Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Compliment or Flirtation?

Okay, here's strange topic for a happily married man to be writing about publicly:  'Compliments that might be misconstrued as flirting'.

What I'm about to say is about me and my perspective, but IMHO applies equally to men and women in both the online and offline worlds.

I'll begin by saying that most normal people want to feel good about themselves; about their achievements… about their position/standing… and certainly about their appearance.

Yet as we grow older, even as we collect achievements and advance in our positions… there are fewer and fewer opportunities to receive positive feedback about who we are; especially as pertains to how we appear to the world. 

Those of us who are married don’t have things like a busy dating life or scintillating social calendar to use as measures of our attractiveness/desirability.  Heck, most of us 'of a certain age' privately wonder if we're even still interesting or attractive (if we ever were!).

To be clear, I'm not talking about the feedback/compliments we should all be paying to our spouses and significant-others.  I try to be mindful of this.  But even when we are consistent about telling our loved-ones they look good and make us happy, when we get such a compliment, we secretly wonder about our spouse's objectivity and candor.

So, back to the subject at hand:  I'm talking about the compliments and encouragement friends, acquaintances and colleagues give one another (on and off-line).  It can be as overt as telling someone their hair or outfit looks nice… to innocuous things such as 'liking' an achievement they have 'shared', or offering a few encouraging words when they mention they've had a personal setback.

However, it gets tricky when these compliments and words of encouragement are shared with people of the opposite sex.  If the compliment is appropriate to the relationship, and both the giver and recipient of the compliment are secure and happy, the result is (or, at least should be IMHO), a self-esteem boost and a strengthening of the friendship.  But even so, when I do it, I try to make sure my  - or their - spouse is within earshot or able to see the exchange online… y'know, to minimize the possibility of misunderstandings.

Two Examples:

Me (addressing a female friend without my wife nearby):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [a little creepy]

Me: (addressing a female friend with my wife next to me):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [sweet]

See, same compliment; but totally different vibe based on the setting and audience.

But sometimes, despite the best of intentions, misunderstandings do happen, and compliments and words of encouragement (chaste, platonic words of friendship), are taken as something more than that.  And the vague, uncertainty of many online exchanges only increases the chance of such misunderstandings.

I've written all this because I recently received a completely inappropriate private response to what I had thought had been a completely appropriate public compliment.  And as a happily-married, unremarkable-looking middle aged man, it occurred to me that if this happened to me, it probably happens a lot more to younger, more attractive people who think their interactions are simply 'polite', 'nice' or 'supportive'.

I've unfriended and blocked people with whom I've had contentious or aggressive political interactions… but this is the first time I've had to do so for an overt sexual overture.

The world is getting more and more chaotic, and rules and customs seem to fall by the wayside on a daily basis.  But some things will never change:  I will continue to try to be nice to my friends, regardless of their gender.  And I will continue to love my wife madly… and faithfully.  

So please let me know if I ever say or do anything that seems to blur those lines.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Alone With The Dishes

[I wrote the first draft of this back in 2004 to describe the mental process I go through at this time of year.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night, alone with the dishes.  To be clear, my wife does her fair share of the dishes.  But for the big jobs - particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc. - I’m the one left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the approach of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. 

For me, looking back at the year is like surveying the aftermath of a wild dinner party; one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate… the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored (and paid for), for months.

But every such a party comes at a cost.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room looking aghast at the damage.

What was I thinking?!

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes. 

Empty bottles of Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay stand abandoned beside half-empty bottles of bourbon and scotch. 

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers), seem evenly distributed between the diningroom table and the various kitchen counters.

Soiled linen napkins sit balled on (and under), chairs.  And glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists happen to have abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem, well, surmountable; trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has ever been left to clean up after a big party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never be clean again, so why bother?!.

But then you pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim), and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered. 

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet; just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more dirty wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join that first one there on the counter.

Then, after emptying the sinks of their precariously piled contents, I draw a basin of hot soapy water.

As the basin fills, I designate other places for dishes and for cups and for saucers - each to each - all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, while I work I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me).  Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers wrapped and put safely into the refrigerator, and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but some semblance of order has begun to emerge from the chaos.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with hot soapy water and placed on the stove and sideboard to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their racks, and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves; each gestures creating a bit of space… and again, I am comforted by the suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable finally beginning to seem surmountable.

If I've done that much, it seems less daunting to stand in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what has happened... and the tantalizing suggestion of more good things that might still lie ahead.

I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to shape and size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence. But now, as I look around, the task seems somehow more manageable… surmountable. 

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am almost ready for Yom Kippur. I have a clearer idea of what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary work, I will find myself at the end of the process with sparkling china… lovingly polished sterling… and immaculate crystal.  And the house  - and my life - will be looking - and feeling - ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Time To Bake!

Click HERE or the link below to sign up! 


Posted by David Bogner on August 7, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Just This Simple

This evening at sundown marks the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

There are many important lessons to be learned from this horrible period on our history.  But for me, there is only one lesson that matters:

It's that the labels and distinctions we all hold so dear... Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Re-constructionist Jews, Right wing Jews, Left Wing Jews, Humanist Jews, Gay & Lesbian Jews, Secular Jews, Hasidic Jews, Trans Jews, Charedi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Bi-Jews, Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Crypto-Jews… can’t possibly be important enough to cause us to hate one another, when those who hate us and want to do us harm don’t care one bit about such distinctions. 

They hate us because we are Jews. Full Stop.  So we need to find a way to love and look after one another for the very same reason.

Posted by David Bogner on May 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Yes, Mary Poppins is Actually a Bit Racist

Nobody reads anymore. They just seethe and share without bothering to perform even the most perfunctory scratch test to see if their outrage is actually justified.  And then there is the counter-offensive of seething and sharing by people who are upset over how hyper-sensitive everyone is over nothing.

I'm talking about the latest rumblings over Disney’s classic family film, Mary Poppins, being accused of having racist content.

In this case, it certainly wasn't worthy of extensive outrage... but it also wasn't exactly nothing.

I’ve seen at least ten posts this week screaming about how silly it is that the PC police are all woke about the ‘blackface’ scenes (where Julie Andrews and the kids smear soot on their faces to look more like Dick Van Dyke and his fellow chimney sweeps.


The problem is, if anyone had bothered to look around a bit, they would have learned that the blackface issue isn't any sort of reference to minstrel shows, but rather an anachronistic colonial reference from the British Empire's crowded closet that keys into a historical [white] British fear of black Africans.

The central problem is the use of the word 'Hottentots' in the film as an obscure homage to an earlier book version of Mary Poppins where chimney sweeps were insultingly mistaken for Hottentots (an archaic slur for black South Africans).

Here's the relevant passage from an excellent article that explains what are, IMHO, a couple of small but real problems that most people wouldn't even catch (not because the racism isn't there, but because it is buried in an historical anachronism that the typical Disney audience - then or now - wouldn't recognize):

Writing exclusively for The New York Times, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner – a gender studies professor at Linfield College in the US – claimed the iconic chimney sweep scene where Andrews and Van Dyke sing ‘Step in Time’ could be seen as ‘racist’ because their faces are covered in black soot. Rather than wiping the soot off her face, Mary Poppins rubs it in, making her face dirtier. Pollack-Pelzner pointed out that the scene may seem comical – if it weren’t for P. L. Travers’ novels on which the film was based.

He pointed out that in the 1943 book Mary Poppins Opens the Door, a housemaid calls a man a “black heathen” when he reaches out his hand and later calls him a “Hottentot” – an archaic slur for black South Africans.

For Pollack-Pelzner, the film is problematic because character Admiral Boom calls chimney sweeps in the film Hottentots.

“We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface,” he wrote. “It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy.”

Pollack-Pelzner pointed out Hottentot was also used in 1952’s Mary Poppins in the Park novel, with Mary herself reportedly telling a young child that he’s behaving like a Hottentot. [source]

So yeah, there's some problematic stuff there, even if almost nobody today would recognize it as such. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting banning the film, any more than I would suggest banning Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' because of the anti-Semitic treatment of Shylock, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories over his unflattering reference to Jews which are jarring to a modern reader, but reflect the typical sentiments of the audience for whom it was written. 

I'm just saying that it is a teachable moment that is being mostly missed because most people would rather rage than teach (or learn).

BTW, it took me exactly one quick Google search to find both the New York Times article and the well written piece I've excerpted above.  So maybe look around just a tiny bit before trying to show everyone how woke you are.

Posted by David Bogner on February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Farewell to Elisson

There's a fraternity of sorts that exists among those who were early adapters of online journaling / blogging.   Even if we didn't 'follow' one another closely, we recall the people we tuned into each day; if not by name, than by online moniker.

Back when this medium was new-ish and not everyone who had embraced it had a clear understanding of what they really wanted to say, a few clear, strong voices emerged from the clutter... and Steve Krodman (AKA Elisson), was as strong as he was prolific.

While some people wrote about politics and others shared food porn or did mommy/daddy blogging, Steve wrote a funny, irreverent, unblinking account of both his current world and his most cherished memories.  By making it clear that what he shared on his blog were his own impressions, recollections, and experiences, he headed off any potential arguments, disagreements or naysayers.  After all, how can you argue with something so subjective?

I won't try to summarize who Steve was in a few short paragraphs.  After all, most of us who followed his prolific output for years can't claim to have truly known the man.  But there were certain inescapable conclusions one could jump to after reading him for even a short time:

For instance, Steve was a family man, in the old-world sense of the title.  His self-applied moniker - Elisson - was, first and foremost how he saw himself; Eli's (his father) son.  He also frequently referenced his role as husband and father through the mention and frequent referencing of his wife and two daughters.  But he chivalrously shielded them with their own loving code-words ('She Who Must Be Obeyed', 'Elder Daughter', 'Mistress of Sarcasm').

He also wrapped himself warmly and un-self-consciously in the religious and cultural heritage of his fathers.  The observances and celebrations of the Jewish calendar were beautifully described - as they should be - through the lens of food and drink.  Even the weekday morning minyan, of which he was a regular, was framed lovingly as the precursor to the post-prayer gathering at the local 'smoked fish emporium'.

Steve sought out and savored tastes and experiences related to food and drink.  I don't think of him as a 'foodie', though.  His posts about food and drink were about sharing his deep enjoyment, not about showing off or putting on airs.

And even his tastes in food and drink were of the old world sort.  Yes, he like good wine.  But, long before it became hip to do so, he was describing his favorite tipples; classic cocktails, aperitifs and digestifs

And his sartorial tastes likewise reflected a respect and longing for the past; with seersucker suits and straw fedoras on unabashed display.  Admittedly, the colander was a decidedly modern touch... but we all have our eccentricities.

I only met Steve and his wife, Donna, in person on one occasion, during a trip they took to Israel a few years back.  But, aside from having my pre-existing impressions confirmed, that meeting was just another layer of the onion that I'd been peeling for years with each tidbit that was revealed in his writing.

He called his blogging "exercises in time-wastage and self-aggrandizement", but it was neither; not for him, and certainly not for the reader.  As his daughters so correctly pointed out in the announcement of his passing:

"[his blog was]...a repository for all of his warped humor and twisted rants. Suddenly - and finally! - an audience for his schtick beyond his nuclear family. Over the years this creative outlet grew from a little hobby ...into a fertile space for him to mold his rich internal life and tremendous stores of knowledge into beautiful and humorous pieces. We believe he got to know himself more greatly through writing this blog. It, along with family, friends, and Jewish Life, gave him purpose. We also believe that he was/is a man worth knowing, and so we are glad he found a way to generously share himself."

Just to give you an idea of how he reveled in outlandishness and the popular perception of him as its chief purveyor, here are some 'pull quotes' from the sidebar of his blog:

“Got-dam Philistine! Is NOTHING sacred to you?” - Acidman 

“The Bard of Affliction...” - Houston Steve

“My hat’s off to Elisson! All hail Elisson!”
Laurence Simon 

“Elisson’s blog: unraveling a turban and finding a moist dildo inside.” - Kevin Kim 

“...Obi-Wan Kenobi of Georgia...”
- Cowtown Pattie 

“The Shakespeare of poop jokes.”
John Cox 

“...when I grow up, I want to be Elisson.” - MetroDad 

“Elisson ain’t right. We know that.”

“Elisson...has totally gone off the deep end.” - Dax Montana 

“...of many talents...”
Rahel Jaskow 

“...the ever insightful Elisson...”
David Bogner 

“...Elisson, my man...I’m are the man...” - Straight White Guy 

“You make my heart sing.”
Sissy Willis 

“...maniacal, obsessive rants about duck fat...” - Steve H. Graham 

“In a world almost entirely without heroes, Elisson stands alone...”

“I really want to whup [Elisson] upside the haid...” - Meryl Yourish 

“The world is a much stranger place since I began reading your blog, Elisson.”

“…the cat’s ass in his trademark white fedora…” - Jim 

“...R’ Blog Shem Tov...”
- Erica Sherman 

“By gadfrey, sir...You’re the most amazing character... there’s never any telling what you’ll say or do next, except that it’s bound to be something astonishing.”
Ivan G. Shreve 

“Elisson, you are such a Renaissance Man you make Newton, Descartes & Copernicus look like Larry, Moe & Curly!”
El Capitan 

“You... are a plethora of useless information.”

Steve showed us all that being grown up didn't need to mean abandoning our childish sense of humor, or the child's innate ability to identify and point out the absurd.

And in the online world where - based just on their writings and correspondence - platonic 'blog-crushes' and deep 'bromances' could blossom between people sharing this new cyberspace, Steve became a good friend and generous mentor to me. 

For years he used his personal example to demonstrate the careful balancing of grown-up responsibilities and childish irreverence.  Fine dining experiences and scatological humor shared pride of place on his blog, as he virtually dared the reader to play the straight man to his clown.

Steve was the uncle we all wish we'd had; the one that parents became worried about if their children were left too long unattended in his charge.  New vocabulary words and a precocious understanding of excretory functions would certainly result from an afternoon spent with 'Uncle Steve'.  But he would also doubtless return the little dears with a newfound respect for the value of family... and for pickled herring.

And when, a few short months ago, Steve announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with ALS, he effortlessly pivoted from using his blog to show us how to live well... to showing us that it is also possible to die well. 

He generously let us in on what he was thinking and feeling throughout his descent into stillness... and in so doing, he spared us a tiny bit of the terror that is inevitable when confronted by the finality of what southerners call 'that sweet by-and-by'.

Steve, I will deeply miss your unique and unbridled spirit in my online wanderings.  Nobody else seems to have the courage to point out the many emperors without clothes.   I look for an offered finger to pull... but propriety seems to have suddenly taken hold.

My heart goes out to your family; I know that their loss is incalculable.  But if stories and fond recollections can keep a person's memory alive, you will have achieved immortality through the many generations who will doubtless continue to share accounts of the wonderful husband, father and friend you were during the all-too-short arc of your time here on this mortal coil.

Rest Well, my friend.  I will raise many a cocktail to your memory in whatever time I have left... until we meet again.


Posted by David Bogner on January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Should Old Antagonists Be Forgot...

[I’ve written about this in the past, but it has been increasingly on my mind lately as a read the news.]

New Year’s is a time to ponder, compare and contrast… it is a time to take stock of the situation, and to try to discern trends.  One inescapable trend is that anti-Semites are feeling less inhibited and restrained in expressing their Jew-hatred in voice and deed.

I know we Israelis tend to sound preachy and condescending to our coreligionists in the diaspora when we point to antisemitism as a contributing factors to our decision to move/remain here in Israel.   But then again, I suppose any uncomfortable truth sounds a bit preachy when one is on the receiving end.

Of all life's moments that flash through my mind on New Year’s eve, there is one that is so sour and negative that it cancels out virtually all the wonderful and positive nostalgia I have for the date:

Back in the early '90s, I played trombone in a ‘rehearsal band’; a jazz big band that met in a studio on W42nd street in Manhattan once a week to play through charts from the Big Band era of the '30s and '40s. 

The bandleader was an older musician from that bygone era who had acquired most of the original Count Basie ‘book’, as well as a nice sampling of music from the other top-tier (Miller, Goodman, Ellington, et al), bands' repertoires. And the players were a mix of professional and amateur musicians ranging from college age to retirees. 

Those few hours playing big band jazz with serious musicians were the highlight of my week.

Once in a while the leader would get a call for a gig and we would get to play the old tunes for an appreciative audience.  One such gig was the annual New Year’s Eve Black Tie Gala at the exclusive Downtown Athletic Club.

There’s an old joke about the Downtown Athletic Club posits that the only minorities one is likely to spot inside the hallowed halls of the club are the wait-staff… and the recipients of the Heisman Trophy (which is awarded there every year). 

We Jews tend to ‘pass for white’ in the modern world, so we largely see such discrimination as a cause to be championed rather than a first-hand problem to be overcome.  This gig changed that worldview for me.

The event was as glitzy and high society as you probably imagine, and it felt like time traveling to be playing WWII-era jazz in such a historic NYC setting on New Year’s eve.

While the band was on a break between sets, the bandleader came over to me and a trumpet player who was also religiously observant musician and told us that we would have to take off our kippot (yarmulkes).  It isn’t clear to me now if the demand came from the party host, a guest, the bandleader himself or some combination thereof.  What was clear – and remains so – is that someone took exception to a barely noticeable scrap of black cloth in a sea of black tuxedos, starched white shirts, champagne and party streamers, and felt empowered/entitled to demand that the offending religious article be removed from view.  

That was then. 

Now, more than 20 years later I don’t think anyone can reasonably deny that Jews in America (and elsewhere in diaspora), are less secure or less apt to experience discrimination and attack in the course of their daily lives.

Antisemitism has never disappeared, or even waned. It has been a historical constant; perhaps the oldest hatred in recorded history. What some mistake for it waxing and waning is it going through periods of being more or less socially acceptable to express in public. 

It may surprise you to hear that I honestly don’t mind Antisemitism or anti-Semites.  I've come to accept it as a constant reality that will never go away.   

What I do mind is having to face anti-Semites on their own turf and on their own terms. 

Over here, I know I am hated for being a Jew (even though they give that hatred the fig leaf of calling it anti-Zionism).   But as an Israeli, I have the privilege of ignoring the haters who no longer hold power or influence over me… and of defending myself - without explanation or restraint - against those who still operate under the misconception that they do.

Just something to ponder as you go about your rationalization of how 'it isn't as bad as it seems'.

Happy New Year!

Posted by David Bogner on January 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Your Cocktails May Never Be The Same!

[This is a pro-tip for my friends who enjoy a well-made cocktail once in a while]

Many the classic and not-so-classic cocktail recipes call for ‘simple syrup’. 

But until last night I didn’t think about this basic ingredient as a blank flavor canvas on which one can splash a wide range of accents and flavors.

I had just whipped up a batch of simple syrup for Zahava since she was envisioning some mojitos* in her immediate future, and had gone online to check how long a bottle of SS can be safely stored in the fridge, when I stumbled on the following two paragraphs in an excellent article on an excellent website:

“You can also make your own flavored simple syrup... by adding herbs, spices, or even citrus rind to the hot simple syrup. If you add the additional ingredient(s) the moment the sugar dissolves and leave it there until it cools, the add-in ingredients will steep in the hot liquid, infusing flavor.We make all sorts of simple syrups throughout the year.

Try fresh herbaceous syrups with garden basil, mint, and thyme for fruity cocktails with a little wow-factor, spicy simple syrups with cinnamon sticks or cloves for fall and winter cocktails, or vanilla bean simple syrup for an extra punch of flavor any time of year!”

[Photo Credit: The Pioneer Woman ]

Up until now I’ve been relying solely on bitters and garnishes to add that little extra je ne sais quoi to my cocktails  This opens up a whole new world of possibilities!

And as if providence hadn't knocked loudly enough, This past summer, Gilad and I were rummaging around in a nicknack shop in Zichron Yaacov when I stumbled on a beautiful set of antique-ish jars that I had absolutely no use for... but which I couldn't leave in the store:


Anyone want to venture a guess what will be going in these?


* Yes, I am aware that most Mojito recipes call for granulated sugar to aid in muddling the mint leaves.  But Zahava seems to prefer using simple sugar to avoid the grittiness of undissolved sugar.

Posted by David Bogner on December 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

 Thoughts from a feminist in a world still out of balance

[A guest post by my daughter, Ariella]

This week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Last week was the International Men’s Day.

On campus we have a group called the “Cell for gender equality”. They worked hard on both events, but I will get to the Men’s Day exhibit a little later.

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the cell put up a fantastic exhibition with explanations and stalls from all sorts of organizations that help women who are victims of violence or who find themselves in potentially violent situations.


The highlights of the event were a 'Poetry Slam' by three students (two male and one female) who spoke beautifully about their feelings on gender and violence against women, and later that evening, a play.

But what really caught my eye were the posters with the names of the twenty three women who were murdered this year in Israel in gender based attacks. The hardest to see was the last one, which had been penned in (instead of printed like the rest), because she had been murdered only the previous day.

Names of Victims


Twenty three women who were attacked and killed in gender based violence... from different communities and backgrounds throughout the country.

And while reading their names it all came back to me, that these are more than just names!

I KNEW a name that appeared on the same list just a few years ago. I KNEW a woman who was murdered by her husband. She had been my adoptive family when I was in mechina (a pre-army academy). She’d invited me into her home after meeting me at a community holiday event and noticing that her son, who is autistic, not only allowed me to play with him, but that he enjoyed my company!  So she took me under her wing, had me over for coffee and even for Shabbat.

I read about her murder in a news article that reached me via WhatsApp two years later while I was serving in the army. From that moment, seeing the names of victims could never again be just names. Even though I didn't recognize any names this year, it’s not so disconnected from me; Ariella Bogner. Each one of those names was a person.  A woman.  Like me.

I think the understanding that it’s not so disconnected from any of us was the idea behind the #metoo movement. So many women came out and talked about their experiences. But even then, does it touch my life as well?

Earlier this year I was sitting with a group of my friends and we were talking about some of the most difficult times of our lives. I spoke about when I had been harassed a few years ago. The other two women in the group shared similar examples that had happened to them. All of the men in the group (who are the majority in that particular group of friends) where instantly outraged that such a thing could happen and couldn’t grasp the idea that all we could do in most of the cases was tell an authority figure… if there was even someone to tell. They kept asking what was done to whoever touched/pinched/etc. They are all respectful amazing men who I adore. They are all aware of how vast the problem is, and yet it never occurred to them that #metoo reached their “inner circle”. These are not just names in posts, but people we know and care about. 

There I was, standing in the hallway on campus, looking at the exhibit and freshly shook up over the wave of memory that flooded in. I decided to go see the play (חצאית כאן קודקוד), which was being performed that evening on campus. I had heard good things about it from friends and all the money from the ticket sale was going to the local woman’s shelter. The play used the army as a metaphor for Israeli society and studied specifically the way women are treated in the army by using old-time army band songs (and also chants that soldiers make up for moral etc.). I spent the whole play torn between enjoyment and the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that came from knowing exactly how true it all was.


After the play, the actresses came out to have an open discussion with the audience  (that's them ^).

We talked about the #metoo movement, the audience that the play is aimed at, and of course feminism was thrown around as well. But the most important thing to be said was by one brave man in the audience (it’s must be intimidating as a man to speak publicly after such a harsh play that points an accusing finger at “men”). He spoke about how, as a man who considers himself a feminist, he finds that whenever he tries to join the feminist discussion he is met with accusing statements, suspicion and hostility. 

Sometimes I feel that we forget that feminism isn’t supposed to mean man hating, or that woman should be more than men. Feminism is supposed to free both men and women from gender bias and create equal opportunities for both.

In today’s society (at least the circles in which I run), feminism and gender equality are very talked about. But we might have lost sight of some of our original goal.

Which brings me to the exhibit that was set up on campus last week for the International Men’s Day.

As part of the exhibit, there was a video of men from all parts of society talking about what it means to them to be a man.

I was floored!

It was the first time I had even heard this kind of expression. We have defined what it means to be a woman. We talk about it and examine where it meets us time and time again. But it had never occurred to me that men might want to talk about what it means to be a man. Which begs the question; Do we allow that kind of discourse in today’s society? Should men form groups to talk about and redefine manhood and what is masculine?   Can those discussions take place in proximity to ‘our’ discussions?

I feel that in order to create meaningful conversations between the genders we all need to start to talk about and clarify our roles, and the attributes associated with them. The question isn’t only ‘what does it mean in today’s day and age to be a woman?’, but also ‘what does it mean to be a man?’, as well.

I am tired of hearing hateful accusing statements thrown around. I am tired of the stigmas attached to being a feminist. I am tired of society accepting the way things are.

I do not accept that ‘this is the way things will always be’! I do not want my male friends/future partner/future sons/etc., to be afraid to express themselves! I do not accept how so many women (and men), are harassed every single day!

Next year I do not want to read a list of twenty names of victims of gender violence.

I invite us all to reject the status quo and to work to change it. Let us be active and create a society that allows discussion and acceptance, but most of all mutual respect.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, October 08, 2018

'Cause when we kiss, oooh Fire

Some people seem to live in a black and white world made up of mutually exclusive concepts.  One of those people posted the following graphic on facebook today:


I'm sure it was a reference to jokes like this (which I actually shared):


It took my hours to put my finger on why this bothered me so much.  Because I know I'm not a misogynist... but I saw the tiny kernel of truth that made that joke funny.

Why can’t we become aware of, and sympathetic to, the problem of women being sexually assaulted... and *also* notice that there are a small percentage of women that have weaponized society’s newfound sympathy and sensitivity, creating a situation that *also* demands safeguards and caution for men?

After all, we’ve seen it in the medical field for decades, already.

Think about it... when was the last time you women found yourselves alone and undressed in an exam room with a male medical practitioner?  The reason isn't that all doctors are rapists or all women are looking to falsely accuse doctors of attacking them. 

The reason is that there are two very real, but very different fears at work, and there is no reason or necessity to qualify or quantify those fears:  The women are afraid of being sexually assaulted, and the doctors are afraid of being falsely accused / sued for sexual assault.  Both are legitimate fears even though neither is the norm.  And it doesn't matter if women are attacked more often than men are accused.  Fear is fear... and it isn't rational and it doesn't understand percentages!

I think we can agree that most doctors don’t molest their patients, and that most patients don’t falsely accuse or sue their practitioners. Yet here we are for more than 20 years with a nurse playing referee in your exam room... so you and your doctor will have nothing to fear from each other.

So why should it be so different outside the exam room?

Young women used to be catechized that good girls said ‘no’, and young boys were catechized that a girl’s ‘no’ was the start of a process that began by satisfying the girls honor… and ended with satisfying far more.  As horrifying as it may be to read those words in 2018, just look at the words of a song written by Bruce Springsteen and made popular by The Pointer Sister in 1978:


I'm ridin' in your car
You turn on the radio
You're pullin' me close
I just say no
I say I don't like it
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Late at night
You're takin' me home
You say you want to stay 
I say I want to be alone
I say I don't love you
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

You had a hold on me right from the start
A grip so tight I couldn't tear it apart
My nerves all jumpin', actin' like a fool
Well, your kisses they burn, but my heart stays cool

Well, Romeo and Juliet
Samson and Delilah
Baby you can bet 
A love they couldn't deny
My words say split
But my words they lie
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Ooh fire
Hot kisses like fire
Burn me up with fire
I like what you're doin' now, 
Touchin' me with fire
Touchin' me, burnin me with fire
Take me home
Kisses like fire

This wasn’t 100 or 500 years ago.  This was 40 years ago when I was a Junior in high school… and this song was a hit, and nobody batted an eye.  This was normal then!

Obviously the world has evolved a lot since 1978, and thankfully, many of the terrible things that women endured in the guise of ‘honor’ and ‘romance’ are now seen for what they are: assault. 

And thankfully we are well on our way in a process of societal reeducation and sensitivity to concepts like informed consent, professional boundaries, appropriate language and inappropriate touching, etc. 

But as soon as an entirely class of actions are recognized as crimes, and a woman’s testimony is supposed to be accepted at face value without supporting witnesses, an entire segment of the population suddenly becomes vulnerable to false allegations of having committed those crimes.  #metoo created an imbalance where it was supposed to have leveled the field.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  The pendulum sways back and forth before finding its natural resting place in the center.  If the pendulum has to swing off-center, it is fair and just that it should spend some time favoring the women, after all they've had to endure.  But jokes like the one above are not misogynistic.  They are an attempt to assure that it doesn't take another 20 years for things to even out.

Just as it was perhaps 20 years between the peak popularity of the song 'Fire' and the standard inclusion of a third person in a doctor’s exam room… it has taken another 20 years for college freshmen of both genders to internalize a script that requests permission for intimacy and gives (or refuses) consent, yet still allows a date to feel like a date rather than a deposition.

So, back to  the graphic I posted at the start.  When people are afraid or angry, many reach for humor.  A picture of a mother sending her son out to a party wearing a body-cam, is darkly funny; Not because it is actually necessary, but because there is a new paradigm for boys and girls out there... and until equality and balance have not yet been fully established, caution is advised.

So please try to stop with all this absolutism.  Considering the important issues that were raised by the recent confirmation hearing, and following so closely on the heels of the #metoo movement, it was pretty much guaranteed there would be a turf war over who is the most vulnerable... who is the victim. 

But it didn’t have to be.  We are all vulnerable to some extent.  As long as balance and equality have not been fully established, we are all potential victims.  Yet with a tiny bit of common sense and forethought, that vulnerability is completely manageable.

I am not overly worried about my daughter or my sons growing up today.  I’m actually relieved that they don’t have to grow up in the times that I did, with all the confusion, uncertainty, misunderstandings and needless imbalance of social power. 

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried at all.  After all, worrying is my full-time job.  I’m a parent.

Posted by David Bogner on October 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Much Ado About Headgear

I've seen more than a few FB posts about the latest 'Trump scandal'.  No, not that one.  Apparently, during one of her costume changes on her visit to Kenya, First Lady Melania Trump was spotted wearing a Pith Helmet-inspire hat.


Apparently, lacking anything else newsworthy to latch onto today (I kid), people are criticizing the First Lady's hat as being culturally insensitive, since it evokes and references colonial-era headgear worn by 19th and early 20th century European occupiers.

Only one problem.  This is simply not true. Almost all commonwealth countries still feature some version of Pith Helmets among their formal uniforms, as do the militaries of most of the former colonies they ruled.  I was there last week.  I saw them.

Given Europe's hypersensitivity to evoking their colonial past, I have to think that if this kind of hat were indeed a sore point, it would have long been banished from view by both the previous colonizers as well as the previously colonized.

In truth, this latest swipe is rooted in just plain meanness masquerading as political correctness.  What's next, should Melania not order a Gin & Tonic when she goes to India because it was the drink of choice by British colonial administrators and their forces during the Raj?!

Personally, I'm far more troubled by the deafening silence by the PC enforcers at First Ladies/families, dignitaries, journalists and even female soldiers who have been forced to wear Hijabs so as to not offend their hosts sensibilities (BTW, this crosses political party lines).



Hillary  Hillary-hijab1

EU  Reporter1


To be clear, I am not against the Hijab per se, so long it is the wearer's personal religious choice and not something that is imposed upon her.  In fact, I am deeply impressed by athletes and even police officers who have found a natural, comfortable way to integrate this religious observance into their daily lives without conflict or interference with their duties.  

Run  Weight

Fencing  N-BM-hijab___Gallery

Brussels  UK

So chill, people.  There are genuine problems out there to complain about.  Take your pick.  

If you really, truly feel that the First Lady wearing a Pith Helmet while on Safari in Kenya is a problem, you are either living in the most problem-free place on earth... or you are just mean-spirited and looking to take cheap shots at an un-elected family member because you don't like her husband.

Your honest self-assessment and introspection should follow.

Posted by David Bogner on October 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Righteous [Cyclist] Among The Nations

Every so often, the google search page features a graphic that is designed to draw your interest to someone or something of significance associated with the date.  A click usually tells you it is the 400th anniversary of so-and-so's birthday, etc.  Sometimes interesting... usually educational... almost never eye-opening.

That changed today.

Turns out that the Italian cyclist - Gino Bartali - whose 104th birthday it would have been today, was far more than just a champion cyclist.

Here's the relevant section of his Wikipedia page:

Rescues and Resistance role during World War II


Bartali used bicycle training as a cover for secret efforts to rescue Jews.

Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, saved their lives in doing so.[15]

Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance.[16][17] Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.

Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa,[16] was a member of DELASEM,[18] founded by the Union of the Israelitic Communities to help Jewish Italians escape persecution. The network in Tuscany was discovered in autumn 1943 and all members except Nissim sent to concentration camps. He met Pope Pius XII and, with the help of the Archbishop of Genoa, the Franciscan Friars and others he reorganized DELASEM and helped 800 escape.

Nissim died in 2000. His sons found from his diaries that Bartali had used his fame to help. Nissim and the Oblati Friars of Lucca forged documents and needed photographs of those they were helping. Bartali used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, ride to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim.[19][20]Bartali also used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.

Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life.[20] Bartali simply answered, "I do what I feel [in my heart]".

Bartali continued working with the Assisi Network. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Bartali told his son Andrea only that "One does these things and then that's that".[20]

In June 2012, a book about Bartali's wartime activities, Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon, was published.[21]

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honour Righteous Among the Nations.[22] He is a central figure in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.[4]

Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result”. 

While that may be technically true (having been shot at, I can provide my own affirmative data-point to the body of research), the famous quote doesn’t begin to address the fairly obvious question of what it feels like before you know the shot has missed you.

I can say with authority that glib media phrases such as ‘crude, home-made rockets’ and ‘the low odds of actually being hit’ don’t really mean much when the sirens are going off all around you, and you find yourself caught out in the open, doing the sick mental math that reveals that it will take you longer to reach shelter than it will take the incoming rocket to reach you.

And so you narrow your focus.

‘There’s a parked car over there that might offer some cover from shrapnel’.

‘There’s a low stone wall across the street that, if I crouch down next to it will protect me… at least from one direction’.  Which way is Gaza again?

‘The gutter and curb next to me will offer a snug place protected from two sides if I lie down really flat in the dirt collected there’.

And while these thoughts bang against each-other inside your head, the Red Alert siren wails on… and you know with absolute certainty that somewhere up in the sky is an inbound rocket packed with explosives and ball bearings, that has to land somewhere very soon.

True, statistically, the odds are extremely low that it will land on or near you.  But the odds are dead certain that it has to land somewhere (that pesky old ‘what goes up must come down’, thing).

It’s strange how gambling quickly ceases to be an enjoyable pastime when the stakes include your life.

Why am I telling you this?  Is it because the 200+ projectiles fired at Israel on July 14th didn't even make the international media needle twitch? 

Maybe.  Partially.

But it is also because I want you to join me in something... something that will allow you to experience a tiny fraction of the reality we Israelis endure on a daily basis... something that will allow you to become a bit more 'woke':

I want you to download a free app called ‘Red Alert: Israel’. 

Once you have it on your phone or tablet, please go in and enable notifications and select ‘All Areas’ from the settings menu.  This will allow you to be notified each time a projectile (rocket or mortar) is fired at at any part of Israel by one of our ‘neighbors’.

Keep in mind that each and every time you hear an alert, somewhere in Israel (usually in multiple places simultaneously), thousands of innocent human beings have suddenly been given between 10 and 50 seconds to get themselves and their loved ones to shelter – any shelter – before the projectile lands. 

Looking at your watch that may seem like a fairly long time.  Trust me, when the sirens are blaring, it is an instant.

Be warned, this app will disturb you at inconvenient times.  And it will almost certainly wake you up in the middle of the night. 

But I think it is important for you to be aware of the rocket attacks in real time - not just read about them on the rare occasions that the foreign media outlets decide they are 'newsworthy'. 

I think it is essential that you know with absolute certainty, in real time, that thousands of innocent people just like you  - people with hopes, dreams, loved ones, plans, possessions, talents, aspirations - have suddenly been forced into survival mode, and are running for cover or laying in the dirt, trying desperately to make themselves smaller… as explosive tube(s) filed with death streak through the sky towards… something.

I can tell you from experience (although certainly not as extensive as those living in the Gaza periphery or Kiryat Shmona), ‘exhilarating’ is the last word that comes to mind during those precious seconds while you wait to find out if the shot has actually (hopefully, please G-d), missed.  This time.

Red 1

Red 2

Red 3

Red 4

Posted by David Bogner on July 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Really?! In 2018 We're Still Arguing About Breastfeeding?

I honestly don’t get the never-ending uproar about breastfeeding in public.

I was so confused by this that I googled “arguments against public breastfeeding’, and noted that the following three reasons (in one form or another), are consistently the top three results:

#1: Public Nursing is Indecent (naughty, provocative, sexual, etc.)

Okay, what you're saying is that boobs are first and foremost sexual things, best kept for private enjoyment.

Think about this scenario for a second: You and your wife/Significant Other are in the privacy of your bedroom ‘making whoopee’ (to borrow a chaste phrase from ‘The Newlywed Game'), when suddenly one or more of your young children crashes the party unannounced. I don’t know about you, but the arrival of a little kid on the scene is like a bucket of cold water that instantly takes romance off the table.

See how something sexual instantly lost it's sexuality based on context? 

I’m a healthy heterosexual man, so I'd clearly be lying if I were to suggest that I don’t find the female form attractive. What can I say... I'm hard-wired that way. And yes, I’d even go so far as to say that when a woman dresses in such a way as to accentuate or partially reveal her breasts, it is only through a conscious effort and mental review of baseball statistics, that I don’t resort to leering. I think I’m fairly typical in that respect.

And I'll go even further... I think it is safe to say that if I encountered a bare-breasted woman in the course of my busy day, I would almost certainly be powerless to look away (discipline, social taboos and batting averages be damned).

However, toss a nursing baby into the picture... and, splash!, all erotic thoughts are instantly extinguished, just like with the gate-crashing kids in the boudoir.

#2: Public Nursing Can Be Dangerous (i.e. could lead to sexual harassment or even attacks)

This seems to have been covered by explanation for #1 above, but let’s try it again using smaller words:

Boobs are sexy. Boobs with a baby attached are not. Either way, they are hers, not yours.

Of course, Rule #34 of 4chan’s rules of the internet posits that ‘absolutely every possible thing has porn of it. No exceptions’. Which would strongly suggest that 'breastfeeding moms' must be a serious turn-on to some segment of the general population, however small. If this seems to apply to you, then guess what? You may have your own personal kink that you’ll just have to figure out how to keep under control. Again, your problem, not hers.

Think of it this way:  If you aren’t allowed to touch or harass the girls at the strip club where they are deliberately trying to turn you on, I think it is safe to assume that, at a minimum, the same rules apply to non-erotic venues where erotic intentions can't safely be assumed.

#3: Public Nursing  Causes Awkward Social Interactions

Okay, here I have to kind, sorta give a grudging partial point to the haters. 

NOTICE: I am not in any way suggesting that this is a valid reason to prohibit breastfeed in public. Full stop!

[I am 100% certain that this unambiguous statement will in no way inhibit someone from flaming me]

That said, I can totally recall countless times when I’ve had to study the ceiling or suddenly get very interested in my fingernails upon noticing that the woman I've been talking to had a baby attached to her by more than a snugly. 

But again, my problem, not hers.

Truth be told, I've had to avert my eyes and give the same kind of visual ‘pass’ in public to anyone  - male or female - who suddenly had the uncontrollable urge to scratch themselves in an intimate place (we’ve all been there!). And if you’ve ever encountered anyone a week or two after they’ve visited a waxing salon, you're familiar with ‘the dance’ (and hopefully have been polite enough to ignore it).

In fairness guys, women are forced to routinely put up with (and ignore) us ‘rearranging the troops’ when they fall out of ranks on hot, sweaty days. I'm confident that you can find something else to look at if she happens to be feeding her kid.  And if you can’t manage to maintain eye-contact with her, might I suggest an alternative destination for your eyes that, these days, is even more natural: your cellphone (while you’re there, you can check the baseball box scores).

Bottom line, forget all the crass boob jokes and Victorian-era prudishness. Breastfeeding is what they were designed to do.  All the other real or perceived visual/aesthetic considerations are, quite literally, in the eyes of (and therefore, the problem of), the beholder. 

We can’t suggest that women are full and equal (note I said, equal, not identical), participants in the business and social realms, while demanding that they don a Burka or go into forced hiding while doing one of the things that they were purpose-built to do.

Yes, many workplaces (and a few public venues) are providing lactation rooms; and that can be a comfortable option for women who wish to avail themselves of these conveniences.  But such places are the exception and not the rule.

And please don’t suggest that nursing moms should go into the bathroom in order to avoid offending your delicate sensibilities, since that’s where you go to do the private things that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in public.

That’s a crap argument! [pun intended]

You wouldn’t think of eating in a bathroom. It is ludicrous to suggest that a baby should!

Posted by David Bogner on July 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Bring Home Karim Jumhour!!!

This is the defining moment when Israel can either demonstrate to its Arab sector that they are full and valued citizens, or hand ammunition to Hanin Zoabi and the rest of the ‘Joint List’ who constantly tell Arab Israelis that the State doesn’t care about them.

Tuesday evening, a 7-year-old boy named Karim Jumhour was videotaped being kidnapped from in front of his home in the Arab city of Qalansawe.

We know from bitter experience that when Jewish Israelis have been kidnapped, the police and defense establishment know how to pull out all the stops and make finding the kidnap victim(s) a top national priority.

Doing the same for a kidnap victim from Israel’s Arab sector, besides being absolutely the correct thing to do, would also go a long way towards demonstrating to a sector that has (legitimately) felt disenfranchised and under-supported, that they are full citizens; entitled to the same protections and resources as Jewish Israelis, and that their lives matter every bit as much!

In light of the 4 million shekel ransom demand, the motive for this kidnapping seems to be financial rather than nationalistic.  But when your son or daughter has been taken and their life hangs in the balance, does it really matter why?  

I hope that this event gets the full response that Israel is capable of providing; both from its government and from its media and public.

Bring home Karim Jumhour!!!

Posted by David Bogner on July 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Come On Out... The War's Over! [at least for now]

In the 1970s, the last four confirmed WWII-era Japanese soldiers (also called 'holdouts') - Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and Private Teruo Nakamura - were, captured, killed, successfully ordered to lay down arms and convinced to surrender (respectively, and in that order).  

Fascinating stories, all... and an afternoon passed reading about them would not be considered poorly spent.

Those four faithful soldiers had been hiding out for decades in caves and bunkers in remote locations on Pacific islands, either unaware or unconvinced that WWII was over; the outcome decided thirty-some-odd years before.

I mention this random factoid in order to convey a gentle hint to my online friends: 

If you find yourself suspiciously examining every single thing you see or read to test whether it seems to suggest support or or criticism of your preferred political party / office-holder / dogma / position / turf... guess what, you are a holdout.  You are behaving as though the war is still raging, and are hiding in a bunker (of your own making), ready to shoot at anyone and anything that moves.  

Historically, people in bunkers (and those with a bunker mentality), are notoriously difficult to dislodge for the simple reason that they remain willfully ignorant of the changing reality outside their bunkers.

I completely get it.  The outcome of the last 'war' was not to your liking.  In fact, even some of the people who crossed party lines and tipped the scales are experiencing a bit of 'buyer's remorse' just now. That has to be especially frustrating in such a closely fought contest.

But guess what?  You (and your country) survived.  There is no shame in having been a loyal soldier on the losing side.  But your current behavior - your fixation on, or denial of, the outcome -  is neither helpful nor liable to garner the results you seek.

The good news is that, unlike in real a war, there is a new political 'war' to 'fight' every four years in the US ; a 'do-over', in playground parlance. 

That's the beauty of living in a strong, vibrant democracy with a proven mechanism for periodically facilitating the peaceful transfer of power.  A peek at a history book should go a long way towards allaying your fears, and assuring you that the pendulum inevitably swings back.. and never, ever, stops moving.

The bad news is that it's hard to influence the current regime, and harder still to have a hand in picking the next one, if you are still holding out in your bunker, shooting blindly at anything that moves... engaged in a conflict whose outcome was decided years ago!

Come on out, the 'war' is over (at least for the next couple of years).  

Posted by David Bogner on July 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, July 09, 2018

Go Ahead and Bring Up Paris...

There’s a powerful line in the classic film, Casablanca' where Rick drunkenly chides Ilsa, saying “I wouldn't bring up Paris if I were you. It's poor salesmanship".

Image result for "I wouldn't bring up paris if I were you"

The line is powerful, not because Rick is right and Ilsa is wrong… but because we, the viewer, are aware that to broach the subject of Paris will lead to a painful discussion ... and that some hard truths are inevitably going to be shared.

Over the last couple of days we’ve been reading a lot about the genuine national disgrace of immigrants to the US who were actively recruited to serve in the US military with the promise of a path to citizenship, now being quietly (ok, not so quietly anymore), discharged… and told that the previously offered path is actually a dead end.

That's 'Paris'.  That's the uncomfortable linchpin of a discussion that nobody seems prepared to have.

Specifically, what nobody seems prepared to discuss is the far greater national disgrace that the US Military is so strapped for man-power that it had to stoop to recruiting non-citizens to do the heavy lifting of defending the freedoms and liberties of the very citizens who routinely  ignore and shun them.

Well, America... I wouldn't bring up 'Paris' if I were you... it's truly bad salesmanship!

Are the freedoms and rights you shout and carry on about on college campuses, in editorials and in town hall meetings, so cheap and meaningless that you (and your children), can’t be bothered to take a short turn standing watch to protect and defend them? 

Is uniformed service something that only the children of ‘other people’ – that great invisible, unwashed underclass – are expected to do, while your kids are left free and unencumbered to pursue their important, charmed, successful lives?

Is patriotism a costume you take out of the closet and put on for parades once or twice a year to make yourself feel part of something worthy and good, while the rest of the year you and your families support and idolize an elitist movie industry that consistently and deliberately portrays the military as evil, and veterans as irreparably damaged, drug-addled, ticking time-bombs?

Yes, it is a terrible thing that these immigrants who volunteered for military service in exchange for a path to citizenship are now being told ‘thanks, but no thanks’.  But that issue can’t be discussed in a vacuum. 

If you want to bring up 'Paris', you’d damned well better be prepared for a bunch of larger, broader discussions; discussions that, so far, aren't taking place:

The discussion about what exactly it means to be an American.

The discussion about what responsibilities and obligations come with that privilege.

The discussion of how despicable it is to ignore the very existence of dishwashers, bus-boys, lawn-mowers, home care-attendants, house-cleaners and other immigrant laborers who make your comfortable lives possible, while expecting these same invisible human beings (and their children), to fight and die for you… all while your precious children attend expensive colleges, and grow up to run things and write policy checks on an account to which they never made a single deposit!

So, yeah… go ahead and ‘bring up Paris’.  It’s a legitimate discussion; no matter how potentially divisive and painful.  

But don’t think you can broach such a fraught subject and not be expected to confront all the unpleasant truths attached to it.

Posted by David Bogner on July 9, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hoping For a Bad Meal Seems An Odd Strategy For An Evening Out

Okay, so here’s the picture I’d like to paint for you today:

After a contentious office discussion, you and a big crowd of friends, acquaintances and coworkers have come to an uneasy consensus as to where to go out for dinner.  The choice was far from unanimous… but then, in these workplace ‘cattle-call’ situations, a narrow majority is often the best one can hope for.

You all arrive outside the designated restaurant and, as often happens, a few of the more vocal proponents of the place begin loudly singing the praises of the venue’s chef, ambiance, and entrees… while a few of the more vocal detractors begin loudly knocking the shoddy décor, the crappy service, limited menu and inedible food.

All this, of course, is going on outside on the sidewalk before anyone has even crossed the threshold or been shown a table.

The crowd shuffles slowly into the place and is seated, and the vocal fans and foes of the restaurant begin loudly vying to sway the silent majority (who voted for or against the place, but have, so far, decided to reserve judgment), to their camp.

Now, as anyone who has ever dined out can tell you, going out to a restaurant is one of the most subjective experiences in life (which is why I’ve chosen it for today’s hopelessly-flawed analogy). 

The décor, although static, is just as likely to appeal to me as it is to offend the sensibilities of someone seated at the next table. 

The service will depend on how busy the place is, and can vary drastically even from server to server. 

The mood music can be caustic or conjure fond memories of one’s youth. 

The food is subject to arguably the widest range of perception since even expertly prepared meals may not live up to expectations (or one’s memory of the last time it was ordered)… and, of course, even great chefs have off nights.

So you and your crowd have ordered and begin receiving the various salads, appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts (hopefully in approximately the correct order).

I get that many of the group are unhappy with where they are right now.  I know they wanted with all their heart to have the group go a different way.  But this is where they are for the rest of the evening. 

So, why, at this point, are the nay-sayers still waging their full-throated campaign to convince everyone what a horrible mistake this place was?  It seems to me that once everyone is seated and eating their meals, they would share – at least momentarily - a common interest in trying to make the best of the situation.  

Why continue to ridicule the décor and table-service.  Is there a chance the management will give the place a facelift before dinner is served?

Why berate or sabotage the staff?  Don’t you  know these servers have unfettered access to your food?  

Why denigrate the chef to his face?  Do they think insults will motivate him to make an extra-special effort to turn in a Michelin-star-worthy performance for an ungrateful bunch of loudmouths who are already predicting his failure?

Short of walking out (something many threatened to do at the outset, but few actually followed through with), it would seem that the smart thing to do would be to try to make the best of the situation.  After all, most people in the world don’t have the resources or choice of going out to dinner.  In fact, most of the world would be deliriously happy if there was simply ample food on their table to get them through the day. 

So in that context, this idea of periodically being able to have a say in where to go to have someone prepare your food and serve it to you (and then clean up afterwards), seems to be a bit of an under-appreciated luxury.

Metaphor clear enough?  Obviously, there’s no magical, O. Henry-esque ‘reveal’ at the end of this essay.  I’ve been pretty ham-handed with where I’m headed, metaphorically speaking.

I get that Trump is an inarticulate buffoon. I suspect that for many, he was a gag-choice (think Jesse Ventura in Minnesota).   I can’t watch Trump  speak… it’s too cringe-inducing. But for all his ineptitude and seat-of-the-pants management ‘style’, by accident or design he isn’t screwing up absolutely everything.  Whether talking about the economy or some of the thornier foreign policy mine-fields, a couple of things appear to be, inexplicably, working out for him.  And by working out, I mean to America’s benefit, not just Trumps. 

I get that Trump and many of his appointees are rank amateurs who are clearly making it up as they go along.  Guess what, I can give you a long list of appointees in every Democratic and Republican administration who were also amateurs with little or no government experience.  Some were political patronage drones and some were savvy policy wonks.  But all had no choice but to produce or perish.  Some rose to the occasion… others didn’t. 

But when I see every YouTube mouth-breather and street-corner bigot being blamed on ‘Trump’s America’, I have to wonder if these same people were somehow in hibernation or medicated under previous presidents.  In my experience, idiots don’t wait for particular seasons and opportunities to strut their stuff.  Their bigotry and ass-hattery are well-developed and on display for most of their adult lives, and had little connection to who lived in the White House when they were filmed behaving badly.

But back to the topic at hand, my point is that once a group has exercised some semblance of democratic process, and the results have been announced, doesn’t everyone have a shared interest in making the best of the situation?  There’ll be plenty of time after the meal and back at the office to dissect take-away lessons from the experience, and campaign for the choice of venue for the next office outing. 

But while you are actually sitting in your seat, why try to ruin an unavoidable experience that is already underway?  Why insult the chef, trip the waiters and vandalize the furniture?  This time you got Red Lobster.  Maybe next time you’ll get your way and steer the group to Peter Luger.

I guess I don’t understand the mindset of those who, having had their preference rejected (by however narrow a margin), would pray for food poisoning rather than hope that perhaps the breadsticks and one or two of the less-complicated entrees might be safe.

After all, like I mentioned earlier, not many in the world actually have a choice.

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Sit Down and Shut Up!

This just in from disgraced Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert (yes, the one who just got out of prison!), in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, about the way Israel is dealing with the violence from Gaza:

 "In this context, I think that we have to consider other options of operations which will be less violent and damaging…I mean, it's not a thousand kids only, there were tens of thousands of people and they were, indeed, there were many casualties and there were 62 people killed. And I am terribly sorry and sad about it… Is it necessary to use the guns the way they were used, snipers the way they were used? (...) I have questions, I have doubts”.

Okay, listen up surrender boy.  The current catastrophe in Gaza is the gift from your failed Kadima party that just keeps on giving (you do remember the ‘Disengagement, don’t you?!). 

Thirteen years ago, you and your elitist cronies assured us you knew what was best for us.  You promised us that a frantic, unilateral retreat from Gaza was the best and only solution to Israel’s problems.  'The world will respect us', you said.  'The Palestinians will thank us', you said.  'There will be no missiles from Gaza', you said.  'The seeds of peace, so generously sown, will spontaneously sprout flowers all over the middle east', you said!

That was the summer of 2005. 

You were a Cabinet Minister in 2005 and Prime Minister from 2006 - 2009. 

Before you were shown the door, your popularity rating had slipped to below 3% in most polls, and a ‘Google Bomb’ brought up your Wikipedia page whenever anyone did a Hebrew search for the term ‘Miserable Failure’.

So am I missing something?  Did you get smacked around in prison so hard that you lost all memory of the 'Disengagement' from Gaza over which you and your Kadima-led government presided?  Did the disastrous war in Lebanon (which ended with you and Tzippi Livni literally pleading for a cease fire), slip your mind?  Did you forget that according to the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement, the enemy was required to do only two things:  Return our kidnapped soldiers and disarm Hezbollah?

Up until the moment the bodies of the kidnapped soldiers were dumped like yesterday’s trash at our northern border, you and your feckless Kadima comrades didn’t even know if they were alive or dead.  It was a devastating gut-punch to Israel, and a huge PR win for Hezbollah.  And as for the promise that the Iranian proxy in Lebanon would be forced to disarm?  How’s that working out so far?  Interesting that the UN Security Council isn't meeting to discuss non-compliance with that resolution, right!

So you’ll excuse me if I suggest that you should have confined your entire interview to those last few words:  “I have my doubts”.  We know.  We had them too (and still do).  But back in 2005 you managed to convince everyone that you knew better… that you had all the answers.  That you had no doubts.

In case you hadn't noticed, it's not 2005.  It's 2018.  You're not in charge anymore. 

I get that you're unhappy with the news from Gaza.  Take a number… nobody (except, perhaps Hamas and Islamic Jihad) is happy watching the news from Gaza these days.  Unfortunately, managing that snake pit in Gaza from outside is a lot like trying to cook a meal without being able to lift a pot lid or open the oven door.

So unless you have a more concrete solution than ‘we should consider other options’, just take a knee and let the grown-ups have a crack at this.  You had your chance.  We'll let you know if/when we've finished cleaning up your mess.

Posted by David Bogner on June 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Committing [National] Suicide

The classic definition of chutzpah is murdering one's parents and then pleading for leniency from the court because your're an orphan. So, what do you call it when someone commits suicide in an attempt to similarly garner sympathy or preferential treatment?

I won't waste time discussing the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, or which / how many entities actually represent the Palestinians in that struggle.  What baffles me is the methodology the Palestinians are employing in that struggle, which is, at best, chutzpadik, and at worst, suicidal to their national aspirations.

Abba Eban once famously quipped that, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."  This has been proven wrong on a couple of notable occasions when Arab leaders opted for peace and progress when opportunities have presented themselves.  I'm referring, of course, to the Egyptians and Jordanians.

But either the Palestinians are incapable seizing any of the multiple opportunities that have been presented to them... or they are actively working towards a different outcome.  I honestly don't know which is correct.

Here is a short list of the opportunities  - clear paths to statehood - which the Palestinians have missed: 

  • In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.
  • In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of a unitary Arab state.
  • In 1947, the UN would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan.
  • In addition 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians. On the contrary while Jordan was in control Arafat said there was no longer a claim as it was no longer part of Palestine. Once it was back in Israeli hands it miraculously became disputed land again! This is one of many reasons Israelis remain cynical.
  • The 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations offered the Palestinians autonomy, which would almost certainly have led to full independence.
  • The Oslo agreements of the 1990s laid out a path for Palestinian independence, but the process was derailed by terrorism.
  • In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinian response was not only a resounding 'no' (without a counter-offer), but also the launch of the 2nd Intifada.
  • In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and partition Jerusalem on a demographic basis.

During the 2005 'disengagement', Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from Gaza, leaving extensive agriculture infrastructure to the Palestinians. Yes, Israel continued to maintain control of Gaza's airspace, land borders (with the exception of Gaza's border with Egypt, abandoned by Israel in 2005), and territorial waters.  But that was not a punitive or unilateral decision on Israel's part.  It was part of the Oslo accords which, to date, neither side has formally abandoned. 

Instead of creating a new proto-state on the Mediterranean, the Palestinians destroyed the existing infrastructure and diverted much of the international humanitarian aid they received to terror programs; launching thousands of rockets at Israel and building scores of attack tunnels under the border.

Now Gaza's government (Hamas) has started a novel campaign of directing thousands of their own people to violently breach the fence with Israel, invade and overrun the country and carry out murder and mayhem as they go.

This goes far beyond missing opportunities.  It is committing national suicide!

How can the Palestinians ask for sovereignty for themselves when they don't understand or respect the inviolability of sovereignty?

How can the Palestinians expect to be given a state when the explicitly stated goal of their national project is to destroy / supplant an existing state?

How can the Palestinian leadership reasonably hope to be entrusted with the protection and welfare of their own citizens when they don't understand (or are willfully ignoring), a basic tenet of statehood: that when forced to choose between the safety and welfare of its own citizens and the safety and welfare of demonstrably violent invaders, a state must always choose to protect its own citizens?

Which brings me back to my original question:  What benefit does the Palestinian leadership expect to gain by this suicidal play for international sympathy if it results in the demise of their national aspirations?

Posted by David Bogner on May 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (5)