Thursday, December 23, 2010

Musician of the Day: Josh Ritter

I was poking around on, a site that delivers a dizzying cascade of blog entries, including mine. I found a blog called "sightless among miracles". The complete lack of capital letters is identical to what I found on the blog header, and not a typo on my part. The blog's motto captures a sense of quiet wonder with its motto.
"Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles…"

Today, "sightless among miracles featured Josh Ritter, a musician born in Moscow Idaho to two parents who were both neurosurgeons. While attending Oberlin college, Ritter changed his major from neuroscience to "American History Through Narrative Folk Music." He has lived in Massachusetts, Idaho as well as Ireland, where his CD's sold very well after open mike performances.
Since 1999, Ritter has produced 7 albums, 7 EP's and 12 singles. He makes his living in music full time.
I find his style to evoke a bit of Bob Dylan on the more "unplugged" of his work. It is easy to imagine Ritter achieving mega stardom. This hard working, creative musician certainly deserves such a break in his career.

Josh Ritter on Myspace

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Note To readers about Sudan Flogging video

You Tube has been taking down this video of a woman being flogged in Sudan. Just as quickly it has been put back up by users concerned about its contents. Although admittedly its contents are disturbing, it is important that the bravery of the person who filmed it and thereby provided a glimpse of the misogyny and brutality of Sudan not have such efforts negated by Yu Tube's misguided censorship. It is for that reason that I am puttingthe video up here, out of the reach of You Tube's censors

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crown Heights Gag Order Creates Controversy

  The new "don't snitch" edict from the rabonim of Crown Heights has generated a lot of controversy, both within the community and in the world at large. Among other things, the order calls for people in the community not to publish reports in the media critical of police without prior permission from the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. It prohibits filing complaints against the police without prior permission from the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.

It also prohibits publishing anything that could lead to investigation or other legal difficulties for a Crown Heights Jewish Community member. The text of the edict is not in dispute. It has been reproduced on and on Crown Heights.Info.

The letter raises a lot of questions. People have a long list of complaints about treatment of community members by police. In the age of the internet, anyone can publish news,opinion and rumours. Some people are responsible. Other people put up spur of the moment blogs that are riddled with profanity, anonymous and slanderous. A bit of googling will bring up some of these sites. There are prohibitions in Jewish law against gossiping and slander. People need to be reminded of such restrictions on speech.

Plenty of people have disputes that they settle out of court or in private arbitration. If every financial dispute, every slap and every shove ended up in court, the police would have no time to deal with serious crime.

Between Jews, there are laws from the Torah that govern disputes. Observant Jews should prefer to resolve their disagreements among themselves according to the Torah, in order that their studies have some connection to reality and in order to make the words of the Torah alive.

There are legitimate reasons to question the police. Many people feel that their crime reports have been mishandled, misclassified or "lost". If someone has a complaint against the police and they don't want to go the civilian Complaint Review Board, then they need an aggressive advocate.

If people are being asked to waive their constitutional rights to complain about law enforcement and governmental administration, there must be an effective substitute. Following are some proposals.

1. The Crown Heights Jewish Community Council should be able and willing to follow up crime reports to see that the reports get a complaint number, and that disputes about the incidents are classified correctly. Too often, members of our community have faced these issues alone.

2. Some people in our community do "mouth off" to police. We need to have seminars and articles on how to interact with police, as well as what our rights and responsibilities are.

3.If the CHJCC is to earn the respect of the community, it must advocate for the community and individuals in the community. If it is perceived as "managing" the community on behalf of the police, even when there is police misconduct, it will rightfully lose respect in the community.

4. We face the same problems with rising crime as our African American neighbours. Many criminals victimise not only Jews but our gentile neighbours as well. Crime in Crown Heights is anti Jewish because crime itself is against Judaism, whether the victim is a Jew or a gentile.

We need to create institutions and social structures that will accomodate and resolve the inevitable disputes that will occur in our community. The letter from the Crown Heights Beth Din seems to many people to be an awkward attempt to get this process going. In these tough economic times, we need to work together with the police, our gentile neighbours and each other, because even when money is short, we have each other.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Michelle Obama: Childhhod Obesity "National Security Threat"

First Ladies have a history of adopting a cause. Ladybird Johnson's signature theme was "Beautify America". Barbara Bush adopted literacy as her cause. The idea of Presidential spouses taking on a cause that transcends partisan barriers is an old one. Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity as her personal project, declaring it to be a national security issue, noting as follows.

“And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well. These folks come at this issue from all different angles. But they’ve come together to support this bill because they know that it’s the right thing to do for our kids. And they know that in the long run, it won’t just save money, it will save lives.”

Her solution is a piece of legislation known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which is an attempt to address with legislation. There is no doubt that many adult health problems start in childhood. Adults do not develop heart disease or diabetes without years of preparation in fast food restaurants.

There may well be a role for government in promoting children's health.School cafeterias should offer food that is both healthful and attractive to children. Food stamps should not cover "dead calories" like sugary soda. Health education and exercise should be promoted as ways of saving money in the long run and subsidised with tax breaks.

But government can not do everything. A lot of education and social conditioning takes place in entertainment venues. Movies, television and music have a lot of influence on people.

There are food trends that are a step in the right direction already. Sushi, salad bars and falafel sandwiches are a big improvement over grease and chloresterol laden burgers and deep fried foods. People are increasingly turning to such foods. Spring water is also seen with increasing frequency in the hands of young children who a generation ago would have drunk sugary soda.

Corporations pay millions of dollars for advertising that they know will create a need for their products. There is money to be made promoting good health. People who are diabetic or who have high blood pressure like to eat out like everyone else. Some of the better restaurants address their needs. Imagine a restaurant that catered entirely to the needs of those who must modify their sugar, salt or some other aspect of their diet. There are plenty of people who are in danger of developing hypertension  or diabetes who want to head off such illnesses. Imagine restaurant chains that prepare safe healthy food. Imagine regular restaurants having a part of their menus that are suitable to weight watchers, diabetics and people with high blood pressure.

Sushi was a rarity back in the 70's. Now it is is found all across America. It is possible to create a perceived need even for useless things like pet rocks. Certainly it is possible to create a need for what is beneficial.

Most education takes place out of school, and most change starts not with a government mandate but with a change of heart. Michelle Obama has identified a real problem of youth who are obese. As an influential pubic figure, she may well be able to spur private enterprise to pick up the torch and run with it. As a child of the sixties, I marvel at the sight of my children drinking spring water instead of soda. Change can happen. It can even be pushed by public figures like Michelle Obama. But I question whether bad habits can be legislated out of existence.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bloomberg For President?!


There have been a few articles in the paper speculating about whether or not Mike Bloomberg would run for President in 2012. There is even a web site called Run Mike Run. Despite the fawning coverage of Bloomberg's mayoralty, there is quite a different range of opinion on the street about Bloomberg as mayor and his prospects as President.

Bloomberg has made public health a signature issue. First, there was comprehensive smoking bans. Then there were punitive taxes on cigarettes that have made New York cigarettes the most expensive in the nation. Then there was the ban on trans fats in restaurants that reeked of nanny state meddling in personal health choices.

While Bloomberg has been mayor, the cost of traffic and sanitation tickets has skyrocketed. He comes across as a mayor for the wealthy who tries to maintain the fiction that New York is an ideal little village in which crime is enough under control that we can move on to making sure that every New Yorker finishes the veggies on his plate.

Bloomberg got his foot in the door by running as a Republican. In most parts of the country, he comes across as a liberal Democrat. It is doubtful that party affiliation means anything to him at all.

Bloomberg is a billionaire who made his fortune in the media. There is no law against having a heavy financial stake in the news media and running for higher office, but having such a stake in the news media has given Bloomberg an unfair advantage in controlling and influencing how he is portrayed.

Bloomberg is not charismatic. He does not inspire impassioned support. He would be a good subject for a sci fi movie in which an evil villain puts Gotham City to sleep and then takes over. His management style is notoriously abrasive, yet it is airbrushed from the portrait of him as a business and political leader. He is thin skinned and bristles at criticism. He is extremely aloof in his management of the city.

Unless he has the audacity to run for a fourth term, this should be Bloomberg's last term as mayor. It would be good for him to branch into creating a media outlet for public health that is as massive as his financial information empire. Millions of Americans want to safeguard their health of their own free will and not out of fear of some overreaching nanny state.

Part of any strategy to defeat Bloomberg if he ever runs for President can and should involve the voices of ordinary New Yorkers who endured his mayoralty. It is doubtful that the sort of nanny state measures pushed by Bloomberg would be welcomed in the South and the Midwest.

I would be eager to see Bloomberg News work on popularising public health. I would love to see him establish healthy fast food restaurant chains with low sodium burgers, low chloresterol and other offerings that are harmonised with good taste.

The possibilities for Bloomberg to make a positive impact on American life are virtually endless. I would probably vote with my wallet for any Bloomberg attempt to build a business empire on the issue of public health.Running for President is another matter entirely. The very thought of Mike Bloomberg as President raises my blood pressure, more than any of the salt that he wants banned from New York City restaurants. Now if he cares about my health, why would Mayor Mike want to do that?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Taking Chanukah Personally [Video]


There are several days, as well as a 3 week stretch on the Jewish calendar when we mourn the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, as well as pray for its eventual reconstruction. Most such observances also note the role played not only by idolatry in the destruction of the first Bet HaMikdash but the role of hatred within our community as well in the destruction of the second temple..

What is notable about Chanukah in contrast to the 9th of Av and the upcoming fast day of the 10th of Teves is that the Chanukah story starts when the Bet HaMikdash is still standing. When we go to Jerusalem today, the Temple Mount where our Holy Temple stood is occupied  by a mosque. The remnant to which Jews flock in prayer is the Western Wall.

By contrast, the sad backdrop of the Chanukah story is a Temple that had not been destroyed but had been occupied by the Greeks and filled with idols and idolatrous observance. Even though the Temple stood, its space was forcibly dedicated to idolatry, to ideas that were the antithesis of Judaism. The holiday revolves around a revolt which led to the purification and rededication of the Bet Hamikdash to its original objective.

In our own lives, how many times do personal, business and communal relationships get "off track"? How often do we find that acts of faith become hollow and perfunctory, and that estrangement creeps into marital and familial relationships? How often are we "married on paper", "on the payroll" and "sitting at the PTA" with an inner aloofness?

The good news is, we are still married, our kids still speak to us, and we're still employed. But something is missing. The freshness of love, the belief in an objective, the sense of connectedness are sometimes replaced with a lack of direction and misdirection.

Chanukah to me symbolises the awareness that we still have love that remains,  the glow beneath the ashes, and  a mission of which we remain aware and to which we can return. The social structures that remain in our lives can be purified, repaired and rededicated.

Everyone has a conceptual manner in which they connect to Hanukah. I know some people, children of a Jewish father and a non Jewish mother who returned to Judaism and restored the Jewishness to a family name that had become no longer Jewish. Others restored through education an understanding of Passsover, Rosh HaShanah and Chanukah itself. as well as Shabbos, which of course comes around every week.

At least as important as religious observances are our human relationships. Bringing back love and enthusiasm, loyalty and caring to marriage, family and friendship is also an idea of rededication. Rediscovering a dedication to work also involves a network of human relationships, and a multitude of opportunities to make people's lives better.

I know a plumber who goes home from unstopping a toilet or installing a stove happy in the knowledge that he has lightened the burden of his customers. I have gone to salesmen who are happy to sell a piece of electronics that is exactly what the customer needs. In my personal life, a good librarian or book seller is almost on the level of clergy. There is something reassuring in knowing that the things we get paid by the hour to do are things that touch people's lives after the job is done.

Chanukah for me is the time that I think of relationships that have drifted onto "automatic pilot" and the fact that the commitment is there, the love and idealism ready to be reinvigorated. The holiday speaks not only of miracles, of help from Above but of seizing the day, of standing up and fighting. It is a reminder that we are not passive spectators waiting only for miracles, but that we are given a role to usher in the miraculous as well.

Jewish holidays have their historical aspect. But there is also a level in which they recur in each generation. The rededication of the Holy Temple that took place is not buried in the past. It is a theme that can and should be brought back to life today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thank You Jiri Trnka

      Lately, I have been in one of those moods that we all experience sooner or later, when I have country songs in Czech that keep playing in my head. Wanting to put a stop to this annoying feeling, I did what any thinking person would do, and looked for some Czech rock music to listen to instead. I looked for Jiri Schelinger, and found a soulful song about feeding pigeons called Holubi Dum. 

In the list of videos brought up in my search for Jiri Schelinger's music, I found a short documentary about Jiri Trnka, a man who I had never heard of. Wondering how a last name so exotically short of vowels was being discussed in English, I watched the documentary. It solved a mystery for me. Years ago I had a book of fables according to the French author La Fontaine that I unfortunately lost.

The illustrations were of stellar quality, and exponentially increased the value of the book to me. During the documentary, which had a second part,I found out that the La Fontaine collection of fables, as well as other children's books illustrated by Jiri Trnka are also readily available. The Czechs, to their credit have always taken animation and children's books seriously.

Born in 1912, Trnka spent the war years designing stage sets and illustrating children's books. When the communists came to power, they subsidized his work, but did not interfere with his creative processes.

Despite this, Trnka managed to produce an allegorical cartoon, "The Hand" about a simple potter who only wanted to make a flower pot and was chased by an ominous hand that ordered the potter to instead make a likeness of itself. The film was banned by the communist authorities, despite winning international acclaim. In 1969 after the chill following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, "The Hand" was banned by the communist authorities. In that year in December, Jiri Trnka passed away from heart problems. Despite having his film banned, Trnka was buried with state honours.

Having "The Hand" banned was probably Trnka's greatest honour of all, a token of recognition that he struggled as an artist and a human being with the tension between conscience and artistic creativity under a totalitarian regime.

From illustration to animated film making, Jiri Trnka made earth shaking contributions to art and entertainment. I am grateful for having discovered Trnka's life and work in the course of my musical wanderings through You Tube. I hope my readers will appreciate him as well.


Here are parts 1 and 2 of "The Hand" I also recommend "The Cybernetic Grandma" which is described as follows on You Tube.

Trnka's sci-fi "The Cybernetic Grandma" was a vision of the future in which machines and robots try to substitute themselves into the most beautiful human relationships. A cybernetic robot is supposed to substitute for the loving grandmother of a little girl. The wise grandmother, however, comes back and the girl finds the warmth of her grandmother's loving arms again.

I feel priveleged to have discovered the life and work of Trnka.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Israel Fire: Was It Arson?


Israel is now battling the worst forest fire in its 62 year history as a modern state. There are already an estimated 40 people dead, a considerable number of them cadets from Israel's prison system.

 The Israeli government has already appealed for help from abroad in containing the raging blaze. In the appeal, foreign nations were asked to send planes that are able to dump chemicals on the fire. Arutz Sheva News has confirmed that Greece and Cyprus have sent firefighting helicopters to fight the blaze.  There are unconfirmed reports that Egypt and Turkey have also rendered assistance in fighting the inferno.

A prison as well as some towns and villages believed to be in danger from the fire are being  instructed to evacuate the danger area. There have been conflicting reports about whether the fire has been contained.

Suspicions of arson are being voiced with increasing frequency. The Virtual Jerusalem web site has reported that the fire started in three different places,making arson a plausible cause of the fires. If this proves to be the case, it would make the latest fire the worst act of terrorism in Israel's history as a state.

If this latest fire proves to be arson, it would not be the first time that Israel has faced this threat in its history as a state. The Jewish National Fund has, on its web site openly discussed this possibility in the aftermath of past fires.

Reforestation has been a critical part of Israel's development strategy during its modern history. If arson was involved in the latest fire, Israel needs to confront it openly and to inform its own people and the world. Ignoring this grim possibility will not make it go away or prevent further attempts in the future.

Virtual Jerusalem

Israel National News

Article on Ecological Terrorism

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chechen Music and Mairbek Khaidarov

    The former Soviet Union spanned 12 time zones and a multitude of languages. If I were to go there as a tourist, it would be with the desire of going on a musical tour. We read a lot about the war in Chechenya, a part of the Russian republic that wants to break away and live under their own government. The Russians are afraid that it could lead to a multitude of other non Russian ethnic groups demanding independence, inspired by the Chechens.

Any time I read about a hot spot in the news, I wonder what sort of music the people who are at war listen to.Thinking of Chechenya,I looked for some Chechen music on You Tube. Fortunately, there is no shortage of it. I was fortunate enough to find some songs by Mairbek Khaidarov, for whom there was no fan website or Wikipedia page. Chechen is also not listed among the langauges translated by Google.

I do know that Chechen, though it sounds to me like Turkish, is not Turkic at all but belongs to the Nakh family of languages, and that Islam in Chechenya is influenced by local traditions. The picture of Chechens painted in the Russian media has a lot of inaccuracies. Unfortunately, Islamic radicals from abroad will probably be all to happy to push Chechens and Chechen Islam in a radical direction.

I found some really nice songs by a Chechen singer named Mairbek Khaidarov. The audience in the video was attired in moderate Islamic attire. Some women had headscarves, but no covered faces. Khaidarov himself was dressed in a suit that was unremarkable. It was his voice that stood out.

I hope to hear nothing more in the news about Chechenya, because when I do hear about the Chechens, it is not usually good. Here are some songs from Mairbek Khaidarov. I hope it is all we hear from Chechenya for a while, and that my listeners enjoy his music.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts After "Shabbos Thanksgiving"

The 19th of Kislev is observed as the "Rosh Hashanah of Chasidus". It is the day in Lubavitch when the annual reading of the Tanya is started anew. It is also the day when the alter Rebbe was freed from prison in Russia. Lubavitch and Chassidism were a wellspring of strength that kept the spark of Judaism alive under communism when faith was driven underground for over 70 years.It is observed along with the 20th of Kislev, which is the day after his release when the Alter Rebbe was able to rejoin his chasidim after his time of imprisonment.

The 21st of Kislev is a holiday in Satmar, when the Satmar Rebbe, Rabenu Joel Teitelbaum was freed in 1944 from Bergen Belsen,and was permitted to go to Switzerland. He later became a guiding force to chasidim around the world.

Both the Lubavitcher Rebbes (Josef Yitzhak and Menachem Mendel) and the Satmar Rebbe attracted "orphan chasidim", chasidic Jews who had lost not only their families but their rebbes and rabbis, as well as their entire communities. During the war were days, weeks and months in which towns died together. Both the Lubavitcher and Satmar rebbes and their respective movements gave spriritual and material support to these "orphaned chasidim", reviving broken bodies and souls. The Lubavitch and Satmar movements were among the groups that survived in sufficient numbers to take in the remnants of other chassidic groups that had ceased to exist as communities.

This year, Thanksgiving, the 19th, 20th and 21th of Kislev occurred on successive days. To me, it was a four day festival in which to thank G-d for physical and spiritual survival as well as for a peaceful and free country in which to live and worship freely. The succession of secular and Jewish holidays reminds me of a duty to light up the world and to contribute to it.The themes of all three holidays, both civil and religious, reinforce each other. To everyone, both the children of Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov as well as the children of Noah, I wish a "Chag Someach" a happy holiday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Public Figures and Private Lives


   Sometimes when I read about Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton and other public figures whose private lives spill onto the front pages of our newspapers, it almost seems as though their personal lives are being packaged as public entertainment. When I pick up the National Enquirer, the Globe or other celebrity gossip tabloids, I seriously worry about what effect this has on the people who produce our entertainment. Could being "on stage" 24/7 lead to creative or personal burnout? Do the people who entertain us welcome and cultivate this scrutiny of their private lives or does it pain them? If I view gossip about my friends and coworkers to be objectionable, how should I feel about discussing Brittany Spears?

Sometimes, there is a connection between the private lives of public figures and their later contributions to public life. Josip Broz Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia was of Croatian and Slovenian descent. Was his devotion to Yugoslavia, a collection of South Slavic nations related to his mixed ancestry?

Hitler and Stalin both grew up in harsh family environments. How did their familial experiences shape their approach to government? Were there common denominators that explained their genocidal common denominator? The OSS, the forerunner of the CIA commissioned a psychological biography of Hitler that focused on the link between the private life of Hitler and his public persona.

In the entertainment world, episodes and aspects of Eminem's personal life have fueled, coloured and influenced his creative output. Despite this, he does not turn his life into a reality TV show. Day to day events in his life still take place behind a curtain of privacy.

Some public figures attempt to maintain a shield of privacy. Woody Allen and Paul McCartney are known to dislike being approached by fans despite instances in which their private lives spilled onto the pages of the tabloids. Other people open a window into their private lives. Art Linkletter, who produced "Kids Say The Darndest Things." discussed publicly his daughter Diane's suicide in 1969 at age 20 with the hope of educating people about the dangers of drugs.Ronald Reagan and his family were very open about his affliction with Alzheimer's disease.

Is there a place for celebrity gossip? I would say that celebrities should be discussed with their consent. We should not be prying our way into their personal lives.Hitler, Stalin and other public figures who present a danger would constitute an exception to this rule.For those who must discuss the lives of others, there are soap operas and sitcoms.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Channeling Elvis In Czech


  Today is just one of those days when I lay awake remembering with fondness some of my favourite Czech pop music. Pavel Bobek, singing a Czech version of "Lord Have Mercy On A Country Boy" by Don Williams makes my day every time I hear it.. He also does a good Czech version of "My Home Town".The Czechs are strongly influenced by American political values and culture. There is a country music station in the Czech Republic that broadcasts mostly Czech country music. Because I don't understand Czech, it is possible for me to write articles while listening to it without being distracted by the lyrics in my own language.They pick the best of American country as well..

When looking up Karel Zich, who is known as the Czech Elvis, I was saddened to learn that he had passed away in Corsica  at the age of 55. Back in the 70's, he did a beautiful rendition of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.".

He also did a lively rendition of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock". back in 1983. I wonder if Vaclav Havel or any of the other czech dissidents listened to it when they were doing time?

Why do I like hearing American songs in Czech or other foreign languages.? When I was living overseas, it was a reassuring touch of the familiar to hear "Wildes Wasser" to the tune of the Moody Blues "Nights in White Satin" and other tunes rendered into local languages. Now, at a time when America is scoffed at, criticised and condemned, I hear in thes songs an underlying fondness for some aspects of American culture that as an American I find reassuring.

Most of these songs have completely different meanings to their lyrics. Very seldom are they a direct translation of the original song. With Google Translate it is possible to get song translations of varying qualities.

What most fascinates me in these songs derived from  American music is the mix of the strange and the familiar. I hope my readers will enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My New Site Is Up And Running


     For almost 3 years, I have written on my sites Rudi and For various reasons outlined in an "Announcement To Readers About My New Web Site",I stated my reasons, not the least of which is the desire to present news as well as writing my own articles.

I am pleased to announce that my new site is up. Although it reflects my limited technical skills, I will be working on improving it with time. The name of the site is "The Globe Tribune.Info". As far as promoting it goes, I am on ground zero. It's not even up on Google yet.

I am determined to reach out of the mainstream, to fellow bloggers and to less read publications to call to the attention of the public news, opinions and trends that I consider worthy of note. Since I personally get paid per thousand hits, I will not reprint entire articles but will link back to the original article.

When I vote, I am one of millions of voices. Similarly, when I write and present the writing of others, I am making a positive statement about what is newsworthy and how it should be presented. It feels a lot more constructive than complaining about the mainstream media.

Having founded the web site of my dreams, I am looking forward to getting back to writing. Hopefully, I will have need of additional bandwidth and be able to customise my web page design a bit more. I look forward to serving the public with thought provoking news and commentary

Friday, November 12, 2010

Priority 7 Vouchers To Be Cancelled 6 Months Early

Priority 7, a program that provides child care vouchers to working couples was unilaterally terminated by the Bloomberg administration as part of a series of ad hoc budget cuts that are taking effect 6 months earlier than planned, in2010 instead of the end of the school year. After tense negotiations, an extension of the program to December 31, 2010 has been reached. The program provides day care to lower income families in which both parents work. The budget cuts disproportionately affect the orthodox Jewish communities of Boro Park and Williamsburg. Yeshiva describes the impact of the budget cuts as follows.

"In fact, a 2008 report published by ACS noted that the heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Boro Park and Williamsburg, where the majority of Priority 7 vouchers are distributed, had the largest unmet need for publicly funded childcare. And, by ACS’ own admission, 92.1% of the 2,200 children receiving Priority 7 vouchers are living below 100% of the poverty level."

The discontinuation of this program will make it difficult for working families to provide child care for their children while they are working. This is in addition to the possible loss of jobs created by the elimination of the Priority 7 program. When you factor in possible loss of employment resulting from people who can not work without day care, you already have a reduction in the savings created by elimination of priority 7. Parents who must quit jobs will be drawing unemployment and other forms of government help to cover their loss of work.

In actuality, there will be very little savings resulting from the discontinuation of Priority 7. All that will happen will be that parents will sign up for other programs that partially replace lost income. Money saved with these budget cuts will more than be lost elsewhere. Parents in Priority 7 are trying to work and contribute to society. By cutting out daycare for the working poor, we are telling them to stay at home and collect government benefits instead. Is this the message we need to convey in these tough times?

To contact Mayor Bloomberg and other members of the City government, click here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon Champions "Free Speech" For Pedophiles

Amazon, the mega merchant that sells everything from electronics to clothing as well as its well known line of books has taken its support of free speech to a new extreme. Although it is understandable that a bookstore would be loathe to limit free speech, there are times to draw the line. has decided that "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure" should come under the umbrella of free speech protection. Fox News quotes a paragraph promoting and describing the book as follows.

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow," a product description reads. "I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught."

The book takes the jump from providing psychological insight into pedophilia into advocating the behavior and providing information to facilitate it being carried out successfully.

Amazon defends the book, saying that it does not fit the legal definition of child pornography, since it has no illustrations. Fox News quotes as follows the high toned statement by Amazon defending its controversial marketing decision.

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," the company said in a written statement. "Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

Amazon may well have the law on its side. Despite this, there is still latitude within the law to refuse to sell books that might be harmful to the well being of the public. Amazon can and should do the right thing by dropping this book, just like they dropped "RapeLay" a video game about a man who stalked and raped a mother and her daughters.

Amazon has a record of promoting destructive books such as "I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons" by Luca Rastello and "Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers."

There is another freedom that might interest Amazon, and that is the freedom of consumers to shop where they please. There are plenty of alternatives to, such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. Amazon is not the only merchant that provides an outlet for used booksellers either. Barnes and Noble serves the same audience just as well.

Boycotting Amazon until they come to their senses may be what is required to remind them to use common sense and decency in the way they interpret the constitution. The courts should only be the last resort in enforcing free speech and its parameters. Private citizens can and should use their discretion as well. A boycott of is in order until they come to their senses.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kristallnacht and Berlin Wall's Fall Remembered Today

November 9th is a day that stands out on the calendar, roughly and abruptly torn between joy and sadness. On November 9, 1989, in what seemed at the time to be an almost surreal turn of events, the crossing points between East and West Berlin, tightly controlled since August 13, 1961 were opened to all East Germans who wished to cross them. Before the night of November 9, 1989 dissolved into the sunrise of November 10, people were dancing with joy atop the Berlin Wall.

As many as 200 people had been killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall during its grim 28 year history. So desperate were people to escape from communist East Germany that even the sewer system connecting East and West Berlin had to be secured by the communist authorities to stop its use as an escape route. To those who lived in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, its ultimate fall was an impossible dream come true.

November 9 is also another anniversary in German history that is shrouded in sadness. On November 9, 1938, there was a nationally coordinated pogrom that unfolded all across Germany. Ostensibly a "spontaneous" reaction to the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a Polish Jew, it was orchestrated, aided and abetted by the Nazi government. During that national pogrom on November 9, 1938, synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes were plundered and destroyed from one end of Germany to the other. Jews were beaten, murdered and sent off to concentration camps. Any hope that German Jews had of a future in Germany died on that day.

21 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 72 years after Kristallnacht, their respectively joyous and tragic memories continue to echo and to resonate. From the Balkans to Rwanda, from the Congo to Sudan, the desire to demonize and kill those whose language, faith or race differ from the dominant majority is a sickness that continues to blight the globe.

North Korea remains one giant prison, its borders fortified to protect it not from invaders but from the escape of its own citizens. With the Berlin Wall but a memory, the fortified borders of North Korea remain a monument to the failure of communism to capture the hearts and minds of those forced to live under it.

The Berlin Wall is no more. Its original construction of cinder blocks and concrete grew malignantly into a complex of free fire zones and motion detectors over its 28 year history before it collapsed splendidly on the night of November 9 and 10, 1989.

The frightening echoes of shattering glass, the smell of buildings put to the torch and angry mobs running through the streets back in the grim time of Kristallnacht back in 1938. have long since faded into collective memory.

The desire to protect a failed political system with barbed wire and guard towers remains an affliction of our time. The desire to obliterate those who do not resemble in language, creed or skin color us is a sickness that has broken out with sickening regularity around the globe. Rwanda, the Congo, Darfur and the Balkans are among the portions of the globe that continue to remind us of the human capacity for hatred and intolerance. November 9, a day forever torn between joy and sadness, is a time to reflect upon how far the human race has yet to travel before it reaches its true potential.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bring Back Keith Olbermann

There is a petition to hire back Keith Olbermann after his suspension by MSNBC for making undisclosed political contributions. The petition has over 250,000 signatures. Despite my total lack of sympathy with Keith Olbermann's political views, I want him to have the same freedom I would want for myself, and signed the petition that he should not have to utter an abject mea culpa.

It should be common sense that journalists should disclose financial contributions and interests that would sway their journalistic impartiality. For a news reporter who purports to deliver "just the facts" this would be more pressing for viewers to know his hidden loyalty. But for those journalists and commentators who are overt and open in expressing their political preferences, it would seem almost superfluous to demand of them full and rigorous disclosures of political contributions. Keith Olbermann fits into that category. It does not take psychic abilities or great education to guess which type of candidates he supports.

Keith Olbermann should be restored to his positition on free speech grounds. By firing him, MSNBC is making a hollow gesture of respect for impartiality that is convincing to no one. It is no sin to have a political bias. It is, however disgraceful to deny others this right.

The major networks may have a political bias towards liberalism. Talk radio is inclined towards conservative views. And the blogosphere is truly a free for all. As a whole, a wide spectrum of views and persuasions is available to anyone who cares to seek them. Perhaps if we are honest with ourselves about the biases that exist in news coverage, we can move forward with a firm resolution to allowing a wide, open and frank exchange of opinions across all media outlets.

Keith Olbermann's suspension does nothing to ameliorate media bias. It is a charade that should come to an end.

Here is the petition link.

12 India Factoids You Might Not Know [Now With Obama In India]

1. "Namaste" is one of those words like "Shalom" that people who don't know any other words from India pick up. It translates very roughly as "I salute the divinity in you".It's a nice concept.

2. India has a population of about 1.2 billion, which makes it the world's most populous nation.

3. When British India gained independence from Britain in 1947, it split into India and Pakistan. Pakistan was divided into East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by 1000 miles of India. East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan in 1971 and became what we now know as Bangla Desh.

4. Hindi and Urdu, major languages of India and Pakistan respectively, were referred to by the British as Hindustani and considered one language. They are mutually intelligible in the spoken form, yet are written with two different alphabets Hindi has a higher percentage of indigenous content, while Urdu borrows considerably from Arabic and Persian. Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, and Urdu is written in a script based on Arabic.

5. Hindi and English share the stage as the numerically predominant languages in India. 21 other languages have some level of official recognition on a local level. There are literally hundreds of other languages spoken in India. If Obama tries to give a speech in each of these languages, he'll end up staying in India until 2012 and will probably blow a fuse on his teleprompter.
It should be noted that English provides a common tongue to many Indians who otherwise do not share a common language.

6. The Christian community of Kerala, India claims to have been the world's first Christians, converted by Thomas the apostle of Jesus between 68 and 70 AD. They often refer to themselves as "Thomas Christians" and have Aramaic as their liturgical language.

7. Many Indians who come out on the losing end of the caste system in India convert to Christianity or Islam to escape caste discrimination. This has angered some Hindu nationalists, who have responded with violence against converts from Hinduism.

8. Although caste discrimination is outlawed by the Indian constitution, it persists in actual practice. The Indian government actually has a form of affirmative action in which seats are set aside in university and jobs set aside in government. This has been a source of vexation to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu nationalist groups who feel that upper caste Indians who are poor are left behind by the measures.

9. The largest film in the world is not Hollywood but "Bollywood". People in culturally conservative countries, particularly in the Arab world find the lack of nudity and sex to be more compatible with their values and social mores. There is in Israel a Bollywood channel that is popular among both Arabs and Jews from Arab countries residing in Israel.

10. Although Pakistan was founded as a homeland for India's Muslims, India, with a Muslim population variously estimated from around 138 million to about 160 million. Pakistan has over 170 million Muslims. Despite its lower percentage of Muslims, India is one of the top 10 Muslim countries in the world by population, if not by percentage. Pakistan by contrast has a little over 3 million Hindus, with complaints of persecution that goes unpunished and that some say tacitly condoned.

11. We think of India as one country, but it has many languages, a few major religions and internal border controls at which truck drivers actually have to stop and present papers. If India can streamline its governmental regulations, optimise the climate in which business functions and facilitate foreign investment, it will likely continue current trends and become a world economic power to eclipse China.

12. English has drawn from Indian languages. Here are some words that come from Indian languages. Shampoo came originally from the Hindi word Chumpi, which refers to an oil massage of the scalp. Pundit comes from "Pandit" meaning scholar or priest. There is a long list of such words, which came in good part into our language through the British colonization of India.

My favorite quote from India's 1913 Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali who composed India's national anthem.

“Where the mind is without fear, and the heart is held high, Where the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, Where the words came out from the depths of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits, Where the mind is led forward by thee into everwidening thought and action - Into that heaven of freedom, My father, let my country awake.”


One of favorite Bollywood songs from the 2003 movie Baghban.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anger Over Obama and Liberal Groups Editing "Our Creator" From Political Speeches and Print

People to the political right have been criticizing President Obama for an omission of "by their Creator" from a political speech in which he quoted the Declaration of Independence. President Obama's supporters dismissed the omission as either a "distraction" or a teleprompter malfunction. reports tha tunfortunately for Obama's apologists, Obama made the same mistake on September 22, when he left the words "Under G-d" from a Gettysburg Address reference in a speech in Washington.

Ominously, what had once been only an omission from a speech has now crept into print. Indyposted notes as follows.

Despite that, there is, according to World Net Daily an organization called the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy that puts out a pocket size pamphlet that can be downloaded as a pdf file that contains the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and the Constitution. In print, the pamphlet has the critical words “Under “G-d” omitted from the speech, above which is noted “The Hay Draft.” This is despite the opinion of scholars that the speech given at Gettysburg did in fact contain the omitted reference to the Creator.

What's the big deal? Are people trying to make Obama look bad? There is a critical distinction between rights that are bestowed by the government and rights that are G-d given. There is a fundamental difference between rights that are sacred an inalienable and rights that are determined by a Higher Being. The phrases "under G-d" and "by their Creator" put elected officials on notice that they must answer to G-d, and that they are not gods themselves.

In a synagogue, when the Torah is read, if the reader mispronounces a word, corrections are loudly called out until the reader backtracks and corrects himself. If even a single letter is found to be miswritten, the Torah scroll is put away and the reading continues if possible from another scroll. It is jarring to witness. The sight of corrections being loudly called out almost seems rude. But that is what keeps errors from creeping into the Torah, what assueres that the same text unites all congregations. It keeps things real.

America is united by founding documents. It is entirely fitting that the original text of the documents that define and guide us be zealously guarded and not misquoted. When I hear people calling out their protest against the omission of "our Creator" from the text, it seems totally proper and vitally necessary to our unity as a nation.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yes, I Did Kaporos This Year

Over the last 30 years, I have almost always done kaporos on live chickens, for myself and for my family the night before Yom Kippur. The central part of the kaporos prayer, which is often done with money is a prayer that reads as follows. (In English translation)

"This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. (This rooster (hen) will go to its death / This money will go to charity), while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and to peace"

The prayer is said while moving the chicken around one's head, and is repeated 3 times. Some people use money instead of a chicken. Even those who use a chicken donate the meat to charity as well as the profits from the sale of the chickens. Additionally, a lot of charity is given at the time of kaporos that is done with chickens.

Because of PETA's objections to the ritual, I thought a lot more about doing kaporos than usual. The appeals to my empathy with fellow living creatures as well as the humaneness of kaporos are something I decided to face head on.

The entire kaporos ritual, including purchasing the live chickens, bringing them to my home, assisting younger family members in holding the chickens and bringing them back to the shochet to be slaughtered usually takes me a good 2 1/2 hours. During this time, I feel the warmth of the chickens, their heartbeat and their emotions. Years ago, when I was nervous about holding a live animal, they sensed my nervousness and responded in kind. Today, as in past years, they almost seemed to fall asleep as I held them. In a sense, I bonded with the chickens, facing the fact that they were living creatures with sparks of life akin to my own.

The idea behind kaporos is that the world is affected by the choices that people make, from the use we make of the environment to what we eat, to how we treat each other. The animals we consume do not mysteriously materialise like morning dew on the shelves of our supermarkets. They are living creatures that forfeit their lives in order to prolong ours. We should reflect on whether our goals and achievements and the way we treat each other is any improvement over the animal kingdom that we press into our service.

The time of kaporos is a time that I face these questions head on. It is a time to ask whether the lives we lead justify our position at the top of the food chain or whether they make a mockery of it.

There is a flip side to the concern we should feel for the animal kingdom. There are people who love their pets and show cruelty to people. The Nazis passed animal cruelty laws that they enforced at the same time that they enforced laws stripping "inferior races" such as Jews, Africans and gypsies of their statutory humanity. There are wealthy Haitians who treat their "restavek" slaves worse than animals even as they pamper their pets. And there were Hindus and Muslims who slaughtered each other during the time of Partition in India in 1947 with less thought than would go into slaughtering a chicken. And the deaths of over 7 million congolese in its wars since it became independent are ignored by the world.

How do we maintain a sense of proportion, of caring properly about the humans in the world as well as the creatures who share the planet with us? PETA has raised legitimate questions, questions that I asked myself as I held the chickens that I later handed over to be slaughtered. But there are questions that PETA does not ask about the welfare of humans, and how one places the rights and needs of all who inhabit planet earth.

If there is one theme that kaporos has underscored for me, it is the increased responsibility that goes with being human. Less sentient creatures, those less able to tame and manipulate the environment are profoundly affected by our choices. We can tower above less intelligent creatures or sink far beneath them. The choice is ours.

I doubt that PETA will be very happy with the choices I have made. But because of the questions they asked, I thought a lot more about kaporos this year. And for that I thank them

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dinkins Reminds Us Why He Only Served One Term

David Dinkins was a one term, third rate mayor of New York City. He had a speaking style that could put your foot to sleep. During the Crown Heights riots, he did nothing for 3 days, until someone almost hit him with a brick. Then he realised that it was serious and let the cops make arrests.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Dinkins made up for the mind numbing boredom of his speaking style by saying something so stupid, it made people sit up and take notice. While endorsing State Senate candidate Adriano Espaillat, Dinkins noted as follows.

"But it is important, it is so very important, particularly for the people of this district who vote on Tuesday to recognize how important it is to understand that the city is changing. Most people in the city are going to look more like us than others and that's just a fact. It is not a bad thing. It is frankly a good thing."
Since when is "looking like us" a qualification for office? Was it a qualification in the segregated south, or in apartheid South Africa? If a neighborhood is turning white, am I allowed to say that "It is frankly a good thing."?

Espaillat, has not repudiated Dinkins' racially divisive remarks. His opponent, Mark Levine is a white Jewish man who is married to a Hispanic woman On the campaign trail, he doesn't look quite right to Dinkins. Did David Dinkins tell us anything at all about how Espaillat differs on the issues from Levine? Do we know anything at all about how the two candidates differ in ideology? The answer is clear. Dinkins is invoking racial solidarity to create a winning bloc of votes.

Dinkins has not changed a bit since he was mayor. Once, when he was asked if he was going to visit Ellis Island, he replied as follows.

“Ellis Island is for the people who came over on ships. My people came in chains.”

The fact is that many Caribbean, African and South American immigrants of African ancestry came to the US not as slaves but as free immigrants. One could argue that they faced racism, but they did not "come in chains".

Dinkins trades in racial resentment painted over with a thin veneer of gentility that all too often during his career flaked off and showed the ugliness beneath.By law, he served as the mayor of all New Yorkers, but as shown by his Ellis Island statement and his Espaillat endorsement, his heart was not in the job.

New Yorkers were fortunate to survive the David Dinkins mayoralty. We were not fortunate to have Dinkins as mayor. His racist endorsement of Espaillat, so devoid as it was of any discussion of issues faced by all New Yorkers is a vivid reminder of why New Yorkers voted that petty and prejudiced man out of office.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

French Teacher, Catherine Pederzoli Suspended For Teaching About Holocaust

France is a nation with a troubled past. When France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, some Frenchmen resisted gallantly. Most people did what they had to to get along, and others collaborated actively with the Germans. Even Francois Mitterand, a renowned French Socialist had a shadowy past as a German collaborator that he excused as a "youthful indiscretion".

Catherine Pederzoli, a French Jewish woman led class trips to death camps and taught about the Holocaust for 15 years, until a new administration in her school subjected her to scrutiny. They accused her of being too emotionally involved, biased and lacking in "secularism". They even criticised her for using the Hebrew term "Shoah" far more frequently than the clinically dispassionate term "genocide".

There is a reasonable explanation for the use of a Hebrew term for the Holocaust. Indyposted notes as follows.

"Investigators cited her use of the term “Shoah”, a Hebrew term used for the Holocaust rather than the more clinical term “genocide”. It should be noted that having a word that is specific to a particular genocide is not unheard of. The Ukrainian forced famine genocide of 1932-1933 is referred to by the term “Holodomar“. The Assyrians refer to the genocide against them by the Turks as the “Sayfo”. Each genocide has its unique aspects, and it is to be expected that the targeted nationality will have a unique and impassioned perspective."

In addition to awakening memories of a troubled past, there is the issue of the 12% of the French population that is Arab. Many French Arabs consider any mention of the Holocaust to be a part of the historical narrative that competes with that of Palestinian suffering that is presented in the Arab world.

The events of World War II divide French society at least as much as the American Civil War, which even today reverberates in America's national outlook and self image. How does one "correctly" teach about the Holocaust and place it in the context of European history? Even 65 years after the end of World War II, this remains a very touchy issue in France.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eric Holder: Stopping Prison Rape Is Too Expensive

Back in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. In 2010, the law remains largely unenforced. According to Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States the law must not "impose substantial additional costs compared to the costs presently expended by federal, state and local prison authorities." In simple language, preventing prisoners from being raped in prison is just too expensive.

As underreported a crime as prison rape is, it is still a serious problem. The Associated Press reports as follows. "The government reported Thursday that 4.4 percent of inmates in prison and 3.1 percent of inmates in jail report being victimized sexually by another inmate or staff member.Those percentages translate to the sexual victimization of 88,500 inmates behind bars nationwide in the previous 12 months, according to a study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008–2009."

It is hard to fathom the dismissive calculations of Eric Holder and many who silently agree with him that keeping prisoners safe from rape is "too expensive", that simple measures such as separating violent and predatory inmates from vulnerable individuals is not feasible.There are undoubtedly hidden costs to turning a blind eye to sexual assaults in prison. Most victims of sexual assault in prison will return to society. What will the costs be in mental and physical health? How many will return to prison because of psychological problems that stem from having been brutalised in prison?

The blame for the neglect of our nation's prisoners goes across the political spectrum. From liberals who can not see prisoners as being capable of oppressing others to conservatives who cavalierly dismiss the abuse meted out to prisoners, It is important to bear in mind that people are sent to prison as punishment rather than for punishment. The dull austerity, the curtailment of personal freedom and the separation from loved ones are all aspects of the prison experience that are meant to be a deterrent. Rape is not part of the sentence.For Eric Holder to publicly declare that preventing rape in prison is "too expensive" is disgraceful and unacceptable. It is a human rights violation that should be condemned by international human rights groups. There is a price for rape prevention, and an even greater price for ignoring it. Which bill will America pay?

*************************************************************One of the videos tells the story about a 17 year old boy who ended up in prison for misdemenor arson. After repeated rapes and repeated denials of protective custody, he committed suicide. His is one of many faces on this terrible problem.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Contribution To A Discussion On Spanking

Members of have been discussing the issues of corporal punishment. Two thoughts come to mind on the issue. One is a bit of advice I received from a rabbi with a large family. He said that even scolding should not be done when one is viscerally angry. He said that the purpose of any sort of punishment should be to educate one's child and not to vent anger. I have found that spanking of any sort has limited and diminishing returns, that it should exist mostly as a theoretical possibility rather than as a regular occurrence.

When my oldest boy was about 4 years old, I got a call from my wife at the warehouse where I was working an evening shift. I asked her how the kids were doing. "Terrible!" she exclaimed, adding that my oldest child was running around and not listening to anything she said.

"Put him on the phone." I answered

"Abie*, mommy says you have been behaving badly. You need a spanking, and it can't wait until I get home! Now put your tush up to the phone."

I waited for a couple of seconds and tapped the mouthpiece on my telephone a couple of times.

"Did you do as I said?" I asked.

"Yeah." Abie answered. "And it didn't even hurt".

"Well if I have to spank you again when I get home, it will hurt". I answered. "Now hand the phone over to mommy."

My wife picked up the phone and asked "What did you tell him?"

I asked her "Did he put his tush up to the phone?

"Yes." she answered with puzzlement in her voice.

I spanked him over the phone. I hope I don't have to do it live later tonight."

For whatever reason, my son was well behaved for the rest of the night.

The other trick I used to use was to pretend that I am not mad but that my hand is. I tell the kid that my hand wants to spank him. I pretend to desperately wrestle with the angry hand and to hold it down. I would ask my kid to help me subdue the angry hand. Invariably, the kid would come over and we would hold the hand down. After a minute of struggle I would say "Don't get it mad again."

I don't generally go for gimmicks, but if you can teach a lesson with laughter, why not?

I would never condemn corporal punishment across the board, but it should really be a rarity. Communicating through the intellect and emotions that distinguish us as human is generally preferable.

*Names have been changed

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thank You Klaus Hoffmann

My son and I were discussing geneology and he asked me if Hoffman is a Jewish name or not. I explained that it was one of those names that could be either Jewish or German. His question jogged my memory of a singer from Berlin named Klaus Hoffmann. When I was back in my 20's, my father and I used to drink Ballantine Ale together and listen to his music. At a time in our lives when we differed about so many things, our musical tastes overlapped. Hoffmann sings in regular High German and some songs in Berlin slang, which brought back memories for my father.

One song, the Kreuzberger Waltz had some lyrics that dealt with playing tennis over the Berlin Wall every Sunday. The lyrics went as follows.

zwischen Checkpoint Charlie und Bernauer Between Checkpoint Charlie and Bernauer
spiel ick sonntags Tennis an der Mauer I play tennis on the (Berlin) Wall
mit der Linken üb ick Rückhand With my left hand I practice backhand

so hau ick den Ball über den Wall and Hit the ball over the wall
ins andere Land into another country
det is jetzt 'n Volkssport geworden It has become a people's sport
das Mauercuptennismatch the Wall Tennis Match
am Sonntag, da stehn die Horden on Sundays the hordes stand there
und haben Kontakt, auch ohne Vertrag and have contact without a treaty
von Ost nach West from East to West
das nennt man den Kreuzberger Walzer that is called the Kreuzberger Waltz
das Mauercuptennismatch The Wall Cup Tennis Match
das spielt man am Sonntag von Westen nach Ost one plays from West to East
und och von Ost nach West and also from East to West

I heard this song in 1978. Hoffmann, who was born in 1951 has been singing and acting since the late 60's, and came out with his first album in 1974. When I heart about his song about playing tennis over the Berlin Wall, it was a wild, insane fantasy. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it upstaged Klaus Hoffmann's song in a way that must have delighted him.

Hoffmann ranges in style from introspective such as his song "Novembermorgen" to angry and satirical, such as in his song "Nein".

There is one line from Hoffmann that has many times rescued me from deep sadness. "Hol mir die Kraft aus Sommertagen und leb' in November davon. "Take for me the power from summer days and live from that in November".

Next time my son stops by with his family, I think I 'll play him some of these songs my father and I used to enjoy together.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pelosi Wants To Investigate Mosque Critics

One of the advantages of daily exposure to Pakistanis and Indians, Serbs and Albanians, Muslims and Jews and other groups listed at war with each other is that one gets regular exposure to mutually exclusive historical narratives. Nancy Pelosi, one of the great limousine liberals of our time, needs such exposure badly. Her latest outrage is her desire to investigate the critics of the mosque at Ground Zero. It reminded me of a moment in the early 60's when I saw a picture of IRS agents executing a search warrant on the headquarters of the Communist Party of the USA. Instinctively I knew that there was politics driving the raid more than anything else.

So Nancy Pelosi wants to investigate the Ground Zero Mosque critics. She wants to keep them busy talking with auditors so they won't have time to fight the Democratic agenda.

The Washington Times quotes the Dragon Lady as follows."I support the statement made by the Interfaith Alliance that 'We agree with the ADL that there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center. At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.'

Don't think for one second that this question will only be asked at Ground Zero. Pelosi, the multi millionaire defender of the downtrodden, knows better than all of us what is good for the oppressed masses. She treats critics like naughty children in junior high school. In the age of the internet, a lot of right wing critics of the Democrats are unpaid, underpaid loners who thrive on caffeine and the ego gratification of seeing their stories hit page 1 of a Google search. Not to be discounted is the desire to stop yelling at the television blaring the 6 o'clock news and to actually reach into cyberspace to influence the direction of the country.

There is a critical difference between wanting to overthrow a government, cancel the constitution and abrogate the rights of citizens and to want to replace legislators who function within that constitutional framework. Pelosi and many of her Democratic allies seem clueless to this critical distinction.

There are all kinds of laws governing campaign contributions that are designed to supposedly rescue us from big lobbyists. A well paid lawyer and an accountant can easily circumvent such laws. If some evil billionaire like say George Soros (to pick a random name) wants to buy a candidate, there should be no legal impediment to doing so, as long as his name is not hidden. In the age of the internet, such information can be spread by grass roots committees of correspondence.

Pelosi and her ilk think that the unwashed masses should welcome her like some North American Evita Peron. Americans aren't buying it. Get a clue Nancy. The people who oppose you are paid a lot less than you and your millionaire husband.