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
Friday, April 22. 2016
This column confronts the anti-Israel agenda of trying to disassociate Jews from our thousands of years of roots and attachment in favor of relative newcomers, many indeed only since Israel brought relative prosperity to the formerly barren desert. Most recently, UNESCO ignored the Jewish temples on the Mount in Jerusalem -- our holiest place-- instead just referring to the site by later Arab names.
Here's the column, well worth the read, about Jews as a people and a religion, with Passover and its narrative being highlighted for its a central portion of our daily prayers, our ethic, and our unending attachment to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount-- regardless of diaspora and persecutions.
Passover, with the first Seder, begins tonight.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a member of the Institute's iEngage Project, and a contributing editor to The New Republic. His latest book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, was named the 2013 National Jewish Book Council Book of the Year. His autobiography, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, has just been released in paperback by HarperCollins.
Continue reading "Passover Answers Whether Jews Are A People Or Just A Religion"
Thursday, January 21. 2016
I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but I am declaring myself for Ted Cruz, because I have always leaned toward the moderate wing of the Republican Party and have always been first and foremost a foreign affairs conservative. But, the Republican Party is too far away from even minimal effectiveness, even with Congressional majorities, the issues being so aligned closer to conservative values, and the sheer incompetence and thuggishness of the Obama administration so evident and scary. And, Republicans in leadership have been as willing as Democrats to allow the hollowing of our military and degradation of its spirit. The situations in the MidEast and with Russia and China are among the most fearsome that our country has faced and we have frittered away our abilities to counter these threats. At the same time, our domestic strengths have been so weakened and spent into moral and financial near bankruptcy that unless we rebuild domestically we can forget about having a future in dealing with foreign gangsters not to mention the class of gangsters -- the politicians arm-in-arm with Wall Street and megacorporations --who are looting our pockets and self-esteem.
Ted Cruz is not a foreign affairs candidate. If anything, I would expect him to be restrained, both out of traditional conservative restraint and due to concentrating on setting us upright at home. He may be too restrained for my taste but there is something more important right now at stake, the very survival of the United States as the strong beacon of values that light up the world. Meanwhile, I feel confident that Ted Cruz will help rebuild our military strength and combativeness, weakened by social experiments that disregard fighting effectiveness, and will not stand idly by as foreign slime spit at us.
Ted Cruz is a principled Constitutionalist and conservative of the stripe that used to be so common. That's why the hypocrites and sell-outs in the Senate despise him, because compared to his legislative bravery they are revealed as pygmies of pusillanimity. I remember when Barry Goldwater ran for the nomination, how castigated he was by the Republican establishment, who deserted him. He lost by a landslide, but set a standard that Americans could gather around and retake the Republican Party for conservative principle and patriotism that didn't just conveniently wave the flag but who were willing to bleed for it and for what it stands for. That is Ted Cruz. Every generation, we must reassert our standard of principles, or see them bought for a pocket of lucre and allowed to be weakened for the passing comforts of laziness.
Ted Cruz may very well go down to defeat. It is tough to buck the stacked big city states in the electoral college and the sheer wall of hatred spewed by the mainstream media against any Republican -- and most Americans still get their news and views from the mainstream media. So may any other Republican go down to defeat. None of them are inspiring. I am willing to see that happen IF, IF, the Republican candidate sets out a clear standard of conservatism and articulate, knowledgeable defense of the Constitution and decency of values. Of all the candidates, only Ted Cruz has done that and can do that and be counted on to govern that way if elected.
At National Review some of the leading principled conservatives, none of them sycophants of big government-big business, set out their reasoned opposition to Donald Trump. In doing so they actually set out the case for a real, principled, knowledgeable, brave conservative. The only one on the field who lives up to that standard is Ted Cruz.
Monday, December 7. 2015
This year’s calendar offers a way to think about two important dates in Judaism, the birth of today’s Israel and Chanukah. The two dates represent the importance of struggle to accomplish a Jewish state as well as the struggle to deserve a Jewish state.
Four days after I was born, the modern state of Israel was ratified by the United Nations partition vote on November 29, 1947. Here’s a video recollection.
In the video, a commenter says that with the UN resolution Jews were no longer the object of history, acted upon by others, but the subject, taking control over their own fate. Divine intervention may have helped but it was the struggles of man that fulfilled the two-millennia of prayers.
A humorous take is that at the beginning of a year G-d tells a pious man he will be rewarded by winning the lottery before year end. Months pass and come late December the pious man asks of G-d why he hasn’t won yet. The response: “Meet me halfway, buy a ticket.”
The creation of modern Israel is when Jews got the message. Similarly, the two books of Macabbees on the origin of Chanukah offer contrasts between struggles of man and divine intervention. The first book is a fairly straight-forward reputable history. The second book contains more of the divine. (Here’s an analysis of the books of Maccabees, and theories of why they are not included in the Jewish bible.)
Maccabees (left); Hasmonean Kingdom 140-37 BC (right)
The most accepted theory of why the books of Maccabees are not included in the Jewish bible is that the Maccabee Hasmonean dynasty was not of the house of David and that it was itself later corrupted by Hellenism, due to its failure to live up to its nationalistic founding, and because the Jewish bible’s canonizers avoided provoking the Romans after their destruction of Israel, murder of as many Jews as they could and the dispersal of Jews to relative refuge elsewhere.
With the creation of modern Israel, as well as Jews promoting Chanukah as a counter to the lures upon their young of Christmas festivities, Chanukah has risen from a minor to a major Jewish holiday and the books of Maccabees are read more often.
The same tensions exist for modern Israel as for the Hasmonean and succeeding Herodian and diaspora era Jews.
To what extent is the influence or antipathy of other powerful states to be accommodated or resisted? To what extent can the core nature of the Jewish state be compromised? To what extent are the survival of the state of Israel and the fate of Jews in their own hands?History and current events are why the original Maccabees are today’s models. Those, within or outside, who counsel surrender of vital interests or defeatism would bring upon Israel and Jews another diaspora, at best, and another likely slaughter.
Friday, December 4. 2015
At this time of year, we either join with our families or yearn for our families. That's one kind of home. But, there's another home that is always there, available and welcoming. "Lift yourself up higher and you'll find your way back home." The song is multi-denominational, open for all.
Thursday, December 3. 2015
Below is the letter I received today from my good friend, fellow USMC Vietnam veteran, Del Vecchio. The contribution can be made at the website of the Vietnam Healing Foundation (www.thevhf.org ) :
Well, here it is, December again, Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas coming up fast. This is the time I send out my end of year appeal for support for the charity that brings badly needed help to the crippled old South Vietnamese veterans still eking out their lives in Viet Nam.
We are now supporting directly 100 vets and their families, and also providing partial support to 30 others who have come to us with desperate requests for some help. Our work has become more difficult because of the police taking an ever worse view of us. In February on my last visit, I was "busted" in Hue for the crime of giving money to people the top cop of that region doesn't like, and told to leave and never come back. So my days of visiting the old vets to give them some real recognition from a former comrade and raise their spirits have come to an end. This is a bitter thing for me, it was such an important thing to them to have someone come from the US to see them, and I was so deeply honored to be able to give that service.
But our work goes on, the men get older and sicker and need more medicines, and now every month or so another one passes on. But we have a long list of those waiting for help, so we go on running events to raise some funds, and of course depending heavily on donations from others who understand the plight of these men and wish to help. Please consider if you can contribute anything this year. Our overhead remains under 5%, so you know the money you give will end up right in the hands of those who need it. You can send checks or use PayPal, and all contributions are tax deductible. (If there are others you know who might have any interest in this cause, please feel free to pass this on.)
Wednesday, December 2. 2015
Jewish humor is well known for poking fun of the pompous. Even when it's us. Readers know how opposed I am to so-called recreational drug use. But, this video will be enjoyed by recreational drug users as well as those of us not too pompous.
Monday, October 5. 2015
To read the "other words", see the Washington Post.
Sunday, September 13. 2015
The Jewish High Holy Days, the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance as they are often called, begins tonight with Rosh Hashanah and ends in ten days with Yom Kippur. Compared to other Jewish holidays full of joy and laughs, these are somber days during which our deeds are weighed and our fate sealed for the coming year. G-d weighs our measure in fulfilling our responsibilities to G-d. Others weigh our measure in how we behave to them, and for those we have harmed will our confessions to them, our entreaties for forgiveness, and demonstrations of living better be considered real. Words alone are far from enough. Our actions are necessary in how we live.
We draw inspiration from G-d, and we draw upon our decency and learning to behave in a just way.
There are many prayers of public confession and begging for forgiveness from G-d and from our fellow beings. Most are ancient and carry special meanings and messages. Some are more recent, or annotated, to help deliver relevant meaning to the reader or listener. There are personal prayers for our own improvement. Most come down to the basic asking G-d to help us find the strength within to do what's right. It is our responsibility to reach down deep and live up to our better self. That is my daily prayer, and it works.
Whether Jewish or other, may the coming year be one of living better.
Wednesday, September 9. 2015
EMPLOYER COSTS FOR EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION – JUNE 2015
Friday, September 4. 2015
We are now in the midst of the Hebrew month of Elul. This is the month of extra introspection to recognize the errors of our ways, and to publicly admit them and ask forgiveness from those we may have harmed, and correct our ill ways for the future. Elul leads up to the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, at which our fate is sealed for the coming year.
This poem, "The Guy In The Glass", by Dale Wimbrow is appropriate.
When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
Tuesday, September 1. 2015
Ideas are the force that drives history. If we aren’t willing to fight for what we believe, then we will lose to those who are. And make no mistake, we are not winning this war.
Monday, August 31. 2015
Friday, August 21. 2015
When I was a poor boy in Brooklyn, I read as many biographies of great people as I could, in order to learn what character traits led to their accomplishments so I could learn how to raise myself in the world. Now, many decades later, I live content that I have lived my dreams and fantasies and along the way have marked up a few signal accomplishments that made a real difference. There was a character trait that I don’t recall showing up in the bios I devoured, one which has given me satisfaction, being content with living on one’s own terms, regardless the prices. That is the character trait that you, the reader will see in the memoir written by one of my oldest friends, Sol Sanders, PEOPLE!: Vignettes gathered along the way through a long life.
On his 89th birthday. Sol’s life and anecdotes are a testament to full tilt living a “Forrest Gump” existence as an
Instead, what stands out in Sol’s memoir is his journey, the rocks or rapids of fate and purpose, and the personalities of the great and influential he met. It is the personalities and environment that are the focus, and hence the book’s title PEOPLE! As Sol writes at the end of his memoir, “These individual pieces obviously were purposely not chronologically arranged, in an attempt to give the reader an overall sense of the larger tableau on which my life has been written….I do not intend that the reader will come away with any specific knowledge of my life and times, but rather a general impression.” Sol’s memoir is a series of brief chapters about the personalities and foibles he encountered, and along the way reveals his formative experiences, the happenstances that flung him from a tiny mountain town in North Carolina through the first J-School, headlong into the close of WWII in Italy, on to Paris, India, Indonesia, IndoChina, Japan, NYC editor of world news, and today still a columnist whose discussions and judgments are among the most concise and telling one can find anywhere. There are 381-pages of tales, and there could have been many times more as I recollect many of Sol’s adventures and interactions that aren’t in the book.
For the reader who has not had such a life, or who is not familiar enough with the history of the second half of the 20th
Maybe in another 22-years, when I am Sol’s age, I can commit the unembarrassed self-exposure that Sol does in his memoir. For now, come along and meet Westmoreland, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Bill Casey, McNamara, Kuan Yew, Diem, Norman Thomas, and so many others your head may spin. Meet some personalities of whom you may never have heard, who shaped our history. Go through India and Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam (where Sol was one of the best correspondents, due to his personal relationships with Vietnamese insiders), Laos and Cambodia, Japan, journalism, as they went through the decades after WWII and took us along. Feel the friendships that Sol enjoyed. If you want to understand people and the real world, live in it, or at least get a glimpse in Sol Sanders memoir.
Sunday, July 26. 2015
I just received the following email, and the link to the video.
For myself, I'd add, that could be my son disarmed and allowed to be murdered by a jihadist right here at home in the USA, and that girl murdered in downtown San Francisco could be my innocent daughter murdered by an illegal immigrant criminal allowed to roam free by "sanctuary" liberals, but President Obama acts like he could care less, while instead rousing hatred and street violence by he immediately mourning street thugs who happen to be Black.Re the Chatanooga shootings:
I was at the airport as they offloaded Lcpl. Skip Wells's body and proceeded with appropriate respect to the funeral home. The Patriot Guard (with whom I used to ride until my knees became so untrustworthy that I was afraid to ride a Harley), the Legion Riders, police scooters from Atlanta, DeKalb Co., Cobb co. and other places, along with many other folks, led the hearse away to the funeral home. I pulled over to the side of the rode overlooking the exit from the cargo area, unfurled my flag that usually flies on the front of my house, waited for them to pull away, and did my best attention, saluting--uncovered!--as the entourage and Skip's body passed by.
Tears were rolling down my face. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people all over Atlanta who stopped to honor the procession, something that really made me feel good. I didn't cry for my brothers who died when I was young, but lots of things bring tears to my eyes these days. I must be getting soft in my dotage.
I do not know why this latest shooting event has touched me so, but it has really bothered me. I think Obama's refusal to lower the flag until pressure mounted helped.
ASIDE: Monday morning, I went to work (I teach part-time at the local technical college, GED classes), went to the security guy who usually raises the flag, and took it along with a police academy guy, raised it and lowered to half-mast. I told them to tell anyone who complained that I did it. Turns out the police wannabe guy was a Marine, too. We did out best at "Colors." I saluted--uncovered--because I thought I should.
His mother was in a following hearse, and she blew a kiss at us out of the window.
After the procession passed, I went to the international terminal with my wife and two grandsons to meet Kyle as he arrived on leave from Germany. He is fine. He is scheduled to be deployed to Egypt in the fall.
Take a look at the video to see the procession.
Thursday, July 23. 2015
My son just showed this to me at a news site. A gamer in Russia caught the so-called "rebels" that have broken away eastern Ukraine, actually the Russians and their stooges, trying to accuse the U.S. of supplying Stinger missiles to the Ukranian government. What they actually showed was a replica of a Stinger missile taken from the game Battlefield 3. Remember, all evidence shows that the Russian stooges shot down a civilian airliner, killing all aboard. Their excuses didn't hold water, and this poor propaganda doesn't pop either.
Go to this link for the whole story in English, and click on the Youtube uploaded by the Russian gamer today.
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.
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