Thursday, August 17, 2017

America 21017, Not A Happy Site. It Is Time For America To Wake Up To The Reality We Can Implode If We Continue On Our Path of Self-destruction.

The following was written by Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA. and I think it is worth reading and sharing. (See below.)

At Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA, we are deeply grateful for the support and prayers of the broader Reform Jewish community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Heather Heyer and the two Virginia State Police officers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who lost their lives on Saturday, and with the many people injured in the attack who are still recovering.
The loss of life far outweighs any fear or concern felt by me or the Jewish community during the past several weeks as we braced for this Nazi rally – but the effects of both will each linger.
On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).
Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.
For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.
Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There's the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.
When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.
This is 2017 in the United States of America.
Later that day, I arrived on the scene shortly after the car plowed into peaceful protesters. It was a horrific and bloody scene.
Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.
Again: This is in America in 2017.
At the end of the day, we felt we had no choice but to cancel a Havdalah service at a congregant’s home. It had been announced on a public Facebook page, and we were fearful that Nazi elements might be aware of the event. Again, we sought police protection – not a battalion of police, just a single officer – but we were told simply to cancel the event.
Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns – and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish – we were left to our own devices. The fact that a calamity did not befall the Jewish community of Charlottesville on Saturday was not thanks to our politicians, our police, or even our own efforts, but to the grace of God.
And yet, in the midst of all that, other moments stand out for me, as well.
John Aguilar, a 30-year Navy veteran, took it upon himself to stand watch over the synagogue through services Friday evening and Saturday, along with our armed guard. He just felt he should.
We experienced wonderful turnout for services both Friday night and Saturday morning to observe Shabbat, including several non-Jews who said they came to show solidarity (though a number of congregants, particularly elderly ones, told me they were afraid to come to synagogue).
A frail, elderly woman approached me Saturday morning as I stood on the steps in front of our sanctuary, crying, to tell me that while she was Roman Catholic, she wanted to stay and watch over the synagogue with us. At one point, she asked, “Why do they hate you?” I had no answer to the question we’ve been asking ourselves for thousands of years.
At least a dozen complete strangers stopped by as we stood in front the synagogue Saturday to ask if we wanted them to stand with us.
And our wonderful rabbis stood on the front lines with other Charlottesville clergy, opposing hate.
Most attention now is, and for the foreseeable future will be, focused on the deaths and injuries that occurred, and that is as it should be. But for most people, before the week is out, Saturday’s events will degenerate into the all-to-familiar bickering that is part of the larger, ongoing political narrative. The media will move on — and all it will take is some new outrageous Trump tweet to change the subject.
We will get back to normal, also. We have two b’nai mitzvah coming up, and soon, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur will be upon us, too.
After the nation moves on, we will be left to pick up the pieces. Fortunately, this is a very strong and capable Jewish community, blessed to be led by incredible rabbis. We have committed lay leadership, and a congregation committed to Jewish values and our synagogue. In some ways, we will come out of it stronger – just as tempering metals make them tougher and harder.
This was sent to me by a dear friend, my most ardent critic and a fellow memo reader.  He just returned from Europe.  (See 1 below.)
The market is being roiled by the disintegration of our nation's political scene, The Fed's inability to decide what to do about interest rates, because of low inflation, the fear that our economy cannot recover in a more boisterous manner and the desire on the part of a large segment of our citizenry to be riled over Trump's dysfunctioning White House.

The mass media are certainly doing everything they can to contribute by their incessant beating up on Trump's every word, every action etc.

I do not believe corporate earnings can overcome the degree of hatred towards Trump so I see the market having a downward bias until such time as Republicans get their act together, Trump is able to get some meaningful legislation passed and calmer, wiser heads begin to dominate.  Lamentably I do not see this happening any time soon.  (See 2 below.)

Today I bought a new TV to replace the one that got blitzed by a storm.  I have really not been listening to much TV, even though we have sets throughout the house. I have been doing a lot of reading instead.

I have also read every e mail I have been sent by those who are critical and those in agreement and responded to them all.

I understand the messages both are delivering and I understand their views and even their motivations etc.

America is going through another wrenching period over its history.  I believe what Henninger wrote, in 2 below, has a lot of merit and commend it to your reading.

As for myself, I have nothing really new to say.  I believe, like with sharks and other large fish, suckers have attached themselves to Trump and he has not dealt with them as well as many would like but then, I understand, nothing he says or does will satisfy those who hate him and yet they never raised an eyebrow when his predecessor acted in much the same manner. Obama never decried Black Panthers holding clubs outside a voting booth for instance.

The mass media have made their contribution to the inflammation the body politic is experiencing because they too hate Trump and want to sell ads and increase air time and by keeping the nation in a state of fervor they assist Democrats and stay true to their mistaken belief they are defending America and keeping us on a righteous path..

I continue to believe the mass media have lost their way.  They have become irresponsible and no longer deserve their former prominence as a worthy and respected fourth estate. That is both sad and dangerous because most still receive their information from the mass media.

Where all of this rancor leads us is far beyond my ability to predict.  All I know, until cooler heads prevail, America is going to stagger around consumed by hate. I do not believe we will put Humpty back together any time soon if at all. The fissures are too deep, the forces of discord too powerful and the protectors of the people no longer feel a high level of obligation because they have been pummeled by Obama and those who believe they were free to run with the ball he threw them.

I am criticized, the most, for leveling a lot of the blame for where we are at Obama's feet but he sought to transform us and he did and I believe we are paying the price of his success of dividing rather than healing. As I have noted in previous memos his past, his radical relationships and his chip on his shoulder never allowed him to fully accord with the nation he led for 8 years.

Trump's election is the consequence of the post Obama frustration caused by his failed foreign policy initiatives, his domestic failures rife with accumulated lies, use of federal agencies to intimidate and his weakening of our stature and enormous expansion of our deficit with nothing to show for it.

Meanwhile those who are committed to protecting Obama's legacy remain relentless and block Trump at every turn. (See 3 below.)

That said, from a conservative view, big government, cumbersome government, failing government is here to stay.  The best that can be hoped for is better management of government to keep its failures and debt creation from collapsing and melting the whole ball of wax.

Trump's economic agenda is still one I embrace.  It is an aggressive attempt to bring government down to a more manageable level so "Big Brother"  will not continue to drain the life blood benefits capitalism still offers the private sector from which all blessings flow. Were it not for capitalism and American ingenuity there would be no Republic because no economic system could support the cost and inefficiency of Congress.

By attacking and harassing Trump, pillorying him and impeding everything he wants to do to revive America the cost to our nation is beyond belief and rising. Our adversaries have to be licking their chops as they prepare plans and carry out their onslaught against western democracies. Meanwhile, Americans act as if we can continue our self-destruction and pay no price because we are who we are. United we might survive, divided we surely shall fall.

I understand the backlash feelings many are beginning to embrace because of extended privilege due to past sins but allowing  the worst elements of our society to speak for us , to ascend in control of our streets and be allowed to spew hatred is not the answer.  It is not the America we all know which has addressed its past and righted the ship in the direction of our constitutional principles.

The key is to get the economy growing , increase the numbers of the middle class, provide hope that upward mobility is within the grasp of those willing to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that flow from a higher GDP and matters will settle down as they always do.  This is why I fervently believe those who impede Trump, for all his faults, are the biggest threat to our nation and this is why I lay much of the blame at the anti-Trumpers and fascistic movements that want to bring this nation down.

Wake up America before it is too late.
1)Dear President Trump: Aftermath of Charlottesville, Part II

By David Harris, AJC CEO
Dear President Trump,
I wrote on Monday morning urging you to reconsider your exceptionally ill-chosen words of Saturday – "on many sides" – following the tragic events in Charlottesville.

Shortly afterward, and I’m sure unrelated to my plea, you did so, or at least seemed to do so. I felt your new take on Charlottesville may have been somewhat devoid of passion and authenticity, but at least it was a start in the right direction, however late it might have been.

But barely 24 hours passed before you stood up again and reverted to your Saturday thinking, leaving Monday’s words in the dust. Indeed, your newest comments have rightly provoked outrage and dismay in wide swaths of the country, including within the Republican Party.

When I was a visiting faculty member, leading a course on the politics of memory, I asked my graduate students what were the most important safeguards against outbursts of deadly hatred and intolerance.

To a person, their first answer was the tone set by political leadership, beginning at the very top. They also mentioned the roles of religious and civic leaders, the media, schools, and, of course, families, but they kept returning to the first category, citing both positive and negative examples in history.

Sadly, the inescapable message received yesterday from your words will only inflame feelings in this country, drive a deeper wedge among Americans, and convince many that you really do see a moral equivalence between white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members, on the one hand, and those who oppose them on the other hand.

Mr. President, there is no moral equivalence, nor can there be – not when one side wishes to celebrate the racist, secessionist Confederacy and chant "Jews will not replace us," and the other side represents the voices of inclusion and diversity; nor when one side resorts to violence, leading to the murder of a young woman and injuries to 19 others, and the other side is the target.

As our nation’s top elected official, you are meant to be our moral leader-in-chief and our unifier-in-chief. Yet, sadly, you have abdicated both roles. Your remarks of Saturday and yesterday make that painfully clear, not to mention the five days that have passed without a visit to the family of Heather Heyer or your absence from her funeral today.

I fully understand that hatred was not born in this country as a result of your presidency. Indeed, in the decade of the 1990s, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) led a national campaign with the theme "No one is born hating."

We sponsored many advertisements in newspapers and helped build coalitions to stand against violence in the name of bigotry.

Here’s an excerpt from our statement in The New York Times on August 29, 1999:

"Enough is enough. Hatred is spreading – with fatal consequences. It struck in Illinois and Indiana over Independence Day weekend. African Americans, Asian Americans, and Jews were the victims. It struck again at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles, wounding five Jews, including children, and killing a Filipino American postal worker… Action is necessary now. As a start, Congress must hold full-scale hearings on groups that preach hatred and glorify violence… Hate groups must be fought through education, law, and political will."

So, no, it’s not a new phenomenon in the current era, but what is new is the delayed, hesitant, and contradictory reaction of our nation’s leader, when precisely the opposite response is so desperately needed.

I might add that those Congressional hearings are once again urgently needed as well.

And I also understand that violence and intimidation are not just tools of the far right, but have been used by the far left as well. Coming from parents who experienced the full force of both extremes in Europe, I don’t ignore one at the expense of the other.

But in the case of Charlottesville, unlike what happened at a baseball field in Virginia or at UC Berkeley, this was not about the far left, with its violent elements, setting the stage, but rather those who want to separate us by racial identity, create a hierarchy among us, and take a page from the Third Reich in how to deal with the Jews – which, presumably, applies every bit as much to your family today as it does to mine.

Mr. President, for many Americans, finding a path forward that narrows the differences and builds greater cohesion may seem like an impossible task. Yet as long as you are the occupant of the Oval Office, surely it needs to be among your foremost obligations, together with protecting our national security.

For the sake of us all, I can only hope that wise heads, who are determined to set us on that path, will prevail in the weeks and months to come. The national stakes couldn’t be higher.

David Harris
2)The Politics of Pointlessness

Charlottesville may be a prototype of a politics drifting away from normalcy.

By Daniel Henninger
Charlottesville was a warning. The warning is that America’s politics is steadily disconnecting from reality. Our politics is starting to seem psychotic.
Generally people get into politics to accomplish something concrete or achievable—the passage of a piece of legislation or of identifiable public policies whose purpose is to make things better. In a word, progress.
The right and the left have disagreed for centuries on what works, but they at least shared a belief that the point of their political activity was to accomplish something real.


Charlottesville was a political riot. Is Charlottesville the future?
Some may say the Charlottesville riot was the lunatic fringe of the right and left, with no particular relevance to what falls in between. But I think Charlottesville may be a prototype of a politics that is drifting away from traditional norms of behavior and purpose.

Street protest has become the politics du jour. Groups form constantly in the streets to chant slogans. America’s campuses live amid perpetual protest.
The protests no doubt are based in belief or sentiment of some sort, but it is more often than not difficult to recognize any political goal normally associated with conservatism, liberalism or progressivism. Much of it looks like acting out or pleas for attention.
In January the weekend that Donald Trump was inaugurated, I watched a group of protesters sit down and block traffic at a main intersection in Santa Barbara, Calif. It seemed like a play date. The cops watched like bemused adults.
Charlottesville wasn’t a play date. It was a pitched battle between two organized mobs—the white nationalist groups on the right and the badly underreported Antifa, or “antifascist,” groups on the hard-as-stone left. Stories about Antifa’s organized violence are trickling out now, but there is no conceivable journalistic defense for having waited so long to inform the public about this dangerous movement.
The phenomenon that enables politics without purpose is the internet. It is the group-organizing tool for psychologically disassociated young people on the left and on the right, like James Alex Fields Jr. , who allegedly drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. She won’t be the last casualty.
Mr. Fields makes me think of the lone-wolf jihadists here and in Europe who explode out of the general population in a homicidal rage. These are people who sit endlessly in front of a computer screen, brainwashing themselves with online propaganda until they snap to make a “political statement.” The internet—websites, social media, message boards—is elevating political paranoia and delegitimizing normal politics.
Earlier this week, Britain’s head of counterterrorism policing, Mark Rowley, described the new reality: “What we’re wrestling with today is something which is more of a cultish movement where they are putting out propaganda and saying ‘anybody and everybody, act in our name and you’re part of our terrorist campaign.’ ”
But, the argument goes, these behavioral extremes have no relevance to or effect on the rest of public life. I’m not so sure. There have been a series of events lately that suggest the most basic requirements of intellectual or political seriousness are losing ground inside institutions that once provided ballast against the extremes.
The Google firing of James Damore was one of these big events. Its meaning was that the goal of diversity, whatever its original intent, has become mostly a totem. Mr. Damore was the little boy in the folk tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” who shouts, “But he doesn’t have anything on!” Google’s emperors banished James Damore for unmasking their diversity conceit.
Also certain to enter the era’s annals of anti-politics is the Republican party’s health-care meltdown.
All the endless hours that pour into political organizing, fundraising and campaigning are meant to win elections and then exercise political power. After winning control of Congress in the 2016 election, Republicans degenerated into what was essentially a traffic-blocking protest—against their own majority!
A young person new to politics and paying attention to what the Republicans did with ObamaCare reform, or to the Democrats’ content-free “resistance,” could reasonably conclude Congress is no longer about politics, but about something else. TV face-time or maybe Twitter , but not politics.
Traditional politics is being overtaken by a cult of self-referencing. From the nonstop street protests to what is going on in Washington—everything now is just a selfie.
Amid this torrent, an odd paradox emerges: People are consuming more content and detail about politics than ever, and more people than ever are saying, “I have no idea what is going on.” Someone is at fault here, and it is not the confused absorbers of information.
Charlottesville is being pounded into the national psyche this week as a paroxysm of white nationalism. On current course, the flight from politics is going to look like rational behavior.
3)The ‘Resistance’ Goes Lower

Green groups are attacking staffers merely for working in Trump’s government.

By Kimberley A. Strassel
In a better world, Americans would never hear the name Samantha Dravis. She wouldn’t be pictured on the front page of the New York Times or added to environmentalist “watch lists.”
This is no knock on Ms. Dravis, who is a talented attorney. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that in the grand scheme of the federal government, she’s one of hundreds upon hundreds of “staffers.” As associate administrator for policy at the Environmental Protection Agency, she didn’t need Senate confirmation. She’s no cabinet secretary and never chose a public role.
But in today’s anti- Trump “resistance,” that counts for nothing. The left lost the election, lost the argument, and is losing President Obama’s precious legacy. Its response is a scorched-earth campaign against not only EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, but anyone who works for him.
Most vicious has been the retribution against Mr. Pruitt for his work to undo Obama-era climate rules. Environmentalists and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse have ginned up an investigation at the Oklahoma Bar Association into whether Mr. Pruitt lied during his Senate confirmation. He testified that he didn’t use private email for work while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Then out came a handful of emails, over years, sent to Mr. Pruitt’s private address. This is hardly Hillary Clinton behavior, yet Mr. Pruitt is having to pay for a personal attorney to fight the charges. The activists’ stated goal: disbarment.
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing the EPA for documents as part of a laughable claim that Oklahoma’s past lawsuits against the agency mean Mr. Pruitt has too many “conflicts of interest” to make policy. California has no authority whatever to arbitrate such things. The federal Hatch Act sets out the rules surrounding conflicts, and the EPA’s ethics officer (a career staffer) has said Mr. Pruitt is well within that law. The suit is simply Mr. Becerra’s excuse to delegitimize Mr. Pruitt.
High-ranking appointees have always been demonized, but what makes this environmentalist campaign different is its purposeful extension of intimidation tactics to anyone willing to serve in the Trump administration. Political staffers have been put on notice that they may be watched, smeared and harassed, putting future job prospects at risk.
Ms. Dravis is tasked with reviewing the EPA’s current rules to ensure that they aren’t duplicative, that they live up to cost-benefit analyses, etc. The Obama administration, for the record, did the same sort of review. But Mr. Obama’s officials were never targeted like this.

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