Bob Schwartz

Month: March, 2018

Music for the Holidays: Redemption Song by Bob Marley

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Bob Marley, Redemption Song

Passover. Easter. The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Bob Marley. Redemption Song.

Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it
We’ve got to fulfill the Book

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs
Redemption songs

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Books for Passover and Easter

Passover

If you are celebrating Passover or just interested in it, you are familiar with the Haggadah—the book used as a roadmap for the seder meal and rituals that take place on the first couple of evenings of Passover.

There are widely adopted traditions for the seder that include the retelling of the Exodus story and the eating of symbolic foods. But the exact content and form of the seder have long been flexible, and this variety is reflected in different Haggadot. There are hundreds of versions.

For the Passover observant and the P-curious, I recommend a deeper dive than the typical Haggadah—a set of books from Jewish Lights entitled My People’s Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries – Volume 1 and Volume 2.

From the editors:

In two volumes, this empowering resource for the spiritual revival of our times enables us to find deeper meaning in one of Judaism’s most beloved traditions, the Passover Seder. Rich Haggadah commentary adds layer upon layer of new insight to the age-old celebration of the journey from slavery to freedom—and makes its power accessible to all.

This diverse and exciting Passover resource features the traditional Haggadah Hebrew text with a new translation designed to let you know exactly what the Haggadah says. Introductory essays help you understand the historical roots of Passover, the development of the Haggadah, and how to make sense out of texts and customs that evolved from ancient times.

Framed with beautifully designed Talmud-style pages, My People’s Passover Haggadah features commentaries by scholars from all denominations of Judaism. You are treated to insights by experts in such fields as the Haggadah’s history; its biblical roots; its confrontation with modernity; and its relationship to rabbinic midrash and Jewish law, feminism, Chasidism, theology, and kabbalah.

No other resource provides such a wide-ranging exploration of the Haggadah, a reservoir of inspiration and information for creating meaningful Seders every year.

These are a bit bulky for the seder table itself. But they are the sort of books you would read if you wanted to understand why people are sitting at the seder table in the first place and why the traditions are so broad and sometimes so misunderstood. If Passover is just going through the motions, any seder and any Haggadah will do. If Passover is one piece of a much bigger picture to be investigated, these enlightening commentaries are what you need.

Easter

Close to each other. Very close. Passover begins tonight on Friday March 30. Easter is this Sunday April 1.

The calendar isn’t all that’s close. The Jewish story and the Christian story, in general and in the context of these particular holidays, are essentially and inextricably linked. The nature of those stories and those connections is the source of faith, enlightenment, misunderstanding, mistrust, even hatred and violence. Among Jews and Christians.

Any big moment on the Jewish and Christian calendars (and these holidays qualify) is an opportunity not just for ritual celebration but for study. How well do we—Jews, Christians, others—understand the texts and traditions outside the comfortable conventions of our belief and practice? Not just understanding that will confirm our faiths, allowing us to nod our heads and pat ourselves on our collective backs, but new and even startling understanding that might shake us and even make us uncomfortable. Everything we know about Judaism or Christianity, about the Bible, about history, may not be wrong, but maybe we could benefit from another open and learned perspective.

The second edition of the The Jewish Annotated New Testament was published last year; any and every Jew or Christian should read at least a little of it. So should everyone else who wants to know something about the foundations of this consequential moment in scripture, history and religion. Believers and nonbelievers may think they know what they’re dealing with. Many don’t.

The editors explain:

It is almost two millennia since the earliest texts incorporated into the New Testament were composed. For the most part, these centuries have seen a painful relationship between Jews and Christians. Although Jewish perceptions of Christians and Christian perceptions of Jews have improved markedly in recent decades, Jews and Christians still misunderstand many of each other’s texts and traditions. The landmark publication of this book is a witness to that improvement; ideally, it will serve to increase our knowledge of both our common histories and the reasons why we came to separate…

The Jewish Annotated New Testament represents the first time a gathering of Jewish scholars wrote a complete commentary on the New Testament. It reached a wide Jewish and Christian audience, and in doing so it has begun to increase both Jewish literacy of the New Testament and Christian awareness of the New Testament’s Jewish context. It has become widely used in colleges, universities and seminaries, as well as in Jewish, Christian, and joint Jewish-Christian study groups. Many Christian clergy and religious educators from different Christian denominations and church settings have told us that they have integrated the insights of this book into their preaching and devotion. Because of this volume, we have been told numerous times, sermons have been corrected, anti-Jewish teaching and preaching have been avoided, and Christians in churches and classrooms and Bible studies have learned more about Jesus and his followers. Jewish readers have told us how the volume has encouraged them to read the New Testament for the first time, to begin to consider the complex relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and how better to understand both their Christian neighbors and their own Jewish history….

For Christian readers The Jewish Annotated New Testament offers a window into the first-century world of Judaism from which the New Testament springs. There are explanations of Jewish concepts such as food laws and rabbinic argumentation. It also provides a much-needed corrective to many centuries of Christian misunderstandings of the Jewish religion.

For Jewish readers, this volume provides the chance to encounter the New Testament–a text of vast importance in Western European and American culture–with no religious agenda and with guidance from Jewish experts in theology, history, and Jewish and Christian thought. It also explains Christian practices, such as the Eucharist.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition is an essential volume that places the New Testament writings in a context that will enlighten readers of any faith or none.

 

More Likely Than Ever That Trump Will Fire Mueller and Use Presidential Pardons

Trump is finding it hard to enlist first-class legal talent to represent him. Some like John Dowd have resigned. There are daily reports now of expert lawyers refusing to join the legal team, something likely to continue indefinitely.

In his business life, Trump was able to get by with lawyers of moderate skill whose main attributes were toughness, meanness and loyalty. Trump loved instigating legal messes, and when threats of litigation didn’t work, he settled on settlements. Or, in some cases when matters actually went to trial, he just plain lost.

Even before the Mueller investigation is completed, the legal troubles are mounting. The tough, mean, threatening, loyal lawyers are not going to be enough. But he currently doesn’t have the caliber of lawyers who can extricate him, and he may never have them.

Which is why he may simply try to move the conflicts from legal battlefields to political ones. In law, he is just another unindicted co-conspirator or defendant. In politics, he is President of the United States.

The simplest way to move the battlefield is to exercise two powers he already has.

First, he has the power to cause Robert Mueller to be dismissed as Special Counsel. It could be a bit messy, as it was in Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre. He could start by asking Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein refused, he would then go down the line within the Justice Department until he found someone to do his bidding. Or on another track, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could resign/be fired, with a replacement AG who had not recused himself as Sessions had, and that replacement would fire Mueller. Any way it is accomplished, the consequence would be political, not legal. With his lifelong success as a politician (okay, only one election), Trump believes he will not lose that political fight.

Second, Trump has the power to protect anybody from federal criminal indictments or convictions, including himself, with presidential pardons. I have been saying for months the he is likely to do this (Trump Will Pardon Everybody (or Almost Everybody)) , and in recent weeks it has been the buzz around some conservative circles. Now it appears that Trump simply doesn’t have the legal army to fight on the law. So he is just going to have to blow away the law with his big pardon gun.

Past Passover Posts

Passover has crept up on me. This year it begins on the evening of Friday, March 30.

I usually write and publish at least one post a year for the holiday, and if the Moses muse visits, I still may. Just in case, though, here are links to some past Passover posts.

Moses on Krypton, Superman in Egypt

Passover and Freud

Four Freedoms Passover

A Heschel Haggadah

Matzo: Dealing with Eating the Bread of Affliction

American Freedom Seder 2017: Where There’s a Pharaoh There’s a Wilderness

Heschel for Passover

Refugees and the Bread of Affliction

Ship of Fools: Mnuchin, Santorum Aboard

This post was originally only about Treasury Secretary Steve Munchkin on a Sunday morning news show. Then former Republican Senator Rick Santorum spoke up, just begging for recognition.

Washington Post :

Mnuchin pitches line-item veto: ‘Congress could pass a rule’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has urged lawmakers to give President Trump a line-item veto, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that it might prevent Democrats from stacking more nondefense discretionary spending into the next must-past budget bill.

But Mnuchin’s short exchange with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace also underlined the problem with the idea — a 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling that struck down the line-item veto, finding “no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” after President Bill Clinton used it 82 times.

“I think they should give the president a line-item veto,” said Mnuchin, echoing Trump’s comments after he signed last week’s omnibus budget bill.

“That’s been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” Wallace said.

“Well, again, Congress could pass a rule, okay, that allows them to do it,” Mnuchin said.

“It would be a constitutional amendment,” Wallace said.

“Chris, we don’t need to get into a debate,” the treasury secretary said. “There’s different ways of doing this.”

New York Times :

Rick Santorum: Students Should Learn CPR, Not Seek Gun Laws

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Sunday that students who have rallied for gun control should instead learn CPR or find their own way to prevent a school shooting.

“How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that,” the Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The 2012 and 2016 presidential candidate said students could work to stop bullying in their communities or respond themselves to a shooter instead of asking lawmakers to approve legislation to protect them.

Santorum’s comments prompted outrage on social media a day after hundreds of thousands of teenagers and their supporters rallied across the U.S. to push for tougher laws to fight gun violence.

The demonstrations Saturday were led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed last month.

Santorum said that if the rallies are about more than politics, then the country needs to have a broader discussion that doesn’t revolve around “phony gun laws” that don’t work.

“They took action to ask someone to pass a law,” he said of the demonstrators. “They didn’t take action to say, ‘How do I, as an individual, deal with this problem?

We Now Know What Trump Really Thinks of Lawyers

Ever wonder what kind of a lawyer Trump would be—assuming he could get into law school, graduate and pass the bar exam (questionable)? Today he tweeted about why any lawyer would be thrilled to join his dwindling legal team:

New York Times:

Earlier on Sunday, Mr. Trump took to Twitter from his Florida resort to insist that he faced no problems finding lawyers to represent him in the Russia investigation.

Fame & fortune will never be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted,” Mr. Trump said in a tweet.

That is, except for conflicts, any lawyer will come if you dangle fame and fortune in front of them. Particularly if Trump beckons.

It is true that plenty of lawyers are interested in clients and cases that promise fame and fortune. No one should mistake lawyers for saints.

On the other hand, many more also have a passing interest in justice and professional responsibility, in addition to the other rewards. That is something that never crosses Trump’s mind. In fact, Trump has described exactly the sort of lawyer he would be—again, if that were possible.

A couple of other things Trump misses, things that explain why he is unable to add many lawyers of quality and stature at this point.

First, Trump is accustomed to people around him putting up with anything just for the privilege of working for him. He would be astonished to learn that lawyers, even the most ambitious ones, have a limit to what they will put up with.

Second, Trump still does not recognize the difference between fame and notoriety—never has, never will. Lawyers may have no problem being famous. Notorious? Not so much.

March for Our Lives

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
David Bowie, Changes

To the NRA, the politicians in their pocket, Fox News and all the others who bully and lie as a regular self-serving practice:

These astonishingly active and articulate children you dismiss as naïve pawns of special interests are anything but. They are smart and caring voters and voters-to-be, they are inspirational organizers, they are brave warriors for peace, common sense and truth.

They are the edge of a wave of American humanity that will wash you away. If you believe your own nonsense and are too stupid to be afraid of being sidelined and replaced, you should be very afraid. Nothing happens without struggle, and you may think this is a struggle that you are bound to win. But if you are students of American history, you know how this eventually goes. If you are students of history, watching (or more likely ignoring) this extraordinary moment, you would know that you are history. The arc of history is long, MLK said, but it bends toward justice.

And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin’

Lesson for Trump Attorneys: The Lawyers of Watergate

“The Nixon White House initially dismissed the break-in as a “third-rate burglary,” but after a year of increasingly persistent media coverage, Congress initiated multiple investigations that exposed the involvement of more than 20 of the most powerful lawyers in the United States.”

This was going to open with a list of lawyers who are representing Trump and Trump-related enterprises—including the White House. But that list changes too fast; Trump’s chief attorney in the Mueller investigation, John Dowd, resigned just this week.

Whoever they are or will be, they have one thing in common. They are working for a client who almost certainly has engaged in unethical, if not illegal, practices—before and during his political life, including his presidency. A client who has asked others, including his attorneys, to help fix or cover-up those practices when they were in danger of coming to light. A client who is vindictive, willful, self-absorbed, not very smart, and possibly psychologically unstable. A client who will not listen to them.

All of which brings us to Nixon and the lawyers of Watergate. One difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon was smart, a lawyer himself and a long-time national politician who understood how government works. Nixon was also a patriot, and, at least at some point in his life, a brave man, having served with distinction in World War II.

Unfortunately, Nixon, like Trump, found himself engaged in practices that he eventually needed to hide. He enlisted a gang of henchmen to help him—and many of those men were lawyers. When they truth came out, many of those lawyers were no longer allowed to be lawyers (including Nixon), and Nixon was no longer president.

If you wonder why lawyers are leaving Trump right and left, the following suggests one of the reasons.

ABA Journal, June 2012

The Lawyers of Watergate: How a ‘3rd-Rate Burglary’ Provoked New Standards for Lawyer Ethics

The Nixon White House initially dismissed the break-in as a “third-rate burglary,” but after a year of increasingly persistent media coverage, Congress initiated multiple investigations that exposed the involvement of more than 20 of the most powerful lawyers in the United States.

At the top of the list was Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, who resigned on Aug. 8, 1974, as Congress was gearing up to conduct impeachment proceedings.

But the list also included two U.S. attorneys general, two White House counsels, an assistant attorney general and a chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

John D. Ehrlichman
Disbarred in Washington State.

John W. Dean III
Disbarred in Virginia.

Spiro T. Agnew
Disbarred in Maryland.

Charles W. Colson
Disbarred in Virginia and the District of Columbia, license suspended in Massachusetts.

Herbert W. Kalmbach
Law license in California was suspended, but reinstated in 1977.

Richard G. Kleindienst
Law license in District of Columbia suspended for a month, and censured by Arizona disciplinary authorities.

Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr
Disbarred in 1975 by the Washington Supreme Court, but petition for reinstatement was granted in 1980.

Gordon Liddy
Disbarred in New York.

Robert C. Mardian
Law licenses suspended in California and by the U.S. Supreme Court, but later reinstated.

John N. Mitchell
Disbarred in New York and from the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.

Richard M. Nixon
Disbarred in New York.

Harry L. Sears
Law license suspended in New Jersey for three years.

Donald H. Segretti
Law license suspended in California for two years.

Bradford Cook
Nebraska law license was suspended for three years.

Perpetual Adoration

Perpetual Adoration

“It is with great sadness we had to make the decision to close our beautiful monastery in Tucson, Arizona as of February 26, 2018. Our sisters have relocated to the motherhouse in Clyde, Missouri.”

In hoc signo:
No Trespassing.
Benedictine Monastery of the
Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
The sisters have left the building
St. Benedict Jesus God too.
The sisters to Missouri
The rest homeless for now.
Carved wooden doors locked
Bushes for the butterflies
Cut back and soon gone.
Who by fire
Who by water
Who by sledgehammer
Wrecking ball dynamite.
After the noisy dusty struggle
Mountains abide.

©

Note: For an earlier post about this building, sold to be replaced by something residential or commercial, see Houses of Worship As Reminders on the Street.

Dish of Dice

Dish of Dice

“I am going to build a church someday. It will have a holy of holies and a holy of holy of holies, and in that ultimate box will be a random number table.”
Gregory Bateson

Different dice
On the altar
Four six eight sides
Ten and twenty
Sleeping in the dish
Awake and rolling
Prophets with a message
Plan and prepare
To laugh cry and play
The numbers rise up
See their beauty and wisdom
Listen to
The last lesson you need

©