting and subtle part of James Schamus’ screenplay adaptation is the backstory hinted at in the shiksa heroine’s past. The characters of Marcus Messer, the brilliant college student; his over-protective Jewish father, his kvelling Jewish mother, the over-bearing mildly anti-semitic college Dean - are all stock caricatures who each gets at least one opportunity to break out of their defined molds. But the character of Olivia Hutton, the beautiful blonde co-ed who performs a first date sex act that wasn’t common in the early 50’s, is developed with snatches of dialogue that seem to have sailed over the heads of most reviewers.
The Times headline on Aug 1 was positive and congratulatory: “Pupils at Troubled Schools Keep Pace With Peers.” We read that 40 out of 63 struggling schools in New York increased their proficiency rates in math while 59 had an increase in English But the troubled schools in the euphemistically named Renewal Program had a scant 12.8% of their tested students reach this level. Nowhere in the article are we told what a “proficiency score” is but if you go on the Dept of Education website, you will be shocked to discover that it is 3 out of a possible 4.7 - an obfuscating way to say approximately 63% If we look at the regular city schools, we discover that ony 38% of students are proficient in English and 36% in math. To make matters worse, this year’s tests were both un-timed and shorter than previous years. If you saw these numbers on a chart of survival rates in city hospitals, you would consider health care to be in terminal straits, requiring immediate crisis management. Reversing the equation, two thirds of students in New York public schools are incapable of achieving even what used to be considered a failing grade in English and math. 93% of students in failing schools are black and Hispanic. This alarming statistic should concern the Black Lives Matter activists currently camped out in City Hall Park demanding that Commissioner Bratton be fired, among other things. The surest path to becoming a criminal is not succeeding in school and dropping out.
The iconic song is often considered America’s alternative national anthem but is currently the subject of a copyright dispute, intended to keep it out of the public domain. Familiar to virtually every schoolchild, folksinger Woody Guthrie’s famous theme, “This Land Is Your Land”, has been sung everywhere from a Jeep Super Bowl commercial to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and even by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger at the Lincoln Memorial at a pre-inaugural concert for President Obama.
The new film “Star Trek Beyond” opened this week, 50 years after the first NBC-TV episode in 1966. William Shatner aka Capt. James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise, now 85, says, “for Star Trek to remain in the public Consciousness 50 years later is a phenomenon beyond belief.”
Pamela Geller already has it. There are no details other than six are in custody for the crowd-mowing jihadi attack in Nice last week. The estranged wife of the Albanian man involved has been released and is not a suspect.
Caving to pressure from 800 alumni of Ramaz, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, retired principal of the prestigious New York yeshiva, canceled his agreement to deliver a prayer at the Republican National Convention. Many questions arise from both the alumni petition and the rabbi’s decision to withdraw.
>As he methodically laid out the case against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private, unsecure server and email accounts to carry out all of her official government business as secretary of state before declining to recommend criminal charges, FBI Director James B. Comey left out one major piece of evidence. It’s the one piece of the puzzle that truly nails her, since it demonstrates consciousness of guilt.
If your heroes are Noam Chomsky and Jesse Jackson, or if you’re a fan of parenting by dictatorial narcissists who retreat to the wilderness and isolate their children from society - you may enjoy Captain Fantastic, starring Viggo Mortenson. The normally swoon-worthy and photogenic actor is buried below a massive beard so you’ll have to wait till the end to see his adorable chin but in the meantime, you can count the many way that this movie, which should have been titled Captain Fanatic, fails to deliver.
Members of the Obama administration and their wingmen in the press have been busy conjuring up ways to change the narrative from the truth — that this was an act of war against the United States — to lies necessitated by their ideological agenda. The carnage had barely stopped before they reached for the terminology of “hate crime,” because that’s something they think they know how to manage: define it, prosecute it, exploit it for political purposes.
You could have surprised me when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, lord of the outliers, let it be known that he is considering Newt Gingrich, lord of the insiders, as a possible pick for vice president.
The Septembers of Shiraz is not only a compelling movie but an important one to see. Based on the book by Dalia Sofer which recreated the experiences of her own family, the film is the only one I can recall dealing with the plight of Iranian Jews after the fall of the Shah and the takeover by Ayatollah Khomeini. Its contemporary importance is heightened by the recent agreement between the US and Iran and the threat that this poses to Israel and to the many middle-eastern Jews persecuted by Muslims in countries that were formerly hospitable to them. They all learned first-hand how brutal that persecution was - confiscation of wealth and property, imprisonment, torture, expulsion or death.
In a searing performance by Adrien Brody, the character of Isaac goes from that of a successful gemologist and jeweler to the Empress to a bewildered man imprisoned summarily and beaten into submission in an attempt to force him to divulge the whereabouts of his shady brother and his own fortune. His family is never told of his whereabouts or whether he is still alive and part of the story concerns their own travails. The faithful housekeeper who has been with them for many years begins to be influenced by her militant son who believes the propaganda that anyone with money has gotten it by stealing what rightfully belongs to the common, less fortunate man. In this case, forgetting the paternal kindness exhibited by Isaac when the housekeeper and her son were homeless and poverty-stricken, the son steals the jewels and furnishings of the business and threatens to further blackmail Isaac in a way that could prove fatal.
In a surprisingly sensitive role, Salma Hayek portrays an adoring wife and mother who has enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle but is now plunged into a state of uncertainty and fear for all their lives. She and her young daughter must adjust to the ongoing anxiety of not knowing where Isaac is or whether they will ever see him alive again. Though primarily known for her beauty, Ms. Hayek does a substantial acting job and is additionally credited as producer. At a time when there is so much discussion about American “Islamophobia,” this movie is a reminder of the very legitimate reasons for our fear. The images of dead bodies strung up along the main thoroughfare of Teheran, the brutality of guards placing a prisoner against a wall and using his body for target practice, the swift indoctrination of the populace into compliance with Islamic authority are all bold indictments of an aggressive ideology that should be feared. The pervasive anti-semitism that is endemic to this culture vividly illustrates why Israel is in trepidation of Iranian nuclear power. By using the travails of one family rather than a more general overview, the film allows us to experience the emotional spiral of despair these people underwent. See The Septembers of Shiraz - it will force you to confront some ugly and powerful truths and it will leave you both shaken and stirred.