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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Introducing "Politicaldrek" and a Christmas Short Story


For those of you who are wondering where the name of this feature, "Politicaldrek," comes from, just try to accept the idea that its last four letters stand for Democratic Republican Election Kaleidoscope;  (After all, politics is like a kaleidoscope; it's all done with mirrors and a little spin.)
... and speaking of “spin,” within the next few weeks, I hope to spin off “politicaldrek” as its own independent web site,  development of which is now in progress.  When that happens, I will let you know.  Meanwhile, it will appear on Jack’s Potpourri, replacing what up to now has been called “Politicklers.”

But let’s start today's Politicaldrek off with Newt Gingrich, current front runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  A few days ago, Newt declared that the Palestinians were an “invented” people, really just Arabs who lived in that part of what was once the Ottoman Empire.  This did not endear him to the Palestinians who are seeking to establish a state of their own to be created out of Gaza and the West Bank.  Doing so will require negotiations with Israel which will not take place until the Israelis are certain that such a state would not be a threat to their existence. That may take years.   

There may be Israelis, and Jews in the United States, who agree with what Newt said.  They, however, are intelligent enough to know that certain things are best left unsaid.  It serves no real purpose, other than to irritate the Palestinians, to make such statements and makes it more difficult to proceed with the steps which will ultimately lead to negotiations and a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.  The only purpose of Gingrich’s remarks is to seek Jewish votes and attempt to make him appear more pro-Israel than is President Obama, who tries to soften his own pro-Israel position in an effort to further the steps to real negotiations, and who truly shows where he stands by sending Israel more advanced weaponry than this country has ever sent it before.  Obama is for real.  Gingrich is for Gingrich.  


And you have no doubt heard about the Keystone XL pipeline which President Obama has postponed, probably until after the 2012 election.  There are good arguments on all sides of this issue.  First of all, the oil which the pipeline would carry will come from “tar sands” and the process of extracting it is a dirty one, unfavorable to the environment from which the oil is taken.  The Canadians, however, have chosen to do it so the environmental aspect is their problem, not ours, although from a “global” standpoint, we really should be concerned. 

The pipeline, part of which already exists, would extend to Texas and cut across the State of Nebraska.  A problem has arisen there because should the pipeline rupture, its location would put water supply facilities there at risk.  Opposition to it for this reason might be mollified by shifting the pipeline’s route, but as it stands today, it is opposed by environment groups, since its route has not yet been changed.  The Canadians really don’t care about the Nebraska problem since they are prepared, if the pipeline is not built in the United States, to build one crossing Canada to the Pacific where the oil can be put on tankers sailing to Asia. Of course, we would rather have that oil in the United States.

An argument for the pipeline is that it would create as many as 6,000 jobs. (I have seen estimates as high as 12,000 and as low as 2,000.) Unions are for the pipeline because of this. This would really be a shot in the arm for the economy and have a ripple effect in the pipeline’s area. Some say, however, that these numbers are grossly inflated and that 3,000 jobs is a more accurate figure.  In any event, these jobs would disappear in a few years when the pipeline is completed.  

The President had a choice.  Support the unions, which give him an awful lot of support and money, or support the environmentalists.  Obama punted, postponing the decision until 2013, leaving the unions unhappy and satisfying the environmentalists in that nothing will be done for the time being.  But the unions 
have no other place to go.

Complicating the issue is the Republican position in the House of Representatives.  They appear to be willing to agree to extend and increase the Social Security payroll tax reduction, the President’s proposal to benefit the working class and the economy, but only if that bill has the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline tacked onto it.  The funding of that payroll tax reduction extension is also at an impasse, the Democrats wanting it made up by higher taxes on the very wealthy while the Republicans are demanding further spending cuts to make up for its lost revenues.  It appears that the Democrats are willing to compromise on increased taxes on the rich, but the pipeline portion of the deal is still in play.  Hence, while the pipeline now stands as postponed, it might not really be since it has turned into a bargaining chip in the payroll tax reduction extension debate.  This issue, along with funding for the military and the authorization of enough money to keep the government operating, are all merging into one issue as the year draws to a close with the House, the Senate and the President all getting involved.

My opinion:  The route of the pipeline should have been changed before the issue even came up. Poor planning!  This would have made the environmentalists happy and the President would have then pushed for its approval making the unions happy.  At this point, the studies and planning necessary to change the route will take until next year, apparently justifying the delay.  The President, however, should now commit himself to approving it promptly, once the re-routing plan is accomplished. This might make the Republicans happy enough to agree to a payroll tax reduction extension, without the tax increases on the wealthy the President wants but with fewer spending cuts than they want.  Next time around, Politicaldrek will address the effect, if any, a payroll tax reduction has on the economy.

Jack Lippman

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Pooch and Sweetie Pie Lead the Way

Harvey Sage - Author of Tuna Food -  www.harvo1.com

It was a cold, clear and moonless midnight. Pooch and Sweetie Pie, the favored dog and cat of Bethlehem, just east of Jerusalem, were trotting slowly through the fields, anxious to get home and snuggle. They’d had a good time befitting a good dog and a good cat. The Chanukah celebration, the Festival of Lights, was a time of rejoicing for the Jews. It commemorated the downfall of the Syrian-Greek attempt to impose their pagan religion on them. After a battle that had lasted decades God had given the Maccabees victory over superior forces of the invaders. The guerilla war, started by the loyal high priest Mattathias and continued by his son Judas Maccabeus, allowed them to recapture and then purify the holy Temple of Jerusalem about 150 years before. The eight day celebration with song, praise, dancing, food and merrymaking was dedicated to God’s intercession on their behalf. Judas had decreed that henceforth the people would celebrate the event for an eight day period on an annual basis. After all, the evil Greek-Syrian King Antiochus had outlawed the study of Torah (Law) and worship of God. His defeat was a defeat of a satanic ruler.

The celebration had a pall over it though. Just like the Greek-Syrian despots of the time of the Maccabees, Rome held Judea as a province. Though the priestly class, the king and nobles, the rich merchants, the scribes and the theologians were treated well by the Romans in order to insure cooperation, most of the people were suffering. They had no religious freedom, having to obey the laws of the priests. Their finances were low, since they had to pay Rome heavy taxes. And if they dissented, cruel crucifixion awaited them.

Like the Jews under the Syrian despot Antiochus of 150 years before, they longed for a leader to free them from their bondage. The people sought the Promised one, the Messiah. Would God come through again? Would they have victory? Some prophets, rabbis and priests taught that this would happen. The prayer of the common folk was “Soon, Lord Adonoi. Soon!”

Suddenly Pooch stopped in his tracts. Then Sweetie Pie, right behind him, heard the commotion and she stopped too. Overhead was a very bright star. Its light was almost as bright as a full moon. There was suddenly a flurry of sparkling lights in the heavens from east to west and then a huge figure appeared in front of them where a herd of sheep lay. The commotion was from the shepherds since the appearance of this big figure, an angel of the Lord, scared them.

“Do not be afraid” boomed his voice. “I bring you good news. Today in Bethlehem a boy has been born who will lead you and save you. He is of the line of David and He will be your king.”

The shepherds gave out a cheer, for they awaited the Messiah who would free them from oppression. Pooch barked in delight, but Sweetie Pie demurely just said a quiet “meeow.” Then as the figure levitated heavenward singing came from the heavens. “Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth and good will to mankind upon whom His favor rests.” Then, as suddenly as it all began, there was quiet. 

The shepherds began chatting among themselves. “Where is the king? Where is the Messiah?” they asked. The angel told them that He was in Bethlehem, but where in that town was He?

They decided to go look and so, leaving a few of their number to tend the sheep, the rest started walking, their way lit by the bright star light. Pooch and Sweetie Pie sensed what was up and they followed in the manner in which most animals do, by leading the way. When they got to Bethlehem the shepherds decided that the new born King would probably be in a barn, since the angel had told them that He’d be wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. But there were many mangers in Bethlehem. Which one? Where? They hadn’t a clue.

Sweetie Pie looked at Pooch and purred and off they went. Bethlehem was their home. They knew it well. The only manger they knew of that was fit for a new born King was astride the Jerusalem Road. As they approached the place in this quiet sleepy town packed with its exhausted townfolk and Chanukah celebrants, they saw a glowing light. It came from the manger. Coming closer they saw a man and woman sleeping on their sides on the hay, covered by their cloaks. In between them was a crib on a saw horse with a baby inside. Bethlehem’s inns were filled up, and the only place these weary people with their baby could sleep was with the cows.

The glow came from around the baby, bathing the area in a warm, splendid light. Unlike most babies, He didn’t cry. Instead He was up and smiling, looking right at Pooch and Sweetie Pie.
Pooch stopped. He didn’t know what to do. But Sweetie Pie did. She went up to the crib and hopped in. The baby let her kiss Him and then He kissed her back. Pooch came over too and gave the baby a warm kiss on His cheek for which he got an extra big smile. The King loved them and enjoyed their adoration. Then Pooch went to the front of the manger and began to howl. The shepherds heard the ruckus and came running. Seeing the smiling baby and the glow they realized that He was the One. They knelt down and bowed before the Messiah.

This was the best Chanukah ever. It was a Festival of Lights for the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike. For two thousand years people have been celebrating the birth of the One who came to set us free from the clutches of the world, the flesh and the devil. Pooch, Sweetie Pie and the shepherds recognized the Messiah when they saw Him. Do you?

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