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."

Page 2

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.

Page 3

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...