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
Sunday, June 21. 2015
My heart beamed Friday night as my sons welcomed the Sabbath with perfectly sung prayers. My heart broke Saturday night as my sons fought while I grilled a perfect wild-caught salmon, and I got indigestion instead of the meal I thought I deserved.
I'm reminded of the saying, "A Man's children and his garden both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season." And, the growing goes both ways as we fathers grow, have to grow -- into the men we want to be under our children's careful observation, into the men that they need.
We yearn to please but, most important, to pass on life's lessons.
Father's Day is full of platitudes and real feelings, of missed and appreciated opportunities. And, of how much we care by just being there. I'm reminded of
There's a wisecrack, "If God is so perfect, how do you explain us." As fathers, we're not perfect, but we try to find and know the ways to be better, and most of us find it. We continue to strive, and so may our children, with a higher hand to reach for and give us the strength to be better and have hope.
It's not easy being the father or the child.
Thursday, May 14. 2015
Please click this link to the petition and sign on to help keep the faith with our Vietnam veterans and their families.
Wednesday, April 15. 2015
I’m not going to paint this post with pictures or videos, but just let the words stand on their own. Today is Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance of the millions of Jews singled out for slaughter in World War II and the heroes who fought back. Everyone says “never again”, but we all know that is a hollow pretense for almost all who say it. We have watched mass slaughters, including some specifically targeted against discrete ethnic or religious groups, and done little or nothing. As always, almost all say it’s not their business or they don’t want to get involved or similar. So, where does that really leave the Jews of Israel who are daily, openly threatened with extinction by MidEast fanatics who are gathering the means to do so, and getting closer? It leaves the Jews of Israel to do everything possible within its limited persuasion and power to protect itself. That’s the simple truth of the matter. And, the other simple truth of the matter is that the enemies of Israel have so infected this administration in Washington that it is speeding and easing the day of confrontation, in effect and in direct consequences of Washington’s weakness.
It is not surprising that some Jews in the US go along, either out of comforts or lack of ever actually feeling the wolf’s breath. There have always been such. And, although fate has not been kind to them in the past, they are an infection that is not due any excuses for their perfidy. These are simple truths. We will all face the violent outcome and consequences -- regardless of religion or national background -- either by fallout or the burning of our souls in the hell deserved for cowards. Or, we can be more forthright and outspoken and involved in doing all we can, really, to turn this administration away from utter capitulation and the prospective presidential candidates from any shadow of such policies.
Thursday, April 9. 2015
The boys and I just spent 5 days hiking in the desert hills of Joshua Tree and the higher elevations at Idyllwild. Perhaps I'll post some photos later. It being Passover, we do not eat leavened cereal grains, so the bread in sandwiches is out. Craving calories, we went to the Jewish deli in Palm Springs, Sherman's, and found its solution to the Passover sandwich dilemma: a pound of corned beef wrapped in two big potato latkes (pancakes). Gluttonous heaven.
Friday, April 3. 2015
The first Passover Seder is tonight.
The Passover Seder, in which we follow a strict order of prayers and foods, is the Jewish way of remembering from whence we came from slavery into freedom. The question has been debated among Judaism's leading scholars whether it is more important to learn the rules of Passover or the lessons of Passover. It is largely a false dichotomy. Following the Seder rules are an act of devotion and discipline to continue the memory of our roots. The memory of our roots, however, are not just about a history but a future. In every generation we are to remember and feel the experience of the Divine liberation, and that since then there have been numerous efforts to eradicate us so it is important to build solidarity and faith for survival.
The narrative is about what the past tells us for our future. The narrative is meant to be a call to discuss and think about freedom, slavery, choice, and destiny. The Exodus is a call to revolutionary hope, rather than acceding to slavery and hardship. Because of retaining the memory of the seemingly impossible liberation, as if we had ourselves experienced it, it provides the hope and belief that the days to come will not necessarily be like today, if we work and fight for a better tomorrow. That's why the Seder ends with the affirmation of next year being in Jerusalem, of the ingathering in peace, safety and justice.
The Passover Seder is a ritual meal that serves our vision of improving our lives and world.
There's a third element that is important in Judaism: enjoying ourselves so that our connectedness is emotionally felt and ongoing via teaching in an enjoyable way. With that, I give you the latest "uptown" Passover narrative:
Sunday, January 18. 2015
Good art opens vistas to the viewer that he or she wouldn’t ordinarily see or know are there. The new film American Sniper is great art, and we have Clint Eastwood to thank for it. For a nation in which so very, very few serve in the military and in combat, there is huge ignorance of the simple and essentially heroic motivations of our defenders and their sacrifices unimaginable to a civilian. Each and every serviceman experiences war in their own way, and each has a story that is unique. Most do not share that story with anyone or with more than a trusted few. I’ve probably seen as many “war movies” as anyone, and it is rare that the connections to a man’s service is served up so realistically to the audience. There are no John Waynes. There are individuals who stand tall when needed and meet their responsibilities at any cost. The theater was packed and entirely silent, not a person stirring in their seat. We filed out in silence, each person experiencing the film in their own way and thinking. How rare for a film to take the audience’s breath away. That’s art.
Saturday, December 20. 2014
The Washington Post editorial, "President Obama's 'betrayal" of Cuban democrats", obliterates the ignorant comparisons of establishing relations with Vietnam compared to doing so with Cuba.
The Washington Post describes the human rights results in China and Vietnam, after their rulers and lackeys profit from US trade:
Instead, the Washington Post supports the human rights demands from those brave enough to speak out within Cuba:
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
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