The Emptiest Threat

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Happy Malaysian

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Angry Malaysians

Two days ago the Malaysian defense minister announced that his country’s armed forces “are ready to play a role” in the aftermath of Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Not to underestimate the prowess of the Malaysian military, but what kind of “role” could they possibly be thinking of? Assuming that they plan to send troops to “liberate” Jerusalem, I wonder how they would pull it off.

Malaysia is approximately 5000 air miles from Israel. If they transported troops and equipment by water, they could reach the southern tip of Israel at Eilat; Jerusalem is 153 miles north of Eilat and the trip can take between 4 and 5 hours If they chose another route, they would have to pass through Saudi Arabia and then Jordan or Egypt. How likely is it that any of those countries would allow the Malaysians to use their territory to invade Israel?  Iran, which does not share a border with Israel, is content to use their Hamas proxies in Gaza to stir up trouble with Israel; and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator is currently otherwise engaged in fighting his own insurgents. The Malaysian forces would be sitting ducks in the Red Sea, and it is highly doubtful that the Israelis would allow their ships to to get anywhere near Israel.

If they plan to airlift their troops and equipment, they would have to land in one of the aforementioned Arab countries or Iran.  In addition, the Global Firepower website ranks Israel at 15th in overall military power and Malaysia at 33rd (Iran comes in at 21st). If the Malaysians are serious about “playing a role” in Jerusalem, they ought to think about a role that doesn’t involve military action.

Empty threats are signs of weakness and reveal that there is very little that the Arabs and their allies can realistically do about Trump’s decision. Anytime the Arabs and their supporters look weak and unserious is a good time for Israel.

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What “The World” Thinks

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According to the New York Times “The World” is extremely upset over the President’s decision to actually implement the decades-old U.S. policy that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The headlines all scream that Trump has changed the policy. Wrong:  By deciding to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the President merely made what had been on paper a reality on the ground.  Of course, “world opinion” is really the view of the relatively tiny handful of those currently in power and their media mouthpieces, as well as violent street protestors. I might have missed it while I was out doing more productive things, but I haven’t yet heard about the reaction of the American people, but then again, what do they know? And I haven’t read in the Times what even the sophisticated citizens of New York City think.

I have heard what the Pope thinks: he’s not amused. I don’t know whether the current Pope’s opinion counts for very much since, amazingly, a number of Catholic bishops have publicly criticized him. But the Times thinks his view is very important, and who could argue with the so-called paper of record?

The official reason “The World”  is so upset is the claim that the President’s action will negatively affect the “peace process.” Of course the “peace process” has been bereft of life since Bill Clinton, at the very end of his tenure in office, offered what most Middle East mavens considered to be a fair and very generous settlement to Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack and PLO chairman Yasir Arafat. Barack accepted and Arafat rejected the plan. On his return to headquarters, Arafat ordered up another intifada. From then on, I believe, the words “Yasir Arafat” never publicly passed through Bill Clinton’s lips. (What he said in private is probably not appropriate for a family blog.)

Clinton, perhaps naively, spent a great deal of time and effort trying to end the Israeli-Arab conflict once and for all. First, he worked hard to defeat the incumbent prime minister Bibi Netanyahu by sending his very own political gunslingers, James Carville and Paul Begala, over to Israel to manage Barack’s campaign. (Talk about interfering in another country’s election; imagine any foreign leader dispatching his or her top political operatives to manage the campaign of an American presidential candidate. Impossible!) Then he proceeded to wine and dine Arafat (who previously had ordered the murder of at least two Americans), inviting him to the White House more times than any foreign head of state. In the end, it must have been clear to sober observers that Arafat and company really saw the “peace process” as an alternative means of warfare waged to eliminate Israel.

It cannot possibly be that the intellectually superior European leaders really still believe in the “peace process.” Obviously, they are really afraid of Arab terrorism and riots organized by Iran, Hezbollah, and their left wing “anti-fa” supporters who have trashed buildings on American university campuses where people they don’t like are scheduled to speak.

When I read about “The World’s” reaction, I am reminded of a story told by the comedian Robert Klein. When they were kids, Klein and his sister got into a fight because she had the temerity to say something negative about the New York Yankees. Klein’s father heard the yelling and screaming and rushed in to break up the fight.  Then he turned to Robert and said, “What the hell did the Yankees ever do for you?”  That’s the question I’d like to ask the Pope:  What the hell did the Arabs ever do for you?

Does it ever cross the Pope’s mind that there wouldn’t be a pope today if it weren’t for American money and the blood of American soldiers? Doesn’t he realize that the Vatican could have been torn down, priceless art and all, and replaced with either imperial style Nazi architecture or Soviet-style “workers’ housing”? What about Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and all the rest? Don’t they owe their countries’ existence (not to mention their freedom) to the United States? To be sure, they have every “right” to complain (another entitlement they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for U.S. protection). But that doesn’t mean that they have to exercise that right.

Yes, I know:  Trump doesn’t equal America. And lots of Americans refuse to accept Trump as “their president.”  So go fight the Constitution, the Electoral College, and current law. For the time being, at least, Trump is the president and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is in the process of being fully implemented (at least until, inevitably, some Obama-appointed federal judge from Poughkeepsie–not that there’s anything wrong with Poughkeepsie–decides that he (or she) is empowered to make foreign policy.)

He Who Shall Not Be Named, aka, President Trump obviously doesn’t think it’s ever a good idea to base policy on fear and intimidation. Also there are lots of folks out there who simply don’t understand efforts to promote peace and fairness; they see it as weakness. The current president wants to disabuse those folks of that belief, and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a good start.

 

 

Small-Handed

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The other day, a friend sent me a Trump bashing article by ABC News personality Lynn Sherr. Among the many epithets she threw at The Donald in her mostly incoherent piece was “small-handed.”  I thought that at my age, I had heard every put down, slur and insult imaginable. But this was new to me. I asked my friend what she thought Sherr meant; Sherr couldn’t seriously ridicule someone for having small hands. Besides who knew that Trump has small hands?  Who would even notice something like that on a tv screen?  Ok, I get the hair, but hand size? My friend didn’t answer.

So I figured this was just another person suffering from Compulsive Trump Obsession Disorder, of whom there are multitudes. Then I read someone use it again. I thought, with apologies to John McEnroe – You cannot be serious!  I also wondered how it is now acceptable for the politically correct to ridicule the hand-size challenged.

Then I realized what they really mean. Small-handed is a relatively wholesome euphemism for small penis, the ultimate insult you can level at a man. This is based on the belief that hand and or foot size correlates to dick size. I googled the claim and found that there is, as of yet, no scientific proof of a correlation. But more importantly, how could it be that liberals are now loudly emitting arguably sexist, if not “sizeist”  epithets?

Randy Newman was being ironic when he wrote the song “Short People,” but a number of short people were offended. I took the song to mean that bigots will always find some group of people to hate – even short people.  Speaking of that, short men are probably the most discriminated against group in the West. Lots of research shows that short men are less likely to be promoted in their jobs, more likely to earn lower salaries, and of course more likely to have stunted social lives compared to men of average and above average height. When shown pictures of popular famous men, most people believe the men are taller than they really are. The opposite is true of unpopular famous men. Almost all of those in the study believed that Churchill (5 foot 6) was taller than Hitler (5 foot 9). As a short, small handed guy, I have, I believe, every right to complain and demand reparations. I would, but I don’t like being laughed at.

A few years ago, rock star Keith Richards put out his autobiography. Throughout the book, Richards mercilessly insults and ridicules his long time collaborator, Mick Jagger. At one point, I began to think that his main purpose in publishing the book was to trash Jagger. That point was when he alleged that Jagger’s penis is, shall we say, less than impressive.

The book critics I read liked the book, but thought the penis reference was an almost fatal flaw. Other observers also thought that Richards went way too far. One of Jagger’s ex-wives felt compelled to publicly refute Richards’s claim; she didn’t mention any of the other insults. It seemed that Jagger’s organ would eclipse the rest of the fascinating story. I found myself using the now familiar test applied to fallen celebrities: Would Jagger’s dick be mentioned in the first sentence of Richards’s amazingly long delayed obituary? Richards knew he had made a big mistake; on his book tour, he went way out of his way to cite all of Mick Jagger’s talents and human qualities, whether real or fabricated.

So it is still unacceptable to publicly allege that a man is less than well endowed. As Chris Matthews likes to say in a different context, small-handed is a “dog whistle” that may or may not mean small penis. Liberals have established a new rule along with all the other rules they have inflicted on a suffering nation:  Small-handed is acceptable; small penis – not.

Quite clever, but spectacularly crude and hypocritical.

 

The Rules

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                                Harvey Weinstein and Paz de la Huerta

I have never seen comedian Louis C.K.’s act, so I am agnostic about whether or not he is worthy of the lucrative deals (now all canceled) he had with Netflix, Time Warner, and Fox. C.K. is now in celebrity hell along with many of his well-known colleagues because he masturbated in front of five women (as of the latest count) both with and without their permission. Most men (I don’t know about women), I think, couldn’t imagine themselves doing such a thing, but we’re talking about show business where, according to the New York Times:  “For comedians, the professional environment is informal: profanity and raunch that would be far out of line in most workplaces are common, and personal foibles — the weirder the better — are routinely mined for material.”

Apparently the “professional environment” has changed and with a vengeance. Why?

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley offers the most plausible reason by quoting law professor Ann Althouse: “ ‘My hypothesis is that liberals—including nearly everyone in the entertainment business—suppressed concern about sexual harassment to help Bill Clinton,’ she wrote in an October blog post. ‘Giving him cover gave cover to other powerful men, and the cause of women’s equality in the workplace was set back 20 years.’ She added: ‘Are these allegations coming out now because Hillary Clinton lost the election and the time for covering for Bill Clinton is over at long last?’ ”

Sounds right to me, but I would also cite the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill firestorm as a, excuse the expression, seminal event. Thomas-Hill  provided the feminist movement with a great opportunity to clearly establish the rules for relations between the sexes. (Cynics would call it a power grab.) The new rules sought to abolish the male-supremacist society in which men were allowed to have their way with women. The Thomas-Hill affair and the sexual harassment law to which it gave birth created stringent, if not Puritanical, regulations for male behavior towards women. Now, a male boss or supervisor could not ask a female subordinate for a date multiple times as Clarence Thomas allegedly did of Anita Hill.  Joking about a porn movie in the presence of a grown woman subordinate could also result in a federal court trial and/or bankruptcy (again, allegedly Clarence Thomas).

But then, as Ann Althouse notes, Bill and Hillary Clinton forced feminists and the rest of the political left to rescind the Thomas-Hill rules. Between the time of Thomas-Hill and Clinton-Lewinsky, a woman who made an improper sexual advance” towards a male supervisor was automatically innocent due to the power difference, but Clinton-Lewinsky forced feminists to blame the lowly intern Monica Lewinsky for seducing the “Most Powerful Man in the World.”  When Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton allegedly ordered a state employee, Paula Jones (“trailer trash,” in  James Carville’s words), to accompany him to his hotel room, expose his penis, and direct her to “kiss it,” Ms. Jones was the liar and Clinton the victim.

And then there’s Juanita Broaddrick, a perfectly credible woman in the nursing home business who wanted to discuss state rules for such facilities with then Lieutenant Governor Clinton who lured her to his hotel room and allegedly raped her. The feminists didn’t give her the Anita Hill canonization treatment either; they ignored her. You could make a strong case that Bill Clinton, his apologist wife, and the women’s movement handed guys like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and a host of others a license to abuse women.

Now, the New York Times reports that liberals are re-evaluating their unswerving support for the Clintons: “Matthew Yglesias, a liberal blogger who once worked at the Center for American Progress, a pillar of the Clinton political world, wrote on Vox.com on Wednesday that ‘I think we got it wrong’ by defending Mr. Clinton in the 1990s and that he should have resigned. Chris Hayes, the liberal MSNBC host, said on Twitter that ‘Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.’ ”

Speaking of Harvey Weinstein, the authorities in New York are reported to be building a case against him based on the testimony of the actress Paz de la Huerta. She claims that Weinstein raped her on two separate occasions in her own apartment. Call me naive, but how do you agree to meet with a man in your apartment who raped you on a previous visit? Doesn’t she have any responsibility for what allegedly happened?  In addition, Ms. de la Huerta, allegedly again, would walk around naked on the set of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, shave her private parts in front of the crew and other actors, and was fired for habitually coming to work intoxicated. In the present hang ’em high environment, I wouldn’t bet against Paz.

Growing up in the fifties and early sixties, I almost never heard a woman of any age utter the word “fuck.” For males, the F-word was an indispensable part of their vocabulary, but never in what was called “mixed company.”

The sixties changed all that. Everyone was now liberated from the old norms: in language, dress, politics, music, education, and the rules for sexual relations. The F-word and all the other words used for parts of the human anatomy and sex acts became commonplace for women in mixed company. Women could be as sexually promiscuous as men. Gone were the days when a girl who got pregnant “out of wedlock” was sent away to a distant relative and the “illegitimate” child put up for adoption. Gone also were the “shotgun marriages.” Sex, supposedly, was free and plentiful, and many males gravitated towards activities where it was said to be most available: left wing politics and show business, for example. Weinstein, overweight and not particularly attractive, figured his power as a movie mogul more than compensated for what he lacked in sex-appeal, and I suspect that for some women it did. The same can be said of Bill Clinton who once said: “All the while I was growing up, I was the fat boy in the Big Boy jeans.

I imagine that there are many powerful men, as of yet not accused, who are nevertheless waiting nervously for the sound of the wagon to take them to the guillotine. Henry Kissinger once said that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Is he now sorry he said it? In any case, it looks like he was wrong.

 

We Ran East, The Police Ran West

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Yesterday’s terror attack in Manhattan made me think of the non-violent war of the lawn signs in my neighborhood between “Hate Has No Home Here” and “We Support (Our Local) Police.”

From the report on the attack in The Wall Street Journal:  Bill Tsapalas, 55, was working from home when he heard “loud pops” just after 3 p.m. Mr. Tsapalas’s apartment overlooks the West Side Highway, and he said when he got to the window he saw people running east along Chambers Street and police running west [my emphasis].

In other words, people like us get to run away from trouble while the cops (and the firemen) run towards it. That’s why I am a member of the We Support Our Police club.

 

A Low Dishonest Decade

wh-audenAfter reading today’s paper, I thought of the poem below. I disagree with a few of the sentiments Auden expresses.  But it’s such a great poem.  And we managed to survive and prosper anyway.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

His People

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View of the World From 9th Avenue  Saul Steinberg

When I first heard the pundits use the term “Trump’s people,” I thought they meant those who live on Fifth Avenue with a fabulous view of Central Park. Now I know they mean the “white working class” and other “angry white people.” Putting aside Trump’s appearance (the strange hairdo and the perpetually pursed lips), the lack of government experience, and his “unpresidential” behavior, I cannot buy Donald Trump as a working class hero. The man is, after all, a “New Yorker,” and New Yorkers do not get elected president.

A New Yorker is someone who grew up in Manhattan, and most other Americans (of all races, religions and creeds) find them annoying, and for good reason: They give off a powerful air of overweening superiority. People from the other boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island like to think of themselves as New Yorkers, but Manhattanites know better. Even those who live in the “bedroom communities” of Connecticut and New Jersey and work in “The City” (what other town in America is referred to as The City?), like to think of themselves as New Yorkers, but as a neighbor of mine, born and bred in The City, once observed: They’re “worse than the boroughs.”

The last U.S. president from New York was FDR, and he wasn’t really a New Yorker; he lived “upstate” in Hyde Park, the place with which he was most closely identified. The last presidential nominee from New York was Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who lost twice, first to FDR and then to Harry Truman in probably the most surprising upset in history, although, arguably, Trump’s victory over Hillary comes close to or surpasses Truman’s defeat of Dewey.  However Dewey also was not really a New Yorker, for he was born and raised in Owosso, Minnesota (population as of 2010 – 15,194) and afterward lived 65 miles north of The City.  Since then, no one from New York has been nominated by either party (until Trump), despite New York’s large number of electoral votes (the largest number throughout much of American history until 1968, and currently the third largest).  Credible candidates from New York like Nelson Rockefeller and Rudy Giuliani couldn’t even win their party’s nomination.

The New Yorker attitude towards the rest of America was best portrayed in Saul Steinberg’s New Yorker Magazine cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” The picture suggests that New Yorkers believe that there isn’t much of a country between the Hudson River and the Pacific Ocean (see above). Another famous example of the New Yorker attitude towards the rest of the country is the late New Yorker Magazine movie critic Pauline Kael’s possibly apocryphal line, that she didn’t know how Nixon could have won the 1968 presidential election because “nobody I know voted for him.” Some believe that the real quote is from a speech in which she said,“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” Either way, Kael remains the embodiment of Manhattan snobbery.

Growing up Jewish in Chester, PA, near Philadelphia, I often heard derogatory remarks about New Yorkers, particularly about New York Jews, who, it was said, felt superior to all other New Yorkers. New York German Jews were even worse because they considered themselves smarter and more sophisticated than everyone. My family and their friends conceded that New York Jews were smart and funny (most of the great comedians, from Groucho Marx to Woody Allen are New York Jews), but German Jews were, like the rest of their former compatriots, bereft of any sense of humor.  Most of all they believed that Jews from New York were the incarnation of the Jewish anti-Semitic stereotype: the “pushy,” money grubbing, loud, obnoxious “kike.” Not unlike the nominally Presbyterian President Donald.

The Donald’s opponents have loudly proclaimed him to be an anti-Semite and racist. The opponents also believe that Trump’s father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The “evidence” backing this assertion is that someone who was probably Trump’s father was arrested at a 1920 Klan march in Trump’s Queens neighborhood when the father was twenty. The New York Times report notes that he was arrested for not immediately obeying a police officer’s order that he move on and that he was shortly released. The report notes that there is no evidence to support any of the possible reasons why he was there, and the evidence that he was there at all is less than air tight. Yet, from this comes the claim that he was a Klan member.

It is well known that Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser is Jewish and that his daughter converted to her husband’s Orthodox Judaism. The opponents assert that a person with close Jewish relatives in addition to many Jewish business associates and friends can still be an anti-Semite. That he lives in and is closely identified with a city Jesse Jackson infamously called “Hymietown” (the Jewish population of New York City is exceeded only by Israel’s) is apparently irrelevant as well. And we are supposed to believe that Trump’s alleged anti-Semitism (and racism) motivated Hilary’s “Deplorables” to vote for him.

To be sure, I agree with much if not most of the case against Trump. He is obviously unqualified to be president. Business experience is a good thing for a president to have, but it apparently does not mean that he knows how to get Congress to enact the programs he ran on.  I also agree that a lot of his behavior in office is bizarre if not pathological. Still they say that “his people” support him and even approve of his behavior. I don’t think bigotry has anything to do with the reasons why he (improbably) defeated Hilary. Trump achieved the previously unimaginable because he was the only candidate who seemed to understand that an awful lot of people out there in “flyover country” and even states like Pennsylvania are fed up with weaselly politicians, Stalinist politically correct “students,” government waste, illegal immigration (and spectacularly unconstitutional “sanctuary cities,”), racial quotas, presumptuous federal judges, cop haters, a ridiculously complicated health care system and tax code, do-nothing government bureaucrats and more, much more. All of that overcame the distaste that many Americans have for New Yorkers.

Now, if only a more qualified and disciplined candidate, regardless of where he came from, had understood what Trump understood and had the nerve that Trump had to run on it.

 

 

 

 

Ya Gotta Look Somewhere!

 

 

The other day the New York Times ran a column in its “Modern Love” segment of the Style section headlined “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” The author realized that the ownership of her body was in question when, in her senior year of high school, she went to buy a bra and discovered that she had big breasts:  “Around then I realized that, in this world, there would be many instances when my body would not feel like my body.” Those instances were when men who were strangers ogled, groped, and asked her provocative rhetorical questions like “Are those real?” Groping and sexually provocative utterances are definitely unacceptable behavior, but is eyeing an attractive woman in the same league? I think not.

I recently exercised at a gym where a sign was prominently displayed saying “Please do not stare. It bothers other members.” Stare means “to look fixedly” and ogle means “to eye amorously.” I guess a woman can tell when she is being looked at fixedly, but being eyed amorously, it seems to me, is in the mind of the beholder (unless the alleged ogler is simultaneously drooling).

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Art Carey once speculated that if it weren’t for the invention of spandex tights or leggings, few of the 36,000 health clubs, gyms and fitness centers in the country would exist. In other words, for young men and women, the health clubs are only partly for exercise and mostly for seeing and being seen by members of the opposite sex. I agree that the proliferation of women in tights (that often leave little to the imagination) is a major factor in the success of the exercise business.

I know that spandex tights provide support for a woman’s back, hips and legs in workout sessions, but now you see women in tights everywhere. I know that this is a horrible question to ask, but why is spandex the attire of choice for so many women? I would anticipate the answer that spandex is comfortable; it stretches. But you see lots of women wearing spandex tights in hot weather despite the fact that spandex, which is made from chemicals, is hot and itchy. At the risk of being called a male chauvinist, I suspect that women wear spandex tights everywhere and in every kind of weather because they want to be looked at, stared at, and perhaps even ogled.

Getting back to the author of “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” Does she really wish she had smaller breasts and thus were less worthy of others’ attention?  She says that her breasts elicited jokes but also “compliments from female [my emphasis] friends, promises that [her] future boyfriend or husband or lover would have plenty to be happy about.” But she is offended by such compliments. Seems to me that “owning your body” means not sharing it with another or others, which makes for a lonely, loveless life. Is that what she really wants, or is she so marinated in feminist ideology that she really doesn’t know what she wants? True believers tend to be that way. At the same time, you often hear older women (and men) complain that they now feel  sexually “invisible” and miss the attention that others paid to them when they were young.

As for me, I must admit that one of the pleasures of the gym is staring at (if not ogling) attractive women in spandex tights. One of my favorite movie lines is in one of the Harper films in which Paul Newman plays a private detective. In one scene, he is grabbed by some bad guys and thrown into the back of a limousine. Lying on the floor, he looks up and sees a beautiful woman who says, “It’s not nice to look up a woman’s dress.” Newman (as Harper) replies, “Well, ya gotta look somewhere!”  Yes, you do have to look somewhere, so you might as well look at something pleasing, like women in spandex.

 

Welcome to the Sisterhood, Mr. Comey

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Yesterday, the New York Times finally reached the summit of silliness. They ran not one, but two pieces in the same edition that compared James Comey’s White House meeting with Donald Trump to an episode of sexual harassment. Nicole Serratore, in a column titled “James Comey and the Predator in Chief,” opens with the following paragraph: “As I listened to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, tell the Senate Intelligence Committee about his personal meetings and phone calls with President Trump, I was reminded of something: the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.”

Serratore, identified as a New York based theater critic and travel writer, recapitulates Comey’s version of the meeting and then all but declares Comey a victim of sexual harassment: “The victim of sexual harassment is constantly haunted by the idea that she said or did something that gave her persecutor encouragement. Serial harassers, of course, have an intuitive sense of this, and are skilled at manipulating and exploiting it..Mr. Comey, you are not alone.”

Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor at the Times, transforms the six foot eight former FBI director into the left’s version of Anita Hill: “A man is being publicly grilled about why he was alone in a room with someone he felt was threatening him. Why didn’t he simply resign if he felt uncomfortable with what his boss was asking him to do? Why did he keep taking calls from that boss, even if he thought they were inappropriate? Why didn’t he just come out and say he would not do what the boss was asking for?…Sound familiar? As dozens of people noted immediately on Twitter, if you switch genders, that is the experience of many women in sexual harassment cases.”

She also invokes former Fox News right wingers Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly along with the now disgraced Bill Cosby (who had previously wandered off the liberal plantation by urging black people to behave more responsibly). Curiously, she doesn’t mention Bill Clinton or Jack Kennedy; she probably forgot.

Most likely Comey wanted it both ways.  He wanted to keep his job, so he kept silent when Trump, according to Comey, tried to pressure him about the Mike Flynn investigation. Immediately afterwards, he wrote down his account of the meeting. Then when Trump fired him, he gave his notes to a fellow lawyer at Columbia Law School and instructed him to give them to the always eager New York Times. Not exactly a  profile in courage, you might say. But nowadays it is much more fashionable to be a victim than a hero (too masculine), and the Times is nothing if not fashionable.

Yes, Mr. Comey, you are not alone. Welcome to The Sisterhood.

The Puzzle of Bernie Madoff

 

madoff

Robert DeNiro as Bernie Madoff

Last night I watched The Wizard of Lies, the story of the Bernie Madoff disaster. It may sound cold, but I never could work up all that much sympathy for Madoff’s victims. Even a dumb guy like me knows that you don’t give your life savings to one person. I thought of the words “caveat emptor, which the dictionary defines as “a principle in commerce: without a warranty the buyer takes the risk.” In other words, buyer beware.

Those who lost their life savings with Madoff could only have been motivated by a reckless greed inspired by the phony performance of his fund which only went up, never down. You would think that any sentient person would know that something that defies the laws of gravity is obviously too good to be true, but the victims were obviously blinded by the belief that they were getting rich (or richer) quickly and easily. The movie wisely concentrates on Madoff and his family rather than “the victims” of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

The question that Wizard of Lies poses is: What kind of man would place his family in such moral and legal jeopardy? And what a horrible price Madoff’s wife, sons (and their wives and children) paid for his crime, and I don’t mean the loss of their wealth. To be sure, Madoff was insatiably greedy, sociopathic, psychopathic and whatever other mental illnesses you could ascribe to him. But it is the total disregard for his family that is so remarkable and disturbing.

Robert DeNiro, who plays Madoff, does not try to imitate him by using “Jewish” mannerisms as, say, Dustin Hoffman might have done. De Niro is recognizable as the big city Italian he is, but it doesn’t matter, for he skillfully portrays Madoff’s maddening lack of self-awareness, his astounding egotism, and his total unconcern for the lives others.

Madoff obliterated the self-worth of his sons and his wife by insisting that they be totally dependent on him, so when the storm hit, they were emotionally helpless to deal with it. Eventually, Madoff’s wife and one of his sons came to understand who the real Bernie Madoff was, and they broke off all relations with him. This allowed them to go on with their crippled lives with a modicum of dignity.

In the end, Wizard of Lies doesn’t come up with an answer to the question it poses that is commensurate with the enormity of Madoff’s willing destruction of his family. In the last scene, a reporter who is interviewing Madoff points out to him that if he had died before his Ponzi scheme was exposed, his sons would have been the ones in prison for the crimes of their father. Madoff quickly dispenses with the reporter’s argument by speculating that they would have been acquitted anyway. Then the camera closes in on DeNiro’s impassive face as he says: Let me ask you a question. Do you think I’m a sociopath?

So, we are left with the understanding that Madoff couldn’t have cared less about his wife and sons. It was all about him. Madoff’s story is like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, but it is impossible to think of Bernie Madoff as the tragic hero.