About Me

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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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The First Debate, Trump's Love for "OPM," 38 Billion for Military Aid to Israel, Hair and a Reading Assignment

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Right Now, Up Front, Here's a Reading Assignment

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First. check out  a recent New York Times column by Thomas L. Friedman has taken on a green hue with his latest book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded".Thomas Friedman telling us why "ex-spies," who know what really is going on, know that a Trump Presidency would be a catastrophe for the nation and its allies.  Just click here to read it.   

Then move on to           Kathleen Parker's Washington Post column wherein she tells why "opposing Trump amounts to a moral imperative" for her. Click here to read the column.  Now, this columnist, contrary to Thomas Friedman, has probably voted Republican ever since she was old enough to vote. In the column, she quotes a voter who "definitely doesn't want Trump to win and definitely want Hillary to lose." Such voters, as an old fisherman once said, must learn to "fish or cut bait."  Right now they are still cutting bait.  

Here's one who isn't, though.  In a Letter to the Editor recently published in the Palm Beach Post, a Republican writer recently classified Trump supporters as either (1) anti-immigration and/or prejudiced, (2) "anybody but Hillary" people, (3) permanent Republican voters, regardless of the candidate and (4) those who after comparing the candidates, have decided that Trump has the best interest of the country at heart. 

After a few paragraphs of such "cutting bait," he finally starts to fish when he concludes by saying "Let's realize our problems are complex and Clinton is talking complex solutions and working together to make things better, while Trump is delivering one-liners. Hillary risk is far, far less than the Trump risk come November."

(Note about clicking on links to articles published elsewhere:  Up until last year, I frequently included entire columns in this blog.  No one ever complained, but a professional journalist who occasionally follows the blog pointed out that actually, I was infringing on copyrighted material.  So to keep everything "kosher," while I may still quote a few lines from a published column, I switched over to providing links on which readers might click to read the entire original column.  (JL)

The First Presidential Debate
Here’s my take on the first Presidential Debate, written within ten minutes of its end, even before listening to any of the TV analysis or reading about it in the papers.

In very general terms, Hillary looked fine.  I would define her appearance as “unflappable.”  Donald, on the other hand, was “flappable.”   The “split-screen” approach enabled the viewer to see the reactions of each while the other was speaking, and that’s where this was really visible. Trump often grimaced or scowled at what Clinton was saying.  Hillary just smiled, even when in strong disagreement with Trump. 

When not speaking, and just listening, Trump often squinted.  I suspect the lighting bothered him.  Hillary had no such problem.  It occurred to me that his frequent campaign appearances wearing a “Make America Great” baseball cap might be for the purpose of shading his eyes from bright light.  He should see an ophthalmologist.  I believe this was almost as damaging to him as was Richard Nixon’s sweating during his first debate with John Kennedy in 1960.
Basically, Trump did an excellent job of criticizing the direction in which the country has gone during the past eight years.  But, he said nothing any different from what he has been saying throughout his campaign, criticizing government in regard to trade, job creation and national security.  For example, his solution in regard to unemployment was tax reduction at all levels, making it easier for business to create jobs.  As for bringing jobs back from overseas, he blamed Democrats and incompetent people in government who didn’t know what they were doing for letting them go there in the first place.  

Clinton offered detailed proposals for solving the challenges the nation faces, here and abroad while Trump pointed out that they were the fault of prior administrations, and can be attributed to Secretary Clinton to a great extent, so how can she be expected to solve them, he asked.   Clinton’s thrust was forward looking.  Trump’s was retrospective.
If each came to the debate with a “plan” for how they would answer questions, Clinton was able to pretty much stay “on plan” while Trump frequently went “off plan” to respond to Clinton’s charges.  For example, when Clinton criticized a past Trump comment that he had hoped for a collapse of the real estate bubble (which occurred in 2007) as being a good opportunity to make money, he responded that it was simply “good business” to do so.  Clinton’s responses were brief, enabling her to quickly get back “on plan.” 

If this debate had a winner, it would be Clinton.  No Trump supporters were converted, but some undecided voters and Johnson or Stein backers might have been.

                                           *              *             *
And here is an "addendum," written after hearing some of the "morning after" comments on the tube.

The folks at Fox TV actually thought Trump had won the debate.  One of their blonde a.m. anchors quoted a poll from Variety (that's a show-biz magazine) giving Donald a 75-25 edge.  Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, whom she was interviewing at the time, snickered and said that "real" polls were showing the contrary.  Getting to the meat of the debate, however, the general consensus was that Hillary kept Donald on the defensive.  Some wondered why, other than an offer to trade his tax returns for Hillary's 30,000 emails, he didn't inject the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi and the emails themselves into the debate.  On Fox, one "analyst" complained that there were no questions posed by the moderator on those subjects.  Sadly, many Trump supporters don't recognize that the demands of governance go beyond that!  Far beyond that!  Of note is the fact that immigration wasn't mentioned.  I suspect that it's a subject Trump handles well at his rallies before his supporters, but was unwilling to raise with Hillary poised to counter his statements.  And she just didn't have time to raise the subject.

So my initial analysis was correct.  Clinton won. Unless the remaining two debates can be limited to the emails, the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi, (or Trump can successfully twist them into that) anticipate a steady decline in Trump's numbers.   Johnson's and Stein's support will drift to Clinton, just as will the crucial "undecided" 10%.  Trump doesn't have a clue as to what is required of a President, and it showed.  
Jack Lippman

Donald Loves to Use Other People's Money

Last week “Dangerous” Donald Trump touted the advantages of using “Other People’s Money” to finance things.  Specifically, he suggested that the Gulf States, not the United States nor Europe, finance relief efforts in Syria.  Real estate developers usually use “OPM” to finance their projects.  That’s where he learned this.  This might be a good idea all by itself but it ignores the intricacies of foreign policy which determine how we deal with other countries.  Syria is not a real estate development.

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Banks and other financial institutions usually lay out the money, with minimal if any participation by the developer, for residential or commercial construction projects.  And the developer somehow manages it so that the debt ultimately turns out to be someone else’s problem.  This is the business philosophy of “Dangerous” Donald Trump and has no business being injected into our government.  Certainly, “government” has always been financed by “OPM” but in that case, the “other people” are the taxpaying individuals and businesses of the country.

Conservatives have always complained about the government’s annual deficits and the national debt, and these are valid issues.  But from day one, this country has been financed by tax-supported debt.  We didn't have the money to pay for the American Revolution.  So we borrowed from France, ultimately striking a deal to repay them, and individual colonies, soon to become states, issued bonds.  We printed worthless paper money which found a good measure of patriotic acceptance.   But the country had an obligation to ultimately pay its debts, as it does today, which it did and still does today, despite occasional Congressional obstructions.  This is not the way Donald Trump does business.  Ask the folks in Atlantic City or those who were disappointed by Trump University.

Recognize how the philosophy of using “OPM” in the business world differs from levying taxes to pay for government!  I doubt that “Dangerous” Donald Trump understands this, despite his undergraduate education at Fordham and the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.

Recently, the Washington Post published a lengthy article explaining how “Dangerous” Donald paid off some of his personal debts using money raised by his charitable foundation, some of which had been donated by him to it, but also including a lot of “OPM.”  Because of the tax-favored status of such foundations, this was illegal, but that did not deter Trump from paying bills with Foundation checks (That's how he reportedly paid off Florida Attorney Generall Pam Bondi for not pursuing the Trump University scam and settled the infamous Mar-a-Lago flagpole dispute with the town of Palm Beach by having the his Foundation write checks to a charity, even though the Foundation itself had never put up any illegal flagpoles.  Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago did ... and the Foundation paid to settle.) 

Image result for flag over mar a lago This is known as "self-dealing" with “OPM” and any tax accountant or lawyer will tell you it is a crime.

Perhaps Trump’s attacks on the Clinton Foundation, which doesn’t do this kind of thing with its donations (and is guilty of nothing more than picking up the phone when a big donor calls and pointing them in the right direction), is based on the fact that he thinks their Foundation must be as sullied by financial finagling and misuse as his obviously is.  He is so used to avoiding compliance with the law, that he must believe others must be as scurrilous as he is.  T'ain't so, Donald!  You are one of a kind.

Take the time and read the article from the Washington Post showing how dishonest this pathetic excuse for a Presidential candidate is.  To do so, click right here.  The next day, the Trump campaign issued a response to the Post article, broadly criticizing it without offering any facts and turning it into an attack on the Clinton Foundation!  That response, as well as the Post’s meticulous answer to it can be read by clicking here.

To borrow “Dangerous” Donald’s way of speaking, for any voter to support him, they must be very, very, very gullible and extremely and tremendously naïve.

But there are a lot of those folks around, so if you don’t want “Dangerous” Donald Trump in the White House next year, IT IS YOUR OBLIGATION TO GET OUT THERE AND HELP HILLARY CLINTON TO WIN ON NOVEMBER 8, even if you don’t live in one of those crucial “toss-up” states.   (Contact me if you want to know how to do that.)
Jack Lippman


$38,000,000,000 U.S. Military Aid to Israel

The United States has agreed to increase the amount of aid given to Israel for military purposes for the next ten years from about 3.1 billion dollars to 3.8 billion dollars annually.  Tell those folks who claim Barack Obama is anti-Israel to put that in their pipes and smoke it!

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But, this increase is not quite so much as it appears to be because the 500 million dollars which is paid for Israel’s missile defense each year is now included in this annual number, whereas formerly it was separate.  Nevertheless, 38 billion dollars over the next ten years will purchase quite a bit of military aid, including the missile defense money.

Image result for Israeli missile defense

Two changes, tightening up this aid package, reflect the less than ideal relationship between the United States and Israel. The agreement is not subject to revision over the next decade and the existing provision allowing Israel to spend up to 26% of the money for military items made in Israel, rather than in the United States, will be gradually phased out.

While the United States is a great supporter of the State of Israel, our government feels that the Nuclear Reduction agreement with Iran will significantly delay that nation having nuclear weapons.  The Israeli government disagrees.  However, many believe that without the agreement, Iran would have nuclear weapons right now, and the Middle East would be in a far greater mess than it presently finds itself, with Israel heavily involved militarily.  There are those in high places in Israel who believe this, but in order to maintain a working majority in the Knesset, they cannot publicly state so.

A better relationship between Iran and the United States seems to be essential if ISIS is to be permanently defeated and the Syrian crisis resolved.  We recognize that Iran cannot be ignored because of the geopolitical make-up of the Middle East.  Look at a map.  Of course, to Israel, Iran is an implacable enemy, and our dealing with them in regard to nuclear weapons and sanctions removal, is offensive.  

Finally, the United States feels a two-state solution is needed to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, and that further Israeli settlements on the West Bank make this difficult.  Israel feels that there cannot be a two-state solution until they have someone with whom to talk who is not dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel, and until then, the settlements will continue.  At this time, no such person exists.  The United States should recognize this, and its granting this military aid package to Israel seems to do so.

So, these are the areas where Israel and the United States do not see eye to eye.  But still, thirty-eight billion dollars is a lot of aid to give to someone with whom we do not always agree.  It is testimony to the strength of our historic relationship with the State of Israel which clearly overshadows the areas of disagreement mentioned above.

Certainly, it is to the credit of the Obama administration that this increase in military
aid to Israel is taking place.

Image result for hillary clinton

Hillary Clinton is in agreement with it.  While Donald Trump, along with Clinton, has indeed pledged to protect Israel, his position on a one or two-state Palestinian solution and on military aid is ambiguous.  In fact, a few months ago, Trump actually was insisting that Israel itself pay for military aid, but he eventually reversed his position on that, as he does with many issues which he does not understand in depth. 

Clinton six-pointed star

One should not forget the anti-Semitic Trump campaign poster released a few months ago, featuring a six-pointed star, originated by an anti-Semitic group supporting Donald Trump.  It leaves a sick taste in one’s mouth.

In addition to his having the support of anti-Semites, many Jews also support Trump's candidacy, primarily because he disagrees with Obama’s (and Hillary Clinton’s) willingness to deal with Iran and their support of a two-state solution.    Image result for eyeglasses for myopia
Becoming myopic, they don’t look much further than that.  But I don’t know of any anti-Semites in Hillary Clinton’s camp.  They are all backing Donald Trump

I wonder why.  I wonder if Ivanka ever wonders why. Image result for ivanka trump wearing jewish star  

She may be the first to wise up to the evil powers which are waiting in the wings, rubbing their hands as their egotistical, narcicisstic and flamboyant candidate does his thing for the gullible and naive.
Hillary's Hair
Living among seniors in South Florida, one encounters a lot of women in Hillary Clinton's age range.  There are many in their sixties, seventies and eighties who remain quite attractive.  That's because they take care of themselves, particularly their hair.  Almost all of them sport relatively short haircuts which look great.  As they grow older, they just don't look right with long hair  (like Ivanka Trump above).  

This is true of Hillary Clinton and most of her campaign pictures show her with short hair.  That's smart!  Jump over to the Trump campaign, or take a look at a lot of the clips used on Fox News, and you will see more of Hillary with long hair.  She looks awful in such pictures and that is why they are used by her opponents. 

Here are two photos to illustrate my point.  The bottom one is from the Benghazi hearings where she is wearing an ugly green suit and has long hair.  Everywhere else she seems to favor blue, but that day, it looks like she went to the Goodwill Center and picked out that green suit. She looks awful in green. Maybe it was St. Patrick's Day? The Republicans are having a field day with that photo!    I believe that Secretary Clinton needs a permanent style consultant. But please, don't let her hair style or choice of apparel on any given day control the way you vote.   Forget the hair on her head.  It's what inside that counts.  

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And in all fairness to her opponent, he has nice hair too.  His colorist should get an award. His or her work guarantees a lot of support for him from alumni of Syracuse, Miami and Clemson Universities.

Wrapping It Up

Looks like "Dangerous" Donald did some uncredited plagerism. 

Image result for make america grate again       

And here is why semi-literate cheese manufacturers are supporting Trump!

Trump: Make America Grate Again!

Thats all for now, Folks!


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HOW TO VIEW OLDER POSTINGS.                                                
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Jack Lippman 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bolotin Story Collection, a Letter to Hillary, Innuendo and a Strategy, the Putin Interview and a "Sid" Story from the Archives

I Sent Her an Email

I was so ticked off about ten days ago that I sent Hillary Clinton an email which hopefully an aide might read, although I really doubt that.  But I had to get this off of my chest!   It was spurred on by her use of the word "deplorables."  In retrospect, she was suffering from walking pneumonia at the time and on medication, and that probably played some role in what ticked me off. 

Image from Hillary Clinton   

Of course, this doesn't lessen my support of Secretary Clinton, to whose campaign I have made a small donation, and you can bet that you'll find me active in getting out the vote for her over the next seven weeks.  Anyhow, here's my email.  

Dear Hillary:

I publish a blog every week (www.jackspotpourri.com), one of the staples of which is attacking the candidacy of Donald Trump.  I know my blog is read by many who agree with me, but I also recognize that others who disagree with me read it.  Therefore, I try to avoid insulting them.

On several occasions, I have written postings for the blog in which I referred to Trump supporters as being stupid.  Before publishing them, however, I have taken a second look at my words and recognized how such language would only serve to antagonize and never change any minds.  So I edit those pieces, getting rid of “stupid,” replacing it with “naïve” and/or “gullible.”  There is hope for “the gullible and the naïve” in that they might be enlightened.  There is no such hope for the “stupid” so I avoid using that word.

I don’t know where you are getting your advice, but I would not have used the word “deplorables” in my blog, other to describe the arch-right wing supporters of your opponent, who are only a small percentage of his backers.  The remainder, whom you lumped into one basket with them, are merely gullible or naïve.  I consider Paul Ryan, for example, to be the latter, and have said so in the blog.

Indeed, I did recently use the word “stupidly” in a recent blog posting, but it was not in connection with Donald Trump nor his supporters.  It was in reference to your use of the word “deplorables.”

My advice to you:  Be more careful in the language you use.  Spend much more time on the offense, attacking your opponents many flaws, and outlining your programs to solve the nation’s challenges, thereby enlightening the “naïve and the gullible” with whom you must sympathize and not antagonize.   Don’t waste any time refuting the charges about the emails, the Foundation or even Benghazi.  They will never stop.  By wasting time answering them, you add to their credibility.

Good Luck.

Sid Bolotin Story Collection Published

Until his sudden passing two and a half years ago, Sid Bolotin was a regular contributor to Jackspotpourri.com.  His occasional poetry, but most often his short stories, gave pleasure to this blog’s followers for years.  Sid’s work also appeared in his community’s magazine as well as other South Florida publications, winning awards on more than one occasion.

As a neighbor of Sid’s as well as his sometime editor, I recognized his skill in translating his experiences working as a hospice volunteer and the insights developed from his meditative journeys into warm and meaningful words.  Sometimes he was melancholy, sometimes sarcastic and sometimes humorous, but what he wrote was always clever and enjoyable.
Most of all, however, he communicated to all of us the depth of his devotion to his family, about whom he frequently wrote, without sugarcoating the rough edges of his early life.  Because all of us are also involved with our families, Sid’s stories often rang a bell, readily connecting with his readers.

Sid’s widow, Barbara, recently announced that much of Sid’s work, including 258 stories, had been assembled with the help of an outside editor.  Entitled “The Wisdom and the Wit of an Extraordinary Writer,” it now has been published, once again making Sid’s writing available not only to his old fans here but also to those who may just be discovering him.

Copies are available on Amazon.com (just input the title and/or Barbara’s name) as well as directly from her for $14 if you happen to be in the Palm Beach County area.  Barbara can be reached at (561) 375 8078.

Digging into the archives of Jackspotpourri.com, we’ve come up with a delicious sample of Sid’s writing, a 2013 story that gets to the kernel of what he was all about; in effect, it is “the essential Sid Bolotin.”   It appears further on in this posting.   If you like it, you might enjoy reading the entire book.

Jack Lippman

Innuendo and a Clinton Strategy

I recently heard a stand-up comic define an “innuendo” as an Italian suppository. Seriously though, and with apologies to my Italian and Sicilian friends (if I have any left after that), the Merriam-Webster simple definition of the word is a statement which indirectly suggests that someone has done something immoral, improper, etc.”

The Republican candidate’s campaign for the Presidency is based on innuendo.  He calls Secretary Clinton “crooked” and “corrupt” but does not back up these charges. Sufficiently satisfied with the “innuendo” effect of these words, he goes on to other simplistic lies and half-truths. The Republicans in Congress and the FBI investigate Secretary Clinton’s emails and find nothing that she could be prosecuted for.  She might have been “extremely careless” with them but that isn’t a crime.  I jaywalk all the time, even in Manhattan, and that’s “extremely careless” and even a crime there, but let’s keep things in a proper perspective.   Each time they investigate Hillary Clinton, the find nothing of significance. Just more innuendo. 

The Clinton Family Foundation does charitable work all over the world, accepting money from donors all over the world, but she doesn’t profit from it.  Not a penny!  But I saw a political cartoon the other day showing her carrying bags of money labelled “Clinton Foundation Donations,” implying it is her personal slush fund.  It isn’t.  More innuendo.
The time has come for the Democrats to put an end to the lies and innuendo "Dangerous" Donald Trump and those who speak for him are permitted to get away with. 

Trump at Ft. Worth rally

He often contradicts himself, reverses positions on issues, and makes the vaguest of promises as to how he will solve problems, and goes unchallenged.  

I heard him speak last week in Flint, Michigan where within a two minute period, he said he would bring jobs back to Flint “very quickly,” but “it might take a while.” How does this huckster get away with this?   I suspect that the media is afraid of reporting the truth about "Dangerous" Donald Trump because it would give them the appearance of partisanship.  But by being "even-handed" in the face of gross dishonesty, they give credibility where none is warranted. 

When he doesn't know what he is talking about (which is quite often) but wants to make his point anyway, he repeats his words as if repetition magically changes ignorance into truth.  If he can't come up with the details of what he sees as a "bad" situation, he makes it into something "very" bad, even "very, very" bad or perhaps "tremendously bad."  And to show that he isn't the only one thinking that way, he talks about all of the phone calls he gets from folks agreeing with him.  So he must be right!  And he gets away with it!  

Trump must be pressured and put on the defense in regard to these kinds of things as well as his missing tax returns,  and unanswered questions about his business connections; even donating (from his "charitable" foundation, no less) $25,000 to Florida's Attorney General's election campaign the week before she chose not to join in multi-state investigations of Trump University.  

But Hillary Clinton cannot waste her time confronting Donald Trump in these areas.  That is a job for her surrogates, Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine, the indefatigable Bill Clinton, fiery-tongued Senator Elizabeth Warren (Dem.- Mass.) and even President Barack Obama!

Neither should Secretary Clinton spend any further time refuting charges about Benghazi, the emails and the Foundation.  She has answered them quite adequately for anyone really seeking answers, and not just making charges to harass her. 

Image result for clinton hillary

Her limited time until the election must be spent outlining and discussing her programs to deal with the nation’s domestic and foreign challenges, including unemployment, turmoil in the Middle East, climate change, health care, our aging infrastructure, world trade and the economy.  These are things her opponent is unable to discuss in any depth whatsoever.  She can, and she must do so in a down-to-earth plain talk manner with which the average American will connect, rather than legalistic explanations.   This is how she can put her opponent away.  
We all know what inclement weather is … but do we ever refer to nice weather as being “clement”?

We all know what an indolent person is … but do we ever refer to a hard and conscientious worker as “dolent”?

An Interview With Vladimir Putin

Image result for Putin businessweek cover

On September 1, John Mickletwait, BloombergBusinessweek’s Editor-in-chief, interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Later in the week, Mickletwait interviewed Putin further in regard to the Eastern Economic Forum which took place several days later.)  The September 1 interview was published in the magazine' September 12 issue.  It can be seen in its entirety by clicking right here. The subsequent interviews, primarily dealing with economic matters in great detail are also available on the internet.  Here, however are the questions and answers from the September 1 published interview dealing with the Presidential election in the United States.  Draw your own conclusions. 
Q:  There is an American election on the way, and as you well know there’s a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Who would you rather have at the other end of the telephone if there is a geopolitical situation—Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?
A:  I would like to work with a person who can be accountable for decisions made and implement any agreements that we reach. Surnames don’t matter at all. Of course, that person must enjoy the trust of the American people, so that they won’t just have the desire but also the reinforced political will to fulfill all those agreements. That’s why we never interfered, aren’t interfering, and don’t plan to interfere in domestic political processes.
Q:  Can I just push you on that? You’re really telling me that if you have a choice between a woman, whom you think may have been trying to get rid of you, and a man, who seems to have this great sort of affection for you, almost bordering on the homoerotic, you’re not going to make a decision between those two?
A:  You know, I essentially already answered your question. I’ll reformulate it again, say it in different words. We are ready to work with any president, but, of course—I also said this—to the extent that the future administration is ready. If someone says that they want to work with Russia, we’ll welcome it. And if someone, as you said—although it may be an inaccurate translation—wants to get rid of us, that will be a completely different approach. But we will survive it, and it’s not clear who has more to lose with that approach.
But the thing is, I’ve repeatedly seen the anti-Russian card played during domestic political campaigns in the States. I think that it’s a very shortsighted approach. At the same time, they send us all sorts of signals from all sides that actually things are just fine.It seems to me that it doesnt fully meet the level of responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the U.S. I think that all this should be more dignified, calm, and more balanced.
As for the fact that someone is criticizing us, you know, criticism is leveled at us by Mr. Trump’s team as well. For example, one of the members of his team said that we paid, that Russia allegedly paid money to the Clinton family via some foundations. What’s that? Does that mean that we control the Clinton family? It’s complete nonsense. I don’t even know where Bill spoke and through which funds. So both one side and the other are using it as a tool, using it as a tool in a domestic political struggle, and that’s bad, in my opinion.

And here’s the Sid Bolotin story I promised you:
Once Upon a Time

Airbrush Artist: Sid Bolotin - The Magnet Man                                                      
Sid Bolotin

Once upon a time in a far away village called Konotop lived a man named Avrum. Southwest about 200 miles in a similar village called Chudnov lived a maiden named Pessel.

To my knowledge they did not discover each other until they met in a section of Boston called Dorchester to which they had each separately emigrated in the 1920’s.

Old neighborhood in Dorchester, Massachusetts as it appears today

Like Romeo and Juliet, they fell madly in love, married, and birthed a son, Shamai. As dictated by the times and circumstances, they lived in a small apartment, well under 1000 square feet, with Avrum working as a professional photographer. Life was a struggle, but good as the two lovers raised their beloved son midst the loving support of their friends, parents, and relatives who had also settled in the area around Boston. Life was sweet.

In those days, émigrés strived to become American; there were no dual language offerings. If one was to be an American, English had to be mastered. And so Pessel and Avrum became citizens as Albert and Pauline, claimed their favorite song as “What Is This Thing Called Love,” lived day to day with their hopes and dreams focused on their beloved son and on their emerging life in their newly adopted country.

Then out of the blue, as Rabbi Harold Kushner so eloquently explores in his 1978 book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” disaster struck the family in 1935 with the untimely death of Albert at twenty-seven leaving his young bride, Pauline, as a single mom with a twenty-two-month old son.

In those days there were no grief councilors so Pauline entered into a lifetime of grieving as she determinedly raised her son as a single mother in an age when such was not the norm. She strived to strike a balance between devotion to her son and making a new life for herself. For her and her son, the fairy tale morphed into her version of a Greek tragedy.

Or was her ensuing life and that of Shamai’s not a tragedy but just simply the normal course of events for human life?

A friend of mine often opines that life is a joyous journey full of problems whilst Buddhism’s first noble truth offers:
“To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.”

And in the Old Testament, Ecclesiastics’ author provides us with what some consider a rather pessimistic view of existence that includes: "Death is to be going home to be with God and have no more hardships. Therefore, people should be glad for them. And to cry at birth because it is the beginning of life and hardship.”

All of humankind’s history is filled with the truths embodied in the above statements and so poignantly struck home with recent events such as the Sandy Hook massacre, the Boston Marathon bombings and the ten-year imprisonment of three young women by a madman in Cleveland.

The aforementioned Rabbi Kushner is only one of a myriad of examiners of the “why” of all this who have attempted to offer any semblance of an answer to humankind’s ageless question.

And then there’s my favorite, “bestest” philosopher who’s convinced me that we are all simply living in a cosmic version of a Woody Allen movie.

“And what of Shamai and his mother?” you ask. Well unlike the Greek Oedipus Rex, Shamai did not kill his father and marry his mother. She never recovered from the emotional effects of her sudden loss but did live long enough to see her son grow into manhood, marry, and have children of his own. And Shamai? Well, as of this writing he survived the emotional dumping ground of his growing-up years and is an octogenarian patriarch of his own dynasty of children and grandchildren going through their own version of life’s joyous journey filled with problems.
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Jack Lippman