Rep. Cheney now makes an habitual, almost daily defense of totalitarianism.

The Nazis’ first concentration camp was built years before the Final Solution.

And AOC is correctly identifying what could be the ultimate culmination of Trump’s anti-immigrant dehumanization.

She didn’t say it’s happened already.

Early in Hitler’s reign, my grandmother’s rabbi told her what the Nazis were doing and my grandmother always regretted never writing Washington, D.C. and demanding that FDR do something. Her family remaining in Hungary suffered horribly during World War II, which makes me all the more outraged at Liz Cheney’s twisted, cynical, exploitation of the anti-Semitism card. This in defense of a president who not only demonizes immigrants, but surrounds himself with anti-Semites like Steve Bannon.

So if you want to do something about anti-Semitism, Rep. Chney, why don’t you start in your own filthy backyard?

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We spend ten times more subsidizing the humanity-extinguishing fossil fuel companies than we do on education.

Walter Einenkel at Daily Kos finds that–well, morally repugnant.

“Nothing signifies how backwards our country’s priorities are more than what we spend our money on.”

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How stupid does he think America is?

We know how.

“Socialism” is now McConnell’s go-to, all-purpose epithet for any constructive policy he wants to pre-empt or destroy.

McConnell is socialism-for-the-rich’s best friend–forever!

If any Democrat–Bernie’s an independent, remember–has any sense they will pile on over Sen. McConnell’s latest splenetic outburst of socialism-baiting.

And, of course it’s time his ethical lapses and brazen corruption are investigated.

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We shall see. But certainly the new legislation coming out of Albany is a good start to arresting NYC landlord’s assault on the city, which has been ratcheting ever higher since vacancy decontrol took effect in 1993.

But will there be reparations for all the rent-regulated tenants bullied and harassed out of their apartments over the last 25 years?

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So much so that they suddenly got scared-shitless at what he was saying at George Washington University the other day and suddenly pulled the plug on their live coverage.

“President Trump and his fellow oligarchs hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism.”

Read Ernest A. Canning’s analysis of Sen. Sanders’ speech at Common Dreams.

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Once again, the “mainstream” “news” media is lapping up the meretricious provocation of US. war criminals.

Facts, skepticism–that’s not what a news organization relies on–right??

Time to party like it’s 2002!!

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One really doesn’t know anymore: here a gulf, there a gulf, and we’ve been continuously at war for almost a century now.

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Flanked by war criminals, clinging ever-more tenuously to power as well as sanity, Trump prepares a Hail Mary attack on Iran in the hopes of once again avoiding accountability for his criminal actions. The criminal actions he’s already taken, I mean. Iran would be a new felony on his rap sheet.

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OUT OF TIME exc. 2

“I know that my parents, the very people I was supposed to trust, I didn’t quite trust. When I was very young my mother told me a joke, which I well remember thinking was mysteriously not in any way funny or even comprehensible, ending with the punch line “Never trust anyone, even your own mother.” Was that supposed to be advice to me or was she recounting her own childhood experience? Or had one led to the other?

Her preoccupations with us and achievements for herself kept her busy, and probably exhausted, too. So, “Did she have time and energy to show and give you any loving warmth?”

I’ll answer for Stanley, Lila and Richard, who aren’t here to answer for themselves. I’m afraid the answer will have to be, clearly and definitely, No. For them. For me it’s probably what many people would say about their own childhood: “Some, but not really enough, not at all what I think or then thought I needed, or at the right time, or in the way I probably thought I needed it.” And for all of us I’ll have to append: “ – – for whatever her reasons.

Yet, tumbling memories make me question that verdict for myself. Objectively these memories are peripheral stuff, with no logical relationship to the question. But during the time of these involvements and my awareness I felt her warmth and love, just as I do now in recalling these events.

First, the two weeks before summer camp: Every single item – – every sock and handkerchief and pillow-case, blanket and piece of clothing had to have a nametag sewn onto it. This tiny scrap of cloth could be attached only by hand, with needle and thread; no such things as iron-ons. Packing enough for all three kids’all-summer away, she made the time for nametags.

Second: in school, beginning around fourth grade, the books we had, even though they were certainly diluted for little minds, started to get serious and began to be on serious topics. She’d buy a copy from the publisher as we were reading it because she wanted to learn for herself and along with me: Dickens, medieval history, science. She always wanted to learn – -about anything; but that was also somehow about me, about her wanting to know: What was I thinking about these things?

Third: All the groceries in those days when we were very young were packed in brown paper bags. When we first brought our schoolbooks home, for each and every one of them she made an exactly fit and crisply folded cover from the bags. No wrinkles. She cared about the books, yes; but also about us, that we’d be proud and comfortable in class, not conspicuous or disgraced, as she must have felt wearing dresses, she said, that recognizably were hand-me-downs from the families of one or another of her classmates. True, her memories of poverty and absent parents never left. But we also knew in her way she was caring for us.

Fourth, I have their monogrammed silverware and use it every day, a fancy “L” on each piece. Probably it’s plate. But I have regrets about using it every day when to them it was sacrosanct. It’s kept now in the kitchen drawer that has a plastic holder compartmentalized for similar kinds of utensils; one for forks, knives, teaspoons, soup-spoons, serving ladles – – or any optional assemblage. Five different compartments altogether, although in life there are many different subspecies within each category of silverware.

She never ran off to a dude ranch because she “couldn’t take it any more” when it was their turn to entertain; she’d be home to do her part for that. She knew her duty. Starting in the afternoon she’d lasso me in, an eager accessory, for the delicate work ahead. You couldn’t entrust certain tasks to the just-hired, by-the-hour “help”.

Acquiring them earlier in the day had been my father’s job. He’d cruise the streets of nearby all-black Bennington Park until encountering a likely-looking lone female pedestrian, slow next to her roll down the window and inquire whether the lady might want work for that evening.

(Laughingly he told the possibly-apocryphal story of once getting the reply that “O.K. but I can’t be free until after I’ve seen my last patient.” Perhaps this was his peculiar way of putting the joke on himself, of protesting the ridiculous in his own – – and our own – – arrogance and pretensions. But it may also have been his illustration of “the exception proves the rule” by pointing out how shockingly rare it was to encounter an educated professional [female!] within this sub-community of presumed concentrated ignorance and likely criminality.)

These hourly add-ons were mostly for what didn’t require constant supervision. Once you told them what to do and showed them how, they’d pretty much do it. But this you couldn’t let them do; this you had to do yourself. Unquote.

Not that I ever minded or felt put upon. It was an important enterprise even though I knew I’d be put away upstairs before the official opening. For me the actual opening would be this stage-setting long before the curtain formally rose.

With the table expanded and dressed in damask, she and I folded napkins in her precisely prescribed manner and gently set one down to the left of each plate. Next: the silver. My mother carefully opened the lid of this heavy walnut box slumbering alone on its three-legged corner table. We used our own everyday but this held “the good silver”. Therein lay piles of gray felt sacks each bulging with a particular species of tableware highly polished before its last interment after its most recent outage. She removed these slowly and one-by-one, as if taking a sacred Torah from its arc; I expected a chant. Or exhuming bodies from a mass grave. Then: glass and stemware. And now it was my time to learn and do.

There are normal forks, salt forks and cake forks; teaspoons, tablespoons, soupspoons, grapefruit spoons and icecream spoons; dinner knives, steak knives and butter knives. And, as for crystal and stemware, there are tumblers, steins, flutes, shot glasses, cocktail glasses and special glasses for different wines. The glasses all go from behind the plate in a special sequence from right to left. And some silver goes atop the napkin also in a special sequence, from right to left on the left side of the plate, and, on the right side, different silver goes from left to right.

She closely supervised every step of the way. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of silverware, tableware and stemware as well as of all object-placements rules. Her insistence on exactitude and on my learning all that she knew were to me signs of her warmth. Sharing her secret concerns and expertise somehow meant trust. We were in something together. I always loved doing these “chores” with her.

Much later it all seemed bizarrely Edwardian and decidedly at odds with her childhood catch-as-catch-can brutal table experiences that she described – – such as having been doused with icewater for the offense of not fetching an older (working) brother’s coffee on command; his offence (never designated as that) had gone unpunished, unremarked.
If you ask me again how did I feel about her, I’ll repeat that I loved setting the table with her.”

c copyright 2019
All Rights Reserved by Joseph S. Lobenthal

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on my father’s mother Sallie. You read about her in “Sallie and Joe” in Ballet Review in 2011. Now, my father Joseph writes about her in his autobiography, “Out of Time.”

This is the first half of a chapter. I don’t like the title he had so I’m not giving any!

“I first met my friend Asa’s mother soon after he told me that her entire post-Columbia-law-school career had been raising three children. This was part of his hesitant, wavering and confused prep talk. When the moment arrived, there were no introductory chit-chat or meaningless pleasantries. Her first and last and only words to me that day were , “So, Lobenthal, what are you, Sephardic or Ashkanazi? Which?”

I then understood his hesitancy when talking about this woman. He must have thought he could never get it right in his own head. Now I, too, am similarly placed. Like first wives, mothers are famously difficult to explain and describe accurately. The story also much depends on siblings present or absent, and everyone’s time of life. I’m sure, Lila and Richard and Stanley would have each described their own parents – – as the same but different from mine.

And our mother would be disappointed in me for saying certain things, particularly about her, which she would have thought should remain appropriately entombed in the family vault – – and more so for my having ever noted or thought or remembered them. In truth, I do feel a little traitorous. So in this opus I may have done and be doing my own mother, and also you the reader a great disservice.

Have I depicted her as harsh, perhaps monomaniacal? A social climber? A culture hound? An adventuress? A dilettante? But just wait. Until you see all her parts and consider who else she actually was and what else she did.

The French horn. I don’t think anyone in the family had any idea that she’d been taking it up. Do not know why or when, where or with whom she learned or practiced it. But Mother had apparently decided that she needed to take up an instrument of her own. Perhaps it was her sister Betty’s decision to take up mid-life the violin. But I have a distinct recollection of standing on the sidewalk, with my father and younger siblings in tow, watching one of the town parades – – probably July Fourth – – marching down the middle of Main. There were the few skinny, slumped-over and shriveled shufflers whom I knew to be remnants of the Civil War. Then a few more from the Spanish-American, sturdier although middle-aged at the youngest. Then, but somehow not my father with them, the American Legion gang, with their stiff blue sharp-peaked hats and Legion uniforms, proudly worn in the Great War.

And there, in front or behind, I don’t remember, amid a gang of strutting civilians, was my marching mother carefully in line and blowing her own horn, with music holder attached – – from which she was reading! I was proud and embarrassed, both. And baffled. Who were these people in line with her? Now that I’ve thought about it, maybe ti was the fire department, but they always have uniforms (and I don’t remember if she or they did). Or was it the Masons or some ladies’ auxiliary?

Another of her stealth activities about which we were told nothing: her drawing lessons. One evening we were seated at the dining room table. She silently produced a sketch pad and handed it around. It contained two penciled landscapes. There were gently rubbed areas for dusk and graceful tall trees in an open field. and a few sturdy bushes in the foreground. More than sketches, to me they were beautiful completed pictures. “Who did these?” I asked, too impressed to imagine she’d been the artist. But she just smiled and I knew.

As with the French horn, this venture soon faded into oblivion – – as far as anyone knew. Without explanation we saw no more of those wonderful first or any later drawings. I wish I had just one of them today.

Throughout she knit. Richard and I received identical green and gray wool sweater vests. I loved to wear mine. And in colors that never before or since coexisted she showed her whimsy by producing a torrent of yarmulke-like caps to warm my father’s hair-free pate. He donned one or another around the house after doffing his business uniform, or in other situations in which his dignity wouldn’t be betrayed.

I did, literally, hear of her next venture. This time it was possibly when she was just beginning to get interested. One afternoon I came home and found her at the breakfast-room table, eyes closed and her right-hand fingers softly drumming the tabletop, almost as if she were playing a right-hand piano solo. This was the beginning of a hobby that became a passion. She was practicing Morse code.

Her radio involvement became ever-more-acute. Of course, in short order she became expert in using the Code. She sent away for a kit and, following the complicated instructions, first mastering the skill of soldering, built her own very- elaborate-looking transmitter and receiver, ultimately housed in the den. She soon studied and became a certified “ham”. And she “met” via Morse transmission a number of apparently-similarly-situated housewife ham operators. Soon they had established an informal alliance named YLRL, the Young Ladies’ Radio League. They dined in person a couple of times and I think worked with her in her subsequent military endeavor.

We had entered World War II. First she spent several months as a volunteer ambulance driver for a hospital at a nearby Army Air Corps base. Then she was recruited by the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division. There she worked in secret every day at a location she was forbidden to reveal, doing what she wasn’t allowed to say, but was certainly associated with her ham radio skills. For this after the war she was commemorated by a certificate that “appreciatively” acknowledged her five months “loyalty and devotion to duty” in the Intelligence Division. And it’s to be noted that this in no way conflicted with her continuing to supervise our music on an hourly basis.

And please don’t forget all the people who came up to me all the time up to the very end of her life and said, “Your mother’s too good. We’re afraid to play with or against her. But we love it. She’s the best, the fiercest, the finest bridge player any of us ever saw.” All this is well and good, you might say, but what about your personal interactions, your memories of her as a person and a parent, your own feelings?”

c Copyright 2019
All Rights Reserved by Joseph S. Lobenthal

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