Friday, December 8, 2017

why i'm not a maccabee and yet i am

they were torah-belt hebrews
down from the galilean hills
to stuff orthodoxy or their unsparing version of it
into hebrew mouths
while lopping off remaining
hebrew foreskins.

why i am a maccabbee
even though i'm not
because they fought for self-determination
against a cosmopolitan empire
because though their cause was wrong
their cause was right

let's face it
their revolt against the greeks
led to the hasmoneans, herod etc.
a dynasty of toadies for none other than greeks and romans the maccabbees opposed

why i can celebrate hanuka
is the way the holiday was softened and transformed over jewish history
the long history may i remind of you of galut, Jewish exile

songs and traditions grew up around hanuka that had nothing to do with apocalyptic war

i was raised up with some of these
as transplanted from the old to the new world
vis a vis pogroms and the long circuit of Jewish history

and warmed to them

so i can celebrate Hanukkah

diseased as it my be
by now
at the root

with which it shares nothing

but a winter season

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I don't know that I agree with all the points Jill Abramson makes as she tries to assign various degrees of culpability to the men standing accused of sexual abuse. For example, she thinks there’s a key distinction to be made between misdeeds by Al Franken, unacceptable as they are, and Harvey Weinstein’s brutal and well-funded career of violent assault, intimidation and cover-up.

This should be obvious.

Why isn't it obvious?

We don't assign the same level of responsibility to a subway pickpocket and an armed robber. Common sense and legal tradition say not. Outrage is appropriate in both cases, to be sure, by victims, but the degree of blame and punishment are and should be very different.

Maybe newly revealed sexual abuses are too fresh for us to have learned to parse them appropriately; maybe outrage will have to be baseline until we find out how.

Or maybe, as I fear, the response will devolve, a la Phillip Roth into "America's oldest communal passion, historically perhaps its most treacherous and subversive pleasure: the ecstasy of sanctimony."

Hope not. In the meantime, it would help to make useful distinctions.

Or are we too swamped to bother.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Frank Rich writes:

Frank Rich writes:

Bannon  has  called  Trump  “a  blunt  instrument  for  us.”  Finer-tooled  instruments    smarter  and  shrewder  demagogues  than  the  movement’s  current  titular  head    may  already  be  suiting  up  in  the  wings.

Rich's latest piece offers up not much in the way of solace or optimism, but maybe, in exchange, we get historical perspective. As Rich sees it, all the right-wing movements from Father Coughlin up through George Wallace have fueled Donald Trump. But with this difference, Trump being the first to assume national office, his movement is fortified to be cohesive for the long haul.

Like I said, not optimistic, but who needs optimism when things are going so well?

Friday, October 27, 2017

cancer gets me up in the morning

cancer gets me up in the morning
cancer brings me to unaccustomed places
where i talk to haughty but dedicated doctors
and smart sometimes absurdly foxy nurses

cancer is travel and new venues
cancer is meet and greet
cancer is hospital
cancer is invitation to biology
and how all these tests
ct-scans mris pet scans
do their thing

as my mri tech said
there's a lot of physics involved

he was a smart guy
from china
who'd been an architect
then a software engineer

and is now an mri pro
whose exact title i forget

have you ever had an mri?
makes the sound of a
rock concert seem muted
led zeppelin wouldn't be heard over an mri

there's this pulsing between the magnets and the electricity
maxwell's equations in hi decibel action
that is dreadful
unless you are a fan of weird electronic music

i asked feng the mri tech
do you like electronic music
but not like that! that's horrible!

feng is entitled to his opinion

getting back to tests
to scanning
espec pet scans
pet short for
position emission tomography

i am left wondering about what positrons
(the anti-matter version of the electron)

can tell the doctors and the nurses
about cancer
my cancer
my wakeup
squamous cell cancer

and intend to look into this

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bannonism . . .

We’ve enjoyed calling Trump a fascist. And he has all the reptilian reflexes, plus the innate grasp of a debased and compliant media that goes with the calling. But reflexes aren't enough; fascism takes brains too, a conception, an ideology, a vision -- however foul.

Bannon brings that to this rolling coup; he brings ideas. Remember that it was Bannon, above all, who crafted the Trump candidacy.

That Bannon is no longer in the WH only empowers him, giving him full leeway to shape the Republican Party into a vehicle for right-wing nationalism, as racist and bellicose as it needs to be.

(Bannon bridles at little wars, that benefit his base not at all. He's right when he calls Bush the worst ever, and tags him for Iraq. Bannon has bigger fish to fry, aims at bigger geopolitical confrontations. Bannon is going after China.)

Maybe this will all blow over and be remembered as a strange glitch in American history before some sort of regression to a democratic norm. Maybe. But I think what's taking shape is a genuine long-term, American style fascist-type threat.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Moshiach or not . . .

The Chinese have a saying: may you live in interesting times. It's intended as a curse. The rabbis say much the same thing when they pray: May Moshiach come and may I not live to see it.

Details about Moshiach aside, there can be no doubt that we are living in dread & interesting times, to wit, among other things: the Republican Party is fracturing.

Lest we yell in triumph, remember this is precisely as  Steve Bannon would want it.

Bannon wants to purge the Republican Party not only of moderates — put paid — but even tried and true right-wingers. He wants to replace them all with zealots and fanatics of the Trump persuasion, committed to crushing the media and civil liberties in favor of a white supremacist mass movement, not averse to some neo-Nazi impetus.

Emphasis here on movement, emphasis on crushing and on Trump as supreme leader and enabler (or as Milo Yiannopoulos calls him "Big Daddy.")

It's time to read some history, and not only American history. Think about interesting times in Europe, while you're at it.

Though the parallels are necessarily inexact and though we have a long way to go before the victory of totalitarianism in the United States, it's worth knowing that Bannon's goal is nothing less than following/guiding Trump into the triumph of Fascism with American Characteristics.

We are living in interesting times. As for me, I see no signs of Moshiach, though some of his supporters think Trump fits the bill.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Megyn Kelly

Something strange and transformative is going on, strange and transformative enough, at any rate, to get me to post in favor of Megyn Kelly.

In a response, Bill O'Reilly said, "never had any problem with Megyn Kelly." So what, Bill? Don't you get it? She's not saying you had a problem with her. She's saying she has a serious problem with you, and, btw, FOX, your network.

. . .

I'm sorry James Toback is being accused of sexual abuse. I'm the kind of liberal who'd rather the charges swept the likes of right winger ideologues like O'Reilly away. But I'm also the type of liberal who thinks, let the chips fall where they may. Even if it means bringing down a divided personality like Harvey Weinstein, who marched for women's rights and contributed significantly to liberal causes, while committing serial, serious abuse. And even if it means opening — but not closing, we don't know yet — the book on James Toback.

I'd rather Toback was not guilty. I'd rather Ben Affleck was not complicit. I'd rather Quentin Tarantino had nothing to regret or apologize for. I'd rather so much of the story was not muffled for so long because women were bullied into silence in exchange for money.

I'd rather not be anxious that a sexual witch hunt is likely to follow in which men are judged guilty without any presumption of innocence, just because they are men. Maybe it's due to my long experience of political extremism that I suspect such a thing is already on the way.

But this is how the story breaks. And let it keep breaking. Let the chips fall where they may.

What's happening is transformative. We're not at the end of it yet, but when we are, things won't be the same, for the best.