Monday, March 31, 2008
The story of Debby Shank, a former Walmart employee is widely known. A few years ago, she was involved in an auto accident. Her health insurance, which was made available through Wal-mart covered the expenses following the devastating accident. She was awarded $470.000.00 dollars in a lawsuit settlement. She requires nursing home care. She and her husband had to divorce so Medicaid and Medicare could start paying their disastrous expenses. Walmart has sued successfully to recover the money paid for her care from the insurance company. The family has already paid over two hundred thousand dollars for her ongoing care. Paying back Walmart will devastate the family. On top of all this, the Shanks son was killed recently in Iraq. Because of short term memory loss,Mrs Shank experiences the loss of her son every time it is told to her as though she has heard it for the first time. None of this moves Walmart. Rather than helping the Shank family, they have tied them up in court.
The stupidity of Walmart is astounding. They spend millions a year in advertising. Much of it stresses how good they are to the communities where they are located. They have severe public relations problems because of their treatment of workers, crime in their parking lots and fallout from their decision to favour Chinese suppliers. A compassionate handling of this tragic incident could have been featured as an antidote to their previous bad publicity. The cost of such a strategy would have been nothing in the context of their massive advertising budget.
Instead, of this prudent course of action, Walmart has purchased terrible corporate publicity in exchange for recovering a pittance from the Shank family. The short sightedness of a corporation that has built a massive business is hard to understand.
If you are contemplating a large shopping spree or an expensive electronics purchase, see if Walmart carries the items you seek. Then after shopping elsewhere, enclose your receipt from one of Walmart's competitors in a letter of protest to Walmart's corporate headquarters. Enough indignant consumers could raise the price of corporate greed to the point that compassion would become a wise business choice.
Shopping is voting. There is nothing wrong with a corporation such as Walmart becoming wildly successful. But with success comes responsibility to their workers who facilitate corporate prosperity. Vote with your wallet. Support corporate compassion. Punish greedy corporations by taking your patronage to those who respect their workers.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Please click the links below for background stories for this post. The first link is concerning the Debby Shank story. The second link is a video examining Walmart's wider role in American society.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3836296181471292925&q=walmart&total=31704&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0 Sphere: Related Content
Until the late 1980s, the ideological contest playing itself out on the world stage was communism versus capitalism. Today,communism is largely defeated. Even in China it has mutated into state capitalism with a thin communist veneer.
For Americans, communists were over there, and we were over here. The Russians and the Chinese touched America mainly through front groups and tiny political parties that they subsidised. Those who came from communist countries were refugees who were disenchanted with the communist system. Communist countries bought grain from America but did not invest in our country.
Islamic fundamentalism aspires to "bury" the west in much the same manner as Kruschchev boasted to Nixon in the famous "kitchen debate". The logistics of their struggle are far different. Those who emigrate from Islamic countries have come to Europe in massive numbers and to America in numbers that are increasing. They come not as refugees but with economic aspirations. Muslims from Islamic countries are not motivated to come to America by disenchantment with their political system at home.Many do not want to fit in but look down on the host country, be it the U.S.A., France or Holland.
The U.S.S.R. fought a war by proxy with America in Vietnam, but they never mounted an attack on American soil.Islamic fundamentalists did attack us on our own soil on 9/11. America's enemies today immigrate to America, rent apartments, come to university and get jobs here. The struggle is direct and personal. The groups that are subsidising the spread of Islam have a militant and militaristic view of its spread. Just as there are peaceful and hateful forms of Christianity, there is peaceful and hateful Islam. Just as Christianity in Nazi Europe was dominated by those ecclesiastical authorities who had cut deals with Naziism, militant Islam is the loudest and most feared voice in Islam internationally. Like European Christians, moderate muslims are cowed into silence by those who have shown their eagerness to shed the blood of "infidels" in the advancement of their cause.
America has a geographical barrier against the expansionism of militant Islam that Europe lacks. We have an ocean between us and the Arab world. With Mexico, however, we share a porous border that we have not shown the will to secure. The security implications are obvious. Mexico and the U.S.A. have the widest income disparity of any two adjacent nations in the entire world. This has brought new life to old historical grudges between the two countries. Indeed, some Mexican immigrants refer to the wave of immigration as "la reconquista" or the reconquest. Along with many who simply want a better life for their impoverished families in Mexico are arriving terrorists from overseas whose motives are malevolent
We need to be honest with ourselves about the new threats facing America and the strategies we will need to develop in facing them. To survive these new challenges , we must first recognise them.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, March 30, 2008
It comes as no surprise that Hillary Clinton has the highest percentage of voters who view her unfavourably of all the three major candidates. A prerequisite of civil political discourse is the presumption of decency one imputes to political opponents. It is hard to forget the "vast right wing conspiracy" cited by Hillary in one interview concerning her husband's legal difficulties.
The displeasure of the Clinton White House with talk radio was well known. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing, Bill Clinton blamed talk radio for creating the political climate that led to the bombing. Even his supporters were stunned that he could inject partisan politics into an atmosphere of united national mourning.
Democratic allies of Clinton such as Diane Feinstein and John Kerry are known to support the "Fairness Doctrine." which would force radio stations through government regulation to present opposing viewpoints. To an unlettered layman, these complaints about "fairness" sounded like a whine from sour grapes. Between cable , satellite and the internet, citizens of free countries have unlimited access to the full spectrum of political opinion in a multitude of variations. Those of us who value free speech detected an Orwellian stench to Democratic "newspeak" about fairness.
Both Clinton and Obama have gotten kid glove treatment from the major networks and the large newspapers, who are obsessed with putting either a woman or an African American in the White House. With all of their preoccupation with first woman president versus first Black president we are looking at a discussion of national issues that has all of the gravitas of a student council election in middle school.
It is hard for me to be sad about the bickering among the Democrats. The American people deserve to hear the emptiness of their "debate" and the low opinion they both seem to have of the electorate. The major networks seem to hand them nothing but easy questions. In the interest of "fairness" , we need talk radio and the internet to keep them honest. Sphere: Related Content
And on the opposite hill I am searching for my little boy.
An Arab shepherd and a Jewish father
Both in their temporary failure.
Our two voices met above
The Sultan's Pool in the valley between us.
Neither of us wants the boy or the goat
To get caught in the wheels
Of the "Had Gadya" machine.
Afterward we found them among the bushes,
And our voices came back inside us
Laughing and crying.
Searching for a goat or for a child has always been
The beginning of a new religion in these mountains. Sphere: Related Content
Friday, March 28, 2008
I tried to view the movie "Fitna" on line, going to a website that had offered the movie. The site liveleak.com had offered the video for public viewing. In response to credible death threats against their staff, they removed Fitna from their website. The movie cites chapters and verses of the Koran that could be construed as inciting violence against non-Muslims. The angry protests against the release of this movie in Holland seem to vindicate the criticisms voiced in the film.
There is a large Muslim minority in Holland that wields considerable power. The Netherlands has legalised euthanasia, or so called mercy killing. How many lives could Dutch Muslims have saved if they had protested Dutch policies concerning euthanasia, which is against Islamic law? Is not the murder of those created in G-d's image at least as much of an affront to Islam as criticism of the Koran? I am disappointed, shocked and disgusted at this selective indignation. A religion evolves in response to such legitimate criticism of its excesses. The so called indignation of so called Muslim extremists is too selective to be anything but political. As a gesture of protest, I am showing on this post from liveleak announcing the movie's withdrawal from its site.
For now, you can watch the entire ten minute film on You Tube.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Rudistettner.com and Magdeburgerjoe.com are now two months old. I am attempting to keep current with providing for both sites a steady stream of interesting, eclectic content. I value your feedback.
The name of Magdeburger Chossid is going to change. The new name will be Magdeburger Joe (Also Known As Magdeburger Chossid). The former name has proven hard to spell. The new name will be more similar to the url as well as being easier to spell.
I am learning gradually the ABC's of composing web pages. I am attempting to make my pages quicker to load. I finally cleaned up the chaotic layout on the right side of both rudistettner.com and magdeburgerjoe.com.
I am attempting to network and promote my websites. Search engine optimisation and professional networking to promote my sites are two areas I am attempting to address. The bulk of my production falls on my lonely shoulders, using my limited resources. These things take time.
Finally, I am making a TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE offer to other web site owners who visit and enjoy my web sites. If you post one of my links on your website, either magdeburgerjoe.com or rudistettner.com, then I will post your web site link on the link list of BOTH of my websites. I will of course visit your site to see if the exchange is appropriate to the needs of my readers. If I can not approve a link reciprocation for whatever reason, I will in the interests of fairness let you know. I do not want to take your help without returning the favour.
It has been a pleasure reaching out to my readership. Knowing that someone , somewhere is seeing what I have written or presented inspires me to produce more. I thank you, my first visitors for coming to my site. I hope to continue to provide these sites for a long time to come.
Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, March 27, 2008
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cuty3zj-gPc&feature=related Sphere: Related Content
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Bedoon: Kuwait's Dirty Little Secret
Bedoon: Kuwait's Dirty Little Secret
Kuwait, a strategic US ally, harbors a startling little-known civil rights secret: its stateless people, the Bedoon.
Bedoon means "without" in Arabic (Bedoon is different than "Bedouin" meaning nomadic/formerly nomadic tribes.) Bedoon refers to people with no nationality.
Kuwait is one of the only few countries in the world where there are citizens within the country who have no nationality. In Kuwait, Bedoon must pay to obtain any official documentation (if they are lucky enough to get that far) including: permission to marry, birth and death certificates, drivers licenses, identification, etc. They have to go to the official Kuwaiti office called the "Bedoon Council" and beg to get any rights at all. Many are not allowed to work. They can not own property. Many can't obtain travel papers. Recently, the Kuwaiti authorities agreed to issue travel documents for the religious journey, Haj, to Bedoon � on the condition that they "solve their identity problem" before returning to Kuwait (therefore not being allowed back into their country).
If a Bedoon man marries a Kuwaiti woman, their children are Bedoon (it is the opposite if a Kuwaiti man marries a Bedoon woman � both she and her children can obtain Kuwaiti citizenship). If the Bedoon man has any difficulties and wants a divorce, the Kuwaiti x-wife can not only be granted full custody of their children, but ask for alimony and child support in almost the full amount of the husband's salary, leaving him destitute. Therefore, Bedoon men are at the mercy of their Kuwaiti wives.
If you drive by Sulaybia, Kuwait, North on 5th Ring Road towards the area of Jahra, you will notice a tin shanty town which is inhabited mainly by Bedoon. Depending on the whims of the Kuwaiti government, there have been several attempts to destroy this area and "relocate" the Bedoon living there. To where? It is often said that they can "go back to their countries". Where are their countries if several generations (some going back to the 1964 census) have been born and raised in Kuwait? If a Bedoon person speaks out, he/she is ostracized and may face legal action including deportation (again � to where?).
Many Bedoon fought for Kuwait; many were in the Kuwaiti military and stayed in Kuwait, fighting as resistance. In a radio address while in exile in Saudi Arabia during the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, the late Emir, Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, stated that those Bedoon who fought for their country would be granted their Kuwaiti citizenship. Like the promise of women's suffrage, perhaps it is just a long time in coming, but it isn't being discussed at the top levels YET. Kuwait is openly pleased about its ties with the US and foray into world democracy, and yet the Kuwaiti Government is doing nothing to solve the inhumane Bedoon issue.
Often, you can't tell who is Bedoon and who isn't within the same tribes or families; sometimes cousins have Kuwaiti citizenship and others don't. Familial links can be easily established by DNA tests, and yet when they are conducted by the Kuwaiti Government (at the 80 KD expense per person of the Bedoon) the results are locked away and kept from the families.
The older generations of Bedoon were/are mostly proud people who blended into society without discussion of suffering or hardships. As younger generations of Bedoon are coming up, they are learning more about democracy and civil rights. They are an intensely angry group. When people face oppression, stress and psychological abuse take tolls: Petty crimes have been growing (and are likely to continue to grow) in this small country. If people feel that they have no hope, no future, no care � they become desperate. It is a tremendous security risk to an already security-strained nation.If Kuwait strives to be a pillar of democracy in the Middle East, why not put an end to the suffering of so many of its inhabitants.
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Note from Magdeburger Joe: The above is a reprint from humanrightsblog.org. Since 2006, when this article first appeared, nothing has changed. The human rights concerns that fueled America's liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in the first Gulf war in 1990 have not benefited the Bedoons. This compares poorly to American and European citizenship laws. It could even be argued that the mistreatment of the Bedoons is a violation of Islamic law. A national state, which is established as a homeland for one ethnic group still has obligations to its minorities of different ethnicities. Dhimmitude , or subordinate status for ethnic minorities has had humane and decent interpretations in the history of the Islamic world. Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers in the last 1000 years enjoyed great prestige in the Egypt of 850 years ago, yet there was no question that full citizenship could only belong to Muslims.
Kuwait owes its freedom to outsiders and to Bedoons who fought for it. Even if it retains tiers of civic rights, it owes its Bedoon population a set of codified civic rights. It's the right thing to do.
You can click on the title to this post to view the article. below is the link to the main page of the web site
http://www.humanrightsblog.org/ Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
An inventory of Africa's natural wealth, from oil to diamonds and gold reveals a good foundation for material success. Tragically, areas such as the Congo and Sierra Leone that could be far wealthier are blighted by war and corruption that stunt their economic growth.
I hope that whoever wins the election in 2008 focuses their attention on the unrealised potential of sub saharan Africa. The British, French, Belgian and Portuguese governments as former colonial rulers of much of Africa should of course facilitate economic, infrastructural and political development in these regions. Particularly in the field of education, former colonial powers could through private channels provide assistance to educational development, perhaps even founding new universities in the independent states that were once colonies.
Public health, particularly AIDS, malaria and malnutrition should be a high priority.
As a fan of African popular music, I feel that a cultural dialogue and exchange between African and American performers could benefit the American musical scene immeasurably.Performers such as Miriam Makeba, the a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kojo Antwi of Ghana are examples of untapped musical wealth that could thrive in an American market. It should be remembered that entertainment is a multi billion dollar industry and could pump a lot of money into impoverished areas. The beauty of art and music is an equaliser in which African performers could teach lead and uplift a superpower that has a nebulous appreciation of its relationship to sub saharan Africa.
America cannot and should not pretend to be a hermit kingdom. We are a superpower. We should use our strength wisely,give to others and learn from them.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe
Please click on link below to view a music video by Kojo Antwi of Ghana.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=jTjsn_gY7HY Sphere: Related Content
Monday, March 24, 2008
(illustration by Bernarda Shahn)
I have lost count of the times people have told me that America needs immigrants to do the jobs that are too dirty and menial for Americans. It is hard not to hear a tone of condescension in this observation. What I have noted is that some of these very important jobs held by large numbers of immigrants are poorly paid by American standards but well paid by the standards of developing countries.
Immigrants tend to come to our country and see an abundance of opportunity. I have found that people from countries that are poorer tend to be more frugal. They tend to repair rather than replace. I have noticed that a lot of very good appliance and computer repair people here in New York come from South America and the West Indies.
The South of Italy is rich in beauty but remains disadvantaged economically. A large percentage of America's Italian immigration was from Italy's south. Looking at the success of Italian Americans in America as well as their contributions to America's growth makes it clear that Italy's loss was our gain. Similarly, a beautiful yet impoverished Ireland has enriched this country immeasurably through immigration.
Legal immigration is an essential part of our identity as a nation. Without a regular stream of lawful new arrivals, America would not be America.
Inflation has shrunk the real value of U.S.wages. In large parts of the U.S., the dream of owning a home has become more and more elusive. Wages for physical labour should be attractive to those whose entire family lives in the U.S. Immigration should not be used as a tool to depress wages. If you believe in family values then value labour fairly. If you value labour fairly, then workers will be able to afford more time with their families.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, March 23, 2008
2008 marks eighty years since the founding of The Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan in the Soviet far east near Mongolia. It was intended to provide the Jews of the USSR equality with all of the other Soviet nationalities by providing them with a homeland as well. Because of its distant location and the necessity of building it from scratch,it never caught on as a national homeland. Periodic purges of its population and its Yiddish library also curtailed the growth of Jewish culture in Birobidzhan. Today, although Yiddish is taught in its schools and enjoys official use, Jews amount to about 5% of its population of 220,000.
Two reasons are additionally cited as reasons for the failure of the Jewish Autonomous Region. The first obstacle was the J.A.R. founders' implacable opposition to Israel as a Jewish homeland. The second difficulty was the militant opposition to Torah of the J.A.R's founding fathers. Throughout Jewish history, groups which separated themselves from Torah as a source of Jewish identity faded from the world scene. Torah and the Land of Israel are a common wellspring of identity for Ashkenazic Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews.
Even within the U.S.S.R., the J.A.R only reached out to Ashkenazim, promoting Yiddish as a Jewish national language. The orthography and vocabulary of Soviet Yiddish were redesigned to minimise the Hebraic components of the officially approved language. The U.S.S.R. had within its borders Bukharian, Georgian, Crimean and other non Ashkenazic strains of Jews with distinctly differing religious customs and languages. A true Soviet Jewish homeland should have recognised these groups in designing a Jewish political entity. Instead, they were ignored in the J.A.R. In retrospect it was probably a blessing in disguise that the Jews of Soviet Asia were ignored in the founding of this ill fated attempt at a Jewish utopia. Had they taken part, they too would have fallen victim to Stalinist paranoia and the accompanying purges. Although Jews in the west should certainly remember the Jews still living in Birobidzhan, its value today is its lessons to this generation.
The State of Israel will be 60 years old this year. While it certainly has not repudiated Torah as its raison d'etre, the flashes of ambivalence in Israeli society towards orthodoxy are impossible to ignore. Jews from Arab countries and Sephardim make up a large plurality of Israel's Jewish population. Their percentage of the political leadership in Israel still falls well short of their percentage of the population. The official history of the founding of the State of Israel has yet to incorporate the observations, trials and tribulations of Israel's Jews from Arab countries. A stronger Israeli position can and should be taken in negotiations with its Arab neighbours. There were Arabs who left Israel, but similar numbers of Jews also fled Arab countries, often having been stripped of their property. This important facet of Israeli history is ignored with negative consequences for all Israelis. The shortage of Jews from Arab countries in diplomatic efforts has hindered Israel's understanding and effectiveness in negotiations with its Arab neighbours.
To a far lesser degree, the Israeli Government has some of the same bias towards Ashkenazim that was present in the Jewish Autonomous Region. Fortunately Israel's democracy and free market economy are correcting some of these imbalances. Despite this, the lessons of Birobidzhan's failure deserve to be studied in Israel.
Setting a course for the future should always involve learning from the past. Those who care about Israel's future would do well to study the lessons of Birobidzhan.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Friday, March 21, 2008
Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Because so many Iranian Jews live in New York, Purim has a special vividness. I speak with people who know which modern cities are mentioned in the book of Esther. Observing their customs and enjoying their cuisine and music has been one of the pleasures of living in New York.
In addition to many Iranian Jews are Moslem and other Iranians who had to leave the country because of differences with the fundamentalist regime. Among these exiles are the best of Iran's musical performers. One of them is Andy Madadian of whom Iran's Armenian minority is understandably proud.
The first link in this post is a video from Andy. The Link Below is the biography of Andy from his website. http://www.andymusic.com/bio/ ANDY BIOGRAPHY Sphere: Related Content
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Judæo-Piedmontese was the vernacular language of the Jews living in Piedmont, Italy from about the 15th Century until the Second World War. The dialect was based on the Piedmontese language, with many loans from ancient Hebrew, and also languages like Provençal and Spanish , since many Piedmontese Jews came from Provence and Spain.
It was never as wide and rich in words as Yiddish, another and more famous Jewish dialect, but rather narrow and based on secrecy and segregation, and meant not be understood by the gentiles. Today there are virtually no more speakers of Judæo-Piedmontese.
 Small vocabulary
The dialect never had real written phonetical rules, the words in this list are written accordingly to (and taken mostly from) Primo Levi's book The Periodic Table and the book La gran battaglia degli ebrei di Moncalvo.
(kh) like in German "Nacht".
(ñ) nasal, like in English "Sing", not to be confunded with the Spanish ñ.
(ô) like in English "Loom".
(u) like the French u or the German ü.
(sc) like the English sh.
(j) like in German "Jung" or in English "Young".
* (a)brakhà - blessing
* Adonai Eloénô - God, Lord
* bahalòm - in a dream (used for jokes)
* barakhùt - blessed
* barôcabà - welcome!, blessed He who comes!
* batacaìn - cemetery
* beemà - beast
* Cadòss Barôkhù - God
* cassèr - community, ghetto
* ganàv - thief
* ganavé - to steal
* ghescér - bridge
* gôì - non-Jewish man
* gôià - non-Jewish woman
* gojìm - non-Jewish people
* hafassìm - jewels (lit. "stuff")
* hamòr - donkey
* hamortà - stupid woman (lit. female of donkey)
* hasìr - pig
* hasirùd - rubbish
* havertà - rough and dissolute woman
* khakhàm - rabbi (lit. "learned one")
* khalaviòd - breasts (from Hebrew "halav", milk)
* khaltrùm - Catholic overdevoutness
* khamisà - five
* khamissidò - slap
* khanéc - neck (pregnant with meaning, used to swear)
* khaniké - to hang (kill)
* khèder - room
* kinìm - lice
* lakhtì - (exclamation) go away!
* Lassòn Acòdesh - Sacred Language
* macòd - blows
* maftèkh - key
* mahané - neck (generic and neutral)
* mamsér - bastard
* mañòd - money
* medà meshônà - accident (lit. "strange death")
* menaghèm / meraghèl - spy
* Milca - Queen
* morénô - rabbi (lit. "our master")
* nainé - to look at
* ñarél - non-circumcised
* nero - evil, bad
* pakhàt - fear
* pegartà - dead woman
* pôñaltà - dirty, shabbily-clothed woman
* pôñèl - dirty, shabbily-clothed man
* rabbenù - rabbi
* rashàn - non-pious
* rôkhòd - winds
* ruàkh - wind
* samdé - to baptize (lit. "destroy")
* sarfatìm - guards
* saròd - disgraced
* scòla - synagogue, temple
* sefòkh - toddler vomit
* sôrada - appearance, look
* sôtià - crazy woman
* tafùs - prison, jail
* takhôrìm - haemorroids
* tanhanè - to argue Sphere: Related Content
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
PARK SLOPE, Brooklyn [CHI] — A young Jewish man became the victim of a hate crime Tuesday evening at around 6:15pm in Park Slope, Brooklyn The incident took place inside the subway station on 4th Avenue and 9th Street, which is in the the 78th Precinct, where a Middle Eastern looking teen snatched the young man's yarmulke from behind and fled out of the station.
The yeshiva student, who on his way into the station noticed a group or four teens sitting on the steps of the subway entrance, did not hesitate and began chasing the yarmulke snatcher, all the while just a few feet behind yet failing to catch him. The chas continued right passed the sitting group and out into the street, where it came to an abrupt halt.
The yarmulke thief ran right into the street and was struck by a passing car, sending him flying and severely injuring him. The others from the group then pounced on the Jewish man, knocking him to the ground and with shouts of “Allah Hu Akbar” they began punching him in the head and face. The victim managed to dial 911 and give his location.
Police responded within moments by which time the group that was still able to walk had fled the scene. Police arrested the injured perp and called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital, he suffered two broken legs among other injuries.
The incident was classified as a hate crime, and police are investigating it.
The victim, in an interview with CrownHeights.noted that that “what is extremely disturbing is the social statement of this crime” he said, “these Jew haters boldness to commit such a crime in broad daylight in a street buzzing with activity”.
Thank G-d the bias victim did not sustain any serious injuries. Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
It is hard to find the information in the American media, but this video outlines Israeli humanitarian missions around the world. It should be noted that Israel's extensive experience with bombings has made Israelis experts in earthquake rescue.
Please click on the title to this post to view an amazing video. Sphere: Related Content
Monday, March 17, 2008
The original French settlers in North America were not Parisian. As a result, the French spoken in Quebec and Louisiana went in a different direction. In Quebec, it is going very strong. Because of its supression for years in Louisiana, efforts to preserve it today face far greater difficulties than in Quebec, where it has for years enjoyed state sponsorship.
When visiting Quebec two years ago, I was struck by the contrast between the geographic continuity of the landscape ant the sharp transition to being immersed in French. I have tolerated my American English being disparaged by those who had probably gotten a B- in their British English class. I reflected on the country cousin status accorded North American French and English and came home with a defiant sense of hemispheric solidarity. I believe that those willing to blaze a path in the new world brought with them a certain vigour that enriched life in this Hemisphere. I have , thank G-d collected a lot of Quebecois music. Please click on the title to this post to enjoy a folk selection.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=7KXGSCZM8Zw&feature=related Sphere: Related Content
Look What They’ve Done to my French, Mama:
Attempts to Save Louisiana French
December 10, 1975
James Domengeaux, an aging Lafayette attorney, pounded the cluttered desk in his office a stone's throw from one of Louisiana's most impressive cathedrals.
"Dammit. It's a wonder we're not all warped," he spat. "After all, we're just coming from a time when there were certain punitive, abrasive actions taken when one spoke the French language. We became ashamed to speak French. You couldn’t help but feel ashamed, especially if you were young and immature and were told you were going to have to stay after school because you spoke French. Or maybe the teacher would hit you on the head with a ruler. We were told that only poor people and ignorant people spoke French. Can you believe that?"
Though his hair is gray and his body shows the marks of 66 long, hard years of labor, Domengeaux still bristles like a young tomcat at the thought of what has happened to his native tongue.
Domengeaux (pronounced Doe-mawn-joe) is a native of Lafayette and calls himself a Cajun. He was reared speaking the French language. But, he saw the language almost disappear before he decided to do something about preserving it.
Today, Domengeaux is being called the French equivalent of Huey Long, a charismatic personality on whom hinges the hope for bilingualism in Louisiana, and, perhaps, the survival of the Cajun folk culture.
But the experiment being conducted by Domengeaux and his Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) is filled with pitfalls. His methods are untested and could result in the eradication of one of America's last remaining folk cultures.
"CODOFIL will either cure the Cajun culture or kill it," one observer said. "Domengeaux and his crowd will either destroy the local French language or they'll bring a solidarity among the Cajuns not known for a hundred years. But, at least he's doing something, even if it’s wrong."
Domengeaux is not directly concerned about preserving the distinctive Cajun culture. "Preserve the language and you'll preserve the culture," the fiery old politician says. "Language is one of the tangibles, perhaps the only tangible, of the Cajun culture. It’s the only one that can be taught in school, anyway. And that's what I'm after — teaching every child in the State of Louisiana to be bilingual."
There's no denying that the French language has been the glue that has held the Cajun folk culture together for 200 years. Sociologists say language makes a member of a folk culture easily identifiable to others in the culture. The language brings a feeling of solidarity, especially if it's different from the prevailing cultures. It tends to strengthen traditions and customs that are apart from the mainstream.
That’s been the case with the Cajuns of southern Louisiana. When the exiled Acadians first settled in the bayou country south and west of New Orleans in the latter half of the 18th Century, they brought the French language with them. Separated from New Orleans by wilderness swamps and from mainstream America by sparsely settled lands to the north and west, the language of their ancestors became the predominant method of communicating.
Even the later immigrants into Cajun country gave up their ancestral languages in favor of the dominant French language. For example, the large number of Germans had little impact on the language and today, throughout the 21 parishes of "Acadiana," people with German names can be heard speaking French. The same holds true for those with Irish, English and Eastern European ancestries. The dominant French gene in the Cajun culture prevailed with a few exceptions. One of them was the introduction of a different form of French by the blacks who settled here both before and after the Civil War. They brought a language known locally as "French Creole."
Dorice Tentchoff, a cultural anthropologist who has done numerous studies on Cajun communities, says the French Creole language has very different origins from Cajun French. According to Ms. Tentchoff, French Creole developed during the 17th Century in the course of contact between French-speaking Europeans and Africans, both on the west coast of Africa and in the French colonies of the New World. French Creole became the native language of many Africans on both sides of the Atlantic as well as on the islands in the Indian Ocean.
In addition to the two basic forms of French above noted, the years of isolation coupled with the close relationships between blacks and whites in the island-like cultural vacuum produced mixtures of the two languages. Thus, in one Cajun village, says Ms. Tentchoff, a simple phrase such as "I have to go now," might be said four ways:
J’ai pour aller asteur.
I faut je va asteur.
Mo gain pou couri asteur.
I faut mo va asteur.
In addition, says Ms. Tentchoff, an intricate system of social values has been placed on how a person speaks French, or more precisely, how he selects his linguistic forms. These "markers," she says, distinguish Creole from Cajun French.
All of this apparently occurred before the English language began to make significant inroads. By the beginning of the 20th Century, however, Louisiana state politics were under the control of the people from north Louisiana. These people were of Scotch-Irish ancestry and had a strong folk culture all their own. They were akin to the people of the Appalachian mountains as well as the cowboys of the West.
The Scotch-Irish took power politics seriously and may have seen the French-speaking people in south Louisiana as a "foreign threat." For whatever reason, the total weight of the state's educational system was brought to bear on the French-speakers in the south. Just as the British had tried to eradicate the French culture in Nova Scotia in the mid-18th Century, the Scotch-Irish state leaders apparently decided to weaken the tight-knit Cajun culture that was held together by language.
Cajuns recount endless stories of how they were prohibited from using French on public school grounds. Apparently the educators used the excuse that the French being spoken in the Cajun homes was an illiterate French. In fact, few of the hundreds of thousands of French-speakers could either read or write the language. The same is true today.
The reason state and parish school systems decided not to build on the French language tradition is not known. Perhaps they decided there was no future in Americans learning to speak a second language. Perhaps they felt they did not have the resources to deal with bilingual education. Perhaps, because of the extremely high rate of illiteracy in Louisiana, they decided their major missionary effort should be directed toward teaching the English language.
In any event, the negative reaction to French in the public education system had its effect, but not the total effect many desired. Students generally held to the no-French rule while on the school grounds, but once home, they returned to their native French tongue as the method of communication. Thus, English became a second, learned language to them, a "foreign" tongue.
The public school boards may have been no match for the Cajun culture, but mainstream America was. Apparently, about the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal, when education and adherence to mainstream American ideas and attitudes were first considered necessary to success, Cajun parents decided teaching Cajun French to their children was harmful if their children were expected to "get by" in modern America.
Thus nearly all Cajuns gave up speaking any form of French in their homes. These French-speaking parents indicate it was an almost subliminal act.
Yet French continued to be a major part of the Cajun lifestyle. The 1970 Census showed, for example, that of the 21 parishes considered part of Acadiana, about 45 per cent of the people called French their mother tongue. In St. Martin Parish, for example, 79.1 per cent of the 32,453 inhabitants considered French their mother tongue. Even in the urban parish of Lafayette, 52.1 per cent of the 109,716 residents were French-speakers.
Thus it was clear the French language was giving up, but not without a fight. What seemed to put the language in most peril was that the large proportion of French-speakers were from the older generation. The younger people simply weren't learning the language of their forebears. Cajun French wasn't being spoken in the homes nor being taught in the schools.
Several years before the 1970 Census report was published, Domengeaux and his colleagues had identified the problem as they saw it.
Domengeaux, a former member of the Louisiana Legislature, said he made several speeches on the floor of the Louisiana House of Representatives about the threat of losing the French language as early as 1940. He says he even made note of the problem on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives while serving three terms from his home district in the 1940s.
"But in those days, I wasn't committed," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "I guess I was more interested in women, booze and poker."
Today, that's all different. In facts he says, it all changed in 1967 when it became clear to him that something had to be done immediately to preserve the French language. There wasn't time for consultants and debates about how to approach the problem. Every year meant a declining number of French-speakers in his native region.
From his concern came the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. He began by preaching to anyone who would hear. From Monroe in the north to New Orleans in the south he sounded the warnings: southern Louisiana, a region once populated by nearly 100 per cent French-speakers, was about to lose its native language. English was moving in on the old language and overwhelming it at an astonishing rate.
"I believe the melting pot philosophy has served its purpose in America," Domengeaux says. "I believe that, in this highly competitive world, the necessity of a nation such as ours speaking more than one language is tantamount to our ability to meet the demands of a diminishing world. All of us In CODOFIL recognize this great linguistic and cultural opportunity that we have here in Louisiana."
Domengeaux was quick to get minimal funding for CODOFIL from the state government in 1968. His knowledge of old-time Louisiana politics apparently helped him in obtaining the money.
One of his first moves as executive director of CODOFIL was to find a few school boards sympathetic to his cause. In 1970, he found 30 teachers in France who were willing to come to Louisiana to teach French in a region starved for foreign language teachers.
Some of these teachers called Louisiana's local French "very good 17th Century French," not at all unusual when it's remembered that the Cajuns were cut off from everyone, including the mother country, once they settled in Louisiana.
Prior to the arrival of the French teachers, Domengeaux had managed to push an act through the state legislature requiring French to be taught in the first five elementary grades and the three high school grades of every public school by 1972-73. There was a catch, however. If a school board decided not to offer French courses, it simply had to give some sort of explanation. Nearly any explanation would suffice.
Most school boards opted for no French, apparently a holdover from old attitudes about the language. But that didn’t stop Domengeaux and CODOFIL. The program to develop French in Louisiana took on new significance when the first Cajun governor in more than a hundred years, Edwin Edwards, ran a successful race in 1971.
For the first time in anyone's memory, a successful statewide candidate won in an appeal for all Cajuns to vote as a block. Ands vote they did. It is estimated that nearly 90 per cent of the Cajuns cast their votes for Edwards, who used "Cajun Power" as his slogan and a fist clenched around a crawfish as his battle insignia.
The number of imported French teachers continued to increase. This year, nearly 300 French teachers from France, Belgium, Quebec, Switzerland and Haiti are scattered throughout Louisiana, teaching conversational French.
"For the first time in years, children are speaking in French with their grandparents, since the middle generation missed out entirely on the French language," one newspaper commentator noted.
Thus, the irony of an educational system attempting to suppress bilingualism is being turned around. Even the French and Canadian governments are becoming excited about the French program in Louisiana. Both have given money to CODOFIL. Hundreds of visitors from France and Quebec make pilgrimages to Louisiana. Most are greeted and given the official tour by Domengeaux.
In return, honors came to Domengeaux last summer when Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet, the French ambassador to the United States, presented the CODOFIL chief executive with France's highest honor — the Cross of Officer In the National Order of the Legion of Honor. The Legion was created during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte and few are awarded the distinction outside of France.
But Domengeaux is not so excited about the personal honors as he is about a new act of the Louisiana Legislature. The controversial act decrees that if 25 per cent of the parents in a given school district designate they want French, or a second language, taught in the school, it is the duty of the school board to put French, or the second language, in the school.
"Furthermore, it must be done in a well-articulated and sequential manner so as to give the students a good background in the language," Domengeaux says.
"You may not believe it, but our biggest problems come from the school boards and governing authorities of this region. They’re all Cajuns, all French-speakers, but they resist French being taught in the schools. That's a disgrace and a dishonor and they detest me for the program. But there's a reason for it. The average French-speaking schoolteacher-educator-administrator-superintendent is the victim of the time when our French language was associated with poverty and ignorance. They haven’t overcome that yet. They are stagnated people, interested in their eventual retirement and increased salaries. They don’t want to rock the boat."
Domengeaux says CODOFIL receives considerable support from the school districts in the English-speaking north where several CODOFIL teachers are located. Apparently the attitudes about bilingualism have changed in the Scotch-Irish culture where the value of bilingualism has been noted and where the stigma of being a French speaker never existed.
But in the south, all but the upper echelon educators continue to fight and complain about CODOFIL. A number of teachers' groups have complained about CODOFIL’s importing foreign teachers for the purpose of teaching French. As a result, a method has been established for preparing Louisiana teachers to teach French. But the program hasn't been funded. Domengeaux sees this as another roadblock spawned by middle-level bureaucrats in the educational system.
Whether or not Domengeaux is successful in transforming every graduate of Louisiana's school system into a bilingual whiz kid, it's clear he and his CODOFIL program have had a significant impact on the Cajun culture.
Perhaps more than any other man, Domengeaux has helped identify the Cajun culture for the Cajuns. He doesn't blame the English-speakers for eradicating French. "We're the ones to blame because we're the ones who stopped using it." Nearly every older Cajun agrees. They blame no one but themselves.
Domengeaux has given the Cajun culture new status by inviting scores of French scholars, government officials, journalists and tourists to Cajun country. Invariably these visitors praise the Cajuns for their knowledge of the French language and the delight the visitors have in finding a French-speaking colony in the United States. That these knowledgeable and educated people, who speak what the Cajuns call "pretty French," have a high regard for the Cajuns seems to erase the past degradations by mainstream America and its English-speaking majority.
Domengeaux is quick to lash out at those who fortify the stereotyped image of the Cajun. "Good Times Are A-Killing Me," a recent one-hour television special, funded in part by the Public Broadcasting System, incurred his wrath because he said it tended to portray all Cajuns as illiterate alcoholics. He wrote scores of letters to his friends in Congress, asking for a federal investigation of PBS as a result of the special program.
Mention Cajun humor to Domengeaux and it puts him in yet another orbit. Domengeaux says the current round of Cajun jokes, similar to other slanderous ethnic jokes, is not Cajun humor, but rather humor invented by other cultures to make fun of the Cajuns.
But for all this, Domengeaux has his critics. And some of those critics make a great deal of sense. Perhaps the strongest argument against CODOFIL is summed up in a letter published recently by the Lafayette newspaper, The Daily Advertiser. The writer, Richard C. Landry, notes the recent movement to preserve the French language and the dying French-Acadian culture. Landry wrote:
"It seems that the prevalent opinion as to how to achieve this restoration is that of flooding the classroom with teaching of actual native French from across the sea by actual Frenchmen and the mass media type exposure of local celebrities encouraging the use of French in everyday activities…The French Acadian heritage will not be handed down through the ages by exposing school children to the Parisian French language in a classroom atmosphere nor will it be handed down by a few people telling the public, through newspapers and television, that speaking French is the 'in' thing."
"A heritage is handed down by normal, everyday interaction between parents and children and friends and neighbors, in a natural setting where pride for a common land and language keep the heritage alive."
Domengeaux is aware of the criticism. He's also aware of the differences between Cajun French and Parisian French. Likewise, he's aware that Cajun French is spoken somewhat differently in Breaux Bridge than it is in St. Martinville, fewer than 50 miles away. Domengeaux says, however, these differences are superficial.
"I'm not sure there are basic differences. After all, I don't know many people who speak the English of Churchill, but it's English all the same. I think there is more uniformity of language here in Louisiana than there is in France," he says.
"There have been charges that we're trying to smother the Cajun language. That's a bunch of bull. There will be certain evolutionary processes. French may go back to where it was 80 years ago when we spoke a pretty good French. I think the French has deteriorated through non-use and a limited vocabulary."
Domengeaux says he'd try to save the local flavor of French if he could. But, in fact, there seems to be no way. There's no published dictionary for Cajun French or French Creole. There's been no systematic study of linguistics in southern Louisiana. Those familiar with language say there seem to be French language systems in the region, but they have not been identified and catalogued to any great extent.
"I don't know what to do about it. I know that if you don't get French in the schools, it's going to be lost," Domengeaux says. "So, we have brought in people from Belgium, Canada and France to teach French. What comes out of it? I don't know. Perhaps it's not going to be the same accent we speak now. I can assure you that there’s no effort other than to give French a permanency and hope for survival."
Under the program outlined by CODOFIL, will the Cajun culture be revived, or will it simply be replaced by a style of French living found in Europe? Until CODOFIL, the French language was the language of illiteracy. Everyone spoke it but no one wrote it or read it. What effect will it have on the culture if everyone reads and writes French? Since Cajun French and French Creole do not have dictionaries, is there really any way to preserve them in a literate society?
These are questions that are bothering many people concerned with preserving the Cajun culture. But while they debate the issues, Domengeaux is the only one who has done anything, "even if it's wrong."
If there is a solution to the problem of how best to preserve the language and the culture, it won't come easy. Perhaps it will come too late, long after the French in Louisiana is exactly like the French spoken on the streets of Paris.
Received in New York on December 10, 1975
©1975 Dave Peyton
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Dave Peyton is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner on leave from The Huntington Advertiser (West Virginia). This article may be published with credit to Mr. Peyton, The Huntington Advertiser, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
P.S. from Magdeburger Joe The article above is very informative, but dates back to 1975. I am delighted to report the existence of an active website dedicated to acadian (Cajun ) culture. Please click on the title to this post to avail yourself of the rich multimedia resources on frenchcreoles.com .
Dave Peyton is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner on leave from The Huntington Advertiser (West Virginia). This article may be published with credit to Mr. Peyton, The Huntington Advertiser, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation.Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The eight names of these murdered students needs a voice. It is not the voice of "taking risks for peace". They were not a part of the "cycle of violence". They were murdered. If you are telling us to negotiate with those who applaud their death, then you are inviting other innocents to join them in untimely death. Don't say you did not know. These eight were not the first to die. You know that.
Click on title to this post Sphere: Related Content
Both Savage and NPR claim a nice chunk of my listening time. If you compare some of my opinions to those expressed on his show, you will note similarities. My admiration for NPR and for Michael Savage guides a lot of my Web Site policy.
One issue upon which I respectfully disagree with Michael Savage is his assessment of Balkan Muslims. While it is true that many Muslim SS members were recruited in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Kingdom of Albania and its citizens under King Zog were admirable in their protection of Jews within their realm. Additionally, both Albanian and Bosnian forms of Islam are very much influenced by social forces within the Balkan region. Indeed, the Saudis recruiting in the Balkans to their brand of Islam were very disappointed with their modest recruitment statistics in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Under Turkish rule, Bosnia was a haven for Jews fleeing Spain after the Inquisition. I consider it part of my duty of Jewish remembrance to honour the contributions of Turkey and Albania to Jewish survival during trying times.
Despite these differences of perspective , I continue to enjoy the erudite and heartfelt presentations of Dr.Savage. The facts he brings out in support of his sympathy for Serbia were not always available to me among my Croatian friends and family. One of the blessings I have come to know as an American and a New Yorker are the numerous opportunities I have had to speak with people from the different republics and ethnicities of the former Yugoslavia.
My brother used to assemble plastic model cars. Sometimes, he would disassemble them and design his own often bizarre looking vehicles from the random pieces. It is his cars that I look back on with far greater fondness than the standard models he bought at the store. I hope to construct on rudistettner.com and magdeburgerjoe.com a world view that is worthy of being compared to my brother's unique model cars.Please let me know if I have succeeded.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Friday, March 14, 2008
I have heard so many complaints about people talking on cell phones in public. I don't really care if both people in a conversation are present or not. If no one is cursing or creating a disturbance, I really don't care.
Years ago, if you were in a crowd,you were part of a stream of humanity. The Walkman changed that. You could in a manner of speaking be in the same movie as everyone else but have a separate soundtrack. The CD Walkman, and MP3 players made it possible to carry a larger selection of music on the street. I-pods and devices that have multiple gigabytes of storage capacity make it possible to create your own digital world as you walk through a common physical space with others. The cell phone completes this separation from the surrounding stream of humanity in the streets of a city. Where I used to visualise a current of humanity coursing through the streets, now I see bubbles in space with a person in the middle of each of them. There is a man in the street standing at the tip of an iceberg, and those who can reach him through text messaging or the human voice.
Without my cell phone or MP3 player, I feel a sense of solitude in the crowd without my techno-bubble.
On a practical note, I wonder what effect cell phones have on crime. To "drop a dime" on a crime in progress, you once had to find a phone booth. Now you flip open your cell phone, and maybe even take a picture.
Sometimes people get mugged for their $800.00 cell phones. How hard would it be to have a junky cell phone for street conversation and a luxury model that are both on the same line? A cell phone can attract class envy. But that's a whole new article.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content
Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act.
Any startling piece of work has a subversive element in it, a delicious element often. Subversion is only disagreeable when it manifests in political or social activity.
I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.
In dreams the truth is learned that all good works are done in the absence of a caress.
Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute. Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed. Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
Prayer is translation. A man translates himself into a child asking for all there is in a language he has barely mastered.
The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.
The term clinical depression finds its way into too many conversations these days. One has a sense that a catastrophe has occurred in the psychic landscape.
There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
To every people the land is given on condition. Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, beyond the nation's sweetest dreams of itself. Sphere: Related Content
One sense I have gained with time is the knowledge that history always boils down to individuals. I look at the age of a person and the path of their life and I put it against the backdrop of the world unfolding. When I read about Roosevelt being elected in the throes of the Great depression, I asked my mother what she remembered of him. She smiled and recalled listening to an electronic novelty known as a radio that occupied a central place in the family living room. It was the first time in American history that election returns had ever been broadcast. With her I felt the sense of wonder as though the world beneath her feet had sprouted wings.
Since hearing my mother's story, I have always been able to feel a sense of awe in a crowd, as it occurs to me that beneath the faces of the passers by are streams of recollection that connect to our collective human experience. As time passes and loved ones close to me pass away, I have come to mourn not only the individual but the books of their memory that lie buried with them. Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, March 13, 2008
All You Zombies, by the Hooters was a big hit in 1985. Once in a while, a song makes it to the top of the charts that reflects a spiritual hunger. One of Us, by Joan Osbourne was such a song, and the Hooter's song is another. I interpret the reference to zombies as referring to a state of being spiritually asleep. The song refers to Moses and Noah , who each had some contact with G-d that they to varying degrees relayed to the people of their time. The song seems to end on a note of hope in a future revelation that will restore a state of spiritual awareness.My internal stream of imagery that accompanies this song is at some variance with this video, which is somewhat jarring, particularly at the end. Both the video and the song seem to question the complacency of day to day existence. I never like to complain about bad music I like to laud those trends and individual songs that I feel are on the right track. With this song, the Hooters really hit a home run, winning my prize for music that gives voice to spiritual yearning.
Please click on the title to this post to view All You Zombies, by the Hooters Sphere: Related Content
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Please click on the title to this post to view the first episodes of this wonderful cartoon Sphere: Related Content
It is an easy trap for a dissident who achieves power to become a mirror image of his predecessors. For years, Ayatollah Khomeinei was a dissident and social critic living in Paris. When he seized power, the infamous Evin prison in Teheran remained a place where political dissidents languished, albeit with a different label.
Havel always was concerned with the internal struggle of humanity. In a sense, a political climate created by a system was a backdrop of the inner self. He did not demonise the old regime, but asked of himself and others to what extent they had internalised an oppressive ideology.
The implications of his writings and thoughts extend far beyond the borders of his geographically small country. The return to democracy in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech and Slovak Republics respectively, was among the smoother transitions from communist to democratic rule. It is an interesting question how much their leaders are to be thanked for this and how much credit goes to the people.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe
Please click on the title to this entry to visit Vaclav Havel's Website Sphere: Related Content
New Year's Address to the Nation
Prague, January 1, 1990
My dear fellow citizens,
For forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations on the same theme: how our country was flourishing, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us.
I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.
Our country is not flourishing. The enormous creative and spiritual potential of our nations is not being used sensibly. Entire branches of industry are producing goods that are of no interest to anyone, while we are lacking the things we need. A state which calls itself a workers' state humiliates and exploits workers. Our obsolete economy is wasting the little energy we have available. A country that once could be proud of the educational level of its citizens spends so little on education that it ranks today as seventy-second in the world. We have polluted the soil, rivers and forests bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and we have today the most contaminated environment in Europe. Adults in our country die earlier than in most other European countries.
Allow me a small personal observation. When I flew recently to Bratislava, I found some time during discussions to look out of the plane window. I saw the industrial complex of Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petr'alka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough for me to understand that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their planes. No study of statistics available to me would enable me to understand faster and better the situation in which we find ourselves.
But all this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loudly that the powers that be should not be all-powerful and that the special farms, which produced ecologically pure and top-quality food just for them, should send their produce to schools, children's homes and hospitals if our agriculture was unable to offer them to all.
The previous regime - armed with its arrogant and intolerant ideology - reduced man to a force of production, and nature to a tool of production. In this it attacked both their very substance and their mutual relationship. It reduced gifted and autonomous people, skillfully working in their own country, to the nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy and stinking machine, whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could not do more than slowly but inexorably wear out itself and all its nuts and bolts.
When I talk about the contaminated moral atmosphere, I am not talking just about the gentlemen who eat organic vegetables and do not look out of the plane windows. I am talking about all of us. We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it. In other words, we are all - though naturally to differing extents - responsible for the operation of the totalitarian machinery. None of us is just its victim. We are all also its co-creators.
Why do I say this? It would be very unreasonable to understand the sad legacy of the last forty years as something alien, which some distant relative bequeathed to us. On the contrary, we have to accept this legacy as a sin we committed against ourselves. If we accept it as such, we will understand that it is up to us all, and up to us alone to do something about it. We cannot blame the previous rulers for everything, not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly. Let us not be mistaken: the best government in the world, the best parliament and the best president, cannot achieve much on their own. And it would be wrong to expect a general remedy from them alone. Freedom and democracy include participation and therefore responsibility from us all.
If we realize this, then all the horrors that the new Czechoslovak democracy inherited will cease to appear so terrible. If we realize this, hope will return to our hearts.
In the effort to rectify matters of common concern, we have something to lean on. The recent period - and in particular the last six weeks of our peaceful revolution - has shown the enormous human, moral and spiritual potential, and the civic culture that slumbered in our society under the enforced mask of apathy. Whenever someone categorically claimed that we were this or that, I always objected that society is a very mysterious creature and that it is unwise to trust only the face it presents to you. I am happy that I was not mistaken. Everywhere in the world people wonder where those meek, humiliated, skeptical and seemingly cynical citizens of Czechoslovakia found the marvelous strength to shake the totalitarian yoke from their shoulders in several weeks, and in a decent and peaceful way. And let us ask: Where did the young people who never knew another system get their desire for truth, their love of free thought, their political ideas, their civic courage and civic prudence? How did it happen that their parents -- the very generation that had been considered lost -- joined them? How is it that so many people immediately knew what to do and none needed any advice or instruction?
I think there are two main reasons for the hopeful face of our present situation. First of all, people are never just a product of the external world; they are also able to relate themselves to something superior, however systematically the external world tries to kill that ability in them. Secondly, the humanistic and democratic traditions, about which there had been so much idle talk, did after all slumber in the unconsciousness of our nations and ethnic minorities, and were inconspicuously passed from one generation to another, so that each of us could discover them at the right time and transform them into deeds.
We had to pay, however, for our present freedom. Many citizens perished in jails in the 1950s, many were executed, thousands of human lives were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of talented people were forced to leave the country. Those who defended the honor of our nations during the Second World War, those who rebelled against totalitarian rule and those who simply managed to remain themselves and think freely, were all persecuted. We should not forget any of those who paid for our present freedom in one way or another. Independent courts should impartially consider the possible guilt of those who were responsible for the persecutions, so that the truth about our recent past might be fully revealed.
We must also bear in mind that other nations have paid even more dearly for their present freedom, and that indirectly they have also paid for ours. The rivers of blood that have flowed in Hungary, Poland, Germany and recently in such a horrific manner in Romania, as well as the sea of blood shed by the nations of the Soviet Union, must not be forgotten. First of all because all human suffering concerns every other human being. But more than this, they must also not be forgotten because it is these great sacrifices that form the tragic background of today's freedom or the gradual emancipation of the nations of the Soviet Bloc, and thus the background of our own newfound freedom. Without the changes in the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, and the German Democratic Republic, what has happened in our country would have scarcely happened. And if it did, it certainly would not have followed such a peaceful course.
The fact that we enjoyed optimal international conditions does not mean that anyone else has directly helped us during the recent weeks. In fact, after hundreds of years, both our nations have raised their heads high of their own initiative without relying on the help of stronger nations or powers. It seems to me that this constitutes the great moral asset of the present moment. This moment holds within itself the hope that in the future we will no longer suffer from the complex of those who must always express their gratitude to somebody. It now depends only on us whether this hope will be realized and whether our civic, national, and political self-confidence will be awakened in a historically new way.
Self-confidence is not pride. Just the contrary: only a person or a nation that is self-confident, in the best sense of the word, is capable of listening to others, accepting them as equals, forgiving its enemies and regretting its own guilt. Let us try to introduce this kind of self-confidence into the life of our community and, as nations, into our behavior on the international stage. Only thus can we restore our self-respect and our respect for one another as well as the respect of other nations.
Our state should never again be an appendage or a poor relative of anyone else. It is true that we must accept and learn many things from others, but we must do this in the future as their equal partners, who also have something to offer.
Our first president wrote: "Jesus, not Caesar." In this he followed our philosophers Chel_ick_ and Komensk_. I dare to say that we may even have an opportunity to spread this idea further and introduce a new element into European and global politics. Our country, if that is what we want, can now permanently radiate love, understanding, the power of the spirit and of ideas. It is precisely this glow that we can offer as our specific contribution to international politics.
Masaryk* based his politics on morality. Let us try, in a new time and in a new way, to restore this concept of politics. Let us teach ourselves and others that politics should be an expression of a desire to contribute to the happiness of the community rather than of a need to cheat or rape the community. Let us teach ourselves and others that politics can be not simply the art of the possible, especially if this means the art of speculation, calculation, intrigue, secret deals and pragmatic maneuvering, but that it can also be the art of the impossible, that is, the art of improving ourselves and the world.
We are a small country, yet at one time we were the spiritual crossroads of Europe. Is there a reason why we could not again become one? Would it not be another asset with which to repay the help of others that we are going to need?
Our homegrown Mafia, those who do not look out of the plane windows and who eat specially fed pigs, may still be around and at times may muddy the waters, but they are no longer our main enemy. Even less so is our main enemy any kind of international Mafia. Our main enemy today is our own bad traits: indifference to the common good, vanity, personal ambition, selfishness, and rivalry. The main struggle will have to be fought on this field.
There are free elections and an election campaign ahead of us. Let us not allow this struggle to dirty the so-far clean face of our gentle revolution. Let us not allow the sympathies of the world, which we have won so fast, to be equally rapidly lost through our becoming entangled in the jungle of skirmishes for power. Let us not allow the desire to serve oneself to bloom once again under the stately garb of the desire to serve the common good. It is not really important now which party, club or group prevails in the elections. The important thing is that the winners will be the best of us, in the moral, civic, political and professional sense, regardless of their political affiliations. The future policies and prestige of our state will depend on the personalities we select, and later, elect to our representative bodies.
My dear fellow citizens!
Three days ago I became the president of the republic as a consequence of your will, expressed through the deputies of the Federal Assembly. You have a right to expect me to mention the tasks I see before me as president.
The first of these is to use all my power and influence to ensure that we soon step up to the ballot boxes in a free election, and that our path toward this historic milestone will be dignified and peaceful.
My second task is to guarantee that we approach these elections as two self-governing nations who respect each other's interests, national identity, religious traditions, and symbols. As a Czech who has given his presidential oath to an important Slovak who is personally close to him, I feel a special obligation -- after the bitter experiences that Slovaks had in the past -- to see that all the interests of the Slovak nation are respected and that no state office, including the highest one, will ever be barred to it in the future.
My third task is to support everything that will lead to better circumstances for our children, the elderly, women, the sick, the hardworking laborers, the national minorities and all citizens who are for any reason worse off than others. High-quality food or hospitals must no longer be a prerogative of the powerful; they must be available to those who need them the most.
As supreme commander of the armed forces I want to guarantee that the defensive capability of our country will no longer be used as a pretext for anyone to stand in the way of courageous peace initiatives, the reduction of military service, the establishment of alternative military service and the overall humanization of military life.
In our country there are many prisoners who, though they may have committed serious crimes and have been punished for them, have had to submit -- despite the goodwill of some investigators, judges and above all defense lawyers -- to a debased judiciary process that curtailed their rights. They now have to live in prisons that do not strive to awaken the better qualities contained in every person, but rather humiliate them and destroy them physically and mentally. In a view of this fact, I have decided to declare a relatively extensive amnesty. At the same time I call on the prisoners to understand that forty years of unjust investigations, trials and imprisonments cannot be put right overnight, and to understand that the changes that are being speedily prepared still require time to implement. By rebelling, the prisoners would help neither society nor themselves. I also call on the public not to fear the prisoners once they are released, not to make their lives difficult, to help them, in the Christian spirit, after their return among us to find within themselves that which jails could not find in them: the capacity to repent and the desire to live a respectable life.
My honorable task is to strengthen the authority of our country in the world. I would be glad if other states respected us for showing understanding, tolerance and love for peace. I would be happy if Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama of Tibet could visit our country before the elections, if only for a day. I would be happy if our friendly relations with all nations were strengthened. I would be happy if we succeeded before the elections in establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican and Israel. I would also like to contribute to peace by briefly visiting our close neighbors, the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. Neither shall I forget our other neighbors -- fraternal Poland and the ever-closer countries of Hungary and Austria.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I want to be a president who will speak less and work more. To be a president who will not only look out of the windows of his airplane but who, first and foremost, will always be present among his fellow citizens and listen to them well.
You may ask what kind of republic I dream of. Let me reply: I dream of a republic independent, free, and democratic, of a republic economically prosperous and yet socially just; in short, of a humane republic that serves the individual and that therefore holds the hope that the individual will serve it in turn. Of a republic of well-rounded people, because without such people it is impossible to solve any of our problems -- human, economic, ecological, social, or political.
The most distinguished of my predecessors opened his first speech with a quotation from the great Czech educator Komensk_. Allow me to conclude my first speech with my own paraphrase of the same statement:
People, your government has returned to you!
* Tom _ Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937), Czech statesman and philosopher, the first president of Czechoslovakia.Sphere: Related Content
I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions. Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I think we should keep an eye on anyone in power, and separate our debate about differing party ideologies from the issue of clean government. We should never stop debating issues revolving around competing ideologies and economic philosophies. Anyone in power faces temptation Everyone in power should be watched. As my father used to say to me in high school, "It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't" Sphere: Related Content
Republicans Set Deadline For Governor's Ousting: 'I've Asked Him To Resign'NEW YORK (CBS) ― If Gov. Eliot Spitzer opts to roll the dice and not resign, state Republican leadership will force him to go all-in and call for his impeachment from office, according to a state Assemblyman, who admitted he asked the governor to step down.
Sources told CBS 2 HD shortly after it was reported that the Democratic governor was linked to a prostitution ring that he would likely hand in his resignation, which could happen within the next 36 hours.
One way or another, the clock is ticking on Spitzer's next move.
A throng of media members camped outside Spitzer's Upper East Side apartment on 5th Avenue between 79th and 80th streets Tuesday morning should any new developments break. It's believed Spitzer was holed up inside receiving counsel from advisors and weighing the possibility of resigning.
Many seem to agree that will happen sooner than later.
State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady) told CBS 2 HD that he spoke with Lt. Governor Paterson Monday evening and that the two discussed Paterson taking on a new role of leadership, leading Tedisco to believe that action was "forthcoming."
Tedisco said if Spitzer does not resign according to a 48-hour deadline that's been imposed, state Republican leadership will call for impeachment proceedings to begin.
"I've asked him to resign," Tedisco said. "We'll give him 24 to 48 hours. I think that's plenty of time."
Spitzer, though, was clearly taking the time to examine his legal options. A spokesman said the governor had retained the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, one of the nation's most prominent.
The news of Spitzer's alleged transgression set off one of the largest scandals in modern New York state political history.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Spitzer, 48, apologized to his family and the public, but did not go as far as to explain why.
"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong," he said in a brief statement. "I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.
"I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family," he said alongside his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, who was visibly upset as he spoke.
The couple has three teenage daughters together.
The announcement not only shook up New York's political infrastructure, but political pundits who took to heart Spitzer's promise that he'd keep corruption and scandal out of Albany were stunned to learn of the news.
"Eliot Spitzer was supposed to be the guy that refurbished the Democratic party and cleaned up Albany, so this is much more shocking than it would be for any other incumbent," political consultant Norman Adler told CBS 2 HD.
"I'm sure that more champagne is being filled in Albany today than in the last five years," he added.
Despite the expectations of a resignation, some experts say Spitzer should take the time to weigh his options before stepping down.
"This is one of the most intelligent, brightest elected officials in the region. You don't change governors of New York lightly, and I think it would be a mistake to act precipitously," political consultant Joseph Mercurio told CBS 2 HD.
"I think first things first, he has to resolve his relationship with his wife. He has to look to his rabbi and make personal decisions first," Mercurio said. "It's really initially up to him before the rest of us react."
According to law enforcement officials, Spitzer first came under suspicion because of cash payments from several bank accounts to an account operated by the call girl ring, Emperor's Club VIP. Four organizers of the agency were arrested last week.
The governor was always the target of the investigation and was tracked using court-ordered wiretaps that appear to have recorded his arranging for a prostitute named "Kristen" to meet him at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. the day before Valentine's Day.
Spitzer allegedly paid for the call girl to take a train from New York to Washington, a move that opened the transaction up to federal prosecution because she crossed state lines. The governor hasn't been charged with any crime, but experts say his legal problems may have less to do with prostitution and more to do with his attempt to conceal the purpose and source of the cash payments.
That could amount to a crime called "structuring," which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
In the meantime, aides to Paterson were feverishly working to shore up support and preparing lawmakers for a changeover. Paterson, a Brooklyn native who is legally blind, would become the state's first black governor.
Paterson is said to be more liberal than Spitzer and he's taken the administration lead on issues like stem cell research and increasing the role of minority and women owned businesses in the state. Sphere: Related Content