Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advice to Democrats, This "Fake News" Starts Here and Some Thanksgiving Weekend Thoughts


Advice to the Democratic Party

Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House from back in the 1970s and 1980s, famously said that “all politics are local.”   Today’s Democratic Party would do well to heed those words.

 Tip O'Neill confiding in Ronald Reagan


Their 2016 Presidential candidate got more votes nationally than President-Elect Trump, but this mattered little.  This “nationwide” performance didn’t equate to victories in the House races nor in the Electoral College.  Despite the national Presidential vote numbers, there’s going to be a Republican in the White House and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for years to come, for better, or more likely, for worse. (Actually, the Democrats got about 48% of the total Congressional vote, but ended up, due to gerrymandering, with only about 44% of the House seats.)  It’s hard to call Trump and that Congressional majority, “Republican,” though.  Trump is something else, and the Republicans in the House and Senate ain’t your father’s Reagan Republicans nor your grandfather’s “Ike” Republicans either.  They didn’t have folks like Steve Bannon in leadership roles.  So what are the Democrats supposed to do about it?

All politics are local.  All politics are local.  All politics are local. Get it? One more time:  All politics are local.  The Democratic Party must concentrate over the next dozen years on increasing their representation in State Legislatures, ultimately gaining control of those in States where there actually is, or is close to, a Democratic majority.  In too many States the ratio of Republican to Democratic seats in the State legislature is far out of kilter with the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the State.

This is important for Democratic supported legislation as well as for Congressional and state legislative reapportionment, where gerrymandering does its undemocratic job. 

The same goes for governorships. There is no reason why States with Democratic majorities continue to elect Republican Governors, and Senators for that matter, other than the dominance of Republican state legislators, and their local influence on voters, far out of proportion with their Party’s comparative numbers.

Once this is accomplished, and there is greater party parity in State legislatures more representative of the electorate, but not until then, new national Democratic leaders will arise from the Democratic Party.  Today, it is an amalgam of various “identity groups” (Latinos, Blacks, women, gays, lesbians, consumer protection advocates, gun control advocates, environmental protectionists, union members, academics, climate change believers, urban dwellers, etc.) which together might be “stronger,” but incapable of recognizing O’Neill’s logic that all politics is local, because these concerns are not local issues.  It starts with electing people to State Legislatures, not with advocating one’s own agenda.  That’s where the energy and money should be spent In State legislative races!  Congress, the White House, the Senate and the Supreme Court will eventually follow.
Florida State House in Tallahassee

As a start, Democratic strategists should target State legislative districts throughout the country which Republicans have won by five or less points and concentrate on turning them Democratic. This should be done on a national basis over the next decade, year after year.  That is the way to win.  I understand this.  Now let’s see if the “professionals” do.   I doubt it.
Jack Lippman



                                  


Fake News

One of the newer expressions to have come into use lately is “fake news.”  Some of it is merely uncorroborated information which has a vague connection to an actual event and some of it is no more than fiction.  Such fake news often appears on the internet or to a lesser extent on television where journalists are not so fastidious about “facts” as are traditional “print” journalists.  (In producing this blog, I do make an effort to make sure the incidents I mention have some backing in research, even if that may be no more than googling a few reliable sites to attempt to back up the veracity of what I am including.)

Usually “fake news” is passed on to justify one’s point of view.  But then it is repeated by someone else, and passed on again.  Fiction, repeated in that manner, dons an undeserved garment of truth.  Remember the news stories about how Planned Parenthood cut up aborted fetuses to sell their parts?  This bit of disproven “fake news” was taken by millions to be the truth … and still is.  There have been many sources of “fake news” during the recent election, much of it believed by millions, many of whom should have known better.

In his 1995 autobiography “A Good Life,” journalist and editor Ben Bradlee explains “what newspapers do: they learn, they report, they verify, they write, and they publish.”  Unless the news you are getting from newspapers, magazines, from TV and via the internet has gone through all of these five steps, the possibility of it being “fake news” exists.  Be careful.

But here is an example of “fake news.”  I know it is “fake” because I made it up five minutes ago.  The event it starts with, however, was real!  Can you tell where the fiction starts?  Articles like this, picked off of the internet by both domestic and overseas media and reprinted by still other media, end up with truth and fiction combined into a new genre, ‘fake news.”  Who know, someone may think that all the following actually happened, or perhaps want you to think that.

Miami (Gobbledegook News Service):  When news of Fidel Castro’s death on November 25 reached the Cuban immigrant community in Miami’s “Little Havana,” festive crowds gathered on Calle Ocho in front of the Versailles Restaurant, site of many anti-Castro rallies.  Though it was still before dawn, Cuban immigrants and their American children and grandchildren poured onto the streets, dancing and singing and banging on kitchen pans with broomsticks and pot covers. 

“The dictator is dead,” was vigorously shouted out by many, but some, more politically acute, paired Fidel Castro’s demise with the rise of Donald Trump.  Many in Little Havana had voted for Trump as a protest against Barack Obama’s attempts to improve economic relations between the United States and Cuba while the island nation still remained an undemocratic communist dictatorship.  A barbershop window, just off Calle Ocho (Eighth Street), was smashed because there was a large poster picturing Obama behind the storefront's glass. Shaving cream taken from the shop was spread on the walls, spelling out the President-elect’s name, T-R-U-M-P.  

Two blocks west of the Versailles, a closed up “Hillary Clinton Headquarters” also had its windows smashed, and left-over campaign literature used to fuel a bonfire.  When arriving on the scene, Miami-Dade fire personnel and police let the fire burn itself out rather than take issue with the festive residents of the neighborhood.  When a Telemundo reporter attempted to interview a celebrator who was shouting, “Viva Trump, Muerte a Obama, Viva Trump” through a bullhorn across from the Versailles, police shepherded her away, ostensibly to avoid arousing the enmity of the crowd.

                                     Demonstrations in front of the Versailles in Miami are common

Believable?
JL 

                           

Thanksgiving Thoughts

One of the nice things about living in the Boynton Beach area is its proximity to Delray Beach, which besides having a great galaxy of upscale shops, bars and restaurants on Atlantic Avenue, is an “artsy” kind of place.  Each year there are about a half dozen outdoor arts and crafts street fairs there, and for the past decade or two, we’ve been strolling through their rows of curbside tents, even stopping occasionally to make a purchase.  But this year, for the first time, it was ‘different” when we visited the Thanksgiving weekend street festival there.



Up to now, we have always managed to spot a few other strollers we recognized as living in either of our communities, which are basically populated by retirees.  But this year, we saw nary a one.  Not a single one.  Was the walking too much for them?  Was the sun too hot for them?  Certainly, there were plenty of people there, but on closer inspection, they were mostly younger than we were!  Actually, they were just about the age we were when we first took to strolling through the arts and crafts street fairs in Delray Beach, a few short years ago.

And the next afternoon, we drove halfway to have lunch with some relatives from Miami.  We met in Deerfield Beach for lunch at the Whale’s Rib, which is about as close to a California raw bar as you can get here in Florida.  (I love their Bloody Mary with a giant shrimp perched on top.)  Then we walked up to the beach and the fishing pier, and do you know what?  We didn’t see anyone we knew there either.  And most of them were younger than we were, so young.  But it was all warm and good, and come to think of it, it was in Delray at the street fair too.  
JL








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Jack Lippman 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Heroin, Andrew Jackson, Driving Tips and an old Thanksgiving Short Story


The Heroin Epidemic in Your Backyard 




CLICKING RIGHT HERE will take you to the lead story in Sunday’s (November 20) Palm Beach Post, dealing with “the heroin epidemic, killer of a generation … hidden in shame and drawing little action.”   This twelve page section dealing with this horrific problem, in my opinion, will win a Pulitzer prize.  (It is in a league with the Boston Globe series of a few years ago which highlighted sexual abuse in the priesthood, and inspired the movie, “Spotlight.)  Get your hands on the full section by purchasing a copy of the paper or seeking it on line.  But at least read the lead story in the article by CLICKING HERE.
 
This is a problem being treated far too lightly in Florida (where it claimed 2,333 lives last year) by government officials from Governor Scott on down to local officials in Palm Beach County which is the epicenter of this epidemic, not only locally but nationwide!   Heroin is killing more far more people in Palm Beach County than the Zika virus, homicides or pollution run-off from Lake Okeechobee, yet these problems are getting more attention than the heroin epidemic.


Please read the article.  It is something which should bring shame to all those living in South Florida, the entire State and the Nation.  Read the lead article of the twelve page section by CLICKING HERE.   

I hope it will spur those locally, in Tallahassee and in Washington to do something about it.  At a minimum, all police cars, EMS vehicles and hospital emergency rooms should be equipped with Narcan, an antidote to potentially fatal heroin overdosing. Right now that is what is already being done in some other, more forward looking parts of the country, with less of a problem than we have here!  In Huntington, West Virginia, for example, even librarians are supplied with it.  Only two police forces in the entire state of Florida, one of which is Delray Beach’s, are equipped with Narcan.  Shame on us!  READ THE ARTICLE.

Jack Lippman

                                 


Echoes of Andrew Jackson and Populism

I cannot think of Donald Trump’s Presidency without being reminded of Andrew Jackson.  Although these two men are not similar at all, they have one defining thing in common.  They appear to be populists, which loosely can be defined as supporting the interests of “ordinary people.”

Well, travel back to 1828, and there’s a Presidential election coming up. President John Quincy Adams is running for re-election against Tennessean Andrew Jackson.  General Jackson had lost the election four years earlier when no one received a majority in the Electoral College.  When the decision went to the House of Representatives, Henry Clay turned his supporters and their electoral votes over to President Adams, getting the job of Secretary of State in return, and the original 1824 electoral vote leader, Jackson, was left screaming that it was a “corrupt bargain” that took the Presidency away from him.  He was correct.



But now, four years later, things were different.  For the first time, all states (except South Carolina and Delaware) had given the choice of electors to the voters, rather than leaving it to their State Legislatures.  And loosening of restrictions on who had the right to vote had more than doubled the number of voters in the country.  Up until then, all our Presidents had come from Virginia or Massachusetts, but by 1828, power was shifting from the East Coast, over the mountains to the newly admitted states.  The electorate had changed radically.

The Presidential election of 1828 was the dirtiest and most vicious election in our history, including our most recent one.  Example: Adams’ party (the Democratic Republicans with heavy Federalist overtones) attacked Jackson’s wife (whom Jackson had married while she still was married to someone else) as an immoral seductress.  She died of a nervous breakdown shortly before Jackson’s inauguration and he blamed it on the campaign attacks against her, never forgiving his opponents. 

Jackson called his party the Democratic Party and the name has stuck to this day, although its positions have changed over the years.  Jackson was a slave owner but also was adamant in opposing Southern insistence on “States’ Rights.” His voters were augmented by many farmers and working men, many of whom had just gotten the vote.  He was a populist, campaigning against the prior establishment which he felt was corrupt.  In today’s language, he ran to “clean up the mess in Washington.”  At his inauguration, the White House was overrun by his uncouth supporters who had succeeded in overthrowing the “elites” who had run the country under the six earlier Presidents who had preceded Jackson in office. 

The election of Jackson put a final nail in the coffin of the Federalists (Washington and John Adams) and clearly separated his Democratic Party from the Democratic Republicans (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams) who split into several groups, of which the Whigs were the major survivor, under the leadership of Henry Clay.  (In England, the party opposing the King was called the Whigs; Jackson’s opponents took on that name, implying Jackson wanted to be a king.)

Prior to the Civil War, these parties (Free-Soilers, Abolitionists, Know-nothings, ex-Federalists, left-over Democratic Republicans, etc.) re-combined to form what is known today as the Republican Party.  Those in favor of the Southern position on “States Rights,” a pro-expansion of slavery approach, drifted back to the Jacksonian Democrats.  This party realignment, enshrining the two-party system which has endured to this day, was the long-term result of the 1828 election of Andrew Jackson.  Some believe the 2016 election will be a harbinger of a similar realignment, both having their roots in what appeared to be populism.  Which of the two parties has had the most “populist” appeal, however, has not remained constant.  But that’s a story for another posting on this blog.

Jackson stood for reduced tariffs to reduce consumer prices of foreign goods, opposed a central bank which he felt was a tool of the wealthy, and catered to the new Western states by brutal treatment of Native Americans possessing land there.  But the farmers and working people elected him twice.  His opponents despised him. 

Oddly enough, the defeated 1828 Presidential candidate, John Quincy Adams, did not fade into obscurity as many such losers have.  He went on to serve seventeen productive years in the House of Representatives, contributing much to the work of Congress, and serving as a leader of those opposed to slavery.
JL
            

Driving Tips

Now that our winter visitors are arriving here in Florida, here are several driving tips for those who are not familiar with Florida driving protocols.

1   Changing lanes:  When a driver signals to move to an adjacent lane, with plenty of room to safely do so, remember that Florida drivers already in that lane always read the signal as an invitation to step on the gas, increasing their speed, thereby making the lane change being signaled impossible.
2
      Traffic lights:  Now that it is winter time, and more cars are on the road in Florida, the wait time at most intersections has been increased to enable drivers waiting for the light to change to green to shave, read the newspaper, apply make-up or engage in yoga or similar exercise disciplines.  This is part of the Governor’s campaign to make the State more tourist-friendly.  
     JL


Something to Believe In

(Written about ten years ago for our original Writers' Group, it has come to be this blog's traditional Thanksgiving short story.)

Jack Lippman

Wang looked up in amazement at the gigantic balloons which floated down the avenue above the paraders.  Some were in the shapes of elephants and clowns and characters he recognized from the TV shows he had been watching.  And the music!  There were blaring bands from all over the country interspersed among the floats.



“But, Mom, what is this parade all about?  Who are we paying homage to?” the thirteen year old asked the middle-aged woman who held his hand tightly.  “I remember parades like this in China, but they were always in honor of the Party or the working man.  I know you have tried to explain Thanksgiving to me, but who are we thanking?  Where are the leaders we should be cheering, like we did in Tiananmen Square on May Day?



“Wang,” she answered, “We are giving thanks for having the things which make our life so happy.  You know, the food on our table, our clothes, the nice apartment we live in. Americans give thanks in many ways, some even thank God for what they have, but Wang, God personally won’t be part of the parade.”



Max, on the boy’s other side, gave Louise a jaundiced look.



“Oh,” the boy replied.  But it was clear that he was still confused.  “You mean I won’t be seeing Jesus in the parade?  He’s the one I usually thank for that kind of stuff. That’s what Reverend Lee taught us to do.”


“No, but if you want to be thankful to him, you can, Wang.”  

When Louise and Max had gotten Wang from the Mission Adoption Society less than a month before, they had been told that the Mission people who had taught him English also converted him to Christianity, once they had gotten him out of China where proselyting was illegal.  One of the things they had agreed to was to raise the boy as a Christian.  Neither Louise nor Max really practiced any religion.  They decorated a tree at Christmastime, but had never set foot in a church in their entire lives.  Max was born Jewish, but he lacked a religious background and was totally non-observant.  Louise came from a family of atheists.  So, when they paid the $25,000 adoption fee to the Mission Society, they didn’t object to agreeing to raise the boy as a Christian.  And the Mission people didn’t really care.  So far as Louise and Max were concerned, decorating a Christmas tree and hanging up a stocking Christmas Eve would suffice for his religious upbringing.  But Wang’s constant questioning was getting to be a bother.

The parade was drawing to a close, and the level of tension was increasing.   Wang felt it and didn’t know why, but suddenly, the final float of the parade came into view.  Mounted on a sleigh pulled by eight animated reindeer, and waving to all, was Santa Claus, resplendent in his white-trimmed bright red outfit, his snow-covered beard cascading down over his chest.  A loudspeaker boomed out his cries of “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas to All!   Ho, Ho, Ho!”


 
Wang’s eyes opened as wide as they could, as Santa rolled by their curbside position.  The cheers were deafening. 

“That’s Santa Claus.  I saw him on the TV yesterday.  Is he the one we thank for everything on Thanksgiving?”

This time Max answered him.  “No, Wang.  Santa may bring the gifts, but he isn’t the one who gets them for you in the first place.”

The boy looked puzzled.  “If I shouldn’t be thanking Jesus or Santa for the gifts, should I be thanking you, Mom and Pop?”

“Well, sort of,” Louise replied, but obviously, she wasn’t happy with that answer and the thirteen year old wasn’t either.

“Look,” he said.  “I know you two aren’t Christians, and until last year, I hadn’t even heard of Jesus.  So whether or not I believe in him really doesn’t matter. I can take him or leave him. But now you’re telling me that I shouldn’t be thanking Santa either.  This is sort of like what things were like in China.  Everyone used to thank Mao for everything.  Now, that was before my time, but then they told everybody to thank someone else, and finally, just thank the Communist Party, and that’s what I did in the orphanage, but that was okay since they ran the place.  But who do I thank here in America?  I certainly have a lot to be thankful for, what with you adopting me and all.  I just don’t feel it’s enough to thank just you two for all you’ve done for me.

My God, Louise thought.  Perhaps we should have waited for an infant, not this boy with his inquiring mind.  Maybe he’ll end up being a scientist or something, she mused. 

Later that night, in bed, she turned to Max.  “Max, do you believe in some force that controls the universe, some original cause or something?”

“Like God, you mean?  No … let’s leave it at some kind of power that started it all, and forget the divinity part of it.”

“You’re more of an atheist than my Dad was, Dear,” Louise replied.  “I’m beginning to think, if only for the boy, we have to believe in something.”

Max answered, “Well, Miss Atheist, you’re not going to get me involved with Jesus or back to the smelly old shuls I remember from Brooklyn.  Let’s find something nice and non-religious to credit everything to, and give that to the kid.”

“At least then,” Louise continued, “He’ll have someone … or something … to thank on Thanksgiving.”

And so it was that Louise and Max joined an introspective philosophical group, which met in a professor’s apartment on the Upper West Side on Tuesday evenings, in the hope of learning some answers to the questions the boy was raising. 



Wang eventually started accompanying them to the meetings, and perhaps because of his Chinese background, quickly took to what was going on, and understood the discussions in perhaps greater depth than the adults there.   And he never again had to ask about whom to thank for the blessings which he received, but he did give great thought to whether the bounty he shared was indeed a blessing, or perhaps it should be looked at in another light.  He loved to talk about these things with Louise and Max for hours on end after the meetings.

Louise was very happy with the outcome.  Max turned to vodka.
                                         
                                                         
                                                    

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Jack Lippman 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Military Career, Some Post-Election Thoughts, Questioning Reality and a Letter

                                                 

My Military Career

When I was a kid, one of the things I learned in the Boy Scouts was Morse Code.  Once you learn Morse Code, it sticks in your head.  A few years later, after finishing college, I was drafted into the United States Army.  It was 1954, and hostilities were commencing in Korea, where the United States was providing troops for a “police action,” an involvement which resulted in 33,000 American deaths.

During Army basic training at Fort Dix, we were taken into a room where we were given a battery of tests, intended to determine if any of us possessed skills which the Army could make use of, besides being an infantryman.  One of these tests involved Morse Code.  We were given headsets and were instructed to listen and write down letters being sent in Morse Code.  It was first explained that in Morse Code, the letter “T” was a dash, the letter “I” was two dots and the letter “N” was a dash followed by a dot.  The entire test was composed of these three letters, sent in random three letter groups more and more rapidly.  The whole thing could not have taken more than three or four minutes.  Of course, I aced the test, thanks to Boy Scout Troop 37, and that’s how I got into the Army Security Agency’s code intercept school at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  

Army Morse Code Class


The object of the school was to get its students to be able to type five letter groups, sent in Morse Code, at a speed of at least 60 characters a minute.  Troop 37 had never taught me that so after three or four months of school, my career as a Morse Code interceptor ended, and I was instead made into a Non-Morse Code interceptor.  In any event, my Fort Devens duty didn’t involve any clean up details or KP (kitchen work) and being just outside of Boston was not a bad deal.

I later found out that the guys who mastered high speed Morse Code interception usually ended up where such transmissions were taking place, which was where troops were in action.  In early 1955, that meant Korea in a van parked in a snowy field somewhere north of Seoul.  The Non-Morse interceptors, like me, ended up in big hangars taping all kinds of radio signals from all over the world.  Of course, today, all of that stuff is done by satellite.  Anyhow, the place I was sent to was Herzo Base, about fifteen miles south of Nurnberg in Germany.  It was a 24/7 operation with four crews rotating, but that guaranteed us all a lot of time off.  Of course, there were no “details” to work on, and we chipped in $5 a month to have German civilians do the dirty work in the kitchen and keep our barracks clean.  Everybody stationed there was able to get in a lot of European travel, and by then, even though the Second World War's destruction was visible, European recovery was well on its way.

               
The old Herzo Base where I served

Herzo Base had been a Luftwaffe air base and the buildings were all solid and well built.  There was a nice library and club, and the antenna field (that’s how the radio signals were intercepted) doubled as a golf course, where American soldiers from all over Germany came to compete in the “Steel Trees Open” each year.  Down the hill from the Base was the quaint German town of Herzogenaurach, which had some nice restaurants and medieval buildings and was the home of two small soccer shoe manufacturing companies which had been there from before the war. 

                
           Herzogenaurach street scene

That’s a whole other story, but suffice it to say that both still have their corporate headquarters in Herzogenaurach and you know them today as Puma and Adidas.  In fact, Adidas has taken over what was Herzo Base for their operation which now includes office buildings, a shopping mall, restaurants and a large luxury hotel, all where I used to sit and fiddle with radio dials.

  
One of the buildings in the Adidas complex on the site of Herzo Base

 
So here I am, sixty years later, living in a very active retirement community in South Florida.  Even though there are only 600 families here, there actually is one guy who was in Crypto-Analysis at Herzo Base, which was in the next hangar down (remember it was once an air base) from the guys doing Non-Morse Intercept, at about the same time I was there.  Small world!

One day I was looking out the French doors facing the pool from our clubhouse lobby, when a gentleman standing next to me commented on something going on in the pool area: “dot dot dot, dot dot dot dot, dot dot, daaash.”   Once learned, one never forgets Morse Code, so I quickly translated what he was saying, and said to him, “Shit?”   “Where did ya learn Morse?” he asked.  “In the Army,” I said.  “Devens?” he asked.  “Yup,” I said.  Turns out he was one of the Morse Code instructors there, about a year before I got to the place.  Yes, it’s a small world indeed.
Jack Lippman

                                               


King of the Universe

(Here's a work in progress which will be submitted to the next session of a writers' group to which I belong.  The suggested general topic for the session was to write something "questioning reality." )

Sometime in the not so near future, an astronaut was seated across from a Rabbi.
“I cannot believe the stuff you’ve been teaching, Rabbi.  That God created everything in seven days. That on the first day …”

“Stop,” the Rabbi said.  “Don’t take my word for it, my boy.  It says it right here in the Torah!”  The Rabbi read from a book before him, although he knew it by heart.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.  Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.  And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.  And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

“That’s the way it happened.  Read on!  And everything else was created over the next five days.”

The astronaut stared at him.  “Do you expect me to believe that stuff?”  The Rabbi said nothing.

“Look,” he continued.  “I’ve been there, to the moon first, then Mars, and three long trips out beyond our solar system.  I’ve seen it all first hand and that ain’t the way it happened, believe me; I have my ideas on how it happened and no way is that the truth.”

“Go on. Please tell me more. It sounds fascinating,” the Rabbi said.

“When you’re way out there in space, you see things from a different perspective.  You look back at the Earth from wherever you are and you see it rotating on its axis so that only half of it is ever facing the Sun at one time. 


That’s what makes day and night, not God, and it has always been that way, so long as the Earth has been rotating, even before there was life on the planet, or anyone to write fairy tales about how night and day came to be.  And carrying it a bit further, I have seen with my own eyes, on my most recent trip, the Earth in an orbit around the sun, not quite a perfect one so sometimes it tilts more to one side, which gets it a bit closer than at other times.  One trip around the Sun, we call that it a year with four seasons.  And the rotation of the moon around the Earth; we count that in months.” 

“You know, what we call “time” only pertains on our planet.  It should be called “local time.”  It just happens to be the way we keep track of the rotation of the earth on its axis, and its perpetual trips around the Sun, and the Moon’s rotation about the Earth. Some other rock spinning on its orbit around some other bigger rock, or sun, couldn’t care less about the bookkeeping of rotations here on Earth we call “time” through the calendars and clocks we have built to document it. “So, forget about time.  There’s no such thing … except locally. This planet has an ego problem, and that book in front of you only serves to perpetuate it.” The astronaut pointed at the book and continued.

“That book starts with the words, ‘In the beginning.’  Well, here’s some news for you.  There isn’t any beginning and there isn’t any end.  I’ve been there!  It's like a circular fluorescent bulb.  You keep going around and end up where you started.   Hey, there’s an awful lot of stuff out there, actually an infinite amount, rotating and moving, all because of a gravitational or magnetic pull or some sort of attraction to some other bodies out there, and our tiny little Earth is part of it.  It all takes place in space, and space, quite literally, is timeless.  Nothing ages in space.  Things may evolve but that's different. Space is endless.   It doesn’t begin anywhere and it doesn’t end anywhere.  It just ‘is.’  And I’ve seen it and traveled through it.  Timeless, endless, nothingness!”
Hubble Telescope View of Who Knows What


"I wish I had my Ph.d. in astrophysics so I would know a little more than I do. But I do know enough to know when something is just not true, like … what is the Yiddish word ...  bubbamaiiseh?.... like that story of what you say happened on the first of those seven days of what you call Creation."
 
“Six,” the rabbi, growing impatient, interrupted. “On the seventh day, the Lord rested.  Look, the Torah says God created the heaven and the earth.  Let’s forget about the earth for a minute.  That’s just where we happen to be.  But could not the heaven God created be this all-encompassing, never-ending “space” you speak of?  And “time,” merely his gift to us to enable us to exist in space?
 
The astronaut smiled.  “Rabbi, I am Jewish, was bar mitzvah and you know I go to shul at least on the Holidays.  I can see how some explanation of all of this was necessary for the leaders to hold together the semi-literate tribesmen they were shepherding across the barren wastelands of the Middle East millenniums ago.  They had to give them something to believe in, something to explain what they were incapable of understanding on their own.  So they wrote that book you have in front of you. It has held our people together for almost six thousand years of what we call time.  I have to grant you that.”

The Rabbi spoke.  “Scholars, Rabbis, Talmudists have all wrestled with these questions throughout the ages.  Some believe that the Torah existed, but had not yet been given to our people, even before this thing you call space came into being, even before that ‘beginning’ which is described in the first verse of Genesis.  After all, don’t many of our prayers refer to God as ‘Melech HaOlam,’ which translates into English as ‘King of the Universe’? Would you like to make it ‘King of Space’ instead?  Would that make you happy?”

“So I should tell my gentile friends we Jews worship the “Space King,” the astronaut snickered.  "Sounds like a trimmed-down line of appliances made to fit into small kitchens."

“Look,” the rabbi continued.  “You believe what you want … but consider for a moment that you have the ability to think about things like this.  You have consciousness.  Unlike insects or lower creatures which behave entirely on reflexes and instincts, humans are conscious of their actions, have brains capable of great achievements, know wrong from right, can make choices and can have discussions like we are having right now.  No other creature, at least on Earth, has that ability.  Think about that for a moment when you doubt the role of God.  Look what he has given us.”

Meanwhile, very, very, very, very, very far out in space, an entity with a level of consciousness far, far, far beyond that which human beings on Earth possess, and using technologies that would not be developed on Earth until the equivalent of millions of years of our planet’s time passed, if ever, was aware of the conversation between the Rabbi and the astronaut.  It was pleased with what it was hearing, and then, turned to devote itself to other matters.
JL 



                                         

Some Post-Election Comments
The Democratic Party worked very hard to gain the support of women, blacks, Latinos, gay and lesbians, gun control people, immigrants, those without health care and those who cannot afford college.  They felt that these groups, taken together, would be stronger.  And indeed they were!  But that was not good enough. 


Their “togetherness” excluded white, straight males who really didn’t care much about health care or college, but who were scared stiff, overwhelmingly so, about the continuing disappearance of the jobs that they and their fathers before them had had all across America.  And there are many of them.


What programs either party had to address this problem were immaterial.  What counted was recognizing that their campaign had to address this issue, disappearing jobs, to those voters to whom it meant a lot, the right voters.  Donald Trump did this better than Hillary Clinton did.  And that was the election.  What gets done to address this problem is another problem entirely.


So far nobody, Democrat or Republican, has faced up to the fact that we will never again have enough jobs in this country to put everyone to work on a fulltime basis.  Lower labor costs overseas, but more importantly, advances in technology at home, will see to that.  In the past, when one could not get a job, they moved on to another part of the country where jobs were plentiful.  But that is no longer possible.


So we must, as I have stated many times, ration jobs.  Early retirement and a limited hour work week should be mandatory.  A four day work week might be a solution.  And since such limited employment will result in reduced paychecks, someone must step in to fill the gap.  It could be government.  It could be the employer’s business.  It could be a combination of the two. Either way, the public will pay for subsidizing the smaller paychecks “job rationing” will bring along with funding earlier retirement benefits, via higher taxes and/or higher prices.


Somehow, and here’s where a solution might be found, an increased Gross Domestic Product, perhaps going up four or five percent each year, might provide the nation with the financial resources to successfully institute job rationing and early retirement.  Wouldn’t that be nice.


           *    *    *    *

But getting back to the election results.  I liken our political parties to football teams with lousy offenses, but tremendous defensive units.



When one of them stops the other team and get the ball, their offense is ineffective and they have to punt after three downs.  Brute force works well for a team's defense but a successful offense requires much more skill. So the only chance one team with a weak offense has of winning is if their powerful defense intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble and turns it into a touchdown! 



If Hillary Clinton had won the election, there would have been four years of incessant criticism, investigations, accusations and innuendo which would have prevented her from accomplishing anything. She would have been like a quarterback who is constantly being sacked.  Bannon and company would sink their fangs into her Presidency and never let go.  

But now the shoe is on the other foot.  The Republicans have the ball and now they must attempt to come through on the promises Donald Trump made.  Not all of them agree with him either.  Will they repeatedly be forced to punt after three downs?  Or will the Democrats intercept a pass or recover a fumble.   And what good would turning it over to their offense do?  Only time will tell.
JL

                                         

My Big Mouth

Here’s a letter I’ve sent to our two local newspapers:

Now that the election campaigning is over and the country has elected Donald Trump to be our next President, the news I’m reading in the papers and seeing on TV is a little different from what was in the news before Election Day.  We’re seeing the President we elected and those around him whom he is bringing to positions of power from a different perspective.  I suspect that if the Republican primaries and the General election were held today, based on what’s in the news today, their results might be different.  

I'll let you know if the Sun Sentinel and/or the Palm Beach Post publish it.
JL



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Jack Lippman