SKIMMING THE NEWS

We saw the two young (both 28-years-old) women  — Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin — who co-founded “The Skimm” on TV. Colbert, I think. Yup, Colbert. Garry was slightly outraged because he thinks everyone should read a newspaper and this is just one more step in the dumbing down of the news … and everything else. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but being well-informed is godliness. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world, you cannot get into heaven.

(There will be a quiz at the gate. Spelling and punctuation count.)

Although I agree about the whole dumbing down thing, I also think you can’t reverse the way culture changes. You can become an old curmudgeon. You can join the ranters and ravers on social media, but it won’t stop change from happening. Especially since most people don’t regularly read a newspaper and aren’t going to start.

But. Many people try to keep in touch with current events and I believe more would if they could do it without investing a lot of time, money, or effort.

I was curious. Unlike Garry, I don’t read a newspaper. Haven’t in years. I read articles when something interests me. New Yorker articles more or less daily. Books (mostly audiobooks) constantly, though the literature I read is designed to keep me out of rather than in touch. I thought a one page news summary delivered to my inbox — especially if written with humor and style — might fit nicely into my world. Keep me sufficiently up-to-date so I don’t sound like Gary Johnson who didn’t know what or where Aleppo is (was?) … but would not require serious commitment to daily newspaper perusal.

I looked up The Skimm. I didn’t know how to spell it, but Google doesn’t care, they fix your spelling. It’s free, so I signed up. I signed Garry up too. Sneaky sneaky.

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And, it turns out, I like it. It’s well written. Pithy. Witty. Clever. Leans a little to the left, which works for me. I find myself looking for it. Looking forward to it. It’s not exactly a deep, analytical purview of the news, but it gives me an idea what’s happening and to and by whom it’s happening. A place to start if I’m interested.

Despite himself, Garry likes it too. He didn’t want to like it. Doesn’t entirely approve of it. I suspect he considers it cheating on some existential level, like reading the classic comic instead of the book. Nonetheless, he reads it. So, in case you’d like to give it a try, here’s a link for you to click: THE SKIMM SHARE LINK

classic-comics_no_01_three_musketeersNOTE: If you are young, you’ve probably never encountered a classic comic. Pity about that. You haven’t lived until you’ve read the comic book version of an assigned book and used it as the basis of a book report or essay. For which you got an A.

The Skimm gives prizes for sharing their link, by the way. However, no prize would make me write about it if I didn’t like it.

I’m enjoying it. I think you might, too. Not only do I feel a bit better informed in a general kind of way, but I get at least one good chuckle with each read — and it is no more than five minutes of my time.

I can spare five minutes for an overview of the news.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD

Colin Kaepernick has been all over the news. He’s the 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national anthem as a protest against racism in the United States.

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There definitely is far too much racism in the United States. Too many police incidents. I’m totally on board with Mr. Kaepernick’s right to express his opinion on the matter in any legal, non-violent way.

Our Constitution’s first amendment paints the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press with a broad brush. What it fails to point out (though it is implicit) is that everyone shares this freedom — on all sides of an issue.

So if other people hate how you express your opinion, they have the right to burn your jersey, refuse to go to games in which you are playing … and for that matter, dismiss you from your job.

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Freedom cuts all ways. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Mr. Kaepernick is absolutely free to express his point of view. So can everyone else.

Do I agree with one side or the other? I agree with both sides.

More to the point, Mr. Kaepernick should have thought longer and harder about how he would take his stand. Offending many people is not always a good way to make your point, no matter how valid your point may be. He should have considered the potential impact on his fans — and ultimately, on his career. Especially in view of the fact that he’s not playing well.

In sports, you can get away with murder if you’re playing well. If you’re not …

If your team is less than thrilled with your on-field performance, getting involved in a major controversy might tip them in the direction of not renewing your contract. That’s the painful reality. I’m sure he never thought expressing his legal, constitutionally guaranteed opinion would raise such a negative ruckus — or end up with him facing unemployment.

You could classify this incident as a cautionary tale.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Legal isn’t the same as well thought out. Was he justified in protesting racism in America? Sure. But maybe this wasn’t the best way to go about it.

SPEAKING DOGGISH

The other day, the NBC Nightly News had a piece during which they announced that scientists have officially proven what we all knew. Dogs understand what we say to them. They understand words, tone of voice, and context. Just like teenagers. When they ignore what we tell them, it isn’t because they don’t understand. They understand just fine. They are — like teenagers — disrespecting us.

I have always believed they understand and choose to ignore us — unless they feel there’s something in it for them.

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“Bonnie,” calls Garry. “Go out.” She stops halfway down the stairs and stares at him.

“All the way out.” She goes down one more step. Turns around. Stares.

“Gibbs,” he says. “You too. Move. GO. I told you to GO.” Both Scotties, in motion so slow you wouldn’t believe they had that much fine muscle control, descend the stairs. One at a time.

Thump. Thump. Thump. THUMP. Thumpitty. Thump.

There are only six steps, but it takes them several minutes to navigate their way to the ground floor landing. They stand in front of the doggie door. They look up.

“Go OUT,” Garry says. He does this every night. It’s a mind game. “No, not at the same time. One at a time.” They are like little furry clowns, trying to get through the door simultaneously and getting stuck. No one could tell me they don’t know how funny they look.

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Gibbs

Then the game goes into reverse. In the summertime, it goes into reverse. In dry weather. If it’s raining or blizzarding, all bets are off. In bad weather, getting them out is a problem. Getting them in is not.

The last trip outside in the evening is the one before we clean Bonnie’s eyes and administer eye drops. No idea what the problem is, but she’s allergic to something. We are going to be giving her eye drops for the rest of her life. She knows. We know she knows. Gibbs knows because after the eye drops come the treats.

Usually Bonnie and Gibbs finally come inside, but won’t come up the stairs. They stay at the bottom, looking up. Until Garry stands at the top and says “Come upstairs.” Pause. “Now, please.” Garry is very polite and always says “please” and “thank you” to the dogs.

They continue to stare at him. “NOW,” he says, but they don’t give him any respect. Finally, Garry goes down and shoos them upstairs. Bonnie jumps onto the loveseat. I clean the gunk out of her eyes. Put eye drops in. Gibbs watches. Everyone adjourns to the kitchen for a biscuit.

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Last night, the dogs decided to up the stakes. Instead of coming in and standing at the bottom of the stairs, they stayed on the front step, directly outside in front of the doggie flap. Garry had to open the door and say “Please. Come in.” Then, Bonnie came in. Gibbs won’t come past someone standing at the door, so you have to close the door so he can come in through the flap.

Don’t ask. It’s a dog thing.

We have other similar conversations.

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Bonnie

Me: “Gibbs, do NOT dig on the sofa.” Gibbs pauses. Looks at me, haunted brown eyes full of tenderness and affection. Then, he starts to dig some more.

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Gibbs

“Gibbs, I said stop.” He gets down from the sofa and comes over to the loveseat and jumps up, making sure to try to knock my laptop to the floor in the process. He is trying to kill my computer and I fear one day I will lose focus and he will succeed. But not yet.

I give him a thorough scratching about the ears.

He knows. He knows I know. We all know. We are, as they say, a very knowing family.

Now, the scientific community also knows. Because I saw it on network news, and everyone knows if it’s on television, it is 100% true.

Give or take a lie or two.

WITNESSING HISTORY

The odds favor that, if you life a full life, you will witness some event that’s historically important. Depending on your definition of “witness,” you’ll inevitably witness a lot of history. You can’t avoid it. Some is more dramatic and makes better stories. Even if your witnessing was accomplished via television and news reports, you are no less a witness.

My favorite “witness” experience was being in Israel when the Camp David Accords were signed. I had only arrived there a few weeks before. I was still trying to figure out what this place was about. It definitely wasn’t the romanticized venue in the novels I’d read … or even the idealized “homeland” my mother always imagined.

It was far more complicated, textured, and nuanced … which should not have been a surprise, yet sort of was surprising.

I bought a car shortly after I arrived. A Ford Escort. Ford had a little factory in Israel and Escorts were Everyman’s car. Small, and by American standards, under-powered, they were a “best buy” on Israel’s new car market.

The Ford dealership was directly across from the King David. And the King David was where Begin, Sadat, and Carter were meeting and deal-making. As fate would have it, it was also the day on which I was supposed to pick up my car. When I got there, it was obvious bigger events were taking place and my car would wait.

There were armed men everywhere. On the streets, the rooftops, and everywhere else you could look and probably thousands of places you couldn’t easily see. No one was getting assassinated on Israel’s watch. At least, not that day.

Around midday, to the enthusiastic cheering of the crowd, the official limousines swung past, each sporting the flags of its nation It was a sight to see.

There was much celebration and joy. It was one of the happiest, most optimistic times in Israel’s short modern history. Hope that finally, there might be a real peace. Hope that somehow, out of all the bloodshed and wars, this was a meaningful step forward.

Not long thereafter, back in Egypt, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Moshe Dayan who had crafted the accords, would die too. He had been sick with both cancer and heart disease for a long time, but, personally, I think he died of disappointment.

After that,the optimism faded. The joy was damped down and it was business as usual.

I was there for that brief, bright moment. A witness to one great moment when joy exploded in the streets of Jerusalem. No matter what anyone says nowadays about Israel’s intentions in the region, if you were there that day, you could not fail to see the foundation of everyone’s hopes, was peace.

WITNESS | THE DAILY POST

SORRY, ‘NEW YORK TIMES,’ BUT ISRAEL’S PRESS IS DOING JUST FINE

SORRY, ‘NEW YORK TIMES,’ BUT ISRAEL’S PRESS IS DOING JUST FINE

Another day, another ridiculous opinion piece in the paper of record

August 1, 2016 • 1:00 PM


Did you hear the one about the Middle Eastern country that really cracked down on its freedom of the press? Not Turkey, where 42 journalists were arrested last week in the latest assault on the tenets of democracy; I’m talking, of course, about Israel, the subject of yet another grim opinion piece this weekend in The New York Times.

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In case you’re the sort who doesn’t read much past the headline, the Times made sure you would not walk away confused: The lengthy dirge, written by New York-based Israeli reporter Ruth Margalit, was titled “How Benjamin Netanyahu is Crushing Israel’s Free Press.”

How indeed? You would hardly believe the depraved things Jerusalem’s demonic despot would do to solidify his grasp on power. Bibi, Margalit solemnly informs us, appoints people who agree with him politically to key positions in government. Shocked yet? Get this: He also has his office call newspapers and websites and try to spin the news in his favor.

If such benighted moves fail to shake you to the core, if you still don’t feel the chill of fascism’s shadow, Margalit has one last bit of damning evidence for you. Take a deep breath: To crush the precious freedom flower that is Israel’s press, Bibi, that monster, is opening up the media market to more competition.

“All three of Israel’s main television news channels—Channel 2, Channel 10, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority—are now in danger of being fragmented, shut down, or overhauled, respectively,” Margalit wrote. “The government’s official reason behind these moves is to open up the communications industry to more competition. But there seems to be a double standard: On other issues, like natural gas, the prime minister has been loath to take a stand against monopolies. As Ilana Dayan, a leading investigative journalist for Channel 2, told me: ‘Sometimes competition is the refuge of the antidemocrat.’”

Please click HERE to read the rest of this story. Proving, again, that there are many sides to the same issue. His, hers, theirs … and the truth.

SURPRISE, SHOCK, AND RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION?

The horror and shock I’m reading and hearing on social media about emails from Democratic National Headquarters are so hypocritical that they’re almost funny. Almost.

This is a dreadful election, maybe the worst in US history and we’ve had some pretty bad elections. That being said, I’m not shocked. No one who has been paying attention for the past forty or fifty years … or read any American history has a right to be surprised, much less shocked.

This is what our political system has always been. The major parties decide who their candidates will be and then do anything and everything to make sure it happens according to plan. It’s how the system works. It has not substantially changed since George Washington was selected (not elected) to be the first President of the United States.


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil

is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

Everyone knows how political parties behave. And what they do. Both parties do the same stuff within their own parties and to the other party. Occasionally (Watergate springs to mind) — more often now with email, hackers, and social media — someone gets caught. Mostly, not. Frequently, this behavior is an open secret, so it never makes the news. It’s just “business as usual.”

Fast forward to 2016. Politics has reached a brutal pinnacle. We accepted this as a norm years ago and have participated in the system by choosing to abstain from involvement (“it’s somebody else’s problem”) or by actively encouraging it. Either way, no one has clean hands. No one is holding the moral high ground of righteous indignation.

Nonetheless, I see everyone acting like “OH MY GOD! Look at this bad behavior! We’ve never seen anything like this before.” Really? Have you been living under a rock?

This is part of the show, part of the game. If someone gets caught with his or her hand in the proverbial cookie jar, whoever didn’t get caught gets to play innocent victim. In my opinion, there is no such thing as an innocent politician. Probably not in any country and certainly not in this one.

Failing to acknowledge that all politicians are or have been part of the same system makes the system impossible to change. Bernie Sanders is no babe in the woods. Like everyone else, he has always known how the game is played. He has played it too.

I repeat for the record: This is how it has always been. We’ve tolerated and encouraged it. We’ve found it amusing. Justified it. Turned it into TV shows and movies. It’s been the favorite fodder of late night comedians as long as we’ve had late night comedians. It’s time for the next act of our national theater: Innocence Offended. We pretend this is something that “happened” while we weren’t looking and therefore, we (the people) are not responsible.


We are all responsible. This is our system. How ironic that one party has decided the antidote to ugly politics is even uglier politics.


We find comfort and sanctuary from the terrible truth by telling each other and ourselves we didn’t know. Which isn’t true. We all know. Knew.

You can’t right wrongs by perpetrating more and greater wrongs. Just because something is legal and constitutional does not make it a good idea — or right. Time to end the hypocrisy. Stop pretending. Accept responsibility for a system we all share.

Let’s take a pass on the moral indignation and deal with reality. Until we do, nothing can change.

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