Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remembering Tony Curtis 1925-2010


This morning Matt Lauer spoke of the late Tony Curtis on The Today Show, and I'll paraphrase to make a point to some of the younger readers....in the 1950's and 1960's Tony Curtis was Brad Pitt and George Clooney rolled into one.

Yes, he was that big of a movie star and matinee idol.

Curtis was such a mega star in that era a young brown haired singer from Memphis named Elvis Presley dyed his hair black so he could look more like Tony Curtis.

Curtis died last night at age 85 at his home near Las Vegas- his death was announced by his sixth wife Jill Curtis, who said that Tony died peacefully overnight. Daughter Jamie Lee Curtis said in a statement...

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world."


Tony Curtis was born in the Bronx as Bernard Schwartz, the son of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants, and spoke only Hungarian until he was about five years old. About 10 or perhaps 15 years ago, Curtis was the Grand Marshall of New Brunswick's (NJ) annual Hungarian Festival, years past his prime in Hollywood. By then, Curtis spent most of his time playing the odd part on TV ("Hope and Faith", "Roseanne", "Suddenly Susan"), or in a film, but spent the majority of his time painting. He starred or had recurring roles in the 1970's and 1980's TV series "The Persuaders" (with Roger Moore), "McCoy", and "Vega$".

Tony Curtis was one of the first movie stars I was aware of when I was a little kid. He made "The Vikings" and "Spartacus" with Kirk Douglas, "The Defiant Ones" with the young Sidney Poitier, "The Great Race" with Natalie Wood and Jack Lemmon, and played Albert De Salvo the alleged "Boston Strangler".

There was "The Sweet Smell of Success" and "Trapeze" with Burt Lancaster, "The Great Impostor", "The Outsider" (where the blue eyed Curtis played Pima Indian and flag raiser on Iwo Jima Ira Hayes) and "Houdini".

A frequent costar was Janet Leigh, best known as the ill-fated Marian Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and she was also the first of six Mrs. Tony Curtis'. Janet Leigh was probably the first movie star I had a crush on as a kid, as much as an eight year old can be attracted to a real live adult woman. Janet and Tony were in "The Vikings", "Who was The Lady", "The Perfect Furlough", "Houdini" together....and that's just off the top of my head. They were Hollywood's "Golden Couple" in the late 1950's. When Curtis left Janet (and young Jamie Lee and Kelly) for the 17 year old German actress Christine Kaufman in 1962 (while on the set of "Taras Bulba"), I was saddened....for about ten seconds. Janet Leigh was a free woman; I kept praying for puberty, at last.

I haven't yet mentioned the crown jewel of Tony Curtis' resume, "Some Like It Hot", the prohibition era comedy in which Curtis and Jack Lemmon go on the lam to avoid getting whacked by mobsters. They join an all woman jazz band- in drag- fronted by "Sugar Kane" Kowalczyk played by Marilyn Monroe. Curtis did an amazing, dead on impression of Cary Grant (his co star in "Operation Petticoat") wooing the voluptuous Sugar in the classic Billy Wilder directed film, listed as one of the greatest comedies of alltime.

Tony Curtis, like all of us, was a flawed individual; witness six marriages, substance abuse and stints in rehab. But there was an everyman quality as well- a guy that handsome had no problem taking a pie in the face for a cheap laugh....though in "The Great Race" he made out a lot better than costars Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, and Peter Falk.



And so....another voice and image from my childhood goes on "to that next level". Tony, say hi to Jack, Marilyn, and Janet....and thanks for the thrills and the laughs.

Kamran Pasha: Digging Up Muslim Graves



Hi gang. I'm back from my week long hiatus. But before posting some new and original material, I want to share this piece from The Huffington Post by author and film maker Kamran Pasha. He tells the tale of the death of his father and what this nation meant to him, touches on the Muslim rites at burial, and he talks about Sufi Islam and it's beauty and beliefs.

And Mr. Pasha juxtaposes these enlightening topics with a town in New York state, that is fueled by xenophobia and hatred, and seeks to dig up the graves of Muslim dead and move them, all as a political stunt.

A wonderful, moving, but sad and shocking comment on the times in which we live.

Click below, and by all means, read.

Kamran Pasha: Digging Up Muslim Graves

Monday, September 27, 2010

Taking A Break For A Few Days

The past couple of days I've noticed a drop in my energy level and focus, and when that happens my writing really starts to suffer....in other words, I go into a form of brain lock.

When this occurs....like once every couple of months....it's best to just get away from the keyboard and put my rule to come up with something new on these pages everyday on the shelf until I have a eureka moment. Or at the very least, I  have something meaningful to say.

So....I'll be back on October 1st with all kinds of new stuff. Please don't cry, I'll be back.

I'll be around to check comments.....so spammers, beware!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mr. Colbert Goes To Congress



You've heard all about it, and here it is, complete from C-Span 3. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, in character as "Stephen Colbert", testifies before a US House of Representatives Committee on immigrant farm workers.

Below, from the text at C-SPAN.......

Witnesses spoke about the American agricultural sector's reliance on foreign, and often undocumented, workers to pick fruit and vegetables on America's farms. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert appeared in character to testify. Mr. Colbert was part of a United Farm Workers campaign calling on unemployed Americans to take jobs in the agriculture sector. As part of the program he spent a day laboring at a vegetable farm in New York in August 2010.


To be honest, I've only seen a few excerpts of Stephens's testimony, and listened to the rage on the right, the laughter by some on the left, and the utter confusion by most members of the media.

I'm going to watch as much of this as I can, and post a comment or two later

Thursday, September 23, 2010

If The Republicans Take The House- JOE BARTON WILL CHAIR COMMITTEE TO REPEAL HEALTHCARE REFORM


Hey kids!

Do you remember long, long ago, when there was this hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, caused when an oil platform owned by BP....(wasn't it called the "Deepwater Horizon?).....burned down and which resulted in millions of barrels of crude oil spilling into the Gulf from April 22 to July 15, 2010? And do you remember the hundreds of millions of dollars lost by the tourist industry, and by the shrimpers, the fishermen, and hotels and restaurants the five state Gulf region? And how about the severe damage done to the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf, the extent of which is still not known nor will it be for years to come.

There was greed, thee was negligence, there was inaction, there was recklessness....there was BP, primarily responsible for the greatest ecological disaster in American history.

And then there was the sight of Rep. Joe Barton (TX- 6th District, R) apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward in a Congressional hearing in June, saying that the President of the United States was trying to shakedown BP.




Shortly after this apology to Tony Hayward, Joe Barton was forced to to apologize for his apology by the Republican leadership. You'd think after this completely mindless display by Barton that he'd become a pariah, and forced to take a "timeout", or get to the end of the line....no way.

Joe Barton remains the ranking minority member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and all indications are that if the Republicans gain control of the House it's Barton who would become chairman of the committee.

That's right, the man who defended BP after the Gulf Oil spill will be chairing a committee that is responsible for overseeing oil regulations and sale, and other commerce in the United States.

And in his role as chairman of this committee, one of the things at the top of his (and the Republican's) agenda would be to repeal the Health Care Bill of 2010., the law that is derisively called "Obamacare" by the Right Wing and their minions. The repeal of the Health Care Bill is a cornerstone of the GOP's new gimmick, it's Pledge To America....and Joe Barton, will be leading the fight to undue reforms that have been needed in this country since the end of the Second World War.



We've already seen that Barton would (and does) carry water for Big Oil, and his uncompromising opposition to healthcare reform further paints a picture of man who claims to be of the people, but really isn't.

More of Joe Barton's Greatest Hits......

On the repeal of energy efficiency standards (passed during the Bush Administration).

Barton among conservative congressmen who threatened to withhold funding to PBS when international versions SESAME STREET introduced an HIV positive character. They didn't want any such characters on the American version.

Barton on his opposition to the "speculative" Climate Change Bill.


You want a rerun of the Bush years?

Stay home on election day, and you could get it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

See What Happens When You STAY HOME ON ELECTION DAY!!!!!

Opinion
Yeah, yeah, yeah....."Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it". And it appears that the same 59,054,087 Bush voters from 2004 are still alive, still voting.....and have the attention span of a gnat.

I've had the picture above stored on my hardrive....from London's DAILY MIRROR.....and I take a peak at it everytime I start having problems with President Obama and any of his "mis-steps". I have to take a look at the guy who set the stage for the mess the country found ourselves in, and who left it for his successor to lead us out of the abyss.

It appears that many in this nation want to take us back to The Daze of Dubya, and keep swinging it to the right. And it also looks like there are enough disenchanted independents and Democrats who will stay home and not vote in November's midterm elections, thus giving Republicans (read "Tea Baggers") the House and possibly the Senate.

And once again America would be in the hands of Republicans, guys who the man on the street would be happy having a beer with, just like Dubya.

And once again, the little guy will get stuck with the tab.It didn't work out so well the first time, did it?

Honestly, if asked if Barack Obama has been a complete success in his first two years, I'd have to say no he has not. But in saying that I'd say he was a vast improvement over his predecessor. His biggest fault, I'm sorry to say, was his wasted effort trying to establish some sort of bipartisanship with a Republican Party that tried to overtly and covertly render his presidency dead in it's infancy. He did a poor job explaining his healthcare bill to the public, and because of that the bill, which is needed to insure millions of those who have no health insurance or can't be insured because of an existing condition, is being sold as "Obamacare" and used as a weapon against Democrats in the midterms.

And sadly....but predictably....many Democrats are running from this President in droves. Probably something of not being able to pick the people you're in a fox hole with.

The so called "99'ers" are threatening to just stay home this November to punish the Democrats. That would probably insure a Republican takeover of Congress, and undoubtedly more gridlock, probably worse than ever before, at a time when we need it the least.

You can say- if you wish- the 59,054,087 people who voted for Dubya in 2004 did something that was either partisan, or else very dumb.

But there is dumb....and to paraphrase from a Grade B movie...."dumberer".

And in my eyes, the definition of "dumberer" is any reasonable person who, seeing how the far right loons and plutocrats have seized control of the once great Republican Party,  does nothing to try and stop a catastrophic return to the policies that got us where we are.

My fellow progressives...real patriots get off their asses.

And they vote.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BOARDWALK EMPIRE- It Coulda (or Shoulda) Been Shot in Asbury Park



It didn't take long for me to become hooked on HBO's Prohibition era gangster epic Boardwalk Empire. The first episode was directed by Oscar winner Martin Scorsese, who is an executive producer along with former SOPRANOS writer Terence Winter, and chronicles Atlantic City under Enoch "Nucky" Johnson (called "Thompson" in this fictionalized version), the Republican boss and kingmaker in 1920's New Jersey, who's other job was providing visitors to Atlantic City booze, gambling, and brothels while all were illegal in "America's Playground". The series is not being produced in New Jersey, but in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint....but it appears that New Jersey had a crack at being home to another series that actually took place in New Jersey (like THE SOPRANOS)....but logistics, and politics, worked against that outcome

While watching a promo several weeks ago, Scorsese talked about finding a location in which to film the Atlantic City of 1920. Today's Atlantic City was out because it has changed so much since that era, with modern architecture and casino hotels dominating the landscape. Then he mentioned the possibility of filming in Asbury Park, the Monmouth County town that has been at various stages of the skids for the past 40 years, and of course has been a Mecca of Springsteenology. In fact, I did a photo piece on the town just last month. Scorsese said that for one reason or another, Asbury Park didn't work out, and the production company settled on Brooklyn to create Atlantic City, circa 1920.

It seemed to me that Asbury Park would be able to offer much to the series; there already was a boardwalk....and an ocean....as well as many older homes and structures that could have doubled for building of that era. At first I let it go, but today I decided to find out why Asbury Park and Boardwalk Empire ended up being a bad fit.

The following comes from Eleanor O'Sullivan of dailyrecord.com.

Terence Winter-"Our next stop (after visiting Atlantic City) — and we were very excited about this possibility — was the boardwalk at Asbury Park. It was great. It was identical in size and span of what we were looking for. But at the end of the day, it would have been economically prohibitive. Cost-wise, it would have meant building a set on the ocean that would have required security and maintenance and for our crew to travel all the way from New York every day, about 75 minutes each way on a good day."

OK...but there was more to the story. Ms. O'Sullivan continues.....

"Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission in Newark, said the tax credit program for film production in New Jersey had been suspended under the new administration of Gov. Chris Christie. The suspension, to run during fiscal year 2011, began July 1, 2010, and ends June 30, 2011.

Gorelick said the commission is supplying "reams of material" to add to an overall report the state is preparing with the New Jersey Institute of Technology on the feasibility of the tax credit program. Under the former program, 'an amount equal to 20 percent of qualified production expenses (is) available to production companies meeting certain criteria.'"

Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall at nj.com adds this explanation of why Brooklyn over Asbury Park.

"In the end, production wound up in New York because the state provided a 15 percent larger tax break, and because the depressed real estate market gave them a good lease price on an undeveloped Greenpoint lot."

And across the Hudson, Michael Starr wrote the following at nypost.com.

Terence Winter- "Then we looked in Asbury Park, which has a great defunct boardwalk, and the city [of Asbury Park] was interested in having us there, but New Jersey doesn't really offer a tax credit and . . . it just became more convenient and feasible to build a boardwalk set on the water in Greenpoint.

And Brooklyn offers all the 'period' neighborhoods."

So to bottomline it....BOARDWALK EMPIRE was shot in Brooklyn because the tax credit for film production in New Jersey was suspended by the new administration of Governor Chris Christie. And BOARDWALK EMPIRE is not alone in using another state as a stand-in for New Jersey.

Because of the suspension of the tax credit, Law and order; Special Victims Unit has moved to New York after filming in New Jersey for 11 years. Another film starring Jennifer Garner is being shot with Pittsburgh subbing for New Jersey, and another film that is supposed to take place in Wildwood is actually being shot in Michigan.

Eleanor O'Sullivan on Terence Winter ( from dailyrecord.com.........

"Winter added that the lack of a tax incentive for filming in the state of New Jersey 'was a huge issue. You're talking about a 30-percent range. In New York, you can buy a million dollars' worth of series for $700,000. That can make the difference between doing and not doing your show.'"

So....the new champion of the Republican Party, Chris Christie, seems to have done everything in his power to drive the once thriving film and television industry out of New Jersey, along with the jobs they provide, and all the revenue it would bring to the state's hospitality and other service industries.

Not to mention giving a shot in the arm to Asbury Park.

And this governor call's himself a Springsteen fan?

Update! September 22, 2010

This morning I watched the video Making Boardwalk Empire on HBO on Demand;  and near the end of the vid we find Martin Scorsese talking about his desire to film the series in Asbury Park, but as he says (at about 10:34) in the short film.....

"We wanted to do it in Asbury Park....but they wouldn't allow it. Apparently New Jersey politics is really complicated."

I guess Marty lets his accountants figure out the tax angles for him. Below, Making Boardwalk Empire.



And this just in....after drawing over 7 million viewers to it's debut on Sunday, HBO has already given a green light for a second season of BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quick Hits- Stream of Consciousness Edition



It's been a couple of days since my last post, and it's really time for me to say something to my legion(?) of followers....however, I really don't think I want to talk politics (at least not exclusively) or deal with anything of earth shaking substance, unless it concerns the National Football League. So I'll do what I always do in situations like this...I'll revert to QUICK HITS, a "Stream of Consciousness Edition"

(1) As I type this a monument is being unveiled in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium to the late George Steinbrenner. George's family is there, as are many dignitaries, and Joe Torre and Don Mattingly have flown in from Los Angeles. There was only one George...and for every crazy and irrational thing he did there were a dozen wonderful things he did anonymously for others. God bless...and part of him will always live on in Yankee lore.

(2). Lindsay Lohan has a warrant out for her arrest (for drug use while on probation) and Paris Hilton was sentenced today for possession of cocaine. Why am I not shocked by these two events?

(3). Back to the the Yankees and the Steinbrenner Monument....and it is spectacular, a large plaque rather than a free standing monument, a brass bas-relief. with George on the left, and a list of his accomplishments on the right. An awe inspiring ceremony. Kind of adrenaline flowing for the Yankee team, with the Tampa Bay Rays in for possession of first pace in the AL East. The ceremony closes with a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "My Way"....a song that sums up George better than any obituary could.

(4). The recession is OVER...so say the experts. I'll talk more about this in a day or so. You'd think Obama would get more credit for keeping the bus from falling completely off the proverbial cliff....but people want magical solutions to problems large and small. Maybe they should have Criss Angel as president.

(5). Head Coach of Michigan State Mark D'Antonio calls the college football play of the season (so far) with the fake field goal that was a touchdown pass in OT with the Spartans beating Notre Dame 34-31 on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, D'Antonio has a mild heart attack...he was treated, and will be OK. But are you still going to try to tell me that God isn't a Notre Dame fan?

(6). How about those Jets beating the Patriots? What a difference a week makes.

(7). How about those Giants stinking the place up against the Colts? What a difference a week makes.

(8). The one good thing about the Giants being blown out is that I had a chance to watch Boardwalk Empire with a clear conscience to change the channel. I'm sure the folks at HBO were happy for the blowout as well. "BE" was a must see....and watching it you had to ask....what were people in this country thinking by voting in prohibition? All that was accomplished was the setting in motion of the structure of organized crime in America for the next 60 years- Chicago was in the grips of rival gangs in the North and South sides (as was alluded to in the show), and New York had more than a few pockets of government corruption as well. Nucky Thompson was a fictionalized version of Atlantic City boss Nucky Johnson, but Arnold Rothstein, Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Big Jim Colosimo, Johnny Torrio, and of course, Al Capone were real life gangsters of the era. And Torrio did order the hit on his own boss, Colosimo.....no one was ever prosecuted for Colosimo's murder.

(9).Madmen- Don and Faye are now an item....Joan and Roger had a relapse into a night of full throttle lust....Peggy and super lefty Abe hit it off, but it fizzles out quickly. Joyce seems to be getting close to Peggy. And I'm just wondering if Peggy, who is slowly turning into a Child of The Sixties, will "get adventurous" with gal pal Joyce? Also....poor Miss Blankenship! Roger hit it on the nose- her obituary should read "She Died At Her Post Taking Other People's Phone Calls". Her death on the job gave the episode a dark comic backdrop....with her body being taken out while the clients at the meeting had no idea what was going on.

(10). Is there any truth that Christine O'Donnell's campaign is dropping "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey as a musical theme for Season of the Witch?

Not even for Halloween?

Really?

Seeya later!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Stewart vs Colbert For The Hearts of America on October 30th!


Not to outdone by Glenn Beck and Al Sharpton, who in August ran competing rallies in Washington DC on the same day, the two biggest stars of Comedy Central will be leading their troops to the nation's capital on October 30.

Last night on The Daily Show Jon Stewart decided enough is enough, that the discourse has gotten too venomous and crazy, and it was time to do something. Stewart called for a "Million Moderate March" on Washington in a rally to be called the Rally To Restore Sanity. But as you can see in the video below, Stewart ruffled the feathers of fellow "pundit" Stephen Colbert, who also had somethin' cookin'.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Colbert, as you can see, had a major announcement of his own, and has his own agenda to "Restore Truthiness To America". Below, Stephen tells the world of his March To Keep Fear Alive, also in Washington on October 30 on The Colbert Report. Special cameos by Jon Stewart and our Sixteenth President.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

I don't know about you, but I've got nothing going for October 30th....it's only a three hour train ride from here. I wonder if FOX NEWS will cover the event?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Obama Appoints NJ Governor Christie To Presidential Trade Panel



Several weeks ago New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie erroneously tried to blame the Obama Administration for New Jersey's failure to obtain $400 million in "Race To The Top" funds for the state's schools. The Governor said it was a case Washington bureaucracy doing the wring thing. But when a video provided by the Obama administration proved that Christie's team did not follow instructions to provide financial figures requested for the necessary years to the panel, and his own people were at fault, Christie fired his education commissioner, Bret Schundler, and then told all who would listen that Schundler lied to him, an allegation Schundler denies.

But it's a new month, and with Coobaya playing in the background, it's a new relationship for Chris Christie and President Barak Obama.

On Wednesday President Obama appointed Christie to The Advisory Committee For Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN). His term will be for two years.

Christie has said he is honored to be appointed to this committee, and he is the only governor appointed to the 45 member panel so far.

VERY interesting............

There is a quote usually attributed to the fictional Don Corleone in The Godfather; actually, it was first said 2,500 years ago by the Chinese general Sun-tzu......

"Keep our friends close, and your enemies closer".

I wonder if Christie will ever pose for a photo with Mr. Obama?

The Tea Party has just begun to hunt RINOS.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christine O'Donnell- Maybe She's Right About......Well, You Know....


Much has already been written about Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell's Republican Senate primary win in Delaware over establishment candidate Representative Mike Castle, a moderate on most issues. And the analysis seems to be clear- there is no middle ground left in the Republican Party for any "middle of the road" approaches to governance or reaching out across the aisle for voices of moderation.

I knew very little about Christine O'Donnell until yesterday, other than she is a protege of the famous half term former Governor of Alaska, the one and only Sarah Palin. And until it was brought up on the Rachel Maddow Show last night, I didn't know just how strong Ms. O'Donnell's religious convictions were- she is a Christian fundamentalist, and it's her right to worship as she pleases....this is America, where we are all equal before God, unless we are gay, lesbian, or face Mecca when we pray.

Christine O'Donnell believes in total abstinence before marriage....no sex please. OK, if that's her belief, so be it. But she takes it one step further; there should be no sex....well, you know.....with yourself. To be upfront, I already used the obligatory Seinfeld reference on Sue's blog. You know; the "Master of My Domain" stuff. I can't let that opportunity for a wisecrack get by.

But then I was reminded of another voice from the past when "the issue" was talked about - in a manner of speaking. Enter the famed gossip columnist and rock critic for L'Osservatore Romano- and later The Vatican Enquirer, the legendary Father Guido Sarducci.

Father Guido has some pretty upfront views about the meaning of life, the nature of sin, what is waiting for us in "the afterlife", and what God will do when we finally meet Him. And it all comes down to this....life is a job.

See video...........



35....35....35...35....let me know when I get to $3.50.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Richest Americans Will Save Tax Cuts Rather Than Spend It (Moody's)


For weeks and months the American public has been told time and time again by Republicans that letting the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens lapse will only do additional harm to an economy that has been been struggling. In theory the richest Americans would spend the money or reinvest it in America.

But in a report appearing at Bloomberg.com there appears to be evidence that most of the money the rich save in tax cuts never channels back to the economy. Instead, as Moody's Analytics Inc has determined, the money from those tax cuts will be saved rather than spent.

The following appears at Bloomberg.com.

Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.

The findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who say allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse will prompt them to reduce their spending, harming the economy. President Barack Obama wants to extend the cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000 while ending them for those who earn more.


So, when Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership in Congress go before the cameras and wag their fingers telling all who will listen that the extension of these tax cuts for the wealthy are necessary for economic recovery.....that may hardly the case.

More from Bloomberg

When the first Bush tax cuts were signed into law in June 2001, pushing the top rate down to 35 percent, the wealthy boosted savings. The saving rate climbed to 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2002 from minus 2 percent in the second quarter of 2001. The increased savings coincided with a 1.1 percent decline in the S&P 500 index.

Second Round

After the second round of Bush tax cuts in May 2003, the rich also increased their saving, with the rate climbing to 7.6 percent in the first quarter of 2004 from 2.2 percent in the second quarter of 2003, the Moody’s data show.

The analysis found some similarities across income levels in the 2001 and 2003 data. The wealthy and the remaining 95 percent of Americans both saved more of their incomes after the Bush tax cuts. The saving rate is defined as personal savings as a percentage of after-tax income,

Read More...........

Monday, September 13, 2010

24 Hours Later- Defense and Special Teams Key Rutgers Over FIU


This is the latest chapter in my season long look at the 2010 Rutgers football campaign. Today, a look at the Knights win over Florida International on Saturday night in Miami, 19-14.

This entry is a little bit on the late side, but there is a reason. Because if I'm going to talk about the Rutgers offense, I needed a bit more time to think about it and find some positives. and I did- Joe Martinek's ankle injury doesn't appear to be serious. And that offense can only get better, because it's impossible for it to be any less efficient.

But I'll get back to that in a minute....this was a 19-14 road win, and as Jimmy Johnson used to say a team needs to win two of the three phases of the game. Rutgers defense caused five FIU turnovers, and safety Joe Lefeged blocked two punts that led to Rutgers scoring drives. Lefeged had the defensive game of a lifetime- in addition to the two punt blocks he also forced two fumbles, had an interception, broke up a pass, and a tackle. For these heroics Lefeged is in the record books as the first player in the history of the Big East to win Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week Awards in the same week.

Rutgers defense and special teams were the story, limiting FIU to 371 yards in total offense....and they were helped by FIU's penchant for self destruction. The turnovers and blocked punts not withstanding, the Golden Panthers had a whopping 14 penalties for 146 yards. To put that into perspective, Rutgers only had 172 yards in total offense- FIU had almost that amount in penalty yards.

OK...the Rutgers offense is, to be charitable, out of sync. Quarterback Tom Savage was 7 for 15 with no touchdowns, an INT, and two lost fumbles. The offensive line, which lost three starters from last year (two of whom are on NFL rosters), had trouble pass blocking and was almost as bad on run blocking. The receivers weren't running good routes, there were some drops, and RU had 76 yards rushing at a two yard per carry clip.

Mohamed Sanu running the offense out of the Wildcat accounted for what little offense Rutgers had with a TD pass to tight end DC Jefferson, and a rushing touchdown. What was most disconcerting was Rutgers failure to cash in on the turnovers more than they did- five turnovers and two blocked punts had the potential to produce seven touchdowns and a game that was never even close. The bottomline is that RU's offense has a way to go before it can even be called mediocre.

In 2007 Rutgers had a 3,000 yard passer in Mike Teel, Ray Rice with more than 2,000 yards on the ground, and receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood with more than 1,000 yards each receiving; the 3,000-2,000- 1,000 x 2 performance was a first in NCAA football history. This is a young team, and no one expects those lofty numbers....but Rutgers offense needs to jell, and to do so quickly, with North Carolina and then the Big East season coming up. I'm sure they will get better- Greg Schiano's teams always do.

There is sufficient offensive talent on this team to be better than they have shown so far. And I think each player on that team, and it's coaching staff, knows that. The Big East is wide open this year....and defense and special teams can't win games for you every week.

Enough said.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Update: LOST IN JERSEY; The 9/11 Monument You've Never Heard Of


About six weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about the so called "Tear Drop 9/11 Monument" in Bayonne, New Jersey, a gift from the Russian people to the United States as a memorial to the victims of the September 11 terror attacks. The piece told about the difficulty in finding it, how amazingly under publicized the memorial is, and the almost total lack of news media bringing attention to it.


Well, today marked the first time I've ever heard a mention of the Teardrop Memorial by any member of the national media, and it came from an unexpected source.

During this afternoon's New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game from the new Meadowlands Stadium in Northern New Jersey, it wasn't anyone from NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or FOX NEWS talking about the existence of the talked about but largely unknown memorial. In fact, they weren't true "news guys" telling the story. The reporters relaying the abbreviated story of the monument were the FOX Sports broadcast team of Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston, calling the game along with partner Tony Siragusa. It seems that one of the members of the technical crew was from Bayonne, and told the guys about the 100 foot tall monument on the shore of Bayonne's harbor. To the best of my knowledge, there is no existing archival footage from any major national news organization on the internet; as I said in my previous piece, very few New Jersey residents even know of it's existence.....and even fewer New Yorkers know of it.


Yesterday dignitaries, families of the victims, and others flocked to the site of the World Trade Center, and to the Pentagon, and to Shanksville, Pennsylvania for remembrances on the ninth anniversary of the attacks. A crowd said to be in the hundreds was present at the Tear Drop Monument for interfaith services, organized by Rabbi Gordon Gladstone of Temple Beth Am in Bayonne.

And there is more news regarding the memorial itself....it could be moved in the near future.

Plans are being made to remove the memorial- and find a new location for it- to make way for another container port on the harbor.

That's right....more space is needed on the New Jersey waterfront; not enough space, so commercial needs demand the removal of this amazing work of art. It's not making a buck for anyone....artist Zurab Tsereteli, who designed the memorial, had the misfortune of putting it on prime real estate. And everything and everyone has it's price.

Mr.Tsereteli is said to be saddened by the news of the probable move of the monument. As the artist has said, it is the only significant memorial to the victims of the attacks in the New York metropolitan area, and it overlooked the spot where the Twin Towers once stood. And I feel his sadness at this news as well.

The memorial was a gift from one the people of one nation to another, its a magnificent piece of architecture, and a symbol of the world's struggle against those who wantonly kill and destroy. And to have this gift treated like an ugly pair of argyle socks from Aunt Edna on Christmas, cast into a corner and dismissed as an afterthought...and moved because somebody needs the space to make more money for their stockholders....sadly says something about we, the people, who are ready to let it happen without a word of protest.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001 Plus Nine; Some Thoughts



Commentary

This morning MSNBC is showing a rebroadcast of the Today show's coverage of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in real time. The "living history" event began at 8:53am this morning. I only made it through to 9:22am when I had to change the channel and put on local memorial coverage on WCBS TV.

I was prepared to see the plane crash into the South Tower at 9:03am, and even to see a repeat of the event several times. What I wasn't ready for emotionally, even nine years later, was the sight of the little black specks falling from the windows of the inferno that was the Twin Towers; they were people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames, going out the windows while Katie Couric and Matt Lauer tried to piece together what was happening, unaware at that stage of coverage of what was happening on screen.

There are certain days in one's life that we can remember in vivid detail; usually because something wonderful happened, or an event so horrific it sticks with you forever. Early in the afternoon of September 11, 2001 I needed to get out and just walk around- it was unusually warm in the Northeast that day, in the low 80's and humid. In the air you could smell the faint odor of smoke, like a fire had occurred recently; the bodies of some the victims in the WTC were now reduced to carbon atoms floating into the sky. I remember pausing and watching a white butterfly land on a blooming hosta, posing and spreading his wings.

And I thought; in a world that is still so abundant with so much beauty and tranquility, why does man try to wantonly destroy that which is good, all too often in the name of God?

Because in doing so they are committing the most unforgivable sin of all, and perhaps the ultimate sacrilege.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ohio Candidate is America's Angriest Republican......and a YouTube Sensation


Phil Davison, Republican candidate for Stark County (Ohio) treasurer, gave an impassioned speech that has become a viral YouTube sensation. Rather than me try to describe his delivery and style, take a look for yourself (be sure to pause the annoying 1960's music that I still love, than play the vid). I'm sure he just might remind you of someone you've seen on TV before.....perhaps on a Saturday night, many years ago.




How dare he steal the act of the late Chris Farley as "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker"! Has he no shame! Do you think I'm kidding? Look at the video below.


Matt Foley halloween special
Uploaded by roxannekitty. - Click for more funny videos.

Yeah, we get it....Phil has a master's degree in communications.

Next he'll be saying that he "lives in a van down by the river"....in beautiful Minerva, Ohio.

More from The Washington Post.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Colin Powell- The "Ground Zero Mosque" Should Go Forward


While news on the proposed Quaran burnings by Reverend Terry Jones keeps changing by the minute (as I type this)- and does he or doesn't he have a quid pro quo not to burn the books if the Islamic center near Ground Zero is moved (odds are he's delusional on that one)- and the latest stunt by "The Donald" to buy the site for the proposed center and have the center moved to another part of Manhattan (to avoid any further conflicts).....please stop and take a breath, for crying out loud!

Thankfully there are reasonable men of conscience around.....and some of them are registered Republicans. Today on ABC's The View General Colin Powell gave his common sense and logical reasons why the "Ground Zero Mosque" should go forward, and why the burnings are the Quaran are so abhorrent and troubling.






Read more at Politics Daily.

Second Anniversary of This Blog!!!!! It Cannot Be Stopped!!!!


Yes, it's been two years exactly since that boring evening when I decided to stop merely thinking out loud, and put my utterances on the internet for the rest of the world to totally ignore.

Maybe somebody would read my blog.....a couple of people looking for something else will stumble on this mess, or perhaps a relative who felt sorry for me, wasting hours at a computer keyboard when I could be doing something productive like watching Dancing With The Stars, or America's Got Talent....or even Jersey Shore. I mean, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

But a funny thing happened....people started to read the stuff I was writing- like visitors from more than 160 countries. It just goes to show- there's a lot of folks in this world with more time on their hands than me.

And for that, I'm very grateful.

So to the new 341 people (on average) who will visit this blog today for the first time, and the 145 returnees- giving us an average of 486 readers each day- thanks much for making this so much fun to do. I never thought I had 1,127 blog entries in me.

Whoops! Make that 1,128.

I'm just getting warmed up...I can not be stopped!!!!!

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Midterms 2010; Gallup Poll (9/810) Dems and GOP Are Even at 46%

"As Homer goes, so goes the nation"


Some pundits were calling it a likely Republican tsunami for the Congressional midterm elections in November. Last week, a generic Gallup Poll had the Republicans leading Democrats by a whopping ten points, the largest gap in decades of polling for midterm elections.

But that was last week.....and as Lee Corso says on ESPN's College Game Day....."Not so fast, my friend". Before John Boehner can order his new Speaker's gavel the Republicans just might have a dogfight on their hands.....the latest Gallup Poll released today shows both parties are tied at 46%. Both of the Democrats and Republican faithful say that they will vote for their party (both at 93%), but as of now the GOP does lead for the Independent vote by 16 points (49 to 33%).

Twice as many Republicans are enthusiastic about voting (50 to 25%). And what should be a concern to Democrats is the lack of interest in voting in the midterms by young people, women, and African Americans, according to Gallup; those were demographics that swept Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008.

Also of note- Republicans seem to prefer a candidate who has not served in Congress, while Dems would rather have a candidate who has Congressional experience. Incidentally, neither Democrats nor Republican nor Independent voters are giving Congress a ring endorsement; only 38% of the Dems, 5% of Republicans, and 14% of Indies say that Congress is doing a good job.

Well...it is after Labor Day. Put away your white clothes, get your chimney swept and cover that above ground pool. It's unofficially fall, and it's time for America's three favorite sports; NFL Football, the World Series, and politics, politics, politics.

For more on the findings of the latest Gallup Poll, click here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Florida Pastor To Burn Quarans On 9/11


"Hello....is there anybody in there?....Just nod if you can hear me....is there anyone home?" COMFORTABLY NUMB by Pink Floyd (Roger Waters and David Gilmour)

The Reverend Terry Jones,  pastor of the Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida is going forward with his plans to burn Quarans to protest the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in spite of protests from the world's Muslims and other religious leaders, as well as American officials.

General David Petraeus, the American commander in Afghanistan, issued the following statement regarding the planned book burning.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan......(burning Quarans) is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems -- not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."



Jones appeared on American Morning on Tuesday, September 7, and was interviewed by co-anchor Kiran Chetry. Ms.Chetry, who in most interviews usually does not inject her opinion, appeared both appalled and somewhat aghast by the responses Jones gave her, among them his knowledge that the burnings- in protest of radical Islam- would offend moderate and friendly Muslims, and even dismissing General Petraeus warning with a "we'll pray on it". Ms. Chetry asked some tough questions- even telling Jones that one of his answers "just sounds silly": she gets some high marks from this blogger.

Kiran Chetry at one point told Jones that she wasn't questioning the intelligence of the Reverend.

But she is a professional journalist on a 24/7 news network. I am not, and am not subject to network imposed constraints.

Reverend Jones, in my opinion, is either a little bit crazy or a whole lot stupid. What he is contemplating doing has already resulted in counter protests in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, yesterday, as well as another in Jakarta, Indonesia. What he is planning to do is wrong, bigoted, and as un-American as anything I've ever heard....and un-Christian as well.

The United States has spent over one trillion dollars and lost more than 4,000 men and women fighting in Iraq, and more than 320 this year alone in Afghanistan. One of our aims is to build stable democracies in both nations and turn the fighting over to the government troops of both of those Muslim nations. Those troops we are training have a holy book that they follow.....the Quaran. And in one small area in Florida a foolish old fanatic and his equally stupid followers will be insulting the very people we are trying to supposedly democratize, as well as all other well meaning Muslims both home and abroad.

Foolish, stupid.....or crazy. There's nothing else to say, except that below there is an embedded video from CNN that must be seen to be believed.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Repost- "Labor Day- I'll Bet You Haven't Heard This Story" (from 2009)



I just wanted to take a minute to wish all a happy and safe Labor Day, and please don't forget the meaning of this holiday. It is especially relevant, perhaps now more than ever in this era where organized labor is under assault by forces that would crush it. Rather than write a new entry, I've decided to repost the piece I wrote a year ago for Labor Day, 2009. We'll be back with new stuff early in the new week.


The Pullman Strike of 1894 was a wildcat job action of the American Railway Union, led by Eugene Debs, to protest wage cuts by the Pullman Palace Car Company. Following the Panic of 1893, a depression triggered by a run on banks in an era before there was an FDIC, the Pullman Company ordered wage cuts for their workers because of lower demand for Pullman (sleeping) cars on trains.

Union members refused to run trains that contained Pullman cars in sympathy with the Pullman strikers. The action escalated and the by June, 1894 125,000 workers stuck 29 railroads. Violence broke out between strikers and strikebreakers, there was property damage from the conflict, other groups joined the strikers to further slow the transportation of goods, and railroad traffic crept to a standstill.

President Grover Cleveland eventually sent in General Nelson Miles, famed Indian fighter from the West, to break up the strike, using the premise that because of the strike US Mail could not be delivered and that the strikers didn't observe an injunction, and represented a threat to public safety. Miles and 12,000 army troops (and with US Marshals) broke the strike; 13 strikers were killed, and 57 more were wounded. Adjusted for inflation, there was $6.8 million in damages done by 6,000 strikers.

So why am I giving you a thumbnail history lesson? Because days after the strike was broken President Cleveland sought to reconcile with organized labor. A bill to create a new national holiday was run through Congress and approved, unanimously. The day to honor organized labor and the American worker was set as the first Monday in September, rather than on May 1- May Day- the International Workers Day.

And that, my friends, is how America got Labor Day.

Almost....There's a little more to the story. Peter J. McGuire, a labor leader from New York was in Toronto in 1882. In 1872 Canada had enacted the Trade Union Act, which protected union activity in Canada. Seeing a festival that celebrated organized labor in Canada, McGuire brought the concept back to New York. The first unofficial labor day was held in New York on September 5, 1882.

By the way...Eugene Debs, the leader of the strike that eventually led to the creation of Labor Day, was an avowed Socialist- the real deal, not just the pejorative some use to describe anyone who believes in degrees of government involvement. Eugene was devotee of Karl Marx- he read Marx while sitting in prison because of his involvement in the Pullman strike. And not only did Debs become a Socialist, he ran for President as a Socialist several times, and was imprisoned a second time during the Red Scare of the late 1910's. Conservative Republican President Warren G. Harding pardoned Debs...and had him over for a visit at the White House.

As a sidebar; when I was a senior in high school my American History teacher gave us an assignment to write an essay about the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century. The Progressives splintered off from the Republican Party, and were led by figures such as "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, and later by former President Teddy Roosevelt and the "Bull Moose" Party. I chose to write about Eugene Debs. First I got a tongue lashing from my teacher, an ex Marine who thought I was a damned idiot who didn't know the difference between a Progressive and a Socialist.

Then he gave me an "F" on my paper.

I bring that up because there's a subculture out there, led by the usual pinheads on the Far Right, who haven't a clue of the difference between a Progressive and a Socialist either. And I just want to pass that "F" on to them, because they are as intellectually lazy as I was when I was seventeen years old.

So...what did we learn? We got to celebrate Labor Day in the United States because (1) It was a good idea we borrowed from Canada. (2) A REAL socialist triggered the events that led to its creation in this country as a national holiday .(3) Progressives were once a splinter group spawned by the Republican Party. And (4) Conservative Republican Warren G. Harding once "palled around" with an avowed Socialist...and a jailbird.

Have a Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

24 Hours Later- Rutgers Rallies Late To Put Norfolk State Away, 31-0


This is the first entry of my season long review of the 2010 Rutgers football season, written 24 hours after the the end of the game and after the emotion subsides. Here's what I saw from my seat in Section 104......

Time to break away from the political and pop culture for this year's look at Rutgers football. The season really did sneak up on me- it's hard to think of football when it's 100 degrees on gameday. This isn't the desert Southwest or SEC country- it's New Jersey, and we're still experiencing the hottest summer in history. And that was part of the game's story as it unfolded yesterday, with the game time temperature at 90 degrees (at 7:30PM)and a warm breeze blowing from the approaching Hurricane Earl in the Atlantic.

Rutgers of the Big East opened with Norfolk State University of the MEAC, a FCS division school that Rutgers was supposed to handle with relative ease. And the final score was 31-0, with Rutgers pitching a shutout.

But it was anything but a conventional blowout. In fact, Rutgers led at halftime by only 6-0, with the youth and inexperience in the offensive line and receiving corps causing drives to fizzle and die, with no touchdowns and two field goals to show for the half.And one of those field goals, to be frank, was probably a gift since San San Te was allowed to kick one with one second on the clock when time should have expired....Rutgers radio crew said the same thing. Te also missed two other field goals in the half.

There missed blocks, drops, and QB Tom Savage was sacked three times in the first half. Rutgers held the ball for 19:27 in the first half and 37:41 for the game. They marched up and down the field but couldn't put the ball into the end zone. Rutgers ran 71 total plays in the game to 49 for NSU....the Spartans were on defense most of the night so it seemed.

And they finally wore down in the second half....the hot night and lack of depth caused Norfolk State's defense to literally start dropping like flies midway in the third quarter. At one point two NSU players fell to the ground suffering from heat cramps at the same time....I counted five Spartan players on the bench trying to work out cramps in the third quarter. And when the starters started to drop on NSU's defense, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights finally saw their offense start to jell. Jersey Joe Martinek finished the drive with a touchdown (he rushed for 109 yards), and a two point conversion by Mohamed Sanu made the score 14-0 at the 7:55 of the third.

The RU defense was stellar, yielding only 25 yards rushing and 154 yards in the air.....and no points. Brandon Bing blocked an NSU punt and Joe Lefeged scoped it up and took it in for a TD at 5:45 in the third and a 21-0 lead.

Savage connected with Sanu with a ten yard TD pass at 8:27 of the fourth quarter, and San San Te added another field goal late in the game, accounting for the 31-0 win.

Over all, it was a mixed bag for Rutgers. The defense played well all night, except for a couple of blown coverages.....but the rush was stopped by Rutgers, and NSU qb Chris Walley never got into a rhythm, and was only 11-23-0 for 131 yards.

Since NSU never scored we only saw the Rutgers kickoff return team once, and that was the opening of the second half....the ball was pooched to an up man and returned to mid field. On punt returns, Mason Robinson did some nice things, but he also failed to field a ball in the third quarter and watched it roll to the Rutgers two yard line. San San Te had three field goals, but also missed two. The punt block team looked strong, and should be a force on special teams.

But it was the offense that raised eyebrows from the onlookers. It was maddening to see the blown blocking assignments, and even more so to see long gains called back because of holds or illegal shifts. Tom Savage is a great young quarterback, but even Peyton Manning can't complete passes if guys don't block and receivers drop the ball.

The Rutgers radio network did a brief on field interview after the half with Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. When asked what he thought of his teams play in the 6-0 first half, Schiano said that he thought the team was playing tight and just needed to settle down- he seemed calm. I'm not privy to what was said in the locker room, but my guess is he didn't chew butt for the disjointed offensive showing, but just tried to settle them down.

And it worked....in the second half they were able to put the ball in the end zone, and were able to accumulate 422 yards in total offense,268 of it on the ground.

Freshman Jordan Thomas had a nice debut, with 47 yards and a long of 12, and highly regarded freshman quarterback Chas Dodd (pronounced "Chase") came in late in the fourth quarter to finish up and get some game experience. He completed his first (and only) pass of his college career to redshirt freshman tight end Paul Carrezola for the first reception of his college career.

The bottom line on this game .....put it in the books, a shutout, but no blowout by any stretch. The defense looks ready for the season, the special teams are close....but the offense is a work in progress.

Some in the press- and in the fan base- are already either on the warpath or looking for a tall building to jump off of.

My words to them are..."it's college football" This is the nature of it. You are always in the state of rebuilding, nothing is static, it's always in flux. Players who leave at age 22 or 23 are replaced by 18 year olds who just a year ago were in high school and worrying about passing their driver's test.

They're only going to get better. It will take time, and they will cause anxiety and even agita on occasion. Bear Bryant probably said it best.....

"The best thing about freshmen is they eventually become sophomores."

This will be a good team....and an entertaining one....by the time we get to conference play.

Ya gotta believe.....and relax just a little.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH; What If Faith Didn't Separate Us But Brought Us Together?


I've been a little remiss in my summer reading. There have been summers when I would read as many as ten books between Memorial Day and Labor Day- but this wasn't a typical summer.

The last book I sat down and read was Bob Lechie's Helmet For My Pillow, and that was way back in May. So last week I checked out some books from the library, and started making up for lost time.

Mitch Albom has had a long and distinguished career as a sports journalist, and has become a best selling author of the novels The Five People You Meet In Heaven and For One More Day. His nonfiction book Tuesdays With Morrie chronicled the weekly meetings and talks Albom had with Morrie Schwartz, his old college instructor who was slowly dying of ALS. Morrie's wisdom and upbeat personality in the face of his suffering was an exercise in what it means to be human under the most trying of circumstances.

Albom is on a similar path in 2009's Have A Little Faith, a bestseller that debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and was chosen by Oprah.com as the Best Nonfiction Book of 2009. I was not able to put the book down and finished the 249 pages in less than three days . It's the story of Albom reconnecting with the rabbi from his hometown in New Jersey, who was his instructor as a kid. Rabbi Albert Lewis made a request of Albom; that Albom deliver his eulogy when the then 82 year old rabbi passes on. Since Albom hadn't seen the rabbi in years, he started a series of visits and interviews with Rabbi Lewis, hoping to gain an insight into what kind of man he is.

Also coming into Albom's life was Henry Covington, an African American pastor....and reformed drug dealer, thief, and ex con.... who started a ministry to the poor and homeless of Detroit. Both men offer life lessons to Albom, who admittedly ran from the faith of his youth, and in the end learns more of life's purpose.

I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book. We've been turning on the television daily, and listening to more and more stories of nativist sentiment, and of paranoia and the politics of division; in particular the controversy of the "Ground Zero Mosque" has resonated long and hard.

But before "Islmaphobia" overtook our nation, we had the stain of slavery, of Jim Crow, of the genocide of the our Native People, of the anti-Catholic nativist "No Nothings" of the 19th century, and of the antisemitism that was generally accepted by our society until fairly recently. A little more than half a century ago Rabbi Albert Lewis began a synagogue in Haddon Heights, NJ. In the chapter "A Little More History" (pages 67-71) Albom talks about "The Reb" and his early days in Haddon Heights, in 1948.

The three dozen Jewish families in the area wanted to start a congregation....Albert Lewis was sent to minister to them. A group of residents signed a petition to prevent a synagogue from being established in Haddon Heights; some were threatened by the possibility of a Jewish community in the town. In Albom's words, the thought of a Jewish congregation was "alien" to the townies. Rabbi Lewis worked hard to win them over, and he reached out to his Christian neighbors, and even gave talks in Christian churches and halls. At one meeting a young boy asked to see the Rabbi's horns. He was under the assumption that all Jews had horns. "The Reb" removed his skull cap, and let the kid feel his head....not a horn to be found.

Rabbi Lewis had an Episcopal priest he became friendly with give a talk in the synagogue. The priest went the pulpit, and told the Jewish congregation to help him get the Rabbi to accept Jesus as his savior, because the alternative means he's going to hell.

And there was an incident of antisemitism involving parked cars, a Catholic priest, the High Holy Days, and an utterance of wishing someone had finished the job in the early 1940's. Members of the Jewish congregation parked near a Catholic church on a Sunday, and the Jewish attendees were told to move their cars by the priest.....some words were exchanged between a Jewish man and the priest- and the priest told the man "They didn't exterminate enough of you".

We look at that sort of behavior as a relic of another century; it is unacceptable now, and should have been unacceptable then. Only the targets have changed.

In recent days we've seen "Islamaphobia" ratcheted up with the burning of a mosque under construction in Tennessee, and of Glenn Beck blending That Old Time Religion into his message, which changes depending on whatever audience he is addressing. We see maters of faith become matters of the political news cycle, and to me, that's an unhealthy place for our society to be. Because our nation has always been a contradiction of sorts; a secular state for the most part governed by men of faith, including our current President and Vice President, though there are many who would have you erroneously believe otherwise.

What Have A Little Faith does  make the reader do is take a deep breath and contemplate; just what constitutes a man of faith? And the answer is there is no template. Some like Rabbi Lewis seem to be born into "the God business". Others, like Pastor Henry Covington have to experience a "Road to Damascus" conversion....in Covington's case, there were several conversions until one finally stuck.

Rabbi Lewis made many comments that leads you to challenge what you may or may not believe in regard to religion, or of God and his/her nature. When he was old and near death, the Rabbi told Mitch Albom that he hopes God prays for him.

But since he is God....who would God pray to?

It is true that there are religious hucksters to be found, and we could name names....but what's the point? What Mitch Albom has done in this book is put a spotlight on two men who serve men (and women) and in doing so serve God. It was never about them, it's about their service.....and their faith.

In a perfect world, both sides of the "Ground Zero Mosque" would be given a copy of Have A Little Faith with instructions to read it and come back for a group discussion in two weeks. Because if you can't find some common ground with the other guy after reading this book, then sadly, it will probably not happen.

Rabbi Lewis was a man who loved to sing; a non-singer who always had a song on the tip of his tongue. Ask him how he felt and he would sing, "The old gray rabbi ain't what he used to be."

So it was entirely fitting for Mitch Albom to close his book with these words.

"In the beginning, there was a question. In the end, the question gets answered. God sings, we hum along, there are many melodies, but it's all one song- one same, wonderful human song.

I am in love with hope."
Related Posts with Thumbnails