Friday, January 16, 2009

Conspiracy theorists: You were right about oil prices

Before we get to the headlined matter, I want to lend my voice to those who are, or should be, shouting congratulations to the pilot who set down that crippled jet in the Hudson River yesterday (Jan. 15, 2009).

Despite the headline in the New Haven Register (for shame), it wasn't a crash or anything like it. It was a well-controlled ditching that kept the 155 souls on board that plane alive and, by the way, who knows how many on the ground from death or injury. Jets glide like rocks, and the pilot,  Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, deserves our praise and adulation for putting that plane, loaded with fuel, passengers, luggage and who knows what else, down in the river ever so gently.

It's said a good landing is one you can walk away from. The splash-landing was expertly executed and everybody got out safely. I hope the new president pins a great big medal on this guy. He deserves it. These people who fly us around deserve the big bucks we seem driven to give to people who can bounce a ball while running or can emote while spouting lines written by somebody else.

Page 2 -- Back to the conspiracy

Did you see" 60 Minutes" last Sunday? If you did, then you know that all of us who said the run-up in oil prices had little if anything to do with market forces were quite correct. The experts interviewed for that broadcast said that, if anything, prices of oil would have gone down last year if market forces alone were controlling the market.

The run-up was 99 1/2 percent due to speculation. One guy said it was like a fly on an elephant. Speculators were buying the oil, flipping it for huge profits and so on. It was all paper gains. Some companies, like Morgan Stanley, actually took possession of the oil and, according to CBS, are storing some of it in New Haven.

It's not like in the 1970s, when ships filled with oil were anchored in Long Island Sound to keep supply away from the market. This is all paper. You know, a Ponzi scheme like Bernie Madoff's, except the folks who got hurt were the ones who were holding to oil futures when the air went out of the market. Some people bought oil for $60 a barrel and sold it for $140. And some johnny-come-latelies bought it for $140 and unloaded for $50. If you can get hold of the "60 Minutes" segment, do so. It'll do your little conspiratorial heart good.

Page 3

I know this will do absolutely no good, but I have to get this off my chest.

I am upset about people who cross streets when and where they feel like it, and traffic flow and their own safety, it seems, be damned.

I have a little something to say to bicyclists as well. 

This seems to happen on Whalley Avenue east of the Fountain Street split.

People wander across the street in the middle of the block. I say wander because they saunter across the street, daring motorists not to slam on their brakes to avoid them.

If you are one of these people, or know one, please keep this in mind: It is the law in Connecticut that drivers have to stop at crosswalks to let pedestrians walk. In other words, genius, if you walked the few yards down to the corner, the cars would have to stop for you. It's the law. The pedestrian doesn't have the right of way otherwise. 

Just walk down to the corner to cross and everyone will get home safely.

I've noticed that some of our bicyclists riding during snowstorms. The letter of the law may be with you, but it's really a dumb thing to do. Riding on sand is tough enough, but snow and ice has to be exponentially harder. It's tough on drivers, too. It's just stupid. 
Yeah, yeah, I know New Haven wants to be a town where drivers, walkers and bikers can coexist, and most of the time I'm all for that. I used to ride from Westville to Sargent Drive in the dark when I worked at the Journal-Courier and Register.

Just because you can do a thing doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. 

Page 4

I have a question. There were news reports out of Gaza yesterday about how an Israeli star shell exploded over a U.N. warehouse full of food and medical supplies and set it on fire.

My question is: If the people in Gaza are starving for food and medical supplies, why is there a warehouse full of these things? Why aren't the U.N. people handing them out, or the Hamas people taking them and handing them out? Why are they still in the warehouse? Why is the U.N. complaining about not having supplies to hand out if there is a full warehouse?

Page 5

It looks like there will be some snow Saturday night and Sunday so, if you are out and about, please be careful.

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

Until next time...

Friday, January 9, 2009

A few thoughts before the snow

Happy Friday. It's been a busy week around here, both with work and volunteer stuff. 

It's also been a worried week, what with the war in Gaza going on with no end in sight. In fact, at this point, it's probably better to let the Israelis clean up the mess the Bush democracy-at-any-price strategy made with getting the Hamas elected in the first place.

A letter writer to the New York Times had an interesting point. "The citizens of Gaza knowingly elected a gang of extremist thugs that opts for war at every turn and puts its own civilians on the front lines. With freedom comes responsibility. When the people elect war, they get war. The Israelis have been very clear that they would continue to maintain a blockade until Hamas recognizes the Jewish state's right to exist. Again, if Gaza elects rejectionism and belligerency, complaints against the logical consequences ring hollow," writes a person from New Mexico.

"If all children of refugees decide to take up arms because they do not choose to be where they have found themselves, most of the world would be at war," the writer said.

Another writer said:"Perhaps the fact that Israel looks to protect its citizens with sirens and bomb shelters while Hamas, in turn, shelters itself by hiding among innocent civilians has more to do with the resulting death tolls than the actual force used," writes another.

Page 2

It's late and I need to prepare for the Sabbath, but if I don't complain about something, my readers might think it's not really my blog.

Just a question: Why do cashiers at supermarkets insist on wrapping your change, coupons and receipts into around each other, hand this mess back to you while you are trying to put your grocery bags into your cart, and then look at you as if you are slowing down the line? 

I really do want an answer.

Page 3

I'll never forget the headline in the Journal-Courier of New Haven, "Brutal Weather Headed OurWay" I'll not identify the author because he's still laboring for a newspaper in the state (not New Haven). Of course, people who saw that headline were picking up their papers on a sunny, warm winter's day. 

So I won't carp too much about the weather headed toward New Haven. But those who care should know that the Our Place Cafe and the rehearsal of the Mizmor L'Dovid Boys Choir, both scheduled for Saturday night, are canceled. We're supposed to get up to 10 inches of snow, starting Saturday afternoon and ending Sunday morning.

The weather people haven't been too accurate was supposed to be warm Wednesday. And some of these people should be wearing red noses and large shoes. When you act like a clown, you should dress like one.

Anyway, stay safe, have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos. The snow should hold off until after services on Saturday, but you may want to daven Mincha early in the afternoon.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Some newspapers are saved; others are not

It looks as if a buyer has been found for the Bristol Press and New Britain Herald. That's a cause for muted celebration, muted not because of the success for the five central Connecticut papers included in the deal, but for those in the New Haven area not included.

The buyer, Michael Schroeder, said he will keep both papers running at their current schedules. The deal includes the weekly Wethersfield Post, Rocky Hill Post and Newington Town Crier.

What it doesn't include is the group of local weeklies in the New Haven area that were gobbled up by Journal-Register, the publisher of the Herald, Press and New Haven Register. The Journal-Register then just regurgitated them and tossed them into the trash when they proved too expensive for the company's reduced means. 

The self-serving release put out by Journal-Register about the sale didn't point that out. It said the company had tried really hard to sell the central Connecticut papers. That's like saying that a homeowner facing foreclosure tries really hard to sell the home rather than have to give it up for no gain. I hope the Journal-Register isn't too disappointed about not getting a gold star for its efforts.

I started out at the Wethersfield Post more about 40 years ago, back when it was owned by Chris Larsen, a son of Roy E. Larsen, one of the founders of Time, Inc. Daddy bought Chris the papers that would later be called Imprint, Inc., including the Post, Town Crier, West Hartford News and a couple of other papers and a printing operation in Hamden. Unlike Journal-Register, Larsen didn't bite off more than he could chew, at least not then, and took at vicarious delight in the lives and loves of the veritable children he hired to run his papers.

It was a good time and I learned a lot, not from Larsen, but from colleagues and competitors. 

It's a shame when any newspapers go down. It's a boon to the cities of New Britain and Bristol and to the towns of Newington, Wethersfield and Rocky Hill. I hope they can get the backing of their advertisers and, especially, their readers.

The author of a comment on the Bristol Web version of the sale story said he'd now have to start buying the paper rather than get his news free from the Internet version. A lot of his friends and neighbors will have to, and should, do the same. These papers may not be great, but they are a great deal better than nothing.

Page 2

Just how dumb are the Bushies, who now have less than two weeks left in their jobs?

We reported before that they turned down the request of the new president to move into Blair House, across from the White House, so his kids can start school on time. He had to move into a hotel.

Now it come out for whom he was turned down. The former prime minister of Australia. It seems our soon-to-be-former president will be giving the presidential Medal of Freedom to the former Aussie leader for sticking with us on Iraq. So, the Aussie reserved Blair House for a day. Instead of sending this former official to the Hay-Adams Hotel for a day, the Bushies told the Barack Obama family there was no room at the manse. 

So, Obama moved into the Hay-Adams. Laura Bush said Blair House also had some other events on the calendar. Right. So, on Jan. 21, the Obamas will be moved into the White House, the Bush family will head out of town and these former Bushies who turned down the Obamas will be seeking new employment. If they have any sense at all, they'll be seeking such employment in other than Washington or the federal government. 

Page 3

It's amazing how much I agree with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman these days. Read his column in today's Times. 

Before New Year's, I wrote a posting about the war in Gaza. Some of you wrote back, mostly expressing horror at the growing casualties and saying that peace was better than war. I agree, but not when you are being shot at. 

Look, I know I'm not going to get many of you to agree that Israel is right in going after Hamas tooth and nail. One of you suggested that I talk to Gazans. I have. I have been to Israel a number of times and have spoken with Palestinians and with Jews there. 

Most of them just want to make a living for their families, just as we do. The problem is this Hamas has been placed in charge of a large number of them. The Bush administration must answer for that. It mindlessly pushed for democratic elections when the outcome was clear to anyone who knew anything about the Middle East. So now, Hamas is in charge and the other Palestinian group, Fatah, is weak. 

How about a few tips in following the war. For example, when you see a gun-camera shot of a bomb hitting a building, watch for secondary explosions. That means there is ordinance in the building, which is probably why Israel was bombing it in the first place.

If the United Nations or the Red Cross complains about Israelis bombing their facilities, find out if Hamas people were shooting from there or if they had hidden ordinance there and why the U.N. or other group didn't complain to them. A clue: If they did complain, they wouldn't be around to ask. Also, ask about the lack of tooth-gnashing about suicide bombings in Iraq that killed hundreds just in the past few days.

Or better yet, ask your friends who have served in Vietnam or Bosnia or Iraq or Afghanistan how less dead you are if you're shot to blown up by a 14-year-old kid or an old woman with a gun or bomb.

William Tecumseh Sherman said it best: War is all hell. If you keep throwing rockets at Israel, it's going to come down on you like the wrath of God. And that's what's happening. In the last 60 years, civilians have suffered and died in Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Spain, Great Britain and the United States of America because of war or act of war. It's an incomplete list by half. 

In 2005, Israel left Gaza, hoping to prevent more casualties. The Gazan government, Hamas, reacted by tearing down much of the infrastructure left behind and throwing rockets and mortar shells at Israel. 

It's dangerous for the Gazans to get rid of Hamas. Some will be tortured and killed, It was dangerous for the Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavians, Baltic nations to get rid of the Soviets. Many died. But in the end, they won their freedom. The Gazans must do the same to the Hamas and their Iranian handlers.

Until next time...