Monday, August 31, 2009

Purple Blossoms and Thoughts of Childhood

There is not much I remember from junior high school. I was a day dreamer and a social misfit with unpopular political opinions and a less than endearing personality. I focused on what interested me and barely got by in my subjects. One day, in 9th grade English class, the teacher was discussing "Julius Caesar" by Shakespeare. My mind was focused on a map that had been rolled down from a previous class. It was an old map of Europe and Asia. I noticed that China was coloured purple, which indicated that China was under Japanese occupation. I was focused on World War Two and the bloody Japanese occupation of Manchuria that preceded it. I couldn't bring myself to open "Julius Caesar". That was fairly typical of my educational experience. I was focused intensely on matters that interested me.

There was a crowd I fit in with. It was the "hippie crowd." Even though I didn't do drugs, I sort of found my place with them. The school building I went to was huge. It was shaped like a "U" and had in it about 1600 students. In the middle of the "U" was a flagpole and a lawn along with beautifully arranged flower beds and trees. It is only in retrospect that I realise how much work must have gone into maintaining it.

There was one tree which sprouted beautiful purple flowers every spring. By May, the blossoms were in full flower. One day, I decided to "stop and smell the flowers. I walked under some of the lower hanging branches, expecting a floral fragrance. Instead, I recoiled at the scent. It smelled like something had spoiled, as though the flowers had gone bad. I called one of my friends over.

"Smell these beautiful flowers." I said with an edge of cunning to my voice.

The expression on her face showed me that I was not mistaken. The beautiful purple flowers indeed smelled foul.

Word spread. The beautiful but stinky flowers became a joke. How could such beautiful blossoms smell so awful? As the school year advanced, the smell became milder. Towards the end of school, the blossoms had little scent of any sort. If anything, they took on an agreeable scent as they started to wilt and fade.

The memory of the purple flowers came back in Brooklyn's China Town when I bought a melon sized fruit with a hard spiked shell called a mornthawng. I was looking forward to eating it with my family on Friday night, when we would all be there to enjoy it. When the time came to cut it open at our dinner table, the inside of the fruit had what looked like vanilla custard. As we looked with curiosity at the inside of the fruit, the room filled up with the scent of what smelled like a dead animal. Some of us were literally gagging. I was the only one who took a brave taste of it. The taste was sweet and conventional. It bore no relationship to the foul scent that assailed us. I found out only later that public parks in the orderly island nation of Singapore had outlawed the consumption of the mornthawng in city parks.

The mornthawng and the purple flowers linger in my memory as a source of amusement and inspiration. How many people, and ideas have an allure and a beauty that upon closer inspection turns out to be something other than it seems? On the other hand, the mornthawng, which smelled truly awful was a sweet tasting nutritious fruit. The purple flowers that smelled so badly mellowed out and took on a more agreeable scent as the season advanced.

Years later, I was stuck at a dinner next to some people who were gossiping about a child with behavioral issues. He had been kicked out of school, and his parents were at a loss what to do with him. Out of desperation, I told a truly tasteless joke to shift the discussion away from the child. The conversation shifted back to juvenile delinquency and toxic levels of sanctimony. My thoughts drifted to the purple flowers, that had their stinky season and became agreeable with time.

" The book isn't closed on that kid. He will probably turn out OK." I said. What better time to be obnoxious than when you are young? And in the meantime, what good is this discussion to him and his family?"

True to my expectations, the boy settled down. He has been married for several years. He is doing well both professionally and personally. His mother is now a proud grandmother. When I see the family walking down the street, I think of purple flowers in late May that have become estranged from a once disagreeable scent. I remember little of junior high school classes. But the tree with purple blossoms to the left of the flagpole taught me a valuable lesson about being a father. To this day, I count the gardener who planted that tree well before I was born as one of my as one of my best teachers. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Britain's Lockerbie Surrender: New Leaks

We are slowly finding out the truth about the "humanitarian release" of the Lockerbie bomber. At first we heard pious sounding twaddle about "Scottish humanitarian values." Then we heard that the prognosis of 3 months to live is highly dubious. Now it turns out that the doctor who made the assessment is not even a specialist in prostate cancer. Additionally, it was on the opinion of this one doctor that al Megrabi was released. The Daily Mail reports as follows.

It emerged that the doctor who advised that Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi had fewer than three months to live was not an expert in prostate cancer.

This advice was instrumental in persuading the Scottish government to release him on compassionate grounds, and allow him to return to Libya - where he received a hero's welcome.

Under Scottish law, the Justice Secretary can consider releasing people if they are thought to be fewer than three months from death.

But the official report on Mr Megrahi's health, which was released yesterday, said that no prostate cancer specialist 'would be willing to say' how long he had left to live.

Was the Scottish government simply being naive and careless? The Times of London, citing e-mails exchanged among government officials cites economic expedience rather than humanitarian motives for al Megrahi's release. The Times of London reports as follows.

"The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards."

The Times of London is not basing its assertions on flimsy hearsay. It cites in the following paragraphs an e mail by Justice Minister Jack Straw to his counterpart Kenny MacAskill of Scotland.

"On December 19, 2007, Straw wrote to MacAskill announcing that the UK government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement, citing the national interest.

In a letter leaked by a Whitehall source, he wrote: “I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion.

“The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the [prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual.”

Within six weeks of the government climbdown, Libya had ratified the BP deal. The prisoner transfer agreement was finalised in May this year, leading to Libya formally applying for Megrahi to be transferred to its custody."

What everyone suspected is now known to be true. The British government sold out the families of the Lockerbie bomber vicktims with cool premeditation. English law does not permit blood money to be paid to the families of murder victims. Islamic law permits a murderer to be freed when blood money has been paid. The British government has added its own cruel twist to the payment of blood money by quietly pocketing it and mouthing pious platitudes to the aggrieved families of Lockerbie's dead.

One of the few advantages of Britain's once proud democracy is that opposing political factions, aided by a free press can make dishonest and cowardly leaders answer for their actions. There are so many signs that Britain has become a vassal state, paralysed by multiculturalism and political correctness.

In examining the abjectly servile behavior of Britain, France, it bears an eerie resemblance to the deferential behavior of the colonies they once ruled. Life seems to have come full circle. The once great colonial powers are puppets on strings, selling out their people for crusts of bread that have been disdainfully brushed from the table by their new masters. Is this what we want? This is what we have come to. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy : Invoking the Memory

Barack Obama has promised that Ted Kennedy's death would not be exploited for political purposes, according to an article in today's New York Post, which reports as follows.

"Despite several calls from prominent Democrats to use Ted Kennedy's death as a rallying cry for health-care reform, President Obama yesterday said now is not the time to politicize the senator's legacy.

"Our country lost a beloved leader, and the politics and implications of that are the last thing on the president's mind right now," said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton."

If you think that this signals a new era of fair play, then think again. Whenever anything is just too tacky or undignified to do or say, just call in Nancy Pelosi, who was quoted by the Post as follows.

"Ted Kennedy's dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration," vowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)."

Whatever Obama may say, there will always be someone who will attempt to squeeze some points out of Ted Kennedy's passing. I won't get all sanctimonious and say how awful that is. But there are a few points would like to make.

Everyone's gotta go sooner or later. Passing away doesn't automatically render sacrosanct everything the person ever said. If you quote or invoke Ted Kennedy, his merits and those of his life and ideas will be fair game for discussion. Most people won't pull their brass knuckles on someone who has just died. It's common decency. But if you lay the praise on too thick and start embellishing and editing the person's life, there will be a backlash. Most people leave a mixed legacy. Ted Kennedy was a driving force in American politics. The debate will continue on whether or not that was a force for good or perhaps the opposite. Expect this debate about Ted Kennedy the man and Ted Kennedy the political figure to continue.

I'm concerned about health care from a personal point of view. I have seen health care rationing close up. And it was done by private insurance companies. I am very distrustful of having the US government making these decisions. It's hard enough to fight the insurance companies. Fighting the government will introduce a new array of problems.

There is another area where I part company with a lot of conservatives. When copper or wheat become so cheap that it does not pay to produce them, everyone agrees that there is a problem. Lobbyists meet with Congressmen, deals are made and the problem gets sorted out. Labor is as much a commodity as copper, wheat or anything else. When its real value erodes, then workers have to put in longer hours to bring home less. When mom and pop are putting in overtime to make ends meet, that cuts down on quality time with children. This creates social problems and social costs. I am not in favour of insanity like calling a union electrician to change a light bulb, but we need to take a good look at the value of labour. It is with the help of workers that entrepreneurs can prosper. Workers and bosses should have the attitude that they need each other. Class warfare hurts everyone.

Here is another area where I part company with liberals and conservatives. If you flood the market with a commodity, its price will drop. We are flooding America with legal and illegal immigration. It is depressing the value of labour. We need to seal our borders and tie legal immigration to the state of the economy. And don't hand me the story that there are some jobs Americans just won't do. I have known illegal immigrants who crammed into crowded houses and rented cubicles for a fraction of what Americans with families living with them must pay to keep a roof over their heads. The illegals are sending dollars to places where they are worth much more. They are also vulnerable due to language and legal problems. They tend to accept lower wages.

Speaking of dirty jobs that Americans won't do, countless Americans are plumbers. They handle excrement. They are paid well. So they keep doing their jobs. The same goes for garbage men. They are paid well and do distasteful work for good pay. Americans will handle garbage and excrement. What they can't handle is a garbage paycheck.

I consider myself to be pro labour, almost to the point of being biased towards workers. Ted Kennedy claims to be in favour of the working class. I find that there are a lot of problems with Kennedy's liberal agenda. A lot of working people would like to send their kids to private schools. It's easy for a Kennedy to pay taxes for schools and to pay private school tuition. For millions of Americans, that is a daunting proposition. Our founding fathers did not outlaw tax dollars going to private schools. That didn't happen until 1875, when James G. Blaine led a struggle to amend the constitution to outlaw government aid to private schools.

At that time, there was a wave of Irish and European immigration that was changing religious and ethnic demographics. The Blaine Amendment, eventually ratified in some form in 37 states was directed at Catholics and at immigrants to hamper them in the establishment of schools in which their values would be treated with respect. The Blaine Amendment is the cornerstone of the "Separation of Church and State as we know it today. It was a law conceived, crafted and implemented in a spirit of bigotry and intolerance. It is long past time for this barbaric legislative relic to be consigned to historic memory.

I grew up with Boston Irish. I heard from the older people the stories of the days in which the Irish endured poverty, disdain and discrimination. I am sure that Ted Kennedy heard far more of this historical narrative than did I. He took that history and went with it on a grand stage in a direction that many find puzzling. It is all fine and good to believe that the workers should eat well. But workers want to nourish their traditions, their heritage and their souls. Some of the causes Kennedy supported were not cognisant of that. It could be said that the liberal agenda feeds the body and stifles the soul. Inherent to modern liberalism is a deep seated distrust of the very people it purports to champion.

The debate will continue to rage about heath care, the economy and national security. Of Ted Kennedy the private man, I will speak as much as possible with dignity and with tact. But the debate about our nation's future will continue to unfold. The cold damp earth may settle on Ted Kennedy's grave. But it will not dampen the debate about the ideas he championed. Kennedy's friends and his opponents will lend a raucous immortality to Edward Kennedy's role in public life through heated debate. For the sake of our country, this is how it should be. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mike Bloomberg "I Have No Opponents"

New York gets more surreal every day. According to Associated Press, our Mayor For Life, Michael Bloomberg (Michael I) has stated that he is " not running against anyone" He has casted his opponents as "irrelevant" and stated that this election is more about showcasing his achievements as mayor.

There is in fact a candidate that I know of and support named Bill Thompson. I have seen his campaign headquarters on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. Mayor Bloomberg may not know where Nostrand Avenue is, since he does not spend much time in Brooklyn. It is very hard to talk to people about Bill Thompson. When they hear that he is NOT Mike Bloomberg, they become very interested in voting for him. All the sanitation tickets and parking ticket blitzes kind of wear you down after a while. Of course Mike Bloomberg doesn't have to worry about losing campaign contributions, because he's paying for his own campaign.

We see all kind of Mike Bloomberg campaign circulars clogging our mailboxes. It used to be the Chinese menus advertising all the food Mike Bloomberg wants to ban. Now I know why he wants to ban all this unhealthy food. He wants to drive up your blood pressure himself.

Bloomberg may not read the papers. But out here in Brooklyn we have to. Otherwise we would never know that crime is way down. So you hear about gang shootings. You hear your friends complain about their cars being broken into and street muggings. But its all anecdotal. So we have to read the papers to find out how wonderful life is in our city. I mean, what are you supposed to believe, your own eyes or what you see in the paper?

But you really shouldn't be too hard on King Michael. New York City has seen elections before in which Mayor Koch ran on the Democratic and Republican tickets, which does kind of have that whiff of an Eastern European one party state to it. But Koch was at least condescending to his opponents. King Michael pretends that they are not even there.

On September 15, there will be a Democratic Primary. Mike Bloomberg is a Republican. The Republican nomination is the cheapest one you can buy in New York City. As liberal as King Michael is, he still found it desirable to have a marriage of convenience to the Republican party to have Mike Bloomberg on the ballot. It's kind of like one of Michael Jackson's marriages.

The Democratic Party is actually the major party of New York City. If Mike Bloomberg really thinks he is running unopposed, then he is more detached from reality than I thought he was.

When I look back on the time before Mike Bloomberg was mayor, I recall an interview he gave to New York Magazine in which he was asked if he ever smoked marijuana. His reported answer was "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.''

Now it's all starting to make sense. Pass the man another brownie.


I have provided a video below of suggested prototypes for campaign songs and posters for comrade Mike Bloomberg. If he wins, I will celebrate his victory with a bottle of my favourite beer. (Portrayed at the top of this article.) It is a great beer. (Much better than our current mayor.)
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ritalin: Thoughts About An Urban Legend

A co worker was at a wedding and heard this story from another guest who said she heard it from the boy's mother. Isn't that how a lot of urban legends get started?

A boy was in yeshiva who had a nonexistent attention span. He practically had a seat with his name on it in the principal's office. His rebbe (teacher) was on the phone regularly with his parents.

"Get him tested." the rebbe said. "He needs to be on Ritalin. He's hyperactive."

The parents were reluctant to put their son on medication. They handled their son and the phone calls with tact. They finally got a call from the principal.

"I can't keep your son in my school". the principal said. "If he is not evaluated and given medication, I can't see any grounds for another chance."

With no alternative, the parents took the boy to a psychiatrist, who prescribed Ritalin, or something like it.

The prescription called for the medication to be administered during school hours. No one thought the boy was mature enough to take it on his own. The parents didn't want the boy to be the subject of gossip if he took the pill every day in class.

The principal came up with a solution.

"Don't worry." he said reassuringly. "No one will know that he takes medication. Every day at ten, have him come to my office. No one will see him taking the pill."

Reluctantly, the parents went along with the principal's plan. Every day at ten, their son would go to the principal, who would give the boy the same instructions.

"Go bring me a cup of coffee and take this little white pill."

Every day, the boy did as he was told. He and the principal would have a brief chat, not over disciplinary infractions but over whatever came up. Then the boy would go back to class.

After two weeks, the parents got together with the principal and their son. The reports from the teacher were superb. The boy had made a 100% turnaround. He was sitting quietly in class. His grades were up. He was much less wild at recess.

They asked the boy what was different about the previous two weeks that he was so well behaved.

"Every morning at ten o'clock, I go to the principal." the boy reported dutifully." He has me make him a cup of coffee. It's the same thing every day. He has coffee light with two sugars and that little white pill."

The most interesting urban legends have a hidden moral. There is one urban legend in which a man comes home and finds a strange Mercedes parked in his driveway. He is a contractor who is driving a cement truck. Right away he assumes his wife has been unfaithful. He empties his cement truck on the Mercedes. He walks in the door. His wife wishes him a fond happy birthday and hands him the key to the Mercedes she has bought him for his birthday. The implicit moral is that one should not be overly suspicious.

In the Ritalin story, the boy was being treated differently by people who were watching him closely for medication induced behavioral changes. The principal gave him a daily dose of time out from daily routine and personal attention as well. A close reading of events would lead one to believe that this was the therapeutic intervention that the boy needed. A bit more subversive is the suggested possibility that medicating the principal was just what the boy needed.

My wife read this story on a Jewish site that I was not able to track down. It was told as an amusing anecdote. In looking for the article, I found another article about non pharmaceutical alternatives to Ritalin. The site "Yeshiva World" carried an article about a Psychiatrist named Amnon Gimpel, who prescribed exercises to develop neural pathways that would ameliorate and eventually eliminate ADHD. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The article describes his experience as follows.

"Gimpel teaches new techniques and strategies utilizing targeted mental and physical exercises that have been proven to reduce and even permanently eliminate the symptoms of ADHD in children, teenagers and adults. Through his counseling and seminars, and now with the publication of his new book, Gimpel gives parents the skills to coach their ADHD child to enhance memory, concentration and decision making, and to control hyperactivity and impulsivity.

In Susan’s case, it became apparent that she loved to jump rope. Applying Gimpel’s methodologies, it was suggested that Susan use this passion as an exercise to develop new brain cells, ultimately leading to significantly improved concentration and decreased hyperactivity.

With each new rope-jumping trick Susan learned and each new technique she mastered, her brain was forced to create new pathways to accomplish these challenging tasks. Simultaneously, her behavior improved immensely and she finished the school year at the top of her class, without any medication."

Dr. Gimpel's work seems to shed valuable light on children who have until now been treated with medication. There is, however and additional possibility. Our educational systems tend to place a premium on children who are more manageable, who fit comfortably into a certain range of behaviors and learning styles. Part of our approach to treating children who might not fit in should be to develop an appreciation of their unique abilities.

There are also children who are psychologically troubled. Family problems or trauma could cause a child to act out as a cry for help. There may be rare cases where medication is called for.

It is far too easy to medicate and forget people. Taking the extra time to find a proper answer to the problems a child may face is what parenting and schooling should be all about. I don't know if I believe the story about the principal and the little white pill. But I do believe the truth behind it. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comradely Greetings From Castro To Obama

When the times get tough, you have to take your friends where you can find them. Fidel Castro, who has been photographed in surprisingly good health, has weighed in on President Obama's political woes. Reuters News writes of "El Comandante" Castro as follows.

Obama does not want to change the U.S. political and economic system, but "in spite of that, the extreme right hates him for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country," Castro wrote.
"I don't have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost," he said.
Castro, who writes regular commentaries for Cuba's state-run media, has criticized Obama, complimented him occasionally and said that he is watching him closely to see if he means what he says about changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Castro has been writing columns for Cuba's state run press even as his participation in Cuba's political affairs has scaled down. Castro has been striking a notably conciliatory tone since Obama has taken office. The Obama administration has drastically curtailed the criticism of Cuba's communist government, in marked contrast to previous administrations that put up billboards and beamed broadcasts at Cuba providing news that is blacked out in the state media.

Cuban propaganda directed at the US has traditionally expressed pious indignation about segregation and racism against African Americans. Its propaganda, directed at potentially receptive sectors of American society was actually far more attuned to American sensibilities. But a close look at Cuban life and society makes Castro's criticism ring rather hollow.

Cuba only abolished slavery (by Spanish royal decree) in 1886. Cuba is according to its own statistics 51% mixed race, 37% white, 11% Black and 1% Chinese. Cuba had institutionalised segregation that was so strict that even Fulgencio Batista, the last dictator before the Cuban revolution in 1959 was barred because of a trace of African ancestry.

Despite Cuba's lip service to defense of the oppressed and its condemnation of America's racism against African Americans, the Cuban Communist Party and Cuba's communist government have made very little progress in fighting the racism entrenched in Cuban society. The higher you go in the Cuban government, the whiter it becomes. A picture of Cuba's top leadership is far lighter in skin tone than the population at large. According to, only 19% of the members of Cuba's "Assembly of Popular Power" are of African or mixed race, in contrast to the general population in which they account for 60% of the population.

New America Media paints an even bleaker picture of life on the street and in the workplace. New American Media reports as follows.

"The European Union recently dispatched anthropologists to study racism in Cuba. Their findings were shocking: Not only was racism alive and well in the workers’ paradise, but it was systemic and institutional. Blacks were systematically excluded from positions that involved coming in contact with foreign tourists (where they could earn tips in hard currencies), they were relegated to poor housing, complained of the longest waits for health care, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned. "

For Castro to criticise American racism towards African Americans makes him sound like a valiant defender of the downtrodden. It is unfortunately little more than escapism. Of all the forms of racism that exist in America, the American people have done far more to address their racism against African Americans than has Cuba. We face our daunting economic woes with a press and broadcast media that is cumulatively far more free than that in Cuba.

The race card has fallen into increasing disrepute in the United States, where the a principled and spirited debate is raging about our nation's future.

I wish Cuba success in overcoming its social, political and economic woes. Cuba's Leader seems to share with his government the ability to languish at death's door without actually assuming room temperature.Fidel Castro has, after being hospitalised for a serious illness offered an embrace of friendship to President Obama. Barack Obama would do well to spurn such overtures, which carry with them a strong risk of contamination with guilt by association. Such friends, Obama doesn't need.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

A Shooting in Crown Heights, No One in Custody

Last Thursday night in Crown Heights there was another shooting. One person died. It was one of those killings that didn't make the paper. It on Albany Avenue near St. John's Place. There were a lot of people out. It was a nice warm summer evening. The cops were prompt. They asked people if anyone saw anything. No one saw a thing. One lady reportedly said of the shooter, "I know the boy. I known him since he was a baby. And I know his momma. And I ain't telling you $h**.

Who would have expected otherwise? The cops knew as soon as the call came in that there would be no witnesses. Those who saw the killing and knew the killer or had a clue might have been friends with the perp. Or maybe they didn't want to get killed for "being a snitch."

Meanwhile, in this zip code, life just got a little bit cheaper. Someone lost a son, and the one who who killed him is still out there. No one is going to get up and shout about it. No one is going to ask questions at City Hall or any place else. The murder ticker for the 77th precinct just went up by one. At the end of the year, we are going to smile and say that the numbers look nice. No one will give a second look at that small tombstone with the date of birth and the date of death just too damn close together. Maybe I'll see the young man's name over an R.I.P. on the rear window of a car with his D.O.B. and his D.O.D. in script with a picture of a tombstone. Maybe he'll get a nice mural.

There are lots of car window memorials and lots of murals for kids who died before their time. As a matter of fact, there are way too many.

I can't paint. And I don't have a car with a large enough windshield forthe names of all those shot in my zip code. But I do have suggestions on how to get tips in places where people don't like to talk to cops. My suggestions are as follows.

1) We have 911 for emergencies. We have 411 for directory assistance. In New York City we have 311 as a general number for information about anything in city, state or federal government. We need a number to phone in information about unsolved crimes. 811 would be good. It's three digits and easy to remember. Have a publicity blitz. Pass out 811 key chains, 811 pens. Turn it into a household word, so that anyone with a pulse knows that they can go to their apartment, go to a quiet corner and quietly call in a tip to an unsolved crime.

2) Bring camcorders to crime scenes. Before the crime scene investigators get there, do a sweep on the camcorder. And get some shots of the crowd. When you get back to the precinct, make stills of the people at the crime scene. Because life is a wheel. Later on, one of their loved ones might be dead. Maybe one of them will get arrested and need a break. Having some still pictures of a crowd might be a useful tool later on.

3) Continue to ask right at the crime scene for information. Who knows? You might get lucky. Some people become millionaires playing Lotto. Miracles happen.

4) Offer anonymous rewards to 811 tipsters. There are a lot of motives for dropping a dime. There are good citizens. There are angry girlfriends and people with a conscience. When all that fails, money is worth a try.

5) Set up 811 so prostitutes who want to get out of "the life" can arrange to be "arrested" and put into a safe house where they can get a new life going for themselves. It's worth a try.

But you have to streamline the process so everyone knows that you can phone in a tip. You have to make it so you won't have to write some precinct number on a matchbook.

People in rough zip codes need some help in reclaiming the dignity every life should have. Some of it has to come from not insulting cops who would like to put away a killer. Some of it has to come with setting up tools to fight the problem. I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about some creativity and putting our money into the right solutions.

There are a lot more guns on the streets than there are in the police stations. Everyone knows that. Winning this war(And it is a war.) is not about outgunning the enemy. It's about using our resources wisely. Police can not be everywhere. Civilians can be in a lot more places. Police have what they need to do their job. It's the civilians who need some help and guidance to do their part as well.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Look At Chechenya and Its Music

Since Israel has a high percentage of Jews from Muslim countries, it has influenced national tastes in food and music. Among many Israelis, Bollywood movies as well as Arab and Turkish music have their devoted following among Jews.

I am always looking east in search of music that is line with this section of my musical tastes. The presence of Chechenya in the news has aroused my interests in their music. Chechenya has been a part of the Russian empire and the Soviet Union for centuries. Russia is not an ethnic monolith. It contains within its borders many non slavic nationalities, most notably Tatars and Cossacks.

Chechenya has been fighting a bitter war of secession from the Russian Republic. The Chechens want independence and the predominance of their language. The Russians are afraid of a domino effect in which other nationalities are encouraged by a Chechen secession to start a separatist revolt of their own. Islamic outsiders such as Iran and Saudi Arabia are interested in fomenting separatism rather than the sort of modus vivendi that makes ethnically diverse empires function on a day to day basis.

I had thought that Chechen is a Turkic language because of the Turkish sound of some of the vowels. This is, however not the case. Chechen belongs with Ingush to a separate language family. The form of Islam that has traditionally prevailed their is not the burqa clad misogynistic variety but a harmonious blend with local forms. The importation of arms and "freedom fighters" from outside has shifted this somewhat,

There is a Lubavitch chassidic song that is derived from the sad song of an imprisoned Chechen King Shamil, who led a war of secession against the Russian Empire from the 1830's intil 1859, when he found himsef and his followers outgunned. Shamil accepted a peace treaty which turned out to be false. He was promptly imprisoned and was heard singing a song which Lubavitchers adopted, along with the historical explanation. In Jewish hands, the song was transformed and explained as follows.

"Staring out of the window of his small narrow cell, Shamil reflected on his days of liberty in the past, In his current exile and helplessness, he bewailed his plight and yearned for his previous position of freedom and fortune.

He consoled himself, however, with the knowledge that he would eventually be released from his imprisonment and return to his previous position with even more power and glory. It is the above thought that he expressed in this melancholy, yearning melody.

The vision chassidic: The soul descends to this world from the heavens above, clothed in the earthly body of a human being. The soul's physical vestments here are really its prison cell, for it constantly longs for spiritual, heavenly fulfillments. The soul strives to free itself from the "exile" of the human body and its earthly pleasures by directing its physical being into the illuminated and living soul.

It is hard for me after 30 years of friendship with Lubavitcher Chassidim to look at Chechenya without thinking of the song that one of their honoured leaders gave us 150 years ago. I wish peace to Chechenya and to Russia. I hope and pray that they can work out their differences.

I am including in this posting a song by Chechen singer Ali Dimaev and also Shamil's Nigun(song) done as a Jewish spiritual melody.

Shamil's Nigun
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bloomberg Proposes Campaign Rules..For Others

It's too bad that Reader's Digest is in the middle of bankruptcy. Because Mayor Bloomberg has a real funny joke. He wants campaign finance reform. According to the Daily News, Bloomberg wants campaign spending limits on anyone who raises funds from the public. By some strange coincidence, the only candidate who would be unhampered by the new regulations is Mike Bloomberg himself. He is that rare breed of candidate who can simply write out a check for his campaign expenses.

It is interesting that the announcement of the proposed restrictions came from the office of the Bloomberg campaign and not from the mayor's office. Bloomberg is reportedly spending approximately $200 million on the campaign. This does not include the kid gloves treatment and fawning news coverage from the local newspapers. It certainly does not seem to hurt Bloomberg that he made his billions in the financial news business. Perhaps some government ethicist might be able to ponder the possible conflicts of interest there.

We all hear thunderous applause for Bloomberg's taking over direct control of the New York City schools. There are a lot of other issues. The perception is unavoidable that there has been backsliding in the war on crime. Tickets for parking and sanitation are more frequent and far more hefty than under Giuliani. A Manhattan millionair might not care, but these tickets matter to people in the outer boroughs, who are the bulk of city residents.

Rent both residential and commercial is skyrocketing. There are way too many vacant storefronts. Despite Bloomberg's fondness for "going green, he is clogging mailboxes across the city with his idiotic campaign materials, eliciting as he does so a Pavlovian response to stuff them into the nearest trash can.

I see a multitude of issues for Bill Thompson and Tony Avela, both Bloomberg opponents in the mayoral election to address when they go up against Bloomberg. It is totally obvious that New York's print and broadcast media is going to let Bloomberg have an easy time in the upcoming election. This is a disservice to all New Yorkers.

I propose that anyone who owns a newspaper, radio station or news outlet broadcasting or publishing in New York City be banned from running for office. Would that hurt Bloomberg? Oops! Sorry. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Maltese Ship... And Maltese Music ...

I discovered some of my favourite music when an obscure country ended up in the news. It is impossible to think about a country without wondering what kind of music the locals listen to.

When the "Arctic Sea" ship disappeared recently, amid suspicions of contraband and illegal arms dealing, one of the little factoids that came to light was that the ship was registered to the Republic of Malta, an island nation of 400,000 about 50 miles from Sicily and 170 miles from Tunisia. It was a part of the British empire from 1814 until its independence in 1964. Malta was of critical military and psychological importance to Britain in World War Two, during which it endured savage Axis bombing. King George VI awarded the George Cross, a decoration for bravery to Malta collectively in 1942 in recognition of its sacrifices as a nation.

The Maltese language is a fascinating blend of Sicilian, Arabic, French and English. Its etymological core is Semitic, although it is written in the Latin alphabet. The population of Malta is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. A look at a Maltese English dictionary is like walking through a dictionary of etymology. Italian and Semitic cognate words abound such as Mija (pronounced "mia") which means "100" and sounds a lot like meah, which is the same word in Hebrew. "Hat"translates as "kapell", which is similar to the Italian "capello" Leaven translates as "hmira". Anyone who has burned leftover bread before Passover has said the Aramaic prayer, "Kol Khamira". There is in fact a long history of a Jewish presence in Malta. A small remnant of Maltese Jews remains on good terms today.

The Maltese music scene is quite vibrant. Maltese music blends well with Maltese history and geography, which is a mix of Arab, Italian and other influences. I hope my readers will appreciate the music, language and aesthetic beauty of Malta. Please do not wait for another international crisis to unfold under the Maltese flag such as the alleged hijacking of the "Arctic Sea" ship along with its Russian crew. Hopefully, happier circumstances than high seas piracy or international intrigue will bring the tiny Republic of Malta to my reader's attention.

Please check out the music videos below.

Freddie Portelli-Wied tal-Dmugh

Qalb li Thobb, a Maltese all star collaboration

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shock Video About Texting and Driving

In the good old days, a telephone was in your home, not in your car. drinking and driving was almost the only way a driver could be "impaired", aside from possibly a heart attack at the wheel. Later on, drugged drivers also became a real concern.

Now, it is possible to be a menace to other drivers and to be stone cold sober. Cell phones have become a major factor in many car crashes. Amazingly enough, people are even texting on their cell phones when operating a motor vehicle, engaging both one hand and their vision in matters other than what is on the road. People who would never think of drinking in a motor vehicle voluntarily impair themselves by focusing on a phone call or a text message.

Police in Gwent, Wales and Tredegar comprehensive, a local high school collaborated in making a harrowing film depicting an accident caused by texting and its emotional aftermath. The film, named "Cow" after its main character named Rachel Cowan was enhanced with computer technology and depicts a multiple car highway accident. The accident resulted when a young driver was distracted from the road by a texting conversation. The second by second progress of the crash is painfully vivid to anyone who has been in the middle of an accident in which you fear what the next split second will bring. The film, which is a half hour long is partially available on line. It focuses not only on the crash itself, but its emotional aftermath. The varied perspectives explored elicit vivid and visceral responses from viewers.

It is worthwhile looking at various forms of driving while impaired. Following are some notes of caution.

1)It should be obvious that driving while drunk or drugged is dangerous. Unfortunately, every year, people continue to do this. Some actually act insulted when you suggest that they shouldn't drive. They seem to resent the implication that they are mortal and vulnerable to alcoholic or chemical impairment.

2) Take a good look at your medication. Cough syrup, hay fever medication and other medications often carry a warning. These drugs can often be very powerful when used in combination, particularly with alcohol. Be aware of the dangers. Such medications may be respectable. But it does not remove the dangers.

3) Lack of sleep is as bad as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People die every year in accidents where the driver falls asleep. If you are on a long trip, stop for rest at intervals. Schedule as much as possible of your trip by day. Use the radio and coffee as aids in staying alert.

4) When you have a passenger, have them answer your cell phone if possible. If this is not possible, pull over and return your call or answer your text.

5) If you are in a bad mood, don't take it out on the road. Bad things can happen very quickly.

6) Maintain your brakes. Accidents can be caused by brakes that fail when you need them most. The consequences can be deadly.

7) If you are a pedestrian walking at night, wear clothing or a reflective strip that can be seen at night. Someone in dark clothing who is jaywalking can look like a shadow. Be aware of how you appear to drivers. Pedestrians who are careless can endanger themselves and drivers.

Reflexes are critical. Any kind of substance abuse lengthens the amount of time a driver is likely to take in responding to a situation on the road. A fraction of a second can mean the difference between life and death.

Both substance abuse and phone use lessen awareness and perception of the road. Even a handless cell phone can distract from awareness of what is on the road.Channel surfing on the radio can be a dangerous distraction.

No one wants the blood of innocent human beings on his or her hands. No one wants to be thought of as the person who tore a loved one away from their family. But a motor vehicle brings such terrifying possibilities well within the reach of decent people. There are very few people who are depraved drunken maniacs recklessly operating automobiles. But there are impairments and distractions that tempt almost anyone. It is wise to be aware of the many things that can turn a ride in a car into a nightmare.

So at the end of your long and tiring day, kick back and make a phone call. Have a drink. But make sure that the car is parked for the night. You're a good person. And you don't want the most memorable thing about your life to be that you took someone elses'.


I am presenting exerpts from the film "Cow." It is well worth sharing with someone you love. The links are below.

"Cow" exerpt 1

"Cow" exerpt 2

"Cow' Exerpt 3 Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Man With Handicapped Son Threatened

Mike Sola was pretty loud when he confronted his Congressman John Dingell on the care his adult handicapped son would receive under an Obamacare health plan. He ended up catching John Dingell in a bald faced lie.When Dingel was confronted with Sola's assertion that his son would lose coverage under the Obamacare bill, he quickly asserted that an amendment which would address Sola's concerns. When asked what the number of the amendment was, Dingell was at a loss for words. It seems that making up facts as you go along comes easy to the hucksters of hope and change.

What was really beneath contempt was what happened the night after the hearings when Mike Sola, his wife and handicapped son had turned in for the night. A visitor came to them personally and delivered a threat which Mr. Sola reported to the Michigan State Police. In an interview with Fox News, Sola shamed and condemned his anonymous tormentors, promising to use deadly force if needed in defense of his family.

The Obama Democrats have a dream and a vision of the ideal society they will create in America and the world. It seems that whenever a group has a beautiful vision for society, it comes with a ruthlessness. Communism is the most famous example of this. Millions died in accordance with the principle that "If you want to make an omlet, you have to break eggs."

The Obama administration was willing to ram its health care bill through Congress before the critical fine print could be examined and debated. Obamacare supporters wanted town meetings to be infomercials for the Obama vision. It was entirely legitimate for opponents to forcefully call their Congressmen to task.

What started off as calling protesters "Unamerican" has now degenerated into icy threats to Obama opponents in the middle of the night. Now is not the time to back down, but to stand our ground. What was done to Mike Sola and his family was disgraceful. But if it passes unchallenged, it will become commonplace

The link to the Mike Sola interview is below.

Mike Sola and handicapped son threatened by Obama fanatics Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 17, 2009

Christian & Newsom Murder Trials Begin Today

It would qualify as a national crime story. Depraved and horrific violence as well as a racial angle. Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were out in their SUV when they were set upon by a group of thugs who took them to the house of one of the perpetrators. After gang raping Newsom, they then subjected Channon Christian to a day of rape and torture. She ended her life slowly smothering in plastic garbage bags, her neck broken.

Theft wasn't a motive. The SUV was abandoned. Any monetary take was negligible, particularly in comparison to what could have been taken had the couple been forced to max out their bank cards. Any analysis of the crimes would have revealed that a raw and savage hatred eclipsed any hope of monetary gain. Christian and Newsom died at the hands of a gang that despised them within seconds of setting eyes on them.

What was so hateful in the eyes of the gang? Had the victims been African American and the perpetrators white, it would be a foregone conclusion that this was a hate crime. It turned out that the perpetrators were African American and the victims were white. With nothing politically useful to say, our national news media has essentially relegated this trial to the back pages of the newspapers. There will be no demand for national introspection. There will be no questions what subculture and what milieu incubated such virulent hatred. A few stories will surface of Klansmen and Nazis labeling this a race crime. In a genteel and implicit way, it will tar those who label this rape-murder as hate crime with the brush of racism.

But these questions will not go away. Channon and Christopher can never say what awful words they heard in their final hours. The only living witnesses are the perpetrators, who seek to sanitise the portrayal of the horrific violence of Christian and Newsom's last moments on earth.

Handwriting can be analysed for insights into the mindset of a writer. Forensic experts are able to create detailed psychological portraits of unknown perpetrators. Despite an abundance of suchforensic evidence, crucial and inconvenient questions are unasked by our print and broadcast media.

In any dialogue about bigotry, all forms of racism must be put on the table. I can condemn the Klan and the Nazis for many things, but not for labeling the Christian and Newsom murders as anti white hate crimes. The Klan and the Nazis have their own hatred. But the shame is ours for leaving unasked the questions raised by this horrific crime.

My heart goes out to the Christian and Newsom families. They have waited two and a half years for the start of four trials. It must be agony reliving the loss of their children.

A death penalty would be far too merciful for the perpetrators of these bestial crimes. It will remain for the next world for these murders to be fully and properly avenged.

We are as a society discomfited by the questions being asked by Nazis and Klansmen in Knoxville during this trial. The best remedy for this discomfiture might well be to ask these questions ourselves. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iran Struggle Continues Out of Spotlight

Despite Iran's failure to make Obama's politically fashionable list, things are far from quiet in that nation of 66 million people. According to the DEBKA intelligence site, The Ahmadinejad regime is ready to put Mir Hussein Mousavi as well as other leaders of Iran's political opposition on trial for sedition. DEBKA reports as follows.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hard-line supporters are calling for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to be tried for sedition after he announced Saturday, Aug. 15, the formation of The Green Path of Hope movement to restore the people's stolen rights. DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that Ahmadinejad is trying to build a puppet government composed of inexperienced, pliant cronies and officials known for their brutality to usher in a takeover of the regime by the Revolutionary Guards.

The two factions are set for a final showdown.

The regime hardliners are bent on smashing the opposition by brute force. Their leaders face trials on charges that carry the death sentence, such as sedition.

Sunday, Aug. 13, a third group of 25 protesters against the disputed presidential election goes on trial before the Revolutionary Court. The first two sessions were blasted as travesties of justice and "show trials."

Seven leaders of the Baha'i community are also to be tried for allegedly spying for Israel and desecrating Islam.

It is clear that the Ahmadinejad regime has embarked on a course of brute force to solidify its control over Iran. The arrest of Bahai members on trumped up charges is an additional signal that scapegoating minorities will also be a part of Ahmadinejad's crackdown strategy. Because the original founders of the Bahai faith were Muslim, Bahaiism has been treated by the Iranian government as heretics from Islam. This leaves them with as little legitimacy of idol worshippers under Iran's theocratic system. Baha U'llah, the founder of the Bahai faith is buried in the Bahai gardens in Haifa, Israel. This also lends an aura of illicitness to Iranian regime propagandists who wish to demonise the Bahai.

DEBKA also reports that seven secret political prisons are operating in Iran outside even the minimal scrutiny of Iran's normal administrative apparatus for overseeing such facilities. One facility, the Revolutionary Guard's prison Number 59 is according to DEBKA so secret that "even the head of the justice department for the Tehran district has never been granted permission for a visit".

Prisoners in that facility are "off the radar" with their location unknown to family and even the Iranian "justice " system.

The notorious Kahrizak prison uses Iranian thugs who are being imprisoned for non political offenses as pawns to brutalise and torture political prisoners. Rapes and deaths have been reported in the secret facility. Despite reports to the contrary, the prison remains open.

Abu Ghoraib prison is a special facility used to incarcerate Revolutionary Guard members accused of political offenses. The very existence of such a "specialty" prison in the Iranian system is indicative of the depth of division in Iran. Amazingly enough, the prison is actually named after the famous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in which American soldiers were accused of torturing Iraqi detainees.

The unrest in Iran continues. Even brutal and systematic repression has not put an end to it. The American news media is well aware of both the economic and political importance of Iran. It is also aware of its own power in shaping world opinion, exemplified in countless instances from Vietnam to Iraq. Despite this, the suffering of the Iranian people has largely been relegated to the back pages of the nation's newspapers. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are concerned about the situation in that country. Iran is not only oppressing its own people but also sponsoring unrest in the Arab world.

With or without reporting in the news media of free countries, the discontent in Iran will continue to develop and unfold. Unfortunately the Ahmadinejad regime is likely to be emboldened in their brutal repression by media and by Obama administration silence. There are consequences to the priorities set in our nation's news media. Can bloggers bring about a change in focus and in priorities? Here is one blogger who has not forgotten the suffering of the Iranian people. I hope that other bloggers and eventually newspapers join me in shedding light on one of the great freedom struggles of our time. The Iranian people have already given their blood. The least we can do is give a damn. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 14, 2009

Arizona Sheriff Raids Paper Factory

There is a truly tasteless joke that goes as follows.

Q) What is the definition of mixed emotions?

A) Your brand new Mercedes going off a cliff with your mother in law inside.

I feel similarly mixed emotions whenever I read about Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. His latest appearance in the news concerns an immigration raid on the Royal Paper Converting Company plant in Phoenix Arizona. According to the Associated Press, it was the second such raid in a year. It netted 44 arrests with nine individuals turned over to federal authorities . The others were charged with felony identity theft.

I found myself applauding Arpaio for actually enforcing our country's immigration laws. New York City proudly proclaims its refusal to getting involved in immigration law enforcement. Many other municipalities have similarly shredded the oath of office to uphold the law.

Despite this, I am tired of Joe Arpaio for many reasons. He proudly shows off the discomfort he inflicts on prisoners under his jurisdiction, from pink jump suits to taunting them with the Food Channel on jailhouse TV.

What I most dislike is Arpaio's perpetual grandstanding. He has a public relation's staff of five. He has an ego the size of Arizona. I do not like the idea of coddling inmates. Prison should be an austere environment geared towards a mix of deterrence, treatment and restitution. There is actually an element of science to what works best in law enforcement.

New York City has cut its crime drastically through a "broken windows" policy and a crackdown on quality of life crimes. It didn't take a public relations staff to let New Yorkers know that squeegee men and aggressive panhandlers were getting attention from law enforcement.

New York City has a well trained police force. Letting them do their jobs without politically motivated interference makes a major difference. There is actually a place for treating a law breaker like a human being, even as you put him through the system. I was at a precint meeting where a young man who had had his brushes with the law came back to publicly thank a police officer who had taken an interest in him as a human being and not as a crime statistic.

There is a place for the law to express public disapproval of anti-social behavior. The societal desire for revenge is meant to be channelled, not eliminated.

I approve of enforcing laws. I have lived through politicised non enforcement of basic laws. Under the administration of the vastly overrated Mayor Ed Koch, I used to buy my cigarettes from stores that openly sold marijuana. I was not a toker back then. If I knew where to buy weed, the cops did as well. That came to an end under Rudy Giuliani. Whatever you can say about Giuliani and his relationship with African Americans in New York, his crime policies saved many lives in African American communities.

Arpaio is heavily into self promotion. His act has worn very thin. He is getting old. He will probably retire soon. I hope that a real police chief who served under Rudy Giuliani or subscribes to Giuluiani's approach to law enforcement comes to replace him. I admit that Arpaio has a big set of shoes to fill. But so does Bozo the Clown. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ship Vanishes Off Sweden: Piracy Suspected

First it was Somalia. You had to look it up on the map. Shipping companies paid ransom. It became a part of doing business. Amazingly enough, maritime law makes about as much sense as New York City gun laws. Merchant ships are not allowed to be armed. That's kind of like unloading $5 million dollars cash and transferring it into a Volvo station wagon to drive it to the bank.

So now, while we're on the subject of Volvo, we have reports of piracy in the waters of Northern Europe. Reuters News reports as follows.

"Pirates have probably hijacked a merchant ship which disappeared after sailing through the English Channel last month, its operator said on Wednesday.

The Kremlin has ordered Russian warships to join the hunt for the 4,000-tonne, 98-meter bulk carrier Arctic Sea, whose mysterious fate has baffled national maritime authorities across Europe and North Africa.

The Maltese-registered vessel, carrying a cargo of timber worth $1.3 million, was supposed to have docked on August 4 in the Algerian port of Bejaia.

It never arrived, raising fears of a rare case of piracy in northern European seas.

"My view is that it is most likely that the vessel has been hijacked," Viktor Matveyev, director of the Finnish company Solchart, which operates the vessel, told Reuters. "It is unclear where the vessel is now."

The last radio contact was in the Dover Straits between Britain and France. At that point, the radio signal that broadcast ship location was shut off. There is no rational reason for turning off a locational signal.

The shipping company had received reports that the ship had been boarded and that violent hands were laid on its crew. There is no question that human foul play had a role.

The ship was Maltese. Malta is a country in the Mediterranean that speaks a dialect that is a mixture of Sicilian, Arabic and other languages. It defers to the Arab world much as Finland once did to the USSR.

The sole miscalculation of the pirates seems to have been attacking a ship with a Russian crew. Russia does not look at root causes that drive desperate men to piracy. It strikes back with an iron fist, and does so without apology. After letting Ukraine and Belarus go as well as the Baltic and Asian republics, Russia still covers twelve time zones and encompasses numerous non Asian nationalities. It is still in many senses an empire. If anyone catches up with the hijackers, the hijackers will have far better luck if they end up in the hands of the EU than if the Russians catch them.

It is ironic that the mushrooming violence on the streets of Stockholm, Paris, Brussels and other European cities has apparently made it out to sea. There are Somali immigrants in Europe, particularly in Sweden. They have certainly maintained contact with their homeland in which hijacking ships has become a growth industry.

Lawlessness expands in direct proportion to government's willingness to tolerate it. I saw this first hand in the streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991. Rioters ran free and even turned over police cars. I watched them toss bricks through windows and walk calmly by policemen who let them depart undisturbed. For three days, the rioters were emboldened by police inaction. When Mayor Dinkins had a stone tossed at him, the perspective of the city changed. Police took out their clubs, and surprised emboldened mobs by making arrests. That is when the violence stopped.

The European Union has been languishing in Dinkinsian anarchy for decades. The political mainstream has abdicated on the question of rampant lawlessness by its Muslim immigrant population. Now the seas of Northern Europe, once an enclave of tranquility are becoming as unsafe as Arab neighborhoods in Rotterdam and Malmo. Everything that happens on the surface of the high seas starts on land.

In any war, half of the battle is showing up. Recognising trends and downward trajectories is the first step to solving serious problems. The situation speaks for itself when a locational device is disabled in the Dover Straits. Europa Europa.... Where are you? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Obama's Surrender on Mexican Border

I never thought that I would agree with anything Barack Obama did. It finally seems that he is getting serious about our porous border with Mexico. Yahoo News reports that back in June, Obama had ordered that National Guard troops be deployed on our border with Mexico Yahoo News reports as follows. This sounds good. Unfortunately, when you get the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and the State of California working together, you have enough buck passing to keep any planned action on the drawing board rather than on the ground.

"A government plan to use National Guard troops to help stem Mexican drug violence along the southern border is stymied by disagreements over who will pay for the soldiers and how they would be used.

Ordered by President Barack Obama in June to help secure the border with Mexico, the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department drafted a $225 million plan to deploy temporarily 1,500 Guard troops to supplement Border Patrol agents.

The two agencies are wrangling over how to structure the deployment, but the primary sticking point is the money, according to senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The funding stalemate lingers even after Obama renewed his commitment to Mexican officials on Monday to reinforce the border and to help Mexico battle the drug cartels. Fierce battles between Mexican law enforcement and the cartels have left as many as 11,000 people dead and fueled concerns about violence spilling into the U.S."

I am concerned about the adjective "temporary" being used to describe a serious border patrol with Mexico. Mexico is a nation in a state of meltdown. There is open warfare between criminal gangs and police. In many cases, the police is a criminal gang as well. People who report crimes to the police in Mexico have the well founded fear that drug gang infiltrators in the police offices will retaliate against them.Unfortunately, discussions continue about deepening the cooperation between Canada, the US and Mexico. Though rarely spelled out, America seems to be trying to top the European Union with a higher population and more square miles than the EU. When you have a proposal to have Mexican truck drivers chugging over the US border instead of transferring cargo to US drivers, you know that there is a war not against illegal immigration but the wages of American workers.

We need to get serious not about uniting Mexico with the US and Canada but uniting Mexico with Mexico. In many areas, the drug gangs in Mexico have become the government. We can not let this social sickness spill into the US. We do not need a temporary program to beef up border patrols. We need a permanent program. The technical means of sealing a border have been tried and used before. Motion detectors, heat sensors and open strips with high visibility from guard towers can and should be used. We have thrown trillions of dollars into "stimulus" initiatives. It is mind boggling that a high tech hermetically sealed border is not on the agenda. The only plausible explanation for America's failure to secure its border is that it does not want to do so.

It is clear that depressing the value of American labour does not concern our President or Congress. That is why so many American jobs have been outsourced and so many temporary work visas have been granted for high tech workers who come to the US to work.

But there are life and death issues for our country. In the past, war zones in Central America produced violent gangs such as MS 13 that migrated northward to American cities. The body count from our government's indifference to patrolling its own borders continues to mount.

The ease with which our border with Mexico can be penetrated has not escaped the notice of terrorists like Al Qaeda and smugglers from China. Organised crime is unfortunately far more adept at adapting changing situations than our government.

America's greatest vulnerability is on our border with what used to be called Mexico. Violence from street gangs can easily escalate into collaboration with criminal gangs. A drug smuggler who earns thousands with a drug shipment will gladly take a shot at millions for a "dirty bomb".

Mexico is well on its way to becoming the Somalia of the Western Hemisphere. We can not afford for the sake of political correctness that its needs are the same in a hemispheric partnership as those of the US and Canada. Mexico should get all the help it needs to heal itself and become a united and orderly country. Until it achieves this objective, our borders with it should be sealed.

Obama's words about our border with Mexico remain just words. The Democrats are aggressively pushing a health plan that is riddled with difficulties and demonising opposition to it. Meanwhile, a threat to our continued peace is mounting south of the border. The criminals and terrorists who want to hurt and destroy our country are very good at working together. Until we match them in unity and determination, we will continue to lose ground. Our new and ever hopeful President needs to know one thing. Sound bites do not take a bite out of crime.

The picture with this post is of a gang related slaying in Tijuana, where there were 50 murders last week . Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thoughts on "Quality of Life" & Managed Care

There is a phrase that haunts me in discussion about infirmity and death. "Quality of life" is invoked to justify abortion and assisted suicide. My father lost his ability to read and to walk. He had been athletic, and energetic. Study and a curiousity about the world seemed to be the core of how he defined himself. It shook me to the core of my being when he said in a matter of fact way that it would perhaps be better if he ended his life. The dramatic change in his personality after his stroke left me with questions about the nature of the soul and what benefit could be derived from suffering that so dramatically altered one's personality and intellect.

A fortuitous turn of circumstance found me at the threshold of a career change when my father passed away. I started working with retarded people. At the time of my father's death, my first assignment was respite care.

Respite care involves caring in the home for people who's family needs a break from the constant obligations of caring for someone who is totally dependent.

One of my early assignments was going on Yom Kippur to another neighbourhood to stay with a man who was profoundly retarded. During my briefing I was told that he was 32 years old with Downs Syndrome and had a mental age of about eleven months. My duties would include providing him with appropriate entertainment as well as feeding and changing him when needed.

I arrived at his home on a well manicured block at about 9:30 AM. His mother introduced me to Mordechai*. She showed me his diapers and his medications. She described his personality and summarised how to interpret his nonverbal communication. She thanked me for enabling her to attend synagogue. Although her husband often brought him to shul on Shabbos, Yom kippur prayers were far too long for his span of endurance.

Mordechai was dressed in gray sweat pants and a blue tee shirt upon which he wore a four cornered fringed garment. His beard and side curls were well groomed. He had some Fisher Price toys as well as some colourful story books. He was sitting in a chair rocking back and forth looking at a very colourful story book about the book of Esther. His simple smile looked as though it belonged to a happy toddler. Even though his build and beard were of the age of adulthood, his manner was childlike. He lived in an ordered world in which he was loved and cared for. He looked at home in the backdrop of a religious home. Though the volumes of the Talmud and its commentaries on the wall behind him were far beyond his ability to understand them, it was clear that they were a formative presence in his world.

During the time I was with him, I followed the laws of caring for a Koton and a Choleh. This meant that he was for all purposes a child and a sick person who was not allowed to fast. I did everything necessary to prepare food for him as well as to clean him when his diaper needed changing.

When I am with a client, I try to project myself into their cognitive limitations and peculiarities, to understand what they are able to see and how it affects them. Mordechai had a set of plastic blocks. I wanted to say something to him about Yom Kippur, to make it a day apart. The image flashed through my mind of that which is unseen moving that which is seen. I stacked his plastic blocks up and slapped the floor beside them. The vibrations of the floor made them fall. Mordechai laughed and clapped. Then I stacked the blocks up again and blew them over with my breath. Mordechai wanted me to do it again. I was thinking in image sequences when i was with him. We seemed to understand each other.

I squeezed my Yom Kippur prayers between the demands of caring for Mordechai. At one point, he took a knitted cap out of his toy box. He was staring at it intently, holding it up to the light, staring at its strings and fibers. One piece of yarn was becoming unraveled. He was unraveling it further and smiling. The yarn was thick. He unraveled it and smiled. I was watching him with it. The yarn seemed to fascinate him. He reminded me of when I was two and a half. My mother brought me to her friend's house. Her friend had multicoloured speckled linoleum. I was staring at the coloured specks, thinking of traffic lights and of digging my sweaty fingers into a bowl of jelly beans. The linoleum fascinated me. It made me think of riding in a car with my nose pressed to the window. It made me hungry for jelly beans.

Mordechai seemed to be in one of my speckled linoleum moments. I let him enjoy it.

One of my favourite painters is a painter, architect and philosopher named Friedenreich Hundertwasser. I keep a few of his artbooks in my room. Sometimes, late at night they supply me with speckeled linoleum moments, some of which I share with my children in lieu of a bedtime story. One of his famous quotations is as follows.

"The lines I trace with my feet walking to the museum are more important than the lines I find hanging on the walls."

For many years, this saying had a free floating resonance and the ring of truth. Despite this, I could think of no application for the words of Hundertwasser.

When I watched Mordechai, the words of Hundertwasser and the book of Ecclesiastes fused in my understanding of Mordechai's world.

I set myself to look at wisdom and at madness and folly. Then I perceived that wisdom is more profitable than folly, as light is more profitable than darkness: the wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in the dark. Yet I saw also that one and the same fate overtakes them both. So I said to myself, "I too shall suffer the fate of the fool. To what purpose have I been wise? What is the profit of it? Even this", I said to myself, "is emptiness. The wise man is remembered no longer than the fool, for, as the passing days multiply, all will be forgotten. Alas, wise man and fool die the same death!"
Ecclesiastes 1:13

What, I wondered made my fondness for Hundertwasser any more lofty than speckled linoleum or pieces of yarn? What changes does a love for beauty create in the world? Mordechai could not express in words about what he saw. He could not produce any measurable economic output. But Mordechai had an elicitive power. How do you measure the caring emotions he brought out in those around him.

I was not in shul for the rabbi's sermon. Mordechai's father sounded the shofar for Mordechai and me when he came home. Mordechai clapped as he listened to the ram's horn. I responded with text from the High Holiday prayers that had been said in shul earlier.

Even though I missed the sermon, the words of Hundertwasser and King Solomon resonated with me through my time with Mordechai. Unable to speak and care for himself, Mordechai had spoken to me eloquently of life and its meaning. Thank you Mordechai.

*Names and other details have been changed for the sake of privacy. Sphere: Related Content