It isn't all about great ideas, inspiring movements, massive rallies, calls for salvation or death.

 
There is also reason to think about some curiosities, that may or may not be significant.


Most prominent on my radar is a curious slice of gerontocracy competing for the presidency of the world's most powerful country.


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Ronald was the oldest person to become President until now. He was inaugurated at the age of 70, and was on the road to senility in his second term.


Among current Democratic contenders, Bernie will be 75 if inaugurated, Hillary 69, and if Joe Biden comes in as the party's salvation he'll be 74.


Things are more varied among Republican contenders, but Donald would be 70, and if Michael Bloomberg gets the nomination he would be 74 if elected.


Sanders and Bloomberg are not only old, they are also Jews. 


Sanders' success as the first Jew to win a presidential primary is provoking a combination of pride, concern, and wonderment among American Jews. Pride for having done it. Concern in the traditional Jewish worry that he'll provoke anti-Semitism. And wonderment as to how much of a Jew he really is.


The latter is something that lots of Jews wonder about lots of other Jews. It's also parallel to what individuals in other ethnic, religious, and racial communities say about one another. If Sanders is a Jew who isn't all that Jewish, whatever that means, he is in good company alongside Barack Obama who is not all that Black.


Well beyond what may be insignificant curiosities are those who claim to be on the forefront of major change. The Islamic State, or ISIS is the flavor of the month among radical, violent Muslims. One can doubt, however, whether it is anything more than a popular label, nothing close to a unified, coordinated, or disciplined entity.


Cadres claiming allegiance appear in Iraq, Syria, the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Libya, Kenya, Somalia down into countries of sub-Sahara Africa. There are also those who use the label in Israel, the US, and Europe. Observers say that the Islamic State is governing locales or regions in Iraq and Syria, but the unity between the various bands parading, fighting, or just reading and writing on web sites under its banners may not be anything tangible. Al Quaida was once feared as a rising star threatening all those who qualified for the label of unbelievers. Now the Islamic State may be nothing more than a label made popular by activists or wannabees, without any coordination or discipline  from one charismatic figure to the next.


None of this musing should be read to minimize the danger of Islamic extremism, although our world's self-designated leader avoids calling it as such. 


Since 9-11, or more likely the 1980s, Islamic evil has come out in major force, released in part by the misconceived destruction of national leaders who had used strong and cruel security forces to keep what was always a potential below the level where it threatened them or us.


The age of the next President may expose the US to ridicule, but age itself is not a good explanation for what has happened to the standing of the US outside of its borders. 


It was two of the youngest Presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who made the US a target of scorn. Each took part in unseating, or trying to unseat regimes that were centers of stability, with the result being chaos, the ascendance of Russia with its brutal participation in one of the strongman's policy of ethnic cleansing.


The country that prides itself in being the home to numerous Holocaust memorials has been standing aside while an estimated half a million Syrians have been killed, six and one half million displaced within the country, and another four million refugees outside of the country. Unrest is likely to spread with them to Muslim communities outside the Middle East, already sources of violence.


The landmarks of America's contribution to disaster were Bush's roles in destroying not only Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi but also their regimes, Barack Obama's Cairo speech that brought him a Nobel Prize but also began to sully his reputation throughout the Middle East, dumping Hosni Mubarek in Egypt, his support of an amorphous collection of rebels against Bashar Assad in Syria, then standing aside when Russia asserted its primacy and joined Assad in bombing concentrations of Sunni Muslim civilians.


It's not worth keeping count of the times that great powers have announced progress, or even agreements for some kind of cease fire in Syria, then one or another of several dozen militias provided a reason to keep fighting.


Americans berate themselves, with some justice, for not doing much to stop the Holocaust, or the genocides against Cambodians, Rwandans, or in various parts of the former Yugoslavia. Significant slaughter and displacement are still underway in Syria, while Barack Obama and John Kerry are talking about a peace conference, and in Libya where they are doing even less than that..


We can ask ourselves how dare Americans and other worthies criticize Israelis for using excessive force in defense against mad Palestinians, while they do little more than express dismay for what is occurring elsewhere in the region.


Israel is an island of civilized democracy right alongside, or in the middle of chaos, with Syria over its northeastern border and the Sinai across the line in the south. Israel may be peaceful, but it is not quiet. Currently competing with a four month long increase in Palestinian violence is an official statement indicating what many have long believed, that the Prime Minister's wife is a menace.


An Israeli court has made it official, that Sara is a harridan, difficult or impossible to work for. The former administrative head of the Prime Minister's residence was awarded 170,000 shekels (about $44,000) and costs, which the government treasury will pay insofar as he sued the State as the owner of the official residence and not Sara Netanyahu. However, the judge wrote in her decision


"The court had before it many testimonies indicating that the conditions of employment in the residence were harmful due to the behavior of Mrs. Netanyahu and her attitude to the employees . . .


"Those included exaggerated demands, insults, humiliation and outburst of anger. The employees were required to work long and exceptional hours."


We've heard stories over the years from former employees of the first family about the lady's temper tantrums. What we haven't heard directly we get from media personalities who kvel with stories that besmirch Bibi, at least indirectly.


On the day after the court acted, a reader had to reach page 13 in Israel Hayom (Sheldon Adelson's Bibipress) before finding the story.


Sara and Bibi are fuming, and threatening an appeal. It may be best for them to cool it. An appeal will provide more news about their mess.


A day after the verdict, Israel Hayom headlined on page one Sara's dismay at the verdict, and her intention to appeal. .


This is more entertaining than threatening. Until now, it's never limited Bibi's political career, and the most recent polls indicate that he remains the individual most favored as national leader. Israelis are not standing in line to have tea with Sara, but they are voting for Bibi.


What to do about any or all of the above?


Easier to ask than answer.


Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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