Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And to all a good year

Don't let anyone tell you that after you retire, you will search for things to keep you busy.

This year has flown by and next year doesn't look as if it will be any less busy, thank heaven.

From now until the second week in January, posts on this blog will be sporadic because of commitments to friends and family. Besides, with the New Haven Independent on vacation, I lose my most reliable source of news and fun.

So this would be a good time for Len's Lens on Next Year, my hopes for 2008.

First, of course, is that we elect a president and Congress that will work for the American people and not for the lobbyists. This bunch we have now is much too beholden to special interests.

Bush and Cheney are just too tied up with the oil industry, so $45 a barrel oil costs more than $90 a barrel. Gas prices go up on speculation of a problem with supply or a stormy weather forecast, but don't come down again until well after positive events.

We are as much to blame for letting them get away with it and also for continuing to purchase large, gas-guzzling cars because it makes us look good to our neighbors or feel good for ourselves. We say we are safer in big vehicles that can't get out of their own way. We purchase SUVs and then forget that we cheaped out on the all-wheel drive or even if we went for the AWD, it doesn't stop us any better.

So wish No. 2 is that we come to our senses and tell car manufacturers that we want smaller but safer cars (not mutually exclusive, as companies such as Subaru have proven. Subaru doesn't make cars like the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Tundra or the Nissan Bravada and, our course, the GM, Ford and Chrysler monsters.) We need to stop buying cars that are way, way too big.

Hope No. 3 (it's really top on the personal list) is that nations like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the rest wake up one morning and realize there's room in this huge area for one small Jewish state that actually predated all the former British and French colonies by thousands of years. The borders of Iraq, TransJordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the rest were drawn up after World War I. The borders of Israel are in the Bible.

These Arabs and others in the region (you want a fight on your hands, call an Iranian an Arab) should also sit down with the Palestinians and tell them to grow up and realize that the Rolling Stones are right -- you can't always get what you want but if you play your cards right, you can get what you need. Israel wants nothing more than to be left alone and will give the Palestinians everything they need to live in peace and harmony. I will know that the Messiah is near when Palestinians go out and take the rockets away from the Hamasniks and tell them to knock it off.

I remember when Israelis were flocking to the Jericho casino before the Palestinians shot it up and spending big bucks, money that can help these people live in peace. Between 1948 and 1967, the West Bank was Jordanian territory and nobody was screaming for independence then.

Finally, I hope the Congress grows some guts and passes legislation that will hold to account those who lie and cheat and steal in the home-mortgage industry. I also hope that those who are talking about the American dream and how everybody should own their own homes would shut up. Home ownership is not for everyone. It's too bad, but in our system, some people are going to make out better than others.

I have been blessed with a great family and by finding a profession where I could have a whole lot of fun and still, in the end, earn a good living. It was pretty tight for a whole lot of years, but journalists are now able to make a living wage. I'm thankful about that.

On a personal note, a wish for those at my former newspaper in Westchester who are taking the next round of early retirement. Best of luck to you all. Spend a little time getting used to the idea and then get to work planning out the rest of your lives. There's plenty of work out there for those who want to continue working full-time. For the rest, I hope you settle in a well as I have. There is life after TJN.

Thank you to all loyal readers of Len's Lens. I hope you continue to read and enjoy in the new year.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thanks for saving my season

At the bottom of yesterday's rant was a plea to hear my favorite seasonal number, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

I'm happy to say I've spent a good part of today listening to that song, thanks to Dr. Elmo Shropshire. Dr. Elmo, as he's known to his millions of fans, is the man who recorded this wonderful song in 1979.

I got a note from Nancy at his organization with a link to his Web site (, which had a couple of links to the song, as well as other You Tube versions. It's lots of fun and thanks to Nancy for making my day.

Page 2

There's a great group called Honest Reporting ( to whom I give a few dollars when I can. It's dedicated to keeping the reporting about Israel honest. For example, there is a trial going on now in France on an appeal of a decision by the French judicial system that French television channel France 2 was defamed by a man named Philippe Karsenty, who said the al-Dura coverage was a fake.

On Sept. 30, 2000, a man named al-Dura and his son, Mohammed, were supposedly shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank. The boy was supposedly killed and his father severely wounded. The French channel, relying on film shot by a Palestinian cameraman, aired the episode and blamed Israeli troops for firing on the pair.

Over the past seven years, doubt has crept into the conclusion that Israeli did anything wrong, and now it seems the tape was doctored. A French court has finally ordered the raw tape to be shown and a decision on the tape's legitimacy is expected in February. It may be that nobody shot the boy, that he is alive and well and that the father's wounds were also only in some propagandist's imagination.

There was a photograph published by Reuters Ltd. that supposedly showed a mass of smoke over Lebanon during the was there, a photo that Reuters quickly admitted was doctored and withdrawn from publication.

The group has given its dishonest reporter of the year award to CNN's Christiane Amanpour for her awful three-part series God's Warriors in which she pilloried Christian and Jewish attempts to defend themselves from Islamic terrorists and puff-balled the Arabs.

Good for you, Honest Reporting. If you have few extra dollars, this is a good place to give them.

Page 3

Things you couldn't make up: According to the Web site GalleyCat, as reported by,, Lynn Spears' parenting guide book has been put on indefinite hold after her second daughter got herself knocked up. Lindsey Nobles, a spokeswoman for Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc., said the book written by the mother of Britney and Jamie Lynn won't be published now, but hasn't been canceled. Lynne's parenting advice book was to have been called Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World, according to the New York Daily News..

Wait, it gets better. Jamie Lynn is the star of kids' television network Nickelodeon's "Zoey 101" . Sigh.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Y'know, you'd think they'd learn

Are you ready for this one?

What's the great idea the federal brain trust has spawned to get us out of the housing debacle?

Wait for it...Lenders should make sure borrowers are able to repay the loans before granting credit.

That's it. What that means is that up to now, lenders have not, repeat not done their duty to be sure that the people to whom they lend money have got a ghost of a chance of being able to keep up their payments.

And it's not the first time this has gone on. More about that later.

And if you want to read my rant about the whole mess:

So who's to blame for this mess?

Blame it on the system? Sure. In the spirit of trying to convey the ability to own a piece of the American dream, a home of one's own, regulators and lenders skipped that little part of the equation.

One should also heap much of the blame, or perhaps most of the blame, on the fly-by-nights, the finaglers, the get-it-while-you-can operators who didn't care whether the borrower could pay back the loan, whether the borrower would eventually default and lose the house and all the money he or she had sunk into it. Why? Because they got fat fees for setting up the loan and then they could sell the loans to investors who bought them sight unseen.

It is those hedge funds and securitizers who are losing, as they should. Talk about buying a pig in a poke. But the loan granters should be held to task as well. They should be made to forfeit the huge profits they made by not explaining the consequences of taking out an adjustable or balloon or pay-what-you-wish loan to the borrower. Even if they explained it to the borrower, they didn't take the next step: telling the borrower, "I've looked at the numbers and there is no way on this green Earth you can afford this payment. Once you add in insurance, taxes, upkeep, utilities, and the inevitable increase in payments after the initial six months or year or whatever, you are in the hole even if there is no increase in taxes, insurance, utilities, upkeep and the million little costs a house presents. You should put down that pen and run out of this office now."

Of course they never said this.

Who else is at fault? The borrower, of course. It's nice to own your own home, but not if you can't afford the payments. The average borrower can add and subtract: add their income, subtract the amount of mortgage, fees, insurance food, clothing, car payments or costs and the rest. If the resulting number is a minus, they cannot afford this home, no matter what the ganif across the desk says.

So, do you think these guys have learned their lesson? Not on your abacus. There are still guys on television hawking cars and saying that no matter how lousy or lacking your credit is, you can drive away with a new car. What do they care? Before you turn the key, the loan has been sold to a bank and the dealer is counting his profit.

It's an axiom that history repeats itself. It certainly has in this case.

I remember around 1988 or 1989, I was working as real estate editor for the New Haven Register and I was doing a story on a condominium project somewhere in the Lower Naugatuck Valley. I had driven out to the site and it was atop a really steep hill. The site had been cleared and I think the builder was digging the holes that would become the basements.

As part of the story, I called the banker who had loaned the millions of dollars to the developer. The condo market had begun to go soft and I was wondering who would buy a condo way atop this hill, especially with the snow and ice we get.

The banker was shocked. He didn't know the project was way on top of a hill. The guy had loaned millions of dollars to the developer and had never seen the property. For all he knew, it was at the bottom of Lake Zoar.

That developer eventually went bankrupt and the bank went down the hole with him and other developers.

As Dylan wrote: "When will they ever learn?"

Page 2

I'm not a big fan of Chris Dodd, but I have to congratulate him for this master stroke of flying back to Washington from Iowa to lead the charge against the granting of retroactive immunity to those who would sell out our privacy.

Dodd spoke for a few hours -- he made sure not to call it a filibuster -- and Senate boss Harry Reid decided that he'd better rethink the bill. That gives the Senate a few more weeks to grow some guts.

By the way, it was interesting that someone decided to do a piece on how Dodd was going to be stuck on the ballot in the Connecticut primary even if he drops out before then.

The chances are he will, but this is Democratic presidential politics and the watchword is "Never say never." The Democrats have gone to dark horses before. Like I said, chances are Dodd has no chance, but remember Adlai E. Stevenson and a rat named Jimmy Carter.

Page 3

Speaking of presidential politics, what in the name of the Wide, Wide World of Sports was Joe Lieberman thinking when he came out for Sen. John McCain now?

On Neil Cavuto's Fox TV show, Lieberman said it was too important to wait, as he said he would, for the parties to determine their nominees and then pick. He had also said he wanted to be returned to the Senate, after Connecticut Democrats decided to endorse Ned Lamont, because he wanted to be able to assure that a Democrat would be elected president in 2008.

So, here he's saying that it's too important to keep his word in two instances.

Look, I know how important Lieberman thinks our continued involvement in Iraq is. I disagree. He also thinks it's important for us not to get bullied or lied to by our own experts on Iran. He feels Iran is still dangerous and that the intelligence estimate that Iran is not seeking to make an atomic bomb is naive poppycock. I'm not sure I disagree with him on that, especially since Israeli intelligence estimates say our analysis is cockeyed.

I also know Lieberman is very concerned about Israel, as am I.

But this looks lousy for Joe and I wonder how much help it is for McCain.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was very instrumental in getting Lieberman re-elected to the Senate after Democrats turned their backs on him. Many of the campaign leaders were Bloomberg operatives and a lot of their work was funded by Bloomberg. I worked on the campaign and I know this.

Unless Bloomberg has told Lieberman that he's definitely not running for president, no matter if Rudy Giuliani implodes and people decide they want neither Bible-beater Huckabee or rich-guy Romney and don't want war-monger McCain, then maybe Joe should have held off.

Unless...unless there was a commitment from McCain for vice president. Hey, Joe tried it once on the Democrat side, won it, but was denied by GOP trickery. So maybe he wants to try on the other side. After all, that would be geographically balanced ticket, if not a politically balanced one.


Page 4

Would it be too much to ask? Every time I step into a store -- Christmas music. All over the place -- Christmas music. Would it be too much to ask for once, just once, for somebody to play "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?" I haven't heard it for two or three years.

I hope that hasn't fallen victim to political correctness, like calling Christmas Christmas. If I hear Rachel Ray yap once more about "the holidays," I think I'll puke. The holidays this. The holidays that. People are not shopping for gifts for Hanukkah -- that was over weeks ago. I don't think there's a great tradition of Kwanzaa gift-giving, especially since most of the people who celebrate Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas and how many gifts should people be expected to purchase? There is a Muslim holiday going on now, but that isn't about gift-giving, it's about a pilgrimage to Mecca.

I guess all I'm saying is: They are Christmas gifts. Say Christmas.

And play "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" just once. That's all I ask.

Until next time...

Monday, December 17, 2007

There's a lot hidden in that etc.

This is not a "gotcha" story. It's a "be aware and be careful" story.

In the spring of 2004, we purchased a refrigerator from Best Buy. It's a great fridge, with the freezer on the bottom, well-engineered with a shelf on which to place things while loading or unloading. Since it was installed, we had not a whit of trouble from it -- until yesterday. (Dec. 16, 2007)

We noticed the plastic on one of the shelves had cracked. The shelf was no longer usable.

We also remembered we had purchased a five-year extended warranty from Best Buy. It cost us a hundred dollars but we figured the peace of mind was worth it.

Now comes the miracle: We were able to find the warranty and sales slip - all the stuff you carefully put away and eventually forget where it was that you carefully put that stuff.

Armed with the warranty booklet and the sales slip, I called the number the warranty booklet instructed one to call if one had a warranty claim.

In a remarkably short period of time (not quite as fast as Apple service, but pretty quick), a voice came on the phone, directed me to a representative, who was quickly able to tell who I was and that I had a valid warranty. I'll not identify her because she is the only actor in this story who was not authorized to speak for the company to the press.

I told her about the shelf. She told me it wasn't covered by the warranty. I asked why. She said the warranty had general exclusions and my shelf was one of them. Her computer told her so.

I quickly read the General Exclusions part of the warranty. She was very patient while I did so. I then told her that I couldn't see any language about shelves. It had the usual language about not covering intentional or accidental physical damage (remember that one: it'll be back later), spilled liquids (in a refrigerator), insect infestation, misuse, abuse and damage caused by a non-company repair person who messed up the repair.

Now we get to the good part. "Also not covered are replacement costs for lost or consumable parts (knobs, remotes, batteries, bags, belts, etc.), cosmetic damage" and more language about unauthorized and messed up repairs. I said I didn't see anything about shelves.

She said: "It must be covered by the et cetera."

When I stopped laughing, I asked her if she were kidding. Not at all, she said. It's excluded by the et cetera.
If I wanted, she would be happy to connect me to the parts-ordering department so I could order (and pay for) a shelf. I finally figured out that I was getting nowhere with the wonderfully pleasant but unmoving person. She sent my call to the parts-ordering people who were more than glad to sell me a shelf which, with shipping, handling and local tax, was a few cents shy of $85.

The more I thought about this, the more it didn't make sense.

So, like any newsman, I called the company's public relations department.

Justin Barber, a spokesman for Best Buy, told me that the warranty booklet "clearly states what is covered and what is not." I asked whether an et cetera clearly states anything. The booklet "clearly states what is covered and what is not," he repeated. He said he could not comment further, repeated the "clearly states" phrase four or five times with increasing frustration and offered to transfer me to a executive resolutions specialist. I finally allowed him to do so.

The et cetera certainly covers the situation, said Drew Schreiber, the executive resolutions specialist. If it didn't, though, the warranty exclusions against physical damage and cosmetic damage would cover it.

The warranty is there to cover the refrigerator's main goal, which is to keep food cold. If something happens that would prevent the refrigerator from keeping food cold, it would be covered, as long as it didn't also trigger the other exclusionary clauses, Schreiber explained.

There you have it. I'm not accusing Best Buy of any dirty dealing. I had a problem with a television I purchased from them and the warranty covered it.

All I'm saying is when you consider whether to purchase an extended warranty, be sure you understand what you are buying.

And hope your problem isn't excluded by the et cetera.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Talk about closing the barn door...

Today, (Dec. 6, 2007), the federal government, led by President Bush, announced help for people holding sub-prime mortgages who face losing their homes.

The government, using the bully pulpit it has always had but seems reluctant to use against business interests (especially oil-type and car-type business interests), has negotiated a freeze in the conversion of teaser-rate sub-prime mortgages to higher interest rates. This, it is hoped, will stem the tidal wave of foreclosures against people who cannot afford, and probably could never afford, their houses.

Even the city has gotten into the act. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Aldermanic Chairman Carl Goldfield each has announced a probe of sub-prime mortgages' effects in the city. They want to find out how many people are facing foreclosure and how many are circling the bowl. Then, they may see what they can do about it. The answer is probably nothing.

My question is the following: Where were they a year and a half ago when the specter of this financial disaster began to haunt them. Ebenezer Scrooge's three ghosts had nothing on the financial hardship that was marching toward this segment of the market.

Please read the article below. I wrote this article in the summer of 2006 for the Norwalk Hour and its weekly papers. I was not the only voice howling into the wind on this back then, although I think I was one of the first. I am not blessed with omniscience, and neither are the economists I quoted in the piece.

So please read the article and then ask the following question: Where were the feds, the mayor, the alderpeople 18 months ago when there was still time to derail this train? If I could see it, if the economists could see it, why couldn't they? And if they could see it, why didn't they do anything about it?

Article starts here
By Leonard J. Honeyman

First, there was the mortgage and it was good. Starting in the 1930s, people buying homes could pay off their houses over years instead of plunking down the whole price at once.

Then came adjustable-rate mortgages, a boon for people who moved fairly often or those who didn’t qualify for the typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. In the 1980s came home equity lines of credit and then interest-only and payment-option mortgages and reduced documentation and piggyback loans and even loans that let you decide how much you wanted to pay each month.

Today, there is a list of choices rivaling a diner’s menu.

The problem, according to experts, is that making a wrong choice from the menu of dozens of loan choices could leave a borrower with serious financial indigestion.
Mix in a real estate market in which home prices are flattening out or even declining in some places and interest rates that are rising from 40-year lows and you have the chance that some homeowners may end up in foreclosure or selling a house and still owing a large chunk of money, according to the FDIC and other economists and bankers.

“Widespread marketing of nontraditional products could be raising the risk profile of some mortgage lenders and consumers,” according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s FDIC Outlook.

House prices have been leveling off and will continue to fall as supply increases and demand decreases. People who have been counting on continued inflation in home prices to keep them ahead of rising interest rates should make sure they know where the lifeboats are, said Nicholas Perna, an economist and consultant for Webster Bank.

Some of those for whom those risks didn’t pan out end up in Larry F. Ginsberg’s office.

The look on their faces is one of desperation, hoping for some way to save their homes or at least get some more time to sell their homes so lenders don’t take them, said Ginsberg, a Stamford lawyer who handles bankruptcies and foreclosures.
The good news, Ginsberg said, is that his foreclosure-defense caseload hasn’t increased as a whole. But he’s seeing more foreclosures of those nontraditional loans, especially adjustable-rate mortgages and negative-amortization loans.

Foreclosures in Fairfield County aren’t increasing because the county is so affluent that negative economic trends get here later than other parts of the nation and even the state, he said. In Wilton, for example, there were two in the last 180 days.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, serious delinquencies, which include foreclosures, fell in the first quarter of this year as much as half a percentage point in southern Connecticut from the first quarter of last year.

A number of bankers and economists agreed that the risks are greater for first-time home buyers, those with poorer credit scores and immigrants who aren’t familiar with the myriad of choices and the confusing mortgage language.

The non-traditional loans aren’t just a scam. For people who know how to use credit and for those whose financial picture is bright, negative-amortization loans, ARMs, and interest-only loans may save them money, said Any Crews Cutts, deputy chief economist for Freddie Mac, a quasi-governmental corporation that buys mortgages from banks.

For example, a homeowner with an interest-only loan can save around $800 a month in the first year and more in subsequent years, according to, an Internet mortgage-calculation site. The trick is to remember that the money is still owed and must be paid, either at the end of the mortgage or when the house is sold.

“What has changed, however, is how these loans have been marketed and used in recent years. Lenders have targeted a wider spectrum of consumers, who may not fully understand the embedded risks, but use the loans to close the affordability gap,” said the FDIC. A study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies also confirms the trend of borrowers using interest-only loans and pay-option loans to purchase homes they might not otherwise be able to afford.

There is still no problem as long as there is sufficient equity in the house to cover any rise in interest rates or any hike in the amount owed. Equity is what’s left over when the amount owed on the house is subtracted from its value.

So you’d think that borrowers would be as careful not to max-out the equity in their homes as they may be not to max-out credit cards, but you’d be wrong, said Todd Martin, an economist who is a consultant for Peoples Bank.

For example, fully 43 percent of people who bought their first homes in 2005 borrowed every nickel of that purchase, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In addition, nearly nine of 10 Freddie Mac-backed mortgages that were refinanced in the second quarter of this year resulted in new mortgages with loan amounts that were at least 5 percent greater than the original, Cutts said.

Much of that money is going into paying off other financial obligations, including credit cards, car loans, as well as home improvements and money to start a business.

“Because rates on home equity lines of credit have risen to 8.25 percent or higher, borrowers who are looking for an inexpensive way to finance home improvements or business investments, or to consolidate high cost debt, are turning to cash-out refinance, Cutts said. “These borrowers are often willing to refinance into higher rates on their first…mortgages,” she said.

That’s true even though the interest rates for the new mortgages are 8 percent higher that the previous loans, she said.
So what? For the well-financed homeowner with plenty of equity in the home and good future job prospects, the answer is probably not much.

“Banks have given the consumer a long rope to hang themselves, but I don’t believe the average borrower is digging a hole for themselves.” Cutts said. Consumers have gotten very smart about options. On average, there is a solid amount of equity, with enough money to cover the payments easily, she said.

“Where I see the problem is first-time home buyers not realizing the water heater breaks and has to be repaired. Trying to afford an unaffordable house” carries more risk than some homeowners can handle, Cutts said.

“This is a time for people to be cautious,” economist Perna said. “Remember, it’s very difficult to refinance if you don’t have any equity in your home. People should behave as if they were bound to be blindsided by something,” he said.

Fully 41 percent of the people who face foreclosure get into trouble not because they are spendthrifts, but because their income is reduced and they can’t pay their loans, according to Freddie Mac figures. Illness claims another 18.9 percent.

Those are the people who end up in lawyer Ginsberg’s office, trying to keep their homes after receiving notice of foreclosure.
Ginsberg agrees that the lack of equity is the biggest stumbling block. People take out a 100 percent mortgage and then “there is a loss of job and you miss three payments and there you are,” he said. In today’s market, the house won’t appreciate in value quickly enough to provide a cushion, he said.

Since most of his clients are referred by friends or other attorneys, Ginsberg said he often could do little but buy more time for the homeowner to sell their house and reduce their debt, or to hold off the inevitable a bit longer.

The experts say that potential mortgage borrowers should know what they are getting into and how easily their dream can turn into a nightmare. Those sleepless nights, however, can be avoided.
If a borrower sees trouble coming because of a job loss or an illness, the first place to go is to the lender, said Chris Dannen, vice president and residential lending sales manager for Peoples Bank.

He said his bank and others don’t want to own real estate so they will work with any reasonable borrower to find a way that the client can keep the home, even to restructuring the loan. But the key is to seek help before foreclosure, he said.

All the experts interviewed said potential borrowers should get advice from reputable sources before taking out the loan. Those sources include the Connecticut Department of Banking, the state Department of Housing, the Connecticut Housing Finance Agency and the local housing agencies. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has literature and often runs seminars in home ownership and mortgage lending, especially for lower-income people. On line, the Home Loan Learning Center, a page erected by the Mortgage Bankers Association, is a good place to start.

The most important bit of advice, they all say, is the most basic. If the offer or the deal or the mortgage seems to good to be true, it probably is."

Article ends here

Again, why was nothing done back then?

Until next time...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mother Nature plays a trick and other concerns

Memo: To Mother Nature
Dear Ms. Nature:

You obviously forgot to read the New Haven municipal Web site before deciding on your own schedule this year.

If you had read the Web site, you would not have had the leaves on the trees quite so long. How rude of you to have the times chosen for leaf collection pass with no leaves to collect!

The folks who collect the leaves even added another collection time and you did not arrange for most of the leaves to be on the ground in time for that collection either. And now, you have brought a big wind to blow the leaves back from whence they came. At the risk of redundancy, how rude!

So now, we have the fussbudgets who insist that nary a leaf should be seen on somebody's front lawn. I'm lucky, all my leaves migrated to my backyard where, as far as I am concerned, they can spend the winter It's sort of a Cancun for leaves.

There is one serious part of this, however. That's when the leaf removal people who are too cheap to buy a vacuum rig for their trucks blow the leaves into piles in the street. Children like to play in the leaves. Older children driving cars like to drive into the piles and watch the leaves scatter in the wind. That's a real danger for kids, so parents, please tell your kids it's fine to play in leaves on your lawn, but not in the street.

As far as I'm concerned, people can leaf well enough alone (sorry, I had to) on their lawns, but they should sweep leaves off the sidewalks (do you hear, caretakers at Mondo Condo at the top of the Fountain Street hill, across from West Prospect Avenue?) The leaves are full of mold and when you walk on them, you stir up the mold and stirs up people who are allergic to mold and have problems breathing. Breathing is definitely recommended over the alternative.
The city should crack down on the people who blow leaves into the street. Wet leaves can be as slippery as snow and ice. So, police should give them tickets, but whatever you do, don't ask them if they're here legally.

Page 2

I am happy to hear that Sudan freed Gillian Gibbons, the British woman who was arrested and jailed for allowing her 7-year-old students in that nation to call their new teddy bear Muhammad. You know Sudan. It's the nation that brought you the Darfur catastrophe and genocide.

Ms. Gibbons was freed from her 15-day jail sentence and spirited out of the country after some moderate Muslims from Britain had a "now look, you idiot" conversation with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Hey, the 15-day sentence was a gift: She could have gotten 40 lashes and 60 days in the slammer, or, as marchers on Friday demanded, stood up before a firing squad.

The non-moderate Muslims were ticked off because the teacher allowed her students to name the bear Muhammad, which insults Islam, according to them.

According to most thinking Muslims, the radicals are the ones who are insulting Islam, as well as the world's intelligence.

Page 3

I'm sorry for Paul Bass, who got his car towed because of street sweeping in his neighborhood. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut, but in my neck of the woods, if your car is parked in front of your house when the street sweeper comes along, the driver just steers it around the car and you just don't get the gutter in front of your house swept. That seems like more of a just outcome than having to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for a fine and to enrich the towing companies.

While I'm on the subject, let me reiterate about the Orthodox Jew who had his car towed because the city posted the towing in his neighborhood on one day of a major Jewish holiday and did the sweeping the next. He could not drive his car because it is religiously prohibited. He got his ticket fee back from the city, but still have to pay the tow fee.

That's not fair. It's also not fair that things like the collection of hazardous waste should be only done on a Saturday, when Orthodox Jews can't participate. Orthodox Jews pay as much in taxes as the next guy, maybe more. It wouldn't kill the city to cut them a break and advertise that the collection center could be opened on a Wednesday once in a while.

Page 4

I love streetcars. I take the T is Boston whenever I can. I have taken streetcars in many European cities. I think Mexico City has electric buses, as well as a well-run subway.

I there is a chance to have streetcars in New Haven, we should go for it. They don't puff out the fumes that the Diesel engines of our buses do and are a lot more fun to ride -- a lot smoother than buses.

Three cheers for the federal funded study that could lead to the clang clang clang of the streetcar on New Haven streets.

Until next time...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanks again, Jimmy Carter

The situation in Sudan would be laughable if it weren't so epidemic. It's just another example of a long-standing problem that we can trace to the door of the Man From Plains, the same person about whom a fawning movie was made and which should quickly be relegated to the junk heap.

The situation is that thousands of Islam's greatest in the Sudan are calling for the death of a British woman, who teaches school because (wait for it) her class decided to call their Teddy bear Mohammad.

It was bad enough when a court in Khartoum sentenced her to 15 days in jail and deportation (lucky her) in the incident. That was yesterday (Nov. 29, 2007). But today, thousands who attended services at mosques were harangued there and by truck-mounted loudspeakers. Then the mob demanded that the woman, Gillian Gibbons, be shot by firing squad for allowing the class to call the toy Mohammad.

The woman was spirited away by saner folks and will finish her sentence at a secret location and be spirited out of the country.

This whole mess of Muslim fundamentalism and the stupidity about killing people for small slights, if at all, can be traced, in our time, back to the Carter Administration.

The former president, who presents himself as the arbiter of what is just and right, especially when it comes to Israel and the Arabs, mishandled the whole Iran problem back in the late 1970s, allowed the Shah of Iran to come to this country for medical treatment, a move that led to the capturing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by student radicals. Then he, allowed the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to enter Tehran is triumph.

Under Khomeini, Iran degenerated from a modern nation to a feudal theocracy. Others, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, followed suit. Is there a direct line from Carter to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks? No, there isn't a direct line. But it became an example that the U.S. could be duped by the shah, one of the most brutal dictators of our time. It became an example that the United States couldn't handle the resulting occupation. The Iranians later said they only wanted to occupy the embassy for a short time, but since the U.S. was so inept in its response that they just kept going for 444 days.

The response, when it did come, was ham-handed and only accomplished the deaths of U.S. service personnel in the Iranian desert and provided another example of America's failure.

Add to that Ronald Reagan's use of the situation for his political ends and Reagan's single-minded opposition of the Soviet Union that led to our arming and backing the Taliban, the same folks who did attack us on Sept. 11.

Nobody ever heard of Islamic fundamentalism before the debacle in Tehran. Even Arabs that were blowing up airplanes and airports were nationalists, not Islamic fundamentalists.

As far as they were concerned, you could call your Teddy bear anything you wanted, as long as you let them put a bomb in it.

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I am puzzled about the brouhaha about paroles and the introduction of race into that whole argument.

After the horrible murders in Cheshire earlier this year, there was a reaction, and that reaction was a look at the parole and bail systems. At least one of the suspects in those murders was out on parole. I can't remember if both were.

There has to be a reaction to crimes that horrible. Looking at the parole system is one possible reaction. It's a political reality that if you want people to think you are doing something, but really don't want to do something, you form a committee or you conduct an investigation. My guess is that's what's going to happen. In a year or two, when the horror of these crimes has receded a bit, the investigation will quietly end and nothing will be done.

But some folks decided that because the ratio of minorities in jail to the population at large is higher than among non-minorities, it was a good time to scream racism.

The first duty of a society is to protect its members. That means stopping those who would harm members of society, especially those who do that harm again and again and again. We have chosen to put those people in prison, rather than, say, shooting them in the back of the head and dumping their bodies in a landfill.

Minorities are sent to prison unfairly. I concede that. It's wrong and we need to find a real way to fix that. Having state-paid public defenders is a good idea. Saddling those defenders with so many cases that they cannot possibly do a good job of defending their clients in not a good idea. In fact, it stinks. It should be fixed.

People who live in flood zones are required to carry flood insurance. Perhaps people who live in high-crime areas should be required to carry lawyer insurance and perhaps we should pay for it. Then, if their liberty is at stake, they can hire lawyers and the insurance can pay for that.

Whatever the answer, it needs to get done. There is a but, a big one. But, friends, nothing that is done along those lines is allowed to make society and its members any less safe.

If one person is killed or raped or robbed or injured in any way while we are trying to help the people who harm us or steal from us, then society has failed. At that point, society will protect itself, no matter what it takes.

We should end on a happy note. December is coming tomorrow. The first candle of Hanukkah is Dec. 4. Happy Hanukkah. Christmas is Dec. 25. Merry Christmas. Let's stop saying the holidays this and the holidays that. There are two distinctive celebrations that really have nothing in common with each other. Saying the holidays is a cop-out.

So, have a great weekend, despite the promised weather. For those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos and a happy Hanukkah.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good for Greer and a fire sale on Israel

Eli Greer, who became the sheriff of Edgewood earlier this year, has hung up his shootin' iron, and good for him.

Greer, whose bicycle-riding, gun-toting patrol led to the Guardian Angels starting a chapter in New Haven and ultimately, led to Police Chief Cisco Cruz (wasn't the Cisco Kid one of the good guys?) announcing his intention to quit his job.

Greer has said he had two goals in mind when he organized the armed patrol last June: to make his neighborhood safer and to hound Cruz from office. He blamed Cruz for a lack of community policing and for a spike of violence in his neighborhood, some of which hit close to home. Cruz has said he was leaving and Greer announced that as of the first of December, the patrol would be disarmed, and it would continue the patrols unarmed.

There were no gun incidents during the nightly patrols. Greer said that the level of crime in his neighborhood was down, but had no figures to back up the assertion.

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The fire sale on Israel began again yesterday (Nov. 27, 2007) around a table in an imposing room at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

The collection of dictatorships, absolute monarchies, fiefdoms, sheikdoms, and oil-dependent Europeans gathered in the room took turns saying that this or that might happen if Israel gives enough. Even the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who said in advance he would not shake the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (or any other Jew for that matter), said he might change his mind some time in the future if Israel gave away enough. Boy, that's certainly something worth dying for.

Yes, yes, I know. One is supposed to be for peace. Peace at any price? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Hmm, I think somebody already said that. Patrick Henry was right more than 230 years ago and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was so wrong more than 70 years ago.

Have we such short memories? Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times showed the shortness of his memory this morning when he called for the Israelis to open the gates at its borders and at its jails to give the Palestinians more incentives. In the past, those incentives have been repaid with blood and bombs, but Friedman seems to forget that.

Two things really scare me. The first is the weakness of the participants. At the Potsdam Conference in July and August of 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt was dead and Winston Churchill had lost his election and was replaced by Cement Atlee as prime minister. The only one of the Big Three left, Josef Stalin, imposed his will on the conference and the Cold War and the Iron Curtain were the results.

At Annapolis, the same situation holds true. The Israelis are represented by Olmert, a weak, unpopular man who has been under a cloud of suspicion of various frauds and schemes for decades. The strong men of Israel are dead, in the case of Yitzhak Rabin; in a coma, in the case of Arik Sharon or too old, in the case of Shimon Perez.

The Palestinians in the past have never had a leader who wanted peace. The protests of Jimmy Carter notwithstanding, Yasser Arafat was never ready to make to transition from revolutionary to peaceful leader and, as Abba Eban so wonderfully put it, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. At least, however, the Palestinians spoke with one voice, albeit a blood-soaked one.

Under President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian government is fractionated, with Abbas' Fatah party sort of running the West Bank areas not controlled by Israel and the Gaza Strip controlled by the Iranian-backed Hamas party. And that brings us to my second fear.

The second problem I have with Annapolis is that the U.S. was designated as the sole arbiter of who is carrying out its responsibilities under the agreements and who is not. George W. Bush, who still will be president during the time frame of this agreement to seek an agreement, marches to the beat of democracy for everyone, ready or not.

That's how the Palestinians (and the Iraqis, too, by the way) got into the trouble they are in. They held elections before they were ready for them. Some people have not matured enough to govern themselves absolutely. The Palestinians are such a people. Instead of thinking about the consequences of their actions, they cast protest votes against Fatah and voted in Hamas. Hamas is a gang of terrorists and the average Palestinian knew it. They forgot it for the moment and now are paying the price.

A mature society like the United States can survive a bad election. We will survive George W. Bush. The Palestinians are not a mature society. I don't mean that individual Palestinians aren't mature people, although some certainly are not, but that the society has not had time to mature. Bush's part was to force elections on them before they were ready.

Israelis and people who care about Israelis are living with the consequences of Bush's actions. It scares me that such a single-minded person and his immature minions, such as Condoleezza Rice, will be the referees of the Annapolis round of peace talks.

It doesn't help that Bush is a bully on the world stage. He will push around those who are weak, like Olmert, and those who cannot fight back against him, like the Iraqis and Palestinians. He doesn't demand things like democracy of his business partners in the oil communities and the Europeans have long since stopped listening when he speaks. Vladimir Putin, another dictator player in this drama, has Bush wrapped around his finger.

So that's why, my friends, I am fearful that Annapolis will become another fire sale of Israel, as Oslo was. Israel will be prodded to give up real land and real security for promises that may be sincerely meant when they are made but will be quickly abandoned when the situation changes.

Until next time...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The latest from the City of Balagan

I hope you all had as good a thanksgiving as I did. It was great spending the day with family and sampling my daughter's expertise in the kitchen.

A little Hebrew lesson. This one you won't find in the Bible. Balagan: Synonym=SNAFU, Situation Normal--All Fouled Up (I told you this is blog is rated PG). Chaos caused by lack of ability. A mess caused by idiots who don't know what they are doing.

Case in point: New Haven. The latest balagan has to do with press parking. It seems there have been press parking stickers or parking passes printed up and distributed to some media who cover New Haven. The police are supposed to recognize these passes when reporters want to park illegally when covering certain events. Now, Brian McGrath, the city's parking czar, has repudiated the passes, saying they never were any good, according to a clip posted on The New Haven Independent site.

So, when a reporter wants to cover a story, he or she must find a valid parking spot and pay the fee. The police are supposed to ticket and, if appropriate, tow the reporters' cars. Remember, these are the same police who have been ordered not to ask people being questioned as crime suspects whether they are in the country legally. So far, so good.

There seems to be no difference between the treatment of a reporter covering a Chamber of Commerce breakfast or one covering a terrorism incident at a downtown shopping mall. (I use this example because New Haven doesn't have a downtown shopping mall, so I can't be accused to sensationalism.) McGrath also said the parking passes issued to city inspectors and members of the Board of Aldermen are given out based on laws that are on the city's books, so they are legal. There has never been a city parking pass law, so there is no basis for the press passes. After all, aldermen should not be required to feed the meter when shopping downtown. Seriously -- you have to get something for all the time you spend giving the mayor a $16,000 raise.

A little history: I've been a working journalist for more than 40 years, the majority of it in Connecticut in general and a good chunk of that in New Haven in particular. When I started, in the late 1960s, there was a State Police-issued press pass. You got one every year. On the top, it said "Conn. State Police", it had the state seal, your picture on it, said "Press" in big impressive letters, and it was signed by none other than the commissioner of the State Police. Each year, the strip saying "Conn. State Police" was a different color, so you needed to renew it each year. Police were instructed to allow the bearer across police lines and you, as a reporter, were instructed that you weren't to use it unless you were working and your organization was instructed that the State Police bore no responsibility if the reporter dashed into a burning building and became kindling or the felon the cops were chasing used you for target practice.

In fact, during the anti-war activities of the late '60s and early '70s, the state police undercover people started carrying press passes so they could infiltrate the hippies who were smoking grass and agitating for peace. That practice was stopped after a confrontation between top editors and the governor.

Then, a few years later, the pass changed. It still had the state seal on it, but it didn't say state police on it. It did say Press in big impressive letters and was signed by your editor or manager. But the cops still respected it and let you into crime scenes and the like.

Then, around the late 1970s, the state stopped issuing press passes, but the police still respected passes issued by the various news organizations. There was a silly event during the tornado that hit the Bradley International Airport area in 1979. The state police recognized the press passes and said reporters could enter, but only cars marked with the name of the news organizations could enter the affected area. That, of course, limited the transport to television trucks. But intrepid print reporters -- in the case of the Journal-Courier of New Haven Janet Kipphut (now Ainsworth) and Bob Phllips, among others, got in all the same. I was in radio communication with the reporters that night as the controlling editor. (no cell phones yet). The coverage was voted best breaking news coverage in every state and regional news organization.

Anyway, I guess this run down Memory Lane was to show that parking passes never were in the picture. So, this is merely another chapter in the ongoing New Haven balagan.

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Last night, friend wife and I decided to take advantage of a bargain at COMP USA. When we got to the Boston Post Road store in Orange, the line was out the door, along the wall and almost onto the next property. After going around the block, we decided to give it a try.

Actually, it was fun. We met a nice guy named Keith and we chatted for the half hour it took before we were admitted to the store. To make it even better, we found what we came in for. Everybody was saying that today (Nov. 23, 2007) would be a nightmare. So, we will quit while we are ahead. But just like attending Kosherfest in New York, it's something to do once for the experience. For the rest of you shoppers, good luck.

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Well, unlike some, Len's Lens is working the Friday after Thanksgiving, if for no other reason than to wish all a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Len's Lens Christmas issue

I've been sick -- a bit of a chest thing where it was painful to breathe -- but with the help of friend wife and Breathe Easy tea and a lot of bed rest, I'm back.

There was an interesting cartoon in The New York Times Week in Review. It showed a woman at bar talking to Santa Claus and the Thanksgiving turkey was saying that the jolly old elf wasn't letting him have his turn at the girl.

Well, what else is new. Advertisers have been pitching holiday gifts since before Columbus Day.

There used to be a time when everything was closed on two days: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well, that's gone for Thanksgiving. In addition to the fight between Target and Wal Mart and Kohl's over who opens first Friday (one of them opens at 4 a.m.), Comp USA is having a sale starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday. It's nuts, but since the economy is in the dumper and you haven't sold your Christmas stuff between Columbus Day and now, I guess you want a second chance before tossing everything into the bargain bin.

Boy have things changed since I was in retailing. When I was in school in the 1960s, I worked for a store called Kennedy's of New England. I don't think it had anything to do with that family, but it was an upscale clothing store. I worked there from September until after Christmas. There were these really ugly sweaters, a sickly dark Army green with grey leather patches on the front and the elbows. They sold for $35 when a good dress shirt went for $5. They just were gathering dust, and I mentioned it to my boss. He said to throw them into a drawer and remind him of them near Thanksgiving. I did, and he told me to mark them up to $50 and put them out on the first Monday in December. I thought he was nuts. He wasn't. They were gone before the end of the week. When I asked him how he knew, he said you could sell anything at Christmas time.

To paraphrase Arlo, I didn't come to talk to you about sales, I came to talk about Christmas.

I'm with those who say it should be called Christmas, not "the holidays."

As an observant Orthodox Jew, I'm here to tell you that it's not my holidays. Hanukkah has nothing to do with Christmas and with gift-giving. The only reason Jews give gifts on Hanukkah is so the kids won't whine that their Christian friends are getting gifts and they're not. Sure, there's Hanukkah gelt, a little money, but nothing like the raft of gifts given for Christmas.

This year, the timing is not even close. Hanukkah is over weeks before Christmas and even if one believes one should give gifts for Hanukkah, as many Jews do, the holiday is over nearly two weeks before Christmas. It's not my holiday.

This is America, a Christian nation, as we have been repeatedly told. In that case, Christians should be able to celebrate their holiday in peace without worrying about upsetting me. I'm not upset by their having their holidays. You want to decorate the light poles, fine. You want to put up a Christmas tree on the town green, fine, as long as you don't say we can't put up a Hanukkah menorah. In New Haven, it's not a problem because the Green is privately owned and you can do anything you want as long as the Green committee approves.

I'm upset when you say we have to say your prayers in public schools. I'm upset when you say we have to say your prayers at public functions. I'm upset when the idiots who program radio stations play nothing but Christmas carols on EACH AND EVERY station on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are stations that play really far out rock each day and on Christmas, they play the audio equivalent of the Yule log. That I'm upset about, but not calling Christmas Christmas.

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We got a fund-raising mailing from Mitt Romney today (Nov. 21, 2007). It was a puzzlement at first. We are hardly registered Republicans and those who analyze households could figure out there was no way we would give money to Romney.

But then it came clear. It trumpeted Romney as being the only Republican who would do anything about all those horrible people from other countries who sneaked into the U.S. and were ruining our economy. Romney told how, as governor of Massachusetts, he "deputized" (quotes his) the state police to enforce federal immigration laws already on the books. That means no "sanctuary cities" (again quotes are his.)

Aha!! It became clear. New Haven is a sanctuary city and he's trolling those who are unhappy about that fact to support him. That's what ol' Mitt was up to.

Well, as I toss his nasty note into the trash, I can say "no sale" to Mitt. It's not that I'm thrilled about having millions of people in the country illegally, I recognize the fact they are here. I don't like the fact that New Haven's mayor is recruiting illegals to come to New Haven for whatever reason, but I'm not going to buy into Romney's Draconian plan to make it hard for the illegals to improve themselves. He also doesn't say what he would do with the illegals who are already here. Maybe he feels that by making life so hard for them that they'll leave. Rich-guy Romney may not realize it but that's not going to work because there is no way that Romney could legally make their lives worse than it was in the nations they left.

Page 3

Three cheers for Mike Lowell and the Boston Red Sox. Lowell left a lot of money and the fourth year of a contract on the table to re-sign with the Sox for three more years. I'm thrilled. Lowell defines class in the way he plays, the leadership role he takes in the clubhouse and in the community and now in electing to stay with the Sox instead of a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies. He wanted to stay with an outfit that would at least contest for the championship and he liked playing in Boston. And three cheers for the Sox management. They re-signed pitcher Curt Schilling and Lowell, two guys who are along in years (in baseball years, anyway), choosing to go with class and experience rather than just youth. A win-win for the Sox, the players and the fans.

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To all who will read this, a very happy Thanksgiving.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now, that's chutzpah

There was an item in the New York Daily News that caught my eye, not because it's important, but because it defines the word chutzpah.

Chutzpah can be defined as gall, having a lot of nerve. This qualifies.

Just about 20 years ago, a young African-American girl named Tawana Brawley made headlines. She told authorities that she had been kidnapped from around her home in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., a Dutchess County community about 75 miles north of New York City. She said she had been held captive for four days and raped by six while law-enforcement officials. She said they had spread excrement on her and tortured her. The Rev. Al Sharpton became her spokesman, along with two other black activists, who demanded a high-level investigation. Sharpton screamed racism and demanded a special grand jury be convened. He got his wish.

The special state grand jury found that the teen was lying through her teeth, that she had not been raped by anybody. The story nearly ruined the life of Steven Pagones, a prosecutor who was implicated in the case. Pagones sued Sharpton, as well as Alton Maddox Jr. and C. Verton Mason, the two lawyers who aided Sharpton and Brawley. Maddox was disbarred in the incident. Pagones was awarded more than $300,000 by a jury as part of his suit.

So, what's the chutzpah? Brawley's mother and stepfather, Glenda Brawley and Ralph King, are demanding that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reopen the investigation into the incident. Brawley says the state owes justice to her daughter. None of the people named would comment for the Associated Press story picked up by the Guardian in the U.K.,,-7086114,00.html

I agree, to a point. I think the probe should be reopened, but only if Brawley also could be held responsible. In other words, if the probe finds that Brawley was indeed kidnapped, raped and spread with feces, then she should get the justice she was denied and those who did it to her would be called to account. Both sides should agree that statutes of limitations would be voided.

If the probe finds that Brawley lied, and that Sharpton, Maddox and Mason were implicit in those lies and knowingly promoted this fraud against the people of New York and Steve Pagones in particular, then criminal penalties should attach. Brawley should be brought to account for her lies and, if found guilty, do the time she escaped 20 years ago. Sharpton, Maddox and Mason should also face criminal charges if it is found they knowingly went along with what was proven to be a pack of lies. Again.

Glenda Brawley and Ralph King are right. There should be justice for her daughter. But there also should be justice for the people of New York in general and Dutchess County in particular, including Steve Pagones. If there is a probe and its findings are the same as the first, that Tawana was a liar, then Glenda and Ralph should be handed the bill for the investigation.

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Did you happen to see Fred D. Thompson on the television this morning (Nov. 18, 2007)? He was on ABC's Sunday morning news show and was asked again and again about his qualifications to be president. Was he a governor? No. What was his claim to fame? National security. How so? He was chairman of the Senate committee on national security. Did he have any executive experience? No, but it's really not necessary, he said.

Thompson looked a bit like a deer caught in the headlights, sort of how the perps looked after his minions got thorugh with them on Law & Order. Thompson worked for the Senate Watergate Committee that caught up with Richard Nixon, and did a good job there. He did a pretty good job on Law & Order. In the Senate, well, OK. Nothing spectacular.

Ol' Fred, he's a better actor than Ronald (Dutch) Reagan ever was, so I guess he feels he has the qualifications to take over the job that Reagan held. Enough said. Fred, I miss you on Law & Order. Go back.

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New Haven has posted its street sweeping plans for the spring, a plan that would have city workers sweep all the sand and salt that will be deposited on the roads during plowing.

I like the idea of streets being swept from time to time. It's not nuts like New York City, where each street gets swept four times a week, twice on one side and twice on the other. People who don't want to pay hundreds of dollars a month for garage space park their cars on the street in residential neighborhoods and need to move them for street sweeping, leading to a ballet of Bolshoi proportions.

We don't have that in New Haven, but that doesn't mean the exercise is error-free.

A couple of months ago, the car of an Orthodox Jew was towed because it was parked on a street that was to be swept. The problem was the car was parked on a Jewish holiday, when observant Jews are forbidden to drive their cars. The street was posted one day and the towing took place the next -- both holidays.

The person appealed to the city and finally got the ticket tossed out, but still had to pay a hefty fee to the towing company. That should not have happened. The city should not post and tow on Jewish, Moslem or other holidays. They don't in New York, where they are really nuts about street sweeping.

The towing company should be compensated by the city or the city should have gotten the towing company to forgive the fee. I'm not saying Jews should be granted favors. But the people who schedule this work should spend two minutes and make sure there is not a conflict. I'm sure any Orthodox rabbi would be happy to act as a consultant. If not, call me. I'd be glad to help.

Until next time...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Everybody has to kick in, even the mayor

Last week, I covered the mayoral election in New Haven for the Independent, I got to speak to John DeStefano Jr., the mayor of this university city of some 130-odd thousand souls, many of whom do not speak English, many of whom are not in this country legally and many of whom do not work for a whole variety of reasons.

I am not judging these folks here. In my life, I've been in a situation where I didn't know where my next meal was coming from. I had an advantage over many of these folks in that I had parents who, I knew in the back of my mind, would bail me out if I really needed it. It's called living in glorified poverty, and a lot of people my age did it in the 1960s and 1970s.

Being poor taught me how to use my resources, from learning where to go for surplus peanut butter and how to mix butter or some other spread into it to make it edible; where to go for free cheese (not bad) and how to get a few dollars for marching for the grape strikers. I even got to meet Caesar Chavez, the great organizer of farm workers.

Being poor teaches lessons, but at a high price. One of those lessons is that if you have to depend on the kindness of others for your food, clothing and shelter, you may from time to time be disappointed. It seems the people who run food shelters and who provide Thanksgiving dinners for the poor are learning that lesson. The cupboard is bare.

They know why: In these economic times, people are frightened about their jobs and are less willing to part with their money lest their own families be without the essentials or even the luxuries.

I don't blame them. The Talmud teaches us that one is supposed to give charity and take care of the poor, but not to the extent that one becomes so poor onesself that one needs help. Are people likely to become poor by giving the price of a Thanksgiving dinner? No, of course not, but frightened people often don't think straight.

New Haven's mayor has not learned the Talmudic lesson. He raised taxes. He invited undocumented aliens to come here by issuing identity cards to all residents who apply and telling the police not to check to see if people who are arrested are in this country illegally. As noble a gesture as that is, it will cost the city many, many thousands of dollars because many of those people are not able to support themselves and will need aid for food, shelter and medical care. He is subsidizing developers, a trick he learned from his mentor, Biagio DiLieto.

And now, he wants a $25,000-a-year pay raise. Sorry, John, but no sale here. You want the city to pay for your social-action and business initiatives, fine. But you have to kick in, too.

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A few personal things, if you don't mind.

First, a note of sympathy to Mike and Andrea from Amherst, Mass. Their beloved cat, Maccabee, was hit by a car and killed this past week. The family still has one more cat, but the kids are sad about their loss and we wish them well. Mike is one of my baseball mentors and was the winner of the "Bring Me the Head of Joe Torre" contest this past summer. Best to all.

Next, the best to Dick and Howard Jacobs and their families. These lawyers have served the Jewish and legal communities for many, many years and were feted at a gala dinner late last month with the Robert Lyman Public Service Award, which is given by Cong Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in New Haven.

Speaking of Bikur Cholim, the synagogue is about to start its Our Place Cafe again for the winter season. Last year, I did a story on kosher restaurants in Connecticut, and found that New Haven has almost an exclusive in that market. There is an Indian kosher restaurant West Hartford and the Stamford Jewish Community Center has a cafeteria, but that's about it outside New Haven. So, Bikur Cholim is the only place to get homemade falafel, French fries and kosher pizza in the state on a Saturday night. It will be open on Dec. 1 and on the first Saturday night of January, February and March from 7:30 to about 10 p.m. You can also listen to the Mizmor l'Dovid Boys Choir rehearse. The synagogue is at West Elm Street and Marvel Road in the Westville section of New Haven.

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

Until next time...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't leaf me alone, please

Man, has it really been that long since I've written in this blog? My word, time just seems to fly by.

First it was the elections (I hope you read my piece about the GOP on the Independent site), then I actually had some work to do out of town. I just got back a couple of days ago and had more work to do. Who was it that feared having nothing to do in retirement? I couldn't have been me.

Anyway, I'm back.

I need to apologize to my readers -- I had a scoop and didn't even know it. I found out from Alderman Sergio Rodriguez that he no longer worked at the New Haven Housing Authority on Election Day, Nov. 6. The news wasn't published in the Independent until three days later.

Ordinarily, it's nobody's business when a person, even an alderman, loses his job. Alderman is a voluntary position and being otherwise employed isn't part of the job description. But Rodriguez's opposition in the 26th Ward primary brought up federal law that said a person whose job involved federal funds could not run for city office.

The question is now moot, but some group or another is not satisfied with that and seems to want to keep it alive and get a ruling from the feds, even though there is no more violation, if there ever was one. Sergio told me he inquired three times about any possible conflict before announcing his intention to seek re-election to the board. He said he was told that his particular job at the Housing Authority involved no federal funds.

I say let's leave Sergio alone and just wish him good luck in his job search. As an alderman, he shows up and solicits feedback and problems from constituents so he can represent them. Sure, he goes along with the mayor on most things -- I wish he didn't -- but he does what he can.

Leaf me alone

Global warming has apparently given us a local problem with leaf collection.

I live in Westville and New Haven's Public Works Department decided that our leaf collection time was last week.

The problem is that most of our leaves were still on the trees last wek. Blame global warming.

So, what are we to do. When the leaves finally fall -- they are starting to do it now and today's ( Nov. 15, 2007) wind and rain will bring a lot of leaves down -- it will be too late to have them picked up by the city. What's a citizen to do?

I have an idea. We can put the leaves out with the snow and have them plowed away. Sorry, but that won't work since the snow is no longer collected from city streets and dumped as it used to be. You know, it's bad for the environment to dump all that chemical-laden snow into the Sound.

I guess we'll just have to leave the leaves unraked on our lawns. All in favor, say aye!

I read that San Francisco wants to issue identity cards just like New Haven does. No comment.

I just got called away.

Until next time...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Vote even if you don't have a choice

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007 and You Are There -- at least I hope you are.

Of course, I'm talking about Election Day, when the good people of New Haven get to return John DeStefano Jr. and his merry band of Democrats to City Hall.

Republicans don't do well in New Haven. They are running two people for the 30-seat Board of Aldermen, and one of them is the lone Republican on the board. The only other GOP hopeful is a guy named Malone, running in the 25th Ward in Westville.

Rick Eiser is running for mayor on the GOP ticket and Ralph Ferrucci is on the Green Party line. Neither has more of a chance than the Washington Redskins (can you say redskin in New Haven?) had against the New England Patriots last week. (New England won 50-something to 7)

So, why vote? Because you can.

Look, I'm not going to wrap myself up in a flag and say that hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women have died to give us the right to vote (although they did) and that we have a civic duty to maintain our method of government (although we do).

Most of us don't really have a say in who our aldermen and women are and who sits on the second floor of City Hall. We could have a say if we want to join the Democratic party and work our way into the seats of power. We could become one of the backroom pols who say who runs for what.

We don't even have a real boss anymore. Democratic kingmaker Arthur Barbieri used to sit up in his downtown insurance and travel agency and pass on who wanted to run and kept the really inept from seeking office. It was corrupt, but it was colorful. We didn't have any Joe Ganums and Phil Giordanos. Those are the two idiots who are in jail for corruption on Joe's part and being a horrible child molester in Giordano's case.

I guess what I'm saying is vote the idiots in one more time, but start working to clean up city government. Get involved -- show up at Board of Aldermen meetings. Call the alders...their addresses and numbers are on the city Web site
and tell them what you think. But it can't be like -- I want you to do this or that and don't bother me. You need to become involved. Volunteer for boards and commissions. Keep bugging the alders to pass that ethics rule.

DeStefano, who will be the next mayor, is a really nice guy who has some interesting ideas.

He reminds me of my former colleague Bobby I.

Bobby I is an African-American journalist -- or at least he was until he got divorced and ran off to Thailand to live in a monestery. I'm not sure if he's still there, although I heard he was back in the states.

Before he decided to shave his head and become a Buddhist monk, he would sit in the newsroom between deadlines -- sometimes during deadlines --and smoke a huge cigar (you could do that then) and talk about how every kid should get a computer so he or she could keep up in school. Society should make sure that every child not only had the same chance at success (no problem with that) but that every child should be given, at government expense, the best implements like computers and high-speed Internet and software and all kinds of fancy calculators to be sure he or she succeeded. Not only opportunity but results should be guaranteed.

When asked how all this would be paid for, he said it was up to the government to figure it out.

Well, have a great weekend, and for those in the Tribe, a good Shabbos.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Imus to go where Angels can no longer tread

So, the exile is over and J. Donald Imus is coming back to the airwaves, in Gotham City no less.

Imus in the morning will kick off on Dec. 3 on WABC radio, 770 on the AM dial. Charles McCord will be right there with him, serving up news Sniglets for Imus to comment about. The announcement said members of his little group of yes men would be there with him, but didn't specifically mention Barnyard McJerk, who started the whole mess in the first place.

As you no doubt remember, Imus was canned last April after issuing a sexist and racist rant about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. This blog is probably the only place on the planet that did not parrot Imus' words, I'm proud to say.

WABC was at the top, along with WINS, in bringing rock 'n' roll to New York, competing for the New Haven audience with WDRC in Hartford.

Before and during the 1960s, Musicradio featured such shining disk jockey lights as Alan Freed, Scott Muni and possibly the biggest of them all, Bruce (Cousin Brucie) Morrow.

It turned to all talk in the 1980s, giving birth to such shining intellects as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham. The station, along with the ABC Radio Network, was sold to Citadel Broadcasting this summer by Walt Disney.

The morning drive time, where Imus will be heard, had been covered by Ron Kuby, the civil rights lawyer who made his bones carrying the brief case for famed attorney William Kunstler, and would-be peacemaker Curtis Sliwa. Sliwa and his Guardian Angels have been in New Haven since summer, working with Eliezer Greer and the armed bike patrol in Edgewood.

Sliwa may be hanging around New Haven more, starting tomorrow (Nov. 2, 2007), because he and Kuby were told not to show up work starting tomorrow after covering the drive time for nearly eight years.

"I've had a fantastic, great run," Kuby said. "Our show has enjoyed the best audience _ intelligent, compassionate, decent and kind. The new owners don't want that kind of show."

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Charles McClelland, the athletic director for Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, hasn't had a winning football season since the Yankees won the World Series, or even before. The school's Panthers had lost something like 80 games in a row.

Today, on National Public Radio, McClelland blamed integration.

When asked what happened to his team, which until a few years ago had been quite good, he said that when integration occurred in colleges, the most talented players had other options than the traditionally all-black schools such as his, and took those options. That left his school to recruit those who were left, and the talent pool dried up.

I wonder what would have happened if Imus had said that.

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The queen, for reasons passing understanding, has honored CNN's Christiane Amanpour with the Commander in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The queen said the award, given something like 20 times a year to fairly large numbers of people, was given in recognition of Amanpour practice of journalism.

I hope not.

CNN tonight is going to show again Amanpour's "God's Warriors" series in which she castigates Jews and Christians for fighting for their rights in the Middle East and gives a free pass and asks puffball questions to Moslems. This travesty was shown once and protests were heard from around the world. I guess that makes no difference to CNN, which is showing the mess again.

Page 4

New Haven's mayor, who welcomes, or more accurately invites, illegal immigrants into town with the promise of a city-issued identity card, now says the city should have no way of knowing if a job applicant has a felony criminal record. Please see

According to the New Haven Independent, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. wants there to be a way for felons who have paid their debt to society to re-enter the mainstream so they don't have to do whatever crime got them jailed in the first place in order to make a living.

I think the sentiment is wonderful, just like the resident cards. You know, it's funny that the mayor's press releases don't mention the cards after August, as in a string of banks that have jumped up to offer accounts to the illegals (not). So far, one bank has allowed the card, along with a passport, to be used for identification in opening accounts.

I think the felons program will also be good-intentioned but isn't going to work out. You take a doper who was tossed into the klink for stealing from his boss. So, the city hires him or her and puts him or her in a job that requires handling money, maybe like collecting fees as Lighthouse Point Park.

It's a hot day and a little smack or a little crack would make the time go by a little easier. So a few bucks sticks to the fingers.

It's a different story if the city decides to hire a person with a record because somebody thinks this guy or woman is a good risk. That's fine, up to a point. But not to know that a person is a child molester or a dope dealer or a crook? DeStafano said the felon should be given a chance to explain in an interview about his or her particular crime. Perhaps, on the other side of the personnel form, in the middle of the other side, quotated, will be the following words: HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF? (with apologies to Arlo)

Well, how's that going to happen if nobody knows the applicant is a felon?

Sorry. No sale here.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

As Maxwell Smart would say, "Would you believe..."

After 40-odd (take that both ways) years in journalism, there isn't much that makes me do a double-take.

After today, my neck feels as if I'd been watching a tennis game with the double-takes.

The first is the word that Nancy A. Nord, head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, asked Congress NOT to pass legislation that would have doubled the agency's budget, increased its staff and generally strengthened the agency that polices thousands of consumer goods.

Part of its mandate is to keep lead-soaked toys from China and other places out of the hands of children.

Nord, who had been a lawyer for Eastman Kodak and an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before joining the federal government, opposes provisions that would hike the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make reports of faulty products public, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

OK, now we have two double-takes. First, here is a bureaucrat who doesn't want a larger empire with more money and more people to boss around. Second, a person who doesn't think it's a good thing to take lead-saturated toys out of the hands of kids.

The only way you are going to accomplish that is to have laws that hike the maximum penalties and prosecute executives of companies that place the toys into kids' hands and mouths in the pursuit of profit. These folks are not going to pull this poison off the market because the feds said pretty please.

Now for the third double-take. This story was not, NOT on the front page of the New York Times. Yes, there was a reference to it at the bottom of Page One, but really, this is news. This jerk deserves to get canned. President Bush isn't going to do it, because Nord is doing his bidding. He only knows that whatever is bad for his friends who run businesses is bad for the nation, or rather the Republican Party. To him, this is one and the same.

The Times, however, seems not to think this is important. The lead story is some bureaucrat at the Department of Justice pushing somebody at State under a bus by saying the State Department never told Justice that they had offered deals to Blackwater operatives. The one-column story at the left says (wait for it) that foreign fighters of a violent bend are helping the Taliban. Well, I didn't think they were being trained by the Dalai Lama.

There is also a tale about gay enclaves in cities, and Section 8 housing in the city. At the bottom is a yarn about applying for a driver's license in Johannesburg. Yes, we need slice of life stories, but really folks. We also need to get the news out there.
By the way, the folks who put together the Times Web page didn't think the story merited being on the home page and the folks who Comcast's home page together didn't think it was important, probably because Britney Spears wasn't in it.

Page 2

Well, since I'm in mid-rant, why not talk about the price of gas and oil.

My synagogue got an oil delivery the other day. You ready: $2.95 a gallon for heating oil, which is basically diesel fuel that is filtered fewer times than the stuff you pump into your Mercedes.

Gas is also tottering at the $3.00-a-gallon mark. If you didn't know better, you'd think the president of the United States was in the pocket of the oil companies.

This is a photo of an actual gas pump in Amherst, Mass., taken a week or so ago. So, perhaps the gas there may be a couple of cents more today , but really, why do folks in Taxachusetts pay so much less for gas.? By the way, there are places in Amherst and surrounding towns that charge nearly $3.00 a gallon, but there are places like this Hess station that charge a lot less.

It could be that their gas tax is less, or it could be that their state actually fights for rules that don't allow this type of highway robbery. Yes, oil is near $90 a barrel after being over that figure for a few days. Gasoline futures came down 8 cents today (Oct. 30, 2007), but we won't see that at the pump anytime soon.

You know, last year we had storms and the year before hurricanes, all of which sent the price of oil skyrocketing. This year, it's fear about what would happen if Turkey and the Kurds started duking it out. Maybees send prices booming.

The CEO at Merrill Lynch costs that company billions by guessing wrong on mortgages, which will probably cost thousands their jobs.

So what happens to him? He won't get a bonus or a severance package, but he will get a $2 million a year pension and stock options worth scores of millions of dollars.

This imbalance is just fine, if you ask the conservatives. Leave business alone and it will take care of itself. Well, it's just not right that people who head companies screw up and get millions ladled into their accounts and the poor guy who adds wrong and costs his boss a few bucks gets booted out into the street.

Where will it all end?

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We should end on a positive note. Kudos to the Boston Red Sox organization. They had a rolling rally, a parade through downtown Boston to honor the Sox today for winning the World Series on Sunday night. Everybody in the organization got to ride in the parade, from the players and the money guys all the way to the front-office staff and the people who sell the tickets. Everybody. That's a class act.

Until next time...

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's a gas and how about those Red Sox

Well, I'm back. It's been a busy week and I have been bad about writing, but I think that's all over.
I had a project I had been promising to finish and that took a bit of time, plus some work for Paul Bass at the New Haven Independent.
But let's blame the Boston Red Sox. The World Series games have been ending in the wee hours, but it was worth it.

The Sox showed the world that they are for real, taking the last three games of the American League Pennant from the Cleveland Indians and then wiping out the Colorado Rockies in two blowouts and two really good baseball games. The celebrations were muted (only 35 or so arrested in Boston and no serious injuries) and the Sox didn't dance on Colorado's lawn. They celebrated for a while on the field, but then went into the clubhouse so not to stick it up the Rockies fans' noses too much. That was classy.

Now it's time to dance on our own lawn. Jonathan Papelbon earned his time to dance.

It's also time for the Red Sox management to do their part in rewarding those who came through during the season and the Series.

Of course, I'm talking about Mike Lowell, who will be a free agent. To the management of the Sox, re-sign Lowell, even if he wants a multi-year deal at the price you paid for J.D. Drew. When it comes to Alex Rodriguez, this is your response: NO. BAD. DON'T EVEN THINK OF IT.

Lowell is a teacher, a stabilizing factor in your clubhouse. He is a pretty darn good fielder and his hitting wasn't too shabby either. Will he equal his this-year performance next year? Probably not. But he will be out there in his quiet way, making the plays, hitting for the RBIs and teaching the youngsters the right things to do.

A-Rod, in my opinion, is a popinjay who is a disruptive influence and the Red Sox don't need him in any way, shape or form.

Now it is my turn to apologize for what I had been thinking about Drew and Julio Lugo. They came through when they needed to, even if their performance in the regular season was uninspired. I still think Lugo needs to go, as does Eric Gagne and Coco Crisp. Sorry guys, you could be a star on other teams, but just don't cut it in the rarefied air of Red Sox Nation.

My wife is relieve that the games are over. She grew up in a sports-crazy house and she doesn't want to have anything to do with watching sports. Don't tell her about the Patriots, the Celtics, UConn basketball (men's and women's) and the rest.

Speaking of UConn, how about those UConn football players. They are ranked nationally and could be in a major bowl game if they can get through Rutgers (tough team) and West Virginia (ditto).

In New England, it's good to be a fan these days.

Until next time...

Friday, October 19, 2007

A few thoughts to end the week

Sorry I've been absent some, but blame it on the fact that we are a two-computer shop and one of those has been ailing.

My desktop caught a mechanical cold from a friend's computer. No, not a virus, but a cold. A week after he told me his computer's power supply had died, mine did as well.

Fortunately, we were able to save the hard drive with all the memory and Mike, the very same Mike who won the Bring Me the Head of Joe Torre contest, cobbled together a computer from bits and pieces that will serve until we can get a new one. Thanks so much, Mike. I hope the pizzas and Chinese food were enough of a payment.

Many of you plugged in the past week to read the Coulter blog, especially after a plug by Paul Bass in the Independent. But nobody left a comment. That's a bit disappointing.

It's raining hard now, but the weather forecasters say it will be nice tomorrow (Oct. 20, 2007). I wonder why weather forecasters on television can't just give you the forecast. It's not a weather forecast, it's a weather promo. And sometimes a false one. Will it snow tomorrow. Tune in to find out later in the newscast, so you can stay through all the stupid standups that pass for news.

You know, all this talk about us not getting enough exercise may be the same as the rap against Americans a few years ago for not saving enough.

It turned out that when we were compared with Japan, for example, we saved just as much as they did, only we saved it as equity in our homes, while they saved in banks.

This thought came to me while walking through a big-box store the other day.

There are a couple of truths about those stores. First, whatever you want is located at the other end of the store, no not that end, the other end. If you want two things, they are located at the opposite ends of the store from each other. So, if you spend any time at all in those stores, whether it's Home Depot or Target (pronounced tar-JAY), then you are getting lots of exercise.

You just have to stop those visits to the snack bar.

It's funny how stories come back to you.

I remember about 20 years ago or so, my boss at the Journal-Courier of New Haven was put on a diet by his wife. His assistant was tasked by the same wife with making sure he got exercise each day.

The J-C, now the New Haven Register, is on Sergeant Drive, and the pair could be seen each day walking the length of Sergeant Drive from the Register building all the way to where Ikea is today. But the man wasn't losing any weight.

So some co-workers followed them to see what was up. They were taking the walk, all right, but what neither was telling the wife was that they were stopping by the Howard Johnson's in the hotel for an ice cream sundae along the way.

Anyway, have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why aren't more people yelling at Ann Coulter?

Ann Coulter pulled a Don Imus Monday on a national talk show, but nobody in the general community seems to care.

Coulter said Jews should improve themselves by becoming Christians. In other words, Judaism as a religion needs to be "perfected". There is something wrong with the people who practice this faith and, by extension, with the religion itself. It's OK, but you can do better by becoming a Christian, according to the right-wing yakker.

It's not a new idea -- in fact it's thousands of years old and called replacement theology. The idea: God chose the Jews to be His people, but they blew it by not believing the Jesus was the messiah, so now God threw them over, changed His mind as it were, and chose Christians.

I wonder how it would play if she called African-Americans inferior to whites, or Hispanics inferior to African-Americans, or Greek Orthodoxy inferior to Roman Catholicism. You can't get away with that. The Rev. Al Sharpton would scream, as he should do. Sharpton screamed at Don Imus for referring to some African-American young women basketball players in racist and sexist terms.

It's Friday. I just went through more than 70 news sites, from CBS to the Huffington Post, I didn't see one Christian news site or one minority news site condemning this travesty. There were those who said people give Coulter too much ink and air time, those who say people should be able to say whatever they want and those who yawn.

Don Imus lost his job in April and has not yet gone back on the air, although he may be close. Ann Coulter continues to be paid for her idiocy and people continue to tune in to see what she has to say, buy her books and make her a wealthy woman.

I guess it's OK to denigrate certain groups. Blacks say they are respectful, even jealous, of the way Jews helped each other out of the ghettos such as the Lower East Side and East New York and Brownsville.

I think Jews should be respectful, even jealous, of the way people like The Reverend Al and Jesse Jackson are quick to get into the face of people who denegrate their people. They march, demand, get themselves on television and get people fired.

Imus apologized and so what? Ann Coulter told CNBC host Donny Deutsch she was sorry for her remarks and that they were misconstrued. The National Jewish Democratic Committee has called for her to be banned and more than 500 posts have been made in the blogosphere commenting on Coulter. The ADL has condemned. The Jewish groups have condemned.

But I didn't find one from the black civil rights groups and I should have.

Page 2

I guess I should cluck about the chicken controversy.

The way I see It: On one side, chickens are said to make good pets. The hen-vocates say they are smarter than dogs and more loyal than cats. On the othe side, they don't wear diapers. But then again, neither do dogs.

I had a pet chicken once, for a few days. My father worked in a factory and was forever bringing home something. One time it was a dog and a few years later, a cat. So when I was about 10 years old, he brought home a chicken. He put some twine around the chicken's neck and tied it to a stake he drove into the ground near our home.

I thought this was going to be a pet for me. I fed the chicken and played with it, leading it around by the twine leash.

Then, the foul day came when my father told me to bring the chicken and get into the car. I had no idea we were going to see Max Prager, the ritual slaughterer. I guess my father didn't know how attached I had become to the chicken and I was in the room when the hen was slaughtered. It was to be our dinner.

When I got out on my own, I refused to each chicken for years, until I was married.

Anyway, I can't see the harm in allowing some people the freedom to have a few hens around. No roosters, though...they make too much noise much too early.

If people can have dogs, especially the little yappy ones that never shut up, why not chickens?

Page 3

Who says life doesn't imitate art?

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday (Oct. 11, 2007), along with some United Nations agency.

Congrats to Gore, who has been in the forefront of the fight against the global warming that Bush and his cronies say isn't happening.

There was a full-page ad in the New York Times this week asking for Al Gore to allow himself to be drafted into a presidential run. I wonder if this wonderful award will spark some interest in the mind of Gore and his family.

Or, maybe, it will be deja vu all over again. A Clinton-Gore ticket in 2008.

It looks as if anyone can beat the Republicans because of a previous bad presidency. The last time we had that situation, in 1976 because of President Ford's pardon of Richard NIxon, we ended up with Jimmy Carter. Let's not do that again, shall we? Carter, arguably the worst ex-president in history, will give up that title when Bush is retired in 2009, so let's make sure whomever we run in 2008 isn't another Carter, a weak, naive, religious hypocrite who hates Jews.

But let's say Gore gets drafted and, with Hillary Rodham Clinton by his side (deja vu with a twist), he wins. So we have a somewhat liberal Democrat with a Nobel prize in the White House.

Remind you of anything? Right -- The West Wing with Nobel-laureate Josiah Bartlet (economics) as a president who had to be drafted and who served two terms. By the way, there was a real Josiah Bartlett, from New Hampshire, who was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. See, you learned something.

If I were a betting man, I'd bet Gore will not run. But I wouldn't bet a lot.

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Have a great weekend and for those in the tribe, even though we may need perfecting, have a good Shabbos.

Until next time...