11/11 – A DIFFERENT KIND OF VETERAN


Here is an interview that a now-defunct local Tacoma, Washington paper did with my father about his experiences during the Holocaust.

Parenthetically, I am currently in the process of compiling Dad’s various notes and transcribing the tapes he had recorded before his passing.  Familiar as I am with the material, it was nevertheless always easy to assume that there were things which he had never mentioned to anyone.  And, to be sure…

One day, when my parents were visiting us in Virginia Beach, I was messing around with something in the garage.  At one point, Dad came in, watched me awhile, then moved to the garage door.  He turned toward one of the slit windows in the garage door and, while looking outside, he unexpectedly began to talk.

When they arrived at Auschwitz, he said, they were rushed off the train by the so-called Canada commando (per Tommy Mandl, so named because the boots they wore looked like ice hockey boots, and Canada at the time was undisputed master of the universe in ice hockey).  The family, at the time, included the parents, Dad, two of his sisters and a baby in arms (Aniko).  They stood in line, ultimately passing Dr. Mengele, who was making the selections.  It was dark and there was confusion all around; as Dad went to the right (work) and everyone else to the left (death), he found himself wondering if he could sneak over to the line of people going to the left and bring his relatives over to the right side.  He was sure, he said, that nobody was watching and that he could pull it off.  But he never did it, and he had been feeling guilty ever since.

I am not sure that he had ever mentioned that to anyone else.  What I do know that, at that moment, I felt closer to him than ever before, or since.  But what could I do to alleviate his pain?  Precious little, if anything at all.  I had done a lot of translating of Holocaust-related documents and I was pretty familiar with the topography of Auschwitz and with the process, so I ventured to say that I was sure they were in fact watching and Dad would have gotten shot down the moment he stepped out of line.  I don’t know if that helped – I suspect not.  I can only hope.

Well, here goes, to another member of the Greatest Generation, who defeated the Nazis simply by surviving the impossible and making a good life of it afterwards, creating new life in the process.

Article posted with the kind permission of the author, Jeff Stoffer, and the photographer, Duncan Livingston.

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EXTREME OBAMITE CLEVERNESS (EOC) – WE MUST LIE TO GET PAST CBO AND THE STUPID AMERICAN VOTER


Extraordinary, but not really surprising.  When the bill was finally announced in 2009, I read it from cover to cover, and found huge parts of it unitelligible.

And now…

imagesJohnathan Gruber, an MIT professor of economics and one of the architects of Obamacare, makes it explicit.  The law was written in tortured language so CBO would not recognize it as a tax (which the Supreme Court later did anyway).  Moreover, the unreadability ensured allowed the Obamites exploit what Gruber called “the stupidity of the American voter,” who would otherwise have seen through the scheme.

His exact words“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.  In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… “ (emphasis mine)

Gruber opines that he would rather have the law than, not, which, in his 0.01-percenter mind, makes lying okay.  Of course, he delicately refers to lying as “lack of transparency,” which has thus far been the one outstanding hallmark of the Obama process.

 

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A GREAT GIFT TO AMERICA


Here’s one I never knew about.  (Well, one of many…)  The Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) had composed a tribute to the American flag.  It was to have been performed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1892 that commemorated the 400th anniversary of the European discovery of America.

In 1891, Dvořák ranked among the leading European musical luminaries.  As such, he was invited to the United States to become director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City.  He lived and worked in this country for two and a half years, composing some of his most famous music such as the Ninth Symphony (From the New World and the American String Quartet.

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THE GENESIS OF PIZZA


G-d delivering pizza

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STEINBECK LECTURES OBAMA: REPOST


Thought I would rerun this February 2012 rant…

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Barack Obama has been busy denouncing traditional American values, using phrases like “they’ve never really worked.”  He has touched on this topic many times and in many ways, but the underlying message is always the same.  American individualism is bogus.  America’s dizzying successes have not really been the result of individual effort.  An individual is an integral part of a web and never can accomplish anything alone.  Thus collectivism – collective thinking, collective action, collective production – under Obama’s benevolent guidance, is the only way to go. Hence Obama’s stated desire to be a “transformational President.”

steinbeckSome folks beg to differ, including John Steinbeck.

Herewith some hard-hitting lines from Section 1, Chapter 13 of East of Eden, which I had reread recently and couldn’t put down, so brilliant a tome it is:

Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man.  It happens to nearly everyone. … And then – [comes] the glory – so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes.  Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished.  And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories.  It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world.  It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.

I don’t know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know.  Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but because their tendency is to eliminate other things we hold good.  It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man. A group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a huge factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing all are born in the4 complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass of collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea G-d.  This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused.

At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions.  What do I believe in?  What must I fight for and what must I fight against?

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man.  Nothing was ever created by two men.  There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy.  Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extent it, but the group never invents anything.  The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man.  By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged.  It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.

And this I believe: that the free exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.  And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.  And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.  This is what I am and what I am about.  I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system.  Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts.  If the glory [of the free mind] can be killed, we are lost.

Thus a Nobelist who had to work hard for everything, to another Nobelist who has had everything handed to him, including the Prize.

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TROUBLE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY


I keep thinking about Barack Obama’s dilemma represented by his “thumping,” his “mega-defeat.”  (That’s not me talking: those are the words of the veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, so don’t anyone go accusing me of racism, or something.)  What is Obama going to do?  How will he govern?  His previous attitude had been pretty much true to his declaration “I won”, but now that there’s the (Republican) devil to pay and no pitch hot, will he negotiate with those who hold differing perspectives on life and governance?  And will he do so in good faith?

Good questions all.

yoFrom where I am sitting, it does not look good.  When you wish to be transformative, you are generally not talking about being transactional: that is to say, willing to work productively with others.  Moreover, if you think of yourself as being on the right side of history, you put yourself in the same league with every self-annointed visionary who claims to know the future and therefore arrogates to himself the right to drive things in a particular direction.  Not very good company, all those true believers.  Just look at the historical record.

But I can justify my pessimism by more mundane means.  Many commentators have described aspects of Obama’s personality as narcissistic (Charles Krauthammer) or even malignantly narcissistic (James Lewis).  I don’t like psychologizing about people I have not assessed myself, but I have to admit that sometimes the symptoms are so obvious, even from afar, that something can be said.  And, in my view, malignant narcissism is a good fit.  In which case, a question like “Does Obama even know how to negotiate?” (Megan McArdle) is a very good one.  And even Chris Matthews, the quintessential Obama workhorse, hit the nail on the head in this brief but remarkably accurate rant.

So, whether the primary problem here is ideological or developmental, I suspect that, over the next two years, we are in for a very rough ride.

On the other hand, with both houses of Congress and most gubernatorial mansions now in the hands of “the enemy of the people,” much of Obama’s narcissisistic rage may be dissipated or at least contained.  This has already happened to some degree: though the 112th and 113th Congresses have been scoffed at as do-nothing Congresses, they were in fact nothing of the sort.  They managed to largely block Obama’s compulsion to be “on the right side of history,” which is already a very great deal.  One can only hope that this worthy labor will continue, with happy results for this country.

 

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EBOLA AND “ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION”


35According to New York NBC news channel 4, the number of people being actively monitored for Ebola in New York City has tripled and, as of Wednesday last, stood at 357  (h/t Weasel Zippers).  A mere two days before, on Monday, it had been 117.  This, we are told, is being done out of an “abundance of caution.”  Most of these people reportedly arrived in the past 21 days from Ebola-stricken countries.

I cannot help but ask myself what “abundance of caution” means in this case.  Are these people detained under quarantine for the requisite 21 days, or were they allowed to self-monitor and check in with doctors periodically?  If they felt like it, that is?  Or, perhaps, is there another option, offered by the CDC, that people are not being told about?

After all, given all the government waffling and contradictions and outright lies that we have had to swallow these past months, I believe we are owed a full explanation.

 

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PRESTON TUCKER’S DREAM REVIVED


Interesting article here, in Wired Magazine, about a 70 year-old concept car prototype being built by Rob Ida Concepts,  a custom car designer outfit of Morganville, NJ.  The prototype was the brainchild of Preston Tucker, who was best known for the advanced but ultimately unsuccessful Tucker 48 (image below, courtesy of Wikipedia).

1948_Tucker_Sedan_at_the_Blackhawk_Museum

Apparently, the concept prototype was never built, so the Idas (father and son), are reconstructing it on the basis of pictures and whatever information they can scrape up.

 

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EXCUSE ME, WHOSE ANGER?


A Times of Israel headline screams: US Anger at Netanyahu Said “Red-hot’ as Ties Hit New Low.

?????????????????????????Not exactly accurate, is it?  It should say: “Obama Administration Anger at Netanyahu…..”  The US, that is, the American people, certainly are not angry at the Israeli Prime Minister.  By and large, Americans stand by Israel and support its right to exist as a Jewish state.  The anger comes from an infantile administration, led by an infantile ideologist, who are all in a narcissistic snit because an adult stands in the way of their agenda.

 

 

 

 

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EU TO BRITISH PROSTITUTES: PAY UP!


An article on the net worth of prostitution in Britain’s Significance magazine – a very readable exposition of matters statistical – tickled my funny bone.  The following quote pretty much pins it down:

The EU has demanded rapid payment of £1.7 billion from the UK because our economy has done better than predicted, and some of this is due to the prostitution market now being considered as part of our National Accounts and contributing an extra £5.3 billion to GDP at 2009 prices, which is 0.35% of GDP, half that of agriculture.

This, on the basis of some pretty torturous calculations by EU bureaucrats.  Problem: in order to yield that kind of income, British light women had to have averaged about £100,000 per year.  In other words:

–  Number of prostitutes in UK: 61,000
–  Average cost per visit: £67
–  Clients per prostitute per week: 25
–  Number of weeks worked per year: 52

This works out to a nice, round figure of 1,300 tricks per annum, per sex worker.  (I really distrust nice, round figures, but okay.)  Needless to say, this figure is being disputed, with alternative ones pointing in every direction.

My main issue here is the apparent ease with which distant bureaucrats decide how much is owed them.  I heartily agree with the writer’s conclusion that “…[a]lthough this is a big statistical challenge, such an important contribution to the economy deserves a more robust analysis.”  All I can add is that any kind of statistical calculation that affects the lives of human beings should be on a firm empirical basis.

 

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