Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Appreciative Look At Les Cowboys Fringants

Every once in a while, I go looking for Quebec popular music. Like American English, Quebec French diverged from standard Parisian French in part because the immigrants to North America came from places in France where the spoken language differed from the "standard" French. Additionally, conditions in North America caused Quebec French to diverge from the French spoken in France.

Although I do not speak French, I recognize the importance of their contribution to English. Additionally, I feel a sense of "hemispheric solidarity with speakers of Quebec French.

Quebec popular music deserves a lot more popularity than it gets. Some of it, like Gaston Mandeville, sounds like American country rock music, reminding listeners that a large part of America, centering around Louisiana was once a French possession.

Les Cowboys Fringants, which translates as "The Frisky Cowboys" is a socially progressive Quebec rock group that is performs in a style known as Quebec neotraditional. They sing about social themes such as poverty, environmentalism, corporate exploitation and Quebec independence. They are proud of their Quebec heritage and deal with it in their music.

I listened to one of their songs, La Reine des Cowboys Fringants, which dealt with an old woman who had lost a child and fought her sadness by spending her life feeding the homeless. The other song "La Chene et Roseau" translates as "The Oak and the Reed" Its theme of bending with the wind and rising reminds me of Tanya Tucker's "Strong Enough To Bend", which of course needs no translation to English speaking listeners.

I have always felt claustrophobic confining my music list to the English language. Les cowboys Fringants and the entire genre of Quebec rock is one of the reasons why.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Random Thoughts On Tea Party vs. Conventional Wisdom

Today, a lot of Republican strategists had their easels kicked over and trampled by voters. Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Carl Palladino in New York and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire have all defied dismal predictions by the Republican establishment that they would never succeed.
In November, we will find out if the "moderate Republican" naysayers were correct.

In Delaware, Mike Castle was a pro abortion, pro gun control Republican who refuses to endorse Christine O'Donnell, his Tea Party opponent. To many people, if supporting abortion and gun control are the price to pay for a Republican victory, then what do we need a Republican party for?

There is a certain attitude towards political parties that they are like corporations vying for market share. A Republican like Lindsey Graham, who rubber stamped Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court does not seem to stand for any strictness in interpreting the Bill of Rights, market economics or anything else. The Republicans just gave him a job, as did, unfortunately the voters of South Carolina. It's a pity Graham is not running for reelection this year.

The people I respect are people who will rise or fall with something they believe in. Ronald Reagan fit that bill, as did Sarah Palin. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher stood on principle. Barack Obama, however I may disagree with him is at least staking out ideological territory.

If this election is a principled debate on our nation's future, then it will be an interesting spectacle indeed.

The New Yorker did an article about the billionaire Koch brothers backing the Tea Party movement. Such revelations don't surprise me. The Democrats have George Soros bankrolling a liberal agenda for America. It seems to be logical that a few billionaires might be picking up the tab for some mass movements. You need money and you need mass political support to put a movement in power. I'd like to know more about what some of the big donors are getting for their money.

A very simple question is being asked by the Tea Party. How do we pay for the government and services that we want? I used to hear from my grandmother about paying for a loaf of bread with a shopping bag full of money. Bad economics costs jobs, trashes the currency we trade in and creates social instability. Even Cuba is scaling back the role of government.

Yesterday, I got some rejection letters from health insurance. My wife has what amounts to a part time job fighting with these people. If I wormed out of supporting my children like my private health insurance worms out of paying my claims, I'd be in jail.

Anyone who wants to send their kids to a religious private school in America has to pay out of their own pocket. That wouldn't be so bad, but they also have to pay for public schools that are bloated and often inefficient.

I have to insure my vehicle in order to drive it. The government prescribes the minimum insurance I must have, and lets me shop for the best coverage. Why can't they do that with schools? They could tell me that my kid has to leave school with a basic set of skills, and that it's up to me to choose a service provider. Instead, there are government schools that I am strongly "encouraged" to choose for my children by telling me that any private alternative will come out of my own money.

I'd like to have the same true free choice with school that I have with auto insurance. There is no movement in that direction. Instead, the government now seems to be pushing health insurance into the same unwieldy framework of government supervision that has worked so poorly for the education of our children.

The Democrats like to criticise "big business". But the best "program" to pay for the needs of my family is a good paying job, or even a passably decent job. The nice thing about a job is that there are no political strings attached to it. I do my job well and vote on my own time for whom I please. Government benefits, on the other hand can be and are used to control voters. If I get food stamps, Medicaid or anything else, I will have to vote for someone who will keep the gravy train coming. There is no doubt that there is a link between political freedom and government benefits.

There is good reason to care if beef, grain and steel command a price that justifies their production. There is likewise as much reason to care if labour is priced fairly.

I do not view bosses and entrepreneurs as the enemy. I tend to view them as partners. I'd rather owe my boss a favour than owe one to the government. I am fearful of seeing the government do to medical care what they did to education. And voting in a government that will pass out "goodies" in exchange for my vote seems like a deal with the devil.

I don't know if the Tea Party is the answer. But they are asking some good questions.


The picture at the top of this article is of a German woman in the 1920's who found it cheaper to burn money than to buy firewood. I don't want to go there. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chinese Jews Of Kaifeng Welcome New Year

This is a story that warmed my heart. YNET News has reported that the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China has welcomed in the Jewish New Year with the following statement.

"From here in Kaifeng, China, we want to send our best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to our brothers - the people of Israel,"

For years, people who study the Jewish diaspora reported with sadness that the Kaifeng Jewish community had all but assimilated and had lost all of its distinctive customs. Fortunately, the reports of the loss of Kaifeng's Jews to the Jewish nation have been proven not to be true. In recent years, the descendants of the Kaifeng community have been returning to Jewish observance and in some cases to Israel itself.

Where did the Chinese Jews come from? YNET notes as follows.

"The Jewish community of Kaifeng was founded in the 9th century, apparently by Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq. The city's synagogue was built in 1163. At its height the community consisted of 5,000 Jews, many of whom were involved in Kaifeng's commerce.

All of Kaifeng's Jewish descendants belong to one of seven clans, each identifiable by its surname and family trees that stretch back for centuries."

It is a fortuitous blessing for the Jewish people to be so diverse in appearance and customs and to still share underlying similarities. When people see that you can share a faith and look totally dissimilar, it points to common denominators of humanity and a G-d given soul.

In returning to the Jewish people, the descendants of Kaifeng's Jewish community have added a great deal to the Jewish people in returning. The Rosh haShanah greetings from Kaifeng are tidings that gladden my heart. May G-d assist them and all Jews in returning to the Jewish people, land and law. And may idea of unity and diversity prove contagious to the entire world. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Gestures For Peace" In Israel Cost Lives

It has now come out that the four Jews killed near Hebron were killed because of "risks for peace" demanded by the Obama administration. WND reported as follows on the concessions that led up to the attacks.

"Today's deadly terror attack that killed four people took place on a road where the Israeli government removed staffed anti-terror checkpoints in line with requests from the Obama administration, WND has learned. As President Obama was preparing for a Washington summit with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Palestinian terrorists today carried out a shooting attack, killing two Jewish men and two women, one of whom was pregnant. "

The checkpoints never should have been dismantled. Additionally, it would be wise to build one more town for each person killed by the terrorists applauded by Hamas. That would be 4 new towns to commemorate the latest terror victims, plus one additional town in memory of the innocent unborn child.

There are conflicts where progress towards peace is glacially slow. For decades, China and Taiwan did not recognise each other's right to exist. The communists referred to Taiwan as "Taiwan Province" and the Taiwan government (dominated by mainlanders) referred to the "occupied mainland". Over the years, there were accommodations to practical necessity, even as the facade of non recognition was maintained by both sides. In the last decade, the 2 sides of the Taiwan Beijing have moved to open trading and agreements governing trade.

No one forced the Chinese and the Taiwanese to talk to each other. Mutual benefit and self interest pushed the 2 sides together.

Israel has taken the lion's share of the blame for the Palestinian refugees. About as many Jews fled Arab countries as Arabs who fled what is now Israel. Israel integrated the Arabs who remained behind in Israel, as well as the close to a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Israel's neighbours, however, kept the Arabs who fled what was once Palestine in refugee camps.

This stands in marked contrast to other nationalities that absorbed large numbers of refugees based on consanguinity. The following are some examples.

1. Greece and Turkey each had an exchange of populations which left Greece mostly Greek and Turkey with very few Greeks. It was brutal when it happened, but no one talks of returning Greeks or Turks to their old home towns. All those who fled their homes have been integrated into Greek or Turkish society.
2. Turkey absorbed thousands of ethnic Turks who were being persecuted in neighbouring Bulgaria by the communist government of Todor Zhivkov back in 1984.
3. Germany absorbed over 2 million ethnic Germans expelled by neighboring countries. All of these ethnic Germans, some of whom spoke little German, are now integrated into German life.

The principle under which each of these absorptions or exchanges were accomplished was "Jus Sanguinis, which is the idea that ancestral ties form a basis for citizenship of a nation. Indignation is reserved for Israel when it attempts to implement such citizenship laws that is never shown to other nations that invoke the same principles. In Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries, Jews were stripped of citizenship and property despite having ancestry in the countries from which they were expelled that went back centuries.

There are many claims and counterclaims that Jews and Muslims in the Middle East have against each other. A marathon talk in Washington will not even scratch the surface of such issues. There seems to be an almost insane egotism that seems to grip the world leaders as they try to sort out the problems of the Middle East. Far from pushing the warring parties to peace, this process pushes the Israelis and the Arabs to further bloodshed. What is worse, wars with far higher body counts, such as those in Sudan, The Congo and Sierra Leone are ignored as valuable time is wasted on the Middle East.

Most of the time, "peace" talks seem like a silly waste of time. "Gestures for peace" such as the removal of checkpoints that facilitated the murder of 4 Jews near Hebron, including a pregnant woman are not just foolhardy, but turn the "honest brokers" in Washington into accomplices to the murder of the 4 Jews killed in Hebron yesterday.

The "peace" talks in Washington are a sham. They are an egotistical exercise that is costing innocent lives. Arabs and Jews will make peace when they are left alone, as were the Chinese in Taiwan and on the mainland. Glacially slow progress can save and enhance lives. The deadly brew of egotism and impatience that has broken out in Washington will only cost more lives. Sphere: Related Content