Monday, June 30, 2008

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Happy Monday. I hope your weekend was cool, in all ways.

The headline on this post is a credo to live by. It's one of mine, second only to the prime credo: It doesn't have to make sense.

I am going to mark a significant birthday in a couple of weeks. You'll notice I didn't say celebrate. How old am I? If I wanted you to know, I'd have told you.

This morning's mail included a small flyer congratulating me on marking another step along the chronological way (no, it didn't say that.)

Printed on it, among the colored balloons, was an invitation to call a toll-free number. What I would receive for my trouble, it promised, is a free flight for two to any international airport located in the continental United States. It further promised, if I called within 72 hours of receiving the missive, was seven days of free car rental.
There was even a facsimile of a boarding pass.

So, I began to investigate since this was a perfect example of the credo in this post's headline. And, of course, I soon found out it was. Allow me to explain.

At first, I thought there might be something to this, because Southwest has recently included Avis in its Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program. Maybe this is a way of publicizing that marriage.

But I soon came upon a Hartford Courant column that took the air out of my balloon. In it, columnist (and really good old-time journalist) George Gombassy outlined the promotion and said that state consumer protection officials and the state Attorney General in Connecticut had connected it to a Rocky Hill firm called Ultimate Travel and were not happy about it. In fact, they are suing the firm on fraud charges.

I had noticed that there was small type on the back of the "boarding pass" saying that this promotion was not by Southwest or Avis, but it said they were the top suppliers.

Anyway, Gombossy says in his column, if you call the number, you will be invited to a 90-minute sales spiel. According to the column, some of those who went to Ultimate Travel's offices came out thousands of dollars lighter.

Read the column here:,0,6465190.column

Page 2

An old, gentle man named Norman Rubin went to his reward yesterday morning and I know he is already sitting on the Lord's right hand.

He was 93.

Mr. Rubin, shown in the synagogue he loved a couple of years ago, has been reading the Torah and other holy books and scrolls at Congregation Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in New Haven, and its antecedents, for as long as anyone can remember. I only knew him for about a half-dozen years.

Mr. Rubin had made his way in the world in a singularly Jewish way. He studied in Vilna, Lithuania, at a famous yeshiva and made it to the U.S. before the Nazis wiped out that community and before the world renamed it Vilnius.

He worked as a kashruth supervisor at various kosher butcher shops and delis, when New Haven had such things. It now has only one. He lived with his wife and daughter until his wife passed away. His daughter looked after him, although he lived in his own apartment.

Until a scant few weeks ago, he walked the mile or so from his home to Bikur Cholim on Saturday. He read the Torah, not an easy task. On Saturday afternoon, he would walk home and then back again to the synagogue, no matter the weather. In summer's heat and winter's blast, he showed up when much younger people didn't.

"Thank God I made it," was his watchword. He said it often.

He had conquered health problems in the past, but he was just too worn out this time. He died at about the time he would rise each morning to be sure he was in synagogue.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday evening, July 6, at 8 at Bikur Cholim. He will be buried in Israel.

I will miss Mr. Rubin's gentle charm. I know that right after his death, he presented himself at Heaven's door and and was immediately ushered into his place at his master's right hand.

And I know what he said. "Thank God I made it."

Page 3

I promised myself that I would not get involved in the vitriol that has been displayed in the commentary section of the New Haven Independent. That Web newspaper runs stories and then invites comment from readers on those stories.

The situation surrounding the city's invitation to illegal immigrants to settle within its borders, has been particularly grist for the mill of vitriolic commentary. Again, I'm not going to become embroiled in this, but only to say that it is getting a bit out of hand.

Just go to for a sample.

What got me was the bile that accompanied the announcement that Catherine Sullivan DeCarlo, one of the nicest people and most talented journalists you would even want to meet. Some clown upbraided her for doing nothing and celebrating the fact that someone who is not directly involved in teaching is leaving the system. Another invites her to write a book such as that by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan for serving a system that has had "enormously bad consequences for lots of children."

I've known Catherine for close to 20 years and I know she had nothing to do with bad consequences to anyone.

Whether Reggie Mayo, the schools superintendent, is good at his job is open to question. He was raised up more than 20 years ago, at first as an interim replacement for John Dow Jr.. Dow had a habit of calling reporters and others at 4 in the morning to scream at them in language that would have made the late George Carlin blush. The interim became permanent. The Board of Education hired Dow even after reporter Lynn Tufts of the New Haven journal-Courier went to his last gig, I think it was in Michigan, and wrote stories saying Dow's employers there were less than happy with him. Whether they've done any better this time is a legitimate subject for debate.

But to paint Sullivan-DeCarlo with the same broad brush is not. A good spokeswoman is not someone who parrots the boss no matter what. A good PR person tries to shine the best light on the organization to be sure. But the good one's won't lie. They may shade, but they won't lie and it's up to the reporter to find out the truth.

So, let's wish Catherine Sullivan DeCarlo well and hope that the next spokesperson (make no mistake: there will be a next spokesperson) is as good as the last.

Until next time...

Friday, June 27, 2008

You get what you vote for

In the 217 or so years since the Bill of Rights was enacted, the Supreme Court has been loath to rule on the Second Amendment, the one that talks about the right to bear arms.

All through history, the highest court went around the question of what the introductory clause of the Second Amendment means. The amendment states: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

The argument has always been: Does the amendment speak to the right of all people to bear arms or only those in the "well regulated militia"? The high court always has danced around that.

That changed yesterday (June 26, 2008). The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, decided that the framers meant that everyone has the right to keep a gun in the house for personal protection.

When I was a student, I had a friend who was a gun nut. He loved them, loved to drag me to gun dealers. I gawked in wonder and shock about what was for sale at these places. We're not talking about the Hoffman's Gun Shop-type places, large, well-advertised places on the up and up. We're talking here about people operating out of their basements, sheds, garages and what have you.

These guys had .50-caliber machine guns, assault rifles and Tommy guns. One guy had a Swedish anti-tank grenade launcher, complete with ammo. Cash and carry.

Well, these guys are going to be in their glory now. Whose fault is it?

I blame all those who didn't think it was important enough to vote in the 2000 election. Because of you, and, of course, some election slight-of-hand in Florida, we got George W. Bush. He gave us Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

We have always had the right wing on the Court, now peopled by Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, thanks to Ronnie Reagan and Papa Bush. But the Roberts court decided to decide and now that has given every drooling mouth-breather the right to have a gun at home.

Yes, yes, I know that the bad guys will always be able to get guns. This decision won't change that.

I'm not afraid of guys like my friend Big Mike. He's a bear of a man, a former college football player. He's a manly man; he hunts for deer and elk and other creatures and has many guns. He also knows what he's doing around a gun and knows that if there is trouble on the doorstep, he can handle it with a baseball bat and fist and doesn't need to go find the 12-gauge.

The people I'm afraid of after this ruling are the nebishes, the pip squeaks who have been given permission to go get a weapon that even Dirty Harry would avoid. They have no idea how to handle this gun. The hard knock on the door may elicit a gun-in-hand response from someone who doesn't know that the safety is off and you shouldn't put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to fire.

Something to think about when knocking on doors to sell Girl Scout cookies or to welcome a neighbor. If you hear a "click-click" sound, hit the deck.

So those of us who are upset about the presidential choices this year, we had better think twice about not voting.

Look where that got us eight years ago.

Page 2

It's Friday and I hate to leave the week full of doom and gloom, so let me tell you about my Monday this week, as promised. It's a nice story.

This is baseball season and my son-in-law Mike, the one who really knows about baseball, had invited me to accompany him and my granddaughter, Shoshana, to a Mets game. Seattle was in town to play the Amazins, and that sounded good. There is a connection to the Seattle team in the family, so even though we're both Boston Red Sox fans, we could root for Seattle on day.

Alas, the weather didn't look as if it would cooperate and schlepping down to Queens is a hassle if you're not sure the game will go on.

By mid-afternoon Monday, it looked as if the thunderstorms would hold off until later in the evening, so we decided to drive to New Britain and watch the Rock Cats take on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. It was an inspired decision.

First of all, both teams are AA affiliates of major-league organizations, so you get to watch future stars early in their careers. The Rock Cats are part of the Minnesota Twins organization, and the Fisher Cats are allied with the Toronto Blue Jays. The fact that they are AA clubs means that some of these guys are only a couple of years away from the Show, the major leagues.

Watching minor league baseball has some other things going for it. First of all, it's convenient. Parking is pretty cheap; $3, and for $2 more, you get to park within a minute's walk of the entrance.

Then, you can walk up and buy tickets for great seats. At Fenway Park, where the Sox play, they're sold out until the Apocalypse, and the last time I tried to buy seats from a broker, it was $100 each for standing room.

In New Britain, top price is $12. For $10 each, we got front-row seats right behind the on-deck circle, very close to home plate. I wasn't cheap for the two bucks each, but Mike wanted to sit behind the screen because these players hit lots of foul balls and it could be a little unsettling for a kid to have baseballs flying around.

The food also is reasonably priced -- $10.50 for three large cups of Turkey Hill ice cream.

We had a ball. The Rock Cats lost, but there was plenty of excitement -- a Fisher Cat out in a close play at home and two guys crashing together chasing a fly ball in the outfield. Say, that's what we probably would have seen had we been at the Mets game.

There are two franchise teams in Connecticut, the Rock Cats and the Connecticut Defenders (formerly Norwich Navigators), who play in Norwich. The Defenders are affiliated with the San Francisco Giants, but that relationship may be in its last year. The Bridgeport Bluefish are part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, but are not affiliated with any major-league team.

Page 3

A couple of shout-outs. Happy birthday to daughters Andrea and Malka (also known as Melanie), who both celebrated their birthdays on June 26. That's right, same day, three years apart.

Happy 60th wedding anniversary to Eli and Rebecca Lazerson on North Haven. Wow--talk about staying power. They're two very nice people and stalwarts of the Jewish and general communities, so let's wish them many happy returns.

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

Until next time...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newspapers are a sacred trust

Newspapers are a sacred trust; the worship of money is not.

Years ago, a guy named Joe Murray told an in-service seminar at the New Haven Register that "the freedom of the press belongs to the guy who owns the press."

There are two thing amazing about that. First, Murray earned a Pulitzer Prize when editor of the tiny Lufkin Daily News in Texas. Second, there were in-service seminars at the Register.

What Murray said is more true now than when he said it nearly 30 years ago. The trouble is that few people or organizations can afford to own that press anymore.

Please see a previous post on the subject:

The Hartford Courant, the paper that prides itself as the nation's oldest newspaper in continuous circulation, is suffering from the same malaise as the Register and just about every other paper in this nation. Too little money, too much cost and owners who have paid too much to acquire them.

So who suffers? We do. Bad as they are, serious newspapers still stand way, way above other news-delivery methods, especially for local news.

My stomach turned last night as I saw a television reporter gush about the start of yet another high school in the city. Yes, the city will pay only 10 percent of the cost, but we're still talking about millions of dollars the city doesn't have. There were no questions, no attempts find out if the city really needs this school Maybe it does, but this reporter seemed more interested in his closing than the facts of the story. And that story was one of the better-reported stories.

Bloggers fill a hole, but how many worry about the facts? How many so-called news sources worry about at least the shadow of objectivity. Following-up on stories? Please.

I remember decades ago when a friend who was assignment editor at a local television station was crying the blues because his reporters were coming into the work ignorant about what was going on and just stood by his desk and asked, "What ya got for me?" I could chuckle because my reporters covered their beats and told me what they had.

Television has apparently not improved much on that score, except that reporters now listen to the police and fire scanners and head out to crime, fire and accident scenes. How many times have I heard print reporters making cop calls and asking the person on the police or fine desk "Is there any news?"

Today, in too many newsrooms, reporters ask the city editor (if there is a city editor), "What ya got for me?" The harried editor hands over a press release from some politician or municipal official or interest group. The reporter writes up the release, maybe makes a call or two for comment or, if the reader is lucky, to someone who may shed a different light on the story.

Too often, the reporter files the rewritten release, perhaps with reaction, probably with a line saying that so and so didn't return phone calls looking for comment. Then the reporter goes on to the next of the too-many stories he or she must cover for the day. The editor glances at the story, runs spell-check, and hands it over to the news desk.

If the reader is lucky, it goes to the copy desk, if the paper has one. Too many papers combine news and copy desks.

I remember a guy named John Bremmer, a professor at the University of Kansas and one of the best editing teachers ever, told a copy editing seminar to which the Register sent some editors (really), that the copy editor was the goalie, the backstop, the last person who sees a story before it goes in the paper.

Sadly, there is little money for good copy editors, or often any copy editors, these days. There was even an obit of sorts for copy editors in The New York Times, written by Lawrence Downes, a member of the Times editorial board.

What that means it that there isn't anyone making sure that the story says Jefferson City is the capital of Missouri, not Kansas City. It means there isn't anyone making sure of that percentage on which the reporter based a story is accurate, that the mayor's name is spelled right, and that Main Street in New Haven is in the East Shore, not downtown.

All this costs money. The guy who bought the company that owns the Courant (and the New Haven Advocate) is looking to save money, or at least lose less. He's even thinking about selling the Tribune Tower in Chicago (he is a real estate man after all).

Nobody is going to be harmed because the desk doesn't know that there is no Edgewood Street in New Haven, but there is an Edgewood Way.

But you might be hurt by the lack of a check for fairness on a story. You might be interested to know if your newspaper's editor has a stake in that real estate project, or a news person thinks of him or herself as an advocate rather than an objective journalist, or at least lets the reader know how he or she perceives his or her role.

I remember after the Jacksons sold the New Haven Register to Ingersoll and Tom Geyer became editor and publisher. He soon was persuaded to join Chamber of Commerce committees.

Staff members told him he needed to be objective as editor, but if he just wanted to be publisher, he could join any committees he wanted. To his credit, he chose to remain editor and gave up the committees, even though they were quite prestigious.

What's money got to do with any of this? Everything. With enough money, you get enough space to tell the stories that need to be told, the hire the staff needed to put out the best possible paper and the resources to cover the news.

When a paper is struggling, the publisher might not have the choice of telling an big car advertiser that he's not going to fire the person who tried his cars and found them lacking. The editor might have to fire the reporter who wrote what the big shot said, not what he later said he meant.

It's a sad turn of events and it couldn't come at a worse time. The nation is in trouble, no matter what the cheerleaders at FOX News say. People are being squeezed.

Yesterday, a person on National Public Radio reported that the Federal Reserve said it was afraid of inflation and might raise interest rates. The Fed was afraid of inflation because of high fuel prices. The average person is being squeezed by high fuel prices, and now the Fed wants to add higher interest rates to the suffering? But nobody thought to ask the question.

There are fewer questions being asked when there should be more.

And that's how the money squeeze on newspapers really hurts.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

At long last, Virginia

Today, only a year late, we finish up the travelogue we started last summer. (For earlier chapters: It also has links to earlier posts on the subject.)

Today, it's Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, Va., known as the Colonial National Historical Park.

The best part is you don't have to drive that U.S. 17.

Actually, you would be hard put to find a better place to take children who are studying American history, especially pre-Colonial, Colonial and early Federalist periods.

Yes, I know Gettysburg is only a few hours' drive away, but children have to be older, say in late middle school or high school to truly understand Antietam and Gettysburg.

While we are driving up I-26 from Charleston, S.C., to I-95 to I-295 around Richmond to I-64 to Williamsburg, it's a good time to remind those of us who have passed our 62nd birthday about the Golden Pass the federal government offers. For a single $10 payment, it entitles the senior citizen and everyone in his or her car to free admission to all national parks, forests and the like forever.

What it doesn't cover are optional tours, admission to privately owned historic sites (such as privately owned Jamestown Settlement.) What it does cover is admission to the nearby National Park Service Jamestowne park, which is wonderful in itself. More about that later.

This also gives us a chance to reiterate (or iterate if we haven't done so) that one should take the comments posted by travelers on hotel-booking sites to heart. We didn't and checked into an inexpensive motel that had drawn some negative reviews. It wasn't horrible, but we could have done better.

By the way, if you have left early enough, have avoided traffic and arrived in the Richmond area with lots of daylight left, you can pick up Route 5 east off I-295 and take the scenic route into Williamsburg.

The thing about staying in Williamsburg is that it is between Yorktown and Jamestown. You can easily spend a week there and spend a good part of your yearly disposable income. But you don't have to. Colonial Williamsburg has packages that include admission to the restoration. But there are so many things to do that don't cost that much. The Colonial National Historical Park Pass is $10 per adult and lasts for a week. Children 15 and under are admitted free. The pass is good for both Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield national parks.

You get between Jamestown and Yorktown on the Colonial Highway, a scenic, two lane brick (mostly) highway that cuts out traffic, lights, locals and the like. Picnic grounds and scenic pullovers abound.

At Jamestown, the place where the English established their first sustained colony in this country in 1607 (yes, you missed the 400th, but I'm sure most of the goodies are still there). Delightful National Park Service volunteers lead tours of the site.

On the tour my wife and I took, the volunteer, whose name I stupidly neglected to note, led a wonderful play about John Smith and Pocahontas and her father, Powhatan, the Indian chief. Members of the tour took parts. That's yours truly with the feather, playing the big (in all ways) chief Powhatan. It was a blast.

Your kids will probably insist on touring the park next door, the privately owned Jamestown Settlement. Admission to the Jamestown Settlement, which is quite nice and worth the price if you can afford it, is $19.25 for adults and $9.25 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. The ticket also gets you into Yorktown Victory Center. Figure on a full day each for the Yorktown and Jamestown combinations.

Yorktown, your kids can tell you, is where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington and that convinced the British that it wasn't worth trying to hang on to the American colonies.

You can walk the ground where this took place and there is a nifty museum.

Of course, Colonial Williamsburg is the granddaddy of Colonial-era restorations. There are tours, houses to visit, demonstrations, including firing off of all kinds of ordinance. It's a ball. You can easily spend a couple of days there.

You'll notice, I make no attempt to talk about food. There are no kosher establishments (except for Ben&Jerry's ice cream in Yorktown and Williamsburg). The supermarkets do have some kosher foods. Please be sure your hotel room has a fridge and microwave. For those not keeping kosher, I'm told that wonderful eating places abound in all price ranges.

And, of course, there's Busch Gardens.

Well, that's it. If you have older kids, you may want to head north and west for Gettysburg, Pa., where in 1863, a Confederate force raiding into the north heard there were shoes for the taking. There was a Federal army in the area.

But that's another story.

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

High gas prices change little on parkway

Happy Tuesday. Yesterday, I was happily sitting in New Britain, watching the Rock Cats choke up a fur ball against a New Hampshire team just a little less hapless. But it was fun watching the game with granddaughter and son-in-law Mike, who really does know a lot about baseball.

More about minor-league baseball later in the week.

Today's subject is driving, drivers, gas prices and the millions of words spewed by the blond and banal (otherwise known as TV journalists) about how high gas prices are changing driving habits.

This blog also makes some suggestions. You listening, Dick Roy?

To that, I say B-A-L-O-N-E-Y! (Remember, this blog is rated PG).

Last week, friend wife and I had occasion to drive from New Haven to New York, to Norwalk, back to New York one day and from New Haven to Norwalk the next.

Our experience: Nothing, not a blamed thing, has changed.

Drivers are still flying along, one to a car. We drove both during rush hour and so-called normal traffic.

On the Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways (same road, different names), drivers still were speeding, passing on the right, accelerating onto the highway as if there were no car about to reach their position, forcing the car on the road to swerve if the left lane was open or slam on the brakes if it wasn't.

The amount of rudeness and selfishness has not changed. When a lane is blocked, and most drivers have formed a single line to pass the obstruction (mostly trucks blocking a lane to ensure the safety of mowers), there are always few who are too precious to wait their turn with the rest of us. They rush forward and then wheedle their way into the waiting line of traffic.

It's amazing to me that anyone lets them back into the lane. What they are doing not only is infuriating, it lengthens the wait for the rest of us. There should be a law.

Suggestion: : At most of these blockages, there is a state worker sitting in the truck that is blocking the lane. That person should be safely placed in a position where he or she can write down the registration plate numbers of those who are too precious to wait in line with the rest of us. Letters should be sent to those people, warning them that the next time they are caught, they will be fined. The General Assembly should pass a law to enable that, if there is not an applicable statute.

The fines should be stiff enough to be a disincentive.

Next on the list: speeding. Look, I'm not one of these nutcases who accelerates painfully slowly to save gas, and I have been known to drive with the flow of traffic (any cop or trooper will tell you privately that this is the safest way for traffic to flow).

But there are people driving sports sedans, SUVs, wagons, minivans, and even Priuses flying along the highways doing 80 mph or faster. There was one genius Friday about 5 p.m. in heavy traffic driving a Mustang. He would accelerate heavily, change lanes, move up 20 yards, slam on the brakes, and sit in traffic. He repeated this process 12 times the I saw.

By the way, Dick Roy (that's Rep. Richard F. Roy of Milford, the impetus behind the least-obeyed law in state history, the statute that makes it unlawful to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving), sometimes it is hard to find a car where the driver is NOT talking on a hand-held cell phone. I guess people think you're not serious about the law because nothing is being done about other distractions.

There are food driver-thrus, where drivers pick up sandwiches and snacks they can eat while driving. I have seen people reading, writing, eating, putting on make-up and shaving, among other activities you would not believe, while driving. As any long-haul trucker about what he has seen people doing while driving. As long as people consider their cars to be extensions of their homes, we are just spinning our wheels, so to speak.

Polite driving in New York City: fahgettaboutit. In Washington Heights, double-parking is rampant. Not only cars, but vans, small buses, "My Ride" handicapped-access vans, you name it, double-parking on narrow streets. And what do the other drivers, who are stuck behind them do? They lean on their horns. There is nobody in the double-parked cars, but the waiting drivers blow their horns -- right under the sign that tells about the $300 fine for doing it.

There was one instance where a large vehicle double-parked. The traffic behind it passed it, going into the opposite lane, for minutes at a time. Never mind there were drivers in the other lane whose lane was not blocked. They were important; the others were not.

Anyway, in my two-day survey, I have to say that the high price of gas has only made two changes: It has increased business for gas-station owners who priced their gas a few cents a gallon less than the competition and it has given the blond and banal something to be wrong about.

What's been your experience? Just leave a comment at the end of this posting.

Until next time...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coming soon at a Len's Lens near you

It's been crazy the last couple of days around the ranch.

Yesterday, we took our granddaughter, who lives in New York City, to the aquarium at Norwalk and to a kosher restaurant in New Rochelle. More about that in another posting.

Today, it was off to Norwalk. If you own a Braun electric shaver, the closest place to buy replacement parts or have it serviced is in Norwalk. This is an old-fashioned (in a good way) shop with one guy running the whole thing and so many things to be repaired, already repaired, waiting to be sold and what have you, there is little room for the shopkeeper and customers.

We have been on the road for two days straight and have formed a definite opinion about the state of drivers around here.

So: for next week, here's the tentative schedule for next week.

Tuesday (I'll tell you more about Monday later in the week): Ranting and raving about drivers, cars and a short, two-day unscientific survey about whether the price of gas has changed any habits.

Wednesday, if nothing urgent presents itself, the last of last year's travel pieces: Yorktown, Va. and environs and we finally get off U.S. 17.

Thursday: Politicians who don't keep their promises (do any?)

Friday: Whatnot.

Michael, thank you for your comment on Tuesday's posting about Charleston, S.C. and kosher places in that area. More about that later, after I have had a chance to digest what you wrote.

Have a great weekend, you all, and for those in the tribe: have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

At long last, Charleston

Man, when I procrastinate, I really procrastinate.

Last year, I wrote three pieces about travels in the South, staying in Rockville, Md., taking in Washington, D.C. and the Rockville area and then heading south toward Myrtle Beach, S.C. and ending up in Charleston.

Some explanation is warranted. First, we stayed near Rockville because that's where my stepmom lives. She's fine, thank you.

We wanted to go to Charleston because we were intrigued many years ago as we and three kids, the eldest of whom was 13, blew through on the way to see The Mouse. We also wanted to spend the Jewish Sabbath somewhere with a community and a kosher hotel or bed and breakfast.

On this last score, we hit a grand slam home run.

I'm continuing this much-delayed writing because vacation season is upon us and there has been quite a bit of searching on Google and other search engines for kosher beds and breakfasts. You can catch up by reading
That piece has links to the first two parts of the series. By the way, Myrtle Beach has seen a building boom with tens of thousands of hotel rooms being built. As a consequence, this year's prices are about the same as last year's. According to the authoritative Shamash Kosher database, both Cafe M and the Jerusalem Cafe are still there and operating. Good kosher food.

So, off we go.

If you spend any time in Myrtle Beach, you're familiar with U.S. Route 17. It's the main drag through town. In fact, you're probably sick of it. Well, too bad. If you're heading south from Myrtle Beach toward Charleston, you need to get back on Route 17. It'll carry you to the outskirts of Charleston, about 95 miles or so.

If you eat kosher, have your breakfast and grab a sandwich at Cafe M. There are many roads leading off the right side of Route 17 where you can park and eat your sandwich. If you don't, there are many interesting-looking eateries along Route 17. Good old Route 17.

The bridge separating Mount Pleasant from Charleston is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like the bridge you see on Boston Legal.

We stayed at a conventional hotel for three of our five days in Charleston. For Friday and Saturday nights, however, we stayed at a phenomenal bed and breakfast called the Broad Street Guest House.

Broad Street is one of the main streets in Charleston's historic district. It's an easy walk to the harbor and the downtown market, even in near 100-degree heat. Take my word for it.

Many of the recommendations I have made -- for which I receive nothing and the proprietors don't know of them unless they read this blog -- are for the benefit of people who eat kosher. I say stay here whether you eat kosher or not. The place is that good, the service is that wonderful and the food is that great.

The bedroom of our suite, make that apartment, was something to behold with antiques collected by Innkeeper Hadassah Rothenberg.

For Rothenberg, from Brooklyn, N.Y., the guest house is a labor of love. She does all the cooking, some of the cleaning and all the planning.

The weekend we were there, the place was packed, which meant a dozen or so for Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast and lunch. It was all delicious.

Rothenberg, right, is also a treasure-trove of information about the greater Charleston area. We knew about Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started, but she told us where to park to catch the boats that take you out to the harbor.

She also described a great walk down to the famous seawall and, also thanks to one of the ladies at the synagogue to whom Rothenberg introduces us, we later found a wonderful tour of the historic district from a horse-drawn carriage. "Go for the horses, not the mules. The ride is much better," she said.

Rothenberg also told us about the Hunley. The CSS Hunley was the first submarine to sink a Union ship during that war, was sunk in 1864 and it is being studied and restored about a half-hour drive from the historic district. It was lots of fun, including the guards, who are Confederate re-enactors.

Before we leave Charleston, another look at the antiques at The Broad Street Guest House.

Look, I like Rothenberg and hope she continues to succeed, but the reason I'm going on and on about her place is that there needs to be more kosher places. We went to Charleston because we wanted to see the place, but also because there are no kosher bed and breakfasts in all of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and southern Virginia. There's one that just started up at Ocean City, Md. I hope they succeed.

Reach Rothenberg at www.charlestonkosherbedand or 843-577-5965. Tell her Honeyman said hello.

We explored Charleston and vacinity, with its one kosher restaurant beside the guest house. We had a decent lunch, but he was closed when we returned for dinner, despite our telling him what time we intended to return. I can't recommend him.

Charleston has a lot to recommend it, including Patriots Point, including the famous aircraft carrier USS Yorkown, a wonderful downtown area including a blocks-long indoor market. I bought a straw hat there. On Saturday night, we joined some new friends and headed for that area. We even found a coffee shop with hookas at outdoor tables. It was lots of fund. We even found kosher food at the Piggly-Wiggly market on Route 7, right off, you got it, good old U.S. 17.

Next: heading north again, to Yorktown, Va.

Until next time...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Obama got it right on Father's Day

I'm glad Barack Obama and I are on the same page.

Last Friday, in this space, I gave my take on the subject of homeless pregnant teens. In essence, I said the problem isn't going to be solved until young men stop equating manhood with fathering children.

Yesterday, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said essentially the same thing. On Father's Day, he said being a father is much more than making a child. It's assuming responsibility for the children you father.

Read one take on what he said here:

That's come a long way. I remember when black pride and black power were the watchwords of African-American leaders, anyone who tried to preach birth control for young people was accused of promoting genocide.

Obama isn't the first black leader to come out against young men who plant their seeds and then move on. But the most politically powerful African-American man in America saying it lends more power to the responsibility movement.

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This one's true. Really.

Manhattan Surrogate Judge Renee Roth has reduced the trust fund for the late Queen of Mean Leona Helmsley's dog from $12 to a paltry $2 million. Trouble (that's the dog's name) is a 9-year-old Maltese that lives in Florida.

The court's April 30 decision was made public Monday. The rest of the cash goes to the hotel and real estate queen's charitable trust, where it may be used for more humane causes.

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Yesterday was a fabulous day around here. All the kids and all the grandkids showed up.

The ruse to get me out of the house was to take the kids to the beach, which means Lighthouse Point Park. This lovely and well-maintained space is also free to New Haven residents.

I had promised the kids a ride on the carousel and was disappointed when we got there and was told it wouldn't be open until 1 p.m.

My bad. If I had just consulted the Parks Department's Web site, I would have seen that the thing is scheduled to open at 1 Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The guys cleaning the place up were polite and one even called his boss to be sure of the schedule. The kids played on the playground and one even stuck a foot into the surf.

When I returned, the whole family was there and we had a marvelous time.

Page 4

Well, it looks as if President Bush's hat-in-hand trip to Saudi Arabia may have paid off after all.

The oil-rich nation has said it would up production by a half-million barrels a day. Read all about it

I hope this brings the price of gasoline down a little. I drive what used to be called compact cars. I don't know what the correct term is now, but they are smaller than the Chevys and Fords and much smaller than even the cross-overs, which is an industry term for an SUV that is only a little bit huge.

At a discounter, I paid more than $50 for a fill-up. A bargain at $4.15 a gallon. My word, what has this world come to?

I ask that question again after watching Fox News Sunday yesterday. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas had a speaking point of increasing supply by drilling for oil in this country. She didn't mention the environment.

Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota correctly pointed out that much of the run-up in oil prices was the result of unchecked speculation in oil and gas futures. Even Chris Wallace, hardly a flaming liberal, tried to hold her feet to the fire on speculation and how that should be outlawed. She wasn't having any.

Read all about it yourself.,2933,367192,00.html

Let me get this straight. A few hedge fund managers and some oil speculators should be allowed to get rich beyond measure while the nation's economy and millions of people suffer. Airlines, that is those unlike Southwest who did not lock in fuel prices months ago, have to resort to silly things such as charging for a glass of water on flights.

Poorer people who had been forced to choose between rent and food are now forced to add fuel to the equation. Just wait until next winter.

Until next time...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert dies doing his job

Friday is always a busy day around here, so I often don't get a chance to write until late, if at all.

The news of Tim Russert's death, which came late Friday, was a shock, to say the least. He was as energetic as they come, a real pit bull who didn't easily let go when he had somebody in his grip. When he knew he had a subject, he would get this sly grin.

Any good reporter has smiled that smile, almost a smirk. "I can hear the sound of suitcases slamming shut" at the offices or home of the subject of your investigative story or series, was the cry at the New Haven Register back in the day. That look was all over Russert nearly every Sunday.

It was also there when he talked about Hillary Rodham Clinton, especially during his appearances on MSNBC's election night shows. Russert loved Barack Obama. His face seemed to shine when he talked about the Democratic presumptive nominee. When, after the last primaries, Obama had garnered the "magic number" of delegates, his face shone like Moses at Mount Sinai. He called the moment historic, as it was.

He will be missed. In an era of blondes and banality in television news, he was a giant. He wasn't Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley, but he was the best of his generation. Tom Brokaw, whose name was whispered reverently around NBC a generation ago, said Russert would "be missed as he was loved -- greatly."

Russert was the first television newsman to be inducted into the Gridiron Club, which had previously been reserved for print journalists.

He was 58 years old. The cause of death was first reported to be a heart attack, but an NBC spokeswoman later said the cause was still being determined.

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Now for something completely different.

Daughter Esther was invested with the Master's of Science degree in mental health counseling Thursday at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

She is a product, mostly, of New Haven and Connecticut public education. She graduated from the Sound School and from Southern Connecticut State University, with a degree in psychology. She has interned at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York and at a private practice in Rockland County.

Of course, her mother, Sue, and I are very proud. Congratulations, Estie.

And yes, dear friends at Claire's Corner Copia, it's that Esther.

Page 3

It's late, and I don't have a lot of time before the Sabbath, but I just wanted to get in a few words about the advocate story on pregnant, homeless teens.

It seems that, after a number of years in decline, the number of pregnant teens may be leveling off or even rising. The story, and the attached comments, look to the schools, birth-control injections, more money for education, for shelters. The schools should...the city should, the state should. I'm waiting for that alderman to say that prayer in schools will solve the problem.

You, friends, are all wrong.

The problem will not be solved in the schools, the shelters or anywhere else except the home.

I know, I know, many of these teens have no home. But they did once. They had a mother, at least, and perhaps a father who stayed around for a while.

I needs parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, next-door neighbors to instill into the boys, yes the boys, a couple of maxims.

First, grown-ups must convince teenage boys that their manhood is not, repeat not, dependent on the number of children they father. A real man stands up for his responsibilities. Why, even the idiots who appear on the Maury Povitch show say they will live up to their responsibilities if the ubiquitous paternity test shows them to be the father.

Second, grown-ups must convince teenage girls that they needn't give in to these boys. The boy walks away with his chest out, to tell one and all how cool he is, and the girl gets to walk around the hot city streets for months with a big belly or carrying a baby for whom she has no clue how to care. Or, if she is smart enough not to listen to bible-belters or others, she then faces the physical and emotional toll of abortion.

It's called a Hobson's choice -- no good alternatives. The best alternative is to say no to that boy who is only trying to enhance his reputation as a stud, no matter what he tells you. If he really cared for you, he would think enough of you not to push the burden of parenthood on to you while you are still a child.

Third, the leaders of the community have to change to thought process by which teens think they become adults when they reproduce when still in their teens. The state also needs to find ways within public assistance to encourage families. Make welfare payments for families realistic. You can't feed a kid on a few dollars a month.

In a couple of generations, the payoff will be amazing.

Just the opinion of one guy who's been around a while.

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It's Friday, so have a great weekend. Happy Father's Day to all you fellow dads. And for you in the tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

School daze and it hasn't a prayer

Hi. Now that you asked, Sue and I had a wonderful holiday, although it was a bit hot to walk.

Speaking of holiday, when the discussion was going on at Davis Street School, one of the seemingly endless list of schools to be renovated, rebuilt or replaced during the past few years, some of the neighborhood's residents were around the corner, praying.

The day of the meeting was also a major Jewish holiday, Shavuos. The holiday ended at 9:15 Tuesday night, about three hours after the meeting was scheduled to start. I don't know if the men and women praying around the corner would have had any good ideas, or any complaints. They didn't get the chance to attend because the Board of Education, the same board that has been talking about fairness, scheduled a meeting at a time when they could not attend.

Here's the meeting story in the Independent:

Here's what this blog had to say about the subject last week:

Enough said. Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, the schools' spokeswoman, said she would get the word out about making sure a potential meeting date doesn't leave anyone out. She's one of the good ones, and I can only feel that this is the last we'll hear of that, at least as far as the schools are concerned.

Page 2

You know, walking to synagogue on a Saturday is one thing. There's not a lot of traffic, only the occasional full-sized bus with a maximum of two people on board.

Walking to synagogue along Fountain Street and Forest Road on a weekday is another kettle of fish.

It was hot. People were commuting to and from work -- mostly one to a car, air conditioners blasting, yakking on phones, not knowing that pedestrians have the right of way. One guy, yakking on his phone, passed by and a few seconds later, a city cop drove by. I figured, ha, this guy's in trouble. Nah. The cop never noticed.

Another thing few people noticed is that pedestrians have the right of way at most intersections. That's the law in Connecticut. It's the law in Massachusetts as well, and there, if you don't stop, you get to realize what it felt like to be a defendant at the Salem witch trials.

Maybe someone can answer the question: Where in the drivers' guidebook does it say that when a driver puts on his or her right signal, it's obligatory to pass that driver on the right. SUV driver, of course.

My wife had a great idea. Cars should carry signs indicating the kind of driver: "Fast Driver" or "Timid Driver" or "Control Freak". At least, you'll be warned.

Page 3

There are a lot of graduations going on this month. My daughter, Esther, is graduating from Touro College in New York with a master's degree in mental health counseling. Perfect complement to her father, you say. Probably true, I say.

I also say I'm so very proud of you, Esther. Top of her class, by the way.

Page 4

Remember I mentioned the lawyer who bought a Moped because it gave him 75 miles to the gallon. Well, that story took a sad turn. Moped drivers have the same challenges as bicycle riders.

This fellow, on a mission for his wife, no less, encountered a patch of sand a gravel. Down he went and the bike went down on him. Cracked rib. He's fine otherwise. A casualty of the greed of the oil barons.

Until next time...

Friday, June 6, 2008

A few quick hits for a Friday

Here comes summer, at least in the Northeast, where the thermometer is supposed to climb into the 90s. Yes, yes, I know summer doesn't come for a couple of more weeks, but leave me a little poetic license.

I got a letter from Howard Dean, head of the Democratic National Committee, along with a survey. The survey is headlined with a special notice for me, saying I have been selected to represent New Haven CT in the 2008 Presidential Campaign Survey. Yeah, right. It says I should send in the survey, along with a contribution (of course) within 72 hours if I want a Democrat in the White House.

Dear Howard: Not a nickel until two things happen. The first is that you stop sending your brother, Jimmy Dean (not the singer or sausage maker, although he did manage to chop up Connecticut Democrats a couple of years ago) on drives to find the most unelectable candidates for Senate in the state.

Let's face it: Ned Lamont wasn't going to beat Joe Lieberman in a real election and the only reason there isn't a real Republican (instead of an Independent who supports a Republican for president) in the Senate from Connecticut is that the state GOP either didn't take the race seriously or couldn't find anyone more electable than Alan Schlessinger.

Second is you stop having important campaign events on Saturday when Orthodox Jews, a group that can be important to Barack Obama's campaign, cannot attend. I wrote to you, Howard, a few times, but didn't receive any reply.

Look, I an really frightened of John McCain, especially after he endorsed the no-warrant searches and wiretaps that President Bush has put into effect. I cannot take another four years of Bush's laissez-faire economic policies. So thanks a lot, Howard. Now that Obama is the Democratic candidate, I have to do some real soul-searching about voting or not voting or pushing for a convention revolution.

Page 2

The more I read about the state of newspapers in this nation, the sadder I get. Thank heaven for small, hungry papers and Web sites that practice real journalism. We have enough bloggers who practice no standards of responsibility for fact-checking or leaving out rumor or innuendo.

Case in point: there is a story in the New York Times about the cutbacks at former Tribune papers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and others (including the Hartford Courant, and Stamford Advocate-Greenwich Time), where staff will be cut and news hole slashed. News hole is the space in the paper reserved for news. The Post Office says you have to have 35 percent news in a paper to qualify for the second-class postage rate. Most good papers have been more than 50 percent, sometimes a lot more. Now, it will be 50 percent, and don't think this will be the end of it.

Speaking of the Times, the Fishbowl NY blog (which does care about accuracy) has published a list of Times staffers who are taking buyouts. It's pretty devastating.

See it here:

I had read about Linda Greenhouse, the Pulitzer-prize winning, longtime Supreme Court reporter, who probably knows more about the court than any of the sitting justices. But some of the names -- John Noble Wilford, who has been writing about science since forever; Murray Chass, whom I have chastened about his glee at Boston Red Sox woes, but who is a crackerjack sports writer and columnist; Lawrence Van Gelder, whose writing I don't know that well but who has a perfect name for a culture writer; Claudia Deutch, a good business writer; and many more. The craft will not be the same, no matter if the medium of delivery is a physical newspaper or words on some kind of screen.

The only thing to say is: Boy, I thought things were bad before I got out.

Page 3

I told myself I would stay out of the prayer-in-school mess in New Haven. Some alderman proposed a prayer to be said at the beginning of the school day to help fight the problems in the public schools.

Without responding to this guy's proposal, let me make two points: The first is that the Constitution, interpreted by the Supreme Court (hardly a liberal bastion) says you can't do that.

Second: When you do prayer, pretty soon you have to ask yourself, whose prayer. Yes, the prayer that some young woman who works at the Walter Reed Hospital doesn't mention any religion or even God, but it's a prayer. Atheists have rights, too.

I remember when I was in elementary school, there was a prayer each day, and you had to say it, even though it was the "Our Father", a Christian prayer. This was the same group that forced me to go to "Manners and Morals" class because I didn't attend Catechism on Thursday. The fact that I went to Hebrew School on Wednesday and Sunday and attended synagogue on Saturday didn't mean anything. They wanted to make sure I wouldn't turn out to be some ax murderer. They were partially right -- I did bash myself in the head with an ax while splitting wood a few decades ago, but that's beside the point.

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This blog is off for a few days. After the weekend, the Shavuos holiday is upon us Monday and Tuesday, so look for these rants and raves to continue next Wednesday.

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

Until next time...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Farewell to a very rich man

So, the lady in the pantsuit is singing another tune. It sounds as if she will no longer campaign but will not surrender her delegates, either.

I agree with that strategy, one of the few times this political season I've agreed with the New York Times, other than both endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president. My endorsement meant did the Times'. You know, there is something liberating about that.

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Today's post is going to be (mercifully) short. There is a lot to do in my other lives, and some of it is quite sad.

There is a get-together tonight to mark the end of the 30-day mourning period for Jerome (Jerry) Gross, who died after a car accident. The man who hit him as he was driving across an intersection into his driveway has been charged in the death.

Jerry's funeral was one of the most well-attended in memory, with hundreds of people crowding Jimmy Shure's funeral parlor. The attendance at the funeral and the seven-day shiva period at the family home was testimony to the affect Jerry had on various segments of the community.

Jerry drove for a living. I know from decades of experience that the more time you spend on the road, the better chance of a ticket or accident. But Jerry and his son, Jason, were coming home from synagogue in the morning when this person, who the police say was driving way too fast, slammed into him. He drove scores if not hundreds of times on truck-clogged highways to airports and other destinations in all weather and he was killed while driving home from synagogue. It gives one pause.

I only knew Jerry well for a few years. He was a bear of a man physically, and a pussy cat at heart. If he liked you, there was nothing he wouldn't do for you, and nobody had better say anything against you within his hearing.

There was a whisp of a woman visiting Jerry in hospital a few days before he died. They had little in common except she needed someone to lift groceries and other packages and Jerry, despite a bad back, was there to drive her to the market and lift the packages. No charge, of course.

Jerry gave up his Saturday nights during the winter to help Rabbi David Avigdor with Mizmor L'Dovid Boys' Choir. Jerry wasn't Enrico Caruso, but he did help motivate the boys and keep them in line, if necessary. Jerry wanted to help. It didn't matter who you were. You needed help. That was all that was important.

Jerry Gross was not in the same league financially with Rockefeller or Trump. But when it came to heart and love, Jerry Gross was the richest man in America.

I'll miss you, pal, as will everyone whom your rich life touched.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Go where you want when you want -- and pay for it

The first part of this post's headline comes from an television ad I remember from the 1950s, a time before the National Defense Highway System was built. The roads were known as the Interstate system after the public relations types got hold of the title. The part of the headline after the dashes is today's reality.

Back in the day when highways and railroads were fighting it out for transportation primacy, a sports announcer did ads for the auto industry promising that owning a car would allow you to go where and when you wanted without having to wait for the bus, the train or the few trolley cars that were left at that point. I can't remember who the spokesman was for sure, so I won't guess, but he had quite an effect on the nation.

It's funny: I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember that ad, complete with a happy family heading off to the beach or the mountains, the driving father smiling with satisfaction.

In Europe, I guess, they didn't see that ad, so highways took second place to railroads, to the point where you can get to nearly every city, town, village, hamlet or crossroads by train or light rail or bus. Not here. Oh, you can get to major cities if you have enough patience, but service to smaller communities is rare. In Connecticut, service along the I-95 corridor is plentiful west of New Haven or, west of New London on the Shore Line East if you travel during normal commuting times. Service to the state capital is spotty and forget about getting to the state's university or main airport by rail.

Now gas is north of $4 a gallon and doesn't look like it's coming down any time soon. Thank you, Mr. Bush and pals.

That's the "pay for it" part of the headline. I drive a pretty small car that takes, if it's nearly dry, 14 gallons of gas. That's $59 worth of gas at the $4.25 per gallon that most stations charge today. I get about 30 miles to the gallon on a highway trip. I can't even imagine what it's like to drive a Hummer or a big Ford with a V8 that gulps gas at three times the rate my car does. From reports, dealers are giving puny trade-in offers for those cars because they can't get rid of them.

Talk about the chickens coming home to roost. The folks in these cars, from my observation, drive as if they own the road. For what they pay to tool those behemoths around, I can see their point.

Page 2

Let's go from problem to solution.

A lawyer I know is now tooling around on a moped. He says it gets 75 miles to the gallon. Not too good in a thunderstorm, I would guess.

Enter the Aptera. You may have seen this three-wheeler on a television news report. If not, here's what may be the future in cities. Read about it here: or at As is my habit when I'm pushing something, I am not getting anything for this, Aptera doesn't know I'm writing about it and I have no connection to it. So there!

The thing looks like a gull-winged motorcycle, seats two, gets (are you ready?) 300 miles to the gallon in the hybrid version or about 120 miles on one charge on the electric-alone model. According to the NBC news report yesterday, you can drive from New York to Los Angeles on one tank of gas. The todaysgizmos Web page is a little mixed up I think. The headline is right, according to the NBC story...the story isn't.

Let's has a top speed of 90 mph in the hybrid, goes from a standing start to 60 mph in under 10 second and costs less than $30,000. Before you run out and buy one, however, I would wait. This has a little ring of "if it's too good to be true it probably is"" to it, but I trust that's not the case. Trust but verify.

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Speaking of cars and foibles, you must get a look at Paul Bass' story in the New Haven Independent on parking near the Hall of Records in New Haven. A citizen parks there, gets a ticket. A city car parks there, no ticket Paul came upon this know, let him tell you the story.

Seriously, you must get a look at this. It's journalism at its best.

It reminds me of the work that the Journal-Courier of New Haven and New Haven Register used to do 20 or 25 years ago. Catching the suburban cops dumping homeless people in downtown New Haven, following city recycling trucks to see if they were hauling recyclables to the city dump (as I recall, they weren't), catching former mayors working for developers whose projects they championed, catching cops on disability pensions playing semi-pro football and hauling cases of liquor around for bars they owned and chasing a boxer named Midge Renault (born Salvatore Annunziata) who went missing, We never found Midgie, who was reputed to be sleeping with the fishes.

It was fun. We had the resources then to spend four or five days sneaking around a private university in West Haven too see if they were using the federal grant they received for a solar hot water system was being used for that system. No solar panels anywhere....hmmmm. I was in on a few of those, either working on them or, as a supervisor, encouraging the reporters and photographers. The local newspaper doesn't have the resources now. It's a shame because there are so many good stories lurking out there.

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sic transit gloria mundi

First of all, a humble thank you to all of you who stopped by this newly resurrected blog and a hearty thank you to Paul Bass at the New Haven Independent, who put up a refer to this site. I hope you enjoyed and will come back often. I will do my best to make sure there will be something new to read.

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The Latin phrase that headlines this post means, literally, thus passes the glory of the world. It really can mean a lot of things, including all glory is fleeting or even we gave it our best and it didn't work out.

So goes it with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. As you may remember if you followed this blog before the Connecticut primaries, I was for Clinton as the Democratic candidate. I still am. See the original endorsement here.

It looks as if Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will have at least the minimum number of delegates to clinch the nomination. In the next few days, Clinton will probably speak to her supporters, acknowledging that fact.

According to the blond and the banal, otherwise known as the talking heads at FOX News, MSNBC, CNN and the rest, she may concede. I hope she doesn't.

Although I still think Obama is not ready for prime time, I am more convinced the nation is not ready for John McCain. Despite the protestations of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and McCain's wife and mother, the Arizona senator would continue President Bush's economic policies. I can't, and I'm sure most of you can't abide another four years of laissez-faire economic policy.

The price of a barrel of oil, which should be somewhere south of $75 a barrel, hovers close to $130. The chairman of the Fed says it's supply and demand. I say the supply is being managed by a small cadre of speculators. As far as gas at the pumps is concerned, that's altogether a shanda, which in Yiddish means a combination of sin and shame.

The same thing with the mortgage crisis. Real estate executive Barbara Pearce once told me that giving builders money is like giving a child candy. They can't help but eat it. The same thing existed and still exists in the mortgage market. Offer people the American dream and they'll take it and worry about how to pay for it later.

That's human nature, and government regulators are put on Earth to save us from our all-too-human nature. They failed miserably. They didn't regulate but just watched as the market hurled itself toward that cliff. That's Bush policy and McCain will provide more of the same.

I know I'm howling into the windstorm, but I don't think it's too late for Clinton. Yes, Obama has more than the minimum number of delegates, but they include the super delegates who are not bound to vote for any candidate, even if they have endorsed him or her.

Despite what the blond and the banal tell us, the job of the Democratic National Convention is not to carry forth the will of the people. Its job is to nominate someone who can win the White House in November and who can carry enough candidates on his or her coattails to assure a Democratic Congress.

If that also reflects the will of the party, fine. But the job of that convention is to make sure John McCain's mother and wife do not watch proudly as he takes the oath of office as president on Jan. 20, 2009.

Page 3

A few words about the New Haven Board of Aldermen's budget session Monday night. It was sleight-of-hand at its best.

As the alders fussed and fought about a few dollars here (the Peace Commission, for cryin' out loud), the huge budgets just slid through. Reminds me of the last hour of the last day at the State Legislature. A bill designating Shrek as the state ogre could easily pass in Hartford on that last day. Sounds like the same type of activity went on Monday night. Read all about it here.

I saved the best for last. After blaming the state for not kicking in enough money (he probably has a point), the budget passed by the Alders counts on millions in concessions from the city unions and counts on things like cadets dropping out of the police academy. Things to be hoped for?

Excuse me, but did I see a general ledger being pulled out of that magician's hat?

Until next time...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back again and still whining

Remember me? The Lens has been clouded since March 12, for a number of reasons that I won't go into here. But here we go again, with a mix of back-patting and whining about my world, nation and city that I call looking through Len's Lens.

But it's June 2, a beautiful day in the neighborhood if you live in Connecticut. I'm sitting in a chaise on my deck, looking out at the green, unruly swath that is my backyard, with the carpenter bees dancing in the air. Yes, I know they're eating holes in my shed, but everybody's got to eat. Where did I see that recently. Here's where.

Speaking of the New Haven Independent, I've been doing a bit of reporting and writing for that spunky Internet publication. Although Editor Paul Bass' politics are to the left of mine, he's a smart and ethical guy. I have a lot of fun covering part of the economic development beat I covered for The New Haven Register nearly two decades ago.

Speaking of New Haven, my wife and I went to Lighthouse Point Park, a beautiful seaside place that is free to New Haven residents. As I pulled up to the toll booth, the young man looked at my auto registration to see that I was indeed a resident, then deftly stripped the year-old resident windshield sticker and replaced it with this year's model. It was quick and efficient.

Well, that's enough of sweetness and light. I wouldn't want you all to think I'd gone soft.


A post card arrived last week inviting me to attend an information session for the new Davis Street School. I'm not sure I'd have gone, but alas, I cannot because it's scheduled for June 10, the second day of Shavuot, a major Jewish holiday. For a city that prides itself on being inclusive, scheduling a meeting on a Jewish holiday, especially in a neighborhood that houses a large Orthodox Jewish population, is disappointing. The Westville Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation, is around the corner from the school.

So, I called the school department to ask why this was. I called Craig Russell, the contact listed on the post card, and his voice mail message said he wouldn't be back until June 5. So I called Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, the head of communications. She's one of the good ones -- we worked together years ago at the Register. She was surprised, to put it mildly, about the scheduling gaffe and said she'd spread the word.

Anniversary celebration, New York Times style

That leads me to The New York Times' coverage of a major event -- Israel's 60th Anniversary. It's been 60 years since Holocaust survivors and other Jewish pioneers went back to the land, from which they had been exiled 2,000 years before, and established a country. Israel remains a democratic, inclusive refuge for Jews from the Arab world (tens of thousands were tossed out of Arab countries after their goods were confiscated), the Soviet Union, Ethiopia and other places.

So, how does the New York Times celebrate this occasion? The front-page story was about some Israeli Arabs whining about their lot in this nation. I'm not talking about Palestinians, but Israeli Arabs who chose to stay in Israel after 1947. They were complaining about being Arab and Muslim in a Jewish state.

I know how they feel. I'm an observant Jew in a Christian country. But, compared to the lot of observant Jews in 90 percent of the world's nations, I have it pretty good.

So do the Arabs who were whining in the Times story. They are a minority. I'm not part of even a minority because there are too few Jews to be counted as a minority.

They complain about their treatment by the government. The Israeli government is one of the most nutsy bureaucracies there can be. Check out the stupidity about the Fulbright scholars from Gaza. Some idiot bureaucrat decided they're a security risk and said they couldn't leave. So some idiot bureaucrat in the U.S. canceled their fellowships.

Thank heaven higher and smarter heads prevailed on both sides. The mess was cleared up and the fellowships are uncanceled. All's well that ends well. By the way, the Times played the story about the cancellation on its front page and the resolution inside. Hmmmm

The U.S. bureaucracy can be pretty silly, too, such as the passport mess last year when the Bush administration decided we'd all be safer if Americans had to carry passports to go to Canada and Mexico, two nations where that hadn't been required. The result was a rush on passports to the point where it was taking months to get or renew one (the government hadn't geared up for this, natch). It's better now -- I got my renewal in little more than a week last month. On the other hand, my wife, who wears a hat for religious reasons, had to resubmit her application because the bureaucrat who reviewed her application didn't see the letter she enclosed explaining why she wore a hat in her passport photo. I'm sure it will all come out OK eventually.

I can whine, too, about being an observant Jew in a Christian country. Let's look at a few silly examples. If some store runs a great sale on Friday night and Saturday only, which many have, I'm cut out of it. If I lived in Nevada or South Carolina, I couldn't vote in presidential primaries. All Broadway plays start at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. I have to go to the theater during the week, an imposition if I'm working.

These things are a pain, but measured against the real freedom that I have in this nation and that Israeli Arabs have in Israel, it's a no-brainer. The Arabs are millions of times better off in Israel than in many Arab countries. Their kids get free schooling. They don't have to serve in the Army, as most Jewish kids do. They serve in the parliament and hold government ministry portfolios. The Israeli economy is going great guns and the standard of living is equal to many European Union nations. Yes, there is bias against Arabs in Israel, just as there is bias in the U.S. against blacks, Hispanics and, by the way, Jews.

The New York Times knows this, but decided to celebrate Israel's 60th with a woe-is-me story about Israeli Arabs.

Let's hope the Arabs, and the Times, grow up by the 70th Anniversary of one of the most democratic and vital nations in the world.

Until next time...