Monday, June 30, 2008

An Open Letter To Barack Obama (From My Mailbox/

A friend forwarded this e-mail to me. It is an open letter to Barack Hussein Obama from a Soviet immigrant to the United States. Those who have lived under communism not as privileged foreigners but as politically unconnected citizens have a familiarity with totalitarianism. Immigrants bring an awareness to America that enriches immeasurably our collective wisdom. The author of this letter is very concerned about Obama's past friendships with communists and communist sympathisers. He speaks as one who is familiar with that political system as it functioned in practice rather than how it looked on paper.
The news outlets have treated foreign affairs and domestic affairs as separate subjects on their tendentious report cards. They have given John Mc'Cain good grades on foreign affairs and claimed a superiority in domestic matters for Barack Obama. The two areas can not be separated.The balance of trade, the value of the U.S. dollar and the availability of strategic imports all affect the daily lives of Americans. National security issues as well have sadly touched the lives of American families who lost loved ones on 9/11. Obama seems to be counting on a collective amnesia to facilitate his presidential aspirations. I am reprinting the letter below. It articulates the concerns of many and deserves attention and consideration.
Second Open Letter to Senator Barack Obama
Dear Senator,
My name is Leon Weinstein. I am an American. I am also Jewish. I was born in
the Soviet Union, was fortunate to get out in 1974 and lived in Israel until
my second immigration to the US in 1986. I have family in Israel, including
my brother, parents, and my beloved nephews. As you see I have a stock in
Israel, and wouldn't want this country to be bombed by nukes (or
conventional rockets), annihilated or buldozered to the Mediterranean, all
of the above being proposed by the esteemed leaders of practically all
neighboring Israel nations. I am not a partial and neutral bystander. I am
one very angry and concerned citizen and below I will try to explain to you
why I am angry and concerned.

You might become our next President, Leader and Commander-in-Chief, but we
the people know precious little about who you are, your ability to withstand
pressure, your philosophy, sympathies and preferences, your experience and
your judgment. During your recent campaigning we hear from you many
wonderful words like 'unification of America', 'no more blue or red states',
'help to humanity', 'care for those that need care', and I applaud those
words. If your words are supported by your past actions, then you might be
the man for the job. If your words contradict or are unsupported by what you
did before the Presidential race, then you are not what you say you are,

In order to find that out I attempted to examine whom you hang out with,
what words you and your friends were saying in private and in public and how
all that can affect our lives.

First, I decided to look who is endorsing you (according to the information
that can be found on Internet), who likes where you stand on issues. I found
among others a scaring host of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli people and

- Louis Farrakhan (Nation of Islam Leader, racist, anti-Semite)

- Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Islamic Terror Organization)

- Raila Odinga (Fundamental Islamic Candidate, Kenya, some say he is your

- Daniel Ortega (Marxist Sandinista Leader, Nicaragua)

- Raul Castro (Hard-line Communist Leader, Cuba)

- Socialist Party USA (Marxist Political Party)

- The New Black Panther Party (Black Militant Organization)

- Hamas Terrorist Organization (Islamic Terrorist Organization).

I was really surprised to find so many American enemies routing for you
(Hamas, Sandinistas, Cuban Marxists), but what really frightened me was that
there is a well-organized effort on the Middle East to call American voters
at random asking them to vote for Obama. Who pays them for the expensive
phone calls to America? Who trained them what to say and who gave them names
and phone numbers of the American voters? This was reported by Al Jazeera:
'After studying Obama's campaign manifesto I thought this is a man that's
capable of change inside of America.' said one of pro-Obama Middle Eastern

'But may be' I was arguing with myself, 'I can't blame you for that, since
you didn't ask for their endorsements or their help? You may be even do not
know about it, or do you? On the other hand if our enemies (Hamas,
Sandinistas, Cuban Marxists) love you so much, may be it says something
about your agenda?'

Enough about those that like you. Let's look at whom you like, whom you
planning to bring to the White House to govern America. You invited Zbigniew
Bzezinski to become your chief political advisor. Bzezinski signed a letter
demanding dialogue with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction.
He has also an interesting view on Communism that I am afraid you may share:
'Communism has the intellectually tantalizing possibility that for the world
at large. It was ... a blessing in disguise'. WOW! 'Blessing in disguise?'
Half of my family was murdered in Gulags. My beloved grandfather died after
a stroke at the KGB headquarters.

Your advisor on nuclear policies Joseph Cirincione in response to reports
that the site in Syria that Israel bombed was a potential nuclear facility
being established with the help of North Korea, said that the reports were
the product of two nefarious, agenda-driven groups: (1) Bush administration
hardliners seeking to derail 'the U.S.-North Korean agreement' and (2)
Israelis who 'want to thwart any dialogue between the U.S. and Syria.' WOW

Your financial backer billionaire George Soros repeatedly says in his
speeches: 'The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United
States.' How many times in one letter I can repeat WOW! Another obstacle he
considers Israel. If you have an obstacle on your way, you remove it, right?
Do you share the same ideology that Soros professes? As a matter of fact,
looks like your wife does. Soros is the power behind, and this is
he who puts money in your campaign coffins. In the old world we had a
saying, 'he who dines the girl, is dances her as well'. What dance you
promised Soros?

'The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime,
which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast.'- this
is what President of Iran Ahmadinejad says of Israel. He consistently calls
for destruction of Israel and the 'Big Satan', the United States. Iran
harbors and finances terrorists around the globe. At the same time your most
senior military adviser retired Gen. Merrill McPeak says President Bush and
Israel is to blame for Iran's bad behavior: 'It was us that insulted them by
including them in the 'axis of evil' and making sure they understood we
didn't like them very much. That drove us apart,' says McPeak and continues:
'Obama's idea is, why not talk to them. Why not see if there isn't some
common ground. Certainly, the fight against al Qaeda would be one of them.'

Dear Senator, hate of Israel would also be a good common ground with Iran,
Hesbollah and Hamas. I remember the overwhelming joy on the Iranian and
Palestinian streets when they heard about 9/11. Same joy I recall when
Hezbollah dragged on the streets of Gaza killed Israeli soldiers in front of
TV cameras. The same joy they experienced when masked terrorists beheaded
Americans and many other infidels they kidnap, torture and videotape their

Simon Malley, another of your foreign policy advisors loathes Israel. The
anti-Israel activism became a crusade for him. He spent countless hours with
Yasser Arafat and became a close friend of Arafat. He was, according to
Daniel Pipes, a sympathizer of the Palestinian Liberation Organization ---
and this was when it was at the height of its terrorism wave against the
West. His efforts were so damaging to France that President Valerie
d'Estaing expelled him from the country. Now you want him to give you an
advice regarding Middle East and relations with Israel.

I can go on and on. My big question to you is - usually we surround
ourselves with like-minded people. Didn't you notice that all those people
quite contradicting your public speeches? Or may be they express your hidden
thoughts and agenda?

During an ABC interview Stephanopoulos asked you: 'So you would extend our
deterrent to Israel?' your answer was: 'As I said before, I think it is very
important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel, is an attack on
our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security, we
consider paramount. And that would be an act of aggression that we would --
that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable. And the United States
would take appropriate action.'

It is important to notice that you didn't say, 'We will come after them and
will respond in full force'. Dear Senator - what is this 'appropriate
action' of yours? We already know that your mentors Reverend Wright and
socialist billionaire Soros think that the US and Israel stand in a way to
the 'progress'. May be the appropriate action, as you and your team
understand it will be to tell Iranians 'Good job, guys'?

Israel is an American alley that brings to the relations its fair share. I
want you to read exerts from two articles written by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram
Ettinger, who is an expert on U.S. Middle East policy:

Former secretary of state and NATO supreme commander Gen. (ret.) Alexander
Haig refers to Israel as the largest, most cost-effective combat-experienced
U.S. aircraft carrier - one that does not require American personnel, cannot
be sunk and is located in a region critical to U.S. national security
interests. In 1967, Israel defeated a pro-Soviet Egypt/Syria axis. In 1970,
Israel forced the rollback of an invasion by pro-Soviet Syria of pro-U.S.
Jordan, preventing a pro-Soviet Domino Effect in the Persian Gulf. In 1981,
Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, enabling the U.S. to proceed with
conventional military options in its wars against Saddam Hussein. In 1982,
Israel destroyed Syrian-operated Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries,
which were considered impregnable. Israeli-developed unmanned aerial
vehicles have been employed by U.S. Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq,
providing otherwise unattainable intelligence and preempting terrorist
strikes. The Israeli-developed Lightning Pod navigation guidance system
eliminated Al-Zarqawi, the arch Al-Qaeda terrorist. Absent Israel and its
contribution to U.S. national security, Washington would have to deploy, to
the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, aircraft carriers and tens of
thousands of servicemen, costing scores of billions of dollars annually.

Dear Senator, we all would want to hear you saying words that in uncertain
terms will tell our enemies that you are not their friend, that you stand
and will stand for our country and for the principals of the founding
fathers of our country. How about repeating the pledge that Professor
Wichman of Mechanical Engineering at MSU wrote to a group of 'outraged by
>Jewish behavior' Muslim students in his University:

I (Barack Hussein Obama) will stand firmly against beheadings of civilians,
cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic
priests (the latest in Turkey), burnings of Christian churches, the
continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of
Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women
(called 'whores' in extreme Muslim culture), the murder of film directors in
Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France. This is what offends
me, and many, many of my fellow Americans. This shall be stopped and stopped
immediately. I will not tolerate it on my watch. As a US President I will
stand firm to stop this aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized behavior. I will
defend our allies including Israel, and will destroy any one who will try to
destroy them. Amen

Looks like you are not going to do it. This will make your Far Left friends
angry with you. You will hide behind words and smiles and half-truths.
Exactly as you were hiding your controversial pastor in the basement of the
building before you announced your bid for the US presidency.

Dear Senator, I received the below written text by email. I do not know the
sender, but I agree with him/her hundred percent. And I want you and your
sponsors, supporters and advisors to read it as well:

Any nation or culture that tried to mess around with the nation of Israel was destroyed -- while we Jews kept going! Egypt? Anyone knows where their
empire disappeared to? Greeks? Alexander of Macedonia? The Romans? Does
anyone today speak Latin? The Third Reich? Anyone heard any news about it
lately? And look at us, the Nation from the Bible, from Slavery in Egypt. We
> are still here, speaking the same language! Do not even think about
positioning the United States of America against Israel and Jews.


Leon A.Weinstein

Los Angeles, CA

PS - I can't imagine being a Jew and voting Obama. I can't imagine being an
Israeli supporter and voting Obama either. I can't imagine voting Obama

Sunday, June 29, 2008



Animal rights protesters have launched a series of angry campaigns against A-list carnivores. They are shifting their focus from celebrities who wear fur to others who encourage the "exploitation" of animals by eating them. In its latest campaign, Peta – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which became infamous for dousing fur-wearers in red paint – has launched an attack on the singer Jessica Simpson. (To read entire article click above)

Has anyone ever heard of a buycott? that is when you read press releases from knuckleheads like PETA and buy from the companies and individuals that they are protesting. When you read that a company or individual is being harassed by PETA, go and buy their album, see their movie or patronise their business.
My organisation, PETA (People for Eating Tasty Animals is spearheading this effort. It's one thing for someone to attempt to educate you about their point of view, but PETA is getting more and more strident, more and more intolerant of the meat eating majority.
In the interest of giving equal time to my opponents, I am including a link to a painter, a best selling author and man of considerable renown who was a renowned vegetarian.
http://sensitive vegetarian artist
As you can see from visiting his site, there is a balance between compassion for humans and compassion for animals. An animal rights activist was asked if she would save a drowning dog first or a drowning child. She could not answer with certainty, because as she explained, both lives were equal. In Haiti, there is a system of virtual slavery, where impoverished parents give their children away to wealthy people in the hope of them having a better life. Instead of caring for them and educating them, the children are enslaved. The children are called restavecs. There are some people who make the children sleep in creaky shacks while the family dog lives in an air conditioned dog house.*
The animal rights activists need to be monitored. They have splashed paint on people wearing fur coats and trashed laboratories where animal research was being conducted. They don't care if people die because they have disrupted medical research. They should be closely watched, because among them are terrorists. There is nothing humane about them at all because they do not care about humans. Hopefully they will be sued under the RICO statutes or called to task for their terrorist activities. Meanwhile slaves languish in Haiti, while their owner's dogs so beloved by PETA enjoy the air conditioning.

Above sites are provided for information about the restaveks

Friday, June 27, 2008

What's in a Name? The Story of Four Sisters

Some of my children are named after people my wife and I wanted to connect to spiritually. There is something about naming a child that feels like a dialogue with other worlds. Two of my children are named after sisters who came to America from Romania. There were many who came to this country in search of opportunities that were nonexistent back in Europe. Anyone who has looked at "A Vanished World". by Roman Vishniac can get a feel for life in Europe between the World Wars. Boys in yeshiva used to sleep and eat in private homes. There were days when the boys had to skip meals. Some of the pictures in the Vishniac book show Jews hiding from the "Endeks" or National Democrats. Well before the Germans invaded Poland, they spearheaded a national boycott of Jewish businesses that pushed Jewish families into poverty and onto the streets. It is hard to imagine some of the challenges faced by Jews even before the Nazis occupied most of Europe.
The allure of America was material, but it was a challenge to keep the faith. The two sisters after whom my daughters are named came here determined to marry religious men and keep the faith. Against all odds, they were additionally determined not to marry clean shaven men. There were many who came to America and lost jobs on a weekly basis. The work week included Saturday. There were signs up in shops that said "If you don't come to work Saturday, don't come in on Monday. Many were worn down by the fear of starvation. Some went into business themselves. There was no legal protection for the Sabbath observant. The two sisters after whom my daughters were named went back to Europe. There they married and had children. one family was wiped out by the Nazis. Another had some children who survived although she herself perished, along with her husband.
When I reflect upon the names of my daughters, I think of those who returned to Europe for Shabbos, and for a Jewish life. Some commandments are considered to be hiddurim, or extra strictness in keeping a commandment. Those who owned factories that they kept open on Shabbos argued that it was their right to make the rules for their place of employment. The decision whether or not to grow a beard is even more private according to common logic, although societal pressure to dress a certain way blurs the distinctions somewhat. These were two sisters who gave their lives for Shabbos, and in insisting on spouses with beards gave up their lives for a commandment affecting men only. The seemingly natural way to look at the world is to divide ones actions between those involving individual choice and those affecting the collective good. A society in which religious compliance is forced is an affront to a G-d that chooses to hide himself. The distinction in English between the word impel and compel is a critical one. With all of this taken into consideration, when I reflect upon the names of my daughters, I am reminded of the connectedness of the entire Jewish people. I am reminded that there are those who gave their lives for their faith, and even for the observance of other Jews. I struggle with the implications of that.
Shortly after high school, I picked up an album of Hungarian rock music. I noticed that the last names were written first and the first names written last. At first it looked impersonal. Then I reflected upon it. Writing the first name last was an expression of putting the good of the family before that of the individual. I started writing my name in the Hungarian fashion as an expression of this conviction. How does one reconcile individualism with putting the good of the community first? Conformity and primary consideration of the collective good are two separate ideas. Those whose care for the community is primary are often non conformists and trend setters rather than followers.
In naming my daughters, I am reminded constantly of the mysterious balance between individual choice and consideration of the collective good. The older I get, the more questions I have about what this means in practical terms. Today and every day, I remind myself to be Stettner Rudi rather than Rudi Stettner. Shabbat shalom. A Gitn Shabbos.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heaven and Hell : Claiming Our Lot and Taming Our Portion

Years ago, I heard this story from Shmuel Klatzkin in Boston one Shabbos afternoon. At a time when I was converting to Judaism, he and his wife offered friendship and encouragement that I recall with fondness years later.
The story he told was from the Midrash, or the narrative portion of the Talmud. In it, a man was shown both heaven and hell. When he looked into hell, there were long banquet tables laden with every sort of delicacy. Seated at each table were guests, whose enjoyment of the feast was markedly diminished by their lack of elbows. Unable to feed themselves, the banquet was a scene of total chaos. Lunging at the food like dogs, their faces were covered in soup and gravy. The sounds of choking and the clattering of fine china competed with the orchestra for the attention of the stunned visitor.
Trembling with shock at the bizarre spectacle, the observer asked his heavenly escort to show him heaven. Walking through celestial gardens, they approached yet another banquet hall. After they entered, the observer looked into yet another ballroom. He was breathless with shock at the sight that greeted him but continued to stare in fascination at the diners before him.
The banquet in heaven was no less opulent than the one in hell. The diners had the same anatomical peculiarity as the inhabitants of hell. They had no elbows, and could therefore not feed themselves. Despite this, the table settings retained their orderly placement in front of the guests. There was not a stain to be found on the table cloths. The orchestra played with no disruption from distressed patrons. What made heaven different was the behavior of the diners. Unlike hell, the inhabitants of paradise took quick stock of the situation. They made a quick adjustment to the new garb of their earthly souls. Unlike the purgatorial internees, they took it upon themselves to feed each other. The low steady hum of conversation included a layer of verbal communication necessary to facilitate sustenance.
The observer reflected deeply upon the strange things he saw during his visit. He interpreted the entire time he spent in other worlds like a dream with a message rather than in the manner of an ordered physical universe.
After his visit, his view of "haolam hazeh" of this world changed radically. He saw that the goodness of the individual and the consequent societal decency was in the hands of humans. He saw heaven and hell not as places to which docile passengers are transported but places that are built according to a divine blueprint. He started to look not at the horizon but in the mirror. As he grew old and looked at the shadows of mortality lengthening over him, his thoughts shifted from what they had once been. His new focus was not that which was his to inherit, but that which his to tame.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pelosi Supports Revival of "Fairness Doctrine"

In George Orwell's book, 1984, spoken language is altered to make the expression of heretical thoughts impossible. A classic example was the name "Pravda", or "truth", which was of course, whatever the Communist Party said it was. "Democratic" in communist parlance came to mean "in the interests of the proletariat," which again was decided by the "revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat", which was(what else?) the Communist Party.
Nancy Pelosi has lent new life to the latest Orwellian attack on plain English known as the "Fairness Doctrine." According the Fairness Doctrine, radio and television stations must offer equal time to opposing viewpoints. If Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage have three hours on the air each, the radio station that carries them must provide equal time to their opponents. This is likely to create a nightmare in programming logistics for radio station owners who wish to have controversial talk show hosts on their programming lineup. In the past, liberals have not had nearly as much success in building talk radio ratings as have the conservatives. Although they have done very well on the major networks and with a few big newspapers such as the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, all of their strongholds are taking a hit from the internet and talk radio. For this reason, the liberals are running scared. In desperate times like these, they are playing to win. Instead of buying or starting their own broadcast media, they are trashing their opponent's hard earned gains.
Considered together with some of the codes governing "offensive speech"on college campuses there is a disturbing trend towards erosion of free speech that is coming from the left of the political spectrum. Like a GUM department store in 1960's Moscow offering shoddy merchandise, the Pelosi liberals want the marketplace of ideas to be a planned economy with a narrow assortment of their hand picked trashy goods being offered to the public.
Free speech is under attack. The "Fairness Doctrine" is an attempt by those whose newspapers are failing to silence their opponents. It is important to the Senate and the House of Representatives those whose commitment to free speech is beyond question. Additionally, our next President's Supreme Court appointments will have major repercussions in this area.If we relax our vigilance in this vital area, we will be paying for it for years to come with only ourselves to blame.

Charcoal : A Short Video

I saw this video a few years ago. It keeps coming back to me, like a song from the jukebox of my mind. In the video, a teenage girl walks out of her house in disgust as she sees her parents fighting. Sitting in a corner of the train station , she starts writing on herself in motions that are evocative of self mutilation. When the train comes, her forearms are thoroughly decorated with charcoal. In the next several minutes of the video, she has friendly interactions with various strangers she encounters in her travels. Each stranger leaves with a charcoal mark. At the end of the video, she sees another couple arguing and returns home.
The short film reminds me of a psychiatrist and philosopher named Viktor Frankl who was a concentration camp survivor. He made the observation that the last freedom a human being has is the freedom to decide how to react to and feel about what is happening to them. The main character in this short video was clearly hurt by the strife in her life, but decides to pass on kindness in her daily life. The charcoal serves as a metaphor for the contagious nature of human emotions It has an almost fable like quality to it. The musical background is very well chosen. I would like to see a lot more short films like this one The thirty and sixty minute programmes on mainstream TV just don't cover everything.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Open Letter To Nicholas Sarkozy

It was with sadness that I read your pitiful speech to the Israeli Knesset. In your speech you , the President of the French, the Alsatians, the Corsicans, the Basques, the Bretons and the Catalonians advocated the division of Jerusalem between Arabs and Jews as a partitioned capitol of a so called Palestinian state. You further advocated the surrender of Judaea and Samaria. You spoke in the soothing tones of a train conductor at Gare du Nord in Vichy France telling the Jews to get on the train. It was so comforting.
I don't really blame you. Like so many other European heads of state, you were elected under a parliamentary system, under which you shed your political positions like so many garments in front of an audience that tosses you votes like tarnished one Euro pieces. Twelve percent of your population is Arab, and they wait patiently for their majority to reach critical mass. You all solved your Jewish problem back in the 40's. We were so pushy, so controlling. I hear that our cousins are much easier to get along with. Granted they may burn a few cars when they get miffed. They may redistribute personal wealth in a very shall we say ad hoc way, but at least they don't control all the banks. Perish the thought that they should start their own political party such as the European Movement for the Reexamination of Democratic Elections. (M.E.R.D.E) They are your countrymen now and in a democracy, you have to keep them happy. You really don't have a choice. As part of the fourth Reich, I mean the European Union, your options are even more limited. Your capitol is in Brussels and you don't even have your own money. At least the EU is bigger than the U.S. That must make you proud Frenchmen very happy.
It's so much cleaner when your Jews are stashed away on another continent isn't it?. You don't have to bring them to the train station or dirty your clean French hands with Jewish blood. You'll have Arabs doing your dirty work hours away by plane in what you call Palestine and it will be so much cheaper . Occasionally, you have to wring your hands in dismay when one of your former colonial subjects burns down yet another synagogue or kills another Jew. Just lay a wreath at Yad Vashem and say you're sorry.
We Jews have learned not to trust Europeans. Your promises are worth about as much as your old demonetised French banknotes. Like every other European country in the EU, you are hostage to the Arabs in your midst who hate us a little more than they do you. It seems like only yesterday that the French were piously lecturing les Americains on race relations. My how time changes. If it gets too hot in Paris from all of those burning automobiles, then you might want to cool your heels in New York and see how we cope with problems like yours.
I am so glad that you as French Prime Minister stand for the self determination of all national groups. I am sure that the Catalonians, Basques, Bretons and Corsicans within your borders will be glad that you care so much about them.
August is not far away. The entire French Republic (or what is left of it) is going on vacation. They'll have a lot of spare time on their hands and not much air conditioning. You have to keep them busy. Don't get them mad. You're running out of Jews and who does that leave?

********************* ******************* *************************
In honour of the captive Basques of France, I am presenting a video of a Basque rock group. I don't understand the lyrics, but I don't understand the French either. If you have any complaints about obscenity in this posting, please specify whether you are talking about the lyrics in the rock video or Sarkozy's speech in front of the Knesset

Monday, June 23, 2008

Immigration, America's Future and the View From New York

This afternoon I went shopping for groceries. Looking in the store windows I noticed yet another "Help Wanted" sign in Spanish. The signs were monolingual and English was excluded. What makes fluency in the English language so undesirable? I have worked along side immigrants, both Spanish speaking and other nationalities. When someone comes in and needs to learn basic vocabulary to work, they are bound to their employer in a manner that an English speaker is not. The people I worked with arranged their lives so they could spend as little as possible on room and board and send as much as possible back to their native countries. Education was a temporary interruption in the cash flow that many of them decided they couldn't afford. I worked with one man who studied English and assessed his job skills combined with English fluency. He moved to a factory town in the South where his wages almost doubled and his living expenses plummeted. Most of his coworkers remained in the same cycle of low pay and limited language skills. Not only are language skills important to advancement, but they are important towards a collective national identity. The misguided policy of bilingualism threatens to balkanise America and segregate a class of workers with limited job mobility.
The bottom rung of the wage scale used to be high school students who were learning life skills and paying for a car, a stereo or clothes. Now, in New York, a lot of low paying jobs are filled by immigrants, quite a few of whom are illegal. Every mayor of New York has announced their intention not to enforce the immigration laws that have been passed by the federal government. It would take a very skilled lawyer to explain to me how this is consistent with their oath of office.
Massive illegal immigration to New York City has produced some anomalies. Kings County Hospital as well as other medical facilities in the Big Apple have become renowned centres for the treatment of African tropical diseases. There have been cases of people coming here illegally with tropical diseases because they knew they would get better treatment than back in Africa with no bill and no worries about immigration police. Even a hospital that is congested and underfunded by American standards is considered palatial by the standards of many African countries.
The massive drop in crime that has changed the face of New York City has had a major beneficial effect. Businesses once scared away by crime have returned in large numbers. National chains are opening up here On the other hand, distorted housing prices and illegal immigration both have a dampening effect on our city economy. The federal government limits the growth of certain crops in order to prevent the market from being flooded and the value of wheat, soybeans or anything else from dropping to a level below production costs.
Labour is a commodity as well, with which American markets are being flooded. In addition to legal immigration is the massive flow of illegal immigration. Computer programmers and telephone service people work now from phone banks and offices overseas, so even some skilled jobs that once held great promise are now being done overseas by college graduates who are happy to work for a fraction of U.S. wages.
The porous nature of America's borders is not a well kept secret. It has grave implications for national security, as America's enemies seek to blend in with waves of illegals whose motives are economic. The means exist to seal our borders, but the will seems to be sorely lacking. We will be fortunate indeed if the sole price of our laxity is economic.
Those who post signs adverting work in Spanish in an American city are not motivated by an idealistic desire to spread America's bounty to immigrants. They are motivated by greed. They want to keep wages down. There is nothing wrong with admitting immigrants in an orderly fashion, but it should be controlled legal immigration.Immigrants with subversive affiliations should also be screened. My mother's family knew to steer clear of certain Croatian and Jugoslav organisations that were considered detrimental to American security. It is outrageous to admit people who set foot in our country for the sole purpose of destroying it, either Muslims who consider us infidels or Mexicans who nurse historic grievances .
The basic well being of those legally here in America should be a commonsensical goal for our country . From Gracie Mansion to the multitude of shop windows with help wanted signs in Spanish, it is clear that today's quick buck is more important to many than is America's future.
I will not say that the writing is on the wall. It is in the shop windows.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shame On You Barack Obama !!!!

America has amazing racial and ethnic diversity. As a nation, we have struggled to overcome slavery, segregation and various forms of local prejudice against Irish, Japanese and Native Americans. The righteousness of a nation in measured by its ability to feel shame. From reparations to Japanese internees to America's ongoing dialogue about race, introspection seems to be a part of our national character.
Most Americans want any qualified individual of whatever ethnicity to be able to run for President. This is quite separate from approving of a specific candidate. I am fuming with indignation at the latest attempt to play on white guilt. I had imputed to Mr. Obama far more fairness than he has come to show.
In a campaign rally in Jacksonville Florida, Obama made the following statement. " "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

Has anyone noticed his use of the future tense? He is blaming his opponents in advance for racism. He is imputing racism to everyone connected with his political opponents.

Charles Steele, head of the Southern Christian Leadership conference was even more explicit in his use of white guilt as a tool for drumming up votes.

“Why are they attacking Michelle Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and not really attacking, to that degree, her husband?” Steele asked. “Because he has no slave blood in him. He does not have any slave blood in him, but Michelle does.

“This system is an issue. I don’t care what you say. You can’t expect the system that enslaved you save you.”

Michelle Obama is involved directly in Obama's campaign. She has taken positions with which one may legitimately disagree. And if she can't take rough housing with the boys, she should stay off the playing field.

A success of the civil rights movement is that Americans are ashamed to be racist. Barack and Michelle are the beneficiaries of this change in national attitude. But the flip side of this gain for themselves and all African Americans is an obligation. Their obligation is to stick to the issues and not to hurl accusations of racism without cause.

I am very opposed to Barack Obama. I think he would be a disaster for America from which recovery would be far from certain. And I fiercely resent his imputing racism to his opponents. It is beneath contempt. I want to flag this disgraceful cheap shot now and whenever it might occur in the future. However low my opinion was of Obama's fitness for office, he has now fallen short of even the most minimal standards of common decency. Shame on you Barack Obama. I expected better of you.

Christians Wake Up !!!

The Middle East is not only the birthplace of Judaism, but of Christianity as well. There are Arab families whose blood lines connect them to the first Christians in the world. Many use Aramaic( the spoken language of Jesus) as their liturgical language or even their mother tongue
It is not only archaeology that connects us to the past but the practices of living people. A disturbing demographic trend throughout the Middle East, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt is the plummeting percentage of Christians in the general population. Murder, rape, forced marriage and extortion are making the lives of Christians in the Middle East a daily living hell. Even the limited protections of Sharia (Islamic law) are not extended to them by the hordes of the Koranically illiterate who wax apoplectic at an uncovered ankle yet shed rivers of blood for Islamic laws that they invent themselves.
Fundamentalist Christians display some empathy for their persecuted brethren in Iraq. The silence of mainstream Christian denominations has been deafening. Instead of coming to the aid of beleaguered Christian compatriots, they have strengthened the hands of their oppressors, who commit their crimes in the name of Islam. Presbyterians and Methodists regularly flirt with sanctions against Israel, and stand with equal regularity by the blood of their coreligionists.
Millions of dollars are spent to perpetuate the lie that Christianity is a branch of Judaism. Money that could be spent resettling and protecting persecuted Christians is being spent printing idiotic little tracts with titles like "Jesus made me kosher." Israel is examined with an electron microscope while African Christians are captured as war booty and sold into slavery.
In America, the leading threats to a Christian lifestyle are probably alcohol and drugs. In Egypt and Iraq, the threats are from kidnapping and forced conversions.
Where is the much touted Christian compassion that leaves descendants of the world's first Christians quaking with fear? Was the commandment not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbour nullified by Jesus as was the sabbath and keeping kosher? People are dying physical deaths and shedding real blood as the compassion of wealthy Christians is focused elesewhere.
The world is losing a living connection to its past. These are living human beings who seem to be on the wrong cable channel for eliciting action and compassion.It is my duty as a Jew, as a human being to offer aid to the oppressed of this generation just as my grandparents were aided years ago by America, a Christian country.
There is a Jewish saying that is turning into a sad epitaph for all too many Christians living in Islamic countries. "He who is merciful to the cruel is destined to be cruel to the merciful".
In this age of instant news, no one can plead ignorance. History and G-d almighty will ask all of us, where were you. Did you speak up. Did you offer aid? Why were you silent? What will we answer?

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Puhdys on Reunification

One of my favourite rock groups of all time is the East German group, the Puhdys. Their music is an interesting study in balancing integrity and survival under a totalitarian regime. At this task , they seem to have succeeded admirably. Little known is the fact that the Puhdys count the members of the band "Rammstein among their fans.
The song I have chosen for today's posting is titled "Was Bleibt?" which translates as "What remains?" It deals with the disorientation following the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent reunification of Germany.
Some of the lyrics translate as follows.
"Everything that is finished can also be a beginning".
But I am not a fool who forgets so quickly. What once was is also my life."
The refrain of the song translates as "What remains are the friends one has in life."
The simple thought that is conveyed is that one's neighbours and personal relationships remain even as governments fall and struggles rage.
This is certainly a lesson that all can learn from this thoughtful song. It is for good reason that the Puhdys have maintained their popularity in a united Germany.
Germany was split in two for over forty years and rejoined after a turbulent separation. There is little doubt that the Koreans in the North and South are following the experiences of Germany in reunification.
This song is an interesting example of how a nations political upheavals reverberate in the artistic dimension. I am happy to share it with my readers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An All Time Low: Iraqi Jihadis Crucify Christian Children

Iraqi Jihad terrorists never seem to stop finding new lows in human depravity. A parliamentary committee meeting in Ottawa, Canada heard testimony from Iraqi Christians that about twelve Christian children, some as young as ten have been crucified in attempts to intimidate their families into leaving Iraq. In Pakistan, fleeing Christians are lured into forced labour camps where even the children become indentured servants. Those who attempt to flee Allah's paradise have their fingers chopped off. Buying one's way out is possible through sale of a kidney or conversion to Islam.
Iraqi Christians are not alone. Yazidis and Mandaeans have also been targeted by Jihad filth acting in the name of religion. In many cases, the businesses of well to do Christians and other non Muslims make them attractive targets to Islamic Jihadists.
The first priority should be for the west and for the Iraqi government to forcefully secure the safety of these communities that predate Islam in Iraq by centuries. Iraqi Christians, Mandaeans and Yazidis should get top priority in immigrating to the United States. They should have the same automatic approval for refugee status once enjoyed by Cubans fleeing Castro.
Christians in America and world wide should be forceful in support of their brethren in Iraq. Perhaps refugee camps should be set up by Christian organisations for those who have been dispossessed by the terrorists.
As a child of someone who fled Nazism, It is impossible for me to be silent about this inhumanity. During this year of a presidential campaign, there are increased possibilities to publicise this heart breaking issue. America must not turn its back on these people. It is commendable that the Canadian Parliament has listened to the Christians of Iraq. The American Congress should do so as well. America was founded in part by those fleeing religious persecution. In welcoming Assyrian refugees, we will be affirming our country's roots as a haven of refuge.
Whoever reads this article should click on the links I have provided to become better informed. I hope my readers will reach out to the Assyrians at this critical time in their history.

Assyrian Dancing Penguins

I have always enjoyed fusion culture, where aspects of east and west or European and Asian blend in strange ways.When I was in Italy, Mickey Mouse was very popular. Even adults read Mickey Mouse on the buses and trains. In Italy Mickey Mouse is known as "Topolino". When I was there, they had "Close Up" toothpaste. They pronounced it "Klozay Oop".
In Japan, if something is cool, it is "kuru". Le Weekend is a term that has made its way into French, much to the consternation of language purists.
My favourite example of "fusion" is this dance sequence from the movie "Happy Feet" with a sound track of an Assyrian singer named Evin Aghassi. He sings in both Arabic and Aramaic. During a tour in Syria, the crowd was so crazed with joy at seeing him that they picked him up on their shoulders and walked with him through the streets. What made this unusual was that Aghassi was sitting in his Mercedes at the time.
Assyrian remains one of many languages without a homeland. Assyrians are scattered across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with some still living in Iran. Communities also exist in Sweden, Germany and Detroit as well as other places in Europe and America I heard of an Iranian yeshiva student who listened to Talmud being read and required no translation into Farsi or English. Although modern spoken Aramaic is a different dialect than Talmudic Aramaic, there is considerable overlap. A couple of million people speak Aramaic all over the world. A larger number speak Arabic and other languages but continue to use it as a liturgical language. Although they are split between different denominations, the Assyrians are a Christian ethnic group.
I am showing this video of 'Happy Feet " with an Evin Aghassi sound track for the benefit of my readers. Hebrew , Aramaic and Arabic are all members of the same linguistic family. This video showcases the beauty of the Chaldean language in its modern form. I ran this video back in February when my site had almost no viewers at all. I hope my readers will enjoy it.

Juneteenth: Slavery Then and Slavery Today

Today is Juneteenth. The name, which is a coloquial contraction of June 19th, commemorates the actual abolition of slavery throughout the entire United States at the end of the American Civil War.
The holiday began in Galveston Texas, where according to tradition, Union General Gordon Granger read the following proclamation from a balcony to an assembled crowd.
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere".
The holiday, which has enjoyed grass roots support for generations is celebrated officially in twenty eight states and the District of Columbia.
The slavery that existed before Juneteenth was a blight upon America's revolutionary message to the world. It demeaned not only those enslaved but their masters as well. Its existence at one time continues to cast a long shadow across America. Some aspects of the welfare state, however well intentioned, aggravated rather than alleviated some of the problems they were meant to cure by weakening African American families. It would be safe to say that America continues to struggle not only with the problems of its past but some of the solutions as well.
It would be the greatest folly to believe that slavery is a relic of history. Today as centuries ago, men, women and children are bought and sold in countries such as Mauritania and Sudan. To this very day, the American Anti Slavery Group is active in combatting not only chattel slavery but bonded servitude, where debts with usurious interest are borne for years by families that have no nope of ever paying them. In countries such as India, where this practice is common, a fifty dollar debt can be a life sentence of hard labour.
It would be a great mistake to think that America is free of slavery. The wave of illegal immigrants has brought with it an undercurrent of sweat shop workers, agricultural workers and prostitutes from Asia, Europe and South America who are paying off huge debts to the gangsters who smuggled them into America. In many cases, they are prevented from melting into the anonymity of the urban landscape by credible threats against their families back home. There are many who are tricked and coerced with promises of high paying restaurant jobs into what turns out to be forced prostitution. This is a world wide problem in Europe and Asia as well. Runaways as well as drug addicts who are American born are also subject to this scourge.
Juneteenth would be a fitting time to focus on the modern day scourge of slavery that thrives in America and abroad centuries after its statutory abolition in America almost a century and a half ago.
The persistence and resilience of slavery in modern times reminds me of a well known quotation from William Faulkner. "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
We should not today or on any other anniversary on our national calendar consign our commemorations to the musty closet of our collective history. When the past is ignored, it has a way of blocking our path until we stop and pay it proper respect.
The message of Juneteenth remains that both the desire to enslave and the yearning for freedom persist eternally. Today and every day, we should remember and participate in this ongoing battle.
" Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm". (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Whatever our history as individuals or as a people, it should deepen our compassion for those whose struggles are unfolding today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barack Obama : Ready For Prime Time?

This is an actual tape of Barack Obama speaking. The incoherence is shocking. If John McCain were to speak in such an incoherent fashion serious questions would be raised about his competence. We seem to be afflicted with a news media that is blatantly biased towards the Democratic Party. Proper reporting would give us a sense of how the candidates are on the road without a teleprompter. Obama has shown a pronounced aversion to debates with a format that is beyond his control. He prefers staged events in which his image is projected by handlers. Our next president is going to be dealing with a world that will try to push him off balance.
Obama has been attracting some very problematic endorsements. Hamas and Jimmy Carter as well as Fidel Castro seem to be very eager for Obama to win the election in November. We should be asking ourselves what they see in him.
The news media should be exploring the character of the candidates and more importantly, their prior record of public service. Previous presidents have been governors and legislators. There is a lot to be examined in Obama's political career that could give us an idea of how he likes to govern. Instead, he has been getting soft treatment from the media. If Obama thinks that the campaign is tough, then he shouldn't even think about the White House. Right now he is choosing when and whether to debate. The presidency is not like that
The captions on the video with this posting are pretty harsh. But they're nothing compared to the rough world of the twenty first century
copyright 2008 by on comments only. Video from Youtube

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shavei Yisrael, Gathering the Dispersed of Israel

Magdeburger Joe, Rudi Stettner and are devoted not only to providing entertainment, but also to aiding those who are striving to make the world a better place. This week, donated US$25.00 to Shavei Yisrael, an organisation that reaches out to groups such as the Bnei Anusim, who are descended from those in Spain and Portugal who were forcibly converted to Christianity and the Bnei Menashe. Many individuals in these communities have a desire to return to the faith of their ancestors. Shavei Yisrael facilitates the return of these people to their heritage and people. It is important , in my opinion to step beyond our limited conceptions of who our brothers and sisters are. These are people who look and speak differently from the Jews we are accustomed to meeting on a daily basis but who have a spiritual hunger that should be a lesson and a light to us. The return of the dispersed of Israel should never leave our thoughts. It should guide our actions and shape our priorities.
There is another dispersion that is taking place as we speak. Just as people are returning to Judaism, others are turning away. Some grew weary of being rejected by one yeshiva after another for acting out. Others may have been endured abuse at the hands of those wearing the garb of the pious. Family problems, learning disabilities in a community where learning is valued also contribute to this sad loss of precious souls. We should not leave it to organisations to give solace and assistance to those who have been driven away. This should be our quest as individuals and families as well.
I was once speaking to the head of a girl's school who told me, "I know what to answer to a girl from a nonreligious home who questions Judaism. I can't deal with a child who was raised religious who questions her faith."
What do you say to such a person who was raised religious and left the faith? Do you come up with a pithy phrase or an airtight argument? How about the more basic questions? How are you? How are you feeling? Before you ask a person to care about G-d, you must care about them yourself.
I once heard a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe meeting with a holocaust survivor. The man told the Rebbe that he had left Judaism. He told the Rebbe about his family who had been killed, and surviving the war as a creature that a dog would pity.
What did the Rebbe say? The Rebbe said nothing at all. The tears that were bottled up in the soul of the holocaust survivor flowed down the face of the Rebbe as the line lengthened outside his study. The connection in that meeting was not mind to mind but heart to heart. In the version of the story I heard, the man who came to the Rebbe became observant again. There are more than a few people who met the Rebbe who did not become observant. I believe the Rebbe's love for them was not conditional upon their eventual return to the faith. Such unconditional acceptance is something we can and should emulate.
I hope to some day meet the Bnei Menashe and the Subotniks mentioned in the Shavei Yisrael website. My ability to offer them material support is unfortunately limited. The best gift I can give the dispersed remnants is to create warmth and acceptance in the people to which they are returning. The remnants of Israel should return to a nation where every soul, every member of the community is considered irreplacable.
Welcoming the dispersed of Israel and preventing new dispersions are inseparable goals.
I once heard a story when I was living in Boston about a synagogue that used to throw out panhandler who would arrive splendidly plastered at shul in time for the first minyan. Eventually, the Jews left the inner city neighbourhood for the suburbs. In its final years, the congregation struggled to keep its doors open for a daily minyan. There were many days when a quorum of ten for kadish was lacking. During this troubled time in the final years of the congregation, the drunkard who had been asked to leave in better times was instead paid to stay. The drunkard was as essential to those who needed to say kadish as was the rabbi of the synagogue. Whether we see it or not, we all need each other today as much as that struggling minyan in Boston needed each other many years ago. It is said that every Jew is connected to a letter in the Torah . A missing letter or even a crack in a letter renders the entire Torah scroll invalid until the letter is is repaired. There are empty chairs at the Shabbos table, empty seats at the seder. Behind each of those missing are cracked and missing letters . Before the reader can read the weekly portion, the scribe must complete his task. The State of Israel has a Right of Return law that welcomes Jews home from the exile. We must extend a Right of Return to every Jew every place, to all those dispersed many years ago as well as those leaving in our day.
copyright 2008 by
P.S. Please visit the Shavei Yisrael website . The link is at the top of the page.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mordechai Kedar on Al Jazeera, An Example to Israel

Professor Mordechai Kedar gave a ground breaking interview on the Al Jazeera network, in which he forthrightly defended Israel's right to an undivided Jerusalem without apology. What was remarkable about the interview was that an Israeli Jew was giving the interview who was a supporter and not an opponent of Israel. It is actually to the credit of Al Jazeera that they ran such an interview.
Kedar stated compelling facts, from the openness of the Holy City under Israeli rule to the fact that Jerusalem is not once mentioned in the Koran. Professor Kedar's presentation was marred by his apparent support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, an area of great importance to the Jewish people. His greatest strength was in pointing out the openness of Jerusalem to members of all faiths. Kedar's style of debate should be required study for all those working in the Israeli foreign ministry. Negotiations about areas now being conducted for the purpose of establishing G-d forbid a Palestinian state would be far more productive if they centred on establishing the rights of those living in disputed areas to live in peace and their responsibility to respect the rights of others living in the area.
Hebron, Shechem, and indeed every inch of the Holy Land should be defended with the frankness , erudition and grace displayed by Kedar in his interview. It is most interesting that Kedar spoke ably in Arabic, a language in which the Rambam, (Maimonides) spoke and wrote.
Jews have a long history in Arab countries. The generation that remembers this is getting older.
The sight of a Jew speaking in Arabic to an Arab audience on matters of common interest and concern should become a more frequent occurence.
It is a most telling lesson that the Middle East did not erupt into flames after the professor's interview. It is apparent that a show of strength in discussion and negotiation is no less important than a display of arms. The audience of Al Jazeera has seen a Jew who does not tremble guilt ridden before them. They have seen a Jew who is articulate and forthright in his defense of Israel. The value of Dr.Kedar's interview extends far beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem. He deserves Israel's thanks and emulation.
copyright 2008 on article only
Please click on video above to watch Mordechai Kedar on Al Jazeera

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Chofetz Chaim and the Cantonist

At a dinner in honour of Shimon Waronker, the famous principal of a South Bronx school, he told the following story about the Chofetz Chaim and a cantonist. He Heard the story from a Rabbi Gutnick, who heard it from the son of the main character in the story.
The cantonists were conscripted into military schools as early as seven years of age. After graduating from military school, they served twenty five years in the Russian army. Jews who served were under extreme pressure to convert to Christianity. Those who refused endured physical abuse and starvation. Many died during their term of service. A major goal of drafting Jews at such a young age into the army was to induce them to abandon their faith.
The Chofetz Chaim(1838-1933) was a famous rabbi in Poland who is most noted for his Jewish legal works on the subject of gossip and other forms of forbidden speech.
The Chofetz Chaim was traveling and stopped for the night at an inn. Sitting down to a meal in the dining room of the inn, he noted a rough looking man in stained work clothes sitting at a nearby table. The man took out a sack , from which he removed bread, salami and butter. The Chofetz Chaim heard him bantering with a gentleman at a nearby table in Yiddish.
As the rabbi looked at the man, the innkeeper came over to him and said, "Don't pay any attention to him. He's a "cantonist". He's a wild man. I know you want to talk to him about eating meat and dairy together, but don't waste your time. You'll just start trouble.
When the Chofetz Chaim heard this, he immediately walked over to the man's table.
"Are you a Cantonist"? he asked
"Yeah!!" the man answered "What about it?"
"I'll bet it was rough in the army." said the Chofetz Chaim sympathetically.
"Rough??!!" countered the cantonist? You can't imagine how rough it was!! They wanted me to convert. They tried to beat me into converting. They tried to starve me. But I was born a Jew and I'll DIE a Jew!" He slammed his fist on the desk for emphasis.
The Chofetz Chaim reached out to the man. "Let me shake your hand. he said shaking the man's hand with both hands. " I have so much respect for you. You've made an unbelievable sacrifice to remain a Jew. Please promise me that you'll speak for me in the next world if you get there before me. Your word will carry a lot of weight. You are a living saint."
The cantonist was speechless. He was deeply touched by the Chofetz Chaim's expression of respect. Cantonists often lived at the margins of Jewish society upon their discharge from the army retaining little beyond the knowledge that they were Jews. The Chofetz Chaim and the cantonist spoke several times more with each other during the Chofetz Chaim's stay at the inn. They exchanged addresses. The cantonist became first a visitor and eventually a respected disciple of the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan. He ended up marrying and raising a family who were observant Jews. It was his son who learned in yeshiva with Rabbi Gutnick of blessed memory who related the story at a gathering in Morristown , New Jersey where Rabbi Waronker was present.
The cantonist was brought to Judaism through the heartfelt words of the Chofetz Chaim. It can truly be said that the children of the cantonist were in a real sense the fruit of the rabbi's kindness, of his ability to seek and find the goodness of strangers. May the memory of the Chofetz Chaim and the Cantonist guide us in likewise transforming our world.

copyright 2008 by

A Hidden Benefit To Rising Oil Prices

The steady climb in the price of gasoline and electricity is accompanied by a hidden benefit. According to the Wall Street Journal (6/13/08), there has been a marked slowdown in outsourcing of factory work to China. Some companies are even bringing their production back to the United States. The reason for this is the skyrocketing price of transporting goods caused by the rise in crude oil prices. The example of DESA LLC , a company in Bowling Green Kentucky that through one of its subsidiaries manufactures heaters. Recently, the company moved most of its production from China back to the United States. Since January, the company has endured a 15% jump in shipping costs, according to its retail heating division president Claude Hays. Further increases in shipping costs are due next month.
The WSJ article further states that the price of shipping a standard 40 foot shipping container has tripled since the year 2000 and is set to double yet again as prices surge towards $200.00 a barrel for oil.
If this trend continues, it could provide some respite to American workers, who are forced to compete with workers whose wages and living costs are a fraction of those in the U.S. Rather than abandon China and the developing world, it might be a better long term strategy to expand Chinese markets for consumer goods that are now being manufactured for sale in the U.S.
This story highlights the fact that hourly wages are far from the only component in the final price tag of manufactured goods. Very often, flexibility and creativity of the work force can increase production without lowering worker's wages. Raw materials, factory maintenance and transportation are all factors that must be viewed in pricing manufactured goods.
It would have been far better for American manufacturers to be motivated by long term concern for stability of the American tax base and economy. Unfortunately, this has not been a dominant trend. The more pragmatic consideration of the skyrocketing costs of transporting finished goods from far away has proved to be of more pressing concern. Hopefully, those corporations that are being stung by rising oil prices will learn from this bit of poetic justice. Unfortunately, the job drain due to outsourcing of customer service , computer programming and other jobs overseas continues unabated. The frustration of discussing usurious credit card interest or other customer service questions with a customer service person in Asia continues to be a common place occurrence. It might be wise to reward American companies who use American labour through hefty tax breaks. This would shore up the tax base and stimulate the economy.
Hopefully, the presidential candidates will recognise this economic problem as an area of high priority during the next presidential term. We would do well to extract some good from the seeming misfortune of rising oil prices. A wake up call is only an annoyance to those who wish to remain sleeping.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Modesty Patrol' Suspected of Spilling Acid on Teenage Girl,7340,L-3552461,00.html

" A 14-year-old girl from Beitar Illite was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after an unknown person spilled acid on her face, legs and stomach, causing light burn wounds.
The act has been attributed to a representative of the so-called 'modesty guard' in this town where religious and secular residents are increasingly at bitter odds." (Please click on above link for the complete story from Y Net.)

According to Y Net, tension has been brewing for some time between the "chareidim" and those with a more relaxed approach to religious laws regarding appropriate attire.
It sickens me to think that an act more befitting of the Taliban in Afghanistan could happen in Israel. It is safe to say that not one person was attracted to orthodox observance because of this terrorist act. Not only that, such violence against a young girl probably hardened thousands of people in their opposition to religious observance. I do not think for a moment that the creature who threw acid at the girl in Beitar Illit confines his violence to "irreligious " women. Such a person is probably abusive and demeaning to his wife and and daughters as well. There are a growing number of people from "chareidi" homes who are driven from religious observance by attitudes of rigid conformism in dress and behavior. Modesty is intended to enhance the individuality and dignity of women. The terrorist who attacked the girl of whose clothing he disapproved did not care about her soul or love of the Torah. If members of the "modesty patrol" keep infecting the world with their malignant hatred, they may find themselves with wives, sisters and children who are dressed like those against whom they so piously rail. If they ever stopped to talk with some of the people they now only see as targets, they might be humbled by their fine character.
I know and love many who would walk with fear in Beitar Illit. These are people who exemplify kindness and respect . These are people who are far more fitting as role models the "Jewish Taliban" in Beitar Illit and elsewhere. Learning Torah makes it possible to recognise goodness in a person who does not keep all of the commandments perfectly. A person is far more likely to heed a religious message if the good they do is recognised.
It is wrong for any human being to take away the freedom of choice that G-d has given us. A person who must define himself by the hatred he feels towards others must truly have a hollow core. After losing six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis, and after enduring countless terror attacks aimed at every Jewish man, woman and child in Israel no one can afford to impugn the value of those whose faith they consider suspect. It is time to repudiate this indecency that masquerades as modesty. We are starting to resemble our enemies. And that frightens me.
copyright 2008 by

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama Videos: America Laughs, America Speaks

There are a lot of issues facing our country. This election is between two candidates with very different visions for our country. I do not pretend to be impartial. I believe that Obama would be a disaster for our country at least as bad as was Jimmy Carter. I am presenting these videos compliments of you tube that range from satire to tough and frank talk. I believe that many Americans are having second thoughts about Obama. I hope on this web site to give voice and strength to this trend among the voting public. I hope these videos will provide comic respite and clarity during the long campaign ahead of us

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Have You Come A Long Way Baby? Thoughts About Old Cigarette Commercials

After months of working without pay, is running its first commercial!
The advertisement will run on Our legal department has informed us that the commercial, which ran on the Flintstones TV show back in 1961 has legal and ethical ramifications that could alienate a large portion of our readership.........
On a more serious note, cigarette ads were banned from the airwaves, especially children's TV shows back in 1965. Millions of dollars are spent on advertising. A proven correlation exists between advertising and consumer preferences.
Commercials are proven to be effective beyond a doubt. A Superbowl ad of a minute's duration can cost millions, yet we still debate the effect of television and films on shaping human behavior. I am not advocating censorship, but that artists take themselves and their audience seriously. Those who create music or film are shaping not only a song or a movie script but the hearts and minds of those who enjoy their creations.
We can look back at racist shows that once ran on TV. We can look back on cigarette commercials that once ran on children's television and smugly applaud ourselves for the progress we have made. It would be better to question and challenge our current level of awareness. Will there be facets of the popular culture today that will shock and repulse us in the future? The time to ask this question is now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jugoslav Rock and Thoughts of America

(If video will not play, please click on title to this post)
One of the major rock groups from the former Jugoslavia was Bjelo Dugme. (White Button)
Based in Sarajevo between 1974 and 1989. Based in Sarajevo, they incorporated western style rock with some songs that showcased a distinct regional style. My favourite song from this group is Lipe Cvatu. It could be classified as "fusion" music. It definately belongs to the genre of rock music. Despite this, it has distinctly Slavic forms and influences as well as indigenous instruments. The song looks somewhat nostalgically at Jugoslavia before it split up.Unfortunately, the band did not survive the breakup of the country, although it was seen as emblematic of national unity.
Anyone of Croatian (or any other Jugoslavian) ancestry who grows up in America has reason to feel a special sense of gratitude for the extent our country has turned its diversity into something positive. One of the most wonderful things to note is how those who would have been at war in their country of birth find a common cause here. I once heard a Croat say "Who cares if he's Serbian, his name has a "vich" on the end of it. I've seen Hindus and Muslims from India and Pakistan arrange their break schedules so each could pray in the proper time.
America has a potential to beam a message of peace back to the world from which it accepts immigrants. When I listen to Bjelo Dugme, I am reminded not only of what is special in the former Jugoslavia, but what is special in America as well

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Goldfish and Shavuot.

Someone at a carnival gave my children a free goldfish. Here was a shiny, living, swimming creature, for free. Of course, as soon as they brought it home, they transferred it to a large mayonnaise jar.
The next day, they realised that they would need an aquarium. Then , of course, the aquarium needed gravel, an oxygenator and a water filtre. All of this came in a convenient kit at the pet store, with a light, charcoal, fiber glass for the filtre as well as fish food , all for only forty nine dollars.
It was readily apparent that the free fish was not free at all. Of course, by the time this realisation had dawned on us, we were all very fond of "Orange Thing". Whatever he (or she) needed was quite okay with us. "Orange Thing" got what he needed. He even got a little catfish to keep him company and clean the tank.
Life is like that. We want things. We pray for them. Sometimes we even get what we want. Whatever we pray for ends up with hidden costs.Marriage, children a job. You always end up going back to the store for accessories. When I looked at that goldfish, I was looking at my reflection.
Tonight is going to be Shavuot. Passover, only seven weeks ago was , it turns out only a preparation for Shavuot, which in turn finds its fulfillment in other holidays on the Jewish calendar.Each holiday in the Jewish year emphasises a different aspect of spirituality, much as a properly set table has a balanced offering from all the major food groups.
During Passover, the children at the table ask the father questions. On Sukkot, in the fall, (the Feast of Booths), passers by of all faiths see the shacks Jews build in their yards and then ask questions of those inside. This has precipitated many discussions about the vulnerable nature of life in the Sukkah. It provides many analogies to the fragility of life itself.
The next major event on the Jewish calendar is the Three Weeks, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple. We hope and pray that this year, it will be a time of physical rebuilding and celebration. It's all tied into the Torah that we received on Shavuot morning. But that's another story for another day.

"Casablanca" East German Rock and Cultural Boundaries

Along with the Puhdys, Karat and Silly, City is one of the most famous rock bands from the former East Germany. Founded in 1972, it went through name and lineup changes. It started up as City Band Berlin , then it became City Rock Band. Eventuallly it settled on its current name of "City.
In order to be permitted to perform in the former East Germany, one needed to go through a sort of security clearance, taking a course in Marxist ideology and being liscenced to perform, first at small events and eventually in recording studios. Although it achieved critical acclaim in both Germanies they did not achieve the rare distinction of touring in the West.
I remember a poetic moment when visiting East Berlin back in 1973. At a news stand I picked up a copy of Neues Deutschland, which like Pravda was the official newspaper of the ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). I was awed to see the daunting customs gauntlet at Friedrichstrasse and the Berlin Wall, which included mine fields and a free fire zone. When looking at the weather report, it occurred to me that the report was also good for West Berlin as well. The other odd sight was rabbits munching on grass in the free fire zone.
There is a certain level of existence at which walls are not an obstacle. There is a manner of living in which fortified boundaries and political divisions have no reality.
" Casablanca" is a song by "City" which is about the movie of the same name which starred Humphrey Bogart back in the 1940's. The movie includes some English words as well as a sound track taken from the original movie. The dream like mix between English and German as well as the mix of the 1940's with 1980's classic rock reminds me of the common weather reports on both sides of the wall, as well as the birds flying over it. The common elements in music are another more human dimension of transcending boundaries. They are a reminder that not all can be predicted by market research. Not all human yearnings can be shoehorned into a five year plan. Most interesting in art from East Germany is the tightrope walk between staying on the right side of the regime and maintaining one's own integrity.
Not surprisingly, there has been for some time a cultural trend known as "Ostalgie", or nostalgia for the east. At the core of this cultural trend is the realisation that some good came of the forty year disaster of communist rule. The rock bands of East Germany have earned the respect of music critics all across the now united Germany as well as Europe. Both students of German and those not fazed by language bariers would do well to give this genre of German rock their attention.
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Please click above to listen to "Casablanca" by "City"
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Friday, June 6, 2008

Eli Wiesel Quotations

Eli Wiesel has written not only about the holocaust but also about figures in Jewish history from great rabbis and prophets to rebbes. He portrays his subjects in a vivid and credible way, without turning them into an iconic caricature of their real character. His portrayal of a G-d with whom he argues ultimately inspires a deeper faith. Anyone who survives a trauma like Rwanda or Auschwitz with any faith in G-d or man is someone I want to learn from. Because of his gifts of communication, Elie Wiesel makes such a study possible

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Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another.

I do not recall a Jewish home without a book on the table.

I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason.

I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

I write to understand as much as to be understood.

In Jewish history there are no coincidences.

I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.

Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.

There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.

There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Listening To The World, A Look at Andean Music

In a world dominated by super powers, retreating to the world of art and music provides another dimension. There is a democracy to human, natural and artistic beauty. Countries that are at less advanced stages of economic development often have an irreplaceable contribution to make in the field of art or music. Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador share a common indigenous language of Quechua and unique musical forms. When the Spaniards conquered South America, Quechua lost its political dominance.
To this day, the advantage a person enjoys in many South American countries is in direct proportion to the percentage of Spanish ancestry in their family tree. In looking at many countries in South America, we have a yardstick by which America can be measured in the area of race relations. A person's value as a human being should be measured criteria other than their place in the economy. This is a universal message of religious faith.
The world is fortunate that Andean languages and music have not been lost. To the contrary, Andean music played on indigenous instruments enjoys a widespread popularity in Europe and in North America as well. There is a cultural movement known as "cancion nueva" in which musical forms indigenous to South America are laced with a leftist nationalist political message. A recurring theme in " cancion nueva" is the idea that local culture should not be traded for an ideologically shallow mass produced import. It is the artistic manifestation of a local national pride that in cancion nueva has some strong socialist overtones.
For me, cancion nueva was an example of how I should regard Jewish culture in a world in which American and western cultural norms predominate. I believe that whatever your ethnicity might be, the best gift you can give the world is to be yourself. Although I reject the class warfare that is popular in developing countries, I strongly believe they should preserve their languages and traditions in the face of mass marketed music and film. America would do well to listen to and appreciate the music of Latin America, Africa and the world and use our country's marketing infrastructure to mirror the world's beauty back to it. It is a high level of giving to tell a person that they are in possession of a treasure. America should listen to the world at least as much as the world listens to it. The democracy of beauty is an ideal to strive for. It is an idea that can add to peace in the world. A central mission of this web site will be to provide such a reflection.

copyright 2008 on comments only. videos from You Tube are El Atardecer de los Andes (above)
and "I'll Be Your Mirror" by the Velvet Underground"

Blast From The Past: Frank Mills, Pat Paulsen

After a string of strongly political postings, I like to lighten up a bit.I like to maintain threads of affinity that transcend political differences. Family, Jewish identity , even fondness of the English language create bonds beyond nationality and political ties. This is why I oppose politically motivated boycotts except in the most extreme circumstances. A feeling of common humanity that comes from shared pursuits can create an atmosphere where dialogue on "hot button" issues is more likely.
I was thinking about my favourite Canadian musical groups such as Leonard Cohen, The Fugs, Joni Mitchell and Vilain Pingouin. Frank Mills came to mind. He is most famous for "Music Box Dancer", which was a major hit in 1979. Someone actually put together a tribute to their cat with both "Music Box Dancer" and "Peter Piper" as a musical backdrop for some amazing cat photos. I have in my old age developed a fondness for cats. We have a cat that has adopted us and made a home in our back yard. It's nice to see life in forms other than human. I am putting up the You Tube link as well as the video so you can if you wish log into you tube and offer your condolences to the cat owner who posted the video.

Another memory from back in the late '60's is Pat Paulsen. (1927-1997) He was a satirical candidate for president who used to elicit laughter with a deadpan delivery of his social observations . He got his start on the Smother's Brothers Comedy hour and eventually actually ran for President a few times, garnering publicity and protest votes. The video at the bottom of this posting is a piece where Paulsen tells his life story. I am also including some Paulsen quotations for which he is fondly remembered.

All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian."

"Why should we tell kidnappers, murderers, and embezzlers their rights? If they don't know their rights, they shouldn't be in the business."

"A good many people feel that our present draft laws are unjust. These people are called soldiers."

When originally "denying" he was running, borrowing from General William Sherman in 1884: "I will not run if nominated, and if elected I will not serve."

Presidential Campaign Slogan: "I've upped my standards. Now, up yours."

Presidential Campaign Slogan: "If elected, I will win."

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself...and of course the boogieman."

"I am neither left wing nor right wing. I am middle-of-the-bird."

"Marijuana should be licensed and kept out of the hands of teenagers. It's too good for them."

When asked if he believed in the Right to bear arms: "No, I believe in the right to arm bears."

On network censorship: "I feel proud to be living in a country where people are not afraid to laugh at themselves and where political satire is tolerated by the government, if not the television network."

On network censorship: "Censorship does not interfere with the constitutional rights of every American to sit alone in a dark room in the nude and cuss. There are realistic taboos, especially regarding political comments. Our leaders were not elected to be tittered at. For example, we're allowed to say Ronald Reagan is a lousy actor, but we're not allowed to say he's a lousy governor-which is ridiculous. We know he's a good actor. And we're not allowed to make fun of President 'Johnston'. But if we praise him, who would believe it?"

On his political affiliation: "I belong to the Straight Talking American Government Party, or STAG Party for short."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tension in Crown Heights? Not What You Think

There have been a lot of stories about tension in Crown Heights. It is most commonly portrayed as racial tension between African Americans and Jews. The truth is in my opinion considerably more complex. The riots in 1991 were a major shock to everyone in Crown Heights. Since then there has been a shift in attitude. There is a greater sense of common purpose in the community, a greater effort at the grass roots level to show understanding and respect. Such a peace needs to be flexible. Jews realise that one negative encounter with an African American does not speak for the whole African American community. This understanding is undoubtedly reciprocated.
The relationship of the Jewish community with the police has on the other hand has never been reexamined since the 1991 riots. Many in the community have vivid memories of cops standing like tin soldiers as rioters attacked Jewish people and property. A friend of mine started chasing some rioters who had pelted his father with stones and bottles, severing an artery. The same police who stood by during the attack threatened him with arrest if he continued pursuit.
Rioters who smashed my windows acted with the same impunity, calmly walking away from our broken windows as though they were on a Sunday stroll.
The periodic saturation of uniformed police does absolutely nothing to change the behavior of police in the 71st precinct. There is a perception that crimes against Jews never get a bias classification. When a Jew is accused in an altercation with an African American, bias seems to be presumed. Crime reports are routinely lost. The rudeness of civilian employees of the Police Department is legendary. I know of a case where a masked assailant attempted to drag a Jewish girl off an elevator at about six in the evening, after school. She was interrogated by two male detectives who told her nothing could be done since the assailant was wearing a ski mask. She was questioned as though she were a suspect. Perhaps interviews with victims need to be videotaped.They told her and her mother that it would be a waste of time to file a report since they couldn't do anything anyhow. Such incidents create a hardened distrust in the Jewish community of the Police
The position of law enforcement is highly respected in the Jewish community. There is awareness of the daily danger faced by police officers. Despite this, there is a distrust of the police, and a feeling that justice is political. Now that a respected member of our community is the subject of an international manhunt(see link at bottom of page), the cynicism has reached critical levels. David Dinkins made a miscalculation that the 1991 riots would be forgotten before the 1993 mayoral elections. The Crown Heights riots turned out to be a decisive factor in a narrow Giuliani victory. The same antipathy exists towards District Attorney Hynes as existed towards David Dinkins.
The reason that civilian patrols exist in Crown Heights is the amply warranted perception that crimes which elicit indignation from a normal person are greeted with bland indifference by police. In many cases this attitude seems to be motivated by political interference in law enforcement. Monitoring of unofficial police blogs by concerned civilians indicates instances of bias in police ranks that should be addressed.
The massive police presence that was mobilised in response to recent tensions will soon be phased out. We will be left with the police in the 71st precinct. Nothing has happened to lessen tensions between the police and the Jewish community. The feeling that crime reports are being discouraged to tweak the crime statistics is pervasive. The endemic rudeness of civilian police employees continues unchanged. The perception is almost universal that the application of bias statutes is so politicised as to be meaningless..
Meanwhile, all Brooklynites of whatever ethnicity live in fear under the jurisdiction of a District Attorney with the lowest conviction rate in the state. Police know that the suspects they lock up stand a better than 60% chance of walking. But now Hynes basks in the light of publicity as he grandstands on the phony issue of bias. Soon, we will get annoying leaflets telling us what a dynamic D.A. Hynes has been. Then as now, we will be rolling our eyes in disgust. We didn't forget '91 and we won't forget '08.
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