Monthly Archives: April, 2014

What I Didn’t Know When I Said ‘I Do’

April 30th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

O.k. I never actually said, “I do.” Those words are not part of the Jewish marriage ceremony. Still, there were so many unknowns on our wedding day.  Many of them are universal. How could I possibly have foreseen what the future would hold in terms of both delightful and disappointing revelations about my spouse? (To be fair, this is a two way street. He had his own positive and negative revelations to discover.) No amount of required reading would have begun to make clear how the arrival of children would affect our lives. Certainly, family, national and world events that would shake our lives weren’t evident on that day.

Every married person knows that a spouse sometimes sends you down paths you might not have chosen yourself. An anti-war liberal friend of mine found herself knee-deep organizing events for military wives after marrying a soldier. Another friend, while keeping her husband company while he studied for the LSATs needed for law school applications, ended up taking them herself (and outscoring her spouse).

I had no inkling of some personal experiences that would greet me. That my bridegroom was a sailor was obvious. Our first date was on a sailboat on a cloudy, windless day. I knew I was being tested. Yet, I did not envision crossing the Pacific Ocean six years later, three daughters in tow.

I knew that my husband was an inspiring and brilliant teacher with unusual oratorical skills. He was my rabbi before he was my beloved and I attended his classes. Neither of us knew that a then unknown future friend would turn those skills into a radio career. Even when that happened, I didn’t foresee that part of being a ‘helpmate opposite him’ would include hosting his show when he couldn’t.

The first time I did so I wanted to walk around the next day with a bag over my head, a response that was completely illogical since radio is not a visual medium. I parsed every word I could remember, cringing at my lack of eloquence. The next time was a little better, and while it is still easier to think of more elegant ways to phrase things after the microphone is off, I basically have a good time sitting in for my spouse.

When I have advance notice, as I do for this coming Sunday’s show (KSFO 560AM, 5-8am PT) I start spotting intriguing stories all week long. In addition to testing written phrases in my mind for my Musing, I find myself planning what questions I want to ask listeners about the Donald Sterling tempest, the infuriating “Obamacare is a great success” commercial I heard (paid for with our tax dollars), or an article bemoaning how many city workers can’t afford to live in San Francisco. Awareness of the upcoming three hours is ever-present through the week.

The written word allows time to ponder, tolerates refining and permits liberal usage of the delete button. A prepared talk can be vetted, edited and practiced.  Not so a radio show. On the radio, one can’t say, “Let me think about that,” and sit in silent contemplation for the next ten, five, or even one minute. The twists and turns the show takes as callers chime in is rather daunting.

Had I actually said, “I do,” would I still have said it knowing the pathways my life would follow? Or would a stark picture of reality full of experiences outside my comfort zone have led me to say “no thanks” missing the wonderful, if often disconcerting, times ahead? What a tremendous loss that would have been!

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It’s All About the Money

April 24th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

“It’s all about money. They just don’t want to give more.” With these words, a woman I had just met explained to me why some people oppose Obamacare. The unspoken words I heard were, “People who oppose the Affordable Care Act are selfish. They don’t want other people to have good healthcare because their taxes will be raised to afford it.”

Leaving aside for the moment that I believe that the state of health care in this country will diminish and more people will receive worse care, I was still struck by the arrogance of her attitude.

Recently, my daughter and son-in-law were notified that they needed to find new health insurance. The insurance that my son-in-law’s workplace had provided, with which they were happy, was no longer going to be available. Due to the health care law, the premiums had gone up so much that the company was not able to offer that policy.

Thanks to Obamacare, my daughter’s family needed to sign up for new insurance. The only option they had was to pay more money for a different policy, less suited to their needs. The pediatrician and internist they have happily been seeing for years are not on the new policy, necessitating finding new doctors that, incidentally, are only available a substantially further distance from their home than the old ones were.

However, let’s say that they could have kept their doctors and the specific types of treatment they wanted. Let’s say that the only difference Obamacare made was that their premiums would go up. Let’s say that the new law was going to provide good coverage to those who had been without it, not from choice but because they couldn’t afford insurance. Surely, any warm-hearted person would be happy to pay more so that other people could benefit. I do believe my acquaintance pictured this type of rosy scenario.

Even if this utopian vision was closer to reality than the actual disaster that is taking place, she is lacking understanding. Higher premiums mean an increase in expenses. Since families, unlike the government, must live within a budget, this leaves my daughter with two choices. She and her husband can increase their income by working more hours with the result that they spend less time focusing on their marriage, children or community activities. At a certain point, each of these may very well make more people in need of government assistance rather than contributors to society. Alternatively, they can reduce expenses. While this woman may be picturing the lifestyles of the rich and famous, for this young family like for many others, reducing expenses means cutting back on very basic items.

“It’s all about money,” can condescendingly be said by someone who is more than comfortable. While the woman with whom I was talking can handle a tax increase without losing her jaunts to Europe and Hawaii, she is completely out of touch with the majority of working people. Similarly, those who live off the public dole (whether through welfare, as elected politicians, or via another path) often get routine increases tied to the cost of living. The real world doesn’t operate like that.

Most people I know work hard for their money. In doing so, they support a vital, functioning society. As we move in the direction of punishing people for working and being responsible with their earnings, more than health care will suffer. As people such as my conversationalist continue to blithely and ignorantly vote based on foolish platitudes, they will find civilization around them crumbling until they too meet the real world, in which what we do with our money actually matters.   


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Et Tu, Jeb

April 18th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

Pity the young women seeking a spouse. She keeps on being introduced to men whom, she is told, are wise, amiable, principled, articulate and trustworthy. At first her interest is piqued, but before long she discovers that one or more of the above traits are a façade; in fact, the men have legs of sand.

Such, sadly, is the fate of the conservative voter in America. The latest, ‘doesn’t live up to expectations’ date, is Jeb Bush. I certainly haven’t looked deeply into Mr. Bush’s record, but I was open-minded when his name surfaced as a possible presidential contender for 2016.

After his recent comments on immigration, he will have to work hard to get me to take his call. While I might disagree with his thoughts on the topic, that isn’t what leads me to spurn him. This is the sentence that infuriated me.

“I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.”

Like the suitor who tries to win his date’s favor by maligning anyone else she has dated, it suggests poor character and lack of discernment. Rather than building himself up, in my eyes at least, Jeb showed himself to be either self-serving and petty or clueless.

Here’s my beef. The “harsh, political rhetoric” I hear, is an invention of the Democratic Party and liberal propagandists. They ceaselessly promote the idea that Republicans and conservatives hate women/poor people/ African-Americans/ immigrants/ workers—whichever group is needed to win elections is identified as the object of conservative loathing.

With his speech, Jeb Bush played right into their hands. The conservatives I know who are concerned about a massive change to immigration policy are thoughtful, generous and respectful people. Many of them volunteer in Central and South America, in Africa and India on their hard-earned vacation weeks, working in orphanages and at other needy places. They are perfectly willing to engage in a debate on many topics, yet find themselves parodied and the butts of ad hominem attacks.

In this case, Jeb Bush seemed intent on saying, “I’m not like those horrible conservatives. I’m a loving guy.” This Bush has bought into the big lie, and in doing so, insults me. This is not a great strategy for getting a second date. The Republican Party in general seems intent on pursuing this losing approach.

I agree that conservatives need to win a broader bloc of voters. I think we should win them by finding articulate and clever ways to share with them the following truth. Conservative principles make life better, healthier, happier and wealthier for the overwhelming majority of people.  Liberal ideas sound good and tend to fail miserably in the real world.

Instead, Mr. Bush (and others in the Republican Party) seems intent on showing how distant he is from me (and others like me who no longer have faith in the Republican Party) and how he too can pander to constituencies. Too many Republican spokesmen seem to dislike the Tea Party more than they dislike what liberalism has done to this country.

Many of the quality women I know would rather sit home alone than subject themselves to disappointing dates.  While they want to find a man they can trust and respect, sadly, the lines of unworthy suitors keeps getting longer. By the grace of God, I met and married a wonderful man. My search for a political match is, so far, less successful.



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Conform – Or Else!

April 10th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

A friend recently sent me a clip (link below) from the original Candid Camera series. Four people enter an elevator, three of whom are participants in a planned prank. As the elevator ascends, the three turn and face the back wall. About ten seconds later, they turn again. The hidden camera catches the lone, innocent passenger. Invariably, he turns to match the others.

While highly amusing to watch, the ramifications aren’t amusing at all.  Peer pressure causes most of us to do or not do things without necessarily thinking them through. In itself, peer pressure is neither good nor bad. This powerful force sometimes leads us to behave differently, both for better and for worse, than we might otherwise do. For the vast majority of us, as for the commonly denim-clad, afro coiffed, slogan-shouting teens of the 1960’s, while we speak of individuality, we follow the crowd.

As children, the “victims” in the elevator probably read the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Yet, rather than engaging their fellow elevator riders with a question, “Why are you turning around?” they abashedly followed suit. It makes me highly uncomfortable not to be sure that I would do any differently.

Last week, Brendan Eich, one of the creative geniuses at Mozilla who had become its CEO, resigned rather than cave in to the current groupthink on homosexual marriage.  He was told that America has a new way of thinking and that he had better get with the program.  (Note that by the same logic, President Obama should immediately revoke Obamacare since a huge plurality of Americans disapproves of it.)

Mozilla is a private business, but if another private business of that size fired its CEO because he advocated in favor of homosexual marriage would the government somehow get involved? Today we live under a bullying government and its intimidating agencies staffed by ever-more arrogant officials.  Increasing numbers of Americans are beginning to view their government as sinister and frightening, perhaps even malevolent. The inevitable result is that a subtle feeling of fear pushes us towards conformity.  Additionally, the media, educational institutions and sometimes friends and family exert social pressure targeting and mislabeling those of us who resist the urge to join a brave, new (highly experimental and anti-Biblical) world.  Defending freedom and preserving our values demand that we resist that pressure.

 I know nothing of Mr. Eich or his thought processes, but I bet he would not face the rear wall in the elevator just because everyone else does.

Here is the Candid Camera clip. What peer pressure are you facing?
Are you being pushed to conform in your own life?

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700 Club Clubbed

April 8th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The aftermath to my appearance on The 700 Club with my friend Pat Robertson last Monday astounded me.  Like noxious mushrooms after a rain, articles suddenly sprang up condemning Pat for something people thought he said, and condemning me for not condemning him.  Also, I received a bunch of negative communications, almost all of them from self-proclaimed Jews.  I find myself sadly amused by hostile letters written to a rabbi that are filled with Yiddish curses.

They ranged from one or two politely critical ones to the majority, featuring vile and vulgar expletives about me and my family; two contained explicit death threats.  I am not complaining, I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.  I am accustomed to telling the Truth and living my life accordingly in spite of the anger this occasionally generates among fervent and extremist secular fundamentalists of all ethnic backgrounds.

What drives people with extremely limited data to rush to judgment and quickly criticize, condemn, and excoriate others?  What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?  I think it is collateral damage from the retreat of religion.  I believe that it is Biblical wisdom that lubricates human social and economic interaction and when that becomes eroded, people rush to judge one another harshly.

…in righteousness you shall judge your friend.
 (Leviticus 19:15)

Still, this is a bit vague. After all, what does ‘righteousness’ really mean?  Fortunately, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us about very important paragraph markings that can be seen in a traditional Torah scroll.  These divisions provide a graphically visible separation of a Torah column into specifically related topics. This verse is part of a paragraph which includes another verse:

…and you shall love your friend as you love yourself
(Leviticus 19:18)

Thus we see juxtaposed two parallel ideas (1) judge one another righteously, and, (2) love one another as you love yourself.

In other words, judge others the way you’d like them to judge you—giving the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, those who wrote angry denunciations were rushing to draw the very worst of conclusions.  They were hardly judging the way they’d like to be judged themselves.

I do have to say that the impact of these few vitriolic letters was utterly overwhelmed by the colossal cascade of positive and enthusiastic letters from friends and fans who saw the 700 Club interview on CBN.

Which brings me to an interesting aspect of most of the vituperative letters: most of those who scrawled them did not bother to view the twenty-minute show.  They wrote to me after reading Internet reports written by ideologues not shy about their hatred for religious conservatives such as Dr. Robertson and me.

Disregarding the obscenities and threats they contain, these letters revealed that their authors view Pat Robertson as virulently anti-Semitic and me as a hateful and unworthy member of the Jewish people for associating with him.

Let’s see what the interview was about and what Dr. Robertson actually said.  We were discussing my new book Business Secrets from the Bible which is a sequel to the best-seller from 2002, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money.

In this new book, I reveal forty business secrets from the Bible, but in a short interview, I focused on only a few examples.  One of which was that many start-up entrepreneurs mistakenly try to do everything themselves.  I explain that you should try to do those things that only you can do while hiring others to do everything else.

Attempting a humorous example, I observed that you seldom find Jews tinkering with their cars or mowing their lawns on weekends.  I did not say that there are no Jewish lawn landscapers or Jewish car mechanics.  That would be nonsense; like other successful groups, Judaism does not view any form of work as menial.

My point was that auto-mechanics should hire plumbers to fix their water pipes, and lawn maintenance specialists should hire auto-mechanics to fix their cars.  This frees each to become more competent in his own field and better able to serve his fellow humans.  I explained that not only would my mechanic repair my car more competently and more quickly than I could but that in the time he did so, I could probably make more money than he would charge me if I applied myself effectively to my own trade.

During the 700 Club interview I mentioned the Biblical foundations for this principle of the morality of specialization which western economics only grasped when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations at the end of the 18th century.

Responding to me, Dr. Robertson laughingly alluded to diamond polishing as a popular Jewish specialty.  This is to say that diamond polishers should not repair their own cars any more than auto mechanics should spend months polishing a raw diamond to present to their fiancées. Instead, they allow the diamond specialist to do the polishing while they pursue their own work.

There was nothing troubling in this conversation.  Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the industry knows that over 90% of the diamond business, whether in Manhattan, Antwerp, or Tel Aviv, is conducted by Jews.  So what?

There was nothing anti-Semitic in this conversation.  There was no suggestion that all Jews are rich.  I explicitly stated that obviously there are poor Jews but at the same time, it is hard to ignore that Jews are disproportionately represented among the Forbes Four Hundred and other listings of the financially successful.

The entire point of much I have written and published is that Jewish financial success is not racial and genetic but cultural. Furthermore I demonstrate how anybody can learn, understand and apply the cultural principles rooted in the Bible just as so many Jews have done over the centuries.

However, there are always a few bitter and hateful individuals.  People whose loathing of Judeo-Christian tradition and repugnance for Biblically based conservatives makes them abandon facts and focus with frenzied fanaticism on microscopic morsels they scoop up and transform into bogus evidence to justify their hate.

Pat Robertson, regularly honored and loved by Israelis for his remarkable generosity to the Jewish state has yet to be shown to have ever caused harm to any Jew.  It is a frighteningly dangerous precedent for Jews to abuse the terrible term anti-Semite in order to bludgeon those with whom they disagree into silence and submission.  It is not only dangerous but it is also stupid and evil.  Some of my fellow Jews should be ashamed of themselves.  I know I was embarrassed to see a friend so insulted by those to whom he has always been kind and gracious.

The only people left in the whole world who still openly like Jews and support Israel are America’s Evangelical Christians.  I sometimes worry that God might wonder whether we Jews really do deserve these good friends.

Meanwhile, let’s remember that we unnecessarily jeopardize relationships by failing to judge others the way we’d like to be judged.  Furthermore, those to whom you do extend the benefit of the doubt will never forget your goodness.

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When Crying Wolf Works

April 3rd, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

Did your parents tell you the story of the boy who cried ‘wolf’? Tending sheep, he thought he would spice things up by sounding the alarm that a wolf was attacking his flock. The frightened villagers rushed to his rescue only to find the alarm was bogus. After pulling this stunt a few times, the disgusted villagers began to ignore him. Predictably, when a real wolf threatened his sheep, no one came to his aid. Does this moral lesson still hold true?

You would think that the abject failure of nearly all those cities that have been run by Democratic mayors, city councils and leaders would suggest that their ideas are unsuccessful. The residents of those cities send their children to failing schools, live on crime-ridden streets and watch their neighborhoods deteriorate as city government defers infrastructure maintenance in favor of giving yet greater benefits to their employees. Yet, every serious attempt to make real improvement is met by liberal pundits shouting ‘wolf’ (racism), preferring hopeless situations and dependent citizens to the threat of Republican ascendancy and spreading freedom from government. So far, the villagers (Americans) keep running to fight the imagined peril, ignoring real threats.

When Paul Ryan made a comment acknowledging certain inner city realities and proposing that different solutions were needed, liberals needed to destroy him. While his words condemned only educational and government values, entrenched Democratic interests twisted what he said to accuse him of condemning certain people. Better that the inner city unemployment rate keeps rising rather than allowing a Republican politician to make inroads with solid Democratic constituencies.

Thankfully, Mr. Ryan didn’t accept the accusation and grovel. Unfortunately, he did apologize for using insensitive language. Like too many other Republicans, he has to learn the lesson that offense works better than defense. The point of the accusation was to disqualify him and take attention from his ideas. How much better it would have been if he would have rejected the allegation and pointed to the dismal record of the Obama administration. He should have quoted the president and other Democratic leaders saying similar words and accused his accusers of preferring hatred of conservatives to improving the condition of suffering children.

A few months ago, television personality Melissa Harris Perry made a vicious remark about the Romney’s adopted grandchild based on the child’s race. The remark was so rude and venomous that she tearfully apologized. Mr. Romney revealed himself as a perfect gentleman when he graciously accepted her apology. At the same time, he proved why he was an unsuccessful presidential candidate. Handed a high-profile opportunity to focus the conversation on liberal prejudice against conservatives and demand that Ms. Harris examine her own and her peers’ biases, he instead ended the conversation.

A few months ago, I wrote about Stephen Daughtry’s book, Waking the Sleeping Giant and how I thought that every conservative should read it. As Republicans compete once again to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it seems obvious that neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Paul has done so.

(Kudos to Bill Maher for raising the issue of the hypocrisy of the Left. This is worth reading.)


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