Monday, March 29, 2010

Pesach 5770 Passover 2010

Tonight the setting sun will mark the arrival of Passover. The holiday is marked in our time by the recitation of the story of the Exodus. Despite the vast dispersion of world Jewry, the similarites of the Hagada in Yemen and Syria to what is recited by German and Polish Jews is truly remarkable.

The removal of any form of leavened bread is compared to the removal of sinful pride from one's psyche. The holiday is by any reckoning a festival of liberation, when the Jews were freed from Egyptian servitude.

What ties the two ideas together? On the one hand, you have a revolution, led by G-d Himself. Do we burn portraits of the enemy? Do we revel in the crushing of our oppressors? No. At one point Hallel was recited as the Egyptians were drowning. Hallel is a joyous song of praise. G-d interrupted it and asked how one could rejoice as human beings were being destroyed. Yes, it was necessary for the Egyptians to drown in the sea, but it was still unspeakably sad that humans created in G-d's image had sunk to a level that their destruction was necessary.

An Israeli soldier once told me as I was bringing my wife and a newborn child from the hospital, "It takes nine months to make a baby. It takes 18 years to make a soldier. We fought because we had to, but I hate war."

What destroys a revolution? When the new leaders discover the joys of having a personal driver and of drinking contraband liquor, when the "revolutionary vanguard" becomes the new ruling class, that is when a revolution starts to die.

The real revolution begins not when the oppressed overthrow the oppressors. The revolution begins when the oppressed are free to confront themselves, to question and reverse the process of emotional disfigurement. One of the best lines I ever heard in any song was by Leonard Cohen. "Where do all these highways go, now that we are free? " It is a line that comes back to me on Passover. Indeed, the Jewish people traded the yoke of servitude that was thrown off on Passover for the yoke of the commandments that was accepted on Shavuos, (The Feast of Weeks).

We are promised that a season of liberation awaits us. The messianic redemption will not be a passive miracle show. It will be a time that the potential within societies and within individuals becomes manifest, when the chaos that now prevails in a tormented world will be sorted out.

Passover was a preparation for the giving of the Torah. It was an act of mercy that we were not left to flail blindly but were given divine guidance. In our troubled times, we hope and pray for the coming redemption, for the Third Temple to be rebuilt in its proper place.

When we saw communism fall as if it had never existed, when we saw people dancing on the ruins of the Berlin Wall, it opened millions of eyes weakened by darkness to the possibility of unbelievable miracles. It has been over 20 years since communism fell. I am astonished at a generation that is no longer astonished at that open miracle. I believe strongly that this generation will yet learn the meaning of amazement, that this generation will yet open its eyes to miracles. L'Shanah HaBa B' Yerushalayim... THIS year in Jerusalem.

A joyous Passover to all. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Note To My Readers

A long term goal of and its companion blog, has been to graduate to professional writing. It now appears that I have landed some paying work. Writing in my new position will take a good portion of the time I have now dedicated to and

I have for the past two years maintained a quota of one article a day for each of my two sites. I have decided to reduce that quota to one article a day for both sites. I intend to post one article every other day to each site. This will enable me to make the best use of my limited time. and are important to me. Although my readership is small, it extends around the globe to places I could only dream of visiting.

Those who want to follow me in my professional work can go to my page at, where I write under the name Rudi Stettner. There are many interesting articles there by other writers as well. I am including the urls to both my page and to the home page on

I look forward to writing on as well as on my own sites . I should note that has also been very helpful to me. About 95% of my readership is on that site.

I am excited about this new stage in my writing career and look forward to seeing it unfold. I hope my readers will follow me to my new venue. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Racist Demonstrators: Pelosi's Best Friends

A major goal of political conservativism should be to broaden the scope of the conservative movement to include America's full range of ethnicity. I was saddened to the core of my being to see news reports that opponents of health care were hurling racial epithets at African American elected representatives. It would not surprise me if this evil behavior turned some votes in favour of the Obamacare bill. It would have been better to have written a personal check out to the Democratic National Committee than to have engaged in such evil behavior.

The last time I recall reading of such politically sparked racial abuse against African Americans was when homosexuals in California were screaming at African Americans on the street because they were angry about the defeat of gay rights back in November.

There are many reasons why political conservatism should get a fair hearing from African Americans. But no sensible person will want to take as a political ally someone who despises his race or ethnicity. No one will commit suicide for the sake of their political beliefs. A Jew would not vote for a Nazi or Klansman because he agrees with them on an individual issue. Nor would an African American or a Hispanic.

The Democratic Party owes a debt of gratitude to the morons who disgraced their cause by shouting racial abuse and spitting at African American representatives. I would accuse them of secretly working for the other side, but unfortunately people really can be that stupid and evil. I guess bad character cuts across the political spectrum. How sad. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Optimum Monopoly Stiffs Brooklyn

Optimum is the only provider of cable internet in my part of Brooklyn. So far, Verizon, our local phone company, which provides phone service, is not equipped to provide DSL internet service to my part of Brooklyn. So I'm stuck with Optimum, which charges $50.00 a month after you get done with the introductory offer.

My internet service has been out since 2:30 this afternoon. If you call Optimum, they will apologise profusely by recorded announcement. No one has any idea when they will be up again. They have fairly frequent regional outages. It would be nice if Verizon provided Optimum with some competition. The only alternative is connecting over a wireless phone connection, which costs $50.00 a month for one phone. My son is kind enough to let me use his computer and wireless connection, until Optimum gets reconnected. That is the only way I can do anything on line.

I used to have Optimum phone service, which was fairly reasonable at $20.00 a month. The only problem was that it went down whenever the internet went down. we decided that Optimum was too unreliable as a phone provider. so we went back to some provider named Cucumber, which uses Verizon's lines and keeps our service up. It seems pretty clear to me that the monopolies have decided that my part of Brooklyn doesn't require too much investment right now. The cables they set up outside houses are a messy tangle of wires that are not enclosed in boxes of any sort. They just kind of cling to the sides of houses like tangled vines. They provide no protection against weather or vandalism.

I have seen ads for other cable internet providers, but they bow out of my part of Brooklyn, leaving Optimum with a cable DSL monopoly. with Verizon not setting up shop yet, it kind of leaves Optimum facing no real competition. It would be nice to see the big internet providers take the blue collar parts of Brooklyn a bit more seriously. Right now, it seems like the big internet providers have the pie cut up pretty nicely. Service may suffer, but who cares, as long as the big bucks keep rolling in? Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ann Coulter's Letter From the Canadian Thought Police

Back in the 1970's I visited East Berlin for the first time. Later, I visited what was then Czechoslovakia. My parents reminded me that unlike the US, I had to watch my mouth, that expressed opinions could be crimes. At the time, I was a Trotskyist sympathiser, so there was real danger that I could have been jailed for running my mouth. Under communism, there were plenty of communists who were imprisoned for being on the wrong side of a factional dispute. Indeed, the communists killed their heretics in far greater numbers than did the Christians.

Ann Coulter just recently got a chilling reminder that the "thought police" are alive and well, not in one of the few communist countries on earth but in Canada, where she is going on a speaking tour of three universities.

In a chilling note, Francois Houle, s senior official at the University of Ottawa reminded Ms. Coulter in unmistakeable terms that she could not count on the free speech protections that are sacrosanct in the US. The National Post reports as follows on the icy missive received by Ms. Coulter.

"In an email sent to Ms. Coulter on Friday, a copy of which has been obtained by the National Post, Mr. Houle wrote: "Our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here."

He continued, "Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

After also mentioning defamation law, the provost wrote, "I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind."

Seamus Wolfe, the president of the student body at the University of Ottawa got his own little drop kick into the face of free speech, according to the National Post report.

"The federation does not support Ann Coulter speaking on our campus huffed little Seamus, the campus dictator wannabee"We're trying to work with the administration to see if we can ask her to do her speaking event somewhere else." Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thoughts on Omar Ibn Said, Saudi Aramco News and Academic Boycotts

With nauseating regularity, the subject of anti Israel economic boycotts comes up. Even in subjects like medicine and other sciences, there are those who do not want Israeli professors to be able to present their case. The reason for this strategy is to close any avenues in which individual Israelis are seen in a human light as individuals. It is far easier to demonise those one has not met than it is to demonise those with whom one has enjoyed close working relationships.

In subjects like history and sociology, it would make sense to broaden one's circle of colleagues in order to broaden the knowledge base. Boycotting Israel in academia narrows the knowledge base and weakens academic research. It is a cunning political strategy that creates a corrosive precedent for other conflicts,

To me, a bookstore, a magazine stand and a university are neutral zones where dissimilar minds can meet. Reading a magazine of an ethnic or ideological adversary is a chance to mingle with people who are physically absent from one's circle of friends. It is critical for political evolution and for the evolution of knowledge that such "mingling places" exist and that any restrictions on their existence be resisted.

To me as a Jew, Saudi Arabia is the heart of "the other side". It does not freely allow Jews within its borders, and it does not allow the existence of non Muslim houses of worship. It finances groups that are dedicated to wiping Israel off the map. If I were to follow the rules of the boycotters, I would not read or study anything from there. This would cut me off from a chance to be a "fly on the wall" and to listen to the concerns of those who do not think as I do.

This week, my "open door" policy towards knowledge paid off in a big way. As I do regularly, I read the latest issue of the Saudi Aramco World, a cultural magazine put out by the oil company of the same name. Its focus is on the Arab and Islamic world as well as Arab and Islamic history and culture. Despite its omissions and bias in matters of Jewish history, I consider it to be a valuable source of information.

The latest issue of Saudi Aramco World shook my conception of African American and American history. I had always thought that Africans deported as slaves to the New World were polytheistic. Saudi Aramco World presented in its latest issue a story that puts this myth to rest. It turns out that between 10 and 20 percent of all Africans shipped as slaves to America were in fact Muslims. One of them was Omar Ibn Said, a literate and practicing Muslim who maintained connections to his faith as a slave in America. Saudi Aramco World presented his story in their latest issue.

Omar ibn Said was a slave from Senegal who was literate in Arabic. While in America in 1831, he wrote an autobiography in Arabic in beautiful calligraphy that he remembered from his youth. The book was short. It was only 15 pages. It has a poetic quality in English translation.

Said was born in 1770. He was deported in 1807 at the age of 37 and ended up in the hands of a man from South Carolina who he described as evil. Within a month, he escaped and stopped in a church to rest and pray. From there, he was taken to jail, where he stayed for 16 days. He ended up in the care of a man named Jim Owen, who recognised Said's regal bearing and educated background. He treated Said as a member of the family for the rest of his life. Said honoured his kindness and eternalised his memory in his autobiography.

There was debate over whether or not Said truly converted to Christianity or whether he maintained an allegiance to Islam. Despite its allusions to Jesus as a saviour in the Christian sense, Said's autobiography is heavily interspersed with Koranic references. He seems like an ecumenical Muslim who advocates peace with the non Islamic world.

It is an irony absent from Said's biography that many of the slave traders who handed human cargo over to European traders were fellow Muslims. Muslim traders brought not only the Muslim faith but provided payment to warring African nations who sold their defeated enemies into slavery. Said's autobiography does not present a detailed picture of the local conflicts at the time of his deportation. That is a job for those in African and Islamic studies, one of the many unanswered questions in the young discipline of Pan African studies.

Monotheism had many adherents in Africa. It was not a European import. I met a Tutsi from Rwanda who said that the original faith of his people prior to the arrival of Christianity was strictly monotheistic. He expressed a desire to recover and return to that monotheistic and non Islamic faith.

I am intrigued and fascinated by the story of Omar ibn Said. I intend to explore it further. Had I responded in kind to those who boycott Israel, I would have remained ignorant of Said's existence and its historical implications. I thank Saudi Aramco World for opening my eyes to Omar Said's life story. It is a facet of American and African American history that deserves far more attention and study. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 20, 2010

16 Year Old Charged in Racist Walmart Announcement

The "All blacks please leave the store" announcement has been solved. The perp was a 16 year old boy, who picked up one of the courtesy phones in a New jersey Wal Mart and made the boneheaded announcement. According to he has been charged with bias intimidation after an investigation by the store into the incident. The NAACP has reported similar such incidents at the store.

It would seem to be prudent for Walmart to put some restrictions on the courtesy phones they make available to the public. The temptation for an immature teenager to pick up a phone and say something real stupid should be taken into account by Walmart store managers. A pass code for employees to access the phone system might be a good idea.

I don't think that the 16 year old who did the phone prank should face jail time. He should do a combination of community service and educational assignments to bring home to him the hurt his prank may have caused shoppers. I would recommend that he be assigned to speak with an older African American about life under segregation at a time and place in America when it was legal to exclude African Americans from a store or employment.

There are a lot of violent crimes that are motivated by bigotry. There are black on white, Hispanic on black , white on Hispanic and any number of other configurations of ethnic bias. It is almost impossible to get a black on white bias crime to be recognised as such.

I have ridden many dollar vans in which the passengers are mainly African American. With one exception I did so without incident. That one time I got on a dollar van, which was picking up passengers from an underserved bus route. The driver told me that he would not leave until I got off. The Taxi and Limousine Commission never contacted me about the complaint, in which I included the driver's plate number.

Black on white bias crimes are all too often buried by law enforcement and by the media. Great pains are far too often taken to exclude bias as a motive when it would seem to be an obvious motive. If law enforcement and the media must have such a lopsided view of crimes motivated by bigotry, perhaps it would be better to use existing laws to prosecute crimes motivated by bigotry.

I have seen people outgrow racism. With proper counseling, the 16 year old who disturbed the peace in a New Jersey Walmart will probably do so as well. Although I do not care to know the boy's name, I am curious. Was his announcement in Walmart motivated by a dare? Was it boredom? Or had he been a victim of anti white bigotry? It's worth asking.

I feel for some of the older customers in the New Jersey Walmart whose memories of segregation may have been jarred by a thoughtless teenage prank. A face to face meeting with such people would be good for the young man. But if we are going to talk about racism in America, let's make it a two way street. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 19, 2010

French Muslims Who Rescued Jews in World War Two

History is often used not only to preserve the past but to shape the future. There are a lot of Muslim clergy who dress in "authentic" looking clothing and push hatred of Jews, Christians and non Muslims. It wasn't always that way.

Just as there has been the Inquisition in Christianity as well as religious tolerance, there has been times and places when Muslims extended a hand of friendship to Jews. One such place was the Paris Mosque, which was built by the French government in the 1920's as an expression of gratitude to Algerian soldiers for defending France in World War One.

When France was occupied by Germany in World War Two, the Mosque sheltered Jews, many of them children. The mosque was a full service community center, with recreation areas and a restaurant. The effort was organised. It was not scattered acts of compassion. One leaflet distributed to Algerian workers read as follows.

"Yesterday at dawn, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The old, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. The one who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for as long as misfortune - or sorrow - lasts. Oh, man of my country, your heart is generous."

The operation did not simply involve allowing Jews to stay but also seeking them out. It involved paying bribes and procuring false papers. It was dangerous work with the threat of a death sentence looming over those who participated in the saintly but then thankless task.

There have been books written about this little discussed chapter in Jewish Muslim relations.

"The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust" by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix presents this story in the form of a children's book.

I found out about this heart warming chapter in World War Two history from an anonymous reader who posted a comment on my Magdeburger Joe blog to an article that dealt with Jews in Arab countries. He wrote as follows.

"An unknown fact : The Mosque of Paris saved during the second world war thousand of jews by delivering them false certificates of birth and cards for food (cartes d'alimentation)
I have muslim background though atheist and i feel sorry that my country lost all his jewish cutural background. Remains happily the andalousian music."

I immediately googled "Paris Mosque saves Jews". The search vindicated my reader's claim. There were indeed unsung heroes of rescue during World War Two who were Muslim.

At a time when history is being falsified and religion is being used to incite hatred, it is worth noting that it was not always so. There is a lot of tension between Muslims and non Muslims in France and elsewhere. It would be good if stories like that of the Paris Mosque were taught to a new generation. To do so would be using an honest rendering of the past to bring healing to the future. It's the right thing to do. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Racist Remark on Walmart PA System: My Observations

The latest tiff about a racist public address system in Walmart has the whole country in an uproar. In case you haven't heard, an anonymous male got on the public address system in a New Jersey Walmart and made the following announcement.

"Attention Walmart Customers. All blacks please leave the store."

Walmart officials are busy condemning the announcement and disassociating themselves from it. If the announcement was made by a rogue employee, I am sure they will try to track him down. No one condones such boneheaded open racism.

Every place I have ever worked in had its own internal phone system, with a list of extensions and a public address system. Anyone in the store can punch in a two or three digit number and make a public announcement. Most people are mature enough not to misuse the ability to tap into the PA system.

I worked in a retail store once where there were a couple of jokers who used to make bogus announcements. One guy made an announcement on a cold day in February that swimming pool safety alarms were in stock. We had a receptionist who had a Russian accent. She could not pronounce the letter "h". So my friend called the store from his cell phone and asked for Mike Hunt. She paged Mike Hunt over the public address system. Of course she mispronounced his name. Everyone in the warehouse was cracking up. The salesmen were trying hard not to burst out laughing. She turned fire engine red when she realised she had been snookered, but she laughed at the joke as well.

I came to dislike the manager at the store. I certainly had revenge fantasies of making some outrageous and profane announcement on the PA system. With a family depending on me, I decided that job stability was more important than spectacular revenge.

Some people have a hobby of hacking into electronic road signs. There are even guides on line telling people how to do it with the keypad control as well as gaining remote access. The possibilities are endless. What hackers forget is that it can be highly dangerous replacing public safety announcements with bogus ones.

Walmart should have changed their PA extension number. There are probably a lot of people who know the extension number to make a public address announcement. Another possibility is that a directory of extensions was left within the reach of the public. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to look at the directory of extensions and to start acting stupid.

I don't hold Walmart responsible for anything except lax phone security in the racist incident in the New Jersey Walmart. I don't believe that Walmart is racist, although I have other questions about them. The documentary "The High Cost of Low Prices" raises a lot of questions about everything from Walmart's labour practices to their outsourcing of jobs to China. They even address the question of crime in Walmart parking lots.

I don't think that the Walmart PA system incident says anything new about race relations in America. It should be of interest to those whose specialty is phone system security. The only thing it says about racism in America is that some racists know how to tap into a store's PA system. That is it. It is time to move on. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Slavery Remembered

Every year, I see flashes of the St. Patrick's Day parade on television. When you've grown up near Boston, anything Irish has a resonance to it. I can still remember hearing a friend tell me proudly that his grandfather had fought for Irish independence in the Fenian movement. The teaching profession attracted many capable women of Irish descent who left the generation of my parents far better taught than those being taught today. Although the nuns never told us their family names, they often told us of anti Irish bigotry in Boston towards Irish immigrants. Those stories were told well, and when I retell what I remember of such sad stories, I feel the resonance of indignation.

A friend told me that there was a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Montserrat every year, and that there were many people of Irish descent in Montserrat and in other island nations of the Caribbean. Although there were voluntary Irish immigrants to the Caribbean and to South America, many Irish were deported there as criminals or as slaves.

In the Irish historical narrative, Queen Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell are seen far differently from how they are seen by the British. Under their rule, a campaign of ethnic cleansing that involved murder, deportation and sale into slavery. Irish slavery was not a fluke. It was a systematic trade that served the dual purpose of making money and depopulating Ireland.

Irish slavery was not a departure from the norm but a large component of the slave trade as a whole. According to James Cavanaugh, authour of Irish Slaves of the Caribbean, the English sold more Irish slaves between 1600 and 1699 than they did African slaves. Cavanaugh notes as follows the extent of the Irish slave trade.

"The Proclamation of 1625 ordered that Irish political prisoners be transported overseas and sold as laborers to English planters, who were settling the islands of the West Indies, officially establishing a policy that was to continue for two centuries. In 1629 a large group of Irish men and women were sent to Guiana, and by 1632, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat in the West Indies. By 1637 a census showed that 69% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves, which records show was a cause of concern to the English planters. But there were not enough political prisoners to supply the demand, so every petty infraction carried a sentence of transporting, and slaver gangs combed the country sides to kidnap enough people to fill out their quotas. "

Cavanaugh tells of shiploads of Irish children who were shipped off. The numbers are staggering. He writes as follows.

"In 1649, Cromwell landed in Ireland and attacked Drogheda, slaughtering some 30,000 Irish living in the city. Cromwell reported: I do not think 30 of their whole number escaped with their lives. Those that did are in safe custody in the Barbados. A few months later, in 1650, 25,000 Irish were sold to planters in St. Kitt. During the 1650s decade of Cromwell's Reign of Terror, over 100,000 Irish children, generally from 10 to 14 years old, were taken from Catholic parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In fact, more Irish were sold as slaves to the American colonies and plantations from 1651 to 1660 than the total existing free population of the Americas! "

I have heard of the potato famine and how an unyielding land would not support those who had worked upon it. I had heard of the cruel British absentee landlords who took what little was left after the potato blight of 1848 and left Irish sharecroppers to starve. But the story of Irish slaves transforms my image of class structure in prerevolutionary North America.

The Irish slaves married and raised families with the African slaves. They suffered under the yoke of slavery together. There is certainly blood line connections between Irish, Irish Americans and African Americans that have not seeped into how we see ourselves as a nation. The tragedies of the 17th century have created ties to which we pay little heed.

The full story of the Irish slave trade is seldom told. It is presented as a curiousity when it is really a formative part of history, with implications for America and for modern day Ireland.

The full story of Irish slavery must be told and added to the history books with the prominence it deserves. It would be a good start if commemorative stamps were issued in the United States, the British Commonwealth and the European Union. History that is honestly told can have a healing effect on society. Edited history often degenerates into propaganda.

When we are celebrating Irish history and ethnicity, it is fitting to remember the Irish slaves whose descendants live today among us. The pages of history should not be lost with the passage of time. It is up to us to remember.

The picture above is of chained Congolese rubber slaves in 1912. It is by H.E. Hardenburg Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Rex Roland A Loser?

It's amazing that they let guys like this in the classroom. Rex Roland is a sixth grade teacher in Buncombe County, N.C. Students who do well get encouraging notes on their schoolwork. Patty Clement, whose daughter is in Roland's class turned in some work that Roland deemed to be below standard. He wrote "loser" on the paper. After this happened a few times, Ms. Clement spoke to the school authorities. She was assured that Mr. Roland would stop using the word.

Recently, however, Roland was back to his old tricks. He returned a recent paper to the girl with the notation
"minus 20% for being a loser". The mother of the girl complained yet again, demanding that the teacher be suspended. It turns out that Rex Roland is popular and that a lot of children and parents were upset that Ms. Clement and her daughter were rocking the boat. Now, according to the Citizen Times, Mr. Roland is suspended pending the outcome of an investigation

Now, the Buncombe County 6th grader has been staying home from school. She has been getting angry Facebook and text messages threatening her and showering her with obscene insults WLOS notes as follows some of the disgusting messages received by the Buncombe County girl.

"Messages sent to the 11-year-old call her a “freak.” Some use gay slurs, others use obscenities. One says the 6th grader did a "bad thing" and for that she must be punished. Another message says “I hope you grow up to work third shift at McDonalds because the strip joint turned you down.”

Some threats were serious enough that the girl and her family fear for their safety. The school now finds itself in the national spotlight.

Rex Roland has taught his class very well. It is readily apparent that name calling is quite OK in his classroom. The hostile barbs that he dealt out daily to kids in his class are now being mirrored and magnified by students who are expressing their displeasure through name calling as well. Somehow this conflict spilled out of the school conference room and made its way into the school yard. What did Roland say to his class about the prior reprimand? He knows he is a popular teacher. What effect does it have on his class to find out that he is at odds with a particular student.

I had a job years ago working with children with learning disabilities. One of the children laughed at a joke I made and said I was "crazy" . I did not take offense. But my supervisor reminded me that I had to be careful, because according to state regulations , if I were to have called the boy "crazy" or "nuts" I would have been brought up on abuse charges. The common sense reason for this is that the words of an authority figure carry far more weight than do those of a child. When an adult labels a child, it is very hard for the child not to feel shaped and defined by it.

I took a course required in my agency on abuse regulations. Therefore my supervisor's words were common sense. I was always careful to keep any aggressive edge out of my jokes with students.

I am sure that Rex Roland has a degree in education. He probably also has a few credits in psychology. He surely must know about the power of suggestion and derogatory labels. "Loser", "dummy" and "knucklehead" do not describe behavior . They have know use at all in a learning environment.

Rex Roland's students probably feel they are defending a friend when they attack the little girl who complained about him. He may well be good at imparting factual knowledge. But his record in teaching social behavior is another matter.

Roland's students think he is a cool guy. I think Roland himself thinks he is a cool guy. But I doubt that Roland's students will have the same high opinion of him in 10 or 20 years.

Buncombe County is now a very divided and angry community, all because Rex Roland would not curb his language. Rex Roland is a loser.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bible Study Banned In Arizona Town

I really want to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe some bean counter is giving the law an idiotic interpretation. In Gilbert Arizona, a group of seven people who gather for Bible study have been told to cease and desist. It seems that their gathering in a residential area for religious purposes is a violation of zoning laws. ABC15 of Arizona reports as follows on the bizarre case of the Oasis of Truth Church vs. common sense.

A church has been forced to stop conducting services in a Gilbert home. The Oasis of Truth Church was holding services at a home near Riggs and Chandler Heights roads up until November. A city code enforcement officer noticed signs in the neighborhood directing people to the services. He sent them a letter saying the church was in violation of the Land Development Code. Only about seven people would attend the services. Neighbors didn’t complain nor did they seem to know that services were being held at the home. “Under the code if you meet once, with more than two people, and it is a religious gathering then it is a violation of the code,” said David Napier of the Alliance Defense Fund. "

Let me get this straight. In Gilbert, if you have a swinger's hot tub party, everything is cool. But if you get religion and decide to go to Bible study classes next door to the hot tub party, they're going to bust you. That sounds pretty whacked. It seems like the town council of Abbot wasn't paying attention when they voted this clearly unconstitutional measure into law.

Fortunately, the Alliance Legal Defense Fund has stepped to the plate in defense of common sense. They are joining in the effort to have the unjust zoning law repealed. Vice Mayor Linda Abbott has expressed her opposition to the zoning law, expressing the opinion that it will probably be repealed. The town council of Abbott will vote on a motion to repeal the law on March 23rd. Until then, it would be wise for those concerned about religious freedom and the right of free assembly to voice their concern about what is happening in Gilbert, Arizona. This intrusive law against Bible study meetings in private homes must be repealed. It's a bad law. And it's unconstitutional. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 12, 2010

Aswad Ayinde, Music Video Director Charged as Incest Dad

The story seems like America's answer to the infamous Josef Fritzl case, in which an Austrian man imprisoned his daughter and fathered six children by her. America's answer to the Fritzl story is even more bizarre. Aswad Ayinde, 51, is accused of raping five of his daughters repeatedly over a five year period and impregnating three of them. A total of six children survived this series of crimes, which spanned a period of about 20 years and ended in 2002. The judge in the case has recently ruled that his ex wife can testify against her ex husband, despite laws restricting spousal testimony.

Isolation and brutality made the crimes possible. Ayinde rationalised his actions by saying that he and his family had been chosen to survive an apocolypse and that he was creating a "pure bloodline" from which the world would be populated. He is being held on 1 million dollars bail.

In a bizarre twist to the case, it turns out that Asawad Ayinde had a prior reputation not as a violent pervert but as a producer of music videos. His video "Killing Me Softly" by the Fugees ,
was featured on MTV, as reported on the Huffington Post blog.

There are plenty of questions for child welfare authorities in New Jersey, where the crimes took place. The Daily News reports as follows.

"His arrest prompted a probe by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services to determine how the suspect allegedly turned his daughters into sex slaves without their knowing.

Some of the crimes allegedly occurred while the family was under scrutiny by the agency - and after the dad admitted to a 2000 attempt to snatch his children from a hospital while the state had temporary custody.
Prosecutors said Ayinde kept the kids from blabbing by beating them with wooden boards or kicking them with steel-toed boots.

"I was afraid to ever accuse him of being demented or being a pedophile," Beverly Ayinde, who married him in 1977, told the court. "I knew the word, but I wouldn't dare use it because it would result in a beating."

For the sake of future investigations, it needs to be asked what could be done to prevent future lost opportunities.What warning signs were there? And how could New Jersey child welfare authorities have broken the spell of intimidation that kept the mother of the abused children and the children themselves silent. Did the celebrity status of Aswad Ayinde play a role in more lenient treatment by state authorities?

How do you reach children who are in such a sealed environment? A child who goes to school with other children can compare experiences and realise that something is amiss in his or her home life. But what of a child who is in an isolated environment. Perhaps the key is the mother in this case, whose identity, like that of her children is being withheld from the public due to the nature of the crimes. Unlike her children, Aswad Ayinde's ex wife knew of life in homes other than the one in which she spent her married life. How do you reach such a person. We have 1 800 COP SHOT in New York City. Maybe therecould be a national rescue number with a toll free exchange and a number that spells out NO ABUSE.

How long after the divorce did the abuse continue? What could the wife have done after presumably she was out from under Ayinde's spell.

It is very difficult to use the term "alleged" in this criminal case. Six children are living and breathing testimony that terrible crimes were committed. Their DNA will say whatever they can not. Aswad Ayinde will likely spend the rest of his life around people who will not be as easy to intimidate as his family.

Forensic psychologists are going to have a multitude of questions about how abused women and children can be empowered to walk out of such situations as existed in the prison that Ayinde called a home. Perhaps the public discussion might bring other yet undiscovered cases to light.

The Ayinde family will need years of counseling to overcome the daily horror of their lives in their home. Perhaps in helping themselves, they might uncover emotional truths that could help others break free of domestic imprisonment. And perhaps the knowledge that they have helped others might provide them with healing and consolation. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eric Mohat: Suicide Due To Bullying

The family of Eric Mohat has waited three long years for justice. As far as I am concerned, their son was murdered. A student at Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio, Eric was one of those kids who the high school mafia in Mentor, Ohio decided was out of fashion. At 6 foot 1 and 112 pounds, interested in drama and "nerdy" pursuits, every day in the 17 years of his short life was a litany of small torments and insults. Stuffing trash into his clothing, stuffing him into his locker, calling him "fag" and "queer" were daily indignities that were tolerated and ignored by a high school administration that did little to stop the abuse. When a classmate suggested that the world would be better off without him, Eric Mohat decided he had had enough. On March 29, 2007, Eric Mohat killed himself with a single gunshot to his head.

There are suicides that take the world by surprise. Eric Mohat' s suicide was one of four the same year in Mentor High school in the year 2007. For a school of 2900 students, that is a shockingly large cluster of suicides. There are certainly hundreds of other students who are low on the high school social food chain who are living lives of quiet desperation, to whom a year in a miserable life drags on and on.

Is there a bright side to this? Have the people of Mentor, Ohio engaged in agonised soul searching? That would be a happy ending. But Mentor Ohio has decided to paint a happy face on a festering social sore in their midst. After almost three years of community stonewalling and a total lack of remorse, the Mohat family is using the only legal recourse possible against those totally devoid of a conscience. They are filing a lawsuit against the Mentor Ohio school district charging them with standling idly by as their son was tormented by classmates. ABC News reports as follows.

"Eric Mohat, 17, was harassed so mercilessly in high school that when one bully said publicly in class, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did.

Now his parents, William and Janis Mohat of Mentor, Ohio, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that their son endured name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting in front of school officials who should have protected him.

The lawsuit -- filed March 27, alleges that the quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music, was called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo" and often in front of his teachers. Most of the harassment took place in math class and the teacher -- an athletic coach -- was accused of failing to protect the boy."

The Mohats are not seeking monetary damages. They only want the school to put anti bullying programs into the school curriculum. In the suit, they claim that the school urged parents to stonewall in the investigation that followed their son's suicide. ABC News reports again as follows.

"According to Janet Klee, a counselor at Chrysalis, a suicide survivors support group, who counseled two of the surviving families, the suicides were connected to bullying.

"These kids," said Klee, "were extremely bright, and [the bullies] thought they were nerds. I say that not in a derogative but in a good sense. These were good kids who were easy targets for bullying."

Dan Hughes, whose son Brandon was a friend of Eric's, said he had withdrawn his son from Mentor High School after he was relentlessly bullied. Brandon, now 19 and working, wrote a suicide note, citing the taunts, two weeks after Eric Mohat's death.

"What it boils down to is the football players, cheerleaders and kids with money have a different set of rules than everybody else," Hughes told

"It's not that much out of the ordinary, and the disturbing part is the school is more concerned about sweeping it under the rug than getting to the bottom of what's going on," he said."

The lawsuit , which was filed in federal court names names school administrators Jacqueline A. Hoynes and Joseph Spiccia, as well as math teacher Thomas M. Horvath. It does not name the parents of any of those who tormented the Mohat boy. Amazingly enough, three years later, the school remains clueless. , Mentor Public School District communications director Justin Maynor actually said, "Generally, there is a very low incidence of violence at the school. Considering its population, it's a relatively serene place." Maynor maintains that the suicides have nothing to do with bullying.

Unfortunately, people like that can't be stuffed into a locker or pelted with school food. Lawsuits are the only legal recourse against such idiots as Mr. Maynor

There are probably millions of parents and kids to whom Janet Klee's words have the ring of truth. The attitude that "kids will be kids" dismisses acts of violence which would be criminal if committed by adults. And dumbing down behavioral expectations reduces the quality of behavior. When someone realises that there are consequences to hitting, pushing and verbal harassment, then they tend to wise up real quick.

Bullies and victims are often one and the same. A child who is picked on will often try to get a cheap fix for his self esteem by finding another kid lower on the food chain. Breaking the cycle of aggression in a school environment often means cutting through tough exteriors and dealing with fearful youth who may themselves be aggressors.

I have vivid memories of my youth being bullied and bullying others in turn. I am not proud of it, but the memories have radically influenced my parenting. I spend as much time asking about lunch and recess as I do about school. I tell my children, Even if you flunk every subject, if you pass recess and lunch, it will make me proud of you." Parents should be honest with themselves and try to remember with compassion the suffering of their youth and put it to good use in raising their children.

It may sound odd, but it's true. In a corporate environment, social behavioral skills are at least as important as academic standing. Years ago, I observed a guy who was a top jock in school who could peel paint off the wall with a theatrically devastating sneer. In a work environment, he lasted about a week and a half. Pushing the work load on to the "nerds" didn't cut it. He didn't get "detention". He got sent home. A lot of people are set straight in this expensive and painful way.

Social behavior should be a weighted at least as heavily as sports and academics. I have observed learning environments in which this happens. It has a transformative effect that benefits everyone. There are bullies who need to learn to meet their emotional needs in ways that are not predatory. And their are victims that need to learn social skills that will make them less attractive to those who would torment them.

Mentor High School should change its name. The most important job in education is that of a behavioral mentor. Mentor High School has dismissed this critical aspect of their function entirely. They show callous and reckless indifference to the toxic environment in their school.

The Mohat family has been far too kind. They would be well advised to sue the school for monetary damages and to go after the parents of the children who made their son's life a living hell. If they want to donate the money to counseling programs and related charitable causes, that might be more in keeping with their apparently gentle temperament.

Children may be smaller than adults. But their feelings often loom larger in intensity and in force than those of adults. The idea that adults should consign the social world of children to the background like a tank full of pretty piranha fish in the living room should be put to rest.

The weapon of civilised people is courts of law. It is through the courts that legal consequences can be exacted for criminal behavior. If schools will not take harassment seriously, then perhaps they, as well as the parents of the children involved should be brought to task. I salute the Mohat family for seeking redress in the courts. It seems like nothing else has worked in the heartless town of Mentor, Ohio. Even now, I think that the Mohats have been far too kind in limiting the scope of their lawsuit. I wish them success, for their sake and that of the children who continue to suffer in silence.

I rarely write a postscript to an article. But if you are a student who is being bullied, I want you to know that you are not ignored or forgotten. Please hang in there. Speak to someone close to you. There is life after high school. A day will come sooner than you think that you can show others the compassion that you are now denied in your daily life. When this happens, you will feel that your suffering is vindicated. Until then, please, please hang in there.

Who Killed Davey Moore? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pope's Brother Knew Nothing of Regensburg Abuse Scandal

The brother of Pope Benedict, Georg Ratzinger, a priest in Regensburg, Germany has admitted to using corporal punishment during his tenure as director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the world renowned choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany has admitted to using corporal punishment during his tenure as the director of the world famous choir. The Daily Mail reports as follows on the revelations, which have turned out to be a side show in a much larger scandal.

The elder brother of the Pontiff made the dramatic confession after reports of abuse at the choir, as well as at several other German schools.

Today in an interview with German paper Passauer Neue Presse Father Georg said: 'I was happy with every choir practice but I have to admit sometimes I did get depressed because we didn't get the right results.

'At the very beginning I would often give clips around the ear even though my conscience was later troubled for doing so.'

Ratzinger's admissions seem trifling in comparison with allegations of sexual abuse that have been swirling around the Regensburger Domspatzen. Indeed, anyone who recalls Catholic schools of the 50's and 60's recalls a far more lax attitude to corporal punishment. It would be fair to say that students today fear of each other more today than students forty years ago feared their teachers.

According to the German Spiegel magazine, a number of former choir members have come forward with allegations of systematic sexual abuse by the director of the boarding school that was set up for the members of the choir. Der Spiegel reports as follows on the latest allegations.

The abuse scandal at the Regensburger omspatzen choir is bigger than had been thought so far. Therapists in and around Munich treated several former choirboys who were traumatized by sexual and other physical abuse. One man affected told SPIEGEL about cruel rituals in the Etterzhausen boarding school, a preparatory school for younger pupils from which the choir draws its recruits.

He said that at the end of the 1950s the headmaster of the school, a Catholic priest, had dealt out hard physical punishments. He had often practiced what was called "naked beatings" in his private rooms, where boys aged eight or nine had to undress and were beaten by hand. In some cases, the victim said, penetration took place."

Those who were in the Regensburg Choir school at the time of the reported abuse express disbelief that Georg Ratzinger was totally unaware of the sexual abuse that was going on during his time there. While no one has accused him of anything more than hitting, those who were abused claim that the sordid episodes were widely known within the school.

The story is unfolding in the larger context of an inquiry into sexual abuse in Catholic schools in Germany. Der Spiegel reports as follows on the less than diligent response of the Catholic Church in Germany to the allegations.

"For years, Jörg D. was plagued by feelings of shame, insecurity and rage. Finally, on Sept. 17, 2009, he sent the pope a four-page letter describing his plight. "I beg you for help, in whatever form possible," he wrote.

But Benedict XVI remained silent. To this day, Jörg D., now 25, has not received a response, "not even a two-liner, nothing, nothing at all.

Franz-Josef Bode, the bishop of the city of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany, hasn't been much help either. He advised D., a victim of abuse, to "forgive and forget."

In fact, Bishop Bode wants all the 14 victims, who at the time were altar boys and children preparing to receive their first communion, to forgive and forget. Over the course of several years, ending in 1995, they were sexually abused a total of 227 times by their priest in a village near the Dutch border. The priest involved, Father Alois B., got off lightly, with only a probation sentence.

"The church was more concerned about the offenders than the victims," says Jörg D. "It provided them with therapy, stays in health resorts, new apartments or new positions, and it assiduously wiped away their old tracks. The abused children were left to fend for themselves."

In any faith, the aura of divine authority that goes with clergy can be an intimidating weapon in the hands of a sick individual willing to use it. Children who are away from home or who are from unstable backgrounds are particularly vulnerable. If you combine the aura of divine authority with the authoritarian regimen of a school, that can be a very dangerous combination. Throw in priestly celibacy and a government that gives the schools free rein and you have a recipe for disaster. Sex abuse has happened in schools of all religions and religious denominations, from the Jehovahs Witnesses to the Amish, from Orthodox Jews to public schools across the country.

Putting the phenomenon of Catholic School sex scandals in a larger context only makes it more disturbing. It turns out that students in public schools are at greater risk of sexual molestation than children in parochial schools. Newsmax reports as follows.

Now, on the heels of the Catholic abuse scandal comes another of historic proportions one that has the potential to be much greater and far-reaching. According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University scholar who prepared the report, said the number of abuse cases which range from unwanted sexual comments to rape could be much higher.

Among the incidents cited in the Newsmax article, the following two items rose well above the level of anecdotal evidence.

"Also in Washington, state officials say 159 coaches of girls sports have been fired or reprimanded over the last decade for sexual misconduct."

"An investigation found more than 60 instances in the last four years of Texas high school and middle school coaches losing jobs as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Other experts using different methods came up with lower figures. Education Week relied six years earlier on news reports. Nan Stein of Wellesley College said that she believed that several hundred cases occurred annually. It is generally agreed that the numbers are not statistically insignificant.

Whether it occurs in religious schools or public schools, children must be protected. Correcting the systemic problems that make abuse even thinkable in academic surroundings will be task that will differ from one school system to another. Germany's Catholic schools certainly bear little resemblance to the New York City public schools, yet both have house cleaning and soul searching to do. Each crime has its own underlying psychology. And each institution has to correct its blind spots and weaknesses.

Sexual abuse can create a multitude of psychological problems further down the line. Parents whose children have left the faith in which they are raised find out too often that molestation preceded a loss of religious faith and practice. Viewed in this light, cleaning up the problem is ultimately strengthening the well being of faith communities as well.

The German sex abuse scandals have implications that go beyond Germany's borders. Similar stories happen in America as well. Every crime or crime spree should be studied in order that it not be repeated and so the public can be protected . The story of the Regensburg Cathedral school should be no different. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fantastic Goodies From The Sixties

Who picks which songs to revive as modern day hits? One of my favourites was "Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend". It was a real sad breakup song. I'm sure it spoke for a lot of sad people. The song really deserves a second shot at fame.

Then there are those little novelty items. When I was about seven years old, back in the early sixties, they sold "Ratfinks", a tiny plastic rat carticature that could be worn on a cheap plastic ring. They had a face sort of like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character and the initials RF on their chests. You could buy a five cent or a larger ten cent size Ratfink. When I started collecting stamps, the French stamps often had ""RF" on them, which stood for Republique Francaise. I used to visualise fiendish little Ratfinks scampering up and down the Eiffel Tower. I later found that there is a lot of "Ratfink" art out there.

Then there was "Ugly Stickers" Each one was the size of a baseball card. It had a person's name and a multicoloured ugly monster picture. They came in packs of bubble gum with one little piece of gum. There was about sixty of them. I am sure that kids today would like them as much as I did.

Then there was Rocky and Bullwinkle. The bad guy in that feature was Boris Badunov, who had a wife named Natasha who was twice his height as well as a Russian accent It was the perfect cold war cartoon.

My grandparents used to use MacLean's Toothpaste. I was crazy about it. Macleans used to make you feel like your mouth was on fire. You just assumed that the bacteria was dead as a doornail, even if it was all just perception. I used to be crazy about that toothpaste. Then some rocket scientist found out that it had chloroform, which is supposed to be a carcinogen. So that knocked the tingle out of it. I' don't worry about carcinogens. I believe that anxiety causes cancer..

Then there was "Fizzies" Fizzies were little tablets that fizzed like Alka Seltzer when you dropped them in water. They came presweetened and in various flavours. When I was a kid I used to like watching them as much as I did drinking them. They could easily make another comeback. If it comes out in a kosher variety, I am interested in it.

When I was at the World's Fair in New York in 1965, they sold foreign coins in the gum ball machines. It was a great idea, but I'll bet that some of the coins got recycled in the gum ball machines. Later on in the late sixties, Abbie Hoffman came out with "Steal This Book", which included a list of coins that could be used in vending machines, and parking meters. The book would be mostly obsolete today.

No matter what anyone says, there is no comparison to soft drinks in plastic bottles or cans and soda in glass bottles. I do see coke in glass bottles, but a lot of other companies could make a glass comeback. Fanta and Cott Cola bring back memories. Now that I think of it, there are a thousand different cola flavours. They could open a specialty store with colas from around the world. I used to get Pepsi from Barbados (In glass bottles) There is no question. Whether it is Coke or Pepsi, the same brand of cola tastes different depending on where it is bottled.

There are a lot of old TV shows. My Three Sons, which was about a widower raising his three sons with the help of an old man who had been in the Navy for most of his life. Hogan's Heroes though, had the perfect formula. It made the Nazis look ridiculous, and at the end of every episode you could be assured that there would be an explosion at a munitions dump someplace. There was a big debate over whether the Nazis were portrayed too nicely. Three major characters in the show were Jewish. Colonel Klink was played by Werner Klemperer. Sergeant Schulz was played by Johann Banner, who served a short time in a concentration camp (in the early years) before being allowed to leave Germany. Corporal LeBeau was played by Robert Clary (Robert Max Widerman, who was interned in Buchenwald. He was one of 14 children and the sole survivor of his family.

There are a lot of consumer products, songs and TV programs that could use a second try on the market. I hope someone out there is listening. There is a lot that was very good in the sixties. We should bring some of it back. When I show my kids gems from the sixties, they get hooked. I doubt that they are alone. It's worth a try. Nostalgia is good business.

Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend by Lobo Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 8, 2010

Yo Canada !

There is a list of questions I ask at least every ten days or so. Some are important, others less so. How is Zimbabwe doing? How is the former USSR doing ? Is Leonard Cohen going to put out any more albums? What about the Puhdys and all the other great East German rock groups. How many of them are still together? Will New York's Governor Paterson finish his term of office? How are the Samaritans doing in Israel? There is only about 700 of them. But they keep hanging in there. The list goes on and on. And that is what keeps me blogging. So today's question is "How is Canada doing?"

I always enjoyed going to Canada and noting the subtle differences between their ways and American ways. There is a noticeable shift in accent as well as occasional differences in spelling. Instead of the great linguistic divide being Spanish and English that we have here in America, in Canada it is French and English. The money has Queen Elizabeth II on it, because they belong to the Commonwealth of Nations.

My all time favourite part of Canada is Newfoundland. Until 1949 it was an independent country, as was the rest of Canada. Then it was absorbed by Canada. They have a beautiful accent that sounds to my untrained ear to be Scottish or Irish. I remember the breathtaking greenness of the landscape and the friendliness of its people. They have a half time zone so it is 4:30 in Newfoundland when it is 3:00 in New York or Boston. In the earlier days of aviation, Gander, Newfoundland was a common refueling stop on the way to Europe. The language remains distinct with some fascinating local words such as to "ballyrag" (abuse) and "gowdy (awkward) It is also well known for weird place names such as "Blow Me Down" and "Jerry's Nose".

Then there is Radio Canada. "The World At Six" and "Dispatches" are the two programs of which I am most fond. One is a nightly news broadcast. The other is a series of reports from around the world treated with depth. Both are available in podcast format I enjoy the detached intimacy of Radio Canada's American coverage.

I am never disappointed with Canadian Music. Alanis Morissette and Joni Mitchell are well known, as is Gordon Lightfoot. One of my favourite song lines comes from a song by Leonard Cohen. "Where do all these highways go, now that we are free?" I can reflect for hours on that.

There is a lot of undiscovered treasure in Canada. Back in 1972, I saw an exhibit of Eric Freifeld drawings when I was traveling with my parents. The name always stuck in my mind, thank G-d. I put his self portrait at the top of this page.

One thing I always like to check on is Canadian country music. I am sure that Charlie Major is famous all across Canada, but I just discovered him when I was checking out Canadian country music. His song "Nobody Gets Too Much Love" proves what I have always believed to be the difference between country music and regular pop. Country music is what I listen to when I reach for music about being married, having children and getting old. Pop music tends to focus on getting together and breaking up. If I need a song for what concerns in my 50's, I turn to country music. Country music has transplanted very well to Canada. There are also very good English and Australian country singers. The genre is truly world wide.

There are some countries that capture my imagination and my thoughts. Other places rarely cross my mind. Canada is like a neighbour that is in some ways like a sister. It is very similar to America in language but has branched out on its own path that is far more British than their large southern neighbour.

I will continue to look at regular intervals for good Canadian art and music. I am never disappointed when I do so. Thank you Canada. You are a good neighbour.
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cinder Blocks Thrown at Jewish Worshippers in Jerusalem

This is very hard for me to understand. Friday afternoon, Jews were at the Western Wall, the outer part of the holiest site in Judaism. While they were praying there, Arabs at the Dome of the Rock were throwing cinder blocks in an attempt to crush the heads of those praying below. Understandably, Israeli troops were called to prevent a loss of life. Guess who is branded with the label of "aggressor". Israel National News reports as follows.

"The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Saturday charged Israeli police with sacrilege for surrounding the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday to stop Arab stoning attacks on Jews trying to pray at Western Wall (Kotel). It called for international intervention to "end Israeli aggression."

The Arab attacks on Jews followed a sermon that area residents said encouraged Muslim violence.

Nearly three dozen policemen and Arabs were injured in the clash, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli defense of Jews could spark a “religious war.” The OIC accused Israel of an "a sacrilegious act of profanation of the holy Islamic site [that was] "a violation of international law and a flagrant attack on the freedom of religion of the nature that could take the region into a war between religions.”

For centuries the Muslims did not dispute that sites in the Holy Land such as the Temple remain sacred to Jews. The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron has long had alternating prayer times for Muslims and Jews. The Tomb of Rachel was likewise acknowledged to have been sacred to Jews. In recent times, this has changed. Revisionist histories are being written, in which there never was a Temple, and in which Jews never had any of the patriarchs and matriarchs of their faith buried in Hebron. This revisionist history is a blatant attempt to push Jews out of the Holy Land.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a logical declaration that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Tomb of Rachel would be among a number of historically Jewish sites that will be maintained and financed by the Israeli government. This is a logical step that is about as controversial as saying that St. Peter's Square in Vatican City is historically Catholic. Predictably, the Obama administration has weighed in against Israel as noted on and other news outlets. State Department spokesman Mark Toner declared the Israeli move to be " provocative and unhelpful.”

Prior to 1967, the Western Wall was maintained in a state of squalor, with urinals built in front of the Wall and access denied to those who would pray there. The position of the Palestine Authority that there is no historic Jewish right to pray there is an assurance that there is no intent to recognise the rights of Jews in the Holy Land.

Amazingly enough, when Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli rule in 1967, the Temple Mount, also known as the Dome of the Rock was handed over to the Wakf (The Muslim Religious Authority) This was probably seen as a display of weakness and led to stoning incidents over the years as well as "renovations" in which ancient relics were pulverised with earth moving machinery.

What is also misunderstood is the orthodox Jews who do not go up the Temple Mount past a line that is determined by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and other religious authorities. The reason for this is that certain portions of the Temple Mount can only be entered by the high priest when he is in a state of ritual purity that is not possible when the Temple is not standing in its proper place. The prayers recited three times daily by observant Jews call for a restoration to its place of the Temple and its order of daily services in the place from which stones are now thrown upon Jewish worshippers. Until then it is fitting and logical for Jews in the Holy Land to defend their physical well being as well as the intactness and safety of Jewish Holy sites and people in the Holy Land. Whether governments recognise this right is irrelevant. It is a set of G-d given rights that are common sense as well. In our troubled times, however, it seems that common sense is not common at all. Sphere: Related Content