I have a very short attention span. I get bored very easily when watching anything or reading anything. Once favorite TV shows have run their course in my mind, I find them repetitive and currently with an annoying partisan social message that I do not need or want. Consequently I have dropped most from my nightly ritual. Then enters The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. This show is not for the timid and it raises the roof on any conventionality or political correctness. Thank God.
Set in the 1950’s, the show is about New York City’s affluent Jewish community. Miriam “Midge” Maisel is a typical 1950’s woman. Never leaves her home without makeup, hat, gloves, high heels, and nails. She marries Joel Maisel whose father is in the clothing business. They have two kids and live upstairs from her parents’ upper West side apartment. Her father, Abe Weissman, is a mathematics professor at Columbia University. This is the time when Columbia University was thoroughbred and students wore suits and dresses and were not radical pinheads. But I digress.
The show is staunchly Jewish carrying all the stereo typical Jewish traits of drama, money, and self-afflicting jokes. Which brings us back to Midge. Midge’s husband Joel wanted to pursue stand up comedy. In the evening the young couple led a double life. They went to the pseudo night club Gaslight and Joel did his routine which Midge inadvertently wrote. But that is as far as Joel went.
Without divulging the entire story and ruining the series, needless to say, it was Midge who became the stand up comic and performed as Mrs. Maisel. When her husband left her on Yom Kippur, she went to the Gaslight, got drunk, and blew the roof off with a comic routine which was taped illegally and sold on long playing records.
The show is not just fabulous for the clothing, the nostalgia, and the cutting-edge humor; it opens up a window into what being a professional woman was like in the 1950’s. The writers who are of course Jewish, brought out the nuances of women 60 years ago. In one episode, Midge’s mother who was also an art student at Columbia, convinced the women students into transferring to the university’s business school to find men. But as frivolous as that seemed, her message was more scathing. She was questioning women receiving graduate degrees if the only thing they wanted to do was to get married. She was also questioning their aspirations. One of them aspired to be a teacher “maybe at the university” . Really, replied the mother. “Have you ever seen any women professors?” Or something to that effect.
What the show does is bring forward the strength and tenacity of the 1950 woman. Women used their gender to manipulate their lives and shape themselves into whatever they wanted to be. They also rebelled. In today’s hard core militant female world, the 1950 woman would seem to be a weak frivolous thing. But she wasn’t. From the backrooms, kitchens, parlors, and secretarial typing pads, women ruled discreetly and with purpose. They used their gender wisely.
The show is a combination of profanity, comedy, stereo typing, and rawness that is refreshing and entertaining. There is nothing political about it. The Jewish community lived and lives in a world of its own. They fight among each other. They gossip endlessly. And they are always conscious of the fact that as Jews they are on the outside looking in on a society of goy (gentiles) who are uptight and set in their strange ways. They flourish in a city that accepts them for what they are and what they produce. They are a migrant mix of eastern European and new generations of Jewish Americans living the American dream. In one episode the wives were talking about their husbands wanting to die in Israel. “Why would anyone want to be buried in the desert?” To Joel’s father who was the biggest pain in the ass, Midge’s mother asked: “I hear you want to be buried in Israel. So when is that going to happen?” Nobody writes like that anymore.
The Wonderful Mrs. Maisel is void of gun violence or digitally enhanced anything. It is a story about an America that with all its post war trauma was much simpler. Less hung up on itself. Less hung up on individual needs. More together. More familiar. More lovable. Gentler and with more absorbed diversity than the irritating diverse activism of today. Nobody had to tell them to like each other. Most of them didn’t. But they were still united in a perception that hard work and hope can give you a better life in America. Midge Maisel is my heroine; elegance wrapped in tenacity and hutzpah!
Well folks, we now have the scoop. Harry and Meghan are unhappy. They were “forced” to abdicate the financial security the Royal Family coffers afford those who enter its doors. Poor, poor Meghan. She had no idea what she was getting into. A victim of her times, the over 30 narcissism; it must be somebody’s fault. The couple who swore off publicity and implored the public for privacy for their son’s sake, have etched their names and hung their dirty laundry in every drive-in public toilet of the world. They are the veritable tabloid duo of the decade. They wallow in self-pity and visceral hatred for the rest of us mere mortals. We don’t understand them.
Unless born under the proverbial rock, or your name is Joe Biden, everyone knows that the British Royal Family is an establishment of rules. They didn’t maintain their money, prestige, and sanity by running naked in the park. The problem with most of women who want to rub elbows with royalty is their desire for fame without the consequential obligations. Diana was a prime example. She married into the family and expected her life to be normal. To be fair to her, she was just a kid when she married Charles, but Meghan has no excuse, she is past her prime and past any minute docile pretense of naivete. She is a calculating woman who knew exactly what she was getting into or she would not have pursued it. Her choices were very transparent, a B actress in a mediocre weekly show or princess. I wonder how long it took her to make that decision.
Royal marriages were never made in heaven. They were planned and executed with calculated political precision. Prospective women and soon to-be royal brides went through years of training in royal protocols and expectations. I doubt that young Queen Victoria or young Queen Elizabeth for that matter even considered being miserable. They were raised to be tough and loyal to the Crown. Girls like Fergie, Diana, and now Meghan; opted for the royal “security” without the pain. If we are to believe the many documentaries, series, and books on the Royals: Royals do not lead normal lives and we hardly expect them to do so. Their lives are not painless, but they are not Gulag living and hard labor either. Royalty is not made for the faint hearted and obviously the common girl. Yet, it does not stop women like Meghan to step into the realm and bitch about it.
Harry had a tough psychological life growing up in a split dysfunctional family. Both parents were mental midgets. He also went through the death of his mother at a young age. He has lived in the shadow of a big brother destined to be King, and a father destined to be senile. But he ought to have known through his own experiences, that marrying into his family is taking one’s sanity into one’s hands. There is no normal, and if one expects normal, then one must look elsewhere and not within the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The nauseating Oprah interview was a Hollywood special led by Meghan who used all her B-acting skills to full capacity. Had she done the same on her show, she might have gone farther than a mention in the credits. She is the principal protagonist in the life of two spoilt dysfunctional millennials who expect the world to owe them something. Big brother William and his wife Kate seem very capable in dealing with the strenuous life of the Palace and still lead a reasonable private life. They do not offer fodder to the press and they seem to behave as adults and not reality TV trash. There is a reasonable amount of “sane” in the Royal Family, it just missed Messer Harry and Meghan.
Meghan had the gall to admit that she would have liked to remain within the family “fold” as security for her son. Archie deserves a title. That of course led immediately to the flavor of the decade accusation aka racism. The favorite narrative when one does not get what one wants. Allegedly, before he was born, Archie’s skin color was being debated as a concern in the Royal household. Only the goddess of Prime Time TV, the one and only Oprah is privy to the royal racist. The royal dynamic duo was careful to state that neither the Queen nor Prince Philip were the racists. How convenient. It works well as an open-door excuse for possible re-admission through the palace’s golden gates and treasure. “Hey Grandma and Grandpa, I said that you were swell, only the others in the family were racist scumbags.” According to the Associated Press, Meghan was “complimentary” to the Queen. I’m sure Her Majesty got her appetite back.
Harry, the poor schmuck admitted that leaving the Royals was not his choice, but thank God for his dear wife who “opened” his eyes to the trap he was in. We should all be that “trapped”. He admitted to no current relationship with his elder brother William, possibly because the latter told him to f—k off. He also does not seem to have a good relationship with his father. Again, possibly because he told his son to grow up and get a job.
I’m not a die hard Royalist but the Queen has managed to rise above the fray of what her dumb kids have put her through these past few decades. She deserves better than these two ingrates throwing mud at her house. She deserves better than her family being dragged through the mud by an opportunist actor and an ungrateful grandson. These two miserable 30 something pinheads lived on taxpayers’ money without remorse. They spent millions on decorating a new home courtesy of the Crown which they never lived in. They were granted millions in resources to keep them in their titles and comfortable. Like any business: one gets paid for fulfilling one’s obligations. In the midst of a pandemic and high unemployment, listening to their whining is not only painful but offensive. They need to be taken behind the woodshed and horse whipped.
The Meghans and Harries of this world are entitled leeches. They don’t contribute. They just take. They don’t produce anything but inhale valuable air from the rest of us. They are parasites in a world that seems to enjoy listening to parasites. They will vilify anyone who disagrees with them. They will elevate themselves to martyrdom. Selfishness and self-worth are predominate objectives in their lives. They live in a bubble created by their own self-importance. They kick the hand that feeds them because they have never gone hungry. They are self-appointed champions of the downtrodden without ever being one themselves. Like a well-oiled Teflon pan, they expect the pain they inflict on others to slide off their backs. They expect a handout without accountability.
None of us knows what goes on behind closed doors, which includes Buckingham Palace: but we all know that living in a palace with a yearly stipend just because your last name is Windsor can’t be all that bad. We are all aware that Royalty is not for the timid. Marrying into the Family should not be taken lightly. Ms. Markle was not a teenager when she took the Royal plunge and agreed to the pomp and circumstance. She came into the deal with eyes wide open. She wanted the fame without the responsibility. Press and publicity go hand in hand with being a public figure and a member of the elite. If she didn’t desire the attention, she should have married a cashier at Aldi and not a prince at Buckingham Palace.
One thing I must thank Harry and Meghan for: for a brief two hours of stupid we forgot about COVID, lockdowns, vaccines, and daily political crap. For two hours we immersed ourselves in a Netflix soap opera worthy of an Emmy. We rolled our eyes and realized that despite our miserable existence of regular folk, we are saner than most, and our families are not that bad after all. Eventually this story like Diana’s and Charles’ infidelity revelations some 30 years ago will be put aside in the wings waiting for some butler or maid who “was there” to tell it all. Eventually, these two entitled ungrateful clowns will only be a caricature in a gossip magazine on a Supermarket shelf. That day can’t come too soon.
As the modern world cancel culture stupid increases, I find myself looking for that cat in the hat to loan me his tall chapeaus for my exploding brain. “Offensive” has become an art imbibed by those with time on their hands. I guess COVID lockdowns have given the intolerant tolerant more time to up the ante on dumb. But before putting all the blame on the pathetically inane, I also blame the families of past authors and public figures who are drinking the same Kool-Aid and throwing their relatives who afforded them their comfortable existence under the proverbial bus.
Dr. Suess is the newest victim to the cancel culture offensive morality police. Those of us endowed with the gift of the pen and gab have been preparing “you”, the docile public, for months of the pending censorship doom. A slow progression toward elimination of freedoms enjoyed for two hundred years by Americans in the good ole US of A. Disguised as sensitivity and anti-bigotry narrative, morons have managed to hijack education, universities, politics, and now literature and art. “Offensive” was the cry of the booted Nazi as he burnt Jewish literature in the streets of Berlin. It was the cry of the Bolsheviks as they confiscated literature deemed “offensive” to the Motherland. Censorship for the good of all is censorship for the good of none.
Like a bulldozer cutting through dirt and thrash, the cancel culture fascists are going after what is deemed in the world of dictatorships as “harmful” to society. Their society. The bulldozer has gone after past presidents to include Lincoln, the champion of emancipation from slavery. It continued down Sesame Street, putting Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Elmo, Kermit, the Cookie Monster and other “undesirables” on the Most Wanted List. Rumbling down the street the progressive bulldozer will eventually come after your Bible, Quran, and any other book deemed “offensive” by a minority of soft brained morons.
Theodor Seuss Geisel was a genius. He managed to write simple repetitive prose which allowed kids as young as toddler age to start reading. My children both started reading at three years of age, thanks to Dr. Seuss. His books took children to a world of imagination and simple ethics by defining right from wrong in a manner that was non-threatening and easily understood. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas personified good over evil with cutting edge creativity portrayed in the Who’s innocence against the Grinch’s wickedness, who at the end felt the “spirit” of Christmas and converted. A library of well thought children’s literature that educated young minds through the quagmire of life. Imaginative narrations that sought to teach and remind that albeit the world is diverse, and often difficult, it ultimately can reform and be good. A genius in simplicity.
Enter the pinheads. According to the family of Theodore, they received complaints from teachers, academics, and specialists about the books being non-compliant in diversity. A good reason to revoke some teachers’ certificates, fire morons on campuses, and ignore those who think they know better than we do. These mental midgets found the books rife in “orientalism, antiblackness, and white supremacy”. You heard that right folks. Dr. Suess wore a white sheet and burnt crosses on front porches. According to intellectual buffoons like “researchers” Katie Ishizuka and Ramon Stephens, in the 2,240 characters created by Geisel, only 45 were of color. Messer Ishizuka and Stephens wrote a paper on Research on Diversity in Youth Literature and “studied” 50 Dr. Suess books written over the span of 70 years. They decided that some books smacked of “orientalism” because characters were drawn wearing turbans. Can’t make this up. The angst didn’t stop there: even the “animals transmitted” orientalism, antiblackness, and white supremacy. The “study” went on to conclude that throughout his books, Dr. Seuss “degraded and dehumanized across his hundreds of racist works.” At this point, I don’t know who is worse, the research idiots or the yahoo family.
To put everything into perspective: Theodore Seuss Geisel was anti-isolationist and critical of anti-Semitism. He was anything but a bigot. During WWII he brought attention to the evil of Nazism through his political cartoons that were scathingly in-your-face in revealing the Jewish plight in Europe. This has been lost on the ignorant critics like Messer Ishizuka and Stephens’ labeling of Geisel as a “racist political cartoonist”. The idiocy of that statement is further compounded by the fact that in 1939 Geisel faced opposition as an avid supporter of Jews at home and abroad. The US under the FDR administration was not very open to receiving Jewish migrants. But that’s not all. Under the same administration, an executive order was signed ordering segregation in wartime factories, prompting Geisel, a big civil rights activist to publish cartoons against this order, making him a “rare voice” during war time. Another little-known fact about Geisel; he wrote “Horton Hears a Who” as an apology for the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII. He wrote the book after a visit to Hiroshima, Japan. He also apologized for a cartoon he had published stereotyping the American Japanese as the enemy.
“Offensive” has become the passport to a cancel culture that is intolerant, prejudiced, bigoted, and ignorant. If we have to start cancelling offensive material, how about some Rap songs rife with violence, vulgarity, and demeaning to women? How about censoring politicians as they label opposing opinion or people as racist, deplorable, stupid, and other descriptive verbiage of that ilk? How about certain Congresswomen calling Jews ‘little Benjamins”? I’m constantly offended at stupid. I find our Speaker of the House offensive. She gives women a bad name. I find Mrs. Clinton offensive. She gives pant suits and truth a bad name. I find Congresswoman AOC offensive. She gives brains a bad name. I find most mainstream media offensive because they bloviate.
The destruction of literature and art is nothing new. Dictatorships and totalitarians find them offensive and unacceptable because they open up minds to possibilities adverse to the mundane. Freedom of thought is not conducive to control. Control the brain and the rest of the person follows. Books written in the past give us a glimpse into the good, bad, and the ugly of a world our parents and grandparents lived in. Those written today illustrate our persona in a moment in time that generations from now will hopefully learn from. Each word, picture, idea, and sentence is written with the author’s or artist’s view of the world as he or sees it at that particular moment in time. It will live forever to either admire or admonish. Whichever one it falls under, future generations will and should learn from it. No good is accomplished without the evil that precedes it. If we are to learn from our mistakes, we must maintain a copy of those mistakes for posterity and not to be repeated. It was through the written word that we learned about the horrors of the Holocaust and slavery. That might all change if we allow the cancel culture morons to succeed.
I doubt that I’m the only one who is eager to close the door on 2020. A year that has caused so much turmoil in our lives, our countries, and the world. A year that sent us looking for things to do, ways to connect, while keeping sane in what seemed to have been the most insane world of our lifetimes. This year packed all the crazy we could bear. Even atheists must have secretly prayed to G-d for relief. A combination of bad politics, bad decisions, bad journalism, and bad intentions; sent us on an eleven-month long journey into man made hell.
The bad made its way into our lives by way of Wuhan, China. Months into an epidemic which started presumably in Wuhan, the Chinese decided to let us on their putrid little secret only because they were caught out. I’m sure that had it not been for Dr. Li Wenliang, one of many Wuhan doctors that blew the whistle, we would still be wondering what is infecting most us or killing some of us. Dr. Li Wenliang died soon after tweeting about the virus in February 2020. He was 34. Another Chinese scientist has recently come forward alleging the deliberate creation of the virus in the Wuhan government lab, and the subsequent cover up by the Chinese government to suppress the story. Whether one is to believe Dr. Li Meng Yan or not, one must wonder why it took the Chinese weeks to warn the rest of us that a deadly virus was on the lose and that it transmits easily and rapidly.
The consequent finger pointing by politicians did not help us in either dealing with the situation or even solving it. Once politicians grabbed hold of “the problem” we should have realized that we would be in trouble. The polarization of world politics divided us into camps. The virus became an inadvertent campaign ad and subsequently irrelevant to many. Mixed messages intermingled with panic and uncertainty put us on the brink of self-doubt as individuals and communities. Fear mongering was channeled into government and state controls that stifled our freedom and trampled shamelessly on our rights in Democracies that under normal circumstances would scoff at such restrictions in third world countries. The gradual erosion of our basic rights morphed into mandated lockdowns without legal process. We followed blindly the same politicians we normally would consider lower than pond scum. How that happened is still mind boggling to me and others with a certain degree of common sense.
The bad continued to dissolve into ugly as US elections drew near. A predominantly controlled Democratic congress bent on getting rid of President Trump played all the cards to include impeachment. A deliberate and pre-meditated attempt at foiling a presidency with minute precision from inauguration to the present. Millions were spent on a predictable outcome that wasted everyone’s time and meanwhile allowed the virus to spread. January and February were lost in circus-like impeachment processes, while downplaying the urgency to curtail travel to and from European countries already run amok by the virus.
Dr. Fauci was the face of arrogant smugness, the administration’s appointed virus guru who as late as February 29th on NBC “Today Show” shrugged the virus as a notch above annoyance, to quote: “at this time there is no need to change your habits over coronavirus”. Him and several other charlatans to include the insipid New York Governor Cuomo who as late as March 8th was urging New Yorkers to go and have fun, remain unscathed from their duplicitous behavior. Governor Cuomo had the chutzpah to write a book praising himself on his “leadership”. Wonder if he wrote it before or after he decided to send old folks back to infected homes to die? This excuse of a civil servant was nominated for an Emmy. Which makes anyone receiving an Emmy dumber than a rock.
Mid-year the “ugly” in extremism ripped US cities apart. A legitimate outrage against brutal and unethical police practices turned into unstoppable riots. Small businesses already at the mercy of lockdowns were burnt or vandalized out of business. Pinhead mayors and governors allowed the rampage to run into months fortified by an indigenous crooked media that refused to report the truth and supported by equally irrelevant leftist politicians in Congress. National monuments were vandalized, and a war on civility brought a nation to the brink of Bolshevik-like anarchy.
If the pillaging and the burning was not enough, we had to be subjected to months of soap opera-like presidential debates that confirmed what we have known all along: politicians are idiots. While the country was burning, statues of saints destroyed, churches and synagogues vandalized, the candidates were concerned about race identity. Race mongering for votes. Their demagoguery could have been taken out of a mafia novel. Corruption disguised as empathy for the oppressed. If it weren’t so screwed up it would be laughable.
The continual narrative on “science” based COVID political decisions reduced the world economy to shambles. Leaving third world countries poorer, and western countries attempting to keep the economy afloat by paying people to stay home. Old businesses that survived two world wars and other epidemics closed their doors in desperation. Children lost a year of education justified by a virus with 98% recovery and predominantly dangerous to the elderly and those in already high-risk categories. A fact very few will mention let alone admit. Teachers and schools are left scrambling for ways to educate our future generation already handicapped by ineffectual teaching methods and cretin political correctness. We are being donated a future generation of imbeciles without grit.
The rush to get a vaccine shoved aside other imminent needs for cures especially for terminal diseases like ALS and cancer. But like AIDS in the 80’s, COVID is the token political “disease” of today. COVID was put on the electoral ballot of public opinion strengthened by disingenuous information, partisan duplicity, and unwarranted fear. The FDA is yet to approve a much-needed NurOwn, an Israeli ALS stem cell drug that would stop the disease and often reverse it. A reprieve to the millions of ALS terminal patients waiting for a cure. However, the FDA approved without hesitation a vaccine with a 95% success probability that avoids 2% fatalities and dismisses 98% recoveries. Either the FDA failed mathematics, or we have all been drinking the Kool Aid.
The ugly finished off the year in a presidential election fraught with doubt and division. An election with not much choice. Eighter the tweeter or the senile. An almost painful result to a divided country that voted on who would do the least damage and not the most qualified. Two parties that have gone so far-off course from their original intent, that neither appeal to anyone except their base. Two men with pasts and questionable characters. Poster boys for the dysfunctional. And so, we limp toward the finish line of the bad and the ugly.
Through irritating and often irrational lockdowns we were compelled to stay home. Once the urge to shoot oneself had passed, we found an uncanny feeling of serenity. Brakes had been applied to our lives and whether voluntarily or not, we had to slow down. The silence and tranquility pushed us toward finding ways to keep busy. Hobbies and talents, we had dropped by the wayside of our busy lives found themselves active in our minds and free time. The fear that was thrust upon us by mainstream media and politicians gave us a sense of urgency to reach out. Estranged parents located children. Friends called friends. Siblings connected by social media, WhatsApp or whatever electronic method at their disposal. Loneliness was not an option. We forgave past hurts and pains. We wanted to make sure that we were fine, healthy, safe and doing well. We compared lockdown miseries and laughed at ourselves. We were united in fear that we might not have the chance to say “sorry” or “I love you”. A gentler cloud descended on an uncertain world.
The faithful who had lost their faith turned to live streaming of services, Masses, Shabbat prayers and G-d. They needed something bigger than themselves. Suddenly, a virus brought out the ardent desire to pray by cynics who had long given faith, religion, and G-d the boot. Amid chaos there was prayer. Amid fear there was hope. Amid loneliness we reached out. We saw work of kindness that dispersed hatred and division. Parents stayed home and spent time with children. Bonding took the form of teaching, baking, reading, playing games, or just talking. We were all listening more and talking less. Family became important and life saving.
In the Middle East, Arabs and Israelis were making agreements and friendships. The first to reach out was the United Arab Emirates. Soon Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco signed agreements with Israel. Serbia-Kosovo also signed peace agreements with Israel. This was historic because until 2020, neither side had acknowledge the existence of the other. A great step toward understanding and peace in a region normally fraught with angst and uncertainty.
Humorous end-of-year memes and gifs are kicking 2020 in the ass! But the year ended on a gentle note. From the beautiful lights of Chanukkah to the quiet nativity manger, we realized that 2020 made us appreciate the good in our lives. The simplicity in a weekly family Zoom meeting, a phone call to a long lost friend, or a quick wave at an old neighbor form the kitchen window. Simple acts of kindness have taken a new meaning. A wake-up call to our often-egoistic attempt at being perfect. Perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect parent, perfect child, and perfect friend. A multi-tasking whirlwind life without relevancy. We “cold started” our lives and enjoyed the simplicity that our environments had to offer. We were truly “woke”.
Cities will herald in the New Year without fireworks or crowds. But we will quietly look up at a midnight sky in whenever and wherever we are, and thank G-d for our good, reflect on the bad, and learn from the ugly that changed all our lives in 2020. A learning experience that will hopefully change us for the better; make us kinder, make us better, and make us stronger. Frohes Silvestre und gute wunsch!
I think God had a plan. He was in cahoots with the Chinese to throw the proverbial wrench in our lives and slow us down to a crawl. It was a conspiracy between the Almighty and the People’s Republic of China. Together they managed to take us apart and forced us to calm down; take stock of our lives and make the best of it. Take stock of priorities and determination. Amid the bitching, the protests, and the groaning is Karma waiting patiently for us to determine our destiny.
If we had to dig deep down into our psyche and embark on a journey of self-truth and revelation, we would admit that most of the crap we go through in December has been dumped on us by a consumer society compelling us to spend and be merry. There is a “hum bug” waiting to get out in most of us, we just don’t want to admit it. By November we are urged and shamed into a rapid count down of frenzy and uncontrollable stress toward December 25th. We are dragged through a mire of guilt if not wanting to engage. “It’s the Season to be Jolly”. Enticed, cajoled, and convinced into an insidious perfect Hallmark Christmas. Hallmark is to blame for throwing a wide net of deceit across the western hemisphere. Armed with 15 actors, one plot, and several hundred movies; a red and green annual ritual of perfection brings bile to our throat but like a bad train wreck, we are compelled to watch. Why? Because like rats in a lab, we are conditioned to “love” Christmas or bust.
The weeklong preparation of food and stress leaves most of us looking like we’ve been kicked by the mule in the manger and run over by the Magi’s camels for good measure. Parents put a guilt trip on kids to visit relatives, and kids take it out on anyone they encounter on the way. Those who normally display goodness and politeness 11 months of the year, turn into heathens at airports, stores, and on the roads in December. They become Mr. Hyde, the worst version of themselves. Add bad weather, flight cancellations, and crowded stores; the season of goodwill turns into a horror movie without a happy ending.
A recent article in the Stars and Stripes revealed the joy some families are secretly harboring not having to run around visiting relatives or making long trips thanks to COVID. They are looking forward to quiet dinners at home. Most expressed their annual horror they are subjected to trying to please everyone. Large extended gatherings that have become not only cumbersome but subject to partisan unpleasantness, are being dreaded and avoided. One couple admitted to always dreading landing at their annual Christmas destination because of family drama; leaving them stressed and inadvertently worse off than had they stayed home. They have tried to make excuses in the past not to travel, and this year they are thrilled because they finally got their wish. They are looking forward to staying home and enjoying movies and simple meals.
Many are happy that they don’t have to spend money in travel plans that brings them little joy but ultimate aggravation. Others are taking the opportunity to be a family in their own home, relaxed and able to enjoy quality time with their kids or one another. The fact that we are being forced to stay home may end up being a blessing in disguise. A realization of what could be or should be. A “perfect” Christmas does not exist. Through the years we’ve become Christmas masochists. COVID is a wake-up call that life is anything but perfect, which is okay.
We lost our normal lives ten months back, but we gained closeness. Relatives we had not seen or spoken to for years are now in our lives more often than before. Lockdowns, quarantine, and isolation widened our network of family and friends we would not otherwise seek or speak to. We argue less and we tolerate more. For some strange reason, a common enemy has brought most together.
In Germany, where I think Christmas must have been born, we missed the absolute best of the season. Christmas markets, gluhwein, hot chestnuts, and music; all anticipated and disappeared at the wave of a hand from Berlin. The loss in income to small businesses is staggering. Senseless decisions that make little scientific logic have been implemented; not because it’s good for us but because they’re a political check mark on an election list. Trinkhalle are still open selling beer and hard alcohol but florists had to close. Head scrathing baffling. Hairdressers and nail salons are shuttered up but a discount store remains open because it sells a few shelves of packaged food. The absurdity is lost on most. Frightened and manipulated, they go with the flow. There has not been one COVID case at any hairdresser, nail salon, car dealership, clothing store, or florist. But all were forced to close creating a last-minute panic that sent thousands in stores and streets to finish their Christmas shopping before being locked up. No concern there. Stupid has replaced sense and politics has replaced honesty.
Our lives have slowed down. We sleep later mornings because the streets are quiet. Between doing some work from home and daily routine, I managed to bake Christmas cakes, mince pies, and conjure up wonderful gluhwein for friends and neighbors. Never made gluhwein before but staying home permitted it. Slowly simmering white wine and brandy, thin slices of oranges, apples, cinnamon sticks, anise stars, cloves, and fresh ginger. The beautiful aroma fills the house with simplicity in spice and everything nice. A pleasure we would not had enjoyed had we not been compelled to stay in our homes and come up with things to do to keep us from going stark raving mad.
Crazy still lurks all around us. We can attend church but not sing, regardless of the fact that we are all masked like Zorro. We’ve been wearing masks for 10 months which if we must go by what “the science” says, we should all have been over this crud a long time ago. But we’re back to square one without an end in sight. Oh, yes, the much-awaited vaccine; it will suddenly beam us into post COVID Pollyanna, just like that. We will reach the end zone and life will be good again.
The weather is crisp, and snow is in the air. The quiet of the mornings and the stillness of the evenings bring comfort to a world wrapped in angst and self-loathing. Politicians with little juice between their ears have managed to screw up the world without much effort. Families are going to miss out on being together, but they are also going to discover that Christmas is about simplicity and humility and not outrageous gifts and too much food. How we morphed from celebrating a baby in a manger to a multi-million-dollar industry is beyond me. We have been conditioned to expect perfection when Christ’s birth was anything but. Incongruity that should baffle those of us who profess to be Christians. What line or verse in the scripture does it say that we are required to consume enough food to feed a third world country, and max all our credit cards on crap we sell in a garage sale in the spring?
This will be remembered as the COVID Christmas. The lockdown season of the year. The time when we managed to pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get on with our lives making the best of it. So shall this end; a memory filed it in the confines of our minds as something to relate to grandkids akin to walking ten miles in the snow to catch a school bus. We will embellish and exaggerate our discomfort for poetic license, and then admit that it might have been the best thing that could have happened to us. As Garfield put it so succinctly: “Christmas, it’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving….” (A Garfield Christmas Special, 1987). Merry Christmas and hope for a better New Year.
If 2020 couldn’t get any worse; James Bond is dead. The one and only Bond that meant anything to me and the rest of my generation, has finally succumbed to mortality. In my opinion there was only one Bond; and that was Sir Sean Connery. Bold, brash, often uncouth, and extremely sexy. Can we still say sexy without a lawyer present? Bond was my young generation. The best generation; the 60’s.
Sean Connery brought an edge to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. He was the thug in a tux. The proverbial misogynist every woman loved. He was cool, square jawed, and tough. Sean Connery’s James Bond could drink a martini, light a cigarette, save the girl, and kill the villain without a hair out of place. He didn’t swagger, he walked into a room with the same powerful intention of his Aston Martin. Sean Connery didn’t just play Bond; he was Bond.
I stopped watching James Bond movies when Roger Moore decided to hang his Bond shingle. Both equally handsome and irresistible, they took the Bond character and reinvented it as their own without compromising who and what Bond was or supposed to be. A spy, a lover, a cad, and a free spirit. However, Sean Connery imbedded himself in Bond’s psyche. We could never tell where and when Sean started and Bond ended. A lateral motion of intertwined characteristics found in both; albeit one real and the other fictional, they assumed each other’s DNA like a second skin.
The era of spy films and TV series was at its peak in the 60’s. The Berlin Wall had gone up, Khrushchev was being a dick, and JFK had just told us that he had met the Soviet’s bluff in Cuba. We watched, we listened, and we turned to James Bond for a shred of hope in saving us from the likes of real life Goldfinger where nuclear annihilation had become a reality. We needed James Bond. He always got the bad guy and saved the world as we knew it without building a sweat.
Miniskirts, fast cars, beautiful women, booze, cigarettes, and villains. A wonderful combination that kept us wanting more. More of Bond and more of Connery. Connery’s career became relevant as Bond. His deep throaty voice with only a hint of Scot in it, kept us women glued to our seats and wishing we were being rescued by this burly man with a hairy chest. We all wanted to be Bond girls. Alas only a few were chosen.
Sean Connery’s movie career spanned in other directions besides Bond. Indiana Jones, Hunt for Red October, The Untouchables, and the list goes on pre and post Bond. But Sean’s fingerprints remain firmly etched in the character of James Bond. No matter how many “Bonds” followed him, Bond belonged to Sean Connery He owned it.
The early Bond movies sans gizmos and technology were the epitome of wit, charm, sexual innuendo, good versus evil, and testosterone. Bond in current times would be labeled as a misogynist. We really good give a shit. Manhood oozed out of every pour of his tanned muscular body.
Sean Connery was famous but private. He was every girl’s dream of a knight in shining armor. We never thought of him as anything other than James Bond. Men tried to emulate him and women drooled over him. In various interviews he admitted to taking on characters after his own personal life.
Born to poverty in Edinburgh, Scotland, he developed a thick skin which served him well when playing dark characters. He molded Bond into his own image. A moody often dark side to a man without roots and seemingly happy to be alone. Finding women but never attached. Each movie produced its own “Bond Girl”, the most famous being Ursula Andress. She was “the girl” in Dr. No. The movie launched her. Others like Honor Blackman and Diana Riggs (pre Avengers) were the first few Bond girls who went on to star in other TV spy series.
If I had to close my eyes and think of Bond, there is no one that comes to mind but Sean Connery. I remember a great line from one of my favorite movies “The First Wives’ Club”. A drunk Goldie Hawn tells the bartender that Sean Connery “…might be 300 years old but he is still a stud”. How true. Sean aged but never grew old. I never noticed his loss of hair, wrinkles, or age spots. I only saw James Bond. Impeccably dressed and holding a martini and a cigarette. That’s the Sean Connery I will always remember. Because that was Bond; my James Bond.
Moving toward the craziest of times I need some satire in my life. But even that seems to have been hijacked by the social media “conscience”, aka the FaceBook “community”. FaceBook recently took aim at Babylon Bee. Babylon Bee is the answer to the elevation of “stupid” to “serious” by the current generation of humorless goofs. Recently, Babylon Bee was sanctioned by FaceBook for alleged violation of its “standards”. Whatever those are. FaceBook is now the social media morality police. They want to save us from ourselves. Big Brother is watching.
What is Babylon Bee?Babylon Bee is the equivalent of Mad Magazine without paper. Scathingly irreverent and uniquely witty, it takes to task anyone from the Pope to the President with the same cutting edge of a surgeon. Provocative headlines give those of us eager to escape from madness disguised as politics, an opportunity to look at the world in the same light as an episode of Saturday Night Live without an audience. A harmless parody in difficult times. A relief from the constant bombardment of bad news. A smile with a cup of Joe reminiscent of lazy Sunday mornings when newspapers and weekend cartoons were significant.
A couple of weeks ago, Babylon Bee headlined that NBA players decided to wear white lacy collars in honor of RBG’s death. A doctored picture showed two famous players in lace and a mean smile. Limpid liberal loons took to the airwaves in unprecedented umbrage and offence. The loony left sans sense of humor and wit. Poster children to boorish victimization activism without tolerance. Meaningless minds. A generation of humorless boring millennials who continue to forge forward in futile attempts at reducing our sense of humor and elevating stupid into relevance. There is no joy left in comedy or satire. A new society fraught with malcontent and self loathing ignorance.
But back to Babylon Bee. A few weeks ago amidst the Amy Barrett circus of indignation, anti-Catholic narrative, misguided feminism, and total disregard to decorum or minute intelligence; Babylon Bee published a pseudo Monty Python analogy entitled, “Senator Hirono Demands ACB Be Weighed Against a Duck to See if She is a Witch”. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the continual hounding of Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism and faith by the insidious and belligerent Ms. Hirono. Senator Hirono came close to accusing Ms. Barrett of sexually assaulting people because of her Catholic beliefs. Babylon Bee extrapolated on the arrogant ignorance of Ms. Hirono and other Democrats’ attempt at insinuating that Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism was on par with witchcraft. Babylon Bee took on the parody with gusto and style.
In a now all too familiar Babylon Bee satirical prose, the parody alleged that Senator Hirono compared Ms. Barrett to a witch. Common knowledge attests to the fact that witches are made out of wood and can float like ducks. Therefore, it is correct to assume that if Ms. Barrett should be weighed against a duck and consequently floats, she should be burnt at the stake as a witch. To those of us with an ounce of humor find the analogy funny and an ice breaker in months of misery. But no. Our freedom of speech and creativity is on a short leash nowadays. We are at the mercy of FaceBook and the like who find it necessary to mentor us on what is considered funny or offensive. We must abide by their “community” rules. A social media Gulag in the making.
When satire is censored, we are satirically doomed. Remember Charlie Hebdo? The continual deterioration of our creative freedom and the chipping away of fundamental free thought has reached epidemic proportions.
Babylon Bee, albeit accused of conservative leaning, has made fun of everyone to include President Trump. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Babylon Bee Editor in Chief, Kyle Mann, expressed the site’s unadulterated pleasure in tormenting Trump when he fails to realize that their site is satire. What is better than that? We need more of Babylon Bee and its counterpart The Onion in our daily lives. The latter is liberal leaning but just as satirical and funny. And like Babylon Bee takes the “mickey” out of everyone on the same scale. Both provocateurs that are essential to the well being of our psyche.
As we brace ourselves for an election that is going to bring massive angst regardless of who wins; we need the unabashed often offensive humor of satire and satirical publications like Babylon Bee and The Onion. They provide the insane to keep us sane. They peel away the stupid like a raw onion. They push us into admitting that we are borderline morons. Most of all they reveal the arrogance and self adulation political crap that we are subjected to on daily basis. They strip the veneer to reveal high cost salaried pinheads. The burden of taxpayers. The ducks that float. They should be burnt alive.
Since the Hirono debacle, FaceBook went to the social media confessional and made penance. They admitted to having been too hasty. You think? But don’t be fooled by their self serving penitent stance. They got caught for the idiots they are, pandering to political special interest groups who have managed to stifle our freedom of speech in lieu of partisan agendas.
We have managed to raise a generation of boring unappreciative goofs bent on being miserable. They wallow in self absorbed righteousness. A gradual morphing of ingrate boring morons. The new entitled generation who expects the government to be their private sugar daddy. But their misguided boorishness is not entirely their fault. It has taken years of indoctrination at schools and universities to achieve such a caliber of brainwashed fools. The “woke” welfare society unable to provide for themselves. Hold on to your seats because we’re in for a bumpy ride.
The censorship of Babylon Bee should be a wake-up call to anyone with an ounce of awareness. The path to stifling free speech is widening. We are rapidly approaching a precipice of censorship without reason. The quick silencing of opposing opinion in politics should bring goosebumps to our skin. The demonization of faiths and traditional ideals is creating a cesspool of hate toward individualism and freedom of speech. Racism and bigotry is easily labeled to those opposing mainstream lemming thinking and indoctrination to silence discourse. When parody is labeled dangerous to the State, we might as well ask Putin for advice on free speech.
Agree with her or not, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fondly known by her “rock star” status as RBG, was a giant in the world of justice and law. Even keeled and unmovable in her ideals, she served on the Supreme Court for 27 years. Attempting to sum up this woman is like trying to put a genie back in the bottle. It’s impossible, because her life was multi-dimensional, and just when I thought I knew everything there is to know about her, I discovered more.
RBG was born in Brooklyn at a time when women’s lives were predetermined between marriage, motherhood, or secretary. No matter how many women attended university or colleges, they could never put their foot in the door let alone enter the room. But RBG broke the mold on timidity and challenged everyone and everything that stood in her way. According to biographers and interviewers, RBG gave credit to her mother for inheriting tenacity genes. Unfortunately, Ruth’s mother died the day before Ruth graduated from High School.
Ruth’s determination toward success started at 17, when she received a full scholarship to Cornell University. There she met her soon-to-be husband, Marty. He fell in love with her because “she had a brain”. When Marty joined the service they moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Ruth took the civil service exam, but her high scores were irrelevant and she could only get a job as a typist. When she got pregnant, true to form, she lost her job.
Two years later, both she and her husband returned to the East Coast and were admitted to Harvard Law School. It was tough for the nine women who were “accepted” amid 500 men. At one time, the Dean asked Ruth why she would allow herself to take a place that “should go to a man”. This gave Ruth the incentive to become an academic star. She outpaced her husband.
Juggling law school, a toddler, and a household; Ruth took on life with a vengeance. When Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Ruth became his caregiver; he dictated his law assignments which she typed well into the night. After which she would start with her own studies. In a 1993 interview, Marty marveled at his wife who had taken care of a three year-old, a sick husband, and attended classes. Marty survived the cancer and graduated. When he got a job in New York City, Ruth transferred to Columbia University Law School, where she managed to graduate top of her class.
But being a woman lawyer did not exactly open doors to employment opportunities. Although recommended for Supreme Court Clerk, she was not even interviewed. In an all male judge pool, females, especially married ones were not welcomed. They were presumed distracted by family obligations. But Ruth had a mentor and law professor who believed in her ability to achieve. Gerald Gunther was renowned in finding the best court clerks for judges. One particular judge was Judge Palmieri. Palmieri demanded the best, and Gerald sent him Ruth, with the proviso that if he didn’t give her a chance he would not send Palmieri any future clerks. The bait was taken, and Ruth clerked with Palmieri for two years.
RBG was a prolific woman who found ways that would enhance either her work or her life. She went through lengths to accomplish a project or an opportunity. When at Columbia, she learned Swedish. She wanted to work with Anders Bruzelius, a Swedish Civil Procedure Scholar who was writing a book through the Columbia University School of Law Project on International procedure. RBG ended up co-authoring the book.
In 1963, RBG landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School. She was also pregnant with her second child. Knowing full well that she would be fired, she hid her “bump” under her mother-in-law’s clothes. She landed a second contract with the school before the baby was born. It was at Rutgers that Ruth started her gender discrimination crusade.
Her first big case she nicknamed “The Mother Brief”. At that time the IRS only recognized women’s claims for tax deduction for taking care of elderly family members; widowed men, or divorced individuals were disqualified. A Colorado man, Charles Moritz, had been caring for his 89 year-old mother without eligibility for tax deductions because of his single male status. The Internal Revenue Code stated that Charles’ status was immune to Constitutional challenge, at which Ruth replied “preposterous”. She teamed up with her husband and they tackled the case on both fronts. Her husband took on the tax perspective while Ruth took on the Constitutional aspect of the case. The case was won in lower courts by asking the courts not to invalidate the statute but to apply it equally for both sexes. Eventually the government petitioned the US Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of hundreds of federal statutes. For the next 10 years, Ruth litigated all of them.
In 1971, she delivered her first Supreme Court brief in Reed v Reed. Ruth represented Sally Reed who was asking to be the executor of her son’s estate. Once again the law automatically discriminated against women executors giving the right automatically to Sally’s ex-husband. Ruth litigated on the constitutionality of a State that automatically prefers men over women as executors of an estate. The Supreme Court ruled in Ruth’s favor and struck down the law as discriminatory toward women.
Ruth became the first tenured professor at Columbia University. She founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Her object in life was winning women’s rights. She knew that she had to approach her ideals by persuading men that equality was a fundamental right for everybody. She took on cases with male plaintiffs to demonstrate that discrimination against women can often harm men. In Weinberger v Wiesenfeld, Ruth represented a man whose wife had died in childbirth. She had been the sole breadwinner. Her husband was seeking survivor’s benefits to raise his son. But existing Social Security laws did not recognize widowers as eligible survivors, only widows. She litigated that absolute exclusion against female workers harmed their spouses and their children. The Supreme Court agreed. Throughout her career and litigations, Ruth argued that the 14th Amendment was not only about race and ethnicity, but also about women.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed RBG to the US Courts of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court. She was not his first choice. He was being pressured by women activists who were critical of her stand on abortion. She had publicly criticized the legality of Roe v Wade. A small fact that is conveniently ignored. She was confirmed in an overwhelming vote of 96-3. She became the second woman on the Supreme Court next to Sandra Day O’Connor.
Although small and demure, RBG had an appetite for life that astonished those around her. She rode horses and parasailed into her 70’s. Her closest friend was Judge Antonin Scalia, her conservative counterpart who passed away in 2016. Their unusual friendship spawned an Opera, Scalia/Ginsburg based on their legal disagreements and ultimate affection for one another. They both had brilliant minds and their strong friendship was sustained through their respect for each other.
Over the years she rose to the Supreme Court seniority, but her passion was and remained; women’s rights. Her soft demeanor but sharp wit and mind won over conservative judges to her side especially in important cases. Such a case was the 2015 court’s decision to uphold independent redistricting commissions established by voter referendum. This was aimed at removing partisanship legislative district lines.
In Burwell v Hobby Lobby, Ruth gave the dissent on for-profit companies’ non compliance with the mandate that they provide contraception as part of their employees’ health plan. Hobby Lobby fought the case under “religious grounds”. She based her argument on their argument. How far can “religious grounds” go? Can an employer deny equal pay or minimum wage under a religious claim? It was this unrelenting tenacity that won her the respect of her fellow judges on both side of the aisle.
Starting in 1999, Ruth fought with colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and liver lesions. Yet through it all she never shirked her job or gave less of her life. In 2009, just three weeks after a major pancreatic cancer surgery, she sat at the State of the Union address. When her husband died, she was back on the bench the next day. He left her a letter of encouragement before he died. Years later she admitted that she had gone to work “for him”. He would have wanted her to.
Chief Justice John Roberts described her as a “tireless and resolute champion of justice”. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a revolutionary. In 1996, she took on the Virginia Military Institute for not allowing women cadets to apply. Her scathing remarks were to the point; “rigorous training should not ban women from the same opportunities”.
RBG had a sense of humor and found it easy to laugh at herself. During the 2015 State of the Union address she was caught napping on camera. She admitted that she had succumbed to wine at dinner which relaxed her. She also admitted that she was not entirely a “sober judge”.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg will always be remembered for her razor sharp mind. But she will also be remembered for her unabashed belief in women’s rights. Her arguments and dissents albeit fraught with judicial verbiage that most of us don’t understand, asked one scathing question: Why not? Why can’t a woman be that or do that? I can’t say that I have always agreed with her dissents, but I respected the arguments and passion behind them. She fought for those who were systematically and legally excluded from opportunities on basis of gender. She fought for us. RBG was genuine. Judge Thomas summed her up succinctly: she was the “essence of grace, civility and dignity”. Rest in Peace RBG. Aleha ha-Shalom.
There is nothing worse than watching a dear friend wait for the inevitable; the slow process toward terminality. I have such a friend. A dear friend. Once active and energetic, he is now at the mercy of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. The disease that creeps through one’s body insidiously and painfully. Like thousands of ALS patients, my friend is patiently waiting for reprieve. He and others like him are at the mercy of the FDA.
Until recently, I had never met anyone with ALS or knew much about it. But watching my friend’s silent endurance compelled me to educate myself, and hopefully others. ALS raises its head slowly and often undetected until too late. Twitching, slurring of speech, and weakness in the muscles are often the first signs of the deadly disease. Eventually, all muscle movement, speech, breathing, and food intake becomes difficult, painful, and ultimately fatal. The domino effect of nerve cell deterioration gradually breaks down motor neurons in the body. These are the cells that control voluntary muscle movements like walking and talking. Because motor neuron cells extend from our brain to our spinal cord, when damaged, they stop sending “messages” to our muscles that give movement commands. There is no medical magical formula that determines the rate of deterioration.
A few years ago we all remember the “ice bucket” challenge that was supposed to raise money and awareness for ALS patients. $115 million were raised for alleged research. ALS patients have yet to realize any benefit from the fund raiser. They have been waiting in earnest for the promised research to materialize. Time is not on any ALS patient’s side. Unlike other diseases, ALS can morph into terminal at a blink of an eye. ALS patients do not have the luxury of waiting. The frustration is not with drug or research firms, but with the FDA.
For a long time, drugs and treatments slowed the deterioration down rather than reversing it; until now. A small Israeli firm, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics has developed and is testing a new drug and process called NurOwn. What is different and giving hope to the millions afflicted by ALS, are NurOwn’s results. Unlike other drugs and treatments that only slowed down or stopped (often just temporarily) the deteriorating process, NurOwn has the capability of complete reversal. The process is in its third phase, which means it has already been tested on humans. If the NurOwn induced ALS process is successful, it can also treat other neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
NurOwn uses cell stem technology. Bone marrow cells are extracted from the patient, matured, and injected back to rebuild deteriorated brain cell blocks. During maturation, the bone marrow cells are manipulated into behaving like normal brain cells. Once injected back, they circulate in the spinal fluid and back into the brain repairing it. A reverse process to the initial onset of the disease.
The Right to Try Act was passed in 2018, allegedly giving terminally ill patients access to experimental treatments. ALS patients have been asking the FDA to fast track the Brainstorm treatment the same way they had done with AIDS. Phase three of testing is in progress and awaiting conclusion if it weren’t for COVID. We have stopped research and treatments for terminal diseases in lieu of finding a vaccine for a virus which people are recovering from. Despite the number of COVID cases reported, the majority of them recover. You don’t hear that on cable news networks. But like AIDS in the 80’s, COVID is now an election campaign issue elevated to unprecedented political heights at the expense of terminal diseases.
We are into the 11th year of NurOwn’s research, but the FDA drags its feet holding bio-pharma companies responsible to outdated strict regulations while at the same time asking them to foot the bill. It takes approximately 12 years and billions of dollars between the creation of a drug in the lab and approval by the FDA. The FDA requires continual testing; often on terminal ill patients waiting for a cure. Some patients fight the US Government for the right to be tested. But in many cases and unbeknownst to them, they are given placebos. Small companies like Brainstorm cannot afford to make the drug available to the general public and insurers unless the FDA approves it. Right now, NurOwn’s one-time treatment is a five figure amount. The treatment needs to be repeated. The average life expectancy of an ALS patient is three to four years. Do the math.
When a government organization like the FDA plays politics, people die. When the FDA picks and chooses who has life priority, it becomes irrelevant. Why should approval of a much needed drug or treatment take so long, especially when it has already been tested? The FDA claims that there are already drugs dealing with ALS. Unfortunately for ALS patients, their disease does not have biomarkers. Cancer research looks for a tumor, a measurable end point which gives researchers a reference toward a cure. ALS does not have a rating scale. One either gets better or not. No two individuals can be measured equally across the board. That is why NurOwn is different. It is individualistic through the patient’s own stem cell recovery. It is unique to each patient.
Some politicians did step up to the plate and written to FDA commissioner asking for parallel research track to be given to ALS as it was given to the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s. Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, and Mike Lee are putting pressure on the FDA to give ALS patients access to NurOwn research under the Right to Try Act. In the meantime, my friend is among the 5,000 who are annually diagnosed with ALS. He is also one of the many waiting for the FDA to get its finger out and help him. According to the FDA, the reason that ALS testing takes so long is because the number of people afflicted with the disease is not large enough to get a good sample. How encouraging. Tell that to the 20,000 or so Americans known to have the disease, the 5,000 more who will be afflicted by it, and the thousands that have already died.
Like any degenerative disease, the pain and suffering does not belong only to the patient, but also to his family. Spouses, children, and friends stand by and watch with agony as their loved ones recede into another world of immobility. Their lives stand still between doing all they can to ease discomfort and pain, and a distant hope of recovery through a new drug discovery. In this case, there is a new drug discovery that could bring relief to my friend, his family, and the thousands waiting patiently in immobilizing pain.
There are the Naysayers who want more tests and research into NurOwn, but they are not afflicted by the disease. As one spouse of an ALS patient so aptly put it:” Quite frankly, when I hear people express that is might be risky or dangerous, an ALS patient such as my wife could care less! How many ALS patients will die in the next year waiting for a possible effective treatment?”
The FDA has three objectives; reputation, lobbying, and politics. It protects its reputation first, then aligns itself to profitable lobbyists, and finally turns its attention to the politics of the moment. COVID is the politics of the current moment, just as AIDS was in the 80’s. Media coverage does not help either. The media sways toward the political agenda of their choice. The FDA follows suit.
The FDA weighs reputation, politics, and lobbying against its decision to approve a drug. Its reputation as guardian of public health, has done very little for ALS patients. It’s politics have done even less. The FDA’s strong bureaucratic autonomy operates at the expense of terminal patients and drug availability that can save lives. NurOwn is caught in this vicious bureaucratic triangle at the expense of my friend. Wrong does not start to describe it.
The relationship between Germany and the US has a pseudo Machiavellian feel to it. It’s a love and hate friendship that lasted 75 years. Born out of the ashes of WWII, the Marshall Plan, the Cold War, and of course 9/11; the “on and off” surreal love affair managed to outlive politics and politicians. But Donald Trump is not a politician. And even Frau Merkel was no match to his impulsive “cowboy diplomacy”. But NATO acquiesced to an agreement, and the Secretary of Defense announced the 11,900 re-alignment of troops from Germany to other locations in Europe or back to the US. The angst has started in earnest, and for good reason.
Let’s not be fooled. Although not as scathingly loud, brash, and often downright rude; former Presidents from Clinton to Obama silently complained of the unfair contribution toward European and Gulf security by rich European nations like Germany, which barely contributes enough to manage its own military.
It’s common knowledge that Germany lacks behind in hardware. Old equipment and aircraft have rendered the German Bundesweher impotent in any conflict. Their outdated armor can’t defend a brawl at a wine fest. Once the pride of Europe, German military would not stand a chance deterring anyone coming across the borders not even red ants. Their air force is no better. The ranking in NATO contribution between 2013-2019 is an eye opener:
Germany and other elitist old Western European nations barely make it past 1.80%. Turkey stands at 1.89%. Germany’s percentage has remained steady at 1.38% with a left- handed promise from Frau Merkel that Germany would reach its 2.0% target by 2034! We should have warp drive by then. In the meantime, the US pumps billions of Euros into the German economy, its defense, and the defense of the rest of Europe. Albeit the fact that the US has self interests in keeping Europe safe, it has taken on the posture of the main parent in a family of dysfunctional children.
Those of us who have lived and served in Europe since the 1970’s have a more down to earth perspective. We lived through terrorist attacks in the 70’s and early 80’s which compelled the US military to teach us how to “inspect” our private owned vehicles for explosive devices. We checked under the wheels and under our vehicles for anything that we might consider “unusual” lest we get blown up. We attended NEO briefings in case of a Communist invasion. And we had to keep supplies and packed luggage at a ready in case of an immediate evacuation.
The German Red Army Faction and its “friends” in other Western European countries ran rampant and rogue. Their objective was to kill Americans and those associated with them. Among their most nefarious deeds was the killing of several airmen on Rhein Main Air Base on the outskirts of Frankfurt. They stole a US registered vehicle and drove it on base to the HQ building and blew it up killing several airmen. Another famous terror attack targeted a West Berlin nightclub frequented mostly by US service members. It was spring 1986 when an RAF bomb killed four Americans and injured 155. That was Germany during the Cold War. That was the Germany we lived in.
Not a weekend goes by that a protest perpetrated by the far left or far right does not stop US Forces traffic through the gates at Ramstein Air Base, or Stuttgart, or even Wiesbaden. We’ve gone through anti-nuke protests, Army Go Home graffiti, and complaints in Stuttgart, Ansbach, Ramstein, and Spangdahlen citing aircraft noise, and military traffic. The latest “persecution” of US Service Members and DoD civilians is happening within the Rheinland Pfalz region where the highest concentration of US soldiers and Airmen are located and live. A few kilometers from Ramstein, Landstuhl Regional Hospital, Baumholder, and Kaiserslautern, the Rheinland Pfalz government is going after US Service Members married to German spouses for alleged tax evasion. Despite the fact that US Service Members and DoD civilians are exempt from VAT under SOFA, the local government chooses to “interpret” the SOFA agreement egregiously demanding thousands of Euros from US soldiers and airmen in back taxes. The loosened interpretation conveniently assumes that once the spouse is German, the intent is to remain in Germany. Germany is the only country with a SOFA agreement attempting such a nebulous attempt at collecting revenue from US Service members and their families stationed overseas.
Then there is the expense. A few weeks ago, in a futile attempt at self promoting NATO-US support, the German government indignantly stated that in 10 years it had spent 1 Billion Euros in US Military support. That equates to approximately 10 million Euros a year. A drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the approximate 8.125 billion Euros the US spends annually in salaries to local nationals, benefits to local nationals, utilities to local governments, fees to local contractors, leasing expenses to local landlords, local maintenance, repairs, and environmental regulation expenses. In the meantime, Americans contribute an approximate additional annual 2 billion Euros to local businesses in services directly correlated to their presence. These include rentals, restaurants, local stores, and travel. Tax Free car dealerships and local furniture stores sprout like weeds outside US garrisons and Bases. Their livelihood depends on the US presence in their respective areas.
That was the “hate” portion of the German-American relationship; but there is also a lot of love. We have lived in Germany since 1985. From Bremerhaven to Frankfurt, and finally Bavaria; we made friendships and connections to last us a lifetime. Germans albeit reserved, once thawed, will remain the best of friends forever. The ties between the US and Germany go back hundreds of years through immigration, WWII, and Elvis Presley.
My short stint on Friedberg’s Ray Barracks, taught me that the 3rd Armor Division liberated Hessen, but Elvis liberated the Germans. Elvis spent two years on Ray Barracks, Friedberg, as the personal driver to the Brigade Commander. He also spent a few weeks training on Grafenwohr Training Area. Every year, the love of Elvis gathers thousands of Germans and Americans at Bad Nauheim, four kilometers from Friedberg, to celebrate his birthday or memorialize his death. Elvis lived in Bad Nauheim with his father for the duration of his Army tour in Germany. This was where in the summer of 1959, Priscilla was driven over from Wiesbaden to meet him, where a shrine still stands at the front door of the hotel Grunewald where he lived at, and where “Wooden Heart” still plays loud in English and German. Elvis chose to live off post to deter unnecessary commotion at the front gate of Ray Barracks where screaming girls became the norm.
Except for this COVID year, one of the largest German-American Fest is held in our military neighborhood of Grafenwoehr. Over 150,000 Germans brave the elements for a taste of hamburgers cooked by GI’s, American Ice Cream, American Country and Western Music, and a look at some US Army hardware on display. Such fests are held on all US facilities all over Germany. That’s when nukes, climate change, politics, and Army Go Home are put aside for a good ol’e fashioned shindig which only Americans know how to throw. It’s not unusual to see Germans in cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and country shirts and skirts doing line dancing with the best of them.
In many locations where US presence is predominant, local vendors accept dollars instead of Euros. US families send their kids to local German kindergartens. Eventually the kids will learn German and start translating for their parents. Omas and Opas in small neighborhoods and villages become the ultimate day care providers, teaching American kids how to speak German and liking German food. It’s not unusual to see teary eyed German neighbors wave goodbye to American families as they pack and leave their neighborhoods to go back to the States. They hug as they invite each other to the opposite side of the pond. Let us not forget the many German spouses who married Americans and moved to the US only to return and retire in Germany. Germany has the largest number of recorded military retirees in the world. Most of us chose to retiree in Germany close to a US military installation for the continual connection to the US military which we had known all our lives, but also for the tranquility of German life. We live and thrive in German neighborhoods where we are accepted with love by German neighbors.
Americans in Germany contribute to the local lore that most US installations past and present provide German communities. My neighbors recall Americans on the German Caserne in our neighborhood. They fondly recall American families who were stationed here many years ago and returned for visits. They tell of attending American Thanksgivings, and 4th of July . There isn’t an American family that does not own at least one Dirndl or Lederhosen. There are no Bretzels like Bavarian Bretzels. Sorry NYC. Schnitzel, kase spatzle, leberkase, and beer are extraordinary, especially if eaten at a local Gasthaus or fest in beautiful Bavaria.
The reality is that our presence in Germany was not supposed to be permanent. The Marshall Plan was a startup attempt at getting a devastated country on its feet. But the Cold War changed all of that. Eventually families started accompanying service members, and the rest is history. But closing a US installation is psychologically devastating for local populations. I recall the town of Bamberg in tears as the US Installation that had been there since WWII closed its doors for the last time. After the speeches and the rhetoric, the local German population sat with the remaining Americans and reminisced and cried. A family had been broken. This was 2012. I was there for the closure. Locals still walk past the locked gates of USAG Bamberg wistfully and sad.
Germans remember when Americans numbered in the thousands, bringing with them an American way of life they only watched on a movie screen and often yearned for. In contrast to the quiet and disciplined German characteristics, Americans are loud, brash, and often undisciplined. But most Germans, especially older ones, remember and appreciate the fact that it was these Americans who kept them safe in places like Grafenwoehr, only 35 kilometers from the former Communist Czechoslovakia border. They remember Cold War West Berlin, where flights from West Germany kept the population fed and warm right after the Russian blockade. They remember Fulda, where the famous “Fulda Gap” was located. A nickname derived from the fact that it was the determined point of entry of choice by Communist Eastern Bloc should they have chosen to invade. From the North, to the South, to the East, and the West; during the Cold War, US presence in Europe numbered approximately 250,000.
We made Germany our country of choice because we have always felt “at home” here. Our small Bavarian neighborhood nestled in the hills and valleys of the Oberphalz is picture perfect. It brings to us harmony and peace in a world full of crazy. Many Americans in Germany feel safer than in their own country. COVID and other insane happening in the land of the free prompted some of them to extend their stay in Germany. Is it the end of an era? Probably. It had to come sooner than later. One thing for sure: every administration from Bush senior downwards could have prevented a Putin in Russia, but the pressure for “peace” and dismantling of US assets in Germany after the Cold War, left an open path for Russia to regroup. That’s politics and politicians. Votes outweigh common sense.
As gates to US Installations start closing, thousands of Germans are now anticipating the inevitable. Loss of income. I’ve grown to love and respect many local nationals who I worked with in my capacity as DoD contractor. Many have worked and supported the military since they were teens. They are our neighbors and friends. Not much to do at this point but wait and see. Is it goodbye or Auf Wiedersehen…till we see you again!
The United States is at cross roads, absurd to the left and irrelevance to the right. The latest victim to absurdity is the cry for the removal of Theodore Roosevelt’s statue from New York’s American Museum of Natural History. This absurdity is further propagated by the buffoonery of NYC Mayor De Blasio and NY State Governor Cuomo. Both pandering to something that has morphed into stupid without an end in sight. Historical distortion of events, personages, and truth has now reached epic proportions. The blatant disregard to dialogue has turned the country into an ignorant caricature of politicians attempting to seem “woke” or empathetic while thugs destroy public property with immunity. So what’s with Teddy? What’s the beef?
Theodore Roosevelt was the most beloved American President and entrepreneur of the 20th century. He embodied the American dream, the “can do” attitude that built a country everybody wants to be in and those currently in it want to destroy. Theodore Roosevelt was an adventurer. He was also a progressive long before being progressive was considered “hip”. He served for a short time as Governor of NY State, but spent most of his life travelling across the country and finding ways to preserve its beauty. He designated wild parks, trails, and nature walks as areas for enjoyment. But all of this has been put aside in an attempt by the likes of De Blasio and Cuomo to find Teddy‘s statue “problematic”.
Two figures join Teddy: a native American and an African man. Both representing the two continents where Teddy travelled and had adventures in. But wait, he is on a horse and they are beneath him; a definite sign of colonial supremacy and racism. That’s the narrative. Even the great grandson of Teddy chimed into the absurd. Theodore Roosevelt IV does not think that the statue reflects his ancestor’s “legacy”. Whatever that means. By the way, Mr. Roosevelt “the IV” is one of the trustees and on the board of the Museum. Let’s appease stupid to keep our pocket book lined and throw the great grandfather under the bus.
I have only recently found out that we have a Monument Removal Brigade. Can’t make this up. A self appointed morality squad. They determine the what is socially and morally unacceptable and we must comply. They have been operating since 2017 after the White Supremacist march in Charlottesville. They were behind the initial removal of the Confederate statues in the South. To be fully honest and transparent; I personally don’t have a problem with any of those statues being removed. The losing side should never be glorified in bronze. As soon as the Cold War ended, the first casualties of freedom were the statues of Lenin. We all rejoiced when we watched the Iraqis topple the statue of Saddam Hussein. And we applauded as Leningrad was again renamed St. Petersburg. Honoring “heroes” of the Confederacy is questionable to say the least. The Confederacy was based on “the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race…” (Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy – Cornerstone Speech, Savannah, Georgia March 21, 1861). As Henry Olsen so eloquently concluded in his Washington Post opinion column (June 24, 2020), “Monuments to this revolting sentiment have no place in the United States that is dedicated to the opposite principle-that all men are created equal”. I agree.
But why go after Grant, the general who defeated the Confederacy? Or Washington, who defeated colonialism? Or Lincoln, the President who went to war for emancipation? What stupid has entered our society? What historical ignorance is lurking in the halls of our academia? Have we reached a point in our country that fact and truth is irrelevant? Is erasing the truth easing the alleged pain? If we are to go back in history and punish all those who wanted a segregated South, or owned slaves, then we should start with Congress. Southern Democrats owned slavery and segregation.
Remember Robert Byrd? Oldest Democratic Senator from West Virginia? Loved by Hillary Clinton, and eulogized by President Obama as a “voice of principle and reason”. When Byrd died in 2010, then Vice President Biden called him a “dear friend”. Robert Byrd was a self-admitting KKK honcho. In the early 1940’s he led a 150 member chapter of the KKK as their Exalted Cyclops. Whatever that meant. In 1945, when he returned from WWII he passionately lamented to then Democratic Senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, another segregationist, that the military was on the verge of integrating its troops. The “principled” Byrd wrote that he would rather die and see the flag trampled in the dirt than to “…see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels”. His supporters will tell you that he later renounced his KKK affiliation and regretted it. How convenient when it’s one of your own. In the meantime no liberal has found his statue still standing in the State Capitol of West Virginia “problematic” or offensive. No monument police has been sent out to deface or remove. Go figure.
The “idiotic” is not confined to Uncle Sam. Across the pond, bands of thugs went after Winston Churchill. The man who saved Great Britain and Europe from Nazism. Unfortunately, the past is a path no one wants to take. The slave trade flourished in Africa because blacks sold blacks. They had no moral compass that held them back from selling their own to white slave traders. We don’t need to go that far back. On a “normal” weekend, deaths in Chicago are in double digits. Blacks killing blacks. Slavery is not one dimensional and is not owned by black ethnicity only. The first recorded slaves were the Jews. Taken by force to Egypt and eventually to Europe by the Romans. The Pyramids were built by slaves. Do we pull them down? In the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Empire ran amok, landing on small islands and taking inhabitants as slaves. Gozo, the small island off the coast of Malta was raided regularly and its inhabitants carted away.
The free world was built on the backs of many, but it also flourished through the mindset of those who fought to redeem, regret, forgive, and learn. The millions risking their lives attempting to reach our shores should be testimonial to the country’s redeeming factors not its troublesome past. Is there racism in America? I’m certain there is. Is there bigotry? I’m also certain there is. Are Americans by nature both? No. Americans have died and still die protecting others. They are the first to assist in disasters and conflict. They are generous to a fault. Are they perfect? No.
I live 45 minutes away from a Nazi slave labor camp in Germany. A reminder of evil beyond imagination. How can humans dehumanize each other so succinctly? Germany left its concentration camps and labor camps open to the public as a lesson in a country gone bad. Nurnberg, the epicenter of the Third Reich, still has vivid reminders of the Fuhrer’s madness and craving for imperial greatness. Germany did not hide its past, it left it exposed as atonement. Proof of what it inflicted is the shame and guilt that every generation of Germans since WWII must carry. Removing its “monuments” to Nazism would have also erased the memory of the six million that died in camps as inconsequential. Those wounds must remain open.
Every generation has a past. How far is atonement relevant? Religious zeal has killed and tortured in the name of God for millennia. Are we going to burn churches down? The Ottoman Empire ravaged Europe in the name of Islam. Are we going to burn Mosques down? How far back do we want to go to satisfy those who want reparation? The Roman Empire? The Greek Empire? The rabid anti-civilization leftist movement is seeking a better future by erasing the past. A page from Lenin’s playbook. How did that work out?
Olsen, H. (June 24, 2020) Anti-statue movement has taken an absurd turn. Stars and Stripes. The Washington Post.