Saturday, January 29, 2011


This past Tuesday night, I was participating in a panel at Washington’s Jewish theatre, Theatre J, talking about a play we had witnessed concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All three Abrahamic faiths were represented on the panel, which was composed mainly of members of Yes We Can – Middle East Peace (, my favorite peace group. But what we have in common is far more than our religious heritage: we all viscerally care about working for a just and secure peace in the Middle East. And I don’t doubt that as a result of the play we witnessed and the talk-back session of which we were a part, members of the Jewish and Arab communities began to understand each other’s narratives just a little bit better. Facilitating such understanding, one Jew and Arab at a time, is the key to reconciliation.

Barack Obama is a man of peace. You can tell that from listening to him speak. He is calm, rational, deliberate, thoughtful, friendly, and, like all other Presidents, he’s had to develop a thick skin. If that’s not a formula for a peace-loving person, I don’t know what is. On Tuesday night, while we were talking about peace at Theatre J, Barack had an opportunity to do the same in his own State of the Union. He had an opportunity to address our nation’s commitment to ushering in an era of justice and peace throughout the world, and especially in the Middle East, an area which seems to spawn so much violence and hatred.

Suffice it to say, the President whiffed. He said precious little about the outside world, other than the obligatory boasting about how splendidly our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going. Indeed, if this speech could have a title, it would be “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”

Well, in a sense it is the economy, though not just the economy our President had in mind. Last month, it was the Tunisian economy. This month, it’s the Egyptian economy. For whenever an oppressed people realizes that its economic well being isn’t adequate, that’s usually when it starts reflecting on other things, such as the extent to which it enjoys basic liberties. In that regard, the “Arab Street,” as technocrats like to call the hoi polloi in most Middle Eastern nations, is coming to grips with the fact that it has not exactly created Jeffersonian Democracies. And do you know what? These folks are none too happy about that. As someone who always carries around two $2 bills in my wallet, I can’t say I blame them.

Barack is not blind to foreign affairs. In fact, it is still my view that when he came to the Presidency, he actually understood those matters infinitely better than he understood economics. That is probably why he has devoted virtually all of his energies to the latter; it was as if he realized he needed to go back to school and major in economics in order to be a well-rounded fellow -- I mean, leader of the free world. The problem is that Barack tried once to truly lead in matters of foreign policy, and in that regard he fell flat on his face. Ironically, in light of what is going on right now, the place he chose to exert his leadership was the great city of Cairo, and the topic on which he chose to stake his claim as an international leader was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Talk about swinging and missing.

Truth be told, the President had the right idea in Cairo, though I’m not sure why he chose Cairo as opposed to Jerusalem to give that speech. He devoted equal time to both the Palestinian and the Israeli causes. Unfortunately, someone mistakenly gave Barack the idea that it made sense to demand that Israel make a very important concrete concession (freezing settlement construction) and not to make any analogous demand of the Palestinians. As a result, he pissed off Israel, its Government thumbed its nose at him, he realized there was nothing he could do to change their policy and backed off his demands, and now he has unified both Arabs and Israelis in thinking of him as irrelevant.

Is it surprising that during the State of the Union address, despite the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been all over the news lately, Barack didn’t say a single world about it? He spoke for an hour, but on what was supposed to be the crown foreign policy jewel of his Administration, he couldn’t even muster an “Oy Vey.”

Where’s the leadership we know he’s capable of?

As for Egypt, on the 25th of January, the day of Barack’s speech, Cairo was flooded with demonstrators who had had just about enough of the Mubarak Government’s repressive policies. Again, Barack was silent on the matter, as he has been throughout his Administration. Notably, though, he did have something to say about the spark that lit the Egyptian torch: “And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

There you have it, the sum and substance of what Barack had to say about the Democracy movement in the Middle East.. We stand with the people of Tunisia! We stand with all who demonstrate for democracy and against tyranny! No matter that Tunisia’s dictator had already stepped down more than a week before the speech, and that Egypt’s dictator is still very much in power and refusing to give it up. God forbid we would take a stand against Mubarek and send a message of solidarity with the Jeffersonians in the streets. (We sure didn’t do much of that when Iran was having its demonstrations.) Better to just wait and kick around the guy in Tunisia – the one who is already kicked out.

Where’s the leadership we know he’s capable of?

Mr. President, I realize that you spent December and January reading the polls and listening to the pundits. And I know how many talking heads have been falling all over themselves praising you for your successful Triangulation strategy – with you playing the role of honest broker, you’ve seen one domestic policy bill after another passed by Congress. But as much as you might like this nation to go back into our shell and obsess exclusively about its tax rates and infrastructural investments, knotty events abroad have a tendency of rearing their ugly heads. And occasionally, just occasionally, when those events occur, Presidents are called upon to do something other than splitting the difference between Democratic and Republican orthodoxy. It’s called showing leadership.

In printing those words, I have to laugh, because when I think about the foreign policy actions most often associated with Barack to date, I think about his war policy, and especially the way he’s dealt with Afghanistan. The Democrats wanted out. And the Republicans wanted a surge. So what did he give us? A surge, combined with a promise to leave within a couple of years. So even when it comes to the issue of war, Barack’s instinct was to split the baby. It always seems to be his instinct. Triangulate for Breakfast. Triangulate for Lunch. Triangulate for Dinner.

Given our own nation’s growing allergies to polarization and partisanship, Triangulation should probably work pretty well as a domestic political strategy. But overseas, I don’t foresee the same appeal. For years, America was looked to for leadership, especially in the Middle East. This, after all, is a country where Jews, Christians and Muslims come together into a vast melting pot, a nation founded on a respect for religious values exceeded only by its respect for religious freedom. If such a country can’t stand proudly for Democracy and Justice, what can? But Bush got our manhood stuck in our zipper in Baghdad and Kabul, and Barack made his fateful boo-boo two years ago in Cairo. So at this point, I’m not sure who is looking for leadership from us. At this point, we’ll have to earn some of that credibility back.

Barack is perfectly capable of doing just that. He is a great orator. He is a true believer in Democracy. And he is a natural mediator. The man is brilliant, charismatic, and just plain likeable. But what he’s not, at least not yet, is a politician who is willing to sail out into the wild blue yonder on behalf of a vision. Reagan did that, and lo and behold, the Iron Curtain came down. Barack, by contrast, would rather devote all his time to acting domestically, thinking small, and getting re-elected.

Call it a Presidency on cruise control. The President on whom I placed such tremendous hopes doesn’t even seem to be breaking a sweat these days. Triangulation is the easy way out. Or if you prefer a different metaphor, call it playing the prevent-defense shortly after half-time. Barack might think he has a big enough lead, and judging from the Seven Republican Dwarfs who are aiming to take him on next year, he may indeed be playing a bad enough team to justify that strategy. But I’m not so much thinking about Barack the candidate, I’m thinking about Barack the Leader of the Free World. When it comes to the latter, the Gallup Poll won’t help and neither will the pundits.

Leadership isn’t something one simply calculates by splitting the difference. It requires a vision, and it requires courage. In fact, when you style yourself a progressive and a leader, you had better figure out a way to appeal to the aspirations of the masses. Right now, Barack might be appealing to the aspirations of David Brooks and the other chattering moderates in the New York Times and Washington Post. But his gig isn’t working in Cairo, and it’s doing little better in Tel Aviv or Hebron. Let’s pray that changes soon. Before the events spin out of control in Egypt and Yemen, and before we lose another opportunity to make peace in Israel/Palestine, the world needs some meaningful input from the land of Jefferson. That’s a hell of a lot more important right now than the Obama re-election campaign.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


There’s no time this weekend for my customarily lengthy blog post. I’m off in a few minutes to Philly to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of art. And when I return tomorrow afternoon? You guessed it – the NFL playoffs.

But before heading up I-95, I wanted to say a few words about the book seemingly everyone is talking about this week, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” by Amy Chua. Admittedly, I may be a tad biased, since I’m good friends with the author’s sister, yet I truly believe that my general attitude about this book is unaffected by that relationship. Instead of reviling the book’s author, as many are doing, I praise her. She has written a candid and courageous memoir about a topic that this country had better start confronting: how the hell we should be raising our children.

I have found nothing in life, and I mean NOTHING, more challenging than being a parent. You approach the job thinking that your kids are as malleable as clay, and then at some point, you realize that some of them are more like rodeo horses, and your job is simply to hold on and pray. At least that’s the way it feels sometimes, when you learn the extent to which teenagers are capable of acting like jerks or idiots.

In light of that fact, I can fully appreciate why Amy Chua would be tempted to steer away from the rodeo metaphor and break her kids down so that they more resemble race horses who needed to be whipped by a jockey in order to reach their greatest speeds. Her style is not exactly what I would advocate, but I’ll tell you this – it’s sure preferable to the opposite approach, which is often affectionately known as the “Cookie Mom.” I’m referring to the laissez-faire style, in which parents are satisfied with being their kids’ friends, and don’t bother to instill much discipline or push their kids to realize their potentials.

Chua and I agree that it is a parent’s job to push our kids – and I mean push hard. Where we differ is on the destination. I want my kids to develop moral and social skills every bit as much as intellectual skills. And while I, like Chua, also want my kids to achieve artistically, I don’t believe that you can do that by coercing them to practice, practice, practice (whether they want to or not). Real artistry requires creativity, which is based on freedom and an attitude best expressed by the French phrase, joie de vivre. Stated simply, creative people need to have plenty of down time – time to hang out with friends, sit in front of a mindless TV show, or just plain lie in bed and day dream.

The fact is that we’re not race horses – or if you prefer a different metaphor – we’re not rats racing each other in a maze. But I’ll tell you this much. I may chuckle when I see parenting styles like Amy Chua’s, and yet at least I have a modicum of respect for the product of such styles. At least I see these kids growing up so that they’ll make something of themselves. The far bigger problem with our society are the parents who set LOW expectations for their children. And when those kids grow up, all they can do is eat, drink, passively entertain themselves, and do an uninspired job at work. When we have our national debate on parenting – that latter approach is what we really need to put on trial, not the style illustrated by Amy Chua.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Haifa is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. It has been called the “San Francisco of Israel,” and indeed, the two are officially sister cities. Like the City by the Bay, Haifa is hilly, scenic, adjacent to the sea, and quite the melting pot. In Haifa’s case, the races that come together are Jews and Arabs – both Semites, both cousins in the family of Abraham. And yet tragically, they have increasingly come to see themselves as mortal enemies, locked in a never-ending war over a relatively small land mass.

Haifa was the last city of any size that I visited before coming to Jerusalem at the beginning of March 1981. I spent much of my time in Haifa high above the city where I could savor the view. But mostly I was reading books – books by the philosopher Nietzsche railing against organized religion and the God that has emerged from it. I knew, you see, that one of my next destinations would be an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, and I wanted to absorb “both sides” of the religious philosophy debate into my veins. It worked, I suppose: in Jerusalem, I became for the first time in my life a passionate believer in God. And yet my experience in Haifa reminded me of the need not to believe everything I hear from the mouths of clerics and theologians, which paved my way for a life as both a believer and a heretic . Yes, indeed, one can be both at the same time. In fact, to the extent one believes that an integral part of religious belief is the pursuit of truth, an argument can be made that heresy is an absolute must … which is why the greatest spiritual leaders of the past were the heretics of THEIR day, even though now, their so-called followers are anything but.

Candidly, I haven’t set foot in Haifa in nearly 30 years. Literally. Then again, Muhammad never literally set foot in Jerusalem, but we owe much of the intractability of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the idea that Muhammad did indeed visit Jerusalem, at least metaphorically. According to a story held dear by over one billion Muslims, the Angel Gabriel led the Prophet to a white, winged mule, who flew him to the holy city of Israel, where he is said to have been whisked up to the first gate of heaven by the Angel Ishmael. That “Night Journey” and all that flows from it has helped to make Jerusalem the third most sacred city in the Muslim map, and largely explains why there will be no peace in Israel or Palestine unless the Palestinians are given a part of that city to call their own. Such is myth. Such is history. Such is destiny.

My own metaphorical return to Haifa was not nearly so symbolic, or as momentous. It occurred yesterday as I was reading the script for a play called “Return to Haifa” that is now being shown at Theatre J, the Jewish playhouse in Washington D.C. I will be one of the panelists for the talk-back on January 25th. My rabbi will be one of the panelists for the talk-back on January 23rd. If you’re in DC, I would urge you to make one of those performances, or if not them, some other one. Like most of the Theatre J productions, this play is definitely worth seeing.

The play was hardly a vivid description of the tourist attractions in the city of Haifa. In that sense, the Chamber of Commerce would have been severely disappointed. Rather, the drama focused on a particular Haifa home and its role in the lives of two families – one Jewish, the other Palestinian. The play succeeded in reminding me of why a city as majestic as Haifa and a region as majestic as the Land of Israel could inspire such a passion to “return” for both Jews and Arabs alike. So as not to spoil the plot, all I’ll say about it is that the play was set both in 1948 and 1967 – two pivotal years in Israeli/Palestinian history – and the home at the center of the action belonged to Palestinians in 1948 who decide to return in 1967, only to find their house occupied by Jews. Do they find “cousins in the family of Abraham”? Do they find “mortal enemies”? Or is what they find a little bit of both?

I think you know the answer. Playwrights trade in ambiguity. But let’s leave the arena of fiction and turn for the moment to that of reality, shall we? What this playwright has done is put his finger on the pulse of the problem with the Holy Land. There, on a relatively small piece of turf, we find many millions of inhabitants, the number of which seems to be growing at a substantial pace. These individuals fall into two general categories of people, and it ought to be clear to them that they desperately need to get along and embrace each other as family. Indeed, they have largely similar, if distinguishable, ethnic backgrounds and religions, so the family metaphor isn’t nearly as artificial as it first may appear. What’s dicey is that these individuals, these peoples, have a choice. They can choose to live as brothers and sisters -- aka the “one state solution.” They can choose to live as cousins -- aka the “two state solution.” Or they can choose to live … as enemies – the choice with which we all are most familiar.

Ah, but there is a fourth choice now, isn’t there? It involves choosing to live in denial, or to be more specific, denial not only of one’s responsibility for helping to achieve a resolution but in the very possibility that such a resolution exists. Sadly, this attitude is especially becoming the norm among American Jews, a group that not long ago was deeply engaged in the fight for peace and recognized the incredibly powerful role that America can play in bringing that fight to a successful end. Back in the day, the American Jewish community was composed of legions of “Blame Israel First” Jews who joined various leftist peace groups, numerous “Israel Right or Wrong” Jews who supported the American-Israel Political Action Committee, as well as countless others who fought passionately for a middle ground. So yes, they lined up on all sides of the political spectrum. But the one thing we had in common is that everyone seemed to be deeply engaged in the problem – we all cared.

That was then, and now? We have plenty of apathy. Increasingly, American Jews are throwing up their hands and saying that Israeli/Palestinian peace is unachievable. Or that Middle East Peace is someone else’s problem, not ours. “We can’t want it more than they do,” has become the slogan de jour among all nouveau apathetics. In other words, one can only justify banging one’s head against the same wall or rolling a boulder up the same hill so many times. At some point, even Sisyphus realizes the meaning of hopelessness.

What’s worse, the apathy about peace that seems to have engulfed much of the American-Jewish population may merely be reflecting an increased sense of hopelessness in Israel. From what I’ve read and heard, many Israelis believed that when they removed their settlements from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians would take this as a gesture in support of Palestinian autonomy and a legitimate two-state solution. When the Palestinians responded with the election of Hamas, and the continual firing of Qassam rockets, more and more Israelis threw up their hands and said … “Netanyahu, they’re yours; deal with those animals as you please.”

Yes, it could be said that this is the choice that says Jews and Palestinians are “enemies.” But perhaps even more importantly, Jews are choosing to wash their hands of the fight for a solution, and preferring to turn their attention to other matters. Enmity and apathy can go together quite snugly.

As for the attitude of the Palestinians, in some sense the situation is less bleak, but in another sense, it is even bleaker than that of the Jews. The Palestinians I have met are singularly assured of their own side’s victimhood and of the Israelis’ status as oppressors. It’s as if we were talking about the Jim Crow South or about Nazi Germany, a place to which Palestinians love to analogize their own situation. The sanctimoniousness that so commonly ensues does have the benefit of helping one stay engaged, and perhaps even encouraged, about the prospects of a solution. But the problem is that the solution they envision is the ultimate death of the Zionist State – and if they think that’s realistic, they haven’t spent much time lately around non-fringe Jews. The Jewish will to survive is legendary. Israelis will not give up the Jewish State without losing their lives along with it.

So what is the solution? Despair? Apathy? Self-righteousness? Taking up arms? How about simply showing up at an interfaith meeting or a peace meeting and offering an expression of hope. No more talk of enmity, no more talk of frustration. No more talk of oppression, or terrorism, or human rights violations, or any of the other buzzwords that get thrown about by activists to stick a finger in the eye of one of these peoples or the other. Just a simple expression of hope, and perhaps while you’re at it, a vision of what a peaceful Middle East would look like.

Is your vision a “one-state solution,” in which Israelis and Palestinians would live the way we all live in the United States – in a pluralistic society, a sort of larger-scale version of Haifa, but even more pluralistic and integrated? Or do you think that the Jews should be given their own state, and the Palestinians a state of their own, each adjacent to the other, friendly, trading partners, but still separate – like Belgium and the Netherlands? As far as I’m concerned, whichever vision you can enunciate, as long as it’s stated with a compassionate, respectful and hopeful tone, would be appreciated.

And if you find yourself too “busy” or too scared to come to a peace meeting, do us all a favor. One night before you go to bed, express your vision to your bedroom wall. We all need to get in the practice of visualizing Middle East Peace. Then more and more of us will find our voices, raise them together, and, before long, we can actually consider a return trip to Haifa to be one involving holiness and not war. We must never forget that the two are mutually exclusive.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


I hope you all had the opportunity to watch Meet the Press today, and specifically the roundtable discussion in which Democratic and Republican Congresspeople spoke about yesterday’s shootings in Tucson. That roundtable ended with a simple question by the moderator to one of the Congresspeople: “Was this a moment?” The answer she gave was a resounding yes. Indeed, that is the politically-correct response. Whenever some tragedy befalls us, whether it’s an environmental disaster, an economic meltdown, an episode of mass-murder, or the recognition of a pointless war, our nation’s leaders and talking heads wax eloquent about the lessons we’ll learn and the changes we’ll make.

But tell me, are you really impressed with our track record in learning from tragedies? Have we fixed our war-mongering problem after Vietnam? Our gun fetish after Columbine? Has the Great Depression taught us to permanently protect our working class? Has our recognition of climate change caused us to radically transform our addiction to fossil fuels? Don’t think too hard about those questions, folks. They are all rhetorical. And that is why if I were asked “Was this a moment?” I’d give a more nuanced answer: “Well … yes, a moment … just a moment. Before long, we’ll be back to normal.” It’s sad to say that, but I’m not in a sugar coating kind of mood.

The fact is that what happened in Tucson ought to be a teachable moment, but I suspect it won’t, and the reasons why were on display in Meet the Press. One Democratic Congressman brought up perhaps the most obvious point, that we need to take a look at the laws that permit people like the assailant to obtain semi-automatic weapons. But two of his Republican colleagues were quick to respond that the problem is not with guns but with the people who abuse them. One pointed out if that someone in attendance had a similar gun, maybe he could have stopped the bloodshed. And another suggested that there are strict gun laws in Washington D.C. and no shortage of killings, so why would we think stricter gun laws are the answer?

The simple reality is that as long as we have urban communities in America that are structurally impoverished, we will have no shortage of killings, regardless of the gun laws. But why make it easy to obtain attack weapons? Frankly, it’s nothing short of bizarre that we live in a nation where a young punk cannot legally obtain a joint of marijuana, but he can legally acquire the means to fire dozens of bullets. As for the idea that we need to arm all the good people in order to deter the bad ones, that has some paucity of resonance if you’re arming people with old fashioned handguns, but is there really need to arm all the citizenry with weapons that fire dozens of rounds?

It’s a laughable point. And yet nobody on Meet the Press wanted to call out the Congressmen on the issue. Indeed, the gun control lobby is about as weak in this nation as the lobby to protect orangutans or gorillas. Those species of ape aren’t quite extinct yet, but politicians whose pet issue is to fight the proliferation of guns have probably all left Capital Hill. Face it: the gun lovers have won the battle. And while these folks do not all own attack weapons, they will fight to protect our right to do so, for such a fight is deemed needed to guard against the slippery slope that could ultimately take their beloved choice of firearms away.

And so … periodically, some well-armed lunatic goes off and kills lots of people, and everyone of sound mind sincerely mourns the result. But the laws don’t change. “Guns don’t kill, people do,” remains one of our national mottos.

Another obvious way in which yesterday’s mayhem in Tucson SHOULD be a teachable moment, but likely will not, involves its lessons with respect to the nature of our political discourse. To be sure, thanks to the madness of Tucson, we may --repeat may -- have seen the end to the most blatantly violent metaphors in our political attack campaigns, like the ones run by Sarah Palin to suggest that if a politician takes an opposing position on a particular issue, we should “target” them and place gun-sights on maps of their Congressional districts. Truly, that form of communication is beyond obnoxious and has no place in civilized society. But folks, I don’t hear Sarah’s party calling her out on her antics; at least they didn’t on Meet the Press. And even if they had mentioned her excesses, or if both parties agreed not to include gun metaphors in their political language, would that honestly stop the bloodshed?

The root cause of yesterday’s tragedy – other than the fact that some people are a whole lot crazier than others, and modern weapons allow these crazies to take many lives – is that our political environment has become the equivalent of a battle royal in the Octagon. We can preach all we want about the virtue of civility, and the panel did a lot of that on Meet the Press, but Americans are competitive, aggressive people who often see matters as a simple choice between good and evil. While it is clearly in our power to take away a few limited types of metaphors from our political arena, much as we have taken away words like “Nigger” or “Kike,” the vitriol, cheap shots, and general sense of antagonism with one’s political rivals is surely here to stay. Given that reality, as long as we enable the loopiest among us to acquire semi-automatic weapons, we’re going to have mass murders, whether we use gun-metaphors in our political slogans or not.

I started the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington two years ago in part because I felt that only by bringing opposing camps together in a legitimately collegial environment can we ever achieve the kind of civility that statesmen love to talk about, but all too rarely seem to practice. And even before starting that group, I wrote in a novel about how wonderful it would be to turn on the TV and watch Arabs singing the praises of Jewish interests and Jews doing the same for Arab interests – all of which would make the point that it would have to be a pretty thin pancake not to have two sides.

But my humble efforts only involve fiction books or local dialogue societies. In the “real world,” national politicians fight like hell to get elected and then become beholden to the well-financed interest groups who determine whether they’ll get re-elected. And radio and TV personalities, who are told to get ratings or get off the air, recognize that when it comes to ratings, the more combustible their show, the more marketable their show. So are we really going to see progressive Democrats stand before the nation and explain in clear terms why liberty-loving, Bible-toting Republicans aren’t hypocritical pigs, or see conservative Republicans get on the air and explain why Democrats who favor a generous social welfare net aren’t socialists or communists?

Political parties have been around in this country as far back as the days of Jefferson and Hamilton. They are part and parcel of a vibrant democracy. The problem is not that they exist. The problem is that they exist in the absence of civility-promoting values that can be stronger even than partisanship.

At present, we Americans do not see a crisis so profound as to require the nation as a whole to come together. Those on the right still believe they can hopefully dominate and eviscerate those on the left, and at least as of two years ago, the opposite applied as well. We don’t believe we’re in an “all hands on deck” situation, as we believed during the Depression … World War II, or, I am guessing, during our Revolution. If we really believed that climate change posed a clear and present danger to our own welfare or those of our children, perhaps we would come together, figure out a plan, and implement it – without vitriol. If we really believed that we were at war with a foreign country that posed a clear and present danger to the residents of our cities, perhaps we would come together and fight behind a single leader – without vitriol. And if we really believed that we had such an economic crisis that the well being of poor and rich alike was at stake, perhaps we would come together, figure out the fairest possible way to grow the economic pie, and work like hell to make that happen – without vitriol.

But until events truly threaten us – and not merely tiny pockets of us on rare occasions – I don’t see us working together very often, and I sure don’t see an end to the vitriol. Sorry to be so pessimistic, but sometimes pessimism and realism coincide, and this is one of them.