Joseph Hanania has been a regular contributor to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He has also written documentaries for CBS-TV and HBO, and taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He is currently completing a non-fiction book about an orphaned Jewish merchant who rescued 1,350 Jews from the Holocaust by sailing them out of Europe on the Danube River.
Contact Joseph via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I became so nervous as “Meet the Candidates Night” closed in on Monday that, before trying out several jackets and ties, I did a short meditation and self-evaluation. So why, exactly, had I tossed my hat into the proverbial ring?
The scheduled sequester cuts — lopping $85 billion off of government spending over the remaining seven months of this fiscal year — is blowing up in the Republican Party’s face. Even before the cuts hit, President Obama's popularity was 16 points higher than that of Congressional Republicans — 49% to 33%, according to the latest Pew-USA Today poll. Furthermore, only 19% agreed with the Republican position of program cuts minus tax increases.
Fleeing yet another snowstorm for a vacation in Costa Rica, I inadvertently discovered an authentically happier way of life less materialistic than ours.
Although Americans make up less than five-percent of the globe's population, we consume more than one-quarter of its energy — and more of its beers (13,000 per person per lifetime). Or, as one New York Times writer put it, we “out-big-foot everyone else” and have become “consumer addicts.”
Americans also imbibe a tsunami of pills. One in every six of us taking prescription tranquilizers an average of 60 times a year. And even this staggering number excludes anti-depressants etc., let alone illegal drugs.
I had an amazing personal relationship with New York's late mayor Ed Koch, mostly because of my unusual circumstances. I was a New York City reporter, living my dream. I arrived at my newspaper's office on Fifth Avenue each morning, found the most interesting scheduled city event, and then merrily covered it. This was what passed off as "work."
Last week, looking for inspiration amid dismal weather and fraught Washington gridlock, I went to two different movies. David France’s “How to Survive a Plague” is a documentary about Act Up’s founding 25 years ago, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when homophobes virtually cheered a lethal disease amid gruesome gay deaths. “Argo,” starring and directed by Ben Affleck, was about the rescue — or exfiltration — of six Americans who had escaped the U.S. embassy in Tehran when Iranian “students” took it over in 1979. The film just just won the Golden Globe for best picture. While “How to Survive a Plague” and “Argo” may appear outwardly dissimilar, there’s actually quite a bit that the two flicks have in common.
Yes, the House Majority leader joined House Democrats to avert narrowly the fiscal cliff with 85 Republican votes. But an unprecedented 151 — nearly two out of three Congressional Republicans — voted against him. And then, the Republican caucus successfully pressured him to postpone a vote on helping victims of Frankenstorm Sandy.
"A gun in every classroom!" the headline of a recent blog proclaimed. So, really, how would this work?
In the mid-70's, I worked as a long term substitute teacher in Philadelphia. I am white, middle class, Ivy educated. My fifth grade students were ghetto blacks. And crossing that cultural chasm was one of the riches experiences of my life. My first day on the job, students threw spitballs at each other. A nuisance, yes. But what real harm could come from that?
Fifty-one and forty-five. Remember those numbers as Congress deadlocks, again, on negotiations over the fiscal cliff. And on gun control. And on immigration reform. And on climate change legislation.
Fifty-one percent is the proportion of votes cast for Democratic Congressional candidates. But through redistricting — or gerrymandering — by state legislatures, Democrats won only forty-five Congressional seats.
Please take this true or false quiz on curtailing the roots of violent behavior.
True or false:
1. Venting anger reduces aggression.
2. Violent people suffer from low self-esteem.
3. Violent TV portrayals sells more advertised product.
4. Violent portrayals on film, TV and on computer games lead to more violent acts in real life.
5. Advisories warning about violent TV content cut down audience size.
The answers are: false, false, false, true, false.
So, how’d you do? Brad Bushman, professor of psychology and communications at Ohio State University, thinks you may have gotten a couple of wrong answers.
On a recent trip to Israel, I visited a tea and coffee shop on East Jerusalem’s Salah Eddin Street. Up a flight of stairs, a young Arab man was having tea with a young woman in a hijab. Their eyes never left each other, their smiles never diminished. I also befriended the shop’s owners, clean cut men in their 20s, one of whom confided that he had learned about America on the Internet; now he wanted to visit in person. Although post 9/11 visa restrictions made such a visit extremely difficult, he still had hope.
About the Columnist: Joseph Hanania
Joseph Hanania has been a regular contributor to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He has also written documentaries for CBS-TV and HBO, and taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension.
He is currently completing a non-fiction book about an orphaned Jewish merchant who rescued 1,350 Jews from the Holocaust by sailing them out of Europe on the Danube River.