This morning I have Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” spinning on the turntable, not just because I am feeling nostalgic today, but also to honor her first public performance in 9 years after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015. Her voice perhaps a few octaves lower than in her prime, she sat regally on the stage of the Newport Folk Festival last week and gave a compelling performance. I always felt Joni never got her due as the iconic female folk singer of our time, perhaps but not quite, on a par with Dylan. Maybe it was her Canadian roots? Here is a link to one of the songs she performed at the Festival, “Both Sides Now.”
Summer continues to provide weather challenges across the nation as our “blue marble” continues to warm up from too much carbon polluting the planet. The evidence couldn’t be any clearer: the ice melt in Greenland, fires in California and Europe, floods in Kentucky, and if you ask my mother, Virginia is now a tropical part of the country. But, in a pretty shocking about face, Senator Manchin agreed to a watered down version of the Climate bill, which experts agree, may give is a fair chance of turning back the clock on the rising tides of climate. Could this scheme be a dream come true for the planet? It authorizes $369 billion of new climate spending, the largest investment in emissions reduction in American history—and, more important, the biggest blow against climate change ever struck by the U.S. government. “This is it. This is the real victory,” Sam Ricketts, a co-founder of Evergreen Action, a climate think tank, and a former adviser to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, told me. “I struggle to find enough superlatives to describe this deal.”
Apparently, negotiations between Schumer and Manchin’s staffs have been ongoing for some time, and kept completely secret from the Dems and Republicans, the latter of whom are now desperately trying to look more stupid by, in an act of pure revenge, stopping a bill from providing medical relief to veterans who have been victims of exposure to “burn pits”. Nice. Stay tuned for the next part of the process referred to as “vote-a-rama” where Senator Sinema will undoubtedly want to make some stupid changes and Republicans will force Dems to vote on even stranger amendments. Just part of the sausage making though, so this should actually happen! Bravo Congress! If you want to read more on the process, here is a link to the latest Axis analysis.
On the Jew news front, some interesting developments in Russia and Israel. Putin is at it again, showing the world why Russia should now be considered a terrorist nation, with his latest effort to shut down the Jewish Agency in Russia, an organization that pre-dates the State of Israel and is primarily responsible for helping Russian Jews emigrate to Israel and/or perform aliya. Since the Ukraine war began, over 20,000 Russian Jews have emigrated to Israel, a staggering number that probably represents a significant brain drain as well as the loss of potential draftees into whatever land grab the Russian monster is planning next. Putin is probably also sending a clear message to Prime Minister Lapid that he is not liking his support of Ukraine, nor the latest bombings by Israel in Syria to stop the build-up of Iranian military there.
And speaking of Lapid, new elections for Israel are in November, and the Las Vegas line, or whatever the Israeli equivalent would be, is all over the map. There appears to be 3 potential scenarios developing: Nutt-and-yahoo finds 61 votes, Nutt-and-yahoo fails and Gantz creates a coalition, or a 6th election is required and Lapid stays on as PM. It’s complicated. And a new party has formed called the “Zionist Spirit” which may have some leverage in determining the outcome. Wild stuff. In case you are wondering how Israel functions during these times, the way the rules work there the party in power continues to have power, except they cannot introduce any new major spending bills. But decisions and government continue unabated otherwise.
Here are a few other Jewish gems, carefully curated by yours truly from various sources, too numerous to name:
- 🤷 Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito decried what he called “hostility to religion” in his first public remarks since the court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. Give me a freaking break Alito! You and your predominantly Christian Justices are making decisions based on your personal religious beliefs that are hostile to the country! Meanwhile, during a trip to Canada this week, Pope Francis told local clergy that God does not want “a world governed by religious laws.” (Bloomberg, CNN, Religion News Service)
- On Culture: Ken Burns and the Holocaust – Ken Burns said he spent seven years on his new documentary film, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” which will air over three nights in September on PBS. He said: “I will not work on a more important film than this.” Sandy and I will add it to our list of must see shows, which now also includes “The Bear” streaming on Hulu. (Axios)
- Is it possible to separate Roger Waters’ music from his politics? The 78-year-old made his name with Pink Floyd, but his vocal opposition to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has complicated his relationship with some of his Jewish fans (including me) — and fellow musicians. After attending a recent Waters show, Jim Sullivan, a longtime music critic for the Boston Globe, spoke to some Jewish musicians about the political aspects. “I still love the music,” said Genya Ravan, a punk rocker who fled the Holocaust, “but he is drunk on his own perfume and it stinks.” Read the story ➤
- Norman Lear, still going strong on his 100th birthday: The creator of “All in the Family” and a slew of other shows from the 1970s celebrates one full century today. As PJ Grisar writes in a birthday tribute, while Jews were rarely at the center of Lear’s TV universe, the Emmy and Kennedy Center-winning writer and producer brought social issues to the fore in his work, a tendency that arose from his Jewish background. “At 9 I learned that people disliked me because of my Jewishness,” Lear told the Forward in 2014. “It was a profound discovery and influenced everything I ever felt about the human species, the human condition.” Read the story ➤
- AIPAC’s misguided strategy: Rep. Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat, supports a two-state solution. But for AIPAC, which has spent millions trying to defeat him in an upcoming election, this makes him insufficiently pro-Israel. “By attacking Levin on his pro-Israel bona fides, AIPAC is playing a short-term game,” writes Joel Rubin, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. “This is not how you grow support for Israel. This is how you tear it down.” Read his essay ➤
- 🙏🏻 Americans’ stated belief in God dipped to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017, according to a new Gallup Poll. That’s the lowest it’s been since Gallup first asked the question in 1944. And according to Woody Allen, “not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on Sundays”. (Religion News Service)
- Can you fix stupid? 🍺 A Rhode Island sports bar, trying to entice customers into its air-conditioning during this last heatwave, received backlash after it shared an Anne Frank meme to social media. The since-deleted post was a photo of Frank with the words “It’s hotter than an oven out there… and I should know!” (ABC 6)
- The secret Jewish history of Joni Mitchell – Of course, The Forward has its usual Jewish angle on everything, including Joni Mitchell. Mitchell was not Jewish, but she married a Jew, and was surrounded and influenced by many Jewish men in her life and career. The artist once said that her song ‘Both Sides Now’ was inspired by a passage from a Saul Bellow novel. “Over the years, we have come to understand that her songs are highly autobiographical, strewn with details of her high-profile affairs with James Taylor and Graham Nash (both of whom returned the favor in their own songs), as well as with David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Warren Beatty, and the great Jewish bard of depression and loneliness, Leonard Cohen.” Click here for more
That’s enough for this week! Stay cool everyone, and hey, let’s remember to always be safe out there.