Monday, November 30, 2009

Cosmetic Surgery Kills Argentine Model

An Argentine model has died after routine plastic surgery that was intended to leave her with firmer buttocks, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune, which reports as follows.

"Model Solange Magnano, a former Miss Argentina, died of a pulmonary embolism after undergoing cosmetic surgery in Buenos Aires, the local press reported Monday.

Magnano, 38, traveled on Thursday from her home in the central province of Cordoba to the Argentine capital to have a cosmetic operation.

While she was being treated at a private clinic, the model, who had 8-year-old twin boys, suffered a blood clot in the lungs that required her to be taken to the hospital, where she died on Sunday.

Magnano had been Miss Argentina in 1994 and currently was working for designer Roberto Piazza while she was managing a modeling school that she had opened two years ago in San Francisco, Cordoba.

The surgical procedure Magnano was undergoing intended to improve the shape of her buttocks “has its risks, because it is not a procedure that is scientifically guaranteed,” warned the president of the Plastic, Cosmetic and Reparatory Surgery Society of Argentina, Juan Carlos Seiler, in the daily Clarin."

I see nothing wrong with appreciating feminine beauty, but have we sunk to the level of dispassionately evaluating women's body parts? How is that any better than dog shows or the camel beauty contests they have in Saudi Arabia ?

The thought that two young boys have lost their mother in the chase after surgically simulated youthfulness is unspeakably sad. It is one thing to have fashionable colours and styles of tailoring. But do we really need to reduce women to the level of fashion accessories to be tailored to the tastes of the viewing public? What sort of man is going to seek custom shaped women?

How much happier are we now that we can hold off the ravages of age, tinker with fertility and even delay menopause?

There are actually people who become addicted to plastic surgery. Michael Jackson is the most prominent example.

There is a place for plastic surgery. Accident and burn victims or those recovering from surgery can certainly benefit. There are even women who suffer back problems because their measurements are too disproportionate.

But for most of us, learning to be happy with ourselves and each other is far more important an aid to the quest for beauty. Removing ugly personality traits would do a lot more for personal happiness than shaping chests and posteriors.

The thought of children orphaned by the search for a fashionable body is unspeakably sad. It would seem that men who truly love women would not have to reshape them, but could treasure them as they are. Cutting fabric in new shapes and dying it in new colours every season is fine. It's pleasing to the eye and good for the economy. But it is grotesque to subject women to the same ordeal as a blot of cloth.

Perhaps we can honour the memory of Solange Magnano by accepting ourselves and each other as we are, instead of measuring ourselves against models and celebrities. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

British Chief Rabbi Warns of Fall of Europe

For years, Europe's birth rate has been sinking below replacement level. This has put stress on the retirement pension system and on health care. A large influx of immigrants has staved off economic crisis, but not without attendant social problems.

The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks has weighed in on this problem. The Guardian reported on his remarks, as did Life News, which reported as follows on Rabbi Sacks' speech at the Annual Theos Lecture in London on November 4.

"Parenthood involves massive sacrifice: of money, attention, time and emotional energy," he said. "Where today, in European culture with its consumerism and its instant gratification 'because you're worth it,' in that culture, where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born?"

He observed that sincere religious belief is able to overcome the cultural impediments to having children. "Wherever you turn today anywhere in the world, and whether you look at the Jewish or Christian or Muslim communities, you will find the more religious the community, the larger, on average, are its families," he said.

Rabbi Sacks cited the alarming demographics in Europe, stating: "Europe today is the only region in the world which is experiencing population decline. As you know, zero population growth - a stable population - requires an average of 2.1 children for every woman of child-bearing age in the population. Not one European country has anything like that rate today. Here are the 2004 figures: In the United Kingdom: 1.74, in the Netherlands: 1.73, Germany: 1.37, Italy: 1.33, Spain: 1.32 and Greece: 1.29."

He added: "Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century. The century that is intellectually the closest to our own - the century of the sceptics and the epicureans and the cynics."

Quoting Polybius he stated: "The fact is, that the people of Hellas had entered upon the false path of ostentation, avarice and laziness, and were therefore becoming unwilling to marry, or if they did marry, to bring up the children born to them; the majority were only willing to bring up at most one or two."

Rabbi Sacks does a great service in lending his voice to this pressing problem. The cumulative effect of millions of people limiting the size of their families has social ramifications that he spelled out. He is not the first person to make this point, but as Chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, he can hardly be dismissed as an extremist voice.

Frequently, people with larger families are seen as imposing upon the earth and upon society. In reality, when they do the job of parenting properly, they are performing a public service. Statisticians and social planners are starting to grapple with the realities of this.

It is indeed telling that there is a correlation between religious faith and average family size. Substituting modern wisdom with that of the social planners has had other unforseen consequences. China and India, countries that both have aggressive family planning programs have reported a skewing of sex ratios in which there are millions more men than women. Under normal circumstances, the ratio stays fairly close to 50:50. MSNBC reported as follows on this subject.

From a relatively normal ratio of 108.5 boys to 100 girls in the early 80s, the male surplus progressively rose to 111 in 1990, 116 in 2000, and is now is close to 120 boys for each 100 girls at the present time, according to a Chinese think-tank report.

The shortage of women is creating a "huge societal issue,” warned U.N. resident coordinator Khalid Malik earlier this year.

Along with HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation, he said it was one of the three biggest challenges facing China.

"In eight to 10 years, we will have something like 40 to 60 million missing women," he said, adding that it will have "enormous implications" for China's prostitution industry and human trafficking."

The article further notes that this problem was forseen back in 1993, noting as follows.

"The loss of female births due to illegal prenatal sex determination and sex-selective abortions and female infanticide will affect the true sex ratio at birth and at young ages, creating an unbalanced population sex structure in the future and resulting in potentially serious social problems," argued Peking University's chief demographer back in 1993.

I read the Rabbi Sacks lecture in its entirety. The section on population control was only a small part of it. He also spoke about a partnership between religion and science. He spoke of the separation between church and state and how each operated within its own domain, influencing the other. He struck me as the sort of individual who maintains cordial relationships with those of different opinions than his own. In this sense he is a role model for millions. Examples of such friendly intellectual debate recurred throughout the lecture. One such example is as follows.

" I have to say that I didn’t begin wanting to be a Rabbi, I
began wanting to be a philosopher. I got to know the late Isaiah Berlin quite well
towards the end of his life, and I always remember the first conversation we had
in our home, he said “Chief Rabbi, whatever you do, don’t talk to me about
religion. When it comes to God I am tone deaf!” He said, “What I can’t
understand about you is you studied philosophy at Cambridge and Oxford, how
is it you believe?” and I said, “Sir Isaiah, if it helps, think of me as a lapsed
heretic”. “Quite understand, dear boy,” he said. And that actually is the truth. I
gave up philosophy because at that particular time when I was studying it,
Philosophy had declared as a matter of principle that the search for meaning is in
itself meaningless. And because we cannot, to remain human, give up that
search for meaning, I gave up philosophy instead.."

Rabbi Sacks made a very meaningful contribution in his Annual Theos Lecture. He has a lot of insight on a respectful partnership between people of disparate beliefs and on the function of faith within a secular democracy.I intend to reread the lecture. It is a piece that yields new insights upon being revisited. He has a lot of insights for people of faith in a secular democracy. I feel fortunate that his writing and thoughts have come to my attention.


Here is the link to the pdf file of the Rabbi Sacks speech.

Here is the link to the Rabbi Sacks web site.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Faith and Science: A Fresh Perspective

I receceived an email today that was a forward of an article by Aryeh Arnie Gotfryd, who views science and religion as being not only compatible but part of the same great picture. He earned Canada's first PhD in the field of applied ecology. His career spans the field of science and religion. He achieves interesting results when he looks for (and seems to find) a common denominator between the two. Consider the following quote, which is part of a larger article in which he discusses the "climategate" scandal.

"Society somehow drew an artificial line between faith in the clergy and faith in

the scientist. The fact is, once you give away to anyone your freedom to decide

any issue, you have essentially committed an act of faith. If you pass it on to

an organized group with an identifiable doctrine, you have in effect practiced a


The difference is that while most religions center on faith in a Supreme Being,

scientism places that unequivocal trust in man. The upside of religion is that

man takes his infinite trust and attaches it to an Infinite Being - that kind of

makes sense. What doesn't make sense is to attach such unbounded faith in

limited human beings and the contrivances of their minds, however great those

minds may be.

Besides, the objects of our adulation, the duly ordained priests of scientism,

have gods of their own: Power and moneys, as we have seen so clearly in this

past week. If you want to worship power and money, you don't need a middle man;

you can do so directly. On the other hand if it's something absolute that you're

searching for, why not have faith in the Creator? "

Following is a link to the article in its entirety, which I was not yet able to find on the Aryeh Gotfryd site.

There is a growing body of thought in which science and religion are seen as partners. Such an approach can and should transform public discussion of matters that hinge on science and public policy. Such discussion might increase the light shed on the intersection of science and religion and turn down the heat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oprah Bags White House Exclusive !

There is much to admire about Oprah Winfrey. She has championed the victims of abuse and discrimination during her long career in broadcasting. She has been extremely generous to fans and friends alike, even going so far as to have given brand new cars to each audience member of one of her shows.

But since the 2008 election campaign, she has been an unabashed cheerleader for Barack Obama. There have been Hollywood personalities who championed controversial causes. But when Bill Cosby or Barbra Streisand speaks up for a cause or opinion, it does not intrude upon an act or a stage performance. It is not written into the script of a show or the lyrics of a song.

A talk show host is different, particularly if they season a broadcast and a relationship with the viewing public with personal revelations.

I still watch Oprah Winfrey on occasion. But as soon as I hear a political pitch, I hit the remote. If I even think that a braodcast is a political pitch, I switch.

I am not surprised by the news that Oprah Winfrey will be doing a TV special with the Obamas,as reported by ABC. It is but one more reminder that a significant part of her career is that of an advocate and an administration cheerleader.I respect Oprah Winfrey for having mastered significant wisdom in life, and for having learned certain truths through hard work and hard knocks. But I do not see her as a searcher. She has a message and an agenda. And a significant part of the time I will be looking elsewhere for entertainment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Senegal Jews Donate Sheep to Needy Muslims

The Israeli embassy and the Jewish community of Senegal have donated 99 sheep to poor families in that country in honour of Eid al Kebir, a holiday that recalls the Koranic narrative in which Ibrahim was said to have sacrificed a sheep in the stead of his son Ishmael. A sheep for the festival can often cost $150.00 to $600.00, a sum far beyond the reach of a poor family in Senegal, an African nation with a population that is about 95% Muslim. Voice of America reports as follows about the gesture from Israel and Senegal's Jewish community.

"The Israeli embassy in Senegal and members of Senegal's Jewish community gave sheep to underprivileged Senegalese families on Tuesday so they can celebrate the Muslim religious holiday of Tabaski this weekend.

Ninety-nine sheep waited for their new owners outside the donation ceremony in Dakar, just four days before Aid el Kebir, or Tabaski, as it is known in Senegal. On that day, Muslims around the world will sacrifice sheep and other animals to commemorate the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God."

In a country of ten million, such a gesture may seem small, but it is likely to inspire emulation. When well to do Muslims in the country see the action of non Muslims to assist them, it will probably attract attention to some of the charitable aspects of the holiday.

There have been times in history when Muslims and Jews had a close working relationship. It was Muslim Turkey that offered haven to Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition. Maimonides, the renowned Jewish scholar and physician was a doctor and adviser to the king of Egypt 800 years ago. There have been ups and downs in the history of Judaeo Islamic relations. Anyone who has been in Israel or traveled in Muslim countries is familiar with the full range of feeling in Judaeo Islamic relations, from the grim and hateful to times when there was warmth and cordiality.

I sincerely hope that the warmth and good wishes of Senegal's Jews to its Muslim population are contagious. I wish my Muslim readers and neighbours Eid Mubarak ( a blessed festival) in their holiday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alive After 47 Minutes With No Heartbeat !

There is a case in New York that has doctors absolutely thunderstruck. Joe Tiralosi went to Columbia Presbyterian hospital in New York. He suffered cardiac arrest and his heart stopped beating for a full 47 minutes, as doctors used state of the art science and technology to revive him. Not only did they restore his heartbeat. Not only did they restore his heartbeat, but his ability to express his wonder, astonishment and gratitude, which he is doing tonight on a CBS TV, which reports as follows on their site.

"Three months ago Joe Tiralosi literally died. He walked into the emergency room at Presbyterian Hospital feeling sick and disoriented. One minute later he collapsed in cardiac arrest.

What happened next is nothing short of a medical miracle that even the doctors can't believe. That's because for the next 47 minutes, Tiralosi didn't have a heartbeat.

"It's a miracle for which it is difficult to find words," said Presbyterian Hospital's Dr. Flavio Gaudio."

It's amazing what doctors can with G-d's help accomplish when they follow a mixture of intuition and knowledge to move into the unknown. The human mind and body is truly the last frontier of terra incognita, of uncharted territory.

In another development, a man in Belgium named Rom Houben who was misclassified as being in a coma for23 years has regained consciousness to the point of reading books and communicating with the aid of a computer. The London Daily Mail reports as follows.

A car crash victim has spoken of the horror he endured for 23 years after he was misdiagnosed as being in a coma when he was conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben, trapped in his paralysed body after a car crash, described his real-life nightmare as he screamed to doctors that he could hear them - but could make no sound.

'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegetative state.

'I dreamed myself away,' he added, tapping his tale out with the aid of a computer.

Doctors used a range of coma tests before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was 'extinct'.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen."

Every once in a while, we are reminded of how little we know by people such as Joe Tiralosi and Rom Houben, who defy the boundaries we establish for life and death and find joy and meaning in a restricted existence. The sense of wonder that emanates from such a struggle illuminates the world far beyond their individual lives. The struggle of the doctors to detect life and to revive it are a powerful statement about the mystery of life.

As the health care debate unfolds in the upcoming weeks, it is wise to be mindful that a humnan life is not a corporation to be dissolved at will upon examination of a profit loss statement. I am grateful to the doctors at Columbia Presbyterian and Dr. Laureys in Zolders, Belgium who have challenged existing assumptions about life as we know it. Dr. Laureys has used modern medical diagnostics to find life in those previously thought to be dead. He has been working very hard to bring his findings to the attention of the public in his capacity as head of the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital.

We gain a great deal from stepping beyond seeing human life as a profit loss statement. It is doctors like Dr. Laureys of Belgium and Dr. Flavio Gaudio of Columbia Presbyterian of New York who bring the wonder and mystery of life to the public in a vivid manner. We gain a great deal through their efforts. As health care is debated, their efforts should be discussed and remembered.


The Daily News link is below.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration and Gay Marriage

A Christian coalition is vowing civil disobedience and even vowed to face jail if forced by law to officiate at homosexual "marriages".

The Washington Times reports as follows on the "Manhattan Declaration", a document signed by a broad spectrum of Christian clergy.

"More than 150 leaders across a spectrum of conservative Christianity on Friday released a 4,700-word document vowing civil disobedience if they are forced to take part in "anti-life acts" or bless gay marriages.

Called the "Manhattan Declaration," the six-page, single-spaced document was drafted by Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, an evangelical, and Princeton University professor Robert P. George, a Roman Catholic, and included a bevy of Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox bishops, archbishops and cardinals as signatories along with dozens of clergy and laity."

There is a web site for the Manhattan Declaration with over 1200 signatories. The document quotes extensively from Christian scripture and speaks glowingly of Christian history in the Middle Ages. The document comes at a time when traditional marriage is under attack at a level that could not have been imagined 20 years ago. Even states that have not approved homosexual marriage are now faced with the legal question of whether or not to recognise same sex marriages performed in other states. There is a genuine crisis of conscience for those who view marriage as a sacred covenant consisting of a man and a woman. Shall such individuals be prosecuted?

The fundamentally Christian nature of the declaration made it unfortunately a document that I as a Jew could not sign. My opposition to homosexual marriage is rooted in the Jewish Scriptures. I would welcome a chance to engage in common political action with Christians who are of like mind. I recognise that there are overlapping and separate aspects to our beliefs. I feel that a united front on common practical matters is a very good idea.

The Jewish vow of marriage is very simple "Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel." These words are uttered in Hebrew by the groom as he puts the ring on the finger of the bride. There are a number of laws governing marriage and intimate relations. There are laws against adultery, incest, fornication and homosexuality. By definition, a same sex marriage is no more a marriage than that between brother and sister or a woman to two husbands. To ask a rabbi to officiate at such a "wedding" is against his religion.

Christians and Muslims are in the same predicament. The first line of defense should be to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. But a clergy person who officiates at a marriage should sign a declaration that he or she is solemnising a marriage according to the laws of his or her state and his or her religious denomination. If it is not possible for the officiating clergy to so attest, he should be free of any obligation to do so. Indeed, it should be considered a false declaration to declare that a wedding is lawful according to the faith of officiating clergy if this is not the case.

There should additionally be a way to bundle the services of clergy, caterers and others involved in the wedding party so that those who provide their services to a wedding not be forced to transgress their conscience.

We have reached the point where "gay rights" are being asserted in a way that abridges the religious freedom of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others whose religious beliefs do not condone homosexuality.

We need a declaration that unites Christians, Jews and Muslims in defense of shared convictions and beliefs, no matter how different the scriptural underpinnings may be. There are many forms of intolerance In Massachusetts, a man named David Parker was told by the courts there that he had no right to have his son excused from lessons in kindergarten in which homosexual rights are promoted.

Those who preach loudest about inclusiveness and tolerance have proven most unwilling to extend it to others. There is a malignant quality to this attack on our freedoms. It is time to unite and protect those who define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Manhattan Declaration is on the right track. It needs some serious fine tuning. But if non Christian supporters of traditional marriage are to be included, then a broader declaration is in order.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Domestic Violence ,Etc Around the World

A ten year old Arkansas girl is in a youth shelter and a cop is suspended The Sydney Morning Herald reported as follows on the unusual case.

"Police were called to the home on November 11 after the girl's mother couldn't get her to take a shower.

Bradshaw's police report said the girl was "violently kicking and verbally combative" when Bradshaw tried to take her into custody, and she kicked him in the groin.

He said he delivered "a very brief drive stun to her back".

"Her mother told me to tase her if I needed to," Bradshaw wrote.

Police Chief Jim Noggle said on Wednesday that Taser stun guns were a safe way to subdue people who were a danger to themselves or others."

I have to wonder about a mother who invites a cop to taser her kid. I also wonder what sort of calming or containment strategies were used. A taser in an instance like this seems to be overkill. Even though the case is being treated as an oddity, there really are some very troubled kids out there. I hope the family gets some help.

The other weird case is a case of an abused spouse who snapped and killed. The switch here is that the abused spouse was a man. How badly abused was he? His wife allegedly told him he was too smelly to use the bathroom, and that he had to go to the local shopping center if he needed to go . She did not work, yet rationed his cigarettes and pocket money. She flaunted an affair and taunted him about it. She also made him sleep on the couch. What kept them together? They both liked to get drunk. The Sydney Herald reports as follows.

"For almost 20 years he submitted in order to keep the peace. When she demanded he change his surname to prove he loved her, he agreed.

When she insisted he not see his friends or family, he complied. When she taunted him by resuming an affair with a former boyfriend and suggested he ''grow some balls'', he swallowed the insults.

When she said he was too smelly to use the toilet at home, he restrained himself until he arrived at work. When she refused to let him sleep in their double bed, he dossed down in the spare room on a camp stretcher.

He was sole breadwinner but she rationed his cigarettes - just 12 each day - and controlled their money. Each week after withdrawing the housekeeping money he handed over the cash, his ATM card and receipts.

Now, compliant as ever, Anthony Sherna, 41, is in the Homicide Squad offices with nothing to hide. ''I then lost my temper,'' he tells detective Nigel L'Estrange. ''I lost my temper, and I strangled her with the dressing-gown cord until she could no longer breathe.''

What keeps a man like that from walking out the door? I've seen it close up. It's like a bad investment. After a few disastrous quarterly statements, you start to realise that nothing is going to change and you cut your losses. The problem with battered spouse defense is that it opens the system to the potential for abuse. Sherna didn't have video footage to back his claims, but he did have witnesses. I don't know what kind of jails they have in Australia, but this guy doesn't sound like he belongs with hard core convicts.

This isn't exactly domestic violence, but it's kind of interesting. Two brothers, former polygamists are now giving guided bus tours of Colorado City, Utah for $69.00 a pop. The brothers have interesting credentials. The Salt Lake City Tribune. "reports as follows.

"The brothers say they began the bus tours because they felt it was time to tell the truth about their pasts.

"Those women and most people out there are wonderful people, but they've been taught to say that these were their choices," said Richard Holm, who like his brother, Heber, could pass for a Swedish farmer. Both have pale gold hair, work-thickened hands and a deadpan way of speaking. The brothers say that Jeffs never gave anyone a choice -- even on major, personal decisions about who to marry, what job to do or even what car to buy. Everything was up to him.

Six years ago, Richard Holm says, Jeffs kicked him out of the group and "reassigned" his two wives and 17 children to Richard's younger brother, who still lives in Colorado City. Richard reckons his was one of 300 families that Jeffs wrecked in the same way. It was different when Richard and Heber were boys, the brothers recall. Their opinionated father wasn't expelled for urging his children to think for themselves, and he wasn't expelled when he allowed Heber to take off on his own at 17.

The Holms say that Jeffs' lieutenants continue to run the place from the pulpit, the police station and the city council, and that some 8,000 people in the region are still loyal to him."

This group is like a rigged poker game. They regularly kick out teen boys and married men, thereby maintaining a skewed sex ratio for the leadership. It's quite a racket. There is a whole subculture of ex Mormon polygamists.

But if you think the Mormons polygamists are far out, there is a part of India that blows Utah right out of the water. In remote villages there, they practice polyandry, in which several men, mostly brothers marry one wife. It is done so that small plots of land are not further divided. I am actually putting up a video below, so you'll know I am not making this up.

There was a case in my neighbourhood when a man went into a bodega. He stuck a long knife into a box of rice krispies. Then he skewered some corn flakes . When he was about to nail a box of Trix, the cops tackled him. When they asked him what he was doing, he announced angrily, "I'm a cereal killer."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Music and Theory of Karl Jenkins

There are stray thoughts that entertain me and seem to do little more. One such thought is that the human voice is on a certain level a musical instrument. It occurred to me after spending hours in an environment where I did not share any common language with those around me. Communicating the simplest thought was laborious. It was at that time that I experienced true exhaustion. I had not been performing heavy physical labour. I realised that it was solely mental fatigue that left me tired to the bone.

At one point I was attending a demonstration in 1973 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the overthrow of Mussolini (in central and southern Italy. He still ruled two more years as a puppet of Germany in the north.) The speeches were fiery. The crowd was pumped up. I joined in the feverish applause despite not understanding a work. For a split second, the irreverent thought occurred to me that I would not have known the difference if I had shown up at a fascist demonstration instead.

People ask me why I listen to music in languages I don't understand. I answer that the human voice is a musical instrument as well as a means of verbal communication. My lack of knowledge of a language forces me to focus on this facet of it.

Karl Jenkins is a Welsh composer who has made this realisation the cornerstone of his musical compositions. He has composed a whole body of works in which he uses an invented language composed of words that have no meaning at all. The texture and lone of the lyrics conveys a mood. The most famous example of this is the song "Adiemus." Jenkins created Adiemus as a word in his lexicon of mood without fixed literal meaning and was told only later that it meant "Let us draw near". in Latin. The most famous example of Jenkinsian music is "Adiemus". I heard it first as the sound track of an automobile commercial in 1994. Karl Jenkins explains on his web site as follows the evolution of Adiemus and its underlying philosophy.

"When I conceived the Adiemus concept initially, I was thinking of it purely as a recording. My intention was to compose a work based in the European classical tradition but with vocal sound more akin to ethnic or world music."
Since Adiemus has risen in popularity around the world, it has become a growing entity meaning many different things to many different people. Vocally, the spread of influence grows wider all the time, taking in Arabic and African sounds as well as "Celtic" and ecclesiastical ones. The percussion too has expanded using Indian, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Chinese and even Australian instrumentation.
Karl: "One of the things that has excited me has been how my initial idea of Adiemus as a recording project has evolved into a live experience. The live performances have taken on a whole new dimension. In fact, the Adiemus compositions themselves may be performed by any orchestra with any number of female voices."

The article elaborates further on the transcendent quality of Jenkin's music.

"The evolving nature of Adiemus has meant that it has been difficult to categorise. New age, classical crossover, world music, even pop. Karl sees this as a good sign: "To me, Adiemus transcends labels. That fact that it reaches people of different backgrounds, faiths and cultures gives it a universal appeal which is special. The compositions can be spiritual, religious, meditative - it's open to 'move' people in a away that they choose to experience."

Jenkins makes a valuable contribution not only to music but to my understanding of language. There are times that I appreciate the literal meaning of words far more because of being aware of their emotive content. When I have been listening to Czech rock music all afternoon and then hear a country song in English, the country song has a vividness that I would not otherwise appreciate. I especially appreciate it when a country song plays on the uniqueness of English and its special set of overlapping meanings to words such as in song titles like "Two of a Kind and Working on a Full House." My all time favourite is "Papa was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home. When he died, all he left us was alone." It is hard for me to imagine either phrase working in another language. At the same time, it is interesting to reflect upon how the music reinforces the message.

"Armed Man" was a work devoted to soldiers of all armies. It cuts across all political loyalties. I found this troubling until I recalled conversations with people from war zones who spoke of different armies not in terms of the ideology they purported to represent but how they behaved when passing through the village. One woman who was a loyal American citizen told me candidly that the Germans who occupied her town behaved far better than did the Americans. She did not state this confrontationally but in passing. It made the point vividly of representing whatever one believes with honour. How many people have been won or lost to a cause through a random act of cruelty or kindness?

Jenkins has contributed a great deal to my appreciation not only of music but more of language. It is fascinating how he has undertaken to build bridges between different cultures and musical forms. His music does not fit neatly into any single genre. The stray thoughts at the edge of my world that the human voice is an instrument seems to be a central part of Jenkin's life work.

A few weeks ago, out of random curiosity, I tried looking on line for the translation of"Adiemus" lyrics. In finding that there was no specific meaning to the lyrics, I learned something far deeper. It is for this reason that I join many in my gratitude to Kark Kenkins for his musical work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Firefighter's Anti Obama Stickers Banned

There is a saying I use with my kids when I tell them to do something. "Just be glad you live in America, where you're free to do whatever I want." I used to think it was my private family joke. Apparently, the Hartford , Connecticut Fire Department takes it all too seriously.

Mike DiGiacomo is a Hartford fire fighter. He doesn't think too highly of President Obama, and has a few bumper stickers on his SUV to remove any doubt.

Some of the bumper stickers read as follows.

Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its idiot

Ill keep my guns, freedom and money. You keep the change

Obama Bin Lyin. Impeach Now

It seems that his supervisor has told Di Giacomo that because of his bumper stickers, he can no longer park in the firehouse. He was told by his supervisor according to Harford's Channel 3 Eyewitness News that corporation counsel, the union and the city were all in agreement about his bumper stickers. When he contacted the union, they denied any such understanding.DiGiacomo says he does indeed intend to file a grievance with his union. There was no "hate speech" on the bumper stickers, but legitimate political satire. During the Bush administration, there was a bumper sticker that said "Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot." Now the Democrats are getting a dose of their own medicine. Meanwhile, every day that DiGiacomo parks on the street is a day that he spreads his message to appreciative passers by.

There are a lot more anti Obama bumper stickers out there if Di Giacomo wants to be creative, such as the following.

"Imagine having B.O. for 4 years"

"Change. It's what you'll have left in your pockets".

Finally ! We have a face to put on the food stamp.

Then there is a Jefferson quote. "The democracy will cease to exist when you take from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Then there are sarcastic slogans under an Obama logo.

"Because everyone deserves what you worked hard for."

"Honk if I'm paying your mortgage".

"Don't blame me, I voted for the American".

"O.B.A .M.A. "One Big A$$ Mistake America"

"Run A country into the ground? Yes he can!"


I could go on and on. I think we will be seeing a lot more anti Obama bumper stickers, even in places like Missouri, where the infamous "truth squads", composed of people in law enforcement used to call people up, identify themselves as law enforcement and defend Obama.

I found a very funny "Truth Squad Incident Report on the Director Blue site. For those who have forgotten, here is the link.

It is downright sinister how Obama's supporters are so eager to muzzle free speech. Mike DiGiacomo is fighting back. How many more are backing down? It is critical, now more than ever to raise our voices for the freedoms that define our way of life. This is not the kind of change America needs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Freydoon Rassouli: Artist With a Vision

There are times that I am reminded that true faith attempts to reach out to one G-d and to explain all of creation. There are times when I speak with those of other nations and faiths and feel a similarity like that of French to Italian or of arithmetic equations performed with different signs. The common world we all inhabit is refracted yet recognisable in our attempts to describe and understand it.

There is an Iranian artist named Freydoon Rassouli who was born in Isfahan in 1943. He has been in the US since1963, having been sent here on scholarship. His painting frequently reflects spiritual themes, which is not surprising. In Iran he was exposed to the Sufis, who view the boundaries of the world's faiths as a part of the world landscape, rather than a point to be fired across.

There is a oneness to the peoples of the world that I feel now only exists in potential. Striving for it is a focus of my belief and my existence. E express it by defining myself wherever possible affirmatively and not through my dislike or hatred of others. When I look at the paintings of Freydoon Rassouli, I see visions of this world towards which many strive from their particular knowledge and faith tradition. Rassouli is an artist who portrays with resonance the existence and pull of spiritual worlds connected to yet beyond our own. It is easy to become disconnected from that faith on a visceral level. Looking at Rassouli's paintings puts me back in touch with that. Sometimes the titles he gives his paintings are very close to what I would imagine them to be

There is no one where I live who is a Rassouli "fan". He is the type of artist my mother would have turned me on to, but I discovered him first. I found videos on You Tube of Rassouli slide shows. One that I included in this posting was titled "Birthing a New World", a metaphor which reminds me of "Khevlei Moshiach", birth pangs of the Messiah, which is of course distinctly Jewish. It includes a poem by an authour who I hope has achieved some fame, although I have not heard of her. It is interesting to hear how others react to the art of Rassouli. I am including below some Rassouli links. I hope my readers will check them out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Obama Bows To Emperor of Japan

Someone needs to sit and have a talk with this guy. This picture was not photoshopped. Barack Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan. Someone needs to tell him, "Dude ! You're the President of the US. True the dollar may be going down the toilet, but you're still President of a country with 300 million people. Lichtenstein has a prince. Are you going to bow down to him? Elvis was the King. Do you bow down to Nashville? What about Burger King? Please!

This is the second time you did that. Remember the King of Saudi Arabia. Here's the picture. Did you drop a contact lens? This is getting really bad! I heard they were going to give you a back brace when you were going to a summit, but they were afraid you would end up prostrating yourself on the carpet to the Prime Minister of Iceland.

And while we're at it. That bumper sticker that says "I can't be overdrawn! I still have checks!" does NOT belong on the presidential limo. So don't even think about it. The last time you bowed was to the King of Saudi Arabia. And we have the picture to prove it!.

What ever happened to an assertive President that would avenge America's honour? Like George Bush Senior when he threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister. Sure it was a little tacky. Saturday Night Live had a field day with it. But with all those Japanese cars making traffic jams around Washington D.C, at least someone had the guts (or something) to say "This is for Pearl Harbor. Take it to your dry cleaner!"

So if you really want to make a scene and be a stand up guy like George Bush Senior (George II), then remember the following saying that I heard back in high school. "Beer and whiskey, pretty risky.... So if you want to do a gastric kamikaze attack on an annoying prime minister, chug down a few Tsing Tao beers before you sit down next to Hu Jintao, China's big honcho. Then belt back a couple of whiskeys when they seat you next to him. You should be spewin' grits around the time they're wrapping up the duck soup with all those weird vegetables in it. China was on our side in World War Two, but they were a pain in the neck ever since. So after you're finished calling for Earl in the Prime Minister's lap, just say "Here's payback for all those cheap @$$ radios that bust after a week and a half!"


The following is a video of George Bush Senior barfing on the Japanese Prime Minister back in 1992. Here is the link to that memorable news event.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cow Pie Power in Holland

Cow dung is now being used to produce electrical power in a rural electrical power plant in the Netherlands, according to Reuters News, which reports as follows.

"AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A plant that converts cow dung into energy for homes opened in the Netherlands Friday.

Manure from cows at a nearby dairy farm will be fermented along with grass and food industry residues, and the biogas released during the process will be used as fuel for the thermal plant's gas turbines.

The heat generated will be distributed to around 1,100 homes in the area around Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, the plant's operator Essent said in a statement."

This news item raises an obvious question. Since humans also produce "manure' in far larger quantities than do cows, why don't we tap into its energy potential? this is not a new idea. the usefulness of human excrement as an energy source is proven by the use of bovine waste.

I do not believe that there is only one source of alternative energy. between wind, solar and waste power, there is no reason for our energy to come from one source. An eclectic energy policy of looking to multiple sources of power will increase America's political and economic independence. it has the potential to cut seriously America's trade deficit and to thereby stabilise our currency.

An eclectic energy policy could extend to private homes as well. There is no reason to heat one's home entirely from one source. Wind or solar energy can be a supplementary source of heat and power for families still hooked up to the city power grid. Decentralising heating and electric systems can and should be made more feasible in the future. Solar paneling and wind mills can and should be manufactured for individual home owners.

A generation ago, computers were large and far too expensive for most private homes. They have become a fixture in a large percentage , if not a majority of American homes. Such a revolution is due for energy as well.

What about cars? Israel has undertaken a program to have a grid of charging stations across Israel where one can drop off a battery, pick up one that has been freshly charged and go on one's way. MSNBC reported as follows on Israel's innovative plan back in 2008.

"JERUSALEM - Israel's government on Monday endorsed the ambitious plan of a private entrepreneur to install the world's first electric car network here by 2011, with half a million recharging stations to crisscross the tiny nation.

Supporters hailed the undertaking as a bold step in the battle against global warming and energy dependency, but skeptics warned that much could still go wrong along the way.

In a signing ceremony with the Renault-Nissan Alliance _ under the slogan "Transportation without fuel, making peace between transportation and the environment" _ Israel's leaders pledged to provide tax incentives to customers to make Israel's cars fuel-free."

Holland and Israel have taught us valuable lessons in energy conservation and independence. Much money is invested in drilling for oil while we literally flush millions of kilowatt hours down the toilet. It's time to wake up and smell the!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, Many Questions

Being an ex communist is not always easy. My musical tastes were formed during my youthful communist years One chapter in Latin American history was very troubling and that was the overthrow of Salvador Allende by the Chilean military junta on September 11, 1973. Although I now realise that Chile was being moved towards Marxism and the Soviet orbit, the bloodiness of the coup,and the the horrible brutality still trouble me. As stealthy as I believe the communists to have been, I can not condone the murder of Salvador Allende, the Marxist president who was overthrown. The claim that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the back seems ludicrous. It would have been reasonable to put him on trial for crimes against the constitution, but what the junta did during and after the coup was inexcusable.

Salvador Allende became a martyr, much celebrated in song and poetry around the world. One of my favourite songs about Chile and the 1973 coup was the song "Chilenische Metall" by the East German folk rock group "Klaus Renft Combo." Unlike the Puhdys, who sometimes made the regime a bit uncomfortable, the Klaus Renft Combo had a number of overtly political songs that lent East Germany's foreign policy some pretty snappy tunes. They still enjoy a following among devotees of East German rock music. I have included "Chilenische Metall" below. The video has a very interesting slide show of Salvador Allende commemorative stamps from around the world.

To underscore the point of the brutality of the coup, I have included an Arlo Guthrie version of a song about the murdered Chilean folk singer Victor Jara that is historically accurate and quite disturbing. The world of communist music remains fascinating to me as does the 1973 coup in Chile. I must candidly admit that American influence and American values do not always travel abroad together. How does one correct that? Jimmy Carter tried to promote democracy in Iran and elsewhere and created one catastrophe after another around the world. There are no easy answers. In looking at the world beyond America's borders, there are far too many questions and precious few answers.

Below are the lyrics to Chilenische Metall with a very rough translation into English

heutzutag´ wie dazumal
denn es starb das volk der inkas
dazumal dazuland an der spanischen gier
nach all dem gold das man dort fand

Nowadays like back the
the incas were dying
back then from the Spaniard's greed
for all the gold they could find

hört das lied hört das lied
vom chilenischen Metall
fremde herren woll´n es haben
heutzutag´ wie dazumal
doch die erde unter chile
so aus kupfer und blei
schlug wie eine grosse glocke
mach dich frei mach dich frei

hear the song hear the song of chilean metal
foreign masters want to have it
today just like in times past
but the earth of Chile
yields copper and lead.
strike it like a big bell
and set yourself free

fasste zu die fremde hand
hart am hals hart am hals
und mir ihr kam über´s land
erneut der fluch des metalls
presste zu des landes kehle
kupfern wurde das rot
bleiern schmeckte jene nachricht
- allende ist tot -
und mit ihm starben viele
und man sah es überall
die ermordeten von chile
war´n ermordet für´s metall

the foreign hand gripped hard
hard on the throat , on the throat
and there came over the land the curse of the metal
pressed to the throat of the country
copper was the colour red
a leaden pall to the news
allende is dead
and with him died many
one saw it all over
that the murdered of chile
were killed for metal

hört das lied hört das lied
vom chilenischen metall
fremde herren woll´n es haben
heuzutag´ wie dazumal
doch ein jeder soll es wissen
der nach chiles reichtum strebt
daran starben noch die inkas
doch das volk von chile lebt

hear the song
hear the song
of chilean metal
today like long ago
but everyone must know
that whoever struggles for chile's wealth
the incas still die
but the people of chile lives

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Burnt Coins Discovered Near Temple Mount

Archaeologists have found a cache of coins that bore char marks from the fires that consumed the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple almost 2000 years ago. Associated Press reports as follows on the electrifying discovery.

Jerusalem - Israel displayed for the first time today a collection of rare coins charred and burned from the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple nearly 2,000 years ago.

About 70 coins were found in an excavation at the foot of a key Jerusalem holy site. They give a rare glimpse into the period of the Jewish revolt that eventually led to the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, said Hava Katz, curator of the exhibition.

The discovery comes at a time when Muslims in the Holy Land are attempting to rewrite history by claiming that the Temple never existed. World Net Daily reported as follows on one of many such claims that has become the official Hamas party line in its attempt to drive every Jewish man, woman and child from the Holy Land.

"JERUSALEM – The Jewish temples never existed, and Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem, declared chief Palestinian justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi today.

Tamimi condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for stressing in Europe this week the long Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Tamimi claimed "all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations" as well as Netanyahu are lying when they state Jerusalem was a historically Jewish city.

He called such claims "baseless and untrue."

Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so," he said.

Contradicting finds from scores of archeological digs, Tamimi claimed all of Israel's archaeological work since 1967 has not proven "that Jews ever had a history or presence in Jerusalem, or that their ostensible temple had ever existed."

Such claims are not a dry academic discussion but an attempt to delegitimise the entire Jewish presence and claim to the Holy Land. Rewriting the past is indeed an effort to twist the future. Indeed the Wakf, the Islamic religious authority in charge of the Temple Mount has been doing extensive renovations in a manner that destroys Jewish artifacts and structures buried at the site of the Temple Mount and the mosque that was later built upon it. reports as follows on the efforts of the Wakf to obliterate evidence of a historic Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.

JERUSALEM � Islamic authorities using heavy machinery to dig on the Temple Mount � Judaism's holiest site � have been caught red-handed destroying Temple-era antiquities and what's believed to be a section of an outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.

"WND today obtained a photograph of a massive trench the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount, have been blasting around the periphery of the holy site purportedly to replace 40-year-old electrical cables for mosques on the Mount. The Waqf has steadfastly denied they found or destroyed any Jewish antiquities during their dig. n view in the picture, which was obtained in conjunction with Israel's Temple Institute, are concrete slabs broken by Waqf bulldozers and what appears to be a chopped up carved stone from Jewish Temple-era antiquity."

Heinrich Heine once said, Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” Attempting to silence the earth itself, to make the land and its secrets party to deceit must surely be put in the same category as the burning of books.

When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, urinals were put up against the Western Wall. Ancient tombstones were used for paving. Synagogues were razed. There are calls today to internationalise Jerusalem. It is under Israeli control more international than it has been in centuries. Historic sites have been maintained. Access to all people has been assured as never before. The destruction of artifacts and the falsification of the past is nothing compared to what Hamas and al Fatah will do if given control of Jerusalem. As long as Israel is in control of the Holy city and the Holy Land, the world will continue to know of its secrets. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.


What might bring peace to the Holy Land? Perhaps the answer is to be found among the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria. Many believe that there are large numbers who are really of Jewish ancestry and may indeed be Jewish according to Jewish law. To learn more, check out the following link. It would be wonderful if they could be reunited with the Jewish people.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Honest Look at Birth Control

It may not make the papers, but there are dissenting voices when a United Nations committee pontificates about how to make the world a better place. We constantly hear the drumbeat of population control. Spero News reports as follows on the statement of the Vatican delegate to the United Nations on birth control.

"The great challenge to development is not the demographic explosion, but from irresponsible global and local economic policies": so says the Holy See's permanent observer to the UN, Msgr. Celestino Migliore. At the 64th UN General Assembly session in commemoration 15 years on from the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, Mgr. Migliore noted that "for nearly a century there have been attempts to tie [the problem of], the global population with food, energy, natural resources and environmental crisis. Instead, by contrast, it is now sufficiently demonstrated that human persons are the greatest resource in the world with their brilliance and ability to work together. "

Human potential is a critical variable in economic development. This is a truth that has been vindicated by recent history. The Congo is blessed with abundant natural resources. It is also as close as one can come to hell on earth. It is racked by inter ethnic warfare and tribal violence. The money from the gold and diamonds as well as other mineral wealth is seized by the greedy capitalists who only use it to accelerate the downward spiral of the nation.

Japan by contrast is a country that is poor in natural resources. Even rice, which is a national staple must be imported. Yet Japan is a prosperous country. It also has a culture which stresses cooperation. In Japanese, it is an insult to call someone an individualist. Putting collective welfare over that of the individual is a national virtue. When this national unity is for the national good, this emphasis on cooperation is a constructive force. During the war, it was an engine for Japanese militarism and racism, most grimly exemplified in the Rape of Nanking, in which hundreds of thousands were killed in the most awful manner possible. It seems that any virtue can be perverted to twisted ends.

What is the legacy of population control today? When I was a child, Irish and Italian families had a reputation for being larger than average, due to their religious dedication. Now both countries have a birth rate that is below replacement level. This means that an aging population has a shrinking number of people paying into the pension system. This is creating an actual financial crisis. The ability to do prenatal screening has resulted in a plague of sex selection through abortion in China and in India, which both have aggressive birth control policies.

Why could we not see these social trends before we started using entire societies as social laboratories? Would not simple arithmetic have revealed the perils of failing to reproduce ourselves as a species? The failures of population control and social engineering belong as much to capitalism as to communism. A nation's economy is meant to serve its people and not the other way around? In a very real sense, those who replenish the species and attempt to raise decent children are performing a service for the collective good. The earth has increased exponentially in population. The famines and turbulence we have experienced as a species are related not to increased population density but to dehumanisation of others, be it on class, national or ethnic basis.

These truths have been self evident. It has been mostly those governed by religious belief such as devout Catholics and orthodox Jews who have promoted high birth rates. It is time to take an intellectually honest look at population control and the superstitions of secular humanism. Free choice gives human beings the potential to be builders or destroyers. The sooner we face this inconvenient truth, the happier we will be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thoughts of Berlin 1989

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was not an isolated event, but the culmination of processes of change that had been at work for much of the history of the Soviet bloc.

I saw the Berlin Wall at the age of 17. At the time, I was an avowed communist, eager to set foot in a country ruled by the ideology that I espoused and believed like a religion. The Berlin Wall was an awe inspiring sight. It was far more than a mere wall, incorporating mine fields, free fire zones and high tech obstacle courses. Its guards were frequently shuffled around so they would not be able to form conspiratorial friendships. When you took the S Bahn, the elevated train that went over the wall, you had a chance to look down on the wide stretch of no man's land that divided the two parts of Berlin. The official story was that the wall was being built to protect citizens of the "democratic sector" from capitalist infiltrators and saboteurs. It was a face saving lie that no one believed.

What made East Germany a prison was not the drabness or lack of consumer goods. These were certainly a symptom of a dysfunctional economic system. One could not travel freely to West Germany or anywhere out of the eastern bloc. When the wall went up, some apartment buildings had to be bricked up on one side, since they were built on the border of the Soviet and the Western zones of Berlin. People literally went to visit neighbours not to borrow a cup of sugar but to jump out their windows to freedom. Bars had to be put in the sewers to prevent people from wading through city sewage to freedom. The country was built upon a web of informers. There was no limit to the depths of betrayal, no limits to the trivialities that could be seized upon by the secret police to destroy lives Der Spiegel reports as follows on an incident of betrayal that threw a family into poverty.

"A West German pudding. That was all it took. Once the Stasi found out about it, a family breadwinner was fired from his army job and an East German household was plunged into destitution.

Even worse, the family later found out that they had been turned in by a close friend. "She was watering the plants and went through the cupboards to find a Dr. Oetker dessert," Vera Iburg, who has worked with files kept by the East German secret police for the last 20 years, told SPIEGEL ONLINE, referring to the snoop. "What was she doing? She had no business there!"

The first crack in the "iron curtain across Europe" was when Hungary quietly decided that they would no longer prevent citizens of communist countries from crossing their borders to the west. Thousands made the trip in their shockingly primitive East German cars. Word spread and people traveled to Hungary simply to cross the border. The border guard in Berlin made the decision to open the gate to West Berlin on his own, interpreting conflicting instructions with an independence that was totally uncharacteristic of the obedience that had characterised 40 years of communist rule.

My father felt a love for Berlin and a pride in being born there that made the travails and division of that city resonate with me on a personal level. When the news of the Berlin Wall falling was broadcast around the world, it electrified me. communist power and the four power division of Berlin seemed powerful and immutable to me . To this day, I am in awe of what took place there. The fresh awe of the events of November 9 and 10 1989 make it feel strange to me speaking to those with no memory of the Wall. I speak to my children of the open miracles that took place in that year and feel acutely the passage of time when I realise that they have grown up in a different world than I.

It is both a blessing and a curse that I spend much of my time nostalgic for times in which I never lived and homesick for places I have never been. The division of Berlin was for so many years a metaphor. There was something universally resonant about the feelings of unity that persisted defiantly in the shadow of the Berlin Wall.

An incongruity of history is that November 9 and 10 are not only the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's dramatic breach but of Kristallnacht, the state sponsored pogrom of 1938, in which Jewish businesses and institutions were burned and gutted across Germany and many Jews were attacked by well organised mobs and gangs. In a real sense, the day itself has for me an emotional wall built across it, with joy on the one side and profound sadness on the other. Being of German Jewish background, I feel a connection to both aspects of the day that leaves a wall across my soul that still stands to this day.

Now that Germany is one country, East Germans are now finding out about the millions of betrayals, sometimes perpetrated by loved ones. People are still applying for permission to view their secret police files. Der Spiegel reports as follows on the lingering interest East Germans have in their secret police files.

"In the last year, tens of thousands of people have headed to the Birthler Authority to finally take a look at what their Stasi files contain. Interest has been so high, in fact, the waiting list is now two years long.

The files -- which occupy over 100 kilometers of shelf space (not including the 16,000 sacks of shredded documents the Birthler Authority is currently trying to reassemble with the aid of computers) -- are testament to a darker side of humanity. And Ziehm says that films like "The Lives of Others," which indicate that many were coerced into spying on friends and neighbors, don't come close to plumbing the depths that some ultimately fall to. Friends informed voluntarily on friends and spouses even tattled on each other."

In my world, history and personal experience form a body of precedent by which I judge the present. When I tend to a sick child, I draw upon all the memories from 26 years of fatherhood to with G-d's help make a wise choice today. In a real sense, what I have experienced personally and what I have read and heard from others are threads of one cloth.

There are news events that haunt me personally, such as the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the JFK assassination. Watching my parents react to world events gave me a starting sense of perspective in viewing the world. I remember the emotion with which my mother reacted to the Kennedy assassinations and with which she spoke of Franklin Roosevelt.

Then there were personal experiences that I have not been able to find in any library, such as arriving at work one day and finding that I was in the middle of an immigration raid. Then there was the Crown Heights riots of 1992. There was the taxi ride with a man from Soviet Georgia who told me back in 1984 how wonderful Stalin was. I tipped him generously, realising that such opinions were not likely to be found printed in the English language.

When I walk down the street, I feel as though I am walking through a library. That is how I view people. And when I am in a library, I feel the presence of teeming humanity, of disparate books shelved together like strangers in a crowded street.

I have had dreams in which I crossed the street in Brooklyn and ended up in Hungary. In the world of dreams, the border between life and death itself is torn down like a wall. When life makes no sense, I sometimes pretend that it is a dream and interpret it in that manner.

November 9 and 10 are like a dream to me. It is only in the world of dreams that the sadness and terror of 1938 and the joy of 1989 enjoy some harmony. Today and tomorrow, which are both Kristallnacht and the day the Wall came down will be for me days in which the jumbled landscape of sleep marches into daylight.

On of the more banal experiences of my life has been to have taken the SAT's. The instructions we were given was to answer each question and to skip any question to which we did not know the answer. Then we were supposed to go back and try again. Sometimes we would learn from other questions to answer the more difficult ones. The strategy worked fairly well on the SAT's but even better on life itself. There are many questions I skip and many to which I return regularly. The one thing of lasting value I extracted from my SATs was this metaphor.

Witnessing Germany's evolving reunification today is a vivid reminder that liberation from an external oppression is the beginning and not the end of a struggle. I find this same theme in the Exodus from Egypt that is recorded in the Torah. It is often the walls within that are far more formidable and persistent than those which are erected by others.

Before the Berlin Wall ever came down, there were those who dared to dream that it would one day be possible. If there is one lesson that stays with me from this day, it is that one must dare to dream. What can be seen in the mind's eye can indeed be brought to physical reality. Many strived for that day in 1989. Many died as well. And the collective strivings, with the help of a Greater Hand reached an awesome fruition. Keep faith. There are miracles yet to come.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gay Marriage Supporter's Icy Calculation

Recently, I did an editorial on Maine voters rejecting gay marriage in a state referendum on the question. I expected impassioned replies on both sides of the equation. I was not disappointed. One reply, however raised a multitude of questions that went far beyond the question of gay rights. "Altruist" of the web site wrote as follows.

"59% of the young folk are OK with gay marriage so it is inevitable as the conservatives get older and die off, that eventually all men and women will be considered equal."

Chris D. chimed in with barely concealed glee as follows.

"As the baby boomers die off we're going to see real societal changes. Marriage rights for all, cannabis legalization, and much more. "

It was troubling to see the discussion digress from the merits and drawbacks of gay rights to a cool demographic calculation of waiting for opponents of 'the brave new world" to die off and leave their barricades to "progress" unmanned.

The underlying assumption of both Chris D. and altruist is that people belong to ethnic and demographic blocs which act immutably in their own perceived interests. they also seem to assume that the aging and elderly have no further potential for change, other than to assume room temperature and that the trend of youth is inexorably towards what they see as progress. In reality, each human being is a heart to be won over or lost. Then there is ambivalence. The ebb and flow of political fortunes is what drives elections, why 1980 was the "Reagan Revolution" and 2009 brought us Obama. It could well be argued that amnesia is a powerful underlying political force.

When I see an old person, I see a library. When a human being dies, I see a library burning. My soul aches as much for knowledge lost as for the departure of a soul. So many times I think of questions for my grandparents after they have passed away. Knowing a person's age and the path through which their life has taken them helps me ask the questions that have enriched my life.

I remember proudly sharing with my grandparents the radical ideas I was picking up and seeing the pained expressions on their faces. Had I been older i would have asked them what troubled them. Being young and "full of knowledge" I was not ready to listen to what they had to say.

I have spoken with people who lived through World War Two as POW's, as civilians under German and then US military occupation. I have spoken with police officers who have guarded and arrested famous people. I spoke to a man who was with the Russians who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 and with a man who threw rocks at Russian tanks. It saddens me to think that some of those who added their brush strokes to my picture of the world are no longer living.

In most debates, each side accentuates a different facet of truth and makes it dominant in their world view. The opponents of gay marriage die off and are not replaced by the next generation, the concerns and issues they champion will not die with them. In my generation, no fault divorce was the big change that was sold to the people and to legislators. Psychiatrists provided the best assurances money could buy that children would have no trouble adjusting to divorce. Those who voiced caution died out and the forces of change carried the day. Now it turns out that the scars of divorce are not as trivial as had been supposed. The death of no fault divorce opponents removed the opposition but not the consequences.

Waiting for the death of one's opponents exposes an ideological and moral bankruptcy. It shows a fear not of their prejudice but of their knowledge. One of the best things that can happen in a debate is when people stop negating and discounting facts brought up by their opponents and instead incorporate them into their own world view. It is through this process that opponents shift ever so slowly to a working consensus.

If I am forming an opinion about an issue such as say Cuba or Afghanistan, I will jump at the chance to speak with someone who is from there or has been there. One of the people who commented on my article was a gentleman named Scotmaster, who had a close family member who died of AIDS and was involved in homosexuality. it would seem that those who are interested in a well rounded perspective on gay marriage should at least hear him out. You might want to distill his facts from his opinions. you might even have a persuasive spin on his factual presentation. But what do you gain by refusing to hear him? If you are waiting for him and for me to die off, it will not extinguish our portion of the truth.

There is a stridency to the proponents of alternative lifestyles. You could even say that there is almost a sort of missionary zeal to their approach. When they are in charge of a school or social service institution, their coerciveness and condescension are painfully evident.

It is a telling indication of the moral bankruptcy of "alternative lifestyle" proponents that having despaired of winning over the hearts of their opponents that they wait for those same hearts to stop beating. How sad. But that is what happens when you care more about an agenda than about people. Chris D and Altruist have given me one more reason to stay alive. If for no other reason, I will do so out of spite.


The following song from Cabaret, starring Liza Minelli is dedicated to those who are waiting for me and for Scotmaster to assume room temperature. The best way to punish a fool is to answer his prayers. History is littered with the corpses of those killed by their own revolution.