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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.

Monday, November 13, 2023

November 13, 2023 - Why YOU Don't Read Newspapers, Our Very Dangerous House Speaker, the Failings of Jews' Supposed Friends, and What to Do About Republicans


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The Republican Party is Sick

The Republican Party’s Problem is YOUR Problem

The other day, Professor Heather Cox Richardson concluded her morning posting of ‘Letters from an American’ (https://substack.com/@heathercoxrichardson) by pointing out that 'the Republican Party’s problem continues to be America’s problem, and it is getting bigger by the day.’  

That is true!  Depending upon extremists to maintain a House majority is a recipe for disaster.  By doing so, Republicans have painted themselves into a corner, which they are now discovering to be bordered by chasms and abysses rather than walls.  It is time for the Democrats to give them a push into the oblivion that lay below.  And that must involve issues besides abortion rights, something that most Americans support.  But don’t kid yourself;  guaranteeing abortion rights is not a cure-all for all the challenges the nation faces.  That alone will not give us a Democratic Congress and presidency.

Republicans still fight gun control, regulations to protect our environment, the climate crisis, regulation of  financial marketplaces, voters’ rights, maintaining our infrastructure, our society’s economic ‘safety nets,’ including Social Security, and of course government involvement in health care.  They are against many things and in favor of few things. They prefer to tear things down rather than building them up.  Tuberville and Gaetz are examples of those with severe cases of the disease afflicting the G.O.P.

I believe that It naturally follows that so long as we have a representative democracy, it is up to America's voters to solve this problem by voting Republicans out of office at all levels, from local school boards on up to the marble halls of Washington.  Republicans have no saving graces whatsoever, and for that reason, they are retreating into religion as the last justification for their Party's existence. Their electing Michael Johnson as House Speaker is proof of that.   



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Three Very Worthwhile Articles

Someone asked me the other day where I get all the stuff I include in Jackspotpourri.  The answer is simple.  I read!  I start each morning with Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletter, cited just above, and then with a scanning of the New York Times online and the paper version of the Palm Beach Post over coffee. Occasionally, opinion pieces from the New Yorker magazine get me to my keyboard.  Really, I have no secret sources not available to all of you. 

With that in mind, here are three articles that say things

far better than I could.  

First is the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby writing about why people are not reading newspapers and ignoring much of what is on TV newscasts.  Next is the New York Times’ Charles Blow giving you the lowdown on the new House Speaker’s misleadingly soft approach to the deception about racism that he peddles and finally, the Times’ Bret Stephens with the truths about many supposed ‘friends’ of Israel revealed by the events going on in the Gaza Strip.

Please take the time to read all three columns.  It wasn’t easy to put them together on Jackspotpourri where, of course, I probably am violating a lot of copyright laws.


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Why Most Americans are Tuning Out News


Jeff Jacoby – Boston Globe


Do you pay close attention to the news? You’re reading this column, so there’s a good chance that you do – but if so, you belong to a dwindling minority. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, just 38 percent of American adults keep up with the news 'all or of most of the time,' a sharp decline from the 51 percent who were doing so as recently as seven years ago. By contrast, 28 percent of respondents say they follow the news only 'now and then' or 'hardly ever' – up from 17 percent in 2016.

Loss of interest in the news spans every age group. Among those under 30, Pew found that a mere 19 percent follow the news regularly. Among respondents over 65, traditionally the most news-focused segment of the population, the percentage was 64 percent – but that was down from a high of 81 percent a few years ago. The biggest falloff was among adults in their 30s and 40s – only 27 percent said they follow the news all or most of the time, far less than the 46 percent of respondents in that age group who were close followers of news in 2016.

Why have so many of Americans lost interest in the news? Perhaps because they don’t trust what the news media tell them.

In its survey, Pew asked respondents: 'How much, if at all, do you trust the information you get from national news organizations?' Only 15 percent answered 'a lot,' whereas 26 percent said 'not too much' and 13 percent replied 'not at all.' Local news organizations fared a little better – the comparable numbers were 17 percent ('a lot' of trust), 21 percent ('not too much'), and 7 percent ('not at all').

The collapse of trust in the news industry has been underway for decades. In the 1970s, when Gallup started tabulating attitudes about the media, a hefty majority of respondents said they trusted journalists to report the news 'fully, accurately, and fairly.' In 1976, the year of 'All the President’s Men,' public trust in the integrity of the media stood at a towering 72 percent. Not any more. Last October, just 34 percent of the public expressed confidence in the media.

Politicians have accelerated the public’s lack of faith in the news business. From Vice President Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the press corps as a 'tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men' to Barack Obama’s high-profile war on Fox News to, above all, Donald Trump’s relentless maligning of the 'fake news' produced by journalists who were 'the enemy of the American people,' political leaders have sown contempt for the media. Often the media have responded in kind, fueling a vicious circle that has soured a vast swath of the public on both politics and the news. It cannot be a coincidence that tens of millions of Americans don’t vote, don’t follow the news, and don’t trust the government. A more likely explanation is that Joseph Pulitzer, the pioneering journalist and publisher, was right when he warned in 1903: 'Our republic and its press will rise or fall together.'

Another reason Americans are increasingly shutting out the news is that there is simply too much news – and so much of it is bad. Pew doesn’t say so explicitly but notes the 'high levels of news fatigue' among all demographic groups. We live today in a world of ubiquitous computer and smartphone screens, of news websites and push notifications, of 24/7 cable channels and social media posts. Show me someone who follows the news 'all or most of the time' and I’ll show you someone who is subjected to a constant deluge of breaking news, updates, and opinion.

Some people find that exciting but for most it’s exhausting. And until recently it was unheard of. For much of the nation’s history, to closely follow the news meant to read a newspaper once a day and maybe a news magazine once a week. In the 1950s, Americans got into the habit of watching a nightly TV news program. That was about it. Keeping up with the news didn’t require the endless scrolling and streaming of today’s news junkies; no one spent hours being blared at by talking heads on CNN, Fox, or MSNBC.

Add to all that the human tendency to focus on negative information and is it any wonder that more and more Americans simply tune out the news altogether? To keep tabs on current affairs has grown depressing and wearying. You and I may follow the news diligently. But legions of our fellow citizens have decided they can’t be bothered.


Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe


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Where Kindness is a Mask for Cruelty

Charles M. Blow – New York Times

I don’t know Mike Johnson, the brand-new speaker of the House of Representatives, but I feel as if I do because we’re from the same neck of the woods. He’s from Shreveport, in Caddo Parish, La., where I was born and where one of my brothers died.

Johnson’s district encompasses my childhood hometown, Gibsland, about 40 miles east of Shreveport, and home parish, Bienville, which is where most members of my family have lived for as long as I can track them back. My mother and two of my brothers still live there.

He graduated from Louisiana State University. A few years earlier, I had turned down a scholarship to L.S.U. to accept one at Grambling State University, a historically Black college about a half-hour east of Gibsland. He also wrote opinion essays for the newspaper where I cut my teeth as a working journalist, The Shreveport Times.

We never crossed paths, but we came of age politically in the same locality, a place I know better than almost any other on Earth, shaped by many of the same cultural forces.

And for that reason, I believe that he’ll most likely be able to avoid being tagged as an extremist — at least in the short run — as America gets to know him.

In a statement after Johnson was elected speaker, the Democratic National Committee castigated him as an “election-denying, anti-abortion MAGA extremist” who was “a mastermind behind House Republicans’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election” and “is a loyal foot soldier to the real leader of the Republican Party — Donald Trump.”

All that is true, but unlike Trump’s, Johnson’s efforts to undermine American democracy are served like a comforting bowl of grits and a glass of sweet tea. He is not abrasive. He is likable.

He is from a part of the country where your nemesis will smile at you and promise to pray for you, where people will quickly submit that they “love the sinner but hate the sin,” where one hand can hold a Bible while the other holds a shackle. He is from a place where people use religion to brand their hatred as love so that they act on it cheerfully and without guilt.

He is what many have feared: an example of second-wave Trumpism — politicians rising in Trump’s wake who come with the same policy priorities and ideological proclivities, but in a far more congenial and urbane package, propelled by something more than personal grievance. Trumpism is a religion developed to serve a man. What happens when it evolves into a pillar of an established creed and is viewed as a way to serve God?

Johnson has taken that ethos into his politics.

In an interview last week on Fox News, Johnson said: “Someone asked me today in the media, they said, ‘It’s curious, people are curious. What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it.’ That’s my worldview.”

Johnson tried to create some daylight between his zealotry and his politics, saying that not all lawmakers’ deeply held beliefs can become law. He also said that when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected it became “settled” law and “the law of the land,” and as a constitutional lawyer, “I respect that.”

But does he? Anticipating that decision in 2015, he introduced a failed religious exemption bill in the Louisiana State Legislature aimed at blunting the ruling’s effect. He said at the time about the court’s eventual ruling, “It is difficult to overestimate the damage this will do to our culture and deep religious heritage that has defined America since its founding.”

On another occasion, he said the court had decided “to usurp the authority of the people and force same-sex marriage on all 50 states by judicial fiat.”

Does that sound like respecting a ruling to you? Of course not. It’s an example of Johnson’s fundamentalism in action: his Captain Ahab-like obsession with opposing L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

He has a longstanding friendship with Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator who is the president of the Family Research Council, an organization whose website says that “homosexual conduct” — not just same-sex marriage — is not only “harmful to the persons who engage in it” but “also harmful to society at large.”

Like Perkins, Johnson is on a crusade to advance a religious agenda, even when it comes at the expense of constitutionally protected liberty.

As Peter Wehner wrote for The Atlantic, Johnson “uses his Christian faith to sacralize his fanaticism and assault on truth.” Johnson’s worldview seems to be that the will of God is greater than the rights of man — a view nurtured by the place that nurtured him.

The year after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, the American Bible Society ranked Shreveport the country’s fourth most “Bible-minded” city, a measure of Bible reading habits and beliefs about the Bible.

This patina of piety affords Johnson a sense of cheerfulness, the sense that he’s a harmless, happy warrior in the conservative Christian cause: After Johnson’s bill was killed in the State Legislature in 2015, he smiled for photos with two of the activists who had helped kill it.

Where he and I are from, even would-be oppressors can be affable. It’s not just good manners; it’s the Christian way, the proper Southern way. And it is the ultimate deception.



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For America’s Jews, Every Day Must Be Oct. 8

Bret Stephens – New York Times

There used to be a sign (which, for all I know, is still there) somewhere in the C.I.A.’s headquarters that read, “Every day is Sept. 12.” It was placed there to remind the agency’s staffers that what they felt right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — the sense of outrage and purpose, of favoring initiative over caution, of taking nothing for granted — had to be the mind-set with which they arrived to work every day.

There ought to be a similar sign in every Jewish organization, synagogue and day school, and on the desks of anyone — Jewish or not — for whom the security and well-being of the Jews is a sacred calling: “Every day is Oct. 8.”

What was Oct. 8? It wasn’t just the day after the single greatest atrocity against Jews since the Holocaust, an atrocity whose details were impossible to miss because the perpetrators made sure to film them. It was the day when that atrocity was celebrated. Not just in places like Tehran, but also on the streets of Manhattan and on too many college campuses. And it was the day in which, instead of it being universally denounced by institutional leaders, we began to see it often ignored or addressed in belated and carefully parsed statements of regret.

On Oct. 8, Jews woke up to discover who our friends are not.

Our friends are not those members of the Black Lives Matter movement — whose stickers and lawn signs so many American Jews posted in allyship after George Floyd’s murder — who celebrated Oct. 7 with a post extolling the Hamas paragliders   w ho slaughtered Jews at a music festival. B.L.M. chapters later apologized for the since-deleted post, but the apology isn’t accepted. They knew what they were doing.

Our friends are not those in organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, which helped organize a much-photographed protest at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and which could hardly bring itself to say a word of condemnation for Oct. 7 before launching into lengthy justificaitons. Let’s be clear: They and their sibling groups are being used as Jewish beards for aggressive antisemites.

Our friends are not those who, until recently, never mentioned that Gazan casualty figures come from a health ministry run by Hamas — a mistake they would never make if, say, they were relaying figures produced by the Russian government. Or who describe the people murdered on Oct. 7 as "Jewish settlers," never mind that they were living in towns and kibbutzim that are part of sovereign Israel. Or who speak of people who murder babies and kidnap elderly women as “fighters” or “militants.”

Our friends are not at universities where every third building seems to be named for a Jewish benefactor. Schools like Stanford, which now defends the right of students to chant “from the river to the sea” — a call for the annihilation of an entire state — on free speech grounds are often the same places that, only recently, barred a student from campus for “racist social media posts.” Free speech is fine as a standard, not as a double standard.

Our friends are not those in the academic and corporate D.E.I. offices or the diversity trainers who think that Jews don’t count as a minority or who try to shunt Ashkenazi Jews into a “whiteness accountabiltygroup. Diversity that thinks only of race is anti-diversity; inclusion that functionally excludes Jews is not inclusive; equity that treats Jews as second-class victims is not equitable. This should be axiomatic.

Our friends are not in the universe of people represented by the likes of Tucker Carlson and the guests on his show. Under the guise of a prudential foreign policy, the neo-isolationist right is morphing into the anti-Israel left, repeating its tropes that Israel is “annihilating Gaza.” These are the people whose thinking would be mainstreamed by a second Trump term.

The list could be longer. Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying. More than 3,800 years of Jewish history keeps yielding the same bracing lesson: In the long run, we’re alone.

What can Oct. 8 Jews do? We can stop being embarrassed, equivocal or defensive about Zionism, which is, after all, one of the world’s most successful movements of national liberation. We can call out anti-Zionism for what it is: a rebranded version of antisemitism, based on the same set of libels and conspiracy theories. We can exit the institutions that have disserved us: “Defund the academy” is a much better slogan than “Defund the police.”

Jewish America abounds with dreamers and entrepreneurs who took crazy risks in their careers to find value and create things that never existed before. It’s time they apply the same talent and energy to creating new institutions that hew to genuinely liberal values, where Jews need never be afraid. In time, the rest of America may follow.


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 If you didn't read those three articles, please go back and do so now!  

Because of the changes in the way we get our 'news,' (the subject of the first article), they may not be fully aware of the sugar-coating of racism the new House Speaker represents (the subject of the second article) or the way today's antisemites are thriving off of Israel's attempts to save itself from terrorist murderers, the subject of the third article.


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 A Bonus Article

Although I don't always agree with her, the message posted today on Bari Weiss' 'Free Press' website is well worth accessing.  Check it out by CLICKING HERE or visiting https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/WhctKKZPCPrXVKNMHJZvBPmlXqchCQRNmbCxFnZlzXcFBpjTjqHNdNSWPCGXmGnJpJBNDCq

(Ms. Weiss is a former New York Times editorial staff member who resigned a few years ago after becoming disillusioned with what she felt was the Times' acceptance of the anti-semitic attitudes of too many of her co-workers there.)


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Housekeeping on Jackspotpourri

Email Alerts:  If you are NOT receiving emails from me alerting you each time there is a new posting on Jackspotpourri, just send me your email address and we’ll see that you do.  And if you are forwarding a posting to someone, you might suggest that they do the same, so they will be similarly alerted. You can pass those email addresses to me by email at jacklippman18@gmail.com.

Forwarding Postings: Please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it. Friends, relatives, enemies, etc.

If you want to send someone the blog, exactly as you are now seeing it, with all of its bells and whistles, you can just tell folks to check it out by visiting https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com or by providing a link to that address in your email to them.   I think this is the best method of forwarding Jackspotpourri.

There’s another, perhaps easier, method of forwarding it though!   Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is prepared, makes that possible.  If you click on the tiny envelope with the arrow at the bottom of every posting, you will have the opportunity to list up to ten email addresses to which that blog posting will be forwarded, along with a comment from you.  Each will receive a link to the textual portion only of the blog that you are now reading, but without the illustrations, colors, variations in typography, or the 'sidebar' features such as access to the blog's archives.

Either way will work, sending them the link to https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com, or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting, but I recommend sending them the link.


Again, I urge you to forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.  



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