Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day ) Thoughts by Paul Kovacs

Picture Copyright by Cougar

Tomorrow night is Thursday night. It will be Yom HaShoah, a day chosen to commemorate both the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
Tomorrow is Thursday night of parshas Kedoshim. Had I followed the will of my parents, the names of the Jewish months would be unknown to me. Although my father was Jewish, he and my mother did their best to raise me as Catholic. When I would ask my father about Judaism, he would tell me the truth as he saw it, that there was no joy in it for him and it was a burden he had left behind.
Stories of Jewish resistance brought a smile of Jewish pride to my father's face. Against a childhood that was measured by the passing of Christian holidays, I remember my father's pride in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the capture of Adolf Eichmann and the Six Day War. As a child, the nuns taught us something about Jesus saying that he would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. Not having been adept at metaphorical speech, I took the statement literally. When I heard the breathless news that Jerusalem was again in Jewish hands I also absorbed the news that the temple had been and remained destroyed. I felt the nuns had deceived me.
It was a blessing that I was sent to Catholic school. The nuns were civil and unapologetic in teaching Catholic doctrine. When my fourth grade teacher taught us one morning in religion class that one had to be baptised, I asked her point blank about my Jewish family, and if those killed by the Nazis could get into heaven. She told me truthfully of church teachings at that time that the unbaptised would go to a place short of heaven that was devoid of suffering called limbo. It was that morning that I recused myself from the Christian heaven and set my sights on camping out in the mezzanine of the hereafter.The hideous irony of a veteran of the Einsatzgruppen goose stepping into a Judenrein heaven was apparent to me even then.
The honesty of the nuns took years off of my search for a spiritual home. I am also grateful to my mother who spoke with respect for my Jewish ancestors. I remain grateful to the nuns for being honest about their beliefs and not deceiving me like the Jews for Jesus.
Along with the nuns, I have to thank my father's parents for their kindness to me as a child, and their tolerance of me as a teenager. Long before my attraction to the Jewish people had a reason, the fondness of their memory drew me to the faith of their ancestors. I can say from first hand experience that the warmth of a kind word and a smile can do more than the most finely crafted argument in lighting a spiritual path.
I was told on more than one occasion that having a Jewish father did not make me Jewish. It bothered me. It angered me. I did not know that conversion was an option until I was in my late teens. The calming thought occurred to me that a people has a right to define itself. The only way to become a Jew was to admit that I was not a Jew. Even as I debated with myself,the sight of an open door had a calming effect on me.
The thought that Judaism should be left and forgotten was and remains unbearable to me. I am married thank G-d to a woman who wrote "shabbos candles" on this Thursday's grocery list. For each member of the family a candle is lit every week. Each daughter living at home lights her own candle. Some of my children are named after people who were killed by the Nazis. Some are named after those who died peacefully. Some are named for an awaited redemption.For each one that has been born, for each that has married and in turn brought life to the world I have shed tears. I have shed tears of joy that our enemies have failed. And I shed tears for those who should have lived to bless another generation.
It is fortuitous (hashgocha pratis) that the name of this week's Torah reading is Kedoshim. In context it translates as "you should be holy" but also translates in contemporary usage as "the holy ones" which is also a term used to refer to those murdered by the Nazis.
My father had no trouble talking about Jewish fighters. Yom HaShoah is a day that I think about Jewish partisans, Israeli soldiers and heroes of Jewish survival such as the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was imprisoned and almost killed by the communists.Yom HaShoah is a day I share with my father. It is our common ground. It is during the three weeks that occur in the summer between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av(starting on July 20th this year) that I reflect on the connection between the martyrs of our time and those of past generations. A single day could not put to rest the questions I have of G-d about his troubled world. Three weeks imposes upon my questioning a merciful brevity.
I had a recurring dream in which I was included in a deportation. Other people standing in line were telling me , "Go Away. You're not Jewish." In the dream I would tell them,"Shut Up, I want to stay here."
The thought of living among Jew haters and looking at other Jews as one would a stranger always troubled me. I got a small taste of what that would have felt like when I was a teenager, out drinking with my friends. As we were walking home, one of the girls said made an anti Jewish remark to a woman she assumed to be Jewish. Although the rest of us told her to be quiet, I felt the sweep of the woman's disdainful stare as she looked first at the girl and then the rest of us. It was a moment of shame that remains with me years later. The thought of a life with more such moments was and remains more than I could ever bear.
In Jewish teaching, everyone is created with a mission. Each nation also has a purpose. In the Haggaddah for Passover it says, "in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and G-d, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"
This passage from the Haggaddah, that was read in so many Jewish homes twelve days ago on Passover has a special resonance when reading about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Six Day War and other times when we were threatened with collective destruction.
In a miracle, people are called upon to do something to participate. Moses had to raise his staff over the Nile. The Jews had to put lamb's blood on the door posts of their homes. Jewish survival is a miracle from one generation to the next. It is not a miracle that is given to us.To be partners in this miracle we are called upon to participate with the powers allotted by Providence to us.
In observing Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim right after Yom HaShoah, we will be celebrating the miracle of our survival. It is a gift to us from G-d to be trasured and maintained by us.For our sake and that of this troubled world, may the miracles multiply and continue.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars by the Flobots

My son and his wife just got back from California. Ever since he turned me on to "Never Again" by Wu Tang Clan, I've listened to his music choices. Since his wife is Yemenite, he has exposure to the full range of Israeli music. The beauty of Israeli music is that all the Jews who came home from various forced exiles brought back with them such a diversity of musical styles. Israeli food is the same concept played out in the gastronomic dimension.
When my son told me about "I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars", the title didn't really grab me. I couldn't imagine how such a song could venture into the realm of social commentary. With reservations I logged onto You Tube to check it out.
The video takes the viewer from childhood scenes in a schoolyard with the harmless boasts of childhood becoming more grandiose.A close look at the early sequence in the video shows a child being picked on by older kids and passing on his hurt to a group of children yet younger than he. As the topics of the bragging expand, they become more ominous, and scenes of war and carnage are mixed in. The tone remains childish but the playing field turns into a battlefield. Over the years, I have gone to school with and worked with Serbs, Croats,Arabs,Jews,Ethiopians as well as many other nationalities, all under peaceful circumstances. Sometimes I think of these people and wonder if their lives have been peaceful or if they are even still alive. When is a tennis racket or baseball glove traded for a rifle? What is the moment when children boasting harmlessly in a schoolyard take that critical step to being armed adversaries? Who manages the transition and why? If we could stop it, would we? This video asks more questions than I can answer. The Flobots have done us all a great favour by producing such a song. I thank them and wish them well

Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe on comments only Music by the Flobots compliments of You Tube Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hamas Propaganda (From You Tube and Memri)

It is helpful to know what psychological preparations the Palestine Authority is making on a mass level for the two state future so aggressively being pursued by the EU and the US. The freely elected government headed by Hamas now controls Palestine Authority TV. With pop songs and children's shows gleefully extolling "Jewish body parts in black bags" on state sponsored TV it is safe to say that Israel does not have a "partner for peace." Lest it be said that this song is private venting among Arabs, it should be noted that the song is in Hebrew. It is a clear message from our "peace partners".
To tell Israelis to trust such a government is to knowingly put them in harm's way. The Palestinian suffering so indignantly laid at the foot of the Israelis is better blamed on those who do their best to wipe out their natural trading partner. Those who invest money that should feed their people on war have themselves to blame. Those who tell us to trust a Hamas or Fatah government are not "honest brokers" but accomplices. The weapons paid for with with American money and given to the Palestine authority are used to kill Jews because they are Jews. Hamas should be credited with honesty. They facilitate terrorism. They publicly applaud it. They compose a song in Hebrew for their Jewish enemies. Israel knows what it must do Let no one say otherwise. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Obama Refuses To Debate Clinton

In a clear display of reluctance to face voters, presidential contender Barack Obama has refused to face his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton before the upcoming Indiana primary. In our times, television and radio provide important opportunities to observe those who aspire to public office. A speech is a good chance to showcase charisma and oratorical skills, categories in which Barack Obama is given high marks.
Debating shows a different range of thinking skills. It shows the ability to think on ones feet and the ability to present ones ideas to a hostile audience. The morning after the November election, America is going to have a large minority that will be unhappy with the choice of the majority. Our next President will have to persuade his or her opponents to rally behind his or her program. An adversarial forum is a good place to showcase this talent. If Obama insists on sticking to managed photo opportunities and refuses to debate Clinton, I will have to assume that he lacks a crucial range of the skills needed to be president. I hope Barack Obama reconsiders. As of now, he has lost a debate that never took place. And it's all his fault. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Kosher and Joyous Passover (Chag Kosher v'Someach)

Due to observance of the final two days of Pesach, will not post again until late Sunday night,April 27. I wish all of my readers a joyous and peaceful holiday.

Magdeburger Joe of and Sphere: Related Content

America's Modern Day Loan Sharks Stooping to New Lows

I have all too often had to speak with "relationship specialists" and customer service representatives about my credit cards. We have a very cordial relationship I put my credit card wallet on the table as I do my business by phone. That little wallet is like my good buddy. He'll always wait another month for me to pay him back. I call him Max.
If you are a day late a couple of times a year, the credit card company can raise your interest to as high as 34%. When I was young, we used to call that loansharking. The "relationship specialist" who discussed our cash flow problems with us had a way of talking with his hands when making a point. It was very persuasive. He made a nice living. And he lived close by.
I 'm not worried about my" relationship specialist" knocking on my door at one A.M. Half of the time he lives in India. He also makes a good living off of my usurious debts. He might make about $100.00 a week. At least the old loan shark paid his brass knuckles man a decent wage. Now the banks are "outsourcing" all these jobs to countries that pay their workers a fraction of American wages. From tech support to customer service, the companies that take our hard earned money won't even let us work off our debt to them. Did you ever wonder why an ATM machine , that automates a lot of work once done by humans charges as much as $2.00 a transaction? I'd rather tip the teller.
There are ways to develop an industrial base in developing countries that would not pit workers on different continents against each other. There should be hefty taxes on those big corporations that are shipping the jobs overseas. The old loan sharks were at least honest about what they were. The new ones are sinking our country. If they keep stressing me out, I'll have to make an appointment with a relationship specialist.
Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Coal Shortage In China, A Crisis and an Oppportunity

According to an article on,China's burgeoning industrial sector has outstripped China's coal supply to the point that their reserves are sufficient for about twelve days. Coal exports were suspended for two months back in January when about ninety power plants had been shut down.
A situation has evolved in which power shortages are a regular occurrence. China continues to struggle to provide enough coal to keep up with its dizzying industrial progress.
What has not been discussed yet is the possibility of coal imports from the United States. This would go a long way towards correcting our lopsided trade imbalance with China, and probably shore up our shaky dollar as well. This is the first piece of news to come out of China that is of good for American workers. I hope that America and China will act in their mutual interests in the field of energy supply. Both need to be in economic good health to be of benefit to each other. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Great Song From Karat

One of my favourite rock groups of all time is Karat, an East German rock group from the communist era. The more repulsed I am by a political system the greater my fascination with the role of art and music in that society. Sometimes I go to a wishful world where I focus on the similarities between languages instead of the bloody discord of their speakers. Serbs and Croats, Indians and Pakistanis all have a history of armed strife yet each share a language group with a bitter rival. My German Jewish ancestry leaves me with a peculiar relationship to Yiddish, which is linguistically related to German. Despite having fled the Nazis with his parents, my father retained and passed on to me a fondness for the German language. The diverse origins of English deepen my curiousity about Germanic and romance languages in general.
I think so highly of this song "Over Seven Bridges ", that I am including my own decidedly non poetic translation of the song by Karat. The rhythm and flow of the original are beyond my ability to capture in translation. The song eloquently speaks of sadness, despair and hope. The choice of the number seven is at once biblical and evocative of the teen years, which stretch from childhood to the threshold of adulthood. The words resonate profoundly with anyone who has faced long term personal problems or depression. The song empathises with and articulates despair and speaks eloquently of hope.
I am presenting my awkward but functional translation below with thanks to Karat and to You Tube.

Over Seven Bridges by Karat

Sometimes I go in the streets without seeing
Sometimes I just want my rocking horse back
Sometimes I am without peace and quiet
Sometimes all the doors close behind me.
Sometimes everything is hot and cold.
Sometimes I don't know anymore what I know.
Sometimes I'm already tired in the morning.
And then I find consolation in a song.

Over seven bridges you must go,
surviving seven dark years
for seven years you will be like ashes
but then you will shine brightly

Sometimes the clock of life seems to stand still .
Sometimes one seems to only go in circles.
Sometimes one is sick with longing for home.
Sometimes one sits still on a bench.
Sometimes one reaches for the whole world.
Sometimes one feels that one's lucky star has fallen.
Sometimes one takes when one would rather give.
Sometimes you hate those who you really love.

Over seven bridges you must go
Surviving seven dark years.
For seven years you will be like ashes
and then you will shine brightly.

Commentary Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe video from You Tube Song by Karat Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

False Report Triggered Raid on Mormon Polygamists

The mystery caller who triggered the raid on the Texas Mormon polygamist's ranch has not been positively identified. According to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, the call in which abuse was alleged at the YFZ ranch came from a number belonging to a Colorado woman with an alleged history of filing false reports of abuse with law enforcement.
Rozita Swinton of Colorado Springs, Colorado has been declared a "person of interest" in the YFZ ranch case. The article in the Rocky Mountain news details a series of calls to law enforcement allegedly made by Swinton in which she allegedly reported an abusive pastor, an abusive father and a case in which she allegedly reported being locked in her basement by her father. All of the reports were found to be spurious. Swinton is still being sought by police for questioning in the case.
So now over four hundred children have been taken from their homes in a massive denial of due process triggered by a false report. Who is representing the parents and children in this gross miscarriage of justice? The state of Texas is putting itself in a precarious legal position if any of the children come to harm in state custody.
The families at the YFZ ranch should be reunited. If there is to be an investigation of the compound, it should occur while the families are together and represented by legal counsel.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stand For Something

One thing I miss about the eighties was Ronald Reagan's unabashed conservatism. He was running on an ideological platform in which he believed very strongly. He used all of his powers of persuasion to make his world view into a working reality.
The elder George Bush seemed to be a hereditary Republican, taking on a political affinity that had been passed to him with no particular passion. I credit George W. with a seeming heartfelt belief in a conservative philosophy. It seems unfortunately that he is almost apologetic about it. There is a pressing need to defend America's borders . There is a pressing concern felt by most Americans not only for the value and future of the American dollar but the value and future of American labour as well. The mainstream of the Republican party has failed to identify or address these problems in a way that meaningfully differs with the Democrats.
I feel a gratitude to the Republicans that they do not yet have an Obama-Carter wing to their party. I distrust Hillary. I believe she will espouse anything to get elected. She is only as good as the ideas she co opts.
I look back with nostalgia on some aspects of Italian politics before the Euro. On the left you had a Communist Party unabashedly rallied in the streets under a hammer and sickle. On the other side you had a Christian Democratic Party. There was even a fascist party. It was from Italians that I learned the value of listening to people talk about their political convictions. I learned to see people's beliefs in the context of their background and experiences. The Communists did not win any seats in the last Italian election. They went bankrupt in a well stocked market place of ideas. America should bring back clear debates about political direction and philosophy.
It would be good to see the passionate forthrightness of Italian politics on the American political scene. I want the ethnic diversity of America to strengthen it and not tear it apart. In some countries, people are killed in election violence. It is a blessing to differ passionately yet bloodlessly. The sense that we are all fellow citizens at the end of a heated national debate is profoundly reassuring.
To both the Democrats and the Republicans I say this. Be yourselves. Don't impersonate each other. The similarity of the two parties bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an election with one party.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 21, 2008

Paul Kovacs Quotation

Bad Checks happen. You can pay a bad check. But I never forgive a counterfeit smile. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Kosher and Joyous Passover To All

Because of the holiday of Passover, the next posting on this site will be Monday night , April 21. Magdeburger Joe wishes peace to all and THIS year in Jerusalem!! Sphere: Related Content

Jimmy Carter : Subversive or a Useful Idiot?

The American State Department offers some protection to those traveling abroad who run afoul of local legal systems or who get sick abroad. On rare occasions the government can revoke the passport of someone whose activities abroad are injurious to America's interests . Paul Robeson actually had his passport revoked diring the 1950's because of his friendliness to the Soviet Union. Robeson's passport revocation seems to have been a clear case of stifling free speech. It is not likely that he was in possession of any state secrets or intended to mobilise violent action against the United States government. Though sympathetic to the U.S.S.R. he was not an agent of that government.
Jimmy Carter is a different matter altogether. He has consistantly tried to undercut the foreign policy of sitting presidents. Although superficially, this is a free speech issue, as a former president, Carter probably has access to state secrets through his existing contacts in government. Revoking his passport as has been suggested by some, would be a last resort that should only be invoked if he is determined to have breached America's security. Despite this , his contacts with terrorist organisations should be investigated and monitored. If he is merely a "useful idiot" , then it would be better for public opinion and posterity to put his ongoing scold in the trash bin of history where it belongs. But there is every reason to monitor Carter's activities for evidence of him endangering national security. It is a pity that a former president invites such suspicion. But he has brought it on himself
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Jor Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Fair Deal For New York's Finest
New York City police are finally getting the respect they deserve.... Out of town.
According to a New York Daily News article, New York City offers $25,100.00 starting salary for a rookie police officer.Washington State is offering $48,715.00 a year.And San Jose offers a starting salary of $70,037.00
New York City police start the job with superior training and a range of experience and opportunities that make them a valuable asset on any police force. The size of the NYPD rivals that of the army of some small countries. Even with the reduction in crime , all too many have paid the ultimate price for the risks they take every day on behalf of the citizenry. America's free market economy has called attention to the value of the NYPD, according them the recognition denied by our city legislature.
It does not bring honour to our city to treat our police so shabbily. Means must be found to extend to them the recognition they now find elsewhere. This drain oflaw enforcement talent from our city is hurting all of us. And it's our fault. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I have never been able to just laugh at a joke. I always ask myself why a joke is funny to me. It's a blessing and a curse, because sometimes its good to just kick back and laugh, but I have come to enjoy the internal dialogue.
My spotlight of introspection just shifted over to one of my favourite singers in the English language, Billy Joel. There are three songs he did which really move me and in my opinion express the feeling of my generation. (The decade after WW2) "We Didn't Start The Fire is such a rapid fire stream of images spanning a generation that each time listening to the song involves a different stream of mental imagery.
Allentown and Alexa both express different facets of post World War Two disillusionment. Some view the fifties and early sixties as a time of growth and opportunity, when America's sun was rising. Both songs talk about diminishing opportunities and changing times making life more of a struggle than ever before. Although "Alexa" is from the 1980s it is more relevant than ever today. Both songs are excellent musically. The versatility of Billy Joel never ceases to amaze me. I chose to present the "Alexa" video from You Tube because I feel that the video is among the best ever made.
If you are wondering why I am presenting a song that is almost 20 years old, it is because of its pressing relevance today. I am careful not to keep old food in my refrigerator. But a good song never spoils. That is why I am in no great hurry to listen to the newest music.
In order to come up with solutions, you have to identify the problems. Some of Billy Joel's music does just that.
Commentary Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Dutch Correspondent With An Open Mind

Nicolien den Boer, A Dutch Reporter for the Arabic Desk of Radio Netherlands
edited translation of the original Dutch report by Nicolien den Boer)

When the Israeli woman who's interrogating me at Tel Aviv airport says, "I've just sent someone back who didn't co-operate", what she actually means is "you've been warned". It's 4 a.m., and this is the third time I've been questioned so far. I'm trying to stay calm. I haven't slept yet and I haven't had anything to drink for hours. The woman, probably a member of the Israeli security services, points me to the water fountain outside the toilets. I rinse my mouth, nothing more (is it safe to drink the water here?).

My passport has stamps from various Arab countries: Dubai, Yemen and archenemy Syria. After having to explain away all the telephone numbers I have in my possession, give my e-mail address and provide information about all my planned visits to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there yet another interrogation of about an hour followed, this time about my time in Syria: "What did you do there?" "Do you know anyone there?", "Where exactly did you go?".

Finally, after more than five hours of waiting and being questioned at Tel Aviv airport, I get my passport back and am allowed to go. My suitcase is waiting, but - despite what I was promised - there's no one keeping an eye on it.

On the way to my hotel, I am feeling rather confused. I thought the Israelis always laid out the red carpet for members of the Western press. Haven't they got a reputation for bending over backwards to help journalists, handing out beautiful press packs and great quotes? If they treat me, a Dutch woman like this, what's it like for a Palestinian? I'd started going on about getting the Dutch embassy involved. I even rang them up - they were closed, of course. But a Palestinian wouldn't have any embassy to call. I'm trying not to think in simplistic terms of ‘good guy, bad guy', but it's difficult.

So I save my complaint for the government press office in Jerusalem, where I go to pick up my press card next day. "Security measures," is the explanation I get from the press officer, a tired looking woman by the name of Pnina Aizenman. "What do you think it's like for us, waking up each morning and never knowing what the day will bring?" she says, clearly referring to Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

While Pnina's busy getting my press card ready, I take a look at the photos of children and a newspaper article on the wall behind me. The article is about a woman who lost her mother and her five-year-old child in a Palestinian suicide bombing. The name of the woman is Pnina Aizenman. I get the shivers. "That's you," I stammer. "Yes. Do you understand now what I mean by security measures?" she replies. I suddenly feel ashamed that I've just been complaining about being kept waiting for five hours when this woman's life has been totally wrecked by a bomb.

Then I also remember the bread roll that a police officer offered me at the airport, and that one of the women questioning me told me about the death of two friends and how she dedicated her work to their memory and did it "to defend her country". Totally confused, I leave the press office and walk out onto the streets of Jerusalem. Suddenly I find that I've totally binned [trashed] that ‘good guy, bad guy' thing I had in my head less than 24 hours ago.

Reprinted From Radio Netherlands
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 14, 2008

Graceless Exit Award

Rudi Stettner gives the Graceless Exit Award to a public figure whose public "service" continues to last well into the twilight of his or her years. Where many offer the wisdom of a lifetime to share with a grateful public, recipients of the Graceless Exit Award must combine tenacity and audacity with delusions of competence. The misdeeds of their latter years should be so egregious as to erase any memory of their prior modest achievements.
The competition this year for the Graceless Exit Award is especially fierce. James Earl (Jimmy) Carter and Robert Magabe of Zimbabwe have each made a spirited bid for the award. Jimmy Carter has whitewashed the dictatorship in North Korea and ushered in a bloody theocracy in Iran.The manner in which he surrendered the Panama Canal to the control of a corrupt dictatorship gave a beach head to instability on yet another continent.He has undermined at every turn the united and dignified profile that former U.S. Presidents have shown the world. One would think that the swath of destruction cut during his term in office would humble Carter into penitential silence Instead, he has perpetuated the stench of the Carter Presidency with a series of pious pronouncements, books, articles and memoirs best forgotten . The main difficulty in bestowing this award to Carter is to find any achievements at all from his presidency that might have been overshadowed by his prolonged presence in the public spotlight.
Technically, Robert Mugabe should not be eligible for the Graceless Exit Award, since he has not yet left office. In a series of "elections" that would challenge even the elastic standards of Jimmy Carter, Mugabe has clung to the Zimbabwean presidency. In the process, he has destroyed the Zimbabwean economy, reducing much of the country to starvation and putting the value of most Zimbabwean banknotes on a par with an arm length of cheap toilet paper. The energy with which he clings to office and further destroys his country would humble a man half his age.
A year shy of Mugabe's eighty four years, Carter has proven himself to be Mugabe's equal in tenacity. Though he left office peacefully, he has worked behind the scenes to strengthen those whose contributions to the world have proven most injurious. Medical science has not yet classified his or Mugabe's delusions of competence as cases of bona fide mental illness.
So Mr. Carter and Mr. Mugabe are herewith awarded the Graceless Exit Award for a public visibility that lingers in the complete absence of any positive achievements. The award, which is to be shared equally by the contestants is one million Zimbabwe dollars, which has a value at this posting of U.S.$0.05 (and falling hourly).
Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Slavery Today

It is an enduring misconception that slavery is a thing of the past. Although slavery is legally abolished in America, cases come to light in which illegal immigrants are forced into defacto slavery to pay off usurious debts. These debts are most often to the smugglers, who coerce compliance with threats to the family back home.
Outside America, human beings are bought and sold into various forms of slavery. From Sudan and Mauritania, where one can purchase a human being for less than the cost of a cheap television, to India and Pakistan where a hundred dollar debt is enough to chain an entire family for generations, servitude is alive and well.
The American Anti Slavery Group is trying to educate the public and eradicate the blight of modern day bondage. Their haunting slogan is "Slavery isn't history." They have an extensive website that educates the reader and facilitates involvement. The lives of millions are circumscribed by the parameters of involuntary servitude. They receive far to little attention or assistance.
The Anti Slavery website is worth more than a visit. They deserve support and attention. I am putting their link below and on my permanent list of favorite links . They deserve your support.
Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 11, 2008

Iraqi Christians Stuck in Jordan

Iraqi Christians who have been approved for admission to the United States are languishing in a diplomatic limbo as they wait for the State Department to process their paperwork, according to an article by Newsmax columnist Ken Timmerman. Even those with relatives in the United States face a bewildering bureaucratic gauntlet. During the time that the refugees are waiting in Jordan they are not permitted to work and must rely on charity and financial assistance from home.
Since a visit from a delegation last October composed of members of Christian Solidarity International and the Religious Freedom Coalition, the U.S. State Department has been more attentive to the plight of the Christian refugees. Now State Department officials meet with representatives of the Christian community on a Bi-monthly basis.
As comforting as the new attitude of American diplomatic officials might be, the pace of entry for non Muslim refugees has remained glacially slow.
President Bush has given orders that 12000 Iraqi refugees be admitted to the U.S. by October 2008. In the first quarter of this year, approximately 1700 refugees from Iraq have been admitted to the U.S. These statistics seem to indicate that even a presidential decree can become mired in a swamp of bureaucratic inertia.
A dimension of the problem that is hard to assess is the role of regional rivalries in sidelining or slowing down some visa applications. Even in sensitive areas such as Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a considerable portion of the clerical staff processing visas in in U.S. embassies and consulates is native to the country in which the consulates and embassies are located. There are numerous opportunities that locals might have to bring their prejudice within the premises of the U.S. diplomatic missions. Far more worrisome is the real possibility of hostile elements infiltrating embassies and consulates. This was a concern that proved well founded on more than one occasion in the former U.S.S.R. There is no reason for the United States to be any less vigilant in the Middle East today.
A tidal wave of illegal immigration pounds at America's borders that we lack the will to stop. It is a shame and disgrace that our State Department is not able to bestow the gift of refuge on the public's behalf in a speedy and dignified manner. The problems of security at our embassies will not go away by itself. The bureaucratic impasse that brings heartbreak to thousands requires concerted effort.
There should be a wall at our borders, not in our embassies. It past time to implement the changes necessary to make America's will to compassion a reality. Let us not waste another moment.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What Would You Do?

As America faces the real threat of terrorism on its own soil, we are faced with a balancing act. On the one hand we must seek out those who would use America's freedoms to plot its destruction. At the same time, we must never fall prey to the temptation to blame and harm the innocent who might in appearance remind us of the real enemy.
The best portrayal I have ever seen of this very real danger was on an Orthodox Jewish Website,, which departed from its usual repertoire of family friendly comedy to tackle the very real problem of anti Arab bigotry and our willingness to oppose it in our daily lives .
Orthodox Jews, like Muslims express their ethnic and religious identity through distinctive attire. America was founded by varying waves of colonists, some of whom were organised groups of religious dissidents such as Puritans and Quakers. It is central to America's identity as a nation that this freedom be extended to all who come and respect America's laws.
Here in Brooklyn, Jews and Muslims coexist peacefully. It is critical to me as a Jew and an American to preserve for others the peace and freedom that have been so important to Jewish survival. I am grateful to for presenting the above video. I urge you to click on the link below to visit the Jewlarious site.
Comments only are Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bloomberg Pushes for Solar Energy

Mayor Bloomberg has pushed for the installation of solar panels in city owned buildings. The electricity could then be purchased and resold. This idea would cut down on the city's dependence on foreign oil and create a means of tapping renewable energy sources.
There are home owners who would like a supplement or even an alternative to Con Edison. If Mayor Bloomberg wanted to touch the lives of homeowners with his ideas about renewable energy, he could encourage wind and solar power on private property through information and tax breaks.Those who have even partially used alternative sources of energy are often pleased with their creativity and resourcefulness paying off in savings. Ordinary citizens can do what Mayor Bloomberg is proposing. If he were to make available to private citizens a portion of the city's purchasing power for energy saving projects, it would be good for homeowners and the city
New York has led the nation in dropping crime, and we could also set an example in energy conservation.
Copyright 2008 Magdeburger Joe
. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Barack Obama Calling For Talks With Iran

Presidential contender Barack Obama has called for a "diplomatic surge" that should in his opinion include talks with Iran. Combined with his call for a timetable for withdrawal, Obama's latest public statement does not create an image of his foreign policy that is either coherent or resolute.
Top level Iranians are defecting to the west , bringing with them extensive information about Iran's efforts to destabilise the middle east, and to aid North Korea's military program.(see links at the top of this page). Even countries that are at war have discreet contacts concerning matters that do not adversely affect their security. Humanitarian visas, special exceptions to trade embargoes and low level diplomatic contacts are routine. Great effort goes into maintaining the low "temperature" of a conflict.
Not only is Iran's nuclear program a threat to regional and world peace, but also its aid to sympathetic warlords in Iraq. It has fomented unrest in Lebanon and Israel as well. These activities of Iran have added to instability in the entire mid-east as well as bled hundreds of millions of dollars from economic, social and infrastructural development in Iran. There have been open demonstrations of opposition, especially among Iran's non Iranian minorities, who comprise about 49% of Iran's population. They are far from happy about Ahmadinejad's costly adventures and rhetoric.
It is common for presidential aspirants to get information about foreign policy that is not readily available to common citizens. Obama's latest pronouncements about Iran bespeak a certain naivete about the proper balance of force and diplomacy. The longer the presidential campaign lasts, the more mystified I am by the flow of votes and campaign dollars that are coming Obama's way.
Obama seems to want nothing so much as to be president. His vision and program seem to be nonexistent. Even if he does not know what he wants for America, I am sure that his backers have a clear agenda and objectives.
It must be very hard for America's enemies to fear and respect us when the Democratic opposition is so vocally against our current foreign policy.
There was a presidential election during World War Two in 1944. In a celebration of our systemic resilience , it was not postponed. History has recorded the Republican opposition as having left no doubt as to their full support of America's war effort. Our axis enemies derived no solace from the debate of the Democrats and the Republicans about America and the world's future. There was no hope in Berlin or Tokyo that Thomas Dewey would offer the axis a "new deal"
In deciding our future, we should study the lessons of the 1944 presidential elections in setting the tone for 2008. We owe this to those who have paid the ultimate price in this war. And we owe it to ourselves
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Check Out Rudi's Other Site

If you've enjoyed, check out my other site, With a slightly different tone, it champions a lot of the causes and beliefs that are promoted on this site. Read my article on the controversial Absolut Vodka advertisement that was withdrawn from circulation after angry protests. Click on the title to this post or the link below to view my other site.

Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Assyrian "Alap Beet"

In a world that has industrialised murder, in an age when one ethnic group after another seems to be under murderous attack, hope seems to be hard to come by.
When I look at family photos, I try to discern a resemblance between the various people standing in the pictures. Although relationships within a photograph may be thorny and complex, there is an ordered quality to the faces herded into neat rows by the unseen photographer. The shadow of generations unseen seeps into a picture as recollections are passed around along with the pictures.
In examining the relationship between languages through linguistics and etymology I have a similar feeling of consanguinity and ties of marriage vying with evolving grudges and rivalries. Just as the photos provide an ordered place of refuge, so too do linguistic charts and cognate words provide a fraternal sense that is often endangered in our age.
I view the semitic languages like brothers in a portrait, frozen on paper and silenced from their loud discord by the photographer. I would dearly love to transport this ordered quality to the rush of daily life. Perhaps it will happen in our lifetime....
From my one of my favourite websites I have taken a video by the Ashoor Drama Group titled" Alap Beet" It is of course about learning the alphabet of the Assyrian language. Those familiar with either Hebrew or Arabic will experience flashes of recognition in listening to this beautiful song. Please do extend the beauty of this experience by visiting an amazing website.(linked below) Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 7, 2008

Israeli Government Minister Warns Iran

In extremely blunt language, National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer issued a tough warning to Iran about its government's plan to destroy Israel.
"An Iranian attack against Israel would trigger a tough reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation,"Mr. Ben Eliezer is quoted as saying.
Although this is a welcome breath of fresh air in the annals of public discourse, the steady stream of rocket attacks on S'derot and other towns bordering Gaza is a real and present threat. While the words of Israel's enemies should be taken seriously, it seems escapist to ignore the steady stream of rocket attacks and acts of anti-Jewish hatred that threaten Israelis on a daily basis. Mr. Ben Eliezer's spirit of toughness, is likely to be criticised by those who will always criticise Israel. If this spirit of sanity returns to the mainstream of Israeli political discourse, it will, if followed up by concrete measures save and enrich both Arab and Jewish lives. Sphere: Related Content

Violence Against Mandaeans in Iraq Continues

As reported earlier on, the Mandaeans are a gnostic sect that is native to Iran and Iraq. Their liturgical language is a dialect of Aramaic. They are monotheistic and accept no converts, Only those born to two Mandaean parents can be Mandaean. They are pacifists. In short, there is nothing threatening about them. They should be eligible for the Dhimmi status under Islamic law that provides non Islamic minorities with government protection.
Unfortunately murder, forced conversions and attacks against their women and children have forced them to flee the countries that have been the home of their faith and way of life for millenia.
The war in Iraq has upset the delicate balance that protected Iraq's non Muslim minorities. In the case of Mandaeans, the continuity of their existence itself is threatened. Although some have been taken in by Sweden, Australia and Canada, more help is needed. As can be seen in the press statement that follows this news article, every day that the plight of this helpless minority is ignored is a day that lives are in danger. I am putting a link to their organisation at the bottom of this article so that those who wish to support and help them can contact them.
A peaceful world in which all may approach their Creator in the manner dictated by their conscience is something for which we all should strive. Let us not be silent about the plight of the Mandaeans
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

The Mandaean Associations Union Denounces the Killing of 9 Mandaean Women and Children.

The Mandaean Associations Union denounces the heinous murder of 9 Mandaeans in Al-Kut City in Iraq on the 26th of March 2008. The victims were women and children of two families residing in the city.

This crime is the latest crime is the series of crimes against the peaceful and innocent people of Iraq. The Sabian Mandaeans are the most peaceful people of Iraq. Their love for peace, religion and living in dignity is costing them their homeland, their past and future. The Mandaeans are forced to leave their country in the thousands to save their lives and their children's lives. This crime is only an example of what is happening for those who chose to stay.

We ask of all honest Iraqis to help stop these crimes against the Sabian Mandaeans by all means available to them.
We ask the Iraqi government, The American government and the international organizations to investigate this crime and punish the perpetrators.

The Mandaean Associations Union
March 30th 2008 Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Great Quebecois Rock Group, Vilain Pingouin (Use this link if you have trouble with the above video

When visiting my daughter's school in Quebec province two years ago, I was consumed with curiosity about Quebec's popular music scene. I found people in music stores where I shopped to be most helpful, and came back with about a hundred songs and lots of group names.
When I was in Europe back in the seventies, I heard a lot of people express the opinion that American English was not "real" English and that the sixty million inhabitants of the U.K. speak an authoritative English. After watching an British movie with subtitled English, I learned to take this snobbery in stride.
The Quebecois have to endure a similar snobbery from French speakers residing in France. Despite the fact that there are dialects and languages spoken in France that differ markedly from standard French, the Quebecois dialect suffers a lack of respect.
The start of British rule in Quebec in1760 isolated the French of North America from speakers of European French. While some divergences are due to contacts with Indians and the British, in other cases older forms of spoken French have been preserved in Quebec usage.
English owes its current form to over two hundred years of French rule in England. English has common features with both Romance and Germanic languages. Its etymology has been determined to be more international than that of Esperanto.
Much as a devotee of Windows or Linux will sing the praises of their chosen operating system, I feel a sense of gratitude to the English language for facilitating a full range of thought and expression. Such gratitude extends to Latin, Germanic and French which have each made their contributions to a language which has spanned the globe and left its mark on world history.
It is in that spirit that I focus this posting on Vilain Pingouin, a group with which I became acquainted through You Tube. The group, though distinctly Gallic reminds me at times of Bruce Springsteen. Those of you who like me do not speak French are asked to focus on the beauty of the human voice as a musical instrument. I would welcome feedback from my readers about this and other music on the world scene with which they might be familiar. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 4, 2008

Traffic Plan Hits Congestion in Albany

New Yorkers are fortunate that New Yorkers outside of the city do not share the enthusiasm for tax levies of the Bloomberg administration. Reports have come out of Albany that Congestion Pricing Plan does not have sufficient support in Albany to pass. Perhaps finally the smug preaching that has come from Gracie mansion will be replaced by constructive dialogue with tax and crime weary New Yorkers. The de facto existence of a one party system has diminished the voice of city residents disenchanted with the Democratic monopoly. Fortunately, city residents remain citizens of New York State. Many of us hope for a whiff of realism to blow in from Albany. Sphere: Related Content

Good News From Associated Press About Mayor Bloomberg's Traffic Plan

Albany, NY - (Associated Press) New York Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith says he doesn't have enough votes to assure approval of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to reduce traffic and air pollution in Manhattan.

Smith, who represents part of Queens and supports the congestion pricing plan, says he doesn't have enough members willing to side with the Senate's Republican majority on the proposal to charge fees for driving in certain high-traffic parts of the city.

The state Legislature is facing a deadline of midnight Monday to act on the plan. But opposition from suburban and outer borough representatives makes approval uncertain.

A spokesman for the Senate's GOP majority, however, says there will be enough votes to support the plan by Monday. [AP] Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Obama's Endorsements

Jane (Hanoi) Fonda and Jimmy Carter have endorsed Barack Obama for president, ending a week of bad news for the Clinton campaign. Those who brought us the fall of Iran to Ayatollah Khomeni and broadcasts over Radio Hanoi will do us a great favour by enlightening us about the appeal of an Obama nation.
Even more interesting would be information from our dormant news media about Barack Obama's powerful backers and what they might expect from an Obama administration. One thing Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have in common is their chameleonic ability to adapt their rhetoric to audience expectations. Hillary Rodham spent eight years in a fish bowl. Barack Hussein is far less known. Information is out there. Reporters need to do their jobs.
Both Hillary and Barack come from the Chicago area. Chicago is known as the windy city. One explanation for the term "Windy City" is that it is a pulmonary and not a meteorological term relating specifically to the lung capacity of its legislative bodies. Barack and Hillary have done little to disprove this explanation.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hope In Zimbabwe

If reports coming out of Zimbabwe are to be believed, the brave electorate of this tormented country may have bought peace for their country by voting Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party out of power. Despite threats of retaliation from Mugabe's government, Movement for Democratic Change supporters have made public the observations of their poll watchers that Robert Mugabe has been defeated. Mugabe supporters have privately confirmed the contentions of the MDC.
Zimbabwe is widely reputed to have the worst economy in the world. Its inflation rate of 11000 percent is the highest in the world. The country can not feed itself. At dinner parties of the middle class, a loaf of bread or litre of milk is treasured as would be a bottle of fine wine elsewhere.
Opposition candidates were forced to eat their own campaign posters. In every respect, Zimbabwe is in dire straits.
The latest good news gives the international community an opportunity to help a country that has finally found the means to help itself. Hopefully, the latest news represents the end of a long cold night for this tortured land.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe
Please Click on the above link to read a background story. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wal-Mart drops effort to recover money from Jackson family's trust fund

According to the South East Misourian, the Walmart health plan has dropped its infamous lawsuit against former Wal-Mart employee Debbie Shank. After the Supreme Court found no legal grounds to challenge Walmart's heartless action, the court of public opinion was quick to deliver its stinging verdict. Although the Shank family was resigned to turning over the entire trust fund to the Wal-mart empire, it became clear that it was necessary to head off a public relations disaster.
Much good has come out of the Shank family's ordeal. It has shined light on the harsh conditions endured by American workers workers as we move deeper into the twenty first century. Additionally, the precarious state of American public health care now has a human face. The most valuable lesson is that the American people have leverage against the corporate giants. Do not go home to sleep after this fight. Through talk shows, through the blogosphere, through calls to corporations, we do have a voice. We have economic power We can spend our money supporting socially responsible capitalists and punishing corporate greed. When you buy a pair of shoes, make sure that they support the workers and not just your arches.
Thank G-d that the Shank family can enjoy some peace in their troubled lives. They have taught us a valuable set of lessons in their struggle. We must be thankful.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Yu Grupa From the Former Yugoslavia

Yu Grupa was one of the top rock groups in the former Yugoslavia during the 70's and eighties. The popularity of this band extends past the borders of its native Serbia into all of the republics of the former Yugoslavia and beyond. Crni Leptir is one of their most popular songs. I hope you enjoy the song and accompanying video from You Tube. Sphere: Related Content