On Thursday, 30 November 2018, George H. W. Bush died at his home in Houston, Texas, at age 94. The 41st president of the United States, Bush was the son of a Senator, the father of the 43rd US president and of a former governor of Florida. Bush served two terms as Vice President for Ronald Reagan before succeeding to the office for a single term, losing the presidency to Bill Clinton in 1992. The subsequent friendship which grew between the two men (Bush and his wife Barbara often referred to Clinton as another son) was a beautiful example of a nonpartisan spirit that seems quaint and antiquated in today’s cruder, rough-and-tumble political atmosphere.
When the 116th Congress convenes on January 3rd, 2019, it’s likely to have a most remarkable woman at its head. If chosen Speaker by the incoming Democratic majority in US the House of Representatives, it won’t be Nancy Pelosi’s first crack at wielding the gavel. The California-based Representative made history in 2007 when she became the first female Speaker of the House, a post she held until the 2010 electoral rout against the Affordable Care Act, spearheaded by the Tea Party, tossed Democrats out of power for 8 years. But progressives and Pelosi are back, and 2016’s Blue Wave has once again turned the tide in DC.
If you thought things could only get better in the Trump administration, that we’d reached the nadir, think again. An ongoing, protracted square from asteroid Troemper, our celestial referent for the President, to angry, quarrelsome Mars seems to be eliciting even worse behaviors than we’ve already become accustomed to.
Mars’ recent slowdown to its station in late August is the culprit here, allowing the normally slower-moving Troemper to catch it up and perform a pernicious, petty, provocative pas de deux as summer stretched into autumn. Coming to within ten degrees of each other as of August 20th, the two have been resonant within five degrees since September 1st, a state of affairs which endures through the end of November (they continue within ten degrees until the Winter Solstice on December 21).
On Wednesday, November 7th, 2018, while the Midterm Election votes were still being counted, Donald Trump saw the fulfillment of a years-long dream: the forced resignation of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. (And don’t think the timing on that isn’t significant; Trump wanted something controversial to distract from the Democratic victory the day before, and Sessions fit the bill perfectly.)
Yes, Sessions was the first sitting US Senator to openly endorse Trump’s Presidential campaign in 2016; yes, he was Trump’s handpicked choice for the post he now leaves; yes, he was perhaps the most effective of Trump’s Cabinet officials in enacting the administration’s ultra-conservative agenda.
But Sessions’ fatal flaw was a teeny modicum of ethical behavior, when he recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. This he was required to do, having been a major campaign surrogate for Trump, and he only did it after lying to Congress during his AG confirmation hearings about his own interactions with Russian agents.
Well, it’s finally over. Mostly. As of this writing (Wednesday morning, November 7, though a protracted Verizon service outage may delay posting), the results appear to be a mixed bag. The Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives, but the Republicans have expanded their Senate majority. Barring a few key races (Arizona, Florida and Montana Senate races still too close to call, a Mississippi Senate race requiring a run-off, and a likely legal challenge in Georgia’s gubernatorial election), the broad outlines are clear.
Shortly after Shabbat services began at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday, October 27, 2018, a lone gunman entered and began shooting up the congregation with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and two Glock hand guns. He left 11 dead and another six wounded, including several police officers who responded to the 911 calls. The suspect, Robert Bowers, was apprehended after being shot by police and remains in the hospital, though he faces arraignment on 29 Federal charges on the Monday. Bowers had a history of anti-Semitic posts on social media sites, and told arresting officers that he “just wanted to kill Jews”, whom he accused of bringing terrorists into the US to destroy the country.
The rampage is the most deadly act of anti-Semitism in US history, and the 294th mass shooting in the country this year. Obviously, we’ve been down this road many times before; it is wide and commodious, and there appears to be no turning.