Friday, June 29, 2007

America's symbol is safe, at least

It's been a tough week, so let's leave it on some high notes.

We need to rejoice that the bald eagle, the symbol of America on everything from government bonds to the Muppets, has come back from the brink of extinction.

For those on the rising side of 40, there was a problem with insect pests on farms and backyards close to 50 years ago. Fruit was spotty and apples had worms a lot of the time. People couldn't sit in their backyards for the swarms of mosquitos that infested them.

So, the folks who thought that chemistry could solve all our problems came up with DDT, a spray that killed a lot of the pests that were bugging us.

The problem that while killing insect pests, DDT also killed a lot of things and had a lot of bad side effects. One of them was causing the shells of eagle's eggs to be so thin that most eggs didn't hatch. The nation's bird symbol was on its way to join the dodo and the passenger pigeon in the history books.

Along came the first group of environmentalists who somehow got the nation to think that a few wormy apples was not too high a price to pay for keeping the bald eagle and a lot of other animals.

DDT was banned. One of the reasons that the ban was passed was that there were other chemicals formulated that did the same job without killing anything, or at least without harming the bald eagle.

A couple of days ago, just in time for July 4, the government announced that the bald eagle, which at one time had less than 200 nesting pairs, now has close to 10,000.

Now this doesn't mean that the bird now has a target painted on it. Nobody needs to shoot bald eagles, maybe except for a few American Indians who use the feathers for their religious or cultural ceremonies.

So, let's end the week on a good note. The eagle is back.

There are other good notes. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a leading Republican, told our president that his plan for Iraq was crap. A lot of people in high places, except for the White House and the asylum in which they keep Dick Chaney, listen to Lugar.

I ran into Lugar more than 30 years ago, when he was mayor of Indianapolis and was touring the country trying to sell his vision of a metropolitan city where the action doesn't necessarily take place in the center. It seems to have worked.

Dick Lugar was a gusty guy back then, and apparently still is, standing up to a guy who doesn't like to be told he's wrong.

Well, you go Lugar and you go eagle. Long may you both fly.

At the top of this piece, I said it was a tough week. Please read down a little farther on the list to my piece A Good Man Leaves the World. You may want to read it, not because I wrote it but because it tells about a really good man. We need to know that there are really good people in the world.

Thanks to Paul Bass for putting a key to that piece on his New Haven Independent main page.

So, have a great weekend and for those in the tribe, A Good Shabbos.

Until next time....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Some rhetorical questions

There are some questions that will never be answered, so we call them rhetorical. It's just a device for whining without seeming to whine.

The first is: Why do medical professionals -- doctors, dentists, X-ray technicians -- think their time is so much more valuable than mine?

I don't want to get anyone's knickers in a knot, but if I show up late for an appointment, the least I get is the stare. It's a "how dare you be late" stare. I've even gotten a phone call asking where I am if I'm 10 minutes late for an appointment.

But there seems to be no problem with me cooling my heels for 15, 20, 30 minutes without an explanation except to say, if I ask, that the practitioner is behind.

I know there are emergencies. The doctor should see people with serious problems first. I know about triage. But if the practitioner is going to be 30 minutes behind, call me. That's all I ask.

I have to problem with the doctor seeing an aged patient who doesn't feel well, or the dentist seeing a child who fell and whose parent is worried about that chipped tooth. In fact, doing things like that raises the practitioner in my estimation. Just tell me -- make a 30-second phone call.

If it's going to be a long time -- if the doctor has to go off to hospital for a patient, fine. Just tell me.

Another rhetorical question: Why do people who drive SUV suddenly lose all their manners.

I'm sure the woman driving the Hummer or Suburban or Excursion is a wonderful mother and an asset to her church and community. But when she gets behind the wheel of this tank, she turns into Crash Smashem. These guys can't find the brake.

They have to install themselves on your left as you pass a highway entrance ramp where their twin sister can't wait five seconds to blend into traffic. So I have to slam on the brakes to avoid becoming the filling in a sandwich.

I know it's not their fault that highway exchanges were designed by the firm of Dumber and Dumbest. You have to cut across a line of traffic to exit and enter, such as Exit 38 northbound on I-95 in Milford, Conn. This is the exit to the Milford Connector and ultimately the Wilbur Cross Parkway.

It's not their fault this is a dangerous intersection. But it is their fault that they won't move their behemoths to allow crossing traffic.

Thanks for allowing me to get this stuff off my chest.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A good man leaves the world

I'm sorry about not writing yesterday. I was too bummed.

Sam Dimenstein died early Tuesday morning (June 26). Sam had been in the hospital after falling at home and weeks later being diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, bleeding beneath the cover of the brain.

Sam, who was in his mid-80s, was a good and honorable man, a smart man who was a mover and shaker in his world. He had been a cattle dealer like his father, a man who gave of himself, asking neither recognition nor favor. He was the kind of guy of whom we don't have enough in today's world.

One of the ways Sam gave of himself was to his synagogue(s). He started out in one synagogue, Sheveth Achim Anshei Lubavitch on Factory Street, in the former Jewish section of New Haven on and near Legion Avenue.

This area was a victim of former mayor Richard C. Lee's urban-renewal mania of the 1960s. The thriving neighborhood was leveled to make way for the Route 34 connector. It's still sitting there, a wide grassy strip that is Route 34. The connector is there, funneling traffic from I-95 but ending with an off-ramp many blocks east of the former bustling residential and commercial area.

In the early 1950s, Sheveth Achim merged with the Bikur Cholim synagogue and 50 years later would end up on Marvel Road in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven.

That's where I met Sam, when my wife and I took our first halting steps into the synagogue in 2002. Sam and his wife, Doris, were among the first to welcome us, to make us feel at home in the synagogue and its community.

Sam's hand guided me as I rose in the synagogue's hierarchy. He was always gentle, suggesting instead of prodding. In different words, he always said he had my back. I'm going to miss his guidance and his sense of history.

Sam, thank you. Rest well in heaven, close to the Holy Throne.

You probably noticed that I skipped over a lot of Sam's early life. That's because I couldn't possibly tell it with the feeling that he did.

Jews whose families hail from a certain area tend to stick together. In trying to research Sam's background, I came upon Sam's retelling of his youth as part of a Web site put together by people who came from the area of Vilna, Lithuania. It's known as Vilnius now, but to Jews, it'll always be Vilna.

Please take a few minutes to read Sam's tale, as told to Mort Horwitz, the former editor of the Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim synagogue bulletin.

You'll be the richer for it.

Until next time....

Monday, June 25, 2007

Stand by for softballs

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. My wife and I went to a friend's summer place in Danbury for some fellowship, great conversation and great relaxation.

So, it seems that Larry King, the poobah of so soft they're puffy questions, will be the first to question Paris Hilton after she gets out of the slammer. Surprise, surprise, surprise. She's got to ease in to life on the outside, after all, and real questions by a real reporter may tax her little keppie (head in Yiddish) too much.

Oh, yes, it seems that Paris has a standing offer from Hugh M. Hefner, the Playboy magazine guy, to pose in the nude. Much ado about not much, eh?

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For once, good sense rules.

A court in Washington, D.C., ruled against another jurist who had sued a dry cleaner for more than $50 million in the case of the missing pants.

The court ruled the administrative law judge, Roy L. Pearson, did not prove the cleaners violated district consumer protection laws in the case. Pearson was flying by the seat of his pants, the court ruled, and ordered Pearson to pay all court costs.

The suit was over a suit, or rather over the pants from a suit, which Pearson said he took to the cleaners and never got back. The cleaner said it returned the pants that were brought in for work, while Pearson said he brought in blue pants and got back grey ones.

At least, good sense won in the case. There are too many cases, such as the crook who sued New York City after being injured by a subway train while fleeing the police after committing a crime and won more than a million dollars.

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You probably want to steer clear of downtown New Haven for the next few days. On Tuesday, the city will begin fawning over a movie crew in town to shoot some scenes from the next Indiana Jones flick. There will be a concert and the showing of the first Indiana Jones movie, something about the lost ark.

I'm not going because I won't be able to find a parking space. You know, they'll be taken up by all the folks from East and West Haven and all the other towns who restrict parking by the beach during the summer. Our city, however, doesn't give any advantage to residents downtown or anywhere else -- except for Lighthouse Point Park.

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I'm beginning to hate the world "available." I guess it's because of car ads. They tout this and that feature, all of which are available. That means you have to pay extra for them. That's why the big type on the screen says the car costs a certain amount, and the baby type the flashes across says it costs about 10 grand more equipped as shown. Yeah, I know it's all legal.

It's like the latest ad that says the site will no longer charge a fee if you cancel or change your reservation.

Actually, it's the hotel itself that charges the fee and the ad doesn't say anything about that. Do they really think we're that dumb. Scratch that site off my list.

It's going to be hot and humid for a few days here in Connecticut, so please don't work too hard, stay in air conditioned spaces of you can and try to look in on your older or sick neighbors to make sure they're OK. Also, drink a lot of water. Coffee doesn't count -- it actually dehydrates you.

Until next time....

Friday, June 22, 2007

Taurus decision a lot of bull

The Taurus Cafe, described by backers and opponents as either a neighborhood institution or a blight on Newhallville, this week lost its fight for renewal of its liquor license.

I'm not going to comment on the merits of the arguments for a number of reasons. First, I haven't been at the hearing, so everything I know about the pleadings before the state Liquor Control Commission is second-hand. Secondly, David Avigdor, the lawyer for the owners, is a friend and I don't think I could be impartial.

What I will comment on is the form of the decision.

The commission took testimony, the lawyers issued subpoenas, people from both sides dragged themselves up to Hartford. People on both sides conquered fear to testify.

The commission copped out. Instead of basing its decision on the pleadings, instead of ruling on the issues, it decided to use a technicality to deny the renewal. The owner didn't make out the proper paperwork while employing his relatives, not paying his employment taxes.

After all that effort, the parties and the neighborhood deserved a decision that spoke to their fears and concerns, not to the owner's bookkeeping.

The commissioners could have said the place is a bucket of blood and doesn't deserve to be open. Or it could have said the owner wasn't very astute in his relations with the neighbors, but has done all he could to control things. It could have told the city it was doing a public service in opposing the license, or told the city it was meddling where it didn't belong because it wants to gentrify the neighborhood to put it more in line with its plans for the area.

But it didn't. It relied on a technicality. That's why I think the Taurus ruling is a lot of bull.

In the meantime, the two New Havens rock on. The two New Havens. Of course. Go up the hill for two or three blocks from Newhallville and you're in the bucolic Prospect Street-Whitney Avenue area.

New Haven is a group of concentric small neighborhoods. Go a few blocks from the large houses and lawns of Westville and you are in Edgewood or go the other way and you are in the projects.

Those who think their problems are their own are kidding themselves. When people in Edgewood say people from Westville should shut up about the crime along Elm Street because it's none of their business, they are wearing blinders.

Some years ago, a friend who had smuggled refugees out of then-Rhodesia in the trunk of her car, who had climbed Mount Fuji was mugged -- robbed and beaten -- a couple of blocks from the towers of Yale.

New Haven is a group of conjoined islands. We all have to watch out for each other. The folks in Westville have as much a stake in what happens in Newhallville as the residents there do.

Have a great weekend, and for the members of the tribe, good Shabbos.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Here comes summer -- some fun tips

It's about 1:30 p.m. on June 21, and I'm sitting here waving good-bye to spring and waiting for summer to take its place. Thunk.

Well, it doesn't have to be thunk. I've been around a long time and one of the reasons for this blog is to pass along some of the knowledge I've gleaned.

First of all, none of the brand names involve any product-placement -- in other words I'm not getting anything for recommending specific products or services. It's just things that have worked for me.

Plane fares are computed in a way I don't understand, but can take advantage of. Chances are the people in the seat across the aisle from you paid a different price from you. It all depends on when you bought your ticket, from whom you bought it and under what circumstances.

It pays to look around on your computer, and not only on the major sites. I use Orbitz, but always look at sites like Southwest. I like to fly from Bradley International rather than the New York airports. White Plains is a good alternative if you can get someone to drive you to and from the airport -- the airport is nice and well-handled but the $21 a day parking fee will kill you.

Try to fly nonstop. I hate to bounce because then you risk the problems being experienced by three airports, not only two. If you aren't locked into a specific time, many of the booking sites will show you a cheapest time to fly, so you can save big bucks by leaving a day or two later or earlier.

But remember, if you book a 6 a.m. flight, that means you have to get to the airport by 4:30 a.m. to pass through security with enough time. Don't figure you will be alone on early flights. I flew Southwest from Orlando to Hartford on a 6:30 a.m. flight and there were enough people on line to check in to fill a minor-league ballpark.

Flights leave on time or before. We recently flew Air Tran from White Plains to Orlando (nonstop and delightful). Both going and coming, the planes left the gate about 10 minutes ahead of schedule, so make sure you're on time.

If your flight time is flexible and your hotel doesn't have to be in a specific town or district, try Priceline. We got a wonderful hotel room in Gaithersberg, Md., for $50 a night, a third of the rack rate. We wanted to be in Rockville, so we had to drive one extra exit on the highway. Big deal! The only thing about Priceline is that once your offer is accepted, you have a contract, so be sure before you bid.

Don't shy away from suite hotels -- some cost the same or less than non-suite properties. We recently stayed at the Hawthorn Suites Universal Orlando in Florida, and had a two-room suite with full kitchen, king-sized bed, breakfast, free cocktail hour and a surprise dinner for $89 a night. Orbitz sent me a survey to fill out about my stay and gave me a $25 credit on my next booking for my trouble.

Why bother with a suite? If you have dietary restrictions, such as keeping kosher, being diabetic or a vegetarian, it's nice to be able to store some food and heat it up yourself. It's also nice to have breakfast out of the way before starting your touring instead of waiting on line at a restaurant.

Orbitz ( rates the hotels and carries an average rating. It also lists the features of each hotel. Expedia, Travelocity and, as well as others, do basically the same.

That's enough for now. Let's say this feature will return from time to time during the travel season.

Let me know what you think, please.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Scooting along and other things

I suppose I should say something about the little ads that have appeared on your blog.

They are an feeble attempt to pay some bills. I have no control over which ads appear on my blog except to say they follow the context of the blog. If I were blogging about pet care, they would be about pets.

There is no connection between any political ads and the political bend of this blog or its author. In other words, if there is a McCain ad, it doesn't mean I am endorsing McCain (heaven forbid) any more than a newspaper that runs a political ad necessarily endorses that candidate.

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Whatever happened to I Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Libby, as I'm sure you remember, was the powerful former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Chaney who was convicted of lying to all and sundry and sentenced to 30 months in jail.

He's scheduled to report next month, so if President Bush were to pardon him completely, he'd better hurry up. As I've said before,
I don't think Bush is going to pardon Libby now, but wait until the next presidential election is over and then, using the post-election hoopla as a screen, sneak Scooter out of jail.
Time will tell.

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Speaking of Bush: His folks have to begin attending rehearsals. Bush has been telling all and sundry that Palestinian president Abbas, known to friends and neighbors as Abu Mazen, was the only true leader of the Palestinians, not the Hamas, which took over Gaza by force and who are nothing but a bunch of thugs (all true). He said now that Hamas is out of the way, money can really begin to flow to the Fatah-led government.

At the same time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been saying we're not going to abandon the folks stuck in Gaza, which is being ruled by Hamas. So we have Bush saying to hell with Hamas and Rice saying we're going to deal with Hamas.

You guys need to get your stories straight. Or maybe we need diplomats who are not as monosylabic as their names.

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Closer to home, for a while, the Freedom Schooner Amistad, which was built in Mystic and calls New Haven her home port.

This ship and a brave crew are about to cast off for a journey to England and Africa that will take them into next year. The idea is to mark the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in England.

To the crew: Fair winds and a following sea. May the stars guide you to a friendly port and may you return save to your loved ones.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Only the Jews can't have an anthem

Good day. I hope everyone had a great weekend and all the dads had a wonderful Father's Day.

The immigration and vigilante stories seem to be about where they were on Friday. I'm sure Rabbi Daniel Greer and his armed neighborhood watchdogs took the day off Friday night and Saturday for the Sabbath and no court was held on the immigration arrests.

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I sent the following letter off to The New York Times:

To the Editor:

For thousands of years, Jews wandered the Earth with no homeland of their own, beholden to whomever would give them protection. That shelter almost always was withdrawn, sometimes after months and sometimes after centuries, but the Jews always were forced to find another place to live.

Now, by a miracle, the Jews have a country to call their own, the tiny state of Israel. That seems to be, however, too much for Adam LeBor.

In "New Lyrics for Israel," his op-ed piece on June 18, 2007, Mr. LeBor argues that the nation's anthem "Hatikvah" sends the wrong message and is unfair to the Arabs, Muslims, Druze, Bahia's, Christians, atheists and sun worshipers who live in Israel. He would take the only reference to Jews and Judaism out of the anthem for the world's only Jewish state.

Mr. LeBor doesn't urge the removal of God from God Save the Queen, God Bless America or In God We Trust. He doesn't suggest that the myriad of nations that celebrate Christmas as a national holiday, including the United States, are being unfair to Jews, Muslims, Taoists, Buddhists, atheists and sun worshipers.

Ramadan, a Muslim month long holiday, is celebrated as a national holiday in Muslim nations without Mr. LeBor saying it's not fair to Christians and Zoroastrians. It also would be unfair to Jews if any were allowed to live in Muslim nations as Muslims are allowed to live in Israel.

This duplicity follows on the heels of the British journalists' union and the British academics' union urging their members to boycott Israel and only Israel and is just as shameful.

I'll keep you all posted on whether I get a response.

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As much as your beloved blogger complains about things, especially about things that go on in New Haven, I must willingly and gratefully complement the folks in the Parks Department.

On Memorial Day weekend, we took the grand kids to Lighthouse Point Park and we had a ball.

First of all, the yearly stickers were ready and each car that was registered in New Haven got one. It was handled well and the fellow putting them on was even a Red Sox fan, an added bonus.

The water park there is wonderful. It was a pretty grey and cool day, the water park was operational and the workers there were watchful and supportive. This attitude can't help to be passed along to the kids.

The bigger kids were watching out for the little kids, aiming water cannon away from the little ones and generally looking out for them. The beach was clean and the playground was together and working well. The wonderful old merry-go-round was ready for the season. The police patrol came by at no more than 15 minute intervals, perhaps more often. It wasn't needed, but one is glad it was there.

The kids had a ball. Thank you and kudos to all who had a part in keeping up this marvelous park.

Friday, June 15, 2007

'Tis the week that was

You may be old enough to remember that the headline on this column was stolen from the name of a television show a couple of decades ago. Turnabout is fair play: That show's title and the whole idea of the show were stolen from a British show.

It's been a heck of a week on a number of fronts in New Haven and around the world.

Let's work from the far to the near. In Gaza, we're getting a preview of what a Palestinian state would look like. Revenge killings, kidnappings, blowing up buildings that bring bad memories to some people. This violence is completely intramural...Israel is keeping its hands off, which it should.

I just hope Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, keeps out of this mess. I'm starting to wonder is isn't a good idea to build a fence around Gaza so the only way in or out is through Egypt. Then maybe the Egyptians, knowing they will have to deal with the Gazans, will start seriously patroling that border that is now transparent to arms and explosives shipments.

The Israelis are keeping the lid on the West Bank, where the Fatah and its leader, Abu Mazen, are holed up. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, needs to jump into bed with the Israelis because, as Fatah leaders in Gaza learned to their sorrow, getting removed from office often means getting removed permanently.

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Closer to home, two major stories shared our attention: the illegal aliens and the gun-toting rabbis and their newest best friend, Curtis Sliwa.

First, the aliens. Many angry people have objected to the city's plan for identification cards for illegals, thinking the city, which has it own problems, will be a magnet for those folks.

On the political front, Jim Newton, who is running for mayor, says he's against these law-breakers and, according to press reports, he's saying there are laws against sneaking into the nation. Three of them are the same 1920s immigration laws that were used by the America-Firsters to keep out Jews who were fleeing the gas chambers.

Jim Newton, you've hitched your wagon to a really popular star. There have to be better candidates than this to challenge John DeStafano, just so we can have some serious dialogue and stop all this fear-mongering.

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Curtis Sliwa, who never met a camera he didn't like, was in town to talk Rabbi Daniel Greer and his minions out of patrolling the Edgewood neighborhood with guns.

Sliwa, whose Guardian Angels has scores of chapters in the U.S. and other countries, will try to show the pistol-packing bikers that the job can be done without resorting to firearms.

First of all, the only reason to have concealed weapons is so nobody knows you're carrying a gun. The whole idea of this armed patrol is to scare the bad guys because they would be facing armed resistance to their no-goodnikism. Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

So, Greers and others, if you want to be Wyatt Earp, then be Wyatt Earp. Strap on that hip-nuke. (Ordinarily, I would say strap on that hogleg, but it just doesn't work here.)

But remember, Wyatt almost never carried a firearm. He did it with bravado and right on his side. My father used to say you can learn from anyone. Learn from Curtis Sliwa's people how you can fight crime in your neighborhood without risking a tragedy.

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Have a great weekend. To all you dads and grandpas out there, including Rabbi David Avigdor, a new grandpa, happy Father's Day. And to all you members of the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

See you next week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sliwa on his way to convert the rabbi

Yesterday (June 12, 2007) in this space, there was a little ditty headlined: The Curtis Sliwa of New Haven. It compared the Guardian Angels founder with the founder of the armed Edgewood bicycle patrol, Rabbi Daniel Greer.

Well, the copy is about to meet the original, otherwise known as Sliwa meets the rabbi. Curtis is scheduled to be in New Haven on June 14, to meet with Greer.

Perhaps a mutual admiration society is about to be born. Sliwa, never one to avoid a camera, and Greer, a man who does things his own way will sit down.

Greer is used to being a teacher, but in this, he's the student. Sliwa is reportedly on his way to convert the rabbi from a gun-toting, Dirty Harry-type patrol to the unarmed Guardian Angels type of crime fighting.

Sliwa's group has never used guns, but depends on numbers and persuasion, along with good relations with the police. After Greers scold at the cops yesterday, that's going to take some work. Greer's group has two guys on bikes, with the threat of armed resistance to crime as their weapon.

Greer reportedly says he's ready to be converted and Sliwa reportedly said he'd help for as long as it takes.

Add to the mix, a catalyst. Two people were shot to death in the general area, adding fuel to the fears. Assertions of racism have surfaced and were denied. Leaders of the Jewish community have issued statements saying Greer is wrong to have armed patrols, all the way to can't we all just get along.

If Sliwa can talk Greer out of his pistol-packing plan, that will be good. If Sliwa sticks around after the cameras have moved on, it will be even better.

It's almost time to admit being wrong

Looking at a chart of when readers access this blog, it seems that you enjoy a post with multiple subjects rather than just one. I'll try to remember that when deciding what to write.

When I first starting doing journalism nearly 40 years ago, there was a feeling of being alone, divided from the readers. My first job was at the Wethersfield Post, working for a man named Lou Marino. Lou left for healthier places about six months after I signed on, and Chris Larsen, the publisher, wanted me to run the paper, and offered a 50 percent increase in pay to do it. So I became the youngest managing editor in Connecticut, as far as I knew.

It was a lonely job. I don't mean I was lonely for friends. I was lonely for feedback. I hadn't yet realized that both readers and bosses only chime in when there's a problem. For example, I heard from by boss when I spent about three times the amount he had visualized on a promotion party for the paper. I didn't hear from anyone week after week when things were going well.

For the majority of my career, I worked in crowded newsrooms with colleagues, most of whom felt the same way I did. We only heard from bosses when they didn't like something, so we buoyed each other up. When we were so good it could not be ignored, like when the late, lamented Journal-Courier of New Haven won nearly every prize for which we were eligible, we heard from the bosses for a while, but then the paper was subsumed into the Register and that was sold and that's all she wrote.

Well, I'm working alone again, and getting that old feeling of loneliness. It's part of the deal and I don't know why I'm even bothering you with this.

On the other hand, hundreds of you have visited this blog, some many times. For this, I humbly thank you and pledge I will do all I can to keep your trust and your interest.

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I've made one of the cardinal no-no's of journalism, not linking the headline and the first few paragraphs of the story. Forgive me, please.

The wrong I am close to conceding is about the Middle East, and more specifically about the Palestinians. I thought that by giving up Gaza, Israel would gain support from the rest of the world, especially the European community. That would lead to more pressure put on the Palestinians to do something with their newly gained territory.

I have watched in amazement how they kept doing the same old things, no matter who was leading them. Nearly 30 years ago, Abba Eban, the late eloquent diplomat and historian of Israel, said Yasser Arafat "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Arafat is long dead and his successors, with help from the United States, have continued along the same path. I say helped by the United States because it was because of George W. Bush's insistence that democracy came to a people who neither wanted nor deserved it.

The fact that Hamas, a client of Iran, has any legitimacy is because of that vote and the failure to realize that Palestinians could not separate their anger over the corrupt Fatah party and the probability that electing Hamas would only pour oil on the fire, which it has done.

We are now at what could be the start of a civil war, at least in Gaza, with thugs shooting each other with abandon and not caring a bit about the consequences to the people they are supposed to be guiding or at least ruling.

I don't know what the answer is. Thomas el-Friedman (the Arab honorific is well-deserved), in the New York Times, said he doesn't know the answer either.

I'm not ready to give up on the instinct for self-preservation and how it may just save the day.

The Arabs say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

They probably think that means Israel. I hope that's the case. If Fatah and Abu-Mazen, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has any sense of self preservation left, he'll realize that the only chance he has to keep his job and maybe even his life is to jump into bed with Israel.

And I hope that if this happens, the European community and the so-called moderate Arab states have the good sense to tuck them in. And like a good bed partner, I hope Abu-Mazen will do whatever to takes to make his partner happy and content.

Failing that, I may have to say I'm sorry about my feeling that peace still has a chance.

The Curtis Sliwa of New Haven

New Haven has its own version of Curtis Sliwa. His name is Danny Greer, or more formally, Rabbi Daniel Greer.

For those whose interest stops at the Hamden border, Curtis Sliwa is a former McDonald's restaurant manager who created the Guardian Angels in New York as a counter to the rampant violence of the Big Apple before Rudy Giuliani tamed it.

Greer, whose son Rabbi Dov Greer was attacked and roughed up in the Edgewood neighborhood, has emulated Sliwa, at least in some degree, forming an armed patrol in his neighborhood. He claims the police cannot patrol his neighborhood, so his crew is going to patrol the streets between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Apparently after 10, either the streets become safer or all the Greers and their families and friends are off the street.

A couple of thoughts about this situation.

First of all, the big difference between Sliwa and the Edgewood patrol is that the Angels never carried guns. In their trademark red berets and jackets, they patrolled in groups in the most dangerous neighborhoods of New York. If they saw a problem that couldn't be handled with a little friendly persuasion, they called in the cops.

From the newspaper accounts about the plan, Danny Greer thinks the cops are the next thing to useless, so I guess he doesn't intend to call them if the bad guys decide to shoot back. I think the local nogoodniks might have a weapon or two between them, and would not hesitate too long to use them if the patrol starts throwing shots.

That's what we need....a smaller version of Gaza in the middle of New Haven. Elm Street, Edgewood Avenue, Chapel Street turned into shooting galleries.

Now about Mr. Sliwa. One could make the case that Curtis Sliwa has a bit of an ego problem. He had a radio show on WNYC, which he got thanks to his pal Giuliani. He currently co-hosts a show on WABC radio in New York with Ron Kuby, who made his bones with famed civil rights lawyer William Kunstler.

For all his bombast, one cannot ignore his success with the Angels. There are chapters in more than 80 cities in nine countries with thousands of members. But remember, they are unarmed.

Sliwa has, however, admitted to making up some incidents in order to gain publicity for the Angels. He also got into trouble with another kind of family after mouthing off about Mafia don John Gotti. The Dapper Don's son John (Junior) Gotti took exception and, according to the feds, sent a hood named Sean Yannotti to beat him up. But, according to accounts of Yannotti's trial on other charges, the leg breaker got excited and shot Sliwa instead. The feds failed in three trials to get a jury to tie Gotti to the crime and finally gave up. But Sliwa lives in constant pain from his wounds.

All this is to explain that things can rapidly go wrong when people take the law into their own hands. This isn't television, where Clint Eastwood cleans up a gang by blowing them away and we feel good about it.

In real-life situations, innocent people tend to get in the way of bullets and then it's too late. New Haven has come a long way from the wild and wooly days decades ago when Crown Street and Chapel and Howe were evil places to be avoided unless you were looking for a fix or a hooker.

We don't need Dirty Harry around here. We need common sense. Armed patrols by untrained civilians, or those who haven't fired a shot in anger since Korea, don't make sense.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If it quacks like a Yankee fan....

Our dear friend Murray Chass, sports columnist for the New York Times, has come up with yet another scenario leading to the eventual defeat of the Boston Red Sox.

In this one, the New York Yankees, also known as the filthy swine, can catch up to and pass the Boston Red Sox, also known as the nexus of Red Sox Nation, before July 4.

Now, in this column, Mr. Chass (after all, New York Times people require honorifics) spends a lot of ink telling all and sundry that he is not, repeat not, a Yankee fan. In fact, he said, the New York Times owns 17 percent of the Boston Red Sox, so if anything, he should be a Red Sox fan.

OK, let's discuss this argument.

First of all, the New York Times probably got the interest in the Red Sox when it bought the Boston Globe. Makes sense, no? But not a word about that.

Secondly, Mr. Chass fails to bring up the fact that the Yankees have been playing the weak teams. The Pittsburgh Pirates are near the bottom of their division. In fact, their .419 is far below even the Yankees. At the same time, the Red Sox have been playing the cream of the crop, teams that are over .500 and Arizona is tied for the division lead, a few percentage points off the top spot.

Let's see what happens when the Yankees start playing teams that are at or near the top of their divisions.

Then we'll talk about who is catching up to whom.

And, Mr. Chass, about your denials of being a Yankee fan, as Hamlet said, Chass "doth protest too much, methinks."

If it looks like a Yankee fan and quacks like a Yankee fan....

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday's blue when you're sick

You know you're sick when people who usually don't notice other people tell you to go home and get into bed.

Ah, well. I was planning to show up at the Omni Hotel today (June 11, 2007) to see if I could be an extra in the new Indiana Jones film that will be shooting in New Haven one day later this month and a day in early July. You never know. I can just see what would go on if I showed up sounding like Lorch in The Addams Family and looking like I was headed to my own funeral. C'est la vie. I guess I wasn't fated to be a movie star.

When we last communicated, our friend Paris Hilton had not gone back to jail, had not found God and BaBa WaWa, presumably in that order. BaBa WaWa is Barbara Walters for those not old enough to remember the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live. She's going to change her ways, and become a shining example for what a young woman should be. As Maurice Chevalier sang, "Oh, I'm so glad that I'm not young anymore." That was in the movie, "Gigi."

As we visit, the Senate is about to pass a no-confidence resolution against Attorney General Alfredo Gonzalez. Big deal. Somebody ought to tell Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania that we don't have a parliamentary system and that votes of no confidence mean nothing. Gonzalez is ignoring it, as is President Bush (along with a lot else) and that kind of self-pleasuring is covered in the Bible under "don't."

By the way, I give up. I'm going to name a winner in the Bring me the Head of Alberto Gonzalez contest. ESBE communicated with me a while ago, claiming to be the winner of the contest because of the latest date. I asked for a couple of more weeks, hoping others would jump on the bandwagon. Nah. So, ESBE, please contact me and we will arrange for you to tell us all how you have gotten inside George W. Bush's brain (poor person).

You opted for your 15 seconds of fame instead of a Len'sLens T-shirt (in case we ever make any.) So congratulations and get in touch. The Bring me the Head of Joe Torre is still going on. If a few of you want to start a Will Bush Pardon Libby and When poll, let me know. If a few are game, we'll start it and maybe have a real prize.

Did anyone read the account in the New Haven Independent ( about smashed car windows and their consequences. It's a neat slice-of-life story.

Finally, I wonder what's going on at The New York Times.

They did a feature about moving from their old building to the new one, complete with photos of folks working over the years. They had a shot of what looked like the copy desk, although they didn't identify it, but the caption talked about old-time typewriters and such. The picture was clearly taken at the earliest in the 1970s, with men with long sideburns and editing tubes, rudimentary computers that couldn't be more than 30 years old. I guess whoever laid that page out was very young.

In the Connecticut section, the food critic talked about a restaurant on Campbell Street in West Haven, while the call-out box correctly put the place on Campbell Avenue. I'm not one of those nutcases who launch a fit if we call Edgewood Way as Edgewood Avenue or say Chapel and Church streets instead of Church and Chapel. But be consistent.

By the way, doesn't anyone in Connecticut have an opinion any more? This week, on the Opinion page, there was a letter about Mayor Mike Bloomberg's plan to charge $8 to anyone going too far into Manhattan -- from the head of the New York Citizen's Budget Commission. There was a letter about school lunches and nutrition from a woman in Chappaqua. You know, where Bill and Hillary live. She was carrying on about how much less junk food was sold in Katonah-Lewisboro. Man, it's hard to figure where someone in Chappaqua would be jealous about anything. And finally, the op-ed piece was about drinking on trains by the Suffolk County representative on the Metropolitan Transit Authority board.

I'm anxious to read that.The last time I looked, the Long Island Rail Road didn't go into Connecticut or anywhere near it So who cares about some guy who thinks it's impolite to drink on trains.

And finally, they viewed with alarm the story of State Sen. Louis DeLuca, who was accused of asking a trash hauler with reputed mob ties to have a talk with his granddaughter's husband, who he thought was abusing her.

First of all, nobody cares about that. I think many people, given the chance, would do the same thing Yes, yes, I know it makes a senior senator beholden to a man accused of having mob ties. But I'm more worried about his not reporting a bribery attempt, even though he refused to take the money.

I used to be in charge of laying out a paper with 11 zones and finding enough copy from those zones to fill the space with stories people in those zones wanted to read. I didn't always succeed. But I also didn't have the resources of the Great Grey Lady. C'mon people at the Times. You can do better.

Time to go sneeze. See you all anon.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

...And justice for all

This is a busy day (June 7, 2007) in the news. Our president is about to embarrass himself and us with Vlad Putin, the latest dictator to whom Bush, who considers himself the champion of democracy , will join in Iraqing the world. I think I invented a verb: to Iraq - definition, to fix something that didn't need fixing until you broke it.

In New Haven, a march is set through the heavily Hispanic Fair Haven neighborhood in support of the 29 people who were picked up by the feds after New Haven became the first city in the country to offer identification cards to illegal aliens. The feds say there was no causal relationship.

Speaking of illegals, it looks like the Congress may not be able to push through legislation that would make it easier for the aliens to get permission to stay here. The compromise bill failed a key vote in the Senate, but it won't be tossed onto the trash pile yet while leaders try another round of arm-twisting.

The story of the 15-year-old girl who was missing for about a year until she was found yesterday at the home occupied by a 40-something man and two women has grown longer legs. That's newspaper talk for becoming more interesting. It seems the man may have had a relationship with the girl and also may have had similar relationships to other teenage girls. I see at least an episode Law & Order SVU, one on that missing show whatever it's called and a Fox movie of the week.

The Red Sox have lost four straight, a season record, although they still have the best record in major-league baseball. Every team has its nemesis, a team it should be able to crush but against whom the record is horrible. The Yankees have the Devil Rays, the Red Sox have Oakland.

So, which of all these serious, world-shaking events will garner the most public attention? Which will the subject of today's rant? None of the above, of course.

Paris Hilton been sprung from jail. After a couple of days at a special lockup in Los Angeles, the world's most famous convict was let out on a medical excuse. Just like you used to get a medical excuse to get out of gym in junior high, Hilton got a medical excuse to skip jail.

She won't be doing much partying, at least in theory, because she'll be wearing an ankle bracelet (with diamonds, of course) to keep her under house arrest.

The ones for whom I feel sorry are the jail administrators, who will have to put up with requests for medical leave from every child molester and father-stabber in their custody. And why not.

After all, isn't this a nation of laws, not of men or women? Justice is blind to money, rank, power and the rest, right? The law's playing field is even. What's good for an illegal alien picked up in a sweep by La Migra (see yesterday's post for more on this) is certainly good for a spoiled young woman with too much time and money on her hands.

Ah, well. Next time you are picked up for speeding, fail to pay your ticket, lose your license numerous times, drive anyway drunk or sober and are finally tossed into the klink, just tell the judge you want the Paris Hilton treatment.

I'm sure you'll get what she deserved.

Page 2

Ralph wrote in to chastise me for being for illegal aliens.

First of all, Ralph, thank you for taking the time to express your opinion. I welcome comments, in fact I wish I got more of them.

The reason I'm not against this type of immigration is that I remember when people who wanted to shut the nation's door ruled the State Department during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Jews and others who sought safety here were turned away. The Nazis were willing to let them go for a fee, at least early in the war, and there were those who were willing to put up the bribe money, but there was no place for them to go. So, instead of coming here, the went to gas chambers and ovens.

Look, I know that most of today's illegals are here for economic opportunity instead of being hunted by Nazis, but hunger and disease can kill as well.
So, thanks for your note, but on this one, I'll have to plead guilty to a charge of putting humanity over laws that are not applied fairly.

If nothing else, Paris Hilton has taught us about that

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Scooting off to jail and other stuff

First of all, today is D-Day, June 6, 2007.

It's the 63rd anniversary of the greatest invasion in history. It marks the day when a few thousand men glided, parachuted or waded into Fortress Europe. Winston Churchill called the Battle of Britain the end of the beginning of World War II. This was the beginning of the end for the Germans and their allies.

This is all in the way of saying thanks to all you guys (I don't think any women landed on June 6) who made the journey on that day.

An now, as Paul Harvey says, Page 2.

Closer to home, the New Haven Board of Aldermen, to the cheers of advocates, passed the nation's first Welcome Wagon for illegal immigrants when it accepted about $250,000 from the First City Fund Corporation to pay for identification cards for illegal aliens.

The cards are to allow the illegals to have official identification in order to open up bank accounts, get into city parks and take out library books and the like. The idea is to shield the illegals from crooks who prey on them because they carry cash. New Haven is the first city in the nation to do this.

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding this move because it is controversial and is a first.

So what do the brilliant feds do?

Less than two days after the alders pass this thing, they pull an immigration raid in the heavily Hispanic Fair Haven neighborhood. Read all about it in the New Haven Independent at

Of course, the feds say one thing has nothing to do with the other, that La Migra (for those of you unfamiliar with the term through knowledge or Cheech and Chong movies, La Migra is the Spanish idiom for the federal immigration cops) was due to be in town looking for people on fugitive warrants. Of course, once they raid an apartment or a house, the check the identifications of everyone there.

According to the Independent, by late afternoon Wednesday, about 29 people had been detained on warrants and immigration beefs.

So, are the feds' raids boneheaded, especially after President Bush said he advocated a way for illegals who are already here to earn the right to legally stay here?

Or are they brilliant demonstrations to show the government's, or at least the Bush Administration's, base conservative constituency that law-enforcement isn't going to let a few local advocates and politicians get in the way of protecting the nation from the scourge of the undocumented.

Be that as it may, I have a couple of concerns of my own .

Some of them are discussed in a previous post

They have to do with hooking up the debit card approved Monday by the alders, which one presumes will be managed by the city, to bank accounts. That would create the possibility of an error that would expose city residents to, among other things, identity theft. If you must have the debit card, please have it refilled only by request and not automatically taken from bank accounts.

Second, please make the identity cards one way of getting into parks, the libraries and other city services. Please don't make them the only way, thereby forcing city residents to obtain such a card. We don't need a mandatory city identity card.

The feds want to require an internal passport that would somehow keep us safe from terrorists, presumably as long as they don't carry tuberculosis.

Seriously, city fathers and mothers, please offer these identity cards. Don't require them.

Page 3.

I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, formerly one of the most powerful men in Washington, yesterday learned that he's going to be the guest of the federal government for 30 months.

That is, of course, unless the guy who really should be tossed in the slammer for arrogance and hubris, among other things, decides to pardon him.

Well, there's the question that may be hanging over official Washington and those of us who follow such things: Will Scooter Libby do all his time or any time at all.

That's two questions and I think those questions have two separate answers.

The first question is whether Bush will issue a pardon how to prevent Libby from having to do any time at all. I think he will not do that. It just may be getting through to Bush that his legacy is in real trouble.

He is enough of a political animal to know that if he pardons Libby now, whatever wheels still attached will fly off the Republican presidential bus and he'll be handing the Democrats the White House. That would give the liberals a chance to undo all the conservative and religious traps that Bush has so carefully crafted with his Supreme Court picks and other moves. Whether the Democrats are smart enough to take advantage of that is a question for another time.

I think Bush is crafty enough to leave the pardoning for next year, after the election. I think he will wait until the post-election hoopla is in full swing and then sneak this in, like he sneaked John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations in when he thought nobody would notice and couldn't do anything about it if they did notice. Wrong on both counts.

So, Scooter, spend the two months before you have to report to prison in choosing some good books, making book contracts and in general preparing to spend at least the next year and three months doing time.

But I could be all wet. As a reader to astutely said, you'll never go broke betting on Bush's stupidity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

That's the whole idea, Murray

In this morning's New York Times (June 5, 2007) ,
sportswriter Murray Chass presents and interesting theory: The New York Yankees beat the Red Sox Sunday night by a run and therefore somehow dodged the coup de grace that would have put the final nail in the coffin containing this year's baseball season.

Put another way, the Red Sox, in losing to the filthy swine, have begun the inevitable slide that will yet again break the hearts of their fans and allow the Yankees to walk away with a well-deserved pennant.

What Murray doesn't seem to realize, although he says he has friends in Red Sox Nation's capital area, is that's not an original thought. It is a scenario that every Red Sox fan has inculcated in his or her deep psyche since realizing that the letter "B" means something more than the second letter of the alphabet.

As a Red Sox fan, I accept the theory that the season can fall apart any second. I don't believe it will happen and neither, it seems, does Chass, who ends his column with this reality check: It just could be that Yankee pitching is so bad and Red Sox pitching is so good that the New Yorkers could not catch up.

There are stark differences between the fans of the two teams, and Chass is a classic example. Look at the seats of a losing Red Sox game. Not many fans have left, even if it's raining both water drops and enemy home runs. At the 2004 playoffs in New York, the place was empty when it looked like the Yanks were losing. In Boston, you couldn't have bought a seat, even in the worst of the first three defeats. Yankee fans were beating it to the exits while Red Sox fans were beating on the walls.

In Boston, hope springs eternal, but in the deep psyche, the fan knows that collapse has happened many times before, even when the opposition is 14 games back. Hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. No excuses. They blew it. End of story.

In the Bronx, it's the opposite. The fans are expecting the best, but making excuses for the worst. The umps were blind. It was raining. A duck flew over the field. The moon was too bright.

Yes, Murray, there could be a collapse. But if the Yankee victory on Sunday proved the mettle of the Bombers, the Red Sox loss late last night in 11 innings, after the exhausted, the sick, the lame but still plucky Red Sox tied the score in the 9th, shows me that it's still possible for the Sox to roll over, but it sure ain't likely.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Six Day War's 40th anniversary

It was one of the scariest and yet most invigorating times for American Jews.

All across the nation, Jewish groups were gathered, listening to news from 5,600 miles away. Remember, 24-hour news networks such as CNN didn't exist. For those outside of newsrooms, the word came in fits and starts.

The Israeli Air Force had wiped out Egypt's air arm in a raid remarkable for its intensity and accuracy. I still remember one radio newscaster saying "You couldn't find a shell hole outside the target." These guys didn't miss.

But still, Jews came together to donate what they could: money, offers to fight or at least to travel to Israel to relieve soldiers and sailors from support duties such as materiel repair so they could go fight, prayers, hope, support. You did what you could.

The most inspiring news of all, however, was the word from Jerusalem. Because King Hussein believed Egyptian propaganda that the Arabs were winning, he brought his forces into the conflict. The Jordanian army, the Arab Legion, was a force to be feared. The Jews, however, weren't to be denied.

For the first time since they were forced out in 1948 under force of arms, the Jews re-entered the Old City. The Wailing Wall became the Western Wall. After the shofar blasts, there was wailing no more.

The Old City, including the remainder of the Temple Mount, was in Jewish hands. No longer did Jews have to look from far away at Judaism's most holy site. They could walk up, at first through piles of junk and around buildings put up cheek by jowl with the wall, then from an expansive plaza. Any Jew who could make his or her way to Jerusalem could walk up and touch the wall, lean on it, cry on it, put a piece of paper into it inscribed with a prayer, a wish, a hope.

The rebuilding of the Old City began soon after, with the first task the clearing of the rubble that, until the Jordanians got their hands on it, was magnificent synagogues, holy sites, homes and businesses.

Skip forward 40 years. The Jews still hold the Old City, along with that part of the West Bank not given to the Palestinians. The largest conquest, the Sinai with its oil reserves, and Gaza have all been given up in the so-far-vain hope of peace.

So, on we go. In other parts of the world, including the Western Hemisphere, victors in war are not asked to return the spoils. The United States still owns Arizona, New Mexico, and California taken, with the small exception of the Glasden Purchase, by war from Mexico. Nobody asked Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and the rest to give themselves back to Spain after beating the Spaniards at War. The United States wasn't asked to return Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and other territory to Spain. Nobody asked Brazil to give itself back to Portugal after tearing itself away by force of arms.

Indonesia would not give itself back to the Dutch, toss out all its Muslim institutions in favor of Dutch Reformed.

Nobody, in the time from 1948 to 1967, hectored Jordan to return the Old City of Jerusalem to the Jews, even though it was taken by force of arms. But Israel is expected to return the Golan to Syria, the West Bank to a loose confederation of war lords and half of Jerusalem to a dysfunctional quasi-government that cannot even govern itself.

Those were heady times, between 1967 and the next war in 1973, then Entebbe in 1976.

Israel's first prime minister, David ben-Gurion, said he longed for the day when Israel could be just another nation.

I think he was wrong. Being just another nation doesn't get you any respect, especially if the world discovers that the place is run and populated by Jews.

Being just another nation is for everyone else, not Jews, in the eyes of the world. Why? I wish I knew. It might make things a bit easier, 40 years after the greatest military victory in history.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A few things to end the week

Well, hello there out in LensLand. Or is it Len'sLensLand. Naw, that sounds too much like a theme park.

Just a couple of things before the week ends.

First, it should be no surprise that Yankees' third-base fool Alex Rodriguez was spotted with a bimbo in various places. Hey: A cheater is a cheater is a cheater. I'll never forget his Hamburger Helper gloves (stole that) as he slapped the baseball out of the Red Sox pitcher's hands in the 2004 postseason. He's also be caught cheating other times. So, what's the deal? Maybe he can't get to first base with his wife.

On another note: "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..."
You remember that, don't you? It's the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

It seems that although we remember that, the English have forgotten it. Now the largest union in Britain wants to boycott Israel. That comes a few weeks after the largest British journalists' union voted the same boycott.

The British anti-Israeli bias goes back many, many years. The English threw the Jews out in the 13th century, and didn't let them back for centuries.

In more modern times, the British worked feverishly to make sure Jews, being killed in their millions by the Nazis, didn't reach Palestine, except by sneaking in. That went on until after the United Nations declared partition, leading to the state of Israel. Then the Brits left the ports, the forts, the weapons and anything else useful to the Arabs.

So, what do the two have in common?. A sports star and a nation both proving the maxim: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.

I think I'm more disappointed in the British. If A-Rod wants to cheat on his wife, that's his business and I don't think either Joe Torre or George Steinbrenner is going to fire him, relying on the morals clause he may have in his contract. After all, he still is one of the stars of the Yankees, and they need all the stars they can get this year.

I'm disappointed in Queen Elizabeth II. She's supposed to be the moral compass of the nation. Why else would they need the queen? I think she might want to tell these unions that picking on Israel is against the morals clause all people are supposed to have in their personal contracts.

But if past is prologue, nothing will happen. After all, the British have been picking on Jews for centuries And if it walks like an anti-Semite and quacks like an anti-Semite...

Speaking of Semites, if you are a member of the tribe, have a great Shabbos.

See y'all next week.