Thursday, December 19, 2013

On Phil Robertson, Hate and Hypocrisy

On the whole Duck Dynasty thing... I'm perhaps a bit sensitive about this issue but I live in North Carolina. We have one pastor here who wanted to round up all the "queers" and lesbians, fence them in (a concentration camp) and kill them off. We have another who urged parents to beat the gay out of their sons. Here in the South lots of people cheer those attitudes and really do want the LGBT community dead or gone. To quote one of the leaders of the Amendment One campaign, "We don't want them here." (Amendment One took the law against same sex marriage here and added it to the state constitution. It is currently being challenged in court.)

Phil Robertson has influence due to his celebrity. His words are likely to be used to justify more violence against the LGBT community here in the South and we have too much of that already. Words have power. Sure, he has the right to hold whatever beliefs he has, no matter how despicable I find them. However, he has been given a public platform and has used it in a way that can do real harm. For that reason I really cannot accept any of the defending of him I see online, and I really, really am outraged by those who turn him into some kind of hero.

Also, as an excellent article by Dean Obeidallah in The Daily Beast points out, those who are up in arms that Robertson was suspended by A&E are raging hypocrites. Those same people were ready to pillory Martin Bashir for making nasty statements about one person: Sarah Palin. These people didn't champion Alec Baldwin's homophobic statements or his firing from MSNBC because he isn't a conservative.

Surely, equating gay people with terrorists and with bestiality can and should be considered hateful. Saying that black people were happier in the Jim Crow South before integration is certainly racist. It should never be defended and A&E has every right to hold the man accountable for his statements.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

With All the Things Wrong in This World... My Take.

I wrote this for a friend who expressed real frustration with the state of the world on a Facebook page. I decided it's something I want to share with everyone with only minor editing:

I've had the good fortune to travel the world in my career. I have family and friends scattered all over the world that I keep in touch with. I'm a citizen of two countries and I'm probably eligible for citizenship in three more. Most people are decent everywhere my travels have taken me.

Are governments flawed? Yep, everywhere. For all it's flaws the U.S. is still ahead of most of the world in more areas that you'd imagine. There are judges who should never be judges. There are terrible decisions made by people who just don't get it. Still, I find a lot more that's hopeful about our world today than the one that existed when I was young.

Don't give up on the world. We Jews have an obligation called "tikkun olam", literally fixing the world. We each are supposed to do our little part to leave the world a better place than we found it. I think if we all (not just Jews but everyone) embrace that concept we can all make a small difference in our own little way. Lots of small differences can add up to a large change.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Karolina - Zohar (Special Edition)

For the first time since November, 2005 I wrote a product review for Amazon. Eight years ago it was a book I really enjoyed; this time it's a two CD boxed set:

If you've heard either Funset's "Pumpkin Ragga" or Habanot Nechama you probably already know that Karolina (Keren Avratz) has an amazingly flexible and expressive voice and is a very capable songwriter. When she sings in English her Israeli accent is thick enough to cut with a knife but somehow that doesn't matter.

"Zohar" (Glamor) is her second solo album. The original CD was rather short and included two different versions of Al Te'ahar (Don't Be Late), with an acoustic rendition closing the album. On this album she drops the soul and reggae influences which were so evident on her first album and with Funset and adds a little Mizrahi flavor, even though she is not from that tradition. Zohar, with the exception of her Chanson For Lebanon, has a much more contemporary feel. The words are entirely in Hebrew with the exception of "Save Me From Myself", and surprisingly that may be my favorite from this album.

The new version adds an EP of covers, three well known Israeli songs from the '60s and '70s plus a collaboration with Boom Pam on a version of Led Zeppelin's Black Dog, with a surprising amount of Middle Eastern flavor added to the instrumentation. Karolina practically channels Cilla Dagan, who sang the original version of Yom Bo Yakom, and does a beautiful rendition of Zohar Argov's Tzel Etz Tamar (Shadow of the Palm Tree).

This is an album I just keep going back to again and again. Definitely pick up the Special Edition if you're going to get a copy of Zohar. It's more than worth a little bit extra to hear Karolina rework the old songs.

Here are a couple of songs from the album:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Professional Courtesy a Thing of the Past?

Last week I had blocked time for a phone call and for a meeting down in Houston. I was supposed to get a confirmation call for the Houston meeting on Monday. Neither of the calls ever came. I followed up, of course, and both phone messages and e-mail went unanswered.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, if you scheduled time with a professional in any field and you needed to cancel you called to let them know. You didn't just pull a no show unless something was seriously wrong. There is no shame in saying things aren't going to work out for whatever reason. You don't even need to give a reason. In this day and age, with smartphones everywhere, giving the courtesy of a note cancelling a meeting takes a few minute and can be done by phone, text or e-mail.

I find it amazing, not to mention incredibly unprofessional, than one person in the business world would simply stand up another like this. Time is valuable. Is professional courtesy dead? Is it a thing of the past. Sadly, it seems to be.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Ate Kale and It Didn't Kill Me

I have a great friend. She's becoming more health conscious and is doing a great job of losing weight. The one problem she has is what she likes to eat. Her idea of eating green is mint chocolate chip ice cream. She will tell you that she eats vegetables because she eats potatoes. Seriously, if it's a green vegetable she hates it. If it's fish she says it will make her throw up. She's a meat and potatoes type... and pizza. Pizza is a major food group for her. None of this sounds like a healthy diet, does it?

Me, well... I like most vegetables and I eat lots of them. The ones I really don't like I can count on the fingers of my right hand and still have fingers left over. I hate asparagus. I really don't like endive. Kale (and most greens) taste bitter to me. Why have kale when you can have spinach? I like spinach.

Imagine my surprise when my meat and potatoes friend calls me asking for kale recipes. Kale? She's going to eat kale? She read somewhere that it's a super food and really good for her and she wants a way to prepare kale that will taste good to her. Oof! Almost any other vegetable and I would have clever ideas. Spinach recipes, I have endless spinach recipes. Kale? I've got nothing.

I've never been one to shy away from a good challenge and I need to lose weight too. If kale is this super food then maybe I need to learn how to make tasty kale, right? Sure. My first attempt, suggested by Bobby Flay online, didn't turn out so well. Maybe I didn't cook it enough, or maybe just garlic isn't enough to mask the bitterness, but let's just say I didn't eat it. I also found raw kale salad suggestions. I'd rather eat newspaper. It isn't as bitter and the texture is better.

Tonight it turned out the third time was the charm. I sauteed the kale in very good Halutza extra virgin olive oil from Israel. I used more garlic. I added chopped green onion. I also used Heritage Fair Greens Seasoning. I cooked it longer and got it a bit softer. It really wasn't bad at all the way I made it. My main dish was vegetarian Tofurkey Italian style sausage and peppers (three kinds) with mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, yellow squash and green onion in a tomato based pasta sauce over Jewish style egg noodles. It ended up being a nice dinner.

OK, I ate kale and it didn't kill me. I have a tiny bit left over in a Tupperware in the fridge. I wonder if it would be good in an omelet in the morning. Hmmm... [Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Boston Blame Game: Left Wing Editon

[NOTE: This will eventually be a rare cross-posted to my blog about Israel and Zionism since it touches at least tangentially upon the issues there.]

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombings lots on lots of people on the Internet are playing a despicable blame game, blaming everyone and anyone they don't like for the terrorist attack; anyone except Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, that is. The conspiracy theorist version of the blame game includes claiming this was actually a U.S. government plot or an Israeli/Mossad "false flag operation". The right wing version often includes blaming Islam as a whole and every Muslim on the planet. For right now I'm going to pick on a left wing version: blaming the victims (the United States) and our friends in the world.

It's pretty easy for hard core left wingers to blame American foreign policy here: the use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq and American support of Israel are used as prime examples. The United States is blamed, often solely blamed, for the loss of innocent lives throughout the Muslim world. Here is a dose of reality: radical Islamists have declared war on the West. When you're attacked you do have to respond. Anything else is perceived as weakness and encourages more violence. Are innocent lives are lost? That is the sad and tragic reality in any war. Yes, if we have a choice war needs to be a last resort. Sometimes, sadly, it is the only resort left.

The problem with radical Islam, something which is growing and spreading like a cancer in the Muslim world, is that people are taught to hate in their schools, in their mosques and in the media. Add a very large poor population, poorly educated or hardly educated at all, a relatively low literacy rate, and little or no access to other viewpoints. If the infidel or the American or the Jew or the Israeli or the European is made a scapegoat for all that is wrong in their lives the hatred is there. It doesn't require a drone strike or ill advised foreign policy to nurture that hatred.

Some ultraliberals, when referring to the Muslim world, talk about how we ignore or harm "the government(s) that represents those people". In the Islamic world there are only such representative governments in Turkey, Indonesia, and Iraqi Kurdistan, which is independent from the rest of Iraq in many respects. Everywhere else you have dictatorships and theocracies that vary only in the extent to which they brutalize their own people. The worst poverty I have ever seen was in a Muslim country I visited several times on business. If I took the time to describe what I saw your heart would break. The sad truth is those kind of scenes are repeated in many, many countries throughout the Islamic world.

The poverty I refer to wasn't caused by drones, by American meddling or by any other excuse used to explain the problem. Those issues are factors but, honestly, they are relatively minor factors. They serve as propaganda points for those stoking the hate. No American government policy included meddling in Chechnya, where the Tsarnaev's come from. Honestly, that excuse is nothing more than an excuse.

The conflict between a modern, tolerant view of Islam and the more radical and fundamentalist view has been going on for more than a thousand years. To blame recent policies, no matter how short sighted or flawed, is to ignore history. The principle blame here belongs to the terrorists, to the ideology they followed, and to those who promote that ideology and justify terrorism. A small dose of blame goes to the left-wingers who enable terrorism by blaming the victims rather than the real sources of the problem.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Writing Again

OK, this was long past due. In my frustration with the crap about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict I read here on Facebook I've started writing my blog on the subject again. I've also applied for a Times of Israel blog. We'll see what happens there.

Anyway, My latest article started out as a comment on Facebook. I've cleaned it up, added supporting facts and links. Lots more to follow...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Goodbye Again, Cable. You Won't Be Missed.

Early this morning my internet connectivity disappeared. I have a cable modem so I checked to see if I had television service. Nope, it was out as well. So... I called the cable company, Suddenlink. They were very expensive to start with when I moved here in September and they increased the price to incredibly expensive in January. It turns out they wanted to charge me another $40 just to find out what's wrong unless I paid them even more per month. I had an even better idea. I discontinued the service. I reactivated my mobile broadband and did what I had to do. Yes, I temporarily am using a slower internet connection but even if I kept the mobile broadband full time it's way, way less expensive. Oh, and yes, I have unlimited service.

I did end up watching the news on TV in HD this evening. My little indoor antenna does pull in a few stations even here. Somehow I don't think cable will be back or that it will be missed.

I will be looking into possibly getting DSL service since it's both faster than my mobile broadband and fairly inexpensive here. Then I might just look into a Netflix subscription which, combined with DSL, would still cost a fraction of what digital cable plus internet cost me. Sorry, Suddenlink, I'm not made of money and your combination of high prices and poor service has cost you a customer.