Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This one is hard to Digest

There are a lot of magazines in the nation, some big, some small.
The biggest used to be the Readers' Digest. No more. Now, it's about to meet all its old friends in Bankruptcy Court.

For someone of my generation, that's hard to fathom.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I never liked it.

The Digest always had a right-wing approach, and the articles often were shadows. Writers were not able to develop plots or themes with the precis they were required to submit. But the Digest always paid well, either for the silly Humor in Uniform slices or Americana, many of which I suspect were fabrications wrapped around nuggets of truth.

But the articles were about the right length for bathroom reading. Don't get me wrong: I never subscribed, but my parents and in-laws did. But the Digest always was highest in circulation of any magazine with the possible exception of TV Guide.

The Digest also had Condensed Books, in which rewrite people turned novels into Pablum for those without the attention span to read the real things. There also were record collections, some of which also were condensed.

The Digest was printed in many languages, with the same condensed version of life.

I think the bankruptcy will be prepackaged, like the one from which the Journal Register just emerged.

Let's see -- The Readers' Digest Condensed Bankruptcy. It fits, doesn't it?

Page 2

Robert Novak died Tuesday of brain cancer. He was 78.

Like the Reader's Digest, I never liked him, either.

His politics was just a bit to the right of Attila the Hun and he wasn't a nice man.

How do I know? Let me tell you a story.

Back in 1970, I was a neophyte in the news business, first a reporter then managing editor of the Wethersfield Post weekly newspaper in Connecticut. I had been working in news about a year when I was invited to a luncheon in Hartford.

Thomas J. Dodd, the sitting Democratic U.S. Senator from Connecticut, was up for re-election and he was in trouble. He had been accused of using campaign funds for his own purposes and censured by the Senate. The accusations, by columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, had all but ruined his chances for re-election, but he decided to fight on.

The luncheon to which I had been invited was a last-gasp effort by Dodd, father of current U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, to retain his seat.

I was seated at a table near the back and found myself sitting next to Bob Novak, part of the famous columnist team of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. He dutifully ignored me and everyone else at the table.

After the meal, Dodd rose to speak, tearfully all but begging for his seat. It was painful to see. But even more painful was the reaction of Novak. He stood, made rude noises, catcalls, everything but the Bronx cheer. It was disgusting.

I said something like, "Look, Mr. Novak, you are this famous columnist and I am working for a weekly paper in Connecticut, but don't you thing that after eating his food, you owe Dodd the courtesy to listen to what he has to say?"

He told me to shut up and mind my own business, or words to that effect. I was mortified.

That was the only time I met Novak in person, but as far as I was concerned, he was a rude person who didn't deserve the success he enjoyed.

And now he's dead. And so is Tom Dodd, who died the next year. And his son is having ethics problems tied to a mortgage he got for one of his homes.

And the world goes round and round.

Page 3

I am concerned with the thinking process, of lack thereof, of some of my fellow citizens.

I was listening to public radio, when the host was airing some comments from listeners about the health-care debate.

One would think that listeners to public radio are a bit more intelligent and informed than watchers of Fox News and listeners to the radio crazies like Rush Limbaugh. But based on today's performance, you might not be correct.

For example, one fellow from Tennessee was saying that he was dead set against any government role in the reformed health-care package. Dead set against.

He did say, however, that he was for making the insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions and making them cover people who now have no insurance coverage. He also did say he wants the premiums to be set low enough so poor people can afford them.

But no government interference. How can capitalism function if we keep fooling around with it?

I have a question. Who is it that is going to assure that the insurance companies cover the people they don't cover now, for less money than they charge now? Who if not the government?

Others say they don't want government bureaucrats deciding who gets coverage? Who, then? Would you rather have insurance company functionaries whose marching orders include saving the company money in any way possible? That's what he have now, which is why you have stupidity like no pre-existing conditions and sick people kept out of the system.

And, please, let's leave the Death Squad silliness to people like Sarah Palin, whose rhetoric shows what happens to the brain if one uses too much hairspray for too long of a time.

I have modified Medicare. I love it. Bring on government single-payer system.

Page 4

Thanks be to God and some great doctors, we had a bris for my grandson on Sunday, Aug. 16. And I can now introduce you to him by name: Aaron. He's named after my grandfather, Aaron Honeyman, who used the name Harry in his working life but was called Aaron.

The affair went perfectly. For those who are unfamiliar with Jewish practice, a bris, or more correctly Bris Milah, is a ceremony in which he is circumcised and he is officially welcomed into the Jewish people. In Genesis, God tells Abraham to circumcise himself and his sons as a perpetual mark of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. The bris is a continuation of that covenant. If you don't know what circumcision is, look it up.

It's an occasion of great joy, except perhaps for the guest of honor, who cries for a few minutes and then is just fine.

Aaron was born on the Sabbath, which ordinarily would have meant his bris would have been on the following Sabbath. Although the bris includes actions usually forbidden on the Sabbath, it is considered so important that for this one ceremony, these actions are not only allowed by mandated.

But Aaron's first few days of life were not ordinary. He was diagnosed with a condition that required surgery. You cannot give a Bris Milah to a sick child.

Aaron recovered, however, and last week, the doctors and the mohel, the person who performs the bris, all said he was healthy enough. So, with great joy, I can now report that Aaron, son of daughter Malka and son-in-law Josh, is officially welcomed as a member of the Covenant of Abraham. Mazel Tov!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For a video of the ceremony.

Until next time...

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