Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Commercials... American and East German

Old TV shows jog the memory. What really brings back the past is old TV commercials. The best source for these is the Prelinger Archives. Along with legally downloadable old movies, it has TV commercials and political ads from the earliest days of television, including cigarette commercials now banned from television. I go there to show my kids classic cartoons. The site can be tricky to navigate, but it is well worth it. Between Prelinger Archives and Tou Tube, I am really able to make the past come alive.

One of my favourite videos is a collection of commercials for KONSUM, which was an East German department store. The commercials are from the 1950's. It is interesting that some of them allude to the economic planning and the state's efforts to make its citizens happy.

(" A new year stands before us. Everyone has done their part in fulfilling our task...Great strides have been made in made in our construction of Socialism...)

In East Germany, private enterprise was not outlawed all at once. Private businesses found that their freedom to operate was illusory, that various government regulations made it a lot easier to just throw in the towel and go with the program. What made East germany unique was the fact that it shared a language with West Germany, and that both radio and television could reach into most of Eastern Germany.

The auto commercials from the Soviet bloc are especially interesting as well. I like looking for ads for the Moskvitch, a car that would be a clunker by Western standards but had a ten year waiting list of people who wanted to buy one.

Although now the former Soviet Union has free enterprise, it also has a big economic gap between those who have fared well and those who have been left behind economically. when the economy was privatised, those who had been in the Communist Party fared the best. The rest of the population picked over the leftovers. This has fueled a lot of frustration in large sectors of the population, some of whom long for the good old days in which "We pretended to work and they pretended to pay us."

Today, the former Soviet Union still feeds instability, as nuclear physicists and others with strategic talents are all too willing to go to work where their talents are in demand, even if that means going to a rogue state like Iran or Libya. Perhaps the US should consider hiring some of these people, if for no better reason than to keep their talents from being of use to America's enemies.


I am presenting with this posting a set of East German commercials from the 1950's and an old car commercial from the USSR



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Hopes For Conservative Radio

Sometimes I listen to radio that validates my point of view. Other times I like to be challenged. About three evenings a week, I listen to conservative talk radio. Here are some of my thoughts.

Rush Limbaugh is at his best when he is doing satire, particularly when he coins words. My favourite words coined by Limbaugh are "feminazi" and "gorbasm". The latter describes the burst of ecstasy experienced by liberals when discussing Mikhail Gorbatchev. Limbaugh was only partially vindicated by history.Though it was true that Gorbatchev was a "kinder gentler communist, he did bring communism down. Limbaugh's greatest weakness is his seeming indifference to the well being of hourly wage workers. He tends to have an attitude that everyone can be a millionaire if they try. The only way I see that happening is if Obama does to the US dollar what Robert Mugabe did to the Zimbabwean dollar.

Michael Savage is far better at voicing concern for the majority in America who are not wealthy. He has the advantage of a focus on social issues. He is more critical of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, he talks way too much about himself. I would like to hear more, however about his interesting views on alternative medicine. A certain measure of personal anecdotes humanises a broadcast. Some days he is just right.

Mark Levin is forthright in his promotion of conservative beliefs. He is better at not talking too much about himself. I frequently find myself switching back and forth between Levin and Savage.

I am starting to enjoy Glenn Beck more. He is on in the mornings. He has yet another flavour of anger that differs from that of Levin and Savage. Joy Behar took a cheap shot at his problems with substance abuse. I find a guy who has taken some hits in life and gotten back up to be inspirational. He is my new favourite talk show host.

I used to hear Michael Reagan subbing for other talk show hosts. He has an engaging tone that reminds me a lot of his father, the late President Ronald Reagan. I'd like to hear more of him. I hope he runs for office.

Sean Hannity puts me to sleep. He sounds like a junior high school cheer leader for the conservative team. He had James Traficant on his program on Yom Kippur. Traficant calls everybody else in Congress names and blames the Jews whenever he gets the chance. He got on Hannity's program on Yom Kippur, a day when a lot of people with some choice words for him were in synagogue. Hannity brings in controversial guests, but does not develop ideas by challenging them.

Of all the advice gurus on the radio, I like Joy Brown the most. She is solid with common sense. She is not a trendoid. And she attracts interesting callers. I agree with her about 85% of the time. Every time I listen to a radio doctor, I compare the advice I would give with what they give. She took over my #1 spot from Dr. Laura, who lost my respect when she quit Orthodox Judaism in a pompous letter she read on the air which essentially said that Orthodox jews did not support her with sufficient enthusiasm or speak of her with the proper tone of reverence. she reminds me of fingernails on a blackboard, or a squeaking piece of styrofoam. I am glad she is on the radio, so I can change the station.

In the area of music, I would most like to see a radio station that plays pop and rock from around the world. I get restless if I hear more than five songs in a row that are in English. I wonder if there are others out there like me who would support a station that plays popular music in every known language. The world listens to American music. Some of us reciprocate by listening to the world.

The greatest void I feel on the radio dial is the lack of a conservative version of National Public Radio. I feel that such a network would surely give NPR a run for their money. It would be interesting to see a conservative adaptation of such a format. A sober and less angry form of conservative radio programming would make the image of American conservatism much more three dimensional. I could just imagine. CPR ..... Conservative Public radio. Reviving the body politic....


In my musical explorations, I found a beautiful French song from the 60's done by a guy named Michel Polnareff. The song "La poupée qui fait non " is about a beautiful doll that only knows how to say "no". I included a link below.

Killer Groupies: America's Silent Sickos

The San Francisco Chronicle took a close look at a phenomenon that has bewildered me for years. Across America, there are convicted killers sitting on death row. And across America are infatuated women who write to them in prison. Some send them gifts and money. Most become infatuated. And some of these sick puppies actually go to the prison and marry their incarcerated love objects.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports as follows on the phenomenon of "Killer Groupies".

Death row prisoners often join the horde of grooms married in group ceremonies such as the one planned Saturday at San Quentin State Prison.

It's a phenomenon that's little understood and seldom studied: Women who fall hopelessly in love - or at the least become wildly infatuated - with the most feared killers.

"Our high notoriety inmates get the most interest," said Lt. Sam Robinson, a San Quentin spokesman. "I have tried to figure this out, but I don't have an answer."

Ramirez was convicted in 1988 of 13 murders and 30 other felonies, among them rape and sodomy. He had terrified Southern California in the mid-1980s and was called "the Night Stalker" because he killed his victims in their beds.

There are various explanations for this sick phenomenon. The simplest is that these empty headed women are infatuated with "bad boys". Other psychological experts cite low self esteem. Some pen pals are from Europe, where the prevailing fashion is to sanctimoniously shake one's head at "American Barbarism". Some of these Europeans have even come here on psycho-tourism junkets, where they visit their death row heartthrobs.

The phenomenon of gullible women answering lonely hearts ads from "misunderstood" prisoners is an old one. I once had a neighbour that blew $800.00 on "legal fees" for a man who was doing 20 years for manslaughter. It ended when she started corresponding with someone on his cell block. He threatened to kill her when he got out and she ended up having second thoughts about his "innocence".

I think that there should be limits to the monetary value of "pen pal" remittances to those who are incarcerated. There should be a strict limit on gifts from prison pen pals. There should be a surcharge paid to a victim's compensation fund so that if someone sends say $100.00 to a prisoner who they met in prison, then they have to pay the same sum to a victim's compensation fund.

The other solution would be to send a sultry picture of a buxom babe to some guy who is trolling for suckers. Send him a couple of cards and cheap trinkets. Then say you really want to meet him. On visiting day, have some 300 pound five foot tall dude with personal hygiene issues waddle into the visiting room with a cheap bouquet of flowers. When he sits down, he should pretend he is picking bedbugs out of his clothing. Then he should take out a Snickers bar, take a slobbering bite out of it and offer the other half to his penpal. To add insult to injury, he should then try to bum a cigarette off the prisoner.

On a more serious note, there are people who are wrongly convicted. There are people suffering serious abuse in the prison system from guards and from other prisoners. These do gooders would be far better advised to contact "The Innocence Project" or Just Detention International
The existence of low life murderers who milk gullible women should not blind us to those who truly deserve our help and sympathy. People like freelance editor Doreen Lioy, who married serial killer Richard Ramirez in jail commit a double crime. They bestow mercy upon those who are totally undeserving of it, thereby spitting in the faces of the families of murder victims. Additionally, they shift attention away from those who truly deserve another hearing from society.

Sorting out the innocent, the people who deserve punishment and a second chance, and those who have forever forfeited their rights to live as free men is not easy. But it must be done. Between gullible coddling and harshly turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to our nation's prisoners is a middle way. For our good as a society, we must find it.


The picture at the top of this article is freelance editor Doreen Lioy and her killer hubby Richard Ramirez. When he gets the electric chair, she should be sitting in his lap.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama : Dangerous Naivete ?

Up until now I had believed that Barack Obama was simply naive in his belief that earnest persuasion could turn America's enemies into friends. Unfortunately, disturbing possibilities are presenting themselves as far more plausible than the "Pollyanna" theory of what makes Obama tick.

Obama's record of offending and snubbing America's allies and cozying up to long time enemies is so unblemished as to constitute a reliable pattern. It is hard to believe that President Obama has not enacted a major realignment in foreign policy. This is a polite way to avoid saying that he has switched sides, which is the only way to absolve him of charges of dazzling ineptitude.

Benyamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations with a simple presentation of fact, that far from being guilty of war crimes, Israel had pioneered in modern warfare the art of surgically precise bombing strikes. I have heard charismatic speeches in my years of following politics. Netanyahu has a style that I find mostly subdued with flashes of genuine emotion. He has accomplished in the history of modern oratory the charisma of facts. In a world of falsehood, there is a shaking resonance to plain truth that puts to shame platitudes dressed in oratorical finery.

There was unfortunately a glaring factual omission in Netanyahu's oratory. Despite his thundering refutation of holocaust deniers, he failed to mention or stress the Arab world's pattern of ethnic cleansing of Jews that has predated and spanned the time of Israeli statehood. It is now the Christians of the Arab world that are fleeing the birthplace of their faith in which they have lived for centuries.

This brings me to the painful task of comparing Obama's speeches with those of Binyamin Netanyahu, the man who stood alone in that den of falsehood we refer to as the United Nations.

Obama looks away from plain facts as though they were a blinding midday sun. Instead he gazes earnestly into his teleprompter and intones platitudes seasoned with sanitised history. He has sided with a leftist dictator in Honduras lawfully removed from office by that country's congress and greeted the theft of an election in Iran with belated and tepid support for demonstrators that have risked their lives to stand up for justice in their country. Instead of defending America's goals and intentions in world forums, he has apologised at every opportunity. He has thrown his weight behind nuclear disarmament and pulled missile defense systems out of Poland and Czechoslovakia. His actions have evoked in the Czech populace bitter memories of a betrayal in 1938 by Neville Chamberlain, who sold Czechoslovakia to Germany in exchange for "peace in our time." He did so on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.

If Obama has not put faith in America's enemies, the only possibility is that he has put his faith in his own power of persuasion. Like a comedian salesman taking personal pride in clinching a sale or a comedian trying to get a laugh, President Obama sees winning over America's enemies as a matter of his personal validation. It is an experiment in salesmanship. The price of its failure will be paid by the same nation that will be paying off the deficit he has run up for the ostensible reason of national recovery.

Obama has had the shortest "honeymoon" of any sitting President in modern memory. Only New Yorkers, who watched Elliot Spitzer's governorship crash and burn after 2 1/2 months have seen such dazzling egotism and ineptitude.

Somehow, President Obama has achieved the reputation of being a good speaker. He has been a junior Senator and a university instructor. That is very good. Unfortunately, every professor must also be a student, if his wellsprings of wisdom are not to run dry. Every orator must also listen lest his oratorical thunder degenerate into amplified twaddle. It is time for President Obama to listen to the people he leads and to look at the troubled world into which he has trodden with such foolhardy confidence. It may be our duty to respect our President, but in our troubled times, it is our duty to respectfully and forcefully differ.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Westboro Baptist Church Hitting Brooklyn

The Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is coming to New York. The focus of the tour will be "God Hates Jews." The Daily News reports as follows on the bizarre group's activities.

"They're not in Kansas anymore.

Topeka-based hate group Westboro Baptist Church is targeting Brooklyn Jews with a barrage of hate-filled demonstrations this week.

"These guys are really sick; they're filled with hatred for Jews and a lot of other people," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park). "We have to make their lives miserable when they come to Brooklyn."

The anti-Semitic, anti-gay organization plans to picket five synagogues in the borough Saturday, the day before Yom Kippur, the most important religious holiday for Jews.

The group is on a four-day visit to New York, where they'll demonstrate at 19 locations, mostly synagogues, around the city and Long Island.

They will start today at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Greene to bring their message to students.

The group's members think the end of the world is coming, and frequently picket churches, temples and even funerals to try to spread their beliefs."

What is most peculiar about the group is the predominance of anger and their singular focus on homosexuality. The group has a whole itinerary of synagogues in Brooklyn and Long Island where they will be demonstrating with graphic signs condemning homosexuals and during this upcoming tour, Jews as well.

In the past, the WBC picketers,( almost all members of a single extended family) have met with spirited opposition. Even those who share their beliefs about biblical standards for intimate conduct feel embarrassed by the group and that its activities bring discredit to the very religion that they purport to espouse.

As jarring and obnoxious as the group is, it is noteworthy that so small a percentage of America's Christian majority is involved in or condones the abusive and hateful conduct of the Westboro Baptist Church picketers. Christians in Egypt, Iraq and India are murdered. Their churches are sometimes burned down. The taunts of the WBC picketers and their disgusting behavior are mild by comparison.

I was reading a summary of midrashic references to Jeremiah, who is known as an admonishing prophet. It was written that he agreed to deliver prophecy without knowing what he would be called upon to say. In one source quoted in the Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities, by Yishai Chasidah, it says as follows. (Page 295)

"I shall tell you to whom I may be likened, to a high priest whose turn came to give the bitter waters (to a sotah, a suspected adulteress) The woman was brought to him. He uncovered her head and took the cup to make her drink. Then he looked at her and lo, It was his mother! He began to scream, Woe to me! Mother, I tried to honor you and now I am degrading you!' Woe is to me over you Zion! For I thought I would prophesy about you good comforting words, and lo I am prophesying about you words of punishment." (Pesikhta Rabasi 26:13)

That is the anguish felt by a true prophet who dreaded delivering the words of rebuke for which he was renown. When I am admonished by someone close to me, and it is clear that there is pain in the person's voice, their words have a resonance with me. Smugness does not resonate with me. And I don't imagine it does much for most people. Those who promote scripturally sanctioned intimate conduct probably find that the smug hate of the Phelps family makes their work harder rather than easier. In a very real sense, the WBC people are putting stumbling blocks in front of the blind.

I am well aware that there are Christians who interpret their beliefs to mean that Jews are going to hell, along with others who believe and conduct themselves in manners that do not conform with Christian scripture. In our great land of over 300 million people, many people have mutually exclusive religious beliefs . America should be praised for nurturing a culture in which those who believe their neighbours are going to hell wouldn't dream of sending them there ahead of schedule. There are vast areas of the globe such as Iran, Egypt and North Korea of which this can not be said. As obnoxious as the Phelps family is, they are the exception that proves the rule, that the American people are a deep river of human decency

I watched the BBC documentary by Louis Theroux called "The Most Hated Family in America",
which is about a month he spent with the Phelps family. It left me with feelings of pity for the Phelps family, especially the children who live in such a distorted environment.

The documentary made it clear that there will be no shortage of people ready to shout back at the WBC picketers. This is, I suppose a sign of national health.

Thoughts of the Phelps will certainly enter my prayers on Yom Kippur. I hope that those in the family come to the spirit of the Book of Jonah that is read on that day in synagogues around the world. At the end it speaks as follows about Jonah and his sadness when the plant which shaded him shriveled and died. (Jonah 4:6-11.)

6 And HaShem G-d prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his evil. So Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd.

7 But G-d prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd, that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that G-d prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die, and said: 'It is better for me to die than to live.'

9 And G-d said to Jonah: 'Art thou greatly angry for the gourd?' And he said: 'I am greatly angry, even unto death.'

10 And HaShem said: 'Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night;

11 and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?'

It should sadden anyone when a human being created in G-d's image dies either physically or spiritually. That is one of the themes in the Book of Jonah. I hope that the Phelps congregation comes to this understanding. There are Phelps family members who have left the fold. I hope that the hate that is spewed in G-d's name does not turn them into atheists. I wish them well in their new lives.

It speaks well for America that the Westboro Baptist Church remains a side show, a marginal phenomenon. The WBC should not become a tool in the hands of those who would marginalise people of faith in our age of cynicism. The overwhelming majority of Americans have done their part to make sure that this won't happen. Thank you and G-d bless America.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vaclav Klaus For President !

Czech President Vaclav Klaus sounded a note of sanity at a UN hearing today on climate change. Of all the skeptics of global warming, Klaus is among the most prominent. Reuters News reports as follows.

"Czech President Vaclav Klaus sharply criticized a U.N. meeting on climate change on Tuesday at which U.S. President Barack Obama was among the top speakers, describing it as propagandistic and undignified.

"It was sad and it was frustrating," said Klaus, one of the world's most vocal skeptics on the topic of global warming.

"It's a propagandistic exercise where 13-year-old girls from some far-away country perform a pre-rehearsed poem," he said. "It's simply not dignified."

At the opening of the summit attended by nearly 100 world leaders, 13-year-old Yugratna Srivastava of India told the audience that governments were not doing enough to combat the threat of climate change."

Smoke belching countries like China are able to compete with America unencumbered by any laws protecting the environment. Fads such as corn based ethanol drive up the price of corn while proving to be of dubious value as a solution to energy problems. And now we are in the midst of an economic crisis that could cause massive human suffering if the economy were burdened with expensive and scientifically debatable regulations. The Obama administration is recklessly promoting experiments on an economy with human costs that have yet to be measured.

When I see Vaclav Klaus and Barack Obama , I see the great president of a small country and the small president of a great country.

The G 20 summit is dealing with the subject of globalisation. I suggest that we outsource the job of US President. I'm not talking about cooking up a Hawaiian birth certificate or keeping reporters away from grandma. I'm talking about outsourcing the job altogether.

Vaclav Klaus has been involved in the transition to capitalism since communism fell in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1989. I know that we can't swear him in as President, but maybe he could get a job programming Obama's teleprompter. We have doctors and lawyers farming out work to India. Maybe Vaclav Klaus could also write budgets and legislation. Back in 1989, his government took over from communist predecessors. It was a clean beginning. there was no sentimental twaddle about bipartisanship like we got from McCain.

If globalisation is good for American workers, let's take it up the line. Let high executives have to worry about losing their jobs to somebody in India who's getting $200.00 a week to send in work over his fiber optic connection.

If Barack Obama is so much in favour of globalisation, let's farm out some of his work. The Czech Republic has been making a lot of progress since 1989. They are well educated and have lower wages, which makes them very competitive in Europe. They like America a lot better than most of Obama's advisers, and they want capitalism to succeed. It sounds like a good deal. Instead of being a puppet of some radical buddies from his college days, Obama can be a puppet of someone who is good for the country. Writing legislation should be no problem. We have no less an authority than Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling us that the US Supreme Court should consider opinions from European courts.

So what are we waiting for ? When you pay your credit card bill, you never know if you will be speaking to an American or someone from overseas. Soon that may happen when you call the White House.

I'd love to see Vaclav Klaus as President of the US, but I can't find his Hawaiian birth certificate. It would be a lot easier if he just got the password to Obama's teleprompter. Hey. If outsourcing is so great, let's take it to the top.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

L.A. Police in Massive Raid on Major Gang

Los Angeles police have conducted a sweeping raid aimed at the Avenidas street gang in Los Angeles, The raid even netted a corrections officer who was acting as a messenger to imprisoned gang members. The Associated Press reports as follows.

"LOS ANGELES (AP) -- More than a thousand law enforcement officers descended Tuesday on the homes of key members of a notorious street gang suspected of killing a sheriff's deputy and murdering rivals while defying authorities for decades.
A federal indictment named 88 suspects and detailed criminal activity spanning more than a decade.
Forty-six people were arrested in the pre-dawn raid targeting members of the Avenues gang, which claims a swath of northeast Los Angeles as its turf.
Among them was Tammy Armstrong, a corrections officer accused of helping incarcerated gang members, Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck said. It was unclear when she might be arraigned."

Many city residents fear the day when gang members return to the street. California's budget woes, in which prisoners have been released early has been cited as grounds for well founded fears that respite from gang violence might only be temporary.

An additional fear is of other street gangs filling the power vacuum created by the weakening on a major player on the LA gang scene. Gangs in Los Angeles and elsewhere have connections that stretch across state and even national boundaries. It is reported that the Mexican mafia has been involved in brokering peace deals between rival gangs. The Prison Planet web site even discusses an agenda of "ethnic cleansing" of African Americans that is a part of the Mexican street gang agenda.Prison Planet reports as follows.

"Racist Mexican gangs are indiscriminately targeting blacks who aren't even involved in gang culture, as part of an orchestrated ethnic cleansing program that is forcing black people to flee Los Angeles. The culprit of the carnage is the radical Neo-Nazi liberation theology known as La Raza, which calls for the extermination of all races in America besides Latinos, and is being bankrolled by some of the biggest Globalists in the U.S."

The article cites instances of racially motivated violence such as the following.

"In one typical case," writes journalist Brentin Mock, "Three members of the Pomona 12 attacked an African-American teenager, Kareem Williams, in his front yard in 2002. When his uncle, Roy Williams, ran to help his nephew, gang member Richard Diaz told him, "Niggers have no business living in Pomona because this is 12th Street territory." According to witnesses, Diaz then told the other gang members, "Pull out the gun! Shoot the niggers! Shoot the niggers."

All of this raises the question of federal assistance to wars on gangs. It would seem that RICO statutes are applicable to gang activities. In light of the overt racism involved, perhaps civil rights statutes could be invoked as well. Since so many gangs are national and in some cases, international, it would seem that there is a pressing need for Federal involvement.

Many people join gangs in prison for their own protection. It is all too frequent that prison administrators step back and let the gangs run the prisons on a day to day basis. This "privatisation" of safety has been a failure. Restructuring prisons into austere oases of safety, rehabilitation and restitution should be a high priority. The authority of gangs should stop at the prison gates. Unfortunately, this is today a distant dream.

There are many instances where the federal government is overly involved. The growing problem of gangs is not one of them. Street gangs are big business. They are a national problem close to and in some cases related to terrorism. Defeating them means a nationally coordinated strategy. Street violence chases away legitimate business that could provide opportunities that are an alternative to the violence of the street.

The City of Los Angeles is to be commended for facing up to its gang problem. If New York City and other major municipalities would step up to the plate in admitting their own difficulties with gangs, it might be the start of some real solutions.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nanny State Reflections on Kicking a Habit

Of all the labels that one can apply to a modern liberal state, "Nanny State" is to me the most pejorative. Living as I do in a city that is run according to "Nanny State ideology, it affects me personally.

I am very much in favour of educating people to make healthy choices. I have smoked heavily and drank with greater regularity than is healthy . I have noted that my lungs are not the strongest and that my pancreas likes to go on vacation. As much as it galls me to be lectured by my mayor or a sanctimonious relative at a family reunion, I have scored some successes in my battle with bad habits. Following are some moments in which I found the inner strength to kick habits that were killing me. They are as follows.


When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I visited my parents for a weekend. My father was wheelchair bound after two strokes. In a quiet, earnest voice, he told me as follows.

"I have never smoked in my life. Maybe I got drunk two or three times by accident. I certainly didn't do it on purpose. Here I am at 57 years of age in a wheelchair. You smoke three packs a day, and you are 28 years old. You have half of my genes. Where will you be at my age?

I chain smoked the rest of that weekend. The night before I left I made a commitment to my father that I would quit smoking. Withdrawal was hell. I was miserable to live with. I almost got fired from my job. That was 24 years ago. I have been jettisoning bad habits as life's storms push me to the tipping point. I still struggle.


A few years ago, I went for a routine checkup. My doctor called me up personally and told be to proceed to the nearest hospital. My sugar was 657. The doctors were surprised that I was lucid and ambulatory. From the hospital I heard that two of my daughters were crying about me being in the hospital. Although I still struggle, I have the feeling that eating white flour, failing to test my sugar level and other acts of neglect are choosing transitory physical pleasures over enjoying a long life with my family. Family reunions really drive home to me that the people who are seated at the table are far more important than what is on it.


When I was in high school, I developed an enduring dislike for "weed fascists" who considered it their mission to talk as many classmates as possible into getting high. I am so sensitive to the stuff that even being in a room where it is being smoked makes me react to it. I don't like the stuff. Get over it. And while we are on the subject, I enjoy alcohol a lot less as I get older. someone once was trying to talk me into loading a cup up with vodka. I finally said "OK fill it up."
I held my cup out and at the last minute turned it up side down. The bottom of the cup had an indentation sufficient to hold a few drops of scotch.

This is my rule. I will decide for myself if and when I want a buzz. Back off if I say no. If you are so obnoxious that I need to chemically alter my mental state to be with you, I don't want to be around you.


I make small talk with smokers. Quite a few people tell me they smoke less than 5 cigarettes a day. I always tell them to smoke one for me. I like the smell of tobacco. I enjoyed smoking. I had to give it up. I believe that there is a smoker's personality. Even ex smokers have it. I prefer to be around smokers. I like the smoker's personality.


I also enjoy the company of recovered alcoholics. People who have had to give up drink have often gained deep insights into themselves and others. What an alcoholic learns in his or her struggles can be of use to the rest of us.


I miss jelly donuts and food loaded with sugar. Whenever I see someone eating that type of food, I always tell them to eat another portion for me.


There is a critical difference between the words "compel" and "impel" . I reflect frequently upon that. When a person has internalised knowledge in such a way that they feel they must do something, it is far more profound a change than when they are externally compelled. Forcing people to make health decisions they are not ready for deprives them of opportunities for spiritual and emotional growth.


Moral decisions are ultimately for our own good. Years ago, I stopped by the home of a divorced friend whose irresponsibility led to the breakup of his marriage. I will never forget the expression on his face when his daughter told him in a matter of fact manner that mommy was out on a date.


While I am on the subject of divorce, it is not just looks that are hereditary. Emotional traits and learning patterns also have genetic roots. I can't count the number of times that I understand immediately one of my children's difficulties in learning and socialisation from first or second hand experience growing up. There are some great step parents, probably millions of them. Some are probably better than the biological parent. But common genes do make a difference. They are certainly a good card to have in your hand in the game of parenting. Why throw it out if you can avoid doing so?


Love for my family has always been a more powerful motive for making healthy choices than bluenose preachers or nanny state mayors. I still would rather blog than exercise, and that is a problem. My wife wants to hook my laptop up to a bicycle powered generator so I will burn off calories as I blog. If I could buy such a thing, I would use it in a heartbeat.


Arriving at the point where you are ready to trade physical enjoyment for longevity and a better quality of life is a very personal decision. Each person has a different constitution and different goals. The best we can do is to encourage each other as we chase our respective dreams. Kicking a bad habit, whether it is an emotional habit or a physical one has to be a free will decision for it to really take root. And what ultimately is freedom? Freedom is knowing what's right and doing it. It is arriving at that spark of insight where it appears as though there really is no choice. Sometimes even family, and certainly the state has to step back and let such a moment of insight take place.


I tried to quit smoking three times. The first two times were not failures. I learned about my self with each successive try at that and at any other goal. When you finally succeed, all your failures cease to be failures.


You can tax me and fine me. You may even make it impossible to have any bad habits at all. But how can a compulsion make up for the knowledge of self that comes through struggle and introspection? Perhaps the state can give you years. But it can not give you life.

Mike Bloomberg vs. Himself

First there was the Bloomberg for Mayor cards choking our mailboxes. He doesn't even ask for donations, because he's paying for his entire campaign himself. In theory, this should make Mike Bloomberg an incorruptible mayor. Unfortunately, the general feeling is that the opinions of New Yorkers simply do not matter to him. He has his goals and his philosophy, and he gives off the air of being contemptuous towards the opinions of common folk.

The word is out in Jewish neighbourhoods that Bloomberg wants to reach out for the Jewish vote. He has been hiring Jews to get out the Jewish vote since July. The Daily News reported back then as follows.

"Here's a "help wanted" flyer being circulated by the Bloomberg campaign in search of "well-spoken, persuasive, confident, and hard-working" field workers to pound the pavement of Brooklyn and Queens to rally the Jewish vote on behalf of the mayor. For some reason, I find the carefully-chosen use of the word "persuasive" amusing.

What? Pushy and aggressive is too much?

The flyer was forwarded to me by a Jewish reader who noted that it seems kind of early to be hiring paid field. Along with the flyer, there was also an e-mail from Ari Hoffnung, Councilman Simcha Felder's chief of staff, who is doing double duty with the mayor's campaign."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shanah Tovah, 5770

In honour of Rosh Hashanah, 5770, I will not be posting until Sunday night, September 20. I have tried to affect the world in a positive way through writing and hopefully touching people's lives in a positive way. A time comes for prayer, to pray for the world, for Israel, and for ourselves. I wish my readers a peaceful and joyous year. My article for Rosh HaShanah is on my Rudi Stettner site. I am cross posting it here as well

***************************************************************************Eighteen minutes before sunset today, September 18, Jews around the world will be ushering in the New Year. The New Year, Rosh HaShanah will be the year 5770, which is the number of years since the creation of the world. The holiday ends Sunday night

Although it is a holiday which is exclusive to the Jewish calendar, it pertains to the entire world, since the creation was completed on that day.

There is a critical component of prayer that takes place on the New Year, in which people ask G-d for a year that is indisputably good in all respects. But resolutions are also critical. To assess oneself and to ask how one might make a difference. because a critical aspect of the sojourn of the human race on this planet is that we are the sole species created with free will.

For better or worse, the world as we know it is in the state that it is in because of the choices we have made, as individuals and as communities. It is a good idea to step back and ask what we have done with our free will, how we can improve ourselves and the world we have affected.

You can have a kitchen full of ingredients, and not have a meal. It takes work and knowledge to make dinner of disparate ingredients. The world is a lot like that. We could feed a lot more people that the earth currently supports. We could provide for our basic needs and find ways to celebrate our differences. We all know that this is far from how things are. The reason lies within ourselves.

If the world could be compared to a computer, it could be said that people are trying to run it with faulty operating systems. Millions have been killed in the last hundred years because someone believed in communism, Nazism or some other ism enough to be willing to kill for it. G-d did not create the world without an operating system. He gave us the Torah and a set of rules that are for our good.

A friend of mine, Shmuel Klatzkin told me a story in Boston about 30 years ago. In it, a man was shown heaven and hell. When he was shown a glimpse of hell, it was a beautifully appointed banquet hall. The sole disturbing feature was that the banquet guests had no elbows. They lunged desperately at their plates, soiling their clothing, breaking dishes and leaving the floor slick with spilled food. The man cringed in horror from the vision he saw, and asked to be shown heaven.

The next room the man was shown was also a banquet hall just as lavish as the one he saw in hell. Not only that, but the guests also had no elbows. Unlike hell, however, there was a quiet hum of conversation, and no spills or screaming. What was the difference? The guests fed each other. Each ate their choice and their fill, and left in clean clothes. The difference in heaven was that the guests looked at their limitations and thought of each other. In hell, it was every man for himself, and the banquet hall there reflected it.

We are faced with the same sort of choices. Each of us has his defects and limitations. What will we make of the world we have been given? Will we think of each other? Or will we think only of ourselves? G-d is looking through the window of our banquet hall. Are we thinking of each other? Heaven or hell is ours to make, by virtue of the choices we make. May G-d guide us in making the proper choices in the upcoming year and rescue us from the poor choices of years past.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scrapping Missile Defenses in Eastern Europe

Is there rhyme or reason to America's foreign policy? America is stunning its Eastern European allies, the Czech Republic and Poland bay scrapping a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. CNN reports as follows.

"The Obama administration will scrap the controversial missile defense shield program in Eastern Europe, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN Thursday.

The comment followed similar statements from officials in Poland and the Czech Republic -- where key elements of the system were to be located -- but was the first confirmation from an American official.

Vice President Joe Biden earlier refused to confirm to CNN that the George W. Bush-era plan was being shelved.

But he did explain the logic of doing so, saying Iran -- a key concern for the United States -- was not a threat."

Iran is not a threat? The Iranians have been a matter of serious concern, exerting a powerful force in the former Soviet Republics that border Iran. They have subsidised unrest in Lebanon and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Now they are developing nuclear weapons as well as missiles that can strike Europe.If the disturbing history of the Islamic republic of Iran does not merit the maintenance of strong defenses, then what does?

There is the additional problem of Russia's post communist posture in Eastern Europe and beyond. There are many people in Russia who wax nostalgic for the days when the former USSR was an empire surrounded by dutiful satellites. Whatever the posture might be of current Russian leaders, things could change in the future. Taking defensive weapons systems out of Eastern Europe at a time of flux and instability seems extremely ill advised.

President Obama is very much in favour of conciliatory overtures to America's enemies. There may be a place for this. President Bush also made it clear that it was only a militant minority within the Islamic world with which he had any quarrel. But What is the logic of simultaneously snubbing our long time friends?

The Obama administration is acting like a kid with a tool kit who is eagerly using all his tools with no coherent objective in mind, taking apart everything he can get his hands on with no clear objective in mind. Is the Obama administration realligning the US with former enemies. Or is the Obama administration reaching out in an awkward way? Is Jimmy Carter pulling strings behind the scenes? None of the scenarios that come to mind in attempting to fathom America's alleged foreign policy are very comforting.

It is a chilling coincidence that today is the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. In 1939, after "friendship" had been declared, the Soviet Union took its portion of Poland. The theme of betrayal by superpowers is a powerful theme in Czech and Polish history. From the agreement brokered by Neville Chamberlain in 1938 which sold Czechoslovakia to the Nazis to the Soviet German friendship treaty in which Poland was divided between Nazi Germany and the USSR, the theme of betrayal still resonates in the hearts of the peoples whose sovereignty was bartered for an illusory peace. Perhaps this was on the mind of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk would not take a phone call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Politico web site reports as follows.

"Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed today that he declined last night to take a call from the U.S. informing him of the decision to scrap planned missile-defense bases in his country.

Two U.S.-based sources close to the Polish government said Thursday that Tusk also rejected a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — on the grounds that, as the head of the government, he should speak to the president.

"Hillary called — and the reason he turned it down was because of protocol," said a source.

Questions about the exchanges surfaced in the Polish press after Obama reached the Czech prime minister late last night to warn of the policy change, but did not speak to the Pole until this morning. And the static offers a glimpse at the distress beneath the diplomatic facade being offered by Eastern European leaders."

America's ship of state is in troubled waters. And its captain seems to be under the influence. Of what? Of whom? Does President Obama really believe that he and his trusty teleprompter have enough magnetism and charisma to win over our enemies? The dividends of Obama's peace overtures have yet to materialise. I hope that Obama's experiments in foreign policy do not cause any lasting damage. He has certainly undone the legacy of the Bush administration. But with what will he replace it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ohio Con Dodges Grim Reaper For Now

Am I missing something? Associated Press told the tearjerker story of Ronald Broom, whose execution in Ohio has been for a week while his lawyers argue that it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute him. It seems that Broom had collapsed most of his veins during a life of drug abuse, making death by lethal injection impossible. The article related in poignant detail how traumatised Mr. Broom was while prison workers tried to locate a vein. Only towards the end of the article did the article mention the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl for which he was to be executed, or the twelve year old he had sexually assaulted prior to that.

The sole defense of his lawyer, Adele Shank (rhymes with Skank) involved impugning the personal background of the victim. The blog details her sleazy efforts as follows.

In July, the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals said that the suppressed police records can be presented to the trial court for a possible new trial for Broom. His attorneys have to convince Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court that the records probably would have changed the outcome of his case.

But it is unclear whether Broom's attorneys will get a chance to make that argument before his execution.

Matthew Myers, an assistant county prosecutor, told the parole board that he does not believe the records would have changed Broom's conviction or punishment.

"I think it is an outrage to blame the victim at this point," Myers told the board. "I think it is a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable."

Bessye Middleton also chided Broom's legal team.

"If you had a daughter, would you want me to belittle her as you have my daughter?" Middleton turned to ask Broom attorney Adele Shank. "I know you are an attorney and you have a job to do, but I do not appreciate it."

Shank, while later addressing the board, turned to Middleton to apologize for making her feel "like we're picking on Tryna, because that's not our goal here."

Excuse me Ms. Skank, I mean Shank, that is exactly what you were doing. At least own up to it.

This murder for which Broom has thus far evaded final justice occurred 25 years ago. Broom and his lawyer have had no qualms about rubbing salt in the emotional wounds of the bereaved family. And now they have the audacity to plead for mercy.

It is too late to change the law so alternative methods could be used like say tossing Broom off the Golden Gate Bridge, but why are we so worried about Broom's final comfort? He's going to get a second shot at a last meal and a second free phone call. that's more than his victim got. Two free fancy meals and 25 years of room and board. Not bad...

On a more serious note, a thorough medical examination should be able to uncover a workable vein such as the jugular. Under no circumstances should Ronald Broom be allowed to walk. If he had stayed out of jail, he probably would have made a daily practice of finding a workable vein. Maybe he could help the executioners find a vein as one last prison work assignment. If he won't do that much, I hope they keep trying. I won't be shedding any tears.

AP story

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Of Chase Bank and Coming Tea Parties

Yesterday I posted an article about Chase Bank. I signed up for their "Leisure Rewards" program and they wanted to charge my wide two fees for our cards on a joint account. Without going into all the details, the program offers $25.00 back in prepaid debit or gift cards for every $2750.00 in purchases. I thought that it was one instance of a nickel and dime attitude towards bank customers. Little did I realise that there is a whole world out there in cyberspace of angry bloggers whose interest rates have been jacked up, and who are being strong armed into new credit card agreements with less favourable terms.

I got a reply to my article on Chase Bank Leisure Rewards from a blog that is a clearing house of links to anti Chase blogs and web sites. The web site is called Bloggers against Chase. It has numerous articles and links to other sites that are critical of Chase Bank for considering its own needs at the expense of their customers.

Apparently, Chase bank is long overdue for scrutiny. I found an interview with Glenn Beck in which he speaks of $5 million dollars given to ACORN by the Chase bank, which he estimates to be the tip of an iceberg.

We have the Federal Reserve Bank printing money with no accountability. We have a skyrocketing deficit that has even shocked Communist China into stern warnings and threatened the primacy of the American dollar. And now we have a major bank that has been given free rein by the Obama administration to milk its customers for everything it can get.

Sensible management of credit by large banks is a critical part of any financial recovery. The American people should be taking a very close look at the Chase Bank, what it is getting from the Obama administration and what it does as payback.

We can not afford another bailout. The American people need to keep an eye on our banks. I will be watching this story a lot more in the future. and you should too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chase Bank And Its "Leisure Card"

The demise of the WAMU (rhymes with damn you) bank is nearing its final stages of completion. Like a rabbit in a boa constrictor, it seems to have been almost completely metabolised by the Chase Bank. Fortunately, the tellers at my bank still have their jobs, which is about all that really matters. I'd like some people who struggle for a living like I do to at least make a living off my money.

I thought that the Chase was going to be a fairly decent bank. Various promotions, (such as randomly paying for debit card purchases) made it seem like they are trying to spread around some good cheer. Upon closer examination, things don't look so good.

When I signed up for a joint account with my wife, we got two bank cards. Then they had a "Leisure Rewards Card" promotion. For every dollar you spend, you get four points. For every 11,000 points you get, you get a $25.00 prepaid debit card, or gift cards from merchants. According to my calculations, you would have to spend $2750.00 to get back $25.00. That is slightly less than 1% back.

To sign up for "Leisure Rewards" you pay an annual fee of $25.00, and get a starter bonus of 2500 points. This means you have to spend about $5000. 00 to get your first $25.00. If you make enough household purchases and pay enough bills by debit card, you can certainly get a few prepaid debit cards.

When I got my Leisure Rewards card, I was a bit surprised that my wife's card was not in the mailing. I waited a few days, and then went to the bank to inquire. The bank manager told me that the charge of $25.00 is for each card, and not for each account. If My wife and I each want cards, it will cost us $50.00, even though we have a joint account. That would up the break even point to around $4200.00, if you factor in the value of bonus points. I declined the manager's gracious offer of subsidising some bank president's obscenely high salary ,y buying another leisure card.

It never ceases to amaze me how cheap some banks can be. I used to bank at Apple Bank. One day, I got a shiny new bank card with one minor change. The toll free number had been changed to a 914 area code, which is for areas adjacent to New York City such as Westchester and Rockland counties. I asked the Apple Bank bank manager if the bank was hard up for cash. She seemed insulted and taken aback, which was exactly what I wanted. I told her with some irritation that making customers pay to call about their money was really nickel and diming it. I closed my account shortly after, although I will be stopping by soon for some (still) free Apple bank calendars.

Maybe the Chase Bank is too proud to pass the cup around to cover their bad mortgages. I don't know. But trying to squeeze an extra $25.00 out of a joint account is downright cheesy. I would like to say that I am disappointed in the Chase Bank, but that would imply that I expect better of them. There is a saying of banks that the difference between a bank robber and a manker is that one robs you with a gun and the other with a pen. There is also a joke about lawyers that seems very appropriate to bankers.

What is the difference between a lawyer ( or banker) and a catfish?

One is a bottom dwelling, slime sucking scavenger, and the other is a fish.

So thanks a lot, Chase Bank for all the fine print. Maybe you should open up a branch next to the aquarium.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

UK Soldier Killed Rescuing NY Times Reporter

A British soldier in Afghanistan paid the ultimate price to rescue a New York times reporter who was taken hostage by Afghan rebels. The London Evening Standard reports as follows.

"Corporal John Harrison, 29, from the Parachute Regiment, was described as "a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier" by his family.

He died in a daring pre-dawn operation on Wednesday to rescue Stephen Farrell, a reporter with the New York Times.

Mr Farrell, who holds dual British and Irish citizenship, was successfully released during the raid but his Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi also died.

Cpl Harrison's family said: "We are absolutely heartbroken.

"John was a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier who was greatly loved and cherished by all his family and friends."

There was once a time when American reporters supported the American military and its allies. In all too many cases today, the American press has been as useful to the enemy as they once were to the United States and its allies.

I could understand the State Department attempting to arrange the safe return of a New York Times reporter. But it makes little sense for soldiers to put their lives at risk for reporters who all too often function as mouthpieces for the enemy.

My heart goes out to the family of Corporal John Harrison. his life should not have been expended in the way it was. Unfortunately, the New York Times will continue to function as a fifth column wherever they are assigned, from Baghdad to Guantanamo, from Kabul to Beirut.

Since the New York Times is so critical of American and allied military conduct overseas, perhaps they could handle hostage negotiations on their own.

What truly puzzles me is why the rebels in Afghanistan would even bother kidnapping a New York Times reporter. Isn't that a lot like kidnapping their own soldiers?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Charlie Pride, Country Singer

Charlie Pride was born in 1938 in Sledge Mississippi. He was one of eleven children born to a family of poor sharecroppers. Talented at baseball, he ended up joining the Memphis Red Sox, a team of the Negro American League. It was during the long bus trips between games that Pride firs showcased his talent to other players on the team. On occasion, he would join in stage performances as the team crossed the country.

Pride was hitting his prime in sports at around the time that sports teams were integrating. He did try out for what were then white teams, among them the New York Mets, but that dream did not materialise. An arm injury and two years of military service slowed him down on the sports career track. But what was a loss for sports turned out to be a gain for music. Charlie Pride was fortunate enough to be get an audition with producer Jack Clement, who arranged for him a two hour recording session. This resulted in a contract with RCA in 1966.

Pride did well on the charts. At first, his race was concealed from the listening public. This was not possible in live performances. An awkward wave of silence is reported to have descended upon one audience as it slowly dawned on them that they were listening to an African American. The energy and talent in Pride's performance melted away the unease of an audience that was accustomed to white performers.

With time, Charlie Pride's face became a trademark of his prodigious talent achievements in a genre of music that had been predominantly white.

Charlie Pride has had staying power in his long country music career. He has topped the singles chart 29 times, and was named Country Music Association Performer of the Year in 1972.This was followed by his induction into the Grand Old Opry in 1993, the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award in 1994 and election to to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Pride has used his success in music as a stepping stone to success in real estate and business. He is the largest stockholder in the First Texas bank, the largest minority owned bank in Texas. Fortunately for the world of music, he still spends some time in his musical career.

Pride has been married since 1956 and has three children. One of them, who goes by the name of Carlton Pride, has followed in his father's footsteps by going into reggae music.

Charlie Pride has had careers in sports, music and business. He has excelled at them all. His family life is quiet and happy. Marriages in the field of entertainment that pass the half century mark are not so common. It is in this field that Pride is a role model of success as well.

There are certain performers whose music never loses its appeal. In the field of country, Charlie Pride is right up there with Moe Bandy, Joe Diffy and Johnny Cash. Thank you Charlie Pride, and may you have many more successful years to come.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bangla Desh Bans Neckties

The Prime Minister of Bangla Desh, Sheikh Hasina has taken a novel approach to lowering energy costs. He has banned men from wearing suits and ties. The Christian Science Monitor reports as follows on the innovative measures promulgated by Prime Minister Hasina.

"In an inspiring display of sensibility, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has ordered male government employees to stop wearing suits, jackets, and neckties.

In addition to eliminating pointless and uncomfortable decorative elements from men’s clothing, the move will help minimize the need for air conditioning. Accompanying the government’s laudable decision was an order not to turn air conditioners in government buildings below 75 degrees F."

If it weren't for the hot, humid weather and the monsoon rains that periodically flood the country, getting away from suits and ties might make Bangla Desh an interesting place to live.

The more I read about Sheikh Hasina's new rules the more I like them. Consider the following.

"Under the new dress code – which applies even to the highest levels of government – men may also wear their shirts untucked, instead of stuffing the bottom portion into their pants for no good reason other than to conform to some arbitrary display of professionalism."

I have my own issues with neckties. It was a part of my school uniform for six years. I associate them with my own clashes with authority back in the sixties. To the people of Bangla Desh, India and Pakistan, the necktie represents slavish imitation of colonial masters. Indigenous clothing from that part of the world is loose fitting and lightly coloured, which is suitable to the heat and humidity. Energy shortages in bangla Desh are propelling a move towards common sense and national pride in clothing choices.

The origin of the necktie is Croatian. Croatian mercenaries hired by French King Louis XIII wore knotted kerchiefs which later evolved unfortunately into neckties. It is not surprising that France, a country that eats snails, frog legs and turtle would think a necktie to be high fashion. Looking at the bloody wars that beset Croatia in the 20th century, it does not surprise me that they might want to spread some of the misery around by making us all wear neckties.

I have one thing to say for the necktie. It serves as camoflage when I spill coffee on my shirt. For the practically minded, the solution is obvious. Wear dark coloured shirts.

I have a number of fashion peeves. Some pertain to women's clothing and others pertain to men. In no particular order they are as follows.

1) Tube skirts. I have seen women who were forced to walk in small steps because their legs kept banging against their skirts. Why should anyone suffer like that?

2) Polyester. Wearing a polyester shirt is like wearing a garbage bag. No thanks.

3) Spike heels and platform shoes. These two fashion atrocities cause back problems and terrible ankle injuries. It is painful to look at them.

4) Shirts with cufflinks. If the manufacterer is too cheap to put buttons on the cuffs, then why are they so expensive?

5) Tight pants on anyone. They look uncomfortable, and they are bad for circulation.

In general, my first consideration in clothing is that it be comfortable. How it looks to everyone else takes second place. I do not want to look disheveled, but I will not torture myself to look good.

I wish Bangla Desh success in doing away with the necktie. It makes no sense for them to wear neck ties. And it makes no sense for the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Andrea Peyser,& The Post, Bloomberg Lap Dogs

The stories showing up in the New York newspapers are just too convenient. The New York Post, writes these days as if it were the central organ of the Bloomberg as Emperor for Life Party. Who dug up the information about mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and his water bills? Who fed that information to the Post? The Post reported as follows about Bill Thompson owing $1000.00 in unpaid city water bills.

"City Comptroller Bill Thompson was delinquent to the tune of nearly $1,000 in unpaid water bills on his Brooklyn and Harlem homes, city records show.

The Department of Environmental Protection's Web site showed the charges -- nearly $500 for each of the two houses -- outstanding as of last week. Each amount included a late fee.

The high cost of water service in the city has been a major issue for several political candidates this year, and Thompson -- the leading Democratic hopeful to take on Mayor Bloomberg in November -- has made an issue of it on the stump.

Asked for comment on the bills, a DEP spokeswoman said she couldn't release "this kind of personal information."

Millions of New Yorkers have had a rude awakening under the Bloomberg regime. Under laws passed by Emperor Bloomberg's rubber stamp consultatative assembly, also known as the City Council, it is possible for a water bill such as that owed by a citizen to result in the city taking over a citizen's house, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and to sell it to satisfy the debt. Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is as subject to such confiscatory measures as the rest of us. A water bill is not something you can run away from.

The New York Post was breathless in reporting this "scoop" that was probably fed to it by a Bloomberg flunky. All they succeed in doing is to remind us of the heartless and aloof policies of the Bloomberg administration towards struggling home owners.

Then there is the pitiful story by Andrea Peyser in the New York Post about Bill Thompson's marital history. In it, she makes much of the fact that Thompson's current wife was a guest at his wedding to his ex wife. Peyser is unfortunately indecisive about whether she is a political columnist or a gossip columnist. For the time being, her compromise involves doing personal hits on politicians. Lovely. Just lovely. Mayor Giuliani is living proof that a mayor with a troubled marital history can do very well by the city.

If Peyser is so interested in troubled marriage stories, she could look at Bloomberg's broken marriage, although nobody is talking there. A principled position would be that the broken marriages of public servants should be private business. Unfortunately, Peyser has the sharp eyes of a sea gull that has just spotted a happy meal left on the beach at sunset. Fortunately for her, Bill Thompson is not wealthy enough to buy silence. So she can pick over unseemly memories as she sips coffee with menbers of the Bitter Ex club.

What is a matter of concern is the matter of sexual harassment suits at Bloomberg's communications company. the Village Voice actually published an article and named names of people who had settled out of court some very serious claims of sexual harassment. New York Magazine also provided vivid details of the joys of being a pregnant female in the employ of Bloomberg's media empire. The story of Sekiko Garrison is reported in New York Magazine as follows.

"What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for?" Bloomberg is alleged to have asked Sekiko Garrison, a senior sales executive, who is one of the plaintiffs in these papers, when he saw her engagement ring. A week later, she maintains, he said, "Still engaged? What, is he that good in bed, or did your father pay him off to get rid of you?"

The pregnancies of his female employees -- another issue, according to the papers, that he dwells on -- he seems to take as a kind of betrayal. (Or is it just the distraction of an employee's private life that he resents?) On top of his "Kill it" admonition to Garrison, he allegedly bemoans that she is the sixteenth person in the company to take maternity leave.

The Michael Bloomberg depicted here seems often to be sensing the possibility of sexual betrayal (even on the part of people with whom he is not sexually involved). When Bloomberg sees Garrison speaking with Bill Beutel, the local news anchor, at a Corporate Challenge road race in Central Park, Bloomberg, in the presence of other employees, accuses her, allegedly, of wanting to have sex with the anchorman.

A sense of proprietorship over his female staff is another constant theme in these papers. He tells Garrison, in one instance, that he doesn't like her dress. "Your ass looks huge in it," she says he said.

The New York Magazine article is bare knuckles. It is explicit. Although I will link to it, I would not reprint some of its frank languageIt gives you a sense of what the women of Bloomberg's media empire were up against. Peyser has often taken up the cause of abused women and children. But when it comes to Mayor Bloomberg, she is simply not at her desk and not returning calls.

I do not have to read the New York Post to see what Bloomberg is doing to our city. I do not have to read his fliers that clog my mailbox like so many Chinese menus. There are journalists who go against the tide. you can look around you and use Google to dig for a fuller picture of who Bloomberg is and how life has been under his watch.

There are people in journalism who are not shilling for Bloomberg. There are people who will talk about life in a city that is being made over as a playground for the rich. Unfortunately, the Post, The Times and the Daily News are all in the tank for Bloomberg. It's a pity that it has come to this. A free press is supposed to be a watchdog for the people, not a lap dog of the wealthy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day and May 1

Today was Labor Day. So I worked. It is to me probably the most meaningless of all holidays on the American calendar. Memorial Day, which kicks off the summer makes sense. It honours those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. Fourth of July makes perfect sense. It marks the beginning of a revolution that shook and shaped the world. Martin Luther King Day underscores the extension of civic equality to alll citizens of whatever ethnicity. Thanksgiving is a good idea, a holiday that is both secular and religious. Christmas and New Years are celebrated by the majority of the population. It is common sense for them to be state holidays. When I in Yugoslavia on December 25 and observed business as usual, it offended me that a predominantly Catholic part of Yugoslavia was forced under communism to ignore its own heritage. I would never want such intolerance here.

So what is my problem with Labor Day? The holiday for workers that is observed in most of the world is May 1. It was an American holiday originally, and started in 1886 when police fired on striking workers and demonstrators in Chicago. The following day, there was a demonstration that proceeded peacefully until someone threw a bomb towards the end of the demonstration. Twelve people were killed in that demonstration, including seven policemen. Labor Day as we know it was founded as a tame alternative to May 1, which is generally more politicised.

May 1 is not exclusively a communist holiday. It is a national holiday in Western Europe as well.

I observe May 1 in the same way that I observe other American holidays. I discuss the history of the holiday with my family and its relevance to modern times. In my opinion, the rights, needs and responsibilities of workers need to be put on the table. American workers are dealing with outsourcing of jobs, the difficulties of obtaining health care and the erosion of real wages. Just as the industrial revolution that swept the 19th century initially created displacement and instability, so too are the technological changes of our time creating instability during the process in which they are absorbed into our changing global economy. Especially in our time, when unemployment is high and rising, we need to remind ourselves of the needs of a large sector of our population.

Where I disagree with some on organising or advocating for workers is the negative attitude of some towards business owners. Bosses and workers need each other. An entrepreneur needs workers to bring his dreams to reality as much as workers come to depend upon him for work. There are positive and non-adversarial roles that workers and bosses can have towards each other.

The hard times that we read about in our history books before labour laws were passed could creep back up on us. There are greedy bosses who will find any loophole they can to exploit workers. And there are greedy unions that make demands that make it almost impossible to turn a profit.

There is a poem by Bertolt Brecht called "A Worker Reads History" that comes to my mind every May 1 and every Labor Day. It reads as follows.


Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

It is the spirit of these questions that resonates on Labor Day. I wish my readers a happy and prosperous Labor Day, and the bosses of America success in providing remunerative work. Although I prefer to celebrate May 1, I guess I will have to settle for Labor Day.