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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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Canine Comments and Two Fine Columns

Can you identify the seaside city pictured to the right?  The previous picture was of Honolulu, but this one isn't as easy. 

Although the Supreme Court heard arguments on the consitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, contemptuously referred to by its opponents as Obama Care, this week, they won't announce their decision until June or July.  The counsel for the government did not do a very good job and might be the "fall guy" if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional.  Over the next few months, in anticipation of the Court's decision, this blog will include occasional articles on the case.  Your comments would be very welcome!


Canine Commentary: 

I am not intimately acquainted with the dogs in my neighborhood, but occasional contact with them is unavoidable.  Some of the nearby canines have names like Baxter, Cooper and Bailey.   I don’t think there is a Fido or a Rover in my neighborhood, any longer.  Back when we had dogs, they were named Muppet (after the TV puppets) and Cujo, after a Latin American terrorist.  Those were good solid names.  Today’s anglophile-style canine names are similar to the sterile monikers bestowed on children nowadays.  
Getting back to the dogs in my neighborhood, Baxter, Cooper and Bailey combined together sounds like the name of a musty old law firm where all of the partners came out of Ivy League schools back in the days when those institutions still had quotas discriminating against people who didn’t have these kinds of names.  Most of the folks in my neighborhood today still don’t have names like these.   

I wonder, if you visited a neighborhood inhabited by people who actually had such last names as Baxter and Bailey, you would find that they had named their dogs something like Goldberg, DeMarco or Karapopolis.  Can’t you just see one of these Brooks Brothers attired gentlemen directing his well trained Dalmatian, “Sit, Goldberg, Sit!”  

Frankly, if I were being sued, I would prefer that my lawyers came from the law firm of Goldberg, DeMarco and Karapopolis rather than from Baxter, Cooper and Bailey.

Jack Lippman


Here’s a piece reproduced from the Jerusalem Post, where Dr. Ludman’s psychology column appears weekly.  

Aging - All That It Is Cracked Up To Be And More

Dr. Batya L. Ludman  

Realizing that I'm single digits away from the age my Mom was when she died, I see just how young she was. We all know people who seem old in their 40's and others who seem young in their 80's. While physical health and genetics contribute, they aren't everything, and our mental health and outlook play a greater role than most realize in determining just how well, and how long, we live.

When we think of aging, our first thoughts are often negative – we envision our body falling apart, memory lapses, and loss in all aspects of life. In reality, as we age, we have the potential to become more comfortable with who we are and therefore more content within ourselves and in our relationships. We can choose to accept our past and seek pleasure, while creating our present and future. 

Aging involves change in almost every aspect of our being and forces us to reexamine and redefine who we are and what we hope to achieve. Our bodies, thoughts, abilities and interests evolve with time. Our personality in large part determines how we respond to these changes and ultimately shapes how well we cope with, and adjust to, life's little surprises. We can choose to look at these changes with excitement and humor, or with fear, frustration, and sadness. 

As I watch my beloved octogenarian parents-in-law with schedules far busier than most people half their age, I smile and hope that my aging is as gentle as theirs. Many of us have at least one issue (if not more) to deal with while still in our early forties or fifties! Headaches, sleep problems, muscle and joint pains, dental concerns, memory problems, digestive issues, high cholesterol, and tests checking out all kinds of unmentionable areas, not to mention vision issues and thinning hair, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Although Mom and Dad joke that they have frequent “organ recitals” with their friends (the kind where they sit around and discuss various body parts), they now sadly see themselves making more hospital visits and Shiva calls. Nonetheless, aging also involves many positive opportunities and experiences, and if open to these, we can enter our senior years feeling blessed with what we have attained and what we have to look forward to. Enjoying the empty nest with a partner, not having to prove oneself, attending classes simply for enjoyment, having time to indulge one's grandchildren, doing what one wants rather than meeting other's expectations, moving at a more relaxed pace, and enjoying being with loved ones, can provide clarification of what's really important in life.

As we attain greater sophistication in neuropsychobiology, we've started to realize that our attachment to, and relationship with, others, the anger we carry, and our ability to forgive and move on, play a vital role in both our sense of wellbeing and longevity. In other words, our own personal feelings of contentment are more relevant in good aging than we have imagined and brain scans now help support this. We also know that being positive and proactive, practicing relaxation and mindfulness, and being grateful and appreciative can all lower stress levels, which ultimately lowers your risk for developing diabetes, cardiac problems and other medical issues. 

Judaism values aging and equates it with wisdom. Since we are all getting older, here are some suggestions for becoming wiser: 

Take time for self-reflection. Do you like yourself? How does your attitude help you or get in the way? What do you appreciate now that you didn't a decade or two ago? How have you grown?
Make the most out of relationships. Surround yourself with people who you care about and make you feel good. Broaden relationships to include friends of all ages and those who make you laugh and bring meaning into your life.
Help your children and grandchildren tap into your talents. Spend time doing projects, reading, watching a movie, taking a walk and just being together. Each of us has something valuable to learn from another. Your experience and wisdom are incredible gifts to the younger generation.
Value yourself as a contributing member to society. Get involved by giving back to your community. Those who volunteer and help others are significantly more content.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Look after your medical, physical, emotional, and nutritional needs in order to feel healthy, safe and secure. Add spirituality, prayer, meditation and relaxation to your daily life and learn to be best friends with the new you. As you change, your relationship with others around you will take on new meaning.
Be positive. Look for the good in people and in everyday events. Appreciate the moment. Have an “attitude of gratitude” and take time to smell the roses. Focus on what you have and not on what is lacking.
Use your time wisely. Determine whether you control your time or time controls you.
De-stress. Notice when you feel calm and how your body reacts to stress. Let go of relationships and things that weigh you down and are unimportant. Forgive those you need to and don't carry around emotional baggage. Put your life in order. De-clutter your home, organize your finances, and simplify your daily routine so you can make room for the things you value.
Challenge your brain. Study, play scrabble, attend a lecture, or take up a new hobby. Be passionate and don't be afraid to dream.
Create a memory friendly environment. As we age, we learn more slowly, retain less information and our memory is less sharp and reliable. We may go blank when trying to recall a person's name, retell a story or enter a room. Utilize a calendar, watch, a daily journal and a "to do" list to keep organized. Minimize distractions and visualize your actions. Use repetition, rehearsal and reinforcement as ways to enhance memory, be it putting your keys in the same place or recalling someone's name after meeting them. 

While aging has its ups and downs, with the right attitude one can feel blessed. Happy 80th and 85th birthday, to my very special Mom and Dad.

Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana, Israel. Send correspondence to her at ludman@netvision.net.il or visit her website at www.drbatyaludman.com.  Her book, Life's Journey. Exploring Relationships - Resolving Conflicts, has recently been published by Devora Publishers.



The Right’s Etch-a-Sketch Imperative

 E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: March 25 in  the Washington Post

Clarifying moments are rare in politics. They are the times when previously muddled issues are cast into sharp relief and citizens get a chance to look past the spin and obfuscation.  Americans were blessed with three such moments last week.   (For clarity, I added the numbers on the following paragraphs. J.L.)      
  1. Rep. Paul Ryan made absolutely clear that he is not now and never was interested in deficit reduction. After a couple of years of being lauded by deficit hawks as the man prepared to make hard choices, he proposed a budget that would not end deficits until 2040 but would cut taxes by $4.6 trillion over a decade while also extending all of the Bush tax cuts, adding an additional $5.4 trillion to the deficit. Ryan would increase military expenditures and then eviscerate the rest of the federal government.

Oh yes, Ryan claims he’d make up for the losses from his new tax cuts with “tax reform” but offered not a single detail. A “plan” with a hole this big is not a plan at all. Ryan’s main interest is in cutting the top income tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent. His message: Solving the deficit problem isn’t nearly as important as (1) continuing and expanding benefits for the wealthy and (2) disabling the federal government.

Robert Greenstein, president of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is tough on deficits, careful in his use of numbers, and measured in his choice of words. These traits make his assessment of Ryan’s proposal all the more instructive.

“It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history),” Greenstein wrote. “Specifically, the Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured.”

Thanks to Ryan, we now know that this election is not about deficits at all. It is about whether we will respond to growing inequalities of wealth and income by creating even larger inequalities of wealth and income.

  1. Last week the nation also focused seriously on the “Stand Your Ground” laws that the National Rifle Association has pushed through in state after state. These statutes came to wide attention because of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

George Zimmerman, the man who pulled the trigger, was not under serious investigation until there was a national outcry because under the Florida law, a citizen has a right to use “force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

These laws perfectly reflect the NRA’s utopia. No longer will we count onlaw enforcement to preserve the peace. Instead, we will build a society where all citizens are armed and encouraged to take the law into their own hands. If you feel threatened, just shoot.

Since when did conservatives start believing that laws should be based on “feelings” and subjective judgments? What kind of civilization does this create? Surely this moment should inspire the peaceable majority to challenge the entire gun lobby worldview — and that most certainly includes the legions of timid Democrats who have been cowed by the NRA.

  1. There was, finally, that toy metaphor from Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide to Mitt Romney. Asked on CNN if the primary campaign had forced Romney “to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election,” Fehrnstrom replied that “everything changes” after the primaries. “It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch,” he added, “you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”

The context matters because Romney later said Fehrnstrom was talking about post-primary changes that would be made “organizationally,” a claim that is plainly untrue. Ironically, the semi-denial reinforced the lesson Fehrnstrom taught: To win, Romney is willing to change not only his own positions but also reality itself.

Conservatives will need an exceptionally powerful Etch a Sketch to wipe the nation’s memory clean of the education it received during the 2012 campaign’s most enlightening week so far. 


Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com.  

Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com  - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com.   
Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.

Additional new material will continue to be posted on www.politicaldrek.com until the Presidential election.  New material will resume being added to the other three “drek” sites after November of 2012.

Jack Lippman
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To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The President and Israel, and the Supreme Court faces a $36,000,000,000 Question

During the past seven days, this blog was accessed by 84 viewers.  Fifty-four were in the United States, 14 in Germany, 7 in the Netherlands and one each in France, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Slovenia, Taiwan and the Ukraine.  Ask your friends and neighbors to take a look at it, including some of the prior postings.

There's a new picture to the right for you to try to identify.  The prior location was of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Ranier in the background. 
Jack Lippman


The $36,000,000.000 Question

When the Administration goes before the Supreme Court to defend the mandate provision in the Affordable Health Care Act, contemptuously referred to by its opponents as “ObamaCare,” they will point out that in 2008, the unpaid bills for the uninsured medical care of uninsured patients was $36,000,000,000.  (That’s billions, folks.)  By now, it is even more annually.  

                                            If the guy on the gurney doesn't have insurance, guess who pays.

Oh, sure!  The doctors, hospitals and other health care providers eventually got paid, but this money came out of your pocket.  Providers raised their fees to account for these unpaid charges and insurance companies, and the government (where it was involved as in the operation of such things as municipal hospitals) passed the costs on to you, friends, in the form of increased insurance premiums or tax increases.  Employers who may have paid the higher premium for your coverage didn’t forget that when it came time to look at your compensation.  So this is the mish-mash methodology describing how that $36,000,000,000 got paid in 2008, and continues to be the way it gets paid today.  You pay for the health care free-loaders, many of whom can well afford to pay for insurance, but who don’t because they think they’ll never get sick nor injured. 

The Affordable Health Care Act, most of which has been eagerly accepted by Americans, will solve this problems in a few years (as did Romney’s Health Insurance program in Massachusetts) by “mandating” that everyone have at least minimal health insurance.  Those who choose not to would be penalized, or “fined,” when they file their income taxes.  And the government would not get into the insurance business to provide this coverage either.  It would come from our free enterprise system via private insurance companies.   This is the provision which the Supreme Court will look at, determining whether such a “mandate” is constitutional on a Federal basis.  Certainly, it was okay on a state basis, as in Massachusetts, but the Court will answer the question of whether interstate commerce is sufficiently involved to permit a “mandate” on a nationwide basis.

If it is allowed to go into effect, premiums to purchase insurance to cover that $36,000,000,000 shortfall will supposedly come out of the pockets of those freshly “mandated” to buy insurance, or their employers.  I strongly suspect that if some of them cannot afford it, and are below a certain income level, funds to pay for this will end up coming from taxpayers.  But they won’t be continuing to come from increased health insurance costs and as a result, higher insurance premiums for everybody else, as would be the case if the “mandate” is found to be unconstitutional.  And the cost burden passed on to the public would be somewhat reduced.

My greatest fear is that the conservative dominated Supreme Court, by a five to four vote, will make a Republican political decision and rule the “mandate” unconstitutional, effectively crippling the Affordable Health Care Act.  Their doing so would result in the Democrats using this as a triumphant campaign issue in the November election, and ultimately, some form of “mandate” would go into effect.  It might have to wait for the replacement of one of the conservative majority on the Court, and no one knows when that will happen. Things would have to get worse before they get better, but just for a while.


There is also a good chance that the Supreme Court will not pass judgement at all because there is precedent for their backing off from cases where there has not already been a contested action caused by a law.  They very well may say that a decision must await someone being penalized for not purchasing “mandated” insurance and their going to court about it. This would permit the G.O.P. to use their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act as the main issue during the 2012 Presidential Election campaign.

By the way, the next time you encounter someone who feels that “ObamaCare” should be repealed, ask them exactly what it is that they specifically object to about it. 
  • Closing the doughnut hole for prescription costs for seniors? 
  • Providing coverage to age 26 for dependent children remaining in a parent’s household? 
  • Requiring insurance companies to issue health insurance without considering the applicant’s pre-existing medical conditions during an open enrollment period each year?   
  • The “mandate” discussed above which results in everyone having to buy insurance, not just the unhealthy, making reasonable pricing possible?
Or do they just object to anything whatsoever that the President does?
Jack Lippman


President Obama, a Fierce Defender of Israel … Regardless of What You May Hear

Here is an article published on March 21 in the Florida Jewish Journal, a weekly distributed in South Florida by the Sun-Sentinel, a Broward county newspaper.  I agree with its contents.  If you disagree, this blog will be happy to include your comments.
By Rabbi Bruce Warshal Florida Jewish Journal     
March 21, 2012

It has always been a central tenet of American politics that support of Israel is a nonpartisan consensus, something that is good for America and is divorced from contentious political infighting. This stability, this unstated rare meeting ground of political foes, has been very important for Israel. It has been the bedrock of American-Israeli relations, placing Israel in the position of an almost-fifty-first state.

Unfortunately the
Republican Party and its candidates for its presidential nomination have broken this tradition, and not to the long-run benefit of Israel. Israel wants to stay above American politics; being dragged into it can eventually lead to the breaking of this important nonpartisan consensus.

This thrust started with the Republican Jewish Coalition, an offshoot of the National Republican Committee and was quickly picked up by the more fringe elements of the party. The blog The Right Scoop has branded Obama as "The Anti-Israel President." A conservative activist in South Florida emailed this message: "Let's finally face reality. Obama despises Israel…Obama's strategy of strangling Israel … can lead to its destruction.”

If you are conservative and you don't want to vote for Obama, that's legitimate. If you don't want universal medical insurance; if you were against the auto industry bailout; if you are against extension of unemployment insurance; if you think that we should not tax the rich at a higher percentage than the middle class; if you think that Social Security should be privatized; if you are for the reduction of social service programs, but we should not cut military expenditures; then you should vote Republican — and they are legitimate reasons for your decision.

But there is one reason that is illegitimate. Obama is not anti-Israel. It is a bald-faced lie to pander to the Jewish community. In fact,
President Obama's administration has been a fierce defender of Israel, fiercer than any previous administration. Here is a partial list of some of that support. Obama did the following:

•Significantly expanded military and intelligence sharing with Israel to a level unheard of during the administrations of his two predecessors (one Republican and one Democrat).
•Supported Israel's development of the David's Sling and Arrow anti-missile systems in addition to the Iron Dome system.

                                      Iron Dome Missile System in Operation
•Established and operated an advanced American X-band air-defense radar by U.S. forces stationed in Israel.
•Presented Israel with a $3 billion defense package in 2011, the largest foreign aid to Israel in the history of U.S. administrations.
•Had the largest ever joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise (Juniper Cobra) and withdrew from a Turkish-led
NATO exercise because it excluded Israel.
•Vigorously supported Israel in the U.N. Security Council, using the American veto to kill resolutions in condemnation of Israel.
•Vetoed over a half-dozen anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council.

The list could go on, but this is a newspaper column, not an encyclopedia page. The message is clear. The Republican attack on President Obama as being anti-Israel is bogus. The proof of this fact came to light in an interview with Israeli Defense Minister General
Ehud Barak on Charlie Rose's show this last December. Rose asked Barak if President Obama is a good friend of Israel. Of course, he was not going to say anything derogatory about an American president on national television. One would expect him to say the usual platitudes about all presidents having contributed to the warm relationship between the two countries.

But Barak did something unusual and unexpected. He became very intense and looked Rose in the eyes and very deliberately and forcefully spoke about President Obama's "deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel." (That's an exact quote. You can go to Charlie Rose's Internet web page and see the entire interview.) Barak's body language and effusive words told the whole story. You now have the choice of believing the Israeli Minister of Defense or the Republican politicians who want to make Israel a political football in the November games.

Actually, yes there is one reason concerning Israel not to vote for Obama. He, like every one of his predecessors, Republicans and
Democrats, believes in a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with land swaps and modifications. I repeat — with land swaps and modifications as supported by Bush I, Bush II, Clinton, in fact by every previous American president. If you believe in a Greater Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, if you support continued West Bank settlements to the total exclusion of a Palestinian state, then it would make sense for you not to vote for Obama. Actually, you probably should not vote at all, because even a Republican president will end up supporting a two-state solution.

This whole matter was best summarized by Representative Gary Ackerman of New York in a letter to his constituents these past
High Holy Days. He noted that of the 43 confessions of sins on Yom Kippur, 11 relate to some form of speech (lashon hara, an evil tongue). He then lamented the irresponsible and outrageous accusations against President Obama as being anti-Israel.

Finally, Ackerman wrote: "Enough is enough. The president is far from perfect and criticizing him is legitimate. But the lies and smears and spit-flecked hostility that have emerged in some parts of our community's debate are a disgrace to a people that regularly asks in prayer for divine assistance to 'guard my tongue from evil speech and my lips from speaking lies.'"

Rabbi Warshal is the publisher emeritus of the Jewish Journal and the author of "Provocative Columns: A Liberal Rabbi Reflects on Beliefs, Israel & American Politics." He can be reached at brucewarshal@comcast.net.

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This article brings to mind the short story, “The Meeting” which appeared on this blog on August 10, 2011.  In it, at a fictitious meeting of extremely wealthy Americans, a program was outlined whereby the votes of groups which were single-mindedly devoted to a particular cause could be captured by ostensibly supporting that cause, but with the aim of getting their votes for the entire conservative agenda.  Here is a quote from the program outlined at that meeting.
(Go back on the blog and read the entire piece, if you wish.  It is hard to believe that it is fictitious.)

“3. We must ally ourselves with groups who seem susceptible to adopting our ideology because they are already single-mindedly devoted to one cause or another.  This blind devotion can be easily transferred to our cause. This will increase our numbers and believe me, this is very applicable to members of Congress and local legislators.  The groups with which we must ally ourselves are endless.  They include pro-Israel groups, pro-life groups, creationists, anti-fluouride groups, home schooling and pro-educational voucher groups, evangelical Christian groups, anti-immigrant groups, chambers of commerce, some professional societies, sporting groups, bankers associations and Second Amendment groups.”
Jack Lippman


                                                    ***   ***   ***                                                                                
Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com
Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com  - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com
Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.
Jack Lippman
                                                    * * *   * * *   * * *
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Short Story, A Luncheon for Four, and a Bit More

You will note that the Potpouuri Poll has disappeared from the blog.  Responses were minimal, but we may bring it back as the Presidential election draws near.  Also, we have added some advertisements to the blog.  We neither select nor endorse the ads. And if you have any idea of the location pictured off to the right, send me an Email at riart1@aol.com.

Beside an old short story from my archives, there are some interesting items on today's posting.  Unfortuantely, none of you submitted anything to include this time around.  I wish that you had.  Certainly, some of you have the skills and opinions to come up with an interesting contribution to this blog.  Give it a try.
Jack Lippman


Advice from my Gym Teacher

I had a gym teacher back in elementary school who said that we should believe about 25% of what we hear and about 50% of what we read.  There was a lot of philosophy dispensed while we were doing “two sixteens” of “up and touch your toes” or “duckwalking” around the gymnasium. There was no internet in those days and no Email.  If there were, I think Mr. O’Sullivan would have added that the 50% rule also applied to well documented sources of information on the internet, but circulated Email, with the original document unsigned, warranted no more than 5% credibility.  

Unfortunately, there are very large numbers of Americans who are totally misinformed about important things and believe everything that they read on the internet.  Recently, surveys in Mississippi and Alabama among likely voters in the Republican primaries there indicated that more than half of them believed the President was a Muslim.  

I am thankful that some of my more conservative friends include me in their Emails, which also go to hundreds of others, probably less discerning than I am.  Without them, I would not know that (1) there is still significant doubt about the birthplace of President Obama, (2) the Affordable Health Care Act requires everyone who sells a house to pay a special tax, (3) that the President and the Vice President were stupid enough to push for retraining of “cattle guards,” which are not people but mechanical devices used on ranch roads. 4) that the United States is willing to throw Israel “under the bus,” (5) that the government is engaged in a fight against religious freedom,  etc., etc., etc.

Please, I ask you, read whatever political Emails you receive carefully, and in your own mind, question what they are saying.  Look for the source of the information.  Just because it is a web site or a blog doesn't automatically give it legitimacy.

 Is there a War on Women?

Contrary to what I am hearing from the liberal media, the G.O.P. is not waging a war against women.  Their failure to support provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act which provide for payment of benefits for abortions and contraceptives is merely an attempt to lock in the support of the people who do believe for religious reasons that taxpayers should not pay for such services. Except perhaps for the unelectable Rick Santorum, most Republicans don’t believe that themselves, but why shouldn’t they seek the votes of those who do?  The end justifies the means.


Such measures, incidentally, do not attack religious freedom.  They do not favor or establish any particular religion or denomination.  They require that all taxpayers share in the providing of such services, even if they personally do not believe in them.  That is the price of living in a democracy.  Consider that individuals who choose to home school their children or have them attend a religious rather than a public school are not excused from paying taxes to support public schools.  Excluding them from paying for the female services mentioned above because their religion objects to them, in the name of religious freedom, would be a travesty on the First Amendment. 

Baseball Season Approaches

The sharp sound of a baseball being struck by a bat  …   the thump of a fastball being caught in a catcher’s mitt  …  the umpire’s cry of “Play Ball !”  It all comes together each Spring as 32 major league teams each battle their way through 162 games  involving our “national pastime.”  Baseball is old fashioned.  It is played pretty much the same way as it was played a century ago.  Rules have changed very little. That’s why America loves it. Baseball is like a comfortable old pair of shoes.  Along with the players’ salaries, ticket prices, unfortunately, have skyrocketed.  But most games are viewable on television, from which Major League Baseball makes loads of money.  

                                                          Mike Palfrey

Last week, we saw an exhibition game between the world champion St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets.  When New York starter Mike Palfrey yielded a first inning homer to Cardinal David Freese, a leather-lunged Met fan sitting behind us bellowed out, “Atta boy, Mike, you’re in mid-season form alreddy!”  When we left the stadium eight innings later, our shoes made crunchy noises as we trod on the peanut shells the fans had deposited on the concrete floor by their seats. Welcome back, baseball!

An Interesting Luncheon                                                                                                 

Cal Thomas is a right wing columnist with whom I almost always disagree.  I feel that most of his views are reprehensible. But inside of his repulsive persona, Cal is probably a nice guy. He eats lunch every day.   

Cal Thomas and Rachel Maddow

Recently, at a conservative political convention, he got the crowd cheering when he mentioned that contraception would have been a good thing for Rachel Maddow’s parents to have practiced (Maddow is a liberal MSNBC commentator) and that applied to others at that station as well. A few days later, Thomas realized that he had gone too far and apologized to Maddow in his column and suggested they go to lunch together and get to know each other’s thoughts better.
Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke

A couple of weeks later, after infamous right wing pseudo-journalist Rush Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” because of her outspoken views on the availability of contraceptive drugs, Thomas chimed in, writing that perhaps Limbaugh (who had weakly apologized to Fluke on the air) should invite Fluke to lunch to talk things over.  Obviously, Cal Thomas supports the kind of lunches which can be considered as business expenses and hence, a tax deduction.  I did Email Cal suggesting that he and Rush make it a foursome and go out together with Rachel and Sandra for lunch.  I am still waiting for his reply.


                                   Future Radio, A Glimpse into the Future

                                                        Jack Lippman

When I picked up my new car at the dealership and the salesman went over all of the goodies which were included, I remember asking about an unfamiliar looking purple sticker on the AM-FM radio.

“I dunno what that is, never saw it before,” he had said, “but I’ll check it out with the service department and call you if it means anything.  Probably some extra examination the car went through.  They’re always adding new procedures to make sure everything works fine, and your car checks out great!”  And after three months of enjoying the pleasures of owning that car, that was exactly my opinion too!

Except for the radio.  As soon as I had gotten home with the car, I tried to set the radio pushbuttons for the stations to which I usually listen.  It wasn’t an easy job, because whenever I pressed a button to set a station, the words FUTURE OPTION kept popping up briefly on the digital dial screen.  I studied the manual but found nothing about that in it.  I even called the dealership but they weren’t able to help either.  Finally, after setting up the pushbuttons the way I wanted them, my curiosity got the best of me about this FUTURE OPTION thing, whatever it was, and I started fiddling around with the buttons when I saw those two words flashing on the screen.  After a few tries, I accidentally hit the SEEK and SCAN buttons simultaneously and to my surprise, the words started flashing even more rapidly and changed to a purple color.  Frankly, I didn’t know what to do next but to my amazement, the screen started scrolling upward and now read in blinking purple letters, TONY, PUSH SEEK AND SCAN TOGETHER NOW TO CONTINUE.  Somewhere between being frightened out of my wits by this radio which apparently knew my name, and being unable to resist the temptation to find out what was going on, I took a deep breath and simultaneously pressed the SEEK and SCAN buttons once more.

My entire body starting shaking when next I heard a deep voice, resonating through eight Bose speakers announcing, “Welcome to the future.  We wondered how long it was going to take you to figure out how to get here, Tony.  Although you car’s manufacturer will deny it, and rightly so since they know nothing of what I am about to tell you, your car’s radio system has been selected by a technology you are not capable of understanding to be equipped with a special band enabling you to listen to future radio broadcasts.  By simply moving the tuning arrows, which will reflect digits from 100 to 1000, you will be able to tune in on radio broadcasts from one hundred to one thousand years into the future.  Development of this system is not yet sufficiently advanced to enable you to select the frequencies to which you may listen, but generally, transmissions of news or current affairs stations will be provided.  In order to make certain that you, or the next few generations of your offspring, Tony, will not be able to profit from information heard on these broadcasts from the future, the system has been programmed so that it cannot access broadcasts in the relatively near future, that is, within the next hundred years.  We hope this limitation will not lessen your enjoyment of your Future Radio experience!”

After my initial shock wore off, I started tuning in on the future.  At first tentatively, but shortly with the gusto of a computer surfer who just went on line, I found that I was able to listen to English language newscasts which reported what was going on in the world and depending on how far into the future I tuned, even in the rest of our solar system over the next thousand years.

Now, just to set things straight and answer what might be the most obvious questions of anyone who is reading this, insofar as I have been able to discern from my future listening experience thus far, it appears that a world-wide nuclear war did not take place during the next millennium.  In fact, it appears that weaponry of mass destruction for use on our own planet was not a significant factor in the future.  I would guess that something occurred during the next hundred years, which of course I was not able to listen in on, to resolve that problem or at least push it into the background.  I did, however, listen to a few broadcasts from about five hundred years down the road when people on our planet did use what sounded like a very sophisticated weapons system to prevent a force from another part of the universe from colonizing another planet in our solar system.  Apparently, there was great loss of life in this venture, and a holiday memorializing it started being celebrated throughout the planet shortly thereafter.

Through the future centuries, however, I heard many, many broadcasts dealing with an ongoing struggle the earth’s human population was waging against the planet’s insect, bacterial and viral populations.  Most of the world’s technical and financial resources seemed to be devoted to this apparently very exhausting battle against these other forms of life for control of the planet.

But beyond this necessarily brief summary of what I have learned about what will occur during the next millennium, let me report to you on what I feel is, thus far, the most memorable story which I heard while tuned in on news broadcasts from the future.

It is unusual in that while I failed in my earlier attempts to record these transmissions, I had no difficulty whatsoever in making a tape of this particular broadcast, and with such ease that I suspect that it was intended that I be able to do so.  Here is the tape, which reproduces a narration by a gentleman I presume to be a Walter Cronkite type in the year 2752.

“It has been three days now since observers have been reporting seeing what appears to be a horse and rider in the sky circling the planet.  Although readily visible with rudimentary telescopes and occasionally to the naked eye, authorities have been unable to approach the horse and rider, due to a force field of some kind surrounding it.  Since it does not appear to be hostile, is not interfering with our sky routes and probes indicate that it does not possess weaponry, government action at this point has been limited to continuous observation.”

“Reaction among the Earth’s population, however, has not been so reserved.  Although traditional religions are still legally permitted to be practiced on Earth, most of the world’s population, for better or for worse, have limited their faith to a simple belief, far short of worship, in an omnipotent power, similar to what in the past was referred to as God.  Nevertheless, many groups on the planet still do have knowledge of and follow some of the old rituals historically used in worshipping this power, or God, as they still often call it, and it is these groups that have been particularly enthusiastic in attributing great significance to the appearance of the horse and rider.”

“Leaders of the Muslim religion have announced that the horse and rider are nothing more than the promised return of their Prophet, Mohammed, who had ridden off on his horse to Heaven centuries ago from an elevated area in Jerusalem.  The Catholic Church, from its offices in the Vatican City, has proclaimed that while no horse was actually needed to carry him, close-up views seen by equipment at the Georgetown University Observatory leave no doubt that the rider is actually Jesus Christ, coming again as proclaimed by his followers.  Protestant leaders have echoed this Catholic assertion.  And in Jerusalem, Orthodox Jews in black hats can be seen dancing in the streets, firmly believing that although the Messiah they expect is neither Mohammed nor Jesus Christ, what is going on certainly indicates that this is a most propitious time to expect his arrival.”

“And so it was that this morning when the horse and rider were expected to swoop down, setting foot on the ground near Jerusalem, there were nearly two million Muslims, Christians and Jews assembled waiting in awe.  Among them were the leading clerics of what formal religions are still being practiced on Earth.  The planet’s leading ministers, priests, imams, rabbis and holy men of all varieties, sizes and shapes had come there and shared a set of bleachers authorities had quickly set up when their tracking systems confirmed the time and place of the impending landing.  Finally, as the horse and rider touched down amidst the din of a million prayers being chanted, whispered, wailed and mumbled in a myriad of tongues, there was reported an overpowering gleam of light filling the sky, forcing all present to raise their hands to shield their eyes at the same time as a sudden and eviscerating silence blanketed the assemblage.  When the gathered believers finally dropped their hands from their faces and opened their eyes and looked before them, there was neither horse nor rider to be seen.  And then, as if following some universal but silent directive, the crowd quickly dispersed amidst a warming, unnatural and all-encompassing calm which seemed to pervade the atmosphere and seep into the consciousness of every individual there, imparting a sweet feeling of well-being.  They all smiled inwardly knowing, if they were Muslim, that their Prophet had returned and if they were Christian, that the resurrected Jesus had come again, and if they were Jewish, that the Messiah now walked among them, all of which means, I guess, that in the eyes of believers, God’s in his Heaven and all’s right with the world.  This is Correspondent   4456 reporting from Jerusalem.”

Frankly, I was surprised that the newscaster finished his story, which speaks for itself, with a line from a poem by Robert Browning and I wondered how much more of our cultural heritage survived into the twenty-eighth century.  That’s what I was thinking as I waited outside of CBS News’ offices in New York City.  The door opened and the gentleman I had spoken to on the phone came out.

“Tony, we’ve listened to your tape and frankly, we can’t use it.” He said as he handed me back the manila envelope containing my cassette.  “It’s a good story, but how can we prove that it isn’t a hoax.  You know, a lot of these stories end up being fabrications when we get to the bottom of them.”

“I expected that you would be saying something like that.  If you’d come out to my place, you could listen to the radio yourself and see that this is no hoax,” I replied.

“Fair enough,” he said.  “I live out your way and I’ll stop by on the way to work tomorrow.  Would eight in the morning be too early?”

“See you then,” I said.  “You have my address, right?”


When I got home that evening, my car was missing from the garage where I kept it under lock and key, and the lock showed no signs of having been tampered with.  I immediately notified the police and at about one in the morning, the phone rang. 

“Mr. Green, this is Officer Morton down at police headquarters.  Good news!  We found your car in a parking lot at a mall.  Looks like some kids must have taken it, did some riding around and left it there.  They didn’t do any damage either other than ripping out your radio.  Damn neat job of it, they did, too.  Didn’t leave a scratch.  But that’s no big deal, I guess.  Don’t worry.  We’ll catch them.  We usually do, sooner or later.  Can you come down in the morning, get the paperwork done and pick up your car?  Okay?”

I didn’t reply right away and after a few seconds, Officer Morton repeated his question.  “Are you okay, Mr. Green?  Will you be coming down tomorrow?  Is anything wrong?

“No, Officer.  Everything is alright.  I’ll come down in the morning to take care of the paperwork.”  And I silently added to myself that I knew very well that the police would not be able to catch whomever or whatever it was that departed with my car’s radio.  Not for a very, very long time, anyway.

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