Maine Writer

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tree of Life synagogue memorial in Maine

Thank you to all who participated in this memorial to mourn the victims of antisemitism and those who were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday October 27, 2018 by a lone gunman who murdered 11 innocent people.   This article was published in the Portland Press Herald and written by Dennis Hoey

SOUTH PORTLAND — An overflow crowd estimated at1,500 people filled the Congregation Bet Ha’am synagogue in South Portland onTuesday evening for a vigil to commemorate the lives of the 11 people who weregunned down Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Speakers said the outpouring of love and compassion for the victims represented a powerful display of the goodness in people that continues to shine despite the hate-filled rhetoric and acts of violence that have darkened the country’s mood in recent weeks and months.

Although Donald Trump wasn’t mentioned by name, several of the speakers made reference to the nation’s political climate.

Loud murmurs of assent could be heard when Rabbi Jared H. Saks of the Congregation Bet Ha’am said the country needs to “elect leaders who actually care about people’s lives.”

He also told the crowd to “let our grief galvanize us and our mourning motivate us.”
The event, which started at 5:30 p.m., caused a rush-hour traffic jam in the Thornton Heights neighborhood and sent drivers scrambling to find parking spaces on streets near the synagogue. The event originally had been scheduled for the Jewish Community Alliance on Congress Street in Portland, but was moved to Congregation Bet Ha’am to accommodate a larger crowd.

Sen. Angus King and his wife, Mary Herman, attended the vigil, as did members of the Portland and South Portland City Councils. Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland spoke and offered his condolences.
“It would have been so much easier to stay home tonight, but we are stronger together,” South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen said. She and other speakers encouraged the crowd to stand up to hate and intolerance in their communities.
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling never mentioned Trump by name, but told the crowd that when a “certain presidential candidate” came to Portland in 2016 and blamed crime on the immigrant community, that community stood on the steps of Portland City Hall the next day and protested.

And when the Trump administration tried to ban Muslims from entering the country, Strimling said the Greater Portland community stood up again and protested. Strimling praised the crowd for showing that they won’t succumb to hate.
“Today we are making it clear that we won’t tolerate intolerance,” Strimling said.
Guest speakers also lit candles for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre, reciting their names, ages and accomplishments.

Brothers Cecil, 59, and David, 54, Rosenthal, who were both developmentally disabled, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, were among the victims who were mentioned at the South Portland vigil. They were gunned down by Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old truck driver, police said.

Molly Curren Rowles, executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance, called the response to the community vigil “remarkable.”

The main hall, which can seat more than 600 people, was standing room only long before the vigil began. Rowles said the large crowd prompted synagogue leaders to open the doors to an outdoor patio and reflection pool area where onlookers could stand or sit. People also sat in hallways and offices outside the meeting hall where they could listen to speakers.
“Tonight, we have come together for strength and healing and to share the knowledge that we are not alone,” Rowles said, adding that these are “dark and troubling times” in the United States. Rowles thanked the crowd for bringing “light” to the vigil.

Portland City Councilor Pious Ali, a native of Ghana, expressed condolences on behalf of Portland’s Muslim community to those families in Pittsburgh who lost loved ones.

“The times we are in and the administration we have is one of the darkest periods in the history of our country,” Ali said.

Ali praised the crowd for coming. He said their presence brings light and hope for changing the direction of the country.

The Whitehead family of Gorham write notes of support to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during a vigil at on Tuesday at Congregation Bet Ha’am. The Gormans (from left: Zoe, 7, mother Jennifer, Kai, 11, and Isaiah, 9), who attend LifeChurch — a Christian congregation in Gorham — went to the vigil to “show them love,” Jennifer Whitehead said. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Trump visited the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, despite pleas from Pittsburgh’s mayor and some Jewish leaders urging him to stay away. Some people believe that the Trump administration has emboldened white supremacists and fueled anti-Semitism with its rhetoric and policies.

Authorities have described Bowers, the gunman, as a white supremacist who developed a hatred for Jews and immigrants.

“Saturday’s crimes, committed during a holy day and in a sacred space, remind us of the virulence of anti-Semitism,” the Jewish Community Alliance said in a statement Monday announcing the vigil. “In the days and weeks to come, we welcome all members of our community, Jewish and non-Jewish, to join in solidarity to fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of bias, discrimination and hate.”

Dennis Hoey

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Antisemitism - lessons from history have *not* deterred the evil

By Ingrid Anderson: Update about antisemitism published in The Conversation an electronic newsletter where essays are made available in the public domain. 

Associate Director of Jewish Studies, Lecturer, Arts & Sciences Writing Program, Boston University

The shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. Eleven people were killed when the gunman burst in on the congregation’s morning worship service carrying an assault rifle and three handguns.

Read the names of the victims who were killed at this link here.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, is reported to be a frequent user of Gab, a social networking site that has becoming increasingly popular among white nationalists and other alt-right groups. He is alleged to have regularly reposted anti-Semitic slurs, expressed virulent anti-immigrant sentiments, called immigrants “invaders,” and claimed that Jews are “the enemy of white people.”

The magnitude of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre may be unprecedented, but it is only the latest in the series of hate crimes against Jews. In February 2017, more than 100 gravestones were vandalized at a cemetery outside of St. Louis, Missouri, and at another Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Indeed, hate crimes have been on an increase against minority religions, people of color and immigrants. In the 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, nearly 900 hate-motivated incidents were reported, many on college campuses. Many of these incidents targeted Muslims, people of color and immigrants, along with Jews.

This outpouring of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic sentiment is reminiscent in many ways of the political climate during the years between the first and second world wars in the U.S. or the interwar period.
Star of David
America as the ‘melting pot’
In its early years, the United States maintained an “open door policy” that drew millions of immigrants from all religions to enter the country, including Jews. Between 1820 and 1880, over 9 million immigrants entered America.

As a Jewish studies scholar, I am all too aware that by the early 1880s, American nativists – people who believed that the “genetic stock” of Northern Europe was superior to that of Southern and Eastern Europe – began pushing for the exclusion of “foreigners,” whom they “viewed with deep suspicion.”

In fact, as scholar Barbara Bailin writes, most of the immigrants, who were from Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, “were considered so different in composition, religion, and culture from earlier immigrants as to trigger a xenophobic reaction that served to generate more restrictive immigration laws.”

In August 1882, Congress responded to increasing concerns about America’s “open door” policy and passed the Immigration Act of 1882, which included a provision denying entry to “any convict, lunatic, idiot or any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge.”

However, enforcement was not strict, in part because immigration officers working at the points of entry were expected to implement these restrictions as they saw fit.

In fact, it was during the late 19th century that the American “melting pot” was born: Nearly 22 million immigrants from all over the world entered the U.S. between 1881 and 1914.

They included approximately 1,500,000 million European Jews hoping to escape the longstanding legally enforced anti-Semitism of many parts of the European continent, which limited where Jews could live, what kinds of universities they could attend and what kinds of professions they could hold.
Fear of Jews and immigrants

Nativists continued to rail against the demographic shifts and in particular took issue with the high numbers of Jews and Southern Italians entering the country.

These fears were eventually reflected in the makeup of Congress, since the electorate voted increasing numbers of nativist congresspeople into office who vowed to change immigration laws with their constituent’s anti-immigrant sentiments in mind.

Nativist and isolationist sentiment in America only increased, as Europe fell headlong into World War I, “the war to end all wars.” On Feb. 4, 1917, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917, which reversed America’s open door policy and denied entry to the majority of immigrants seeking entry. 

As a result, between 1918 and 1921, only 20,019 Jews were admitted into the U.S.

The 1924 Immigration Act tightened the borders further. It transferred the decision to admit or deny immigrants from the immigration officers at the port of entry to the Foreign Services Office, which issued visas after the completion of a lengthy application with supporting documentation.

The quotas established by the act also set strict limits on the number of new immigrants allowed after 1924. The number of Central and Eastern Europeans allowed to enter the U.S. was dramatically reduced.

The 1924 quotas provided visas to a mere 2 percent of each nationality already in the U.S by 1890. They excluded immigrants from Asia completely, except for immigrants from Japan and the Philippines. The stated fundamental purpose of this immigration act was to preserve the ideal of U.S. “homogeneity.”

Congress did not revise the act until 1952.

Why does this history matter?
The political climate of the interwar period has many similarities with the anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic environment today.

President Trump’s platform is comprised in large part of strongly anti-immigrant rhetoric. A Pew Charitable Trust survey shows that as many as 66 percent of registered voters who supported Trump consider immigration a “very big problem,” while only 17 percent of Hillary Clinton’s supporters said the same.

Moreover, 59 percent of Trump supporters actively associate “unauthorized immigrants with serious criminal behavior.”

President Trump’s claims about the dangers posed by immigrants are not be supported by facts; but they do indicate increased isolationism, nativism and right-wing nationalism within the U.S. All over again, we see anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-Semitism, going hand in hand.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on April 2, 2017.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Secretary Mattis - where are you?

"...other politicians 'gin up fear' in a cynical pre-election ploy. He (Shep Smith) noted that similar rhetoric about another migrant caravan dissipated, earlier this year."
Innocent Central American migrants
Fox News’ Shep Smith debunks Trump’s migrant-caravan rhetoric: ‘There is no invasion’

Secretary Mattis "where are you?" 5,000 military?  

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, repudiated claims by Donald Trump and his own Fox network about the risks posed by a "so-called caravan" of migrants making its way toward the U.S. border, from Central America.

By Mike Murphy, editor of MarketWatch

“Tomorrow the migrants, according to Fox News reporting, are more than two months away — if any of them actually come here,” Smith said on the air Monday. “But tomorrow is one week before the midterm election, which is what all of this is about.”

Trump (wrongly) on Monday directly addressed the Central American migrants in a tweet, telling them to “go back,” adding: “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

Critics have blasted Trump for stoking anti-immigrant rhetoric and drumming up fear ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, and that message had been amplified by Fox News commentators, who on multiple occasions have portrayed the caravan as an immediate threat to the U.S.

In fact, the migrants are still about 1,000 miles from the U.S. border, and they are largely fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries and seeking asylum in the U.S.

On Monday, (incrediously!) the U.S. military said it was sending about 5,000 troops to the border. (Secretary Mattis "where are you?")

Fox pundit Smith accused Trump and other politicians of using the caravan to “gin up fear” in a cynical pre-election ploy. He noted that similar rhetoric about another migrant caravan dissipated earlier this year.

“When they did this to us, got us all riled up in April, remember?” Smith said. “The result was 14 arrests. We’re America. We can handle it. But, like I said, a week to the election.”

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Shrinking Middle Class ~ struggling in the American economy

Esther Akutekha, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has a good job as a public relations specialist that pays more than $50,000 a year.

But because of the $1,440 a month rent on her studio apartment in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood, she never takes vacations, dines out just once a month and scrapes together dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.

“I’m frustrated with the fact that I’m not going to be able to save anything because my rent is so high,” says Akutekha, who says she’s 30ish. “I don’t even know if I can afford” to have children.

Despite an unemployment rate that has reached a 50-year low of 3.7 percent, most jobs across the U.S. don’t support a middle-class or better lifestyle, leaving many Americans struggling, according to a new study.

Sixty-two percent of jobs fall short of that middle-class standard when factoring in both wages and the cost of living in the metro area where the job is located, according to the study by Third Way, a think tank that advocates center-left ideas.

“There’s an opportunity crisis in the country,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of policy for Third Way and editor of the report. “It explains some of the economic uneasiness and, frankly, the political uneasiness” even amid the most robust U.S. economy and labor market since before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

A slight majority of Americans, 52 percent, do live in middle-class households, according to recent annual reports by Pew Research Center. And another 20 percent or so live in upper income households. But that’s because they’re juggling multiple jobs, for example, or relying on investments, an inheritance or other household members who may have higher-paying jobs.

The Third Way study more starkly assesses the jobs in each metro area and the opportunities they’re providing to live a good life. By those measures, the study found that Trenton, New Jersey, and Durham, North Carolina, rank highest among the nation’s 204 largest metro areas in share of middle-class or better jobs. Honolulu and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on the other hand, are near the bottom.

Some areas, such as Myrtle Beach, fall short because of a scarcity of good-paying jobs. Among the biggest cities, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco were ranked fairly low (172nd, 168th and 174th, respectively) despite thriving economies because of their high cost of living.
Other large cities such as Washington, D.C. (14th) and Boston (61st) surmounted their high-cost burdens with a large share of jobs in flourishing sectors such as government and technology. Houston (18th) is blessed with both vibrant energy and aerospace industries and relatively moderate costs.

The rankings highlight some vivid contrasts. A factory machinist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earns an average $45,470 a year, more than enough to meet the $40,046 threshold for a middle-class job in that area.

A similar machinist makes more – $57,220 on average – in San Francisco, but that’s far short of the $82,142 minimum for a middle-class job in that area, according to the report. It costs an average $32,440 a year to rent a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, compared with $7,368 in Cedar Rapids.

Akutekha was set back in her career path because she graduated from college during the Great Recession and initially could only find jobs in industries such as fast-food and as an assistant in a law office. She got the public relations position at a nonprofit this year but, “I just feel like I’m back to square one,” she says.

She says she’s not considering moving because major cities such as New York offer far more opportunities in her field.

Nationally, the study found:
30 percent of jobs are “hardship jobs,” meaning they don’t allow a single adult to make ends meet.
32 percent are “living wage” jobs, enough to get by but not to take vacations, save for retirement or live in a moderately priced home.
23 percent are middle-class jobs, allowing for dining out, modest vacations and putting some money away for retirement.
15 percent are “professional jobs,” paving the way for a more comfortable life that includes more elaborate vacations and entertainment and a more expensive home.

A big reason for the dearth of middle-class jobs is the offshoring of millions of middle-income factory positions to countries with lower labor costs, such as China, in recent decades and the spread of lower-paying service jobs. Former manufacturing strongholds that have remade themselves fare better. Cleveland, which has become a health and biotech hub, is ranked sixth while Youngstown, Ohio, is 80th.

Here’s a look at the top five metro areas for middle-class or better jobs:

Trenton, New Jersey
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 49.9 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $50,947
Has largely lost its manufacturing base but it’s the state capitol and an education hub centered around Princeton University.

Durham-Chapel Hill, North CarolinaShare of jobs middle-class or better: 49.4 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $45,169
Part of the Research Triangle, a vibrant cluster of research universities and related industries such as biomedicine and technology.

Beaumont, Texas
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 49.2 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $37,693
Chiefly supported by the oil industry and one of the nation’s largest seaports. But the share of prime-age Americans who have jobs is relatively low.

Hartford, Connecticut
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 49.1 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $48,203
The country’s largest insurance industry hub and home to the University of Connecticut.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 48.3 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $40,046
A large center for corn processing and close to the University of Iowa.

Here are the bottom five areas for middle-class or better jobs:

Nassau and Suffolk Counties (Long Island)Share of jobs middle-class or better: 24.4 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $73,400
Long Island is an anomaly. The cost of living is high and the median household income is about $95,000, but many people who have higher-paying jobs work in Manhattan, which is part of a separate metro area.

Share of jobs middle-class or better: 25.3 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $66,049
Has a large tourism industry and is a center for defense jobs. But its cost of living is among the highest in the country.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 25.3 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $39,021
Has low costs but many jobs in tourism and other service industries are low-paying.

Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 26.8 percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $60,052
The Cape Cod community is set back by its high housing costs.

Santa Rosa, California
Share of jobs middle-class or better: 26.8 percent percent
Middle-class salary threshold: $61,506
The area has the fifth-highest housing costs the country.

P.S. Amazon leadership:  The e-commerce giant said it would increase its minimum wage on November 1 to $15 for all U.S. full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees, including temps hired by agencies. 

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Monday, October 29, 2018

A Free Press- we must have it: echo opinion by Vaughn Davis Bornet

Vaughn Davis Bornet: "Bring back dignity to my White House. Is that too much to ask?"
The amateur in the White House Oval Office has to go – and soon. By Vaughn Davis Bornet: This 101-Year-Old Historian’s Plea published in the History News Network (Thank you!)
Vaughn Davis Bornet’s Ph.D. is from Stanford University (1951), the B.A. and M.A. (1939, 1940) are from Emory University, the year 1941 was at University of Georgia. Author of over a dozen books and scores of articles and essays, he has been writing articles frequently in recent years on the internet’s History News Network. He holds “Distinguished” awards from American Heart Association and Freedoms Foundation. He taught at University of Miami, 1946-48, and Southern Oregon College, 1963-80. He was a staff member at The RAND Corporation in the 1960s. A Commander in the Naval Reserves, his active duty was 1941 to 1946. His 2016 books Lovers in Wartime, 1944 to 1945 and another, Happy Travel Diaries, 1925 to 1933 (both Amazon) are recent. His latest is Seeking New Knowledge: A Research Historian’s Rewarding Career (Bornet Books). He lives, apparently only semi-retired, in Ashland, Oregon.

By now, many of you are familiar with the (brilliant) outcries of Ashland, Oregon’s elderly scholar. Living on (now past 101), he can’t help noticing what’s happening to the Executive Branch of the government of the United States. He’s not happy! Nothing at Emory, Georgia, or Stanford, apparently, prepared him for today’s spectacle of government by guesswork. So here he is again, this time close to fulminating….

So it has come to this: Our free press is subject to ridicule; actually, it is undergoing threat. Presidential antagonism is approaching entirely too close to action.

Not too long ago, political opposition to “the press” was quietly endured as “well meaning, but wrong.” Now, the expression “lock her up” has spread from a candidate’s lips to an office-holder’s lips. It has become a slogan. Worse, Donald J. Trump’s favorite outcry “Fake News” is no longer exotic; it is commonplace, or close enough. It is regarded in some places as a normal way to refer to America’s daily news headlines.

Political rallies have long occupied partisans as election day approached. Now, it does seem, instead of governing, the White House occupant campaigns around the calendar—instead of concentrating on Congress or the passing scene.

At one time, high office holders in D. C. took an assigned position and went to work for “the duration.” Now, many top officials simply quit in mid-stream, and proceed to walk out. Maybe they are told to go, and “hurry up about it.” (Goodness knows what kind of instructions our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has gotten from his “boss.”)

In this administration, reputations fade, so much so that individuals have to leave. It is “one jump ahead of the sheriff,” so to speak. Or, “Go while the going’s good.”

Let’s say there is an Event. Our president misrepresents it. We cannot trust our president to tell the truth about it. Well, the truth is something you are not going to hear from today’s occupant of Air Force One.

In life it has long been a truism that there are “the good guys” and there are the “bad guys.” In statecraft, however, it is no longer easy to tell our allies from our enemies. Once, we made permanent friends of nations far away and tied them to us with alliances. Today, you can’t tell any ally without checking first with the White House to make sure which nation is a friend and which an enemy. Indeed, they may well have switched overnight.

This is serious stuff. The ship of state has no helmsman, it seems; or maybe he just doesn’t think it important for us to know the difference between a true friend and a dangerous enemy.

All of these things that are happening to us from within our American government in 2018 are important. But the travails of the press are damaging to the point they simply cannot be laughed off, ridiculed, treated as “no more than a joke, really.” We have to enjoy a free press. That’s A FREE PRESS. We must have it.
There is indeed a field of endeavor called “journalism.” It has standards, and concepts, and principles. All are taught in college classrooms. Our present political leader ridicules any such idea and barges ahead—to the point where his expression “lock ‘em up” or whatever it is, sounds suspiciously like a proclamation of jail time back in Nazi or Fascist days.

What I want at this point is an end to high school games that masquerade in the guise of proper conduct for leaders. In government the stakes are much too high to “play around” with them. I must have a return to sense and sensibility to be happy at rest every day.

I really want, if the truth be known, the removal of Donald J. Trump from the presidential office. If I can’t have that, I want powerful individuals in named offices (Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.) who will keep that one man from running things until his term has limped to its end.

I feel, overall, as though my country has been borrowed away from me. Totally without my permission, mind you. And somebody owes me for time spent playing at the fair grounds.

Now and then I feel like washing my hands. I want to Do Something Dramatic. Maybe yell a little. Read another book with a title like Fury, or maybe Fire, or Unhinged—and coast for a few hours or a day or so until the revelations and the prose in the new book’s pages wears off. What I am saying, I guess, is that I don’t want to be alone in my antagonism against this amateur (that’s right: amateur) in the Oval Office.

How to end this, well, has it really become a diatribe? Promise me this madman with the simple habits and all that spare money will go away. Soonest. Bring in somebody who has read in-depth of the lifetime of Herbert Hoover’s dedication; the comprehensive love of Life of Theodore Roosevelt; Lincoln’s use of language to elevate national spirits; Jefferson’s ability to raise my comprehension of self-government by framing a document that’s good for me.

For Hell’s sake: I’m sick to death of mediocrity, of posturing, of pretense, of lies told with a straight face. What did I do to deserve THIS? The corridors outside the Oval Office need new inhabitants. Trump relatives are handsome and/or pretty, but I have to say they don’t fill me with confidence in their experience or abilities. And I believe the truth to be that they haven’t really earned those high and powerful positions by earlier hard work.

Bring in somebody as president who can shame Congress into doing what is right. Figure out some way this TV star can’t pick somebody else to fill a Supreme Court vacancy with all that is bound to entail. Most of all, please:

Bring dignity back to my White House. Don’t let this fellow salute one more time; it gives me the willies to think of a general or admiral kowtowing to this guy, even if he does, probably, get a kick out of the winks and nudges at home later on.

I want my country back. Is it too much to ask?

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Bangor Maine echo - love will "trump" evil

"Recovery Rocks" blog written by Jim LaPierre*

Perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of emotional maturity is being able to respect and see value in what one cannot relate to. 

As a society, America is rapidly regressing in our ability and inclination to do so.

That’s the natural consequence of having narcissistic leaders, greed, apathy, ambivalence, and being chronically overwhelmed. 

Sadly, we’ve long since become desensitized to anything that doesn’t hit especially close to home.

I thought about all these things as I engaged in my Sunday morning ritual of coffee and reading the Bangor Daily’s website. 

There, prominently displayed in the top center of the page, was some good news – the Red Sox won the baseball World Series.

But off to the left, in a small framed article…was the story of 11 people who were gunned down in a synagogue less than 24 hours prior. School, church, and mall shootings don’t garner much notice these days. We’ve gotten used to them – which is both dangerous and heartbreaking.

I find myself reflecting on a quote John Kennedy included in one of his more famous speeches, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I have no ability to relate to what it’s like to be a Jewish American, but I understand hate and I understand evil. I also understand mental illness very well and I know we need to stop blaming it for mass shootings.

Killings like these are far more accurately attributed to racism, xenophobia, and what we’re euphemistically calling “nationalism” these days.

It sounds like a patriotic word as I hear it used in social media. And yet any informed person knows that when nationalism is taken to an extreme, it leads to genocide. We don’t need to go as far back in time as the Holocaust. We need look no further than the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia in the 1990’s.

Maybe you see my thoughts as extreme. Maybe you’d attribute them to my being a “liberal” or a “snowflake.” I’m okay with that. Here’s my concern:

Hate is becoming increasingly normative, salient, and condoned.

I’m taking John Kennedy’s caution to heart and I ask you…not to agree with me…but rather, independent of your beliefs, your politics, or your values…

Let’s love each other more. (MaineWriter- America can "trump" hate)

*Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services, in Brewer, Maine. He is a blogger with the Bangor Daily News. A Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse). 

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The premonition of Charlottesville ~ echo from Jewish news in South Africa!

White Supremacist flag

Donald Trump and White Supremacist cults on notice. 

Charlottesville is an international metaphor for hate. This echo opinion was published in the Jewish Report, in Johannesburg, South Africa! Although it was written in August 2017, the message was prophetic in tone because it could also have been written on Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath), Saturday October 27, 2018, from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania's Tree of Life Synagogue.*

There are many aspects of the Charlottesville, Virginia rally that one can discuss. One thing that struck me was the sight of the Confederate flag side by side with the Nazi flag. 

Ghostly image - The KKK and neo-Nazis marching together.

These groups demonise “the other”.
by Michele Engelberg, Johannesburg | Aug 24, 2017

Jews and people of colour should realise that, when it comes to such closed-minded people like those who were with *Unite the Right* in Charlottesville, the distance between anti- Semitism and racism based on colour, is not far.

We have both suffered greatly in our histories at the hands of those who hate us, just because of what we are. Africans and Jews would do well to recognise this. We should work together to strengthen our ties… because we actually have a lot in common.

Jewish + African-Americans = work together to fight White Supremacists and Antisemitism!

*USAToday:  The Jewish congregants- reported by Marco della Cava and Elizabeth Weise:  They were together to celebrate life, but were met by death. Most never had a chance. Just before 10 a.m. Saturday, suspected gunman Robert Bowers, 46, burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and, yelling "All Jews must die," killed 11 before himself being wounded and taken into custody.

Victims who were murdered in the synagogue were:

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American values under attack by extremism ~ antisemitism

The Pittsburgh killings targeted Jews — and America's soul

Echo analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN)The mass killing at a Pittsburgh synagogue, likely the worst anti-Semitic incident in US history, has Jewish Americans questioning whether they are now fated to live with the fear and threats at home that their community has long endured around the world.

The attack represents a flagrant challenge to America's core values — that people of every race or religion are endowed with the same inalienable rights. 

Suddenly, these fundamental beliefs are being tested in a divisive new political era that targets a shadowy concept of The Other: Muslims, Mexicans, Middle Easterners.

On Saturday morning -- the Jewish Sabbath -- a gunman shattered the sense of belonging for Jews in America, too.

This cannot be a coincidence: A heavily armed man burst in on a Jewish religious ceremony and killed 11 people before telling a law enforcement officer "I just want to kill Jews" after a week that was heavy with other acts of extremist violence motivated by politics.

Throughout history, anti-Semitism has often been an early indicator that extremist thought is gathering momentum inside a society or is being used as a political tool by those keen to exploit resentment or radical sentiment.

It is an increasingly urgent question whether President Donald Trump's deliberately divisive politics may be giving license to extremists.

He cannot be accused of being directly to blame for horrific incidents like the one this weekend. And on Saturday, he delivered a welcome and passionate condemnation of the attack in Pittsburgh, calling anti-Semitism a "vile hate-filled poison" and "one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history."

Yet,  he consciously stoked national divides, adopting a brand of politics that uses racial, nationalist rhetoric, rails against immigrants and refugees and equivocates about extremism — including after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which white supremacist marchers chanted anti-Jewish slogans and a woman protesting their presence was killed.

Donald Trump used tropes and language known to appeal to a tiny minority of extremists who might contemplate violence. Trump has recently taken to proclaiming he is a "nationalist" and berated "globalists" -- two designations that have innocent connotations in some contexts but are also recognized as code words by anti-Semites.

Events of the last week have called into question the President's warnings in a jarring closing argument to his midterm campaign that the greatest threat to Americans comes from a migrant caravan 1,000 miles to the south of the US border in Mexico.

Apart from the Pittsburgh mass shooting, a man who identified himself as a Trump supporter last week mailed bombs to two former presidents, senior Democratic politicians and CNN. All have been targets of the Donald Trump hate rhetoric. In Kentucky, a white man shot and killed two people, both African American, in what was allegedly a racist attack.

Hatred of Jews and refugees

Social media posts suggest that Robert Bowers, the alleged gunman in Pittsburgh, claimed that Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravan in Mexico. For the last two weeks, Trump has been arguing that the column contains "bad people" and Middle Easterners -- a code word for terrorists.

Bowers also condemned the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which brings refugees to the US. His attack bears the hallmarks of an outrage motivated by hatred of Jews and refugees.
But it did not occur in isolation.

Recent years have seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country and the use of coded anti-Semitic imagery in material by right-wing politicians, including some prominent members of the Republican Party.

Yet most top political leaders have not yet felt the need to go out of their way to comprehensively condemn this new wave of extremist thought, despite evidence the problem is worsening.

The Anti-Defamation League found a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 compared to the previous year, including hate speech in schools and colleges, vandalism and bomb threats.
Such figures suggest that while the United States has been seen as largely immune from anti-Semitic feelings that have long simmered in politics in some European nations, things could be changing.
Anti-Semitic themes have also been increasingly cropping up in political campaigns, raising the possibility that some leaders see advantage in using such imagery to connect to radical voters while preserving deniability.

In 2016, a closing Trump campaign advertisement blasting a global establishment elite portrayed three people as villains alongside Hillary Clinton: billionaire liberal financier George Soros, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman of Goldman Sachs. All are Jewish.

Trump's own daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are practicing Jews. Many of Trump's past business associates and lawyers are Jewish. So it's not credible to argue he is an anti-Semite. Yet, he still sometimes attacks Soros, despite knowing that the Hungarian-born philanthropist is a hate figure and Jewish stereotype for anti-Semites and extremists on the far right fringes.

Trump: 'There is no blame'

Hints of anti-Semitism are also evident in some other GOP messaging.

Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week deleted a tweet accusing Soros,former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer of trying to buy the midterm elections for Democrats, after a bomb was mailed by a Trump supporter to Soros. All three men are Jewish or of Jewish descent.

Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King recently endorsed Faith Goldy, a nationalist running for mayor in Toronto, who claims Canada is facing a "white genocide" and who has promoted anti-Jewish material.

The recent incidents in Pittsburgh and elsewhere raise urgent questions about whether inflammatory rhetoric that appeals to extremists translates into violence.

Vice President Mike Pence denies any such link.

"Everyone has their own style, and frankly, people on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences," Pence told NBC News in an interview Saturday. "But I just don't think you can connect it to acts or threats of violence."

Trump was asked on Friday whether he bore any responsibility after a Florida man, Cesar Sayoc, allegedly sent the mail bombs.
"There is no blame. There's no anything," he told reporters on Friday.

But Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, said that there is a growing acceptance of rhetoric that can endanger lives and that America's leaders must take a stand.
"The problem here is hate. The problem is there is a growing space in this country for hate speech and hate speech always turns into hate action," he told CNN on Saturday night.

"We cannot stand by as individuals or organizations or as governments when people spew hatred against, Jews, refugees, Latinos, against any group that some see as the other," Hetfield said.

Trump, who this week plans a major speech on securing the border, has used the idea that Americans are under threat from outsiders as an organizing principle of his campaigns.

He has stigmatized some Mexicans, refugees, Muslims and Africans — contributing to fervor on the right — all while accusing Democrats of trying to whip up "mob rule."

So while his fervent condemnation of anti-Semitism sent a strong message, the President is on less firm ground on the question of whether his rhetoric is providing space and encouragement to extremist views.

"All politicians and public figures are role models and none more so than the American President," said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at New York University who has written extensively about the common characteristics of strongmen leaders.

"The problem is that Trump has made it clear since the campaign that the public he is speaking to, the public he wants to impress, that he cares about, is a public that is not interested in human rights, in democracy and in loving one's neighbor."

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Arizona point of view on refugees- echo opinion

We are a nation of immigrants. 

Opinion from the Arizona weekly newspaper serving the Greater Phoenix area and Northern Arizona
With the worldwide refugee population estimated at 25.4 million, the Donald Trump administration last week announced its refugee admission ceiling for fiscal 2019 will be the lowest in the nearly 40-year history of the U.S. refugee program. 

Unfortunately, the cap of 30,000 refugee admissions — a 33 percent drop from the 45,000 ceiling in 2018, and a decrease from the 110,000 set during the last year of the President Obama administration — reflects a rejection of America’s historic leadership in the area of refugee resettlement, and an unprecedented callousness toward those who have experienced the worst in a dangerous and deadly world.

We are a nation of immigrants. And our Jewish community has experienced both the benefits of our nation’s historic open door policy, as well as the consequences of wholesale restrictions on immigration.

So we reject the simplistic notion that newcomers represent a zero-sum loss for those born in the United States. That misguided appeal to jingoistic tendencies is simply not true. Indeed, studies have shown that refugee populations contribute significantly to the national economy, and there are parts of the country that rely heavily on immigrant labor.

Critics of the refugee reduction claim that the decision will have a negative ripple effect, since other countries will follow our lead. The logic of that argument is sound and upsetting. It posits that if a world leader like the United States does less to alleviate the refugee crisis, other governments will be excused from doing more. While a contrary argument can be made — one that relies upon the good will, good sense and compassion of other countries — it is not clear that the refugee issue is a primary concern of anyone right now.

What’s interesting is how the 30,000 cap was reached. According to reports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley and others argued to keep the cap at 45,000. But anti-immigrant officials with the administration urged an even lower cap of 20,000. The administration’s 30,000 number is, therefore, deemed to be the “elegant compromise.”

Perhaps that represents what passes for realpolitik in this administration. But it is a compromise of crumbs. Instead, we favor raising the ceiling, which is what HIAS and organizations representing a cross-section of the Jewish community — from Agudath Israel of America to Women of Reform Judaism — called for in a letter to President Trump last month.

A simple raising of the immigration ceiling is not enough, however. We also need to improve our country’s capacity to welcome and integrate refugees. Properly administered, helped and developed, the refugee community has the potential of adding exponentially to U.S. productivity and success, as our own earlier generations have shown.

We urge the administration to rethink its refugee fears and to work toward developing a comprehensive, fair and productive policy that welcomes the tired, the hungry, the poor and the downtrodden to our nation’s shores. JN ~ editorial

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Republicans won't condemn Trump hate rhetoric - abandon moral leadership

by Ron Klein and Dan Berger*
More than 400,000 Americans were killed during World War II, the majority fighting the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. 

During the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered more than 6 million Jews and millions of others. The Nazi movement was based on a toxic combination of morally repugnant beliefs concerning racial supremacy and ultra-nationalism — so-called “blood and soil.” These obscene ideas were later discredited in Europe by the catastrophe of war but, unfortunately, the flames of racially-charged hatred were never fully extinguished and provided the foundation for the white supremacist movement in the United States.

Also — unfortunately and dangerously — they now appear to have entered the mainstream of American politics in the age of Trump, specifically in today’s Republican Party. Amazingly, today in 2018, Nazis, neo-Nazis, Holocaust-deniers, white supremacists and those who align with them are running for Congress — all under the Republican banner.

Arthur Jones of Illinois is an actual Nazi. John Fitzgerald of California is a Holocaust denier. Corey Stewart of Virginia has taken pro-Confederate and alt-right stances. Bill Fawell of Illinois thinks Israel was one of the “masterminds” of 9/11. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) all but admitted the truth of allegations that he addressed a white supremacist rally. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) held a fundraiser in July with Holocaust denier Charles Johnson after both had previously been criticized for associating with Johnson.

And those are just some of the Republicans running for Congress. The GOP is also plagued with candidates at the state level like Steve West, who promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on his radio show and said “Hitler was right.” On Aug. 7, he won a contested Republican Missouri House of Representatives primary with more than 49 percent of the vote.

The leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, equated innocent victims of violence with neo-Nazis protesting in Charlottesville in 2017. Trump’s refusal to unequivocally condemn the hatred in his own party and among his own supporters is an unacceptable abdication of moral leadership. Trump’s refusal to condemn those who espouse hatred and march under the Republican banner is itself encouragement and abetting of such behavior.

Sadly, Trump’s followers in the Republican Party are not doing much better. Some Republicans have condemned the Nazis, neo-Nazis and white supremacists representing their party in the November elections, but that is not nearly enough. At some point, we must all put country above party. We can argue about exactly where the line should be drawn, but is there any doubt that wherever the line is drawn, racists and anti-Semites are on the wrong side of that line?

We don’t expect leaders of either party to endorse candidates of the other party simply because of policy disagreements, no matter how strong, where reasonable minds can differ. But when hatred and intolerance are at issue, when values that hundreds of thousands of Americans fought and died for are at stake, we can and must demand more.

The refusal of Republican members of the House and Senate to endorse the Democrats running against these problematic candidates — not because they agree with them on policy, but because they have found the courage and conviction to stand up for American values — is nothing less than moral bankruptcy.

The issue is not whether both parties have members and candidates at the fringes who do not come close to representing the mainstream on certain issues. They do. The issue is that only one party has Nazis, neo-Nazis and white supremacists running under its banner, and the leaders of that party, the Republican Party, refuse to endorse the only Americans who can defeat them.

The failure of House and Senate Republicans to support a Democrat even over a Nazi makes them complicit. Statements are not enough. Only one of two candidates will win these races in November. Who do Republicans want to win? Only they can tell us, and so far, their refusal to do so speaks more than any statement, no matter how strongly worded.

Republicans have truly become the party of Trump if they cannot stand up against hatred and division. The American public — and particularly the Jewish community — will not forget the silence of Republicans in the face of rising racism and anti-Semitism, and will judge them harshly at the polls in November.

*Ron Klein is a former member of Congress from Florida and chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Dan Berger is a board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America from Philadelphia.

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Dachau - We must remember

Dachau Concentration Camp* where Nazis sent millions of Jews and others to be exterminated
Although I never thought Holocaust denial was possible, the fact is, given the very short memory spans of most people, the horrible World War II genocide must be taught to prevent the horror experienced by the millions of victims from being repeated.

With another mass killing in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the need to educate about the dangers of Antisemitism is as urgent today as it was when the Nazis perpetrated their exterminations.
Dachau: "Dad could still vividly picture in his mind the devices they used to slide the bodies into the ovens."
This following essay was published in the Cleveland Jewish News and originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, by Mike DeWine .

As I watched the racist people in Charlottesville, Va., – many in their 20s and 30s –chanting things like, “Jews will not replace us,” I was reminded of some of the most powerful stories my father, Dick DeWine, told me about what he witnessed as a soldier during World War II. Dad didn’t talk much about the war, but he did tell me about what he and his army company saw when they arrived at the Dachau concentration camp just days after it had been liberated.

White supremacists and neo-Nazis know only hate. It is incomprehensible – and scary – that there are people in America today who think that discrimination, hate, racism and bigotry are OK. They’re not.

How does this sort of fanaticism exist in America today? Is it ignorance? Do they have no sense of history?

Hitler is not just a name. He was the embodiment of evil. And there is simply no excuse for anyone today who thinks otherwise.

History is a teacher. And we must use it to educate our young people and remind everyone what Hitler stood for and the atrocities that he and his followers committed.

What my dad and his fellow soldiers witnessed in Hitler’s Germany was horrible. It was mind-boggling. And it was burned on their brains for the rest of their lives.

Dachau was a camp where more than 30,000 people perished at the hand of the Nazis. When Dad was there, he saw the ovens that the Nazis used to burn the bodies of so many of the prisoners. Even into his 80s, Dad could still vividly picture in his mind the devices they used to slide the bodies into the ovens.

He told me about going into a room next to the ovens and seeing fixtures on the walls that looked like showerheads. Those at the camp told him that prisoners were taken into these rooms and told they were going to take showers. But, instead of water coming out of the nozzles, deadly poisonous gas was emitted.

Dad also remembered walking down the road near the camp and encountering a very weak, emaciated man who had, a short time before that, been a prisoner. My dad and his buddies talked to the man and gave him food and cigarettes. They asked him if they could take his picture. He said yes – as long as it was with an American soldier. So they did.

Carl Greene was also a member of K Company. He, too, remembered Dachau. He told me that when they were there, some of the former prisoners in the camp – still wearing those unforgettable striped uniforms – actually served as their guides to show them around the camp, taking them to the gas chambers and the crematorium and the area in the camp where the Nazis would shoot prisoners in the back of their heads.

Al Eucare Sr., who served with my dad, was just 18 years-old at the time. He talked about the one-man pillboxes that stood outside the gates of Dachau. These were cylindrical pipes that stood upright, just big enough for a man to fit inside. Each of these concrete tubes contained an open slat at the top and the bottom, where guns were placed to shoot prisoners if there was disorder as they went in and out of the gates.

Like Dad, Al also remembered the horrible ovens at Dachau, which he said still contained ashes and skeletal remains inside.

These recollections are difficult to read and even more difficult to imagine. It’s one of the reasons that when the concentration camps were being liberated, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower instructed that photos be taken and films be made of the prisoners and of the unbelievable conditions in which they lived and in which so many were murdered. He wanted to make sure that we told these stories because, in his prescient words, “Some bastard will say this never happened.”

As the son of a soldier who helped liberate Europe, it sickens me that there are people in our country who perpetuate hate. The allies defeated the forces of fascism. Now, more than 70 years later, we, too, need to stand up to the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members who seek to divide us.
Mike DeWine is the Ohio Attorney General.

Dachau concentration camp Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau, IPA: [ˈdaxaʊ]) was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners

It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos, and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945.

Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods.[6] There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.

Approximately 10,000 of the 30,000 prisoners were sick at the time of liberation.

In the postwar years the Dachau facility served to hold SS soldiers awaiting trial. After 1948, it held ethnic Germans who had been expelled from eastern Europe and were awaiting resettlement, and also was used for a time as a United States military base during the occupation. It was finally closed in 1960.

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