We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, December 18. 2014
Read it and weep, not only about this "comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration" as the Washington Post editorial terms it but it continues "Mr. Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades." Further, it will encourage other despots and their useful idiots in the Western Left, as "they will press the Obama administration not to sanction Venezuela."
Then weep that ignorance at Maggies Farm abets useful idiocy, and gives a pass to the dispiriting of those facing the China and Russia bullies.
Tuesday, December 16. 2014
The earlier written narrative of the Maccabean revolt against Hellenization and outlawing Jewish worship differs in emphasis from the later “official” Jewish take on the result.
The portion of the Apocrypha (biblical era writings not included in the Jewish Bible) dealing with the events does not mention a miracle of one day’s sanctified oil for the Menorah lasting 8 days. The Book of Maccabees speaks, instead, of eight days of rejoicing the victory to substitute for the eight days of the Torah requirement to celebrate Sukkot, which were missed due to the fighting. The eight days celebration of Chanukah (i.e., rededication) became a custom for every year.
Several centuries later, in the Babylonian Talmud (finalized approx. 5th century, Common Era) interpreting Jewish law and customs, the narrative takes on a new twist, emphasis on G-d’s “miracle” of the oil, which downplays the emphasis on the accomplishment of mens’ arms to retrieve the Temple and Judaism from Hellenistic extinction.
What had happened?: The fall of the Temple and the dispersal (Diaspora) of surviving Jews. No longer having a state, Jews had to survive through craft or accommodation (different than assimilation) to the religion and politics of the states they lived within and not by emphasizing their abilities to fight, not to mention win, when persecuted.
The rise of Zionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s emphasized Jews’ ability to fight and win, and to deserve and have a state to protect Jews from thousands of years of oppression, persecution, and murder, based on thousands of years of roots, presence, worship, investment, hard work, and unceasing yearning for Israel. The more secular Zionists’ pragmatic emphasis stood in stark contrast to the more pacifist or accomodationist teachings that had dominated for almost two millennia.
Today, although a small minority within Israel still cling to illusions of a “miracle” of Palestinians and Muslims transforming their hate into peace, a larger proportion of Jews in the US and Europe – less existentially threatened – cling to such illusions. In Israel and elsewhere, Jews light the eight lights of the Menorah with the extra “helper” light, but the emphasized meaning behind the ritual differs. Adherence to G-d may have given Jews the internal strength to fight and survive, but it was not (as during the Exodus) G-d who directly intervened.
Regardless of this difference, the overriding and more important thing that unites Jews is that regardless of how to get there, either way requires faith and hope. Without faith and hope, necessary for resilience, Jews would not have had reason, cohesion or the internal strength to survive the depredations and challenges to existence of the past two-thousand years since the fall of the Temple to the Romans. Hatikva, Israel's national anthem, means The Hope.
As long as the heart within
Our hope is not yet missing,
Chanukah starts tonight. Come celebrate the miracle of endurance and survival.
The Credo, by Zionist poet Saul Tchernichovsky:
Laugh at all my silly dreams!
Thursday, November 13. 2014
My long-time good friend, Father Paul McNellis S.J., is one of four Vietnam veteran panelists at Boston College (where Paul is now a much loved and respected professor of philosophy) discussing their experiences, what they learned, and how it affected their lives. This 90-minutes is very valuable for all, very informative and touching. Whether you don't know or think you know about Vietnam, watching and listening to this panel will valuably expand your understandings.
Tuesday, November 11. 2014
Monday, November 10. 2014
Today the United States Marine Corps celebrates its 239th Anniversary. Our motto "Semper Fidelis", otherwise usually spoken as "Semper Fi", Latin for "Always Faithful", neatly sums up what we carry through service and life, what stands Marines apart as the nation's ready, reliable, dedicated warriors, never beaten. This short essay does the motto proud.
Friday, October 10. 2014
Many otherwise prudent people, many of whom may have smoked marijuana decades ago when it was far less potent than now, have gone along with the increased legalization of marijuana. It may be so that for most consumers, who do not abuse it, the harmful effects are minor. However, for many the short and long term effects are not minor. It is ironic that liberal politicians who are so eager to stamp out smoking tobacco and who are so fervent about controlling other things many consume are supporters of marijuana legalization. Their reasons are either that they still do imbibe or that they see another source of taxes they can spend on their other notions.
A scholarly analysis of the research since 1993 done into the health effects of marijuana finds:
Saturday, October 4. 2014
Through the Jewish High Holy Days ending with Yom Kippur tonight, we search our souls and behaviors for corrections that will bring a better year. Last night before Kol Nidre, I was chatting with the new, young Assistant Rabbi. I commented that much of life is a test of how we will act and react. The Senior Rabbi’s sermon last night added depth to this. He examined a facet of resilience that is at the core of our teachings, gratitude. We begin our days with a prayer of thanks for experiencing our senses. The Rabbi added that as we face adversities, beyond just faith in our Creator or ourselves there is the strength and refocus from pain provided by gratitude for the blessings of life we have had, have now, or will have. As we always end our prayers tonight at the end of Yom Kippur services, “next year in Jerusalem,” not just literally but figuratively will we be in the land of milk and honey.
Wednesday, September 24. 2014
Rosh Hashanah, which begins tonight, is the first of the intense ten Days Of Awe (or Repentance) that ends with Yom Kippur. Is ten days enough time to make good on our better selves and set a course for a better year and life ahead? For some it may be. For most of us however, it takes many years to set ourselves straight with others and with G-d’s desires for how we should live. It really doesn’t matter as long as you get there. What does matter is the realization that every day that goes by without thinking about it, without in some way working at it, is time lost forever and opportunities lost forever.
Shana Tova Umetukah is the traditional greeting at Rosh Hashanah. It means I wish you a sweet and good New Year. It is up to you to make it come true.
Wednesday, September 3. 2014
Tuesday, September 2. 2014
My friend, strategist Mark Safranski, also known as the ZenPundit, offers a masterful review of What To Do About ISIS: Constructing Strategy, Weighing Options, from nothing to full-out annihilation. It really is a must read summary of the paths the US might take, having already allowed the threat to multiply manyfold by the Obama administration's ignoring it although briefed about ISIS for a year.
Now for the Obama administration, late to wake up even a little, as Safranski puts it:
Attempting to find the strategy with no risks and no hard choices is a policy to engage primarily in ineffectual military gesticulations insufficient to actually change the status quo in Iraq and Syria ( and the eternal default strategy of domestic political consultants and career bureaucrats playing at foreign policy)....
Monday, September 1. 2014
Below is a repost of a column I wrote at another venue for Labor Day 2006 and posted again here in 2011:
What remains of Labor Day? Some speeches about the hard work of our parents or grandparents, and some newspaper articles about current difficulties getting established or obtaining benefits for today’s workers.
Conservatives are distinguished by particular respect for the hallowed history from which current and future advantages spring, without which we would be rootless and at the whim of passing fancies or incitements.
Supposedly, the virtues and rewards of hard work are among these cherished principles.
The Left trumpets redistributive schemes from the affluent or hard working to the poor or lazy, most of which have relatively little benefit to the poor but create newly enriched bureaucrats and union leaders.
Conservatives’ answer is usually more along the lines of how to preserve and protect the fruits of the labor by those in the middle and upper rungs of the economic ladder.
Sebastian Mallaby steps on the Left and Right’s toes today in the Washington Post.
Mallaby points out the futility of most of the Left’s prescriptions, to the “point the left begins to seethe.” He then focuses on reducing tax incentives that mostly accrue to the middle and upper classes, to free up a quarter of them for $180-billion that could be used for increased earned income credits and reduced regressive payroll taxes.
The problem with Mallaby’s arguments is that they are another, albeit better, form of redistribution, and government has repeatedly proven its penchant for wasting such billions on other than targeted needs. More necessary is the unbridling of energies and rewards for labor. That requires investment which creates demand for labor, and skills-oriented education that creates competitive wage earners to fill those new openings.
As Mallaby correctly argues, many of the poorest workers are in service trades not impacted by international competition. Such positions that were once beginning rungs on the ladder now face a gap of steps up due to lack of skills.
Instead of redistributing tax incentives, more needed is redistributing our already huge tax outlays on education from schemes that create administrative and union positions, and posh campuses, toward greater vocational and skills education.
That honors labor, by providing the tools for all to benefit from labor.
Wednesday, August 27. 2014
A former reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press writes about what journalists get so wrong. It's all well worth reading:
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate....
Monday, August 11. 2014
Rand Paul panders to Americans' exhaustion with the failures wrought by half-measures that have marked down US effectiveness and credibility in the world. To do so without a policy of concrete measures that must be taken in the real world is directly akin to the empty pandering of Barack Obama in 2008. Is that the repeat disaster we want, of a continued dangerous downward spiral for the US interests and security.
Sunday, August 10. 2014
The Obama-Paul paths in foreign policy are immoral in
Both Barack Obama and Rand Paul are products of trends in
Barack Obama epitomizes those who at a young age adopted the
Defense of this mindset requires belief that Vietnam was
Rand Paul was raised in this defeatism as spread through the
Due to the shortage of US military forces following the
The results in encouraged and enlarged hostile terrorists
The Obama administration and most of the media are being as
The very limited and very late small measures by the Obama
Hillary Clinton mouths empty words about being a bit more forceful than Obama. She tries to position
Both the Obama and the Paul
Monday, April 14. 2014
As they fled from Egypt, the Hebrews stared at the Red Sea in front of them and the Pharoh’s army closing on their rear. Now, that was a really fearful barrier to aliyah, the act of rising up toward Jerusalem and living one’s soul fully. That border from slavery to freedom caused many to tremble and consider surrendering.
We conduct the seder, the traditional prayers and meal by which we celebrate and remember that G-d liberated us, as a central continuation of our bond with G-d and the rediscovery of the relevance of that liberation across the generations. At the same time we can expand on that central group meaning by remembering and celebrating the other yearnings of our soul to live in freedom as an individual.
We spend most of our lives in “shoulds” that we were taught or acquired. Most of the shoulds are worthwhile and meaningful. However, many are needless limitations on exploring what lies beyond the borders to which we’ve grown accustomed. They are self-imposed chains on our souls. There is a simple way to know if you are living your soul: do you feel at peace and contentment, pretty much regardless of external stressors? If you do not, you are not living your soul.
We each have a unique soul, too often quite smothered under shoulds and only faintly known to us and lived. Passover provides a time to consider what we knew as children, what we feel when in moments of exaltation, what we yearn for, what we can accomplish, how we can be freer. This does not mean being excessive or abandoning responsibilities. It just means living truer to our own nature and to how we wish to be with others in order to have a more meaningful and richer life experience, which also attracts others to do so in their own way.
During the seder we point at the matzoh and say, “For the sake of this, G-d did so much for me when I left Egypt.” If any that we know about, Jewish or other, are less than free, we pledge ourselves to bettering their lot. That is our duty, carried over many centuries. Our duty to ourselves is no less important, as the freer each of us is to live our soul in peace and joy, the moreso we can carry that blessing to others.
A Messiah may come and bring us all peace. Meanwhile we can make a personal aliyah and rise up to bring ourselves more peace by living our soul -- freeing the better side to feel and constructively channeling the assertive side -- and from that bring more peace and freedom to others by our example and deeds.
The celebration of Passover is not only by Jews but by many others of different religions. Passover's message of freedom is universal.
A new song-video by the a capella group Maccabeats, done in a Les Miserables way, brings forth another important lesson from Passover. If Moses had not risen to the challenges within himself and from others, his name would have been unknown and Hebrews left in slavery to disappear from history.
There are some scientific critiques of the details of the Exodus in the Jewish Bible. The fine film Life Of Pi brings forth another important lesson, from India, but just as well from Passover. We choose how we remember our lives and travails, and that choice shapes the rest of our lives dramatically.
May you all have a good Passover.
Monday, February 3. 2014
Mensch is a Yiddish word that means "a person of integrity." A mensch is someone who is responsible, has a high sense of right and wrong and lives that way, and is the sort of person other people look up to. It is one of the very highest compliments that can be said about someone.
My friend, US born and raised Barry Rubin, who passed away yesterday, was a mensch. Barry Rubin for decades was a leading scholar on the Middle East, former professor, widely published in major newspaper and blog columns, author of many books, leader of research institutes, and counselor to others around the world. Indeed, on this last point, the extent of his secret and frank communications with people in Moslem countries whose views varied from Barry's is an important indicator of how well respected he was as well as the depth of the well from which he drew his insights.
Continue reading "Barry Rubin, my friend, was a Mensch"
Monday, December 23. 2013
This was written by a former POW in Hanoi, Mike Benge. To know more of his astonishing survival, read his POW bio.
Every one of our servicemembers must know that we will never forget nor abandon them. The punks in the Obama administration are the only ones who deserve to be abandoned. Their cowardly perfidy will not be forgotten.
Christmas Lights over
Saturday, December 7. 2013
One of the many things missed by many so-called "cosmopolitan sophisticates" (actually self-absorbed reality avoiders) is that the deepest pleasures in life are in giving, not taking, and creating the appreciation for giving in our children.
We had a full day scheduled for today, as do most families on weekends. Each year for the past eight or so the boys and I have brought new toys to the breakfast at Camp Pendleton (about a half-hour north of us) paid for by Congressman Issa, whose foundation pays for many such charitable works throughout North County San Diego. We usually go at about 11AM but would need to go at 7:30AM in order to make it to Gavin's basketball game at 11AM. I asked Gavin if he wanted to skip the toy collection breakfast today, so he wouldn't be tired for the game due to the earlier wakeup. Gavin immediately replied, "But, then poor kids will not have as many toys for the Holidays." Out of the mouth of babes (actually a just a month short of 9-years old) comes the core wisdom we take pleasure is seeing in our children.
So, arriving early, Congressman Issa marveled at how both boys have grown over the years he has known them.
Then we joined another family with whom we've sat for the past 5-years, whose son Eugene also had a basketball game today, so they arrived early, and for the same reason -- to make sure that kids less fortunate had new toys for Christmas.
Off to basketball, Gavin arrived just as the game began, and his increasing skills were soon evident. (We practice together every chance we get, especially right now on strengthening his dribbling with his non-dominant hand.) (below) -
Continue reading "Giving"
Monday, December 2. 2013
When I was much younger and lived in the East I went on many barefoot and small luxury sailings all over the Caribbean, primarily to the more diverse and less "Americanized" southern reaches. From San Diego, however, the air connections to the southern Caribbean waste a full day of misery. You can't beat the islands of the south, but it's not worth the arduous flight unless for more than several weeks stay.
One of the advantages of having young sons is that they have not seen the southern Caribbean and would not be disappointed by the more touristy Western Caribbean. They are curious and adventurous travelers -- and well behaved, pleasant company -- so, off we went with a direct connection from San Diego to Miami, a day of relaxation there, and then a Carnival ship to Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, and Grand Cayman. Thanksgiving, Chanukah and my birthday made for a very special trip of lasting memories.
I haven't been in Miami since I left Florida in 1979. A convenient public bus took us to South Beach from our hotel on a bay. Lincoln Road pedestrian mall has certainly improved with blocks chock full of tropical plantings and ethnic restaurants surrounded by spacioius outdoor seating areas under large umbrellas or canopies. The Santa Monica pedestrian mall is inspired by Lincoln Road but far misses the mark. We lucked in to the very best Cuban food ("YUCA"=Young Urban Cuban Americans) I've had since leaving Florida, and the boys gobbled theirs with many Hmmmmms of delectable delight. A bit further along the walk we came upon a giant Menorah and Dreidal for upcoming Chanukah. We didn't count but took the sign's word that it was made of over 25,000 seashells.
The next treat was visiting the historic Art Deco hotels along the South Beach. Before they became trendy, and extremely expensive, my grandmother would come down for the winters in the 1960s and 1970s. The insides are deluxe now but the exteriors are preserved. Lit up at night you feel like you stepped back to the 1930s and 1940s. The boys stood on the spot where I have a photo of me with my grandmother. She would be smiling with nachas.
The famous wide Miami Beach and its high rise hotels of varying ages, from the 1950s to now, are across the street from Grandma's hotel and stretch for miles.
Caution: Beefcake photo below.
Continue reading "Kid Cruisin' in South Beach"
Thursday, November 28. 2013
First day of Chanukah
Although almost all use quotations from the Bible to buttress modern day arguments, relatively few have ever read it. Actually, I should say any of them. For there's the Jewish Bible, the Catholic Bible, and various Protestant Bibles, and among these are various translations, inclusions and exclusions.
One of the narratives, that of the Maccabees, is not included in the Jewish Bible. There's several reasons offered: The two Books of Maccabees are in the Alexandrian Greek version, and only those Books in the original Hebrew are included. (Other Books of similar non-Hebrew language or not accepted as divine scripture, like Judith, are as well in the Apocrypha, some in some denominations' Bibles.) The reign of the Maccabees' heirs were not of the sacred line of David and, therefore, unworthy to be treated as kings. Their rule was tarnished by corrupt practices, and contributed toward the internal divisiveness and, then, destruction by the Romans of the Jewish homeland, the wholesale massacres of Jews there and diaspora to alien lands for the remainder. Then, there's the rationale that for a people in exile, subject to survival under and adaptations to inhospitable or suspicious foreign ways, it was not good politics to exalt recent Jews as warriors in the codification of the Jewish Bible.
Today, with the increased ability of Jews to practice openly and participate constructively in Western societies, and with pride in having a homeland to secure safety for all Jews who would return there, the relatively minor holiday of Chanukah is celebrated widely. Providing a celebration for Jewish children at the time of year that others celebrate Christmas has made of Chanukah a major holiday. lt also fits with the recovery of a homeland of refuge in
Still, if Chanukah is degraded to just blue-and-white lights in place of red-and-yellow, or icicles, Chanukah is made meaningless.
One must remember there are two Books of Maccabee. The first Book deals with the profanation and oppression in which many Jews went along to survive -- leading to the brave fight by a few for religious freedom that overwhelmed seemingly undefeatable might.
(There's also the side-story of Hannah and her seven sons, who endured the most severe tortures practiced in those times, the descriptions of which would even sicken a surrealist, rather than renounce their faith.)
The second Book deals with the resanctification of the
I'll leave the canonical and scholarly debates here for others, in order to draw a lesson. Chanukah and the Maccabees fits within the Jewish Bible's narrative, whether formally or by custom. And, more attention deserves to be given the first Book, to understand the second. Fight, or surrender to comforts and fears and, thus, perish.
The Jewish Bible is a series of opportunities for living the guidance provided by G-d through experience and direction, often failing to do so in successive generations and paying terrible prices to relearn and return to basic truths. In this sense, Jews are fated to be a small self-selecting people, those who adhere to these basic truths, while by basic frail human nature others fall and fail by the wayside, merging into ostensibly safer masses.
The modern state of Israel struggles with these choices, and so far has risen beyond any expectations -- by rejecting the sophistry of self-serving internal weaklings, defectors, and collaborators paid off by Israel's enemies, and by evading false friends in high-places within other governments, who all recommend paths that are well-known to lead to defeatism and doom.
So, depending on the transliteration, to all a Happy Chanukah, or Hannukah. These young people in a flash mob on Ben Yehuda Street are the spirit that bring pride to fighting to endure in basic truth, for the benefit of all. There are onlookers and there are participants. Without modern Maccabees, participants in fighting for life, all would be enslaved.
Wednesday, September 4. 2013
The Jewish High Holy Days begin this evening with Rosh Hashanah.
One of the traditional Rosh Hashanah greetings is Shana Tovah, which literally means have a good year. The meaning goes deeper. To have a good year is to have sincerely repented one's transgressions and set yourself on a better acting and thinking path.
The eve of Rosh Hashanah, and the concluding of Yom Kippur in the evening 10-days later when our fate is sealed by G-d, is a period of especially intense inspection of self and correction of self. It is Jews' most solemn holiday period (read, Holy Days).
It is also a time to come together with loved ones as well as to find ways to come together with former adversaries. It is a time to enjoy our customs, especially the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar), especially at Rosh Hashanah, to literally "come awake" to ourselves, our relationships with others and with G-d. And, it is a time to enjoy apples and honey, to symbolize our hopes for a sweet new year. It is a time of long days of prayer. For me, the longer the better, as it is not the words so much that are important as entering a sense of transcendence in which I rise above ordinary thoughts to reach new breakthroughs, understandings, and ways to become better.
Like for other Jewish occasions, Rosh Hashanah has become a time for our modern youth to create new music, to bring new verve into our traditional ways. Enjoy this one. (I'm not getting it to embed, so please click through to YouTube.) P.S.: In the video, the tossing of bread into moving waters (tashlich) is to symbolize casting off our sins.
Here's a snippet of the verses: "Atonement's what I'm after; It's a new year, now we gotta do something"
The Jewish High Holy Days, and the Hebrew month of Elul's introspection preceding them, require of each of us to "do something", at the very least, to create a better self and world. Our custom has been adapted into Christianity with Lent, and into Islam with Ramadan. May we all earnestly work to be better. We all need to and we all need it.
Friday, August 30. 2013
Salif Keita is "an afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the "Golden Voice of Africa" but because he has albinism and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita."
He was scheduled to appear at a charity fundraiser in Israel for albinos. Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) zealots tormented and threatened him, which is their common tactic to get artists not to appear in Israel. The "Golden Voice of Africa" used his voice, via his albino foundation, to tell off the BDSers. This is what he experienced:
August 22, 2013
While elsewhere in Africa, at a South African university, members of the BDS there "sing, “dubula e juda” (“shoot the Jew”) as concert attendees to hear an Israeli saxophonist were entering the music hall, according to a newspaper affiliated with the university.
That's their lie and they're sticking to it!
Wednesday, July 10. 2013
Sunday, June 30. 2013
If, coulda, woulda, shoulda about history may not change it but does change our understanding of what happened and why. The two gravest mistakes the US made in Vietnam were to participate in, even bless, the overthrow of President Diem and then to not use our overwhelming force to bring North Vietnam to its knees.
The overthrow of Diem in 1963 upended the South Vietnamese pacification efforts and disrupted the organization of the professional army, requiring the large-scale US involvement. The failure to then use our massive force, especially in the air on North Vietnamese strategic targets instead of sending multi-million dollar planes against cheap trucks, allowed the North to extend its reach and prolong the war.
Mark Moyars wrote the book "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965." It details how Diem's efforts were succeeding and were destroyed by the coup. In the June 29 Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall) Moyar reviews three other recent books that come to the same conclusion. Wise guys in Washington should not be in such a hurry to think they can superimpose their ideal of Western democracy where the foundations have not been laid and in the midst of war requiring unified stern measures.
Of historical note is, not only in 1964-5 the failure to bring to bear the Joint Chiefs' recommendations for strategic targeting of the North, but how in 1970 there was a similar failure of will in Washington. As President Nixon showed in 1972 by launching such a ferocious air attack on Hanoi and Haiphong, the war could have been shortened and many thousands of lives saved. Rear Admiral Joe Vasey was right hand man to Admiral John McCain Jr, Commander-In-Chief Pacific Command during 1968-1972. In an exclusive to this blog, for historical record, Joe Vasey has agreed to publish the below "after inaction" report on what could have been in 1970. (My apologies for the spacing below, due to copying-pasting from an email.)
Continue reading "What could have beens in Vietnam"
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