You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus
—Mark Twain

Supreme Court Ghosts

Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, which cut off the ongoing vote recount process by Florida state elections officials without waiting for lower federal courts to opine, and hence decided the 2000 presidential election in favor of Bush, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor later said that “probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day,” noting that the decision “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation.” (Chicago Tribune, April 27, 2013) Considering the needless (and endless) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ruinous 2008 Great Recession, I suspect Justice O’Connor’s regrets ran deeper than her measured words. In a move that smacks of similar unseemly eagerness, the Supreme Court last week took up another politically charged case without waiting for the lower appellate courts to opine. The case, Department of Commerce v. New York, involves the...
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The Supreme Court in the Twilight Zone. February 17, 2019

This week I found myself pondering a story that brings together social, moral, religious, and legal dilemmas, all wrapped up in a single dramatic moment of life and death. One of the great mysteries of life centers not on one’s earthly life, but on what happens right after the last breath is exhaled. Generations of theologians have produced mountains of pious books, the greatest philosophers have agonized over deep moral quandaries, and terrified believers have repented the worst (and often imagines) sins, all in the most monumental human effort to comprehend, ascertain, and prepare for the afterlife. The person at the center of this particular true story is not a sympathetic character by a long stretch. Domineque Ray, 42, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1999 for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, Tiffany Harville, in Selma, Alabama. (He was simultaneously serving time for the murder...
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Anthony Hopkins Turns 402 Years Old! February 10, 2019

Hi Everyone, Last week I wrote about the curious common denominators in my three favorite activities: riding, running, and writing. There is, however, one important difference: the future. Riding and running are of the moment. Whether I’m strapping on the helmet or lacing up the sneakers, there’s the expectation of joy – tangible, physical, sensory experience that lasts as long as the activity (with lingering sense of achievement and a few muscle aches). Writing is equally a tangible, physical, sensory experience, but it has a long-lasting virtue that goes beyond my own individual involvement. I was reminded of this aspect while reading a fascinating interview with Yngve Slyngstad, CEO of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund (the world’s largest). Explaining the three purposes for the fund’s existence, Mr. Slyngstad went through the first two (stabilize oil revenues and maintain reserve funding), but emphasized the third: Generational fund: “That’s probably the most...
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Arctic Blast to Thermal Whiplash – February 6, 2019

Hi Everyone, When we lived in Arizona, experiencing weather change required driving up to the beautiful White Mountains, but here in Maryland, the four distinct seasons are often interspersed with mild days that soften the blow of winter or the torridness of summer, as the case may be. The past week, however, gave us the most extreme weather swings, going overnight from an icy, sub-zero Arctic Blast to a sunny, springtime bliss. This rare Thermal Whiplash had me shuffling through powdery snow to the mailbox one day, and on the next, grinning inside my helmet as I leaned the motorcycle into a perfect curve on the way to meeting a similarly giddy friend – followed by an afternoon 5-mile jog in the woods. The joy of riding and running on a winter day made me think of how closely these activities relate to writing. First, there is forward motion...
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Government of the Lawyers, by the Lawyers, for the Lawyers – by Avraham Azrieli

Government of the Lawyers, by the Lawyers, for the Lawyers By Avraham Azrieli *   (Numbers in the text correspond to sources cited in the Endnotes.) Here is an astonishing fact: One in twelve Washington D.C. residents is an active lawyer.1 Add lawyers who don’t actually live in the district but work there, and the total more than triples2 to nearly 120,000 lawyers.3 It is therefore likely that most adults working within ten miles of the White House are either lawyers or their clients – or both. (“Trump’s lawyer has hired his own lawyer in Russia probe.”4) Current news would make you think it is all President Trump’s fault. Who else but squadrons of competent lawyers could conduct, defend and manage multiple investigations by the FBI, a special prosecutor, and several congressional committees? Yet all those lawyers did not appear suddenly after the 2016 elections, but have dominated D.C....
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Today, Of All Days? by Avraham Azrieli

Today, Of All Days? By Avraham Azrieli (Originally published on April 24, 2017) In an Op-Ed in The Guardian titled: “The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment,” Harvard professor Cornel West calls for a new Sanders-inspired Progressive party, and lists the top 5 issues for American progressives: “The crucial issues of a $15 minimum wage and saying no to fracking, no to TPP, no to Israeli occupation and yes to single-payer healthcare …” In other words, to save America from corporate greed and xenophobic populism, we must fight growing poverty, environmental pollution, unfair international trade, lack of healthcare and … Israel. Forget all the other painful challenges facing millions of Americans, such as mass-incarcerations, drug addiction, urban decay, failing infrastructure, immigration, veterans, etc., as well as all the dictatorial regimes rising across the globe, all the mass-killings, preventable epidemics, and deadly famines. All these problems are secondary to...
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Book Review: “Girls Like You” (2015)

“Girls Like You” by Margot Douaihy (Clemson University Press, 2015) is a collection of poetry and poetry-styled short prose. It is deceptively lighthearted, or whimsically serious—or both, and full of surprises. What at first glance appears to the reader as an interesting collection of unrelated yet uniquely perceptive observations, gradually emerges as a wholesome work of integrity. Despite the variety of styles and modulations of voice, there is a theme here, distinguished by a keen eye and a sense of humor about the serious business of living. Take, for example, the welcoming piece (an initiation for the unwary reader), with “Maidservant.” It’s not until one is halfway down the poem when ominous words hint at danger. ‘His skin tore easily as he tangled the sheets,’ yet ending with ‘How I wish I could be as pure as darkness, taking whatever it wants.’ (Disclosure: A poster of Gustav Klimt’s ‘Judith’ has...
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A Merry Jewish Christmas?

And we experience it through music, because songs are the common language of all people, Jews and Christians alike, as we wish each other, in the words of Irving Berlin: “May your days be merry and bright…and may all your Christmases be white.”


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Book Review: How I Gained My Vision By Losing It – by Charles Lee Sidi (2014)

This book’s intriguing title is an ingenious pun intended. The second visible hint that this is an extraordinary book is served by its brilliant cover: The letters of the title are arranged to resemble a vision test in a doctor’s office, set against a background that appears to be a distorted vision of the side of the building. Part memoir, part inspirational, and part business wisdom, “How I Gained My Vision By Losing It” by Charles Lee Sidi makes for a rare balancing act of honesty, humility and humor, certain to bring readers to tears and laughter, sometimes simultaneously. Furthermore, this truly is a suspenseful story, an unusual quality for books of this nature, primarily because of its unique structure as two stories that move on parallel lines until both threads reach a climactic conclusion that’s both heartwarming and wise. (The unusual structure and its storytelling success should not...
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