Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes the answer is no

This isn't going to be a long post because there isn't a lot to say.

The Boston Red Sox just don't seem to have the will to win. But it's more than that.

God answers all prayers, all requests for help.

Sometimes, He says no.

How else do you explain the Sox losing as badly as they have to teams like the Baltimore O's. At this point, one would have to pick the Mets over these Sad Sacks.

There are highly paid players who look as if they want to hit the ball, but just can't. There are those, like Dustin (the lunger) Pedroia, who play flat out all the time, when perhaps a little more finesse is needed. There are those who stand a the plate, facing a pitcher who could not find the strike zone with a guide dog, where I could stand there and work a walk, and yet feel compelled to hack at the pitch.

Swinging at a pitch headed for the dirt is one thing, but swinging after the pitch has hit the dirt?

It has to be divine intervention. Terry Francona, the manager, is where he is because his predecessor, Grady Little, left a pitcher in too long. So what did he do last night? He left Beckett in one pitch too long. Beckett was tired. The pitching coach had run out and there was a man warmed up, or close enough so that a prolonged chat at the mound by the coach and then by the manager would have allowed the bullpen guy to finish warming.

But no....he leaves Beckett in for one last batter.

Wham. Inside the park home run. Four runs. Time for the Brooklyn Dodger refrain."Wait until next year."

So if the Yankees beat the Rays twice and the Sox manage to somehow win one, then the inevitable will be postponed for a few days.

Unless, of course, God changes His mind.

That's what miracles are.

Until next time....

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's time for reality in the U.N.

Things are heating up in the Lens' world, both in serious and semi-serious orbits.

First, we have the attempt by the Palestinian Authority, or at least the part of it governed by the Fatah party, to petition the United Nations for full membership. The PA, which rules the West Bank territories given up by Israel in 1992, says it needs this membership because Israel refuses to negotiate in good faith.

That, my friends, is the dictionary definition of sophistry or, in a less refined milieu, pure bull crap.

The PA, through its president, Abu Mazen, says Israel refused to negotiate in good faith two years ago because it refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on building new homes for Israelis. What pro-Palestinian outlets, including The New York Times, consistently fail to mention is that the PA did not come to the table until nine of the 10 months had passed.

Then the PA sat down and the first thing it demanded was an extension of the moratorium. There were Israeli citizens waiting for homes and Palestinian workmen waiting to get back to work building them. So, Israel said no to this demand and the PA walked.

Another piece of bovine defecation swirling around the cesspool of misinformation put out by the PA is the business of East Jerusalem.

There is no such place. Never was. Jerusalem is and always has been one city over the past 3,000 years. In 1948, the Jordanian Army, the Arab Legion, took Jerusalem from the Jews who had lived there for thousands of years. In 1967, the Israeli Defense Forces took it, as well as the West Bank, back from Jordan.

When Jordan ruled this territory, two things were true that are not true now. First, no Jews could go to Jewish holy sites in Jordanian-controlled Jerusalem or the West Bank. Secondly, there was not one peep about self-determination from the Arabs who were ruled by Amman.

So, now we have to listen to Hanan Ashwari, that rich Palestinian liar, who spews her poison without any questions from American so-called journalists. She is given a free hand to spew her lies, half truths and flights of fancy. Why?

Put a sock in it?

My other problem these days is the rapidly sinking ship called the Boston Red Sox.

Just now, they lost to the Baltimore Orioles, a team with one of the worst records in baseball this year. They are now only a game and a half ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card in the American League.

Yes, they are beaten up. Many of the stars such as Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz are either playing hurt or not at all. Adrian Gonzalez suddenly can't hit. Carl Crawford, never worth the astronomical sum he is being paid, has a stiff neck. JD Drew, well, the less said about him the better. He's gone.

Pitching is pathetic. The rotation is the sick, lame and old. Last night's game was horrible. A wild pitch, four passed balls. This guy won his 200th game. Enough. Isn't there anyone who can pitch in the farm system?

And then there are the playing stars. David Ortiz seems to be the only guy who can hit, except for Marco Scutaro and, not often enough, Dustin (the lunger) Pedroia. Jacoby Ellsbury is doing fine, but it's not enough.

It's time, Sox, to get it going. If you cannot beat Baltimore, maybe it's time to rethink the hiring practices, get rid of the dead wood, and win some damn games.

Until next time...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Television doesn't add up to entertainment.

I had some surgery on a foot (no, not to take it out of my mouth) a few weeks ago and, until very recently, I could not walk very much. I still am not supposed to, but cabin fever got to me.

I did get a lot of reading done, and, I must admit, watched a lot of television.

That is, I watched a lot of ads on television.

Thank heaven for On Demand, where one can watch shows starting a day after they appear on cable. The great thing is that on some networks, one can fast-forward through the product ads, which seem to be in the minority, and the ads promoting shows on that network, which seem to be in the majority. In the newspaper business, we call those house ads. I will call them that here.

A significant number of those house ads are promoting the very show one is watching at that time. Seriously.

In doing the television watching, a couple of things present themselves.

The first is that there are some pretty good shows on cable. The Closer, Burn Notice, Suits, Necessary Roughness are all pretty good. Most are better than anything on the networks, where dumbness prevails and lack of talent is rewarded, along with more than a jolt of masochism.

That having been said, the ads on television fall into two categories: dumb but harmless and dumb and not harmless.

First of all, I declare that lawyers should never have been allowed to advertise. That's one of the results of the Federal Communications Commission being gelded over the last decades. These ads are an affront. If you have been hurt by anything, call a lawyer. If you were dumb enough to take anti-depressants while pregnant, call the law firm of Dewey Cheatem and Howe. The big, bad insurance company isn't giving you all you deserve, we will. You owe nothing (except fees which can mount into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars in some cases) unless we win. We will leave no ambulance un-chased. If you died because of bad surgical technique, call us.

The next group that never should have been allowed to advertised is drug companies. If you have arthritis (most people over a certain age do) or pain or bad skin or flat feet or can't get an erection, take this medicine. This medicine can cause side effects such as bleeding, constipation, fainting, or, oh yes, death, but don't worry, call your doctor now. Can't get an erection, take this stuff but call your doctor right away if you suddenly can't see or hear.

Lose weight, gain weight, be a great cook, anything you want, just send in $19.95. But wait! Why get one of the useless thing that won't work. Get another for the same $19.95 just by sending separate postage and handling for around $8. If you order three, then the postage and handling is more than the item. So send it back. Oh, so sorry friends. Postage and handling are not refunded. Either way.

Do the advertisers think we are that stupid. Apparently, they do. And given the longevity of some of these ads, they just might be right.

Have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbat.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The utilities should be ashamedl

The rain has let up, at least for now. It looks as if the next Atlantic storm is going to hang a right and go on a vacation to England. The storm, Lee, that is causing all the problems for people in the Southeast and Middle Atlantic states, as well as upstate New York and Connecticut, is what steered Katia away from us and into the Atlantic on its way to England.

We're not out of the woods yet, with Maria looking as if it will either hit or skirt Florida and Nate following Lee.

We just got our electricity back in our synagogue on Tuesday, one of the last few dozen to be hooked up in New Haven. We had the work done on the building where the huge tree branch ripped down the wires Sunday. That was done last Tuesday night. Then we waited. Electrician called on Wednesday. Be right there. I called Thursday, told them we needed light so we could pray Friday night and Saturday. Supervisor said should not be a problem.

Called again on Sunday after our congregation could not use the synagogue on Friday or Saturday nights. Must have been a misunderstanding, I was told definitely by the end of Sunday. Called again Monday morning. The operator said she would have to make up a ticket. Finally, early Tuesday, the wires that always had been hanging from the pole were connected to the wires that had been hanging from the building for nearly a week.

Each day there was a promise made but not kept. Now the excuse it that the system UI uses to communicate to its crews is different from, and incompatible with, the system it uses to handle requests from its customers. And they say the utilities don't spend any money on infrastructure!!!!! A mom and pop business would be embarrassed to say they had such an old-fashioned and non-functioning communications system.

The people at SeeClikFix have offered to be a conduit for the separate halves of the UI system. They should not have to. This is up to the company to fix this.

That is, if it really is the problem. The real problem is the same one the city suffered last winter: thinking it could get through a major weather event with minimum resources and minimum planning. The utility has laid off a significant percentage of its crews to save money. The people it depended on to bail them out also were in the path of the storm.

That helpless feeling

I am amazed at the thick heads demonstrated by television talking heads when telling people how to get information during a weather event such as Irene.

Tune in your television. Wrong. No juice, no TV. Computers?
Yes, you can get a couple of hours from the battery, but without electricity to power your modem, how do you get the Internet, how do you get the stations' Web pages.

Got a smartphone. Fine, for two or three house. With no electricity to recharge the battery, it goes dark all too soon. I know.

That leaves battery-powered radio. Great. Except in New Haven.

As I have said before, WELI, which had had a tradition of real news-gathering, is a cruel joke. By midafternoon, the announcers who had taken phone calls from people and tried to pass on whatever information they could glean from the totally overwhelmed electric utilities gave up, saying they had been on too long and needed a break.

So what did we get on WELI for the rest of the storm? Sean Hannity. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other syndicated yakkers. Nothing from New Haven.

WICC did a great job about Bridgeport. WTIC, another station that usually features the radical right, kept broadcasting news about the Hartford area. WCBS radio kept on 24 hours a day about New York.

I knew more about what was going on in my daughters' neighborhoods in Manhattan and Queens than what was going on in New Haven.

These guys should be ashamed.

Whether the weather

It has to be hard to be a weather person. You are wrong even when you are right. I understand that.

But why do weather people try to scare folks.

You, as a weather person, know that Katia is going to miss the U.S. But you as a broadcast or television weather person don't say that at the top of the news show. You says, "Will Katia hit Connecticut? " and then we have to wait 23 minutes to find out what you should have said right away: Katia will not hit the state.

Why can't we get a full weather report, at least for the rest of the day and evening, at the top of the newscast? If I'm ready to go out, I don't want to wait through five minutes of news, 10 minutes of ridiculous spots and three mind-numbing features about cats and people who walk their dogs while whistling before hearing if I need an umbrella.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's great to see the light

It is wonderful to have power again. Not political. Electrical.

After Irene blew through, we felt, and were, powerless. In every way.

No matter what title you give it, hurricane, tropical storm or extra-tropical storm, it did a lot of damage. We were not prepared. We were told to get a battery radio. Check. Flashlights. Check. Ice. Right. Get out the old direct-wire telephone, the one that attaches directly to the plug and does not require electricity to work. No caller ID, but so what. Hot water. Took care of that 20 years ago with a gas heater. City water, so no need to fill the bathtub. Grille in the back so food can be cooked before it spoils.

It would have been better if I had had better timing about having foot surgery so I could walk the neighborhood and commiserate with the neighbors, and that makes the feeling of isolation worst. But after the third day, there was work to be done and Starbucks in Orange had electricity and wifi. It became office central and they sold a lot of coffee and other stuff.

We really did not suffer because the house was dark. We had little damage outside and quite a bit of food had to be tossed, but we were lucky.

That does not mean that we should have been treated like serfs by the utility companies.

The worst part of the experience was the lack of information. The idiots on television had told us to tune in for updates. How do you do that without power? Yes, my trusty laptop had three hours or so of power, but that did no good if you could not get onto the Internet. Sure, we could have set up a 3G hot spot, for only for a few minutes until the smart phone ran dry of juice.

On the day of the storm, the disc jockeys at WELI tried to relay information until 1 p.m., then back to the syndicated (and cheap) right-wing yakkers. WELI, news radio, is a cruel joke. I wish the FCC had some teeth so we could get their license pulled. Licensed as caretakers of the public good my left cheek.

Calls to United Illuminating (another cruel joke) were answered with, in other words, "none of your business." The city's emergency information center staff members tried hard, but they had no information to relay. The electric or the nonelectric company had told the city one or two days more, then stopped telling them anything at all.

Finally they got the bright idea of looking for fixes that could put many people on at once. My whole neighborhood lit up the same moment I did. After four days.

Our junior senator, Dick Blumenthal, said he would conduct an investigation.

I wonder why the electric company doesn't have sensors installed one the poles or connections to identify ones that are out. Why not get a satellite photo of the area. They are expensive but also sharp. Do something.

These companies should be punished for not preparing for the storms that always come. Laying off a large percentage of its work force is not a way to prepare for anything except to rake in large amounts of money. Don't blame the stockholders. Blame the officers who pay themselves huge bonuses for keeping us in the dark. And powerless.

Until next time...

Monday, May 2, 2011

A decade later, the face of evil is no more

It was a hell of a year, 2001.

We had returned from Israel in the spring. There, we had heard the bomb blasts from our womb of safety in the Old City of Jerusalem, had ventured out each day with a sense of adventure, a sense we were making a difference to the embattled nation and especially to its struggling merchants, both Jew and Arab.

Back at work at the newspaper in the New York suburbs, I looked with shock a the photo of what remained of a Jerusalem pizza shop where mere days before we had waited for the bus and had passed on the opportunity to eat in that Jaffa Road restaurant, not because of safety but because of the chain-store pizza.

It was a calm summer until that day, that terrible day, Sept. 11. I worked nights, so I slept past the first plane slamming into the World Trade Center. My wife awakened me. I showered as the second plane hit. Of course, the scene was repeated again and again and again on the television.

Get to work. That's the overarching goal of any news person during a disaster. Through the space shuttle disaster, floods, hurricanes, more blizzards than one could count on two hands, it was the same. Get to work. Be there fast.

Our Subaru wagon was two years old and I had no idea how fast it could go until that day. The needle went from 80 to higher along the Merritt Parkway. There were cops on the roadside, but they must have decided anyone going that fast on that day had somewhere important to get to. They didn't move.

We had an extra to put out, and we did with phoned in stories from the scene, that horrible scene, first of the plane hitting the building while the other smoked. Then came the staff photos from the wreckage, that horrible skeleton of buildings where thousands of lives ended. That great photo of the firefighters putting up the flag, Mount Suribachi all over again scores of years later. We had one great photo, but the people at a New Jersey paper promoted theirs better, were minutes ahead in sending it to the wire services, so theirs won the accolades.

The photographers came back, covered with this strange, clinging white dust. What do you think that is, they ask. Don't think about it, we say.

When you are a desk jockey supervising reporters and photographers, your first duty is to the reader, but your most important duty is keeping your people safe. That day, the paramount job was no physical safety, although that was important and there were lots of things that could harm you at the site. The principal concern was psychological safety, keeping those kids from asking too many questions, like about what was that stuff clinging to their clothes and skin and hair.

The company quickly brought in psych counselors for the kids and the older folks in the newsroom. We got advice from colleagues in Oklahoma City, who had gone through the first massive terrorist act on American soil since World War II. They sent advice and "we got through it and you will, too" messages. But looking at the faces of those reporters and photographers, you knew is would be years, if ever, before the nightmares stopped.

And that name started to surface. Osama bin Laden. This tall, skinny guy with the beard who said he was the force behind this terrible act. He was the target, all those years ago. We went to Afghanistan to get him. We got distracted into Iraq. We got that guy in Iraq, but always seemed one step behind Osama bin Laden.

We finally did get him. The president told us in an announcement just as May Day ended. May Day was a traditional day of revolutionaries and anarchists and, I guess, terrorists and it was Osama's last day. I love irony.

To those Green Berets and Deltas and Seals who got this bum, Well Done. I hope he saw his son die before his life ended. I hope he realized in his last seconds that he was over and we're still here. Yes, there will be more attacks, like those in Marrakesh, Morocco, where my wife and I had stood last year by this great plaza that was teeming and alive and loud and a little scary at night.

But those terrorists already had lost. The king of Morocco said the blasts would not stop reforms he had promised. The people would be a little freer no matter how many bombs these horrible people set off.

Yes, we got Osama. Obama si, Osama no. We can all breathe a little easier. The head is off the snake. Yes, the body will whip around for a while but eventually, it will die. They always do, thank heaven.

Until next time...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Len's Law -- If you bother to pass a law, mean it

Happy Friday. Time for another edition of Len's Laws.

Len's Law: If you bother to pass a law, mean it.

The Connecticut General Assembly is again working to put some teeth in the distracted-driving law. It may cost around $500 and you may lose your license for a day if you get caught.

The chances of you getting caught aren't really too good, though. The hands-free driving and no texting while driving are really DUH laws. Nobody should do these things. But they do. I'm not sure how many people are stupid enough to text while driving, but stand on any corner and count the number of people yakking on their phones as they pass. Usually, it's more people talking than not. That's been my experience.

The state is trying to authorize cities and towns to install red-light cameras to catch the two or three drivers who pass through an intersection after the light turns red. Maybe those can be used to catch those yakking on their phones.

While you're at it, why not make eating, reading (no kidding), shaving, putting on make-up and fiddling with the radio illegal while driving. See where that gets you. I'd like to see the public hearing on that law: Ronald McDonald, The Burger King and Rachel Ray for Dunkin Donuts would be waiting to tell who this law is wrong, bad and unconstitutional.

Len's Law: If you bother to pass a law, mean it (Take 2):

Congrats to Congress on the weak-kneed, lily-livered law they are working on to cute the mortgage mess. Again, they are hiding under the desk.

Putting the fox in charge of hen safety has never worked. Putting the mortgage industry in charge of cleaning up the mortgage mess won't either.

Please don't listen to the do-gooders who say everyone deserves to own their own homes. It's what put us on the edge of the next Great Depression. If you can't afford to buy a house, you should not be allowed to buy a house. If you are too addle-brained to know if you can afford to pay $1,000 a month for a house, then someone needs to tell you you can't afford it. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae used to do that. Somebody needs to do it again.

Yes, living in a house with a yard and some trees and grass is nice. But not everyone can afford that. The rest of us shouldn't be sent down the financial rabbit hole because bankers are too greedy to know the difference.

Len's Law: Let's get real on Facebook. It's a great social networking site. We knew our daughter and her now-husband were getting serious, even though we were 5,000 miles away, when they changed their status on Facebook from single to "in a relationship."

But Facebook isn't a substitute for human interaction. Some independent (right!) "All-Facebook) http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-releases-same-hormone-as-cuddling-2011-04 Facebook site says being on Facebook is the same as cuddling. It releases the same chemical into the brain as cuddling.

You know -- maybe that's what's wrong these days. Too much Facebook and not enough cuddling. Facebook certainly has its place, but not between cuddlers.

Have a wonderful weekend. For Christians, have a wonderful Palm Sunday and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbat and a meaningful Passover

Until next time...