Monthly Archives: October 2018

All’s Wells That Ends Welles

Related imageEighty years ago tonight, October 30, 1938, one Welles (Orson) staged a radio theater production of another Wells’ (author H. G.) science fiction classic The War of the Worlds.  Tonight, Rupert Murdoch and Fox News brings you an updated version La Guerra de los Mundos.  Below is an excerpt from the highly guarded script, obtained from Russians who hacked Donald Trump’s un-encrypted iPhone.

The War of the Worlds
Donald Trump and Fox Theatre on the Air
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TRUMP:  It was near the end of October. Business was better. My bad hair day was over. More men were back at work.  (Women were also back at work making 78 cents on the dollar.) Sales were picking up. On this particular evening, October 30, the White House communications office estimated that thirty-two million people were listening in on radios.  (FactCheck: The U.S. Park Service reported it was more like 500,000.)

ANNOUNCER #1:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. From the Melania Room in Trump Tower in New York City, we bring you the music of Kid Rock and Kanye West. With a touch of the Spanish. Kid Rock leads off with “La Cumparsita.”


ANNOUNCER #2:  Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from Fox Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, White House national security advisor John Bolton, reports observing several trails of dust, occurring at regular intervals just south of the Mexican border. The spectroscope indicates the dust to be moving towards the United States.  We now return you to the music of Kid Rock and Kanye West, playing for you in the Melania Room of Trump Tower, situated in downtown New York.


ANNOUNCER #1:  Now a tune that never loses favor, the ever-popular “Star Dust.” Kanye West . . .


ANNOUNCER TWO: Ladies and gentlemen, following on the news given in our bulletin a moment ago, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has requested all on-duty agents across the country keep a watch out for any further disturbances occurring along the Rio Grande River. Due to the unusual nature of this occurrence, we have arranged an interview with White House policy advisor Stephen Miller, who will give us his views on the event.  In a few moments we will take you to INS headquarters outside Laredo, Texas. We return you until then to the music of Kid Rock and Kanye West.

(MUSIC . . .)

ANNOUNCER TWO:  We are now ready to take you to the Mexico border where Carl Phillips, our commentator, will interview senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. We take you now to Laredo, Texas


PHILLIPS:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Carl Phillips, speaking to you from INS headquarters outside Laredo. I am standing in a large semi-circular room, pitch black except for a narrow window in the south-facing wall. Through this opening I can see across the Rio Grande River. The ticking sound you hear is the vibration of the clockwork. Stephen Miller stands directly beside me on a small platform, peering through a giant lens. I ask you to be patient, ladies and gentlemen, during any delay that may arise during our interview. Besides his ceaseless watch of the Mexican frontier, Miller may be interrupted by telephone or other communications. During this period he is in constant touch with the other alt-right fear mongers around the world . . . Mr. Miller, may I begin our questions?

MILLER:  At any time, Mr. Phillips.

PHILLIPS: Mr. Miller, would you please tell our radio audience exactly what you see as you observe the border area through your telescope?

MILLER: Nothing unusual at the moment, Mr. Phillips. Just a few flat bed trunks and what looks like people, mostly women and children, rehearsing for the annual Day of the Dead parade.

PHILLIPS: In your opinion, is this significant?

MILLER:  It could be.  They do not call it “the day of the dead” for nothing?

PHILLIPS: Then you’re quite convinced as a alt-right nationalist that living intelligence as we know it does not exist in Latin America?

MILLER: I’d say the chances against it are a thousand to one.

PHILLIPS: By the way, Mr. Miller, for the benefit of our listeners, how far are these people from the border?

MILLER: Approximately 1,000 miles or, as we say, one day’s walking distance.

(OFF MIKE) Thank you.


PHILLIPS: Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, someone has just handed Miller a message. While he reads it, let me remind you that we are speaking to you from INS headquarters outside Laredo, Texas . . . One moment, please. Miller has passed me a message which he has just received . . . Mr. Miller, may I read the message to the listening audience?

MILLER: Certainly, Mr. Phillips

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, I shall read you a wire addressed to Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Natural History Museum, New York. “9:15 P. M. eastern standard time. Seismograph registered shock of almost earthquake intensity occurring within a radius of twenty miles of El Paso. Please investigate. Signed, Lloyd Gray, Chief of Astronomical Division” . . . Mr. Miller, could this occurrence possibly have something to do with the disturbances observed south of the border?

MILLER: Hardly, Mr. Phillips. Those Latinos really know how to party.  It could be a geological effect similar to fracking. However, we shall send a research team to investigate, as soon as daylight permits.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Professor. Ladies and gentlemen, for the past ten minutes we’ve been speaking to you from INS headquarters outside Laredo, bringing you a special interview with White House advisor Stephen Miller. This is Carl Phillips speaking. We are returning you now to our New York studio.


ANNOUNCER TWO: We take you now to El Paso, Texas.


PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Carl Phillips again . . . I hardly know where to begin, to paint for you a word picture of the strange scene before my eyes, like something out of a modern “Arabian Nights.” Well, I just got here. I haven’t had a chance to look around yet. I guess that’s it. Yes, I guess that’s the . . . thing, directly in front of me.  What I can see of the . . . object itself doesn’t look very much like a caravan, at least not the caravans I’ve seen. It looks more like a huge bread line straight out of the Great Depression.  It has a diameter of . . . what would you say, Mr. Miller?

MILLER (OFF-MIKE): What’s that?

PHILLIPS: What would you say . . . what is the diameter?

MILLER: About thirty yards.

PHILLIPS: About thirty yards . . . well, I’ve never seen anything like it. The color is sort of brown-ish. Curious spectators now are pressing close  in spite of the efforts of the police to keep them back. They’re getting in front of my line of vision. Would you mind standing to one side, please?

POLICEMAN: One side, there, one side.

PHILLIPS: While the policemen are pushing the crowd back, here’s Mr. Wilmuth, who owns the property where the aliens crossed the border. He may have some interesting facts to add . . . Mr. Wilmuth, would you please tell the radio audience as much as you remember of these rather unusual visitors that dropped in your backyard? Step closer, please. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Wilmuth.

WILMUTH: Well, I was listenin’ to the radio.

PHILLIPS: Closer and louder please.

WILMUTH: Pardon me!

PHILLIPS: Louder, please, and closer.

WILMUTH: Yes, sir — while I was listening to the radio and kinda drowsin’, that Miller fellow was talkin’ about the caravan, so I was half dozin’ and half…

PHILLIPS: Yes, yes, Mr. Wilmuth. Then what happened?

WILMUTH: As I was sayin’, I was listenin’ to the radio kinda halfways . . .

PHILLIPS: Yes, Mr. Wilmuth, and then you saw something?

WILMUTH: Not first off. I heard something.

PHILLIPS: And what did you hear?

WILMUTH: A strumming sound. Like this: (makes strumming sound). . . kinda like a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

PHILLIPS: Then what?

WILMUTH: Turned my head out the window and would have swore I was to sleep and dreamin.’


WILMUTH: I heard a splashing sound and then zingo!  A bunch of people came up from the river.  Knocked me clear out of my chair!

PHILLIPS: Well, were you frightened, Mr. Wilmuth?

WILMUTH: Well, I — I ain’t quite sure. I reckon I — I was kinda riled.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Mr. Wilmuth. Thank you.

WILMUTH: Want me to tell you some more?

PHILLIPS: No . . . That’s quite all right, that’s plenty.

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve just heard Mr. Wilmuth. I wish I could convey the atmosphere . . . the background of this . . . fantastic scene. Hundreds of cars are parked in a field in back of us. Police are trying to rope off the roadway leading off Mr. Wilmuth’s ranch. But it’s no use. They’re breaking right through. Cars’ headlights throw an enormous spot on the pit where the object’s half buried. Some of the more daring souls are now venturing near the edge carrying tiki torches. Their silhouettes stand out against headlights of the flat-bed truck.

One man wants to touch the aliens. . . he’s having an argument with a policeman. The policeman wins. . . . Now, ladies and gentlemen, there’s something I haven’t mentioned in all this excitement, but now it’s becoming more distinct. Perhaps you’ve caught it already on your radio. Listen:

(LONG PAUSE) . . .

Do you hear it? The aliens are speaking in what must be their language.  I’ll move the microphone nearer. (PAUSE) Now we’re not more then twenty-five feet away. Can you hear it now? Oh, Mr. Miller!

MILLER: Yes, Mr. Phillips?

PHILLIPS: Can you tell us what the aliens are saying?

MILLER:  It must be some kind of code.  So we cannot know how they will carry out their plans to distribute drugs, infect the population with supposedly eradicated diseases like small pox or steal our jobs .

PHILLIPS: I see, do you still think it’s a caravan?

MILLER: I don’t know what to think. I just know they represent a mortal threat to our way of life.

PHILLIPS: Just a minute! Something’s happening! Ladies and gentlemen, this is terrific!

VOICES: They’re movin’!  Keep back, I tell you!


VOICES: It’s open.  The door to the flat-bed truck is opening! Look out there! Stand back!

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed . . . Wait a minute! Someone’s crawling out of the cab. Someone or . . . something. I can see peering out . . are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be . . .


PHILLIPS: Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it . . . Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by . . . possibly gravity or something. The thing’s raising up. The crowd falls back now. They’ve seen plenty. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can’t find words . . . I’ll pull this microphone with me as I talk. I’ll have to stop the description until I can take a new position. Hold on, will you please, I’ll be right back in a minute.


TRUMP:  Tune in for tomorrow night’s rally from Fort Myers, Florida to hear how I alone will save America from these alien invaders.  Happy Halloween.  Be afraid, very afraid!

POSTSCRIPT:  Thanks to which posted the script from the original 1938 broadcast.

For what it’s worth!


Enough Already

Related imageNext Spring Jews around the world will again come together for the Passover Seder, a ritual meal during which the story of the exodus from Egypt is commemorated with the reading of the Haggadah.  The service also includes various songs, the most beloved of which is “Dayenu,”  which in Hebrew loosely translates into  “it would have been enough.”  After each verse beginning with, “If He (the Lord) had brought us out of Egypt and not carried out judgment against them,” all assembled respond “Dayenu.”  The final verse, “If He had brought us into the land of Israel and not built for us the Holy Temple, Dayenu.”

Even as a devout agnostic, I still enjoy the Seder for its cultural and historical significance.  In recent years, modern prayers have been added to the traditional text in which Jews acknowledge the Exodus is not complete until all people are free from slavery and persecution.  It is this universal message that Jews have not fully escaped the bondage of slavery until all share in our freedom which makes me still proud of my Jewish heritage and upbringing.

However, this coming Spring it will be more difficult to listen to the words of “Dayenu.”  I wonder if it is time to further modernize the Passover observance with a different song.  In Hebrew the title reads, “מספיק כבר” (transliterated mahs-peek key-bar).  In English, “Enough Already.”

Let me share a few possible verses.

Though Russian Jews were persecuted and driven from their homes by the czars and Bolsheviks, did six million have to die in the Holocaust?
מספיק כבר, Enough Already!

Though six million died in the Holocaust, did so many more have to die in wars to preserve the State of Israel, our homeland?
מספיק כבר, Enough Already!

Though many more died in wars to save our homeland, did Israeli athletes have to be murdered at the Munich Olympics?
מספיק כבר, Enough Already!

Though Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics, did 11 American Jews have to be gunned down in their own synagogue?
מספיק כבר, Enough Already!

As Tevye the dairyman pleads in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”  Tevye, sadly your God has become less discriminating.  The chosen now include:

  • elementary school children in New Town,
  • gay patrons of The Pulse club in Orlando,
  • fans of country music at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas,
  • students at Mary Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
  • participants in a bible study class at Emanuel AME church in Charleston,
  • Amish girls in their school house in Nickel Mills, PA,
  • members of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin,
  • workers and children in day care at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City,
  • journalists and editors at the Annapolis Capital Gazette.

All victims of DOMESTIC terrorists motivated not by some disdain for capitalism or the American way of life, but rooted in hatred of fellow Americans.  Recruited, emboldened and enabled by our national discourse.   

So often, in times of tragedy, I hear religious leaders talk about how acts of violence and the attendant loss of friends and loved ones are God’s way of challenging us to be strong and to act to make the world a better place.  Christian clergy will refer to the New Testament passage in James 2:14, “Faith without works is dead.” Regardless of one’s motivation, spiritual or humanistic, perhaps it is time for all people of good will to declare, “מספיק כבר, Enough Already!”

For what it’s worth.

For Whom the Beale Tolls

Related imageIn the past two years, several pundits have referenced the 1976 movie Network. Paddy Chayevsky’s Oscar-winning screenplay under Sidney Lumet’s direction is a tour de force, tracing the evolution of television journalism from reporting the news to entertainment and punditry.  In some corners, it has been described as a visionary prediction of the rise of 24/7 cable news.

It is also one of the most quoted films in the annuls of American cinema. There is the always popular Howard Beale (Peter Finch) rant, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Or Ned Beatty’s soliloquy as Arthur Jensen, the fictional head of CC&A, the corporate parent of USB, the network for which Beale works.  To convince Beale an Arab buyout of CC&A is not the horror story Beale envisions, Jensen waxes philosophically about how the world is made up, not of sovereign nations, but global corporations.  His monologue has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the most outstanding screen moments since the addition of sound to moving pictures.

Related imageAs we approach the end of this election cycle, Jensen’s words are less important than their impact on Beale, whose renewed popularity and ratings began when he started speaking up for the common man.  On the first episode of The Howard Beale Hour following his confrontation with Jensen, Beale serenades his audience with a completely different tune.

Last night, I got up here and asked you people to stand up and fight for your heritage, and you did and it was beautiful. Six million telegrams were received at the White House. The Arab takeover of C.C. and A. has been stopped. The people spoke, the people won. It was a radiant eruption of democracy. But I think that was it, fellers. That sort of thing isn’t likely to happen again. Because, in the bottom of all our terrified souls, we all know that democracy is a dying giant, a sick, sick dying, decaying political concept, writhing in its final pain.

I don’t mean the United States is finished as a world power. The United States is the most powerful, the richest, the most advanced country in the world, light-years ahead of any other country. And I don’t mean the Communists are going to take over the world. The Communists are deader than we are. What’s finished is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It’s the individual that’s finished. It’s the single, solitary human being who’s finished. It’s every single one of you out there who’s finished. Because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. This is a nation of two hundred odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter- than-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings and as replaceable as piston rods —

November 6th, we have the chance to prove Howard Beale wrong.  There can be another “radiant eruption of democracy.”  This is our opportunity to remind the powers that be in Washington, D.C. and state capitals across the United States, this remains a country “dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual.”

WE THE PEOPLE are neither “unnecessary” nor “replaceable.”  Replaceable are public officials who enable and embolden a modern day Arthur Jensen who values personal wealth above the common welfare.

For what it’s worth.


It Is Never Too Soon

In 2014, comedian Lianna Carrera wrote, “Comedy is the voice of an undercurrent asking us to do better.”  This concept was never more tested than in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.  People like George Carlin and Lewis Black, who I consider modern versions of Will Rogers, used humor, not to minimize the solemnity of a terrorist attack, but to point out simple truths or when some less than serious responses exceeded the limits of sanity.  Take Black’s opening at his first concert post-9/11.

Everybody in this country, as soon as it happened, everyone, had that little moment…oh, that really f***s up my plans…Even the Christian said I won’t be able to read to the blind woman.  F***!

People started calling me up.  I had more calls about my stand-up comedy than I ever had in my whole life.  USA Today called me.  USA Today, who never ever…they didn’t call me up for a subscription.  It’s like three days after September 11.  I say, “What the f*** you talking to me for?  How stupid are you?  Talk to someone who f***ing knows sh**!  What are you talking to a comic for?”  “We’re interested in what comics are doing?”  “Get an expert.  Get more experts.  Wait a week before talking to the ***holes!”

Well times have changed.  NO, this is not about liberals being too politically correct to joke about a domestic terrorist sending explosives to his hero’s critics or another domestic terrorist who believes making American great again requires killing all the Jews.  It is the sad fact we don’t need George Carlin or Lewis Black any more.  My wife is always reminding me the funniest Tina Fey impersonations of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live did not come from the writers’ room but from Palin’s own mouth.  But that was just an opening act for what was to come.

Yesterday was the latest example.  In the immediate aftermath of the murder of 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Donald Trump said, “If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him.”  The only thing that surprised me was he did not propose a new branch of the military,  a special unit dedicated to the protection of places where Jews assemble.  Or maybe I misunderstood what he was proposing on June 18, 2018.  These are his exact words with the sole exception of the addition of the words “Jews” and “Jewish.”

When it comes to defending American Jews, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in Jewish space. We must have American dominance in Jewish space. So important.

Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Jewish space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.

We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Jewish Space Force — separate but equal. It is going to be something.

Following the speech, Trump retired to the White House theater to watch the latest James Bond movie in which Bond goes undercover as a temple security guard with a “licence to shpiel.”

For what it’s worth.


Was It Worth It?

Based on early reports, eight to ten congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are dead.  Upon entering the synagogue, the shooter Robert Bowers yelled, “All Jews must die.” We have a right to be shocked, but not to be surprised.  It was inevitable.

And you may call the timing coincidental but as former CIA officer Malcolm Nance always says, “Coincidences take a lot of planning.”  Just last week, Donald Trump referred to himself as a proud nationalist.  His declaration was celebrated by The Daily Stormer, an on-line neo-Nazi publication which, within an hour of the Pittsburgh shooting, posted the following, “Please Jesus Christ let it be Moslems.”  Sorry, it appears to be one of your own.

I am more angry than shocked.  Angry at any American who thinks he or she (though it always seems to be a male) has a right to gun down people who are different from themselves.  Angry at the current occupant of the White House who cannot find it within himself to unequivocally condemn those who profess white supremacy, antisemitism and xenophobia.  Angry at the GOP sycophants who would be screaming to high heaven if such behavior was coming from someone other than the leader of their party.  But mostly, I am angry at my fellow “members of the tribe” who continue to support Trump.  To this last group I say:

If you are enjoying your massive tax cut, in light of today’s massacre of your Jewish brethren, was it worth it?

If you are pleased your stock portfolio has increased over the past two years, in light of today’s massacre of your Jewish brethren, was it worth it?

If you think deregulation and climate change denial are the keys to economic growth, in light of today’s massacre of your Jewish brethren, was it worth it?

If you are happy with the symbolic relocation of the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in light of today’s massacre of your Jewish brethren, was it worth it?

For whatever reason you believe you should continue to support a public official who is the darling of the most extreme elements of hatred and prejudice, I ask, “Was it worth it?”  To paraphrase Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum during his recent debate with Republican opponent Ron deSantis, “I am not calling Donald Trump antisemitic, but anti-Semites think he is one.”  Maybe, it’s time to take them seriously.  And while I find it increasingly difficult to understand why any Jewish voter with a conscience would ever support Donald Trump, the same can be said of anyone, regardless of race or religion, who claims to be a person of good will, but turns away when confronted by their own role in enabling a culture of hatred and bigotry.

Perhaps there is no better time to recall the words of Martin Nielmöller.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Now is the time to speak up, before it is too late for all of us.

For what it’s worth.