Friday, March 17, 2017

Thank You from a Humbled Birthday Boy

I have the benefit of two extra hours in which to celebrate my birthday this year. Flying to Phoenix from Minneapolis bestowed this blessing upon me. Fittingly, I have decided to use the extra time to try to thank all of you who took time today to bestow your own blessings on me and our relationship.

"Wow" is the word the keeps coming to mind as I try to find a way to express how overwhelmed with gratitude I have been all day seeing greetings from friends all over the world.

It started this morning as I teared up reading what lifelong friend, Dr. David Ketroser, posted on our high school class' daily birthday greeting page. Then I chuckled when I read P.R. Genius Blois Olson's birthday listings in today's Morning Take newsletter and found myself described as "attorney and connector".

But nothing prepared me for the flood of well-wishing that arrived on my Facebook timeline, in my email inbox and as voicemail messages throughout the day.

Each greeting was precious, from the simplest "HBD" to Les Harris' annual birthday artwork. The humorous, like Susan Cushman's reference to being the 5,000th Facebook friend to convey greetings, the insightful, like Peter Dansky's invoking my Italian mentee, the loving, like references to "Uncle Sam" from several young adults I've known since their birth, the spectacular, like Wayne Klayman's obituary quality commentary, and everything in between, communicated the existence of connections that I'd best not take for granted.

As Dean Martin asked in the original Ocean's 11, how lucky can one guy be? This guy just tries to treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve. This guy expects nothing in return. Nevertheless, you persisted in demonstrating your appreciation for whatever binds us through your well-wishing. In doing so, you made me want to continue to convey, through words and actions,  how much each and every one of you sustain me and guide me to be an even better friend worthy of your time 365 days a year.

As I said, "wow". And thank you for each and every birthday greeting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Leopard Spots

With a generally positive response to last night's speech in West Bend, Wisconsin, delivered with the aid of a teleprompter, and with this morning's shake-up of Donald Trump's campaign staff, there is much speculation that the candidate has finally been convinced to "pivot", stay on message and act more presidential.

GOP pundits across the board have been opining that their candidate's only hope of closing the apparent gap in support existing between him and Hillary Clinton arises from such a pivot. Effectively, this acknowledges that if the general electorate draws its impressions from Trump's words and actions of the past 15 months, Trump loses in the general election.

Thinking about this dilemma the GOP faces, I am reminded of the adage about a leopard changing its spots. If Trump is unelectable when his handlers "let Trump be Trump", what makes him entitled to the presidency if he modifies his behavior temporarily to comport with the dictates of political consultants? Clearly, when done role-playing after the election, he will "pivot" back to the pre-August 16, 2016 version of himself. Do voters who cannot bring themselves to vote for the candidate on display for 15 months really believe that an imposed upgrade to Trump 2.0 is deserving of their confidence, trust and respect?

If "pivoting" works, the Clinton campaign should just announce that HRC is honest, trustworthy and will be eligible for sainthood some day. All of the missteps and (alleged) shady dealings are a thing of the past and can be ignored going forward. She should also quit yelling at all of her appearances. Her pivot would wipe out any misgivings about her fitness for office and she'd win by a landslide.

There are no do overs in reality. Records have been established and bear ongoing scrutiny. Both of the pivot scenarios are ridiculous, which is why I am flabbergasted that one of them is being taken seriously. As I pondered in this blog last week, support based on faith finds no obstacles in the truth.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

It's All About Faith

If Facebook had existed during the time of Moses, vociferous, passionate supporters would be touting his candidacy in the forthcoming election for the first leader of Israel by citing Moses' personal relationship with God, his ability to communicate with talking bushes, his ability to cut good deals with Pharaoh, his military prowess demonstrated by parting the Red Sea and then drowning the Egyptian army, his survival prowess shown by his solitude on Mount Sinai and his strict construction of 10 Commandments received on account of the aforementioned personal relationship.

It being Facebook, there would be equally vociferous, passionate supporters of Joshua, arguing that after 40 years in the desert, Moses was not fit to serve as leader in the Promised Land. Had Joshua been in charge, the Hebrews' exile in the wilderness would have taken no more than five years. Moreover, they would point out, Moses is clearly a liar, making up stories about his imaginary Friend and claiming to have accomplished clearly impossible tasks some 40 years earlier for the purpose of self-promotion. Such a liar and mentally unstable braggart can not be trusted with the mantle of commander in chief after leaving the Sinai.

There was no Facebook as my people crossed the Jordan River a few thousand years ago. The absence of mass media espousing contrary views allowed Moses' version of events to become gospel (pun intended) and be honored annually throughout the world in the telling of the Passover story. Jews do not dismiss the stories of the Hebrews' escape from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, wandering in the desert, accepting the Torah and reclaiming the Eretz Israel because the specifics defy common sense. We accept the stories, and worship Moses' imaginary Friend, as a matter of faith. No amount of derision, appeals to logic, name-calling, or public shaming can shake that faith. It just is, with no regard for what your definition of "is" is.

Today, a few years later, as evidenced by Facebook and elsewhere, there is a large group of vociferous, passionate supporters touting the candidacy of Donald J. Trump in the forthcoming election for President of the United States. Unlike the elections of 2008 and 2012, where I also strongly disagreed with the proposed policies of the respective GOP candidates, I have been particularly publicly critical of the Trump candidacy. I have repeatedly posted my own criticisms and have shared others' posts which reflected my viewpoints. I have been unabashedly derisive. I have appealed to logic. I have engaged in name-calling (#pigeons) and have publicly shamed Trump's supporters. I have lost respect for individuals I had believed shared my perception of basic human decency but whose defense of Trump led me to another conclusion and who I decided to "unfriend" in order to avoid additional angst over my misjudgment.

This past weekend, I had an epiphany and have decided to re-direct my efforts. I realized that many of Trump's vociferous, passionate supporters are, like Jews at a Seder, acting on faith (the rest are acting for various self-serving purposes). Their support of Trump's ideology and proposed solutions to perceived problems rests on their collective faith that he has the power to (wait for it) make America great again. The absence of specifics, the clearly demonstrable hypocrisy and the impossibility of many of Trump's proposals are no more relevant than the likelihood that Moses did not take direction from a burning bush. I no longer believe it is possible to dissuade the Trumpish from worshipping the Donald. While this is incredibly frustrating to those of us who believe that Trump represents an existential threat to the Republic, we need to accept the fact that our efforts are better spent on alternatives to converting the Trumpish. 

I intend to work to reach the "agnostics" among the electorate and offer clear choices based on my view, admittedly, of good governance, tolerance, fairness and reasonable expectations. This country has serious problems that need to be addressed in a manner that might actually start the process of achieving resolutions. There will not be any overnight fixes; some might take another 40 years. Hopefully I can make a difference and help deliver additional support to Secretary Clinton so that in November the Trumpish will go the way of the Know Nothing movement, whose followers shared many of the Trumpish' grievances.

Watch this space.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Horror in Dallas

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." 2nd Amendment, U.S. Constitution

I have a recurring thought. 

From the point of view of the People who believe law enforcement is acting as the judge, jury and executioner of innocent civilians with broken taillights, the Second Amendment, as written and as interpreted by the Supreme Court, justifies forming a militia to provide security and defend against the tyranny of the government.

Who decides when perceived tyranny rises to the level of justifying a well regulated militia's response? 

What happened in Dallas last night represents the logical result of deciding to exercise the rights inherent in the NRA's oft stated justification for broadly interpreting the 2nd Amendment. The fact that the murderers acted illegally is irrelevant since any armed insurrection against an established government will remain illegal until the rebels prevail.

240 years ago, the Colonies rose up against their sovereign decrying "taxation without representation". Lexington and Concord hosted the shots heard around the world. 240 years from now, if there's anybody left, an armed revolt in response to "execution without adjudication" may be viewed to have started in Dallas.

This is madness.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Father of the Bride

At year's end, more than one friend observed that 2014 would be a big year for Deb and me. We looked forward to the birth of our first grandchild and to the wedding of our daughter. Theodore Irving arrived on May 16th. Yesterday, I walked my princess down the aisle after we were delivered to the ceremonial site by horse drawn carriage. 

As predicted by Rabbi Norman Cohen during the service, I will blog more about the experience once I've had the opportunity to let the emotions of my daughter's wedding settle a bit. As was the case with the birth of my children and my grandson, no discussion or contemplation prepared me for the waves of joyous emotion that washed over me all weekend long.

In the meantime, by request, I'm publishing my Father of the Bride speech and a few snaps taken by friends George Dow and Ron Levitus. Talk to you soon.

Welcome to Meadow Breeze Farm. So many of you have traveled great distances to share this celebration and Deb and I are thrilled to have you join us at our home. Ellie wanted a meaningful venue for her once in a lifetime ceremony and, as usual, her sense of style, and her determination, were unstoppable. 

I’ve often thought, during years of traveling to Arizona, that I’m lucky enough to experience and appreciate the beauty of both the desert southwest and the majesty of Minnesota’s lushness. I hope that our visitors this weekend have had the opportunity to appreciate the magnificence of our northern greenery as well as the moderate summer temperatures. Minnesotans call this “hotter than Hell”, but, if you ask Garrison Keillor, he’ll tell you we never go there to actually compare.
Before I address Matthew and Ellie, I need to thank my bride, Deb, for all of her hard work creating our wedding site. Thank you, too, from the bottom of our hearts to EVERYONE who contributed so much. Chupah building, flower arranging, garden watering, barn painting, DVD burning. It was a labor of love to honor Matt and Ellie by so many. Thank you.
Ellie, this is the hardest speech I’ve ever had to write and deliver. Fortunately, it’s the last one I’ll ever need to deliver. After the bar and bat mitzvahs and the weddings, no one needs to hear from the Papa. Even if I end up writing another political speech someday, someone else will do the talking. I’ve always been a staff guy.
Because it’s the last, I wanted it to be perfect, somehow discernable between my sobs. Because you’re my precious daughter, I want it to be perfect as I tell all your friends and expanded family how much I love you, how proud I am of you and how happy I am that you and Matthew have found one another.

You are named, in part, after my grandmother, my beloved Nana. You share her beauty, intelligence, independence, drive, passion, love of style and spunk. Watching you grow up, it’s always seemed like a do-over for your namesake. She would be so proud of you and the loving and adventurous young lady, with an appreciation for beauty, that you’ve become. I am so thankful that you have grown up to bestow the honor on your namesake that I intended. While I never met Mom’s grandmother, Bertha Elizabeth, from whom you take your first name, I’ve heard enough stories about her loving and caring soul and devotion to family to know that you’ve honored her has well.

Matthew, welcome to the family. I hope I’ve already given you some sense of how thrilled I am to have you as my son-in-law. They say that girls grow up to pick a husband that reminds them of their daddy. Imagine my delight that Ellie thinks I’m a tall, thin, handsome, conservative, sports fan with a full head of hair.
I have no secrets for the two of you as you start your married life together. All the advice is out of the bag, on the Internet, broadcast by Dr. Phil, and in print for inquiring minds. Love and respect one another. Understand that you are each unique and nurture the personalities in one another that attracted you to your mate in the first place. You respect one another enough to commit to spending the rest of your lives together. Build on that respect and lean on one another when challenges arise.  Neither of you can be expected to behave in perfect lockstep with the ideal imagined by the other. That’s okay. NEITHER of you will behave ideally all the time. Cut some slack to be given slack.

Your parents have more than 70 years of marriage between them. We’ll tell you that it’s not all horse-drawn carriages and 30-year-old Scotch. And we’ll tell you not to drive one after drinking the other. But, personally, I can tell you that there is no greater joy in life than being in a relationship where the goal of your partner’s complete happiness serves as your guide. It requires sacrifice on both your parts, honoring the commitment implicit in your vows. Sometimes you have to muck a few stalls. Every morning. But the payoff is priceless. Being part of your loved one’s dream come true is as good as it gets, better than a 10% ROI or a new necklace from Tiffany’s. Work on it and enjoy.
Finally, this wasn’t so bad. So, if in about 15 years I’m still around, I’m willing to give a speech at a bar or bat mitzvah celebration, probably after dictating it into my iPad 17.
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and family. Let’s raise our glasses in a toast to the newlyweds: Elizabeth Pearl was a gift from God and I will always be grateful to have been given the honor of being her father. May God continue to bless her and Matthew, God’s gift to RenĂ©e and Ed, and grant them safety, love, health and happiness all the days of their lives. L’Chaim!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Before the Second Amendment, There's the First. Use It.

This afternoon I came across a post by Michael Moore, the documentary film-maker who is either a god or Satan incarnate depending on your politics. Apparently, Mr. Moore was asked to comment on the senseless tragedy that unfolded near the University of Santa Barbara a few days ago. A disturbed young white male from an upper middle class background used guns and knives to murder six people before taking his own life.

Here is what Michael Moore had to say in the form of a Facebook status that I decided to share on my Facebook page out of a common sense of rage and frustration:

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

Shortly after my post, I received an email from a good friend whose opinion I greatly respect. Unlike some of the folks I expect to hear from after I post this blog, my friend is a thoughtful and intelligent and well-regarded by me and our mutual colleagues. Here is the email received in response to my sharing of Michael Moore's post:

A few thoughts......
First - know that I am truly saddened by the event at UC Santa Barbara - it was and it is truly horrific....
Second - I'm a bit surprised that you would share Michael Moore's post - it easily leads one to believe that all of this tragedy was done with the use of a gun when 3 of those killed were killed with a knife - could it be that mentioning that a knife was used for 3 of the killings would take away  most / all of the credibility for the rest of his statement?  Seems to me that providing half truths to support a position is not worthy a repost....
Third - although he doesn't want to write it, it seems what Mr Moore is saying is that we have individuals with mental health issues that need to be addressed, yet he somehow draws the conclusion that if we take away guns all will be good (except maybe for those 3 housemates who were killed with a knife....).  He apparently isn't aware of root cause analysis.
Fourth - might you still be one of the folks who has a gun in their house that is easily accessible to those who shouldn't have access to it?  (I hope not, if so, we need to talk....)

I enjoy reading your posts & blogs - this one just didn't feel right...

I'm posting these because I shot off a response that I wanted to share. It feels right to me and I believe that it's incumbent on those of us who share Michael Moore's frustration, including me, to speak out. We may never achieve any success, but I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I made some effort.

Here is my response to my friend's comments:

Thanks, J.

Actually, I took Moore's condemnation to be more of a general venting of frustration 12 years after he came out with Bowling for Columbine because nothing has changed. He wasn't focused on this individual tragedy, which is why he starts out by saying he's done talking. 

No matter what we do, there will continue to be murders and assaults using knives, cars, poison, abuse and guns. I'm not willing to give up addressing the problem of the proliferation of firearms because of an inability to achieve a perfect solution and harmonious society.

I was just thinking about something the other day, before the latest tragedy. When I worked in D.C., I was dating an aide to a Senator from Nebraska. She was active in the anti-gun lobby because her brother had been killed by someone with a handgun. She talked about the statistics, variations on Moore's cites from a 1977 perspective. She acknowledged the challenges in dealing with the NRA because of its constant warning about the government taking away guns and stomping on Second Amendment rights. That's what struck me. Ever since Robert Kennedy's assassination, I can remember hearing about the government wanting to take away everyone's guns. And it works up the pro-gun crowd time and time again. However, since 1968, there's never been a serious attempt by anyone in elected office to confiscate guns. While there was an assault weapons ban in place for awhile, it was pretty limited and allowed to expire. Handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles have never been subject to any confiscatory legislation. 

So, if the government isn't taking anything away, what's wrong with some regulations that take a step in assuring a more safe use. Again, it won't be a perfect solution, but how many lives does it have to save to justify implementation? One, a hundred, a thousand, my grandson, your daughter?

Read "Glock", the history of the manufacturer. Fascinating story about the success of the gun, its rise to prominence among law enforcement worldwide, the marketing that was used to achieve that result and the financial pressures exerted on and by the gun lobby to make sure that nothing changes in Americans' access to guns. 

I'm ignoring the Fourth point. I'm still bad ALTHOUGH it's not loaded or near ammunition, it's hidden away, it's out of reach for anyone too young to get to it and I really intend to get a trigger lock for it.

Thanks again.

If you feel passionately about the issue, don't tell me. Tell your Congressman and Senator. There's nothing more that I can do besides what I'm already doing. People that agree with me and Michael Moore have to make themselves heard directly, not merely as poll respondents. People who don't agree with me are entitled to their opinion. All I ask is that they take the time to have an informed opinion, not one based on scare tactics and imaginary government conspiracies that have been erroneously prophesied for more than 50 years.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Grandson (Part 2)

Dearest Beloved Grandson, 

I am writing this while awaiting word of your arrival from your parents. After waiting at home all day and timing contractions, your father sent me a text at 4:32 p.m. confirming that they were with you at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul. 

I am at my office and I have work to do but I am having a hard time concentrating on anything but the desktop on my iPhone. I am trying to will it to light up with a phone call or text from your father, telling me that you and your mother are healthy and, finally, sharing your name with me and my 1,300 Facebook friends. I thought if I shot something off to you, it would make time pass.

You should know that this world is full of strange coincidences. Your parents told Grandma and me eight months ago to the day that you were expected. So, for eight months, I had been meaning to share some advice with your father. I kept forgetting, even though we believed that you would join us last week.

This morning, at 9:26 a.m., I sent your father the following text:

"Time for me to tell you what someone told me before you were born. It doesn't matter how much you've read or how much you have discussed the birth of your child. You have never felt anything like the way you are going to feel when your son is born. Enjoy the experience and each and every moment that follows thereafter. Don't wish away any part of his growing up. It passes all too soon."

Thirty-seven minutes later, your father called me to tell me that your mother had gone into labor. While I realize that the going away festivities started for you last night, it struck me that you waited until I gave your father a last piece of guidance before you felt he was ready to say "hello".

Thank you for having so much confidence in me. I will try to be a wonderful Papa for you. 

I will teach you patience and respect for the wishes of others. I will start by not posting this letter until given permission by your parents as it will, in effect, serve as a birth announcement for the dozens of friends who will want to be called Uncle or Aunt. 

I will be honest with you. In eight days, we will celebrate at your bris. I'm not going to lie; it's going to hurt. You won't walk for a year.

Lastly, for now, I will not spare you from stupid jokes. See above.

With all my love and tear-filled eyes,


Molly, Teddy and Phillip
May 4, 2014