Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Egyptian question

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The news coming out of Cairo is not very encouraging. While we in America have been concerned about who is sitting next to each other in Congress during the State of the Union speech, there is a revolution that is under foot going on in Egypt that has all the markings of what recently occurred in Tunisia. The demonstrations were quelled by riot gear clad policemen, who fired on the crowds in the central square with water cannon, rubber bullets and clubs. The people demanding President Hosni Mubarak's resignation are not friendly to the United States and certainly will do nothing to bring Middle East peace closer to fruition. In fact, much of the gains that have been garnered in progress towards lasting peace between Egypt and Israel may be lost if the Islamists who are intent in overthrowing Mubarak succeed. Understandably, Israel must also be alarmed, but that nation has been dealing with hostile relations with Egypt for a very long time. Several commentators have noted recently that the miserable conditions existing in Egypt are breeding contempt for the government, particularly those among the young, impressionable students and young adults who see no way out for them in an economy with little growth. Were we to look at Tunisia as a precursor to the violence going on in Egypt, that would be too simplistic. The fact is the Tunisian government was so corrupt and guilty of brazen, outrageous behavior, particularly that played out by the now-ousted president and his wife, that it could not help but implode upon itself in a popular uprising. The opportunists in Egypt, many of whom are allied with interests outside of their country, are looking for any reason to remove Mubarak from office and attempt to install a form of government more friendly to Iran and Hezbollah. Look at what's going on in Lebanon with Hezbollah poised to take over the reins of government there and it's a potential nightmare for American diplomacy and the hope of a faint possibility of lasting peace. The unrest and protests have thus far brought about three deaths. That number can only go up higher as police units ramp up their more deadly approaches to dispersing the angry crowds demanding the president's resignation. I am reminded of Iran in the late 1970s and how their Islamic revolution occurred in a very short order with similar seemingly small protests that then grew out of hand. I pray I am wrong. Indeed, I pray I am very wrong.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Honorable Mr. Shriver

When Sargent Shriver died yesterday at 95 years of age, he did so with a whimper rather than a bang. The man whose vision was behind the creation of the Peace Corps, Vista, Head Start and whose commitment to public service had him on the Democratic ballot in 1972 as vice president with running mate George McGovern, finally succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease. In the end the horror of that malady had left Shriver was little more a shadow of his former self, much to the regret of his family members who survive him. Even his wife Eunice could not fully be mourned by Shriver when she died in August of 2009 following 53 years of marriage. It took years for Shrivers mind - so sharp and clear - to have been sullied and clouded in a slow, insidious fashion. Like President Ronald Reagan and other famous vicitms of Alzheimer's, Shriver didn't know his children or even how many he had fathered at the time of his demise. If cancer is thought to be the most dreaded form of physical suffering, then Alzheimer's must clearly be the same for the mind. When one exits life as a victim of Alzheimer's Disease, he does so bit by bit, memory by memory until what remains is a hollow shell with no soul. I wasn't surprised to learn of Shriver's heroism in the navy during World War II, but I was very impressed to find out that the way he became a part of the Kennedy family was through his management skills. The story was that while working as an editor at Newsweek, he was hand chosen by Joseph Kennedy himself to run a building he had purchased in Chicago. That building was the enormous Merchandise Mart, located on the Chicago River's edge in the downtown area there, the world's largest commercial building at the time. Big jobs were never a problem for Sargent Shriver. Even the courtship of his eventual wife Eunice took him nine years till she broke down and married. He simply held his course and did what he did best: run an organization to the best of his abilities and make it the envy of all onlookers. The Special Olympics, an organization he and his wife founded, would be the last major cause he would organize and one that like all the others blossomed under his leadership. Shriver's death follows Senator Edward Kennedy's, which occurred around the same time as his wife, and with the recent retirement announcement from Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), the extended Kennedy family's longtime years of service and dedication to America may now be a subject for history books. That would be a shame because, despite the political leanings of anyone in or outside of Washington, few would criticize Shriver or his intentions to make the United States stronger andbetter and citizens more in tune with one another. If his selfless work inspires one person to take up such a cause in the future, then his well-lived life will not have been in vain.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our tragic legacy

Last June I was in Scottsdale, Arizona for the American Jewish Press Association's annual conference, the largest gathering of Jewish newspaper editors and writers held each year. At that conference there was an understandable concern with regard to the rhetoric of violence towards political leaders that had been encouraged by self-serving media pundits and political opportunists. If one were to ask me, I would say that the guilty were on both sides of the discussion. The central issue was over the new stop law that had been passed by the Arizona legislature that allows police officers to demand "papers" to certify one's legal status as an American citizen. Political leaders admitted that the entire "immigration" topic had led to threats against their lives on more than one occasion. It came with the territory, they said, but they all expressed disquiet that the easily persuaded might cross over the line in defense of what they might perceive as a loss of liberty or some threat to their civil rights. To tell the truth I thought we had learned that justice never comes out of the barrel of a gun. After 9/11 especially, it was my hope that Americans would learn to stop shooting at one another and take cause against our common enemies and train our weapons on them. The horrific shootings in Tuscon on Saturday are the latest example of what has been our tragic legacy. When Americans seek to make change with their trigger fingers instead of their voting fingers, innocents invariably get in the way. There is no one who can convince me the founding fathers had intended the Constitution should be used as a means to make our country a shooting gallery. The bullets that rang out on Saturday follow those that took four presidents and have left millions of our fellow citizens maimed, crippled, paralyzed, in a vegetative state or dead. Congressman Gabriel "Gabby" Giffords knew of the danger. On more than one occasion she expressed dismay at others who suggested violence as a way to settle differences. Later in life she had accepted her father's Jewish heritage, which also made her a target for racists, bigots and hate groups. Yet, she understood that threat as necessary in a country which prizes liberty above oppression and permits unbridled political discussions without fear of recriminations. But the monster that pulled out that semi-automatic Glock pistol on Saturday showed his cold-blooded cowardice and total lack of compassion when he indiscriminantly rained bullets on the crowd gathered in Tuscon. My heart cries out for the youngest victim, a nine-year-old girl, born in the noon hour on September 11th, whose date of birth inspired her to get involved. Christina-Taylor Green, the granddaughter of baseball great Dallas Green, was first propelled into politics during the Obama presidential run. She and five others are symbols of how a warped, twisted mind filled with hate can inflict horrible suffering that can never be undone. Green, Federal Judge John Roll, Gifford's political assistant and organizer of the event Gabe Zimmerman and three other citizens who got caught in the cross-hairs are gone, while Giffords and 18 others cling to life. It is a sad day for our nation and for those that grieve. I grieve for the victims and I pray for a sense of sanity to begin to prevail in the wake of other tragedies like Columbine and Virginia Tech. In the movie "Godfather II," Michael Corleone's character callously states "If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone." This was true in Caesar's time and sadly has been true in this country that I love since its inception. But I don't like it and especially dislike that the highest ideal of freedom can be warped by an unthinking and callow thug or mental midget bearing a pistol who is intent on changing history or making a name for himself. Woe to us, America. Shame on us that, despite the best efforts of liberty-loving citizens, the legacy of the smoking gun still persists as a way to affect change in this country. There is and can never be an excuse for violence to prevail or we as a bastion for man's civil liberties are doomed as a nation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A birthday, an anniversary and a battle royal

Happy birthday, happy anniversary and Who Dat!

Today is a special day. January 8 would have been the 76th birthday of Elvis Presley. It is the 196th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. But for all of New Orleans today is the first day of the playoffs. It is the day when the New Orleans Saints will take on the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Stadium. While conditions at game time are expected to be less than the perfect conditions inside the Superdome, the Saints players will be ready for the game. I will not make excuses. Despite the expectations of the prognosticators who have made the Saints a 10-point favorite, the Saints are hurting from a number of key injuries to players like running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. That puts all the more pressure on Reggie Bush, the only healthy running back remaining that is well known. On defense several players are also out like Malcolm Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove. The team will be playing in just a few moment in front of hostile fans, but they are ready to prove they are indeed the reigning world champions. We're all holding our collective breath and hoping the way to the Superbowl will be through the depth of our fantastic team. Were they here, Elvis and Andrew Jackson would be Saints fans, I'm sure. So, "Go Saints!" and a "who dat!" to you too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

12th Night arrives and so do the Phunny Phorty Phellows

The Phunny Phorty Phellows streetcar

Okay, it's that special time again in "the city that care forgot." January 6, known around the world as Twelfth Night, is the official kickoff for Mardi Gras. While the big day (March 8) is still a full two months away, the events leading up to the final celebrations begin in earnest as of tonight. The Phunny Phorty Phellows, considered the official heralds of the Carnival season kicked things off with their traditional streetcar party along historic St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues. A party band playing traditional jazz and Mardi Gras pieces accompanied the group of revelers who were masked and in costumes. The history of the Phunny Phorty Phellows dates back to 1878, only six years after the Krewe of Rex and 21 years after the Krewe of Comus had been formed. The Phunny Phorty Phellows was composed of civic and business leaders who led the Rex parade for a number of years and the organization also presented formal balls. Late in the Nineteenth Century the group disbanded, but it did not stay on the trash heap of Carnival lore. In 1981 a group of Canrival-loving New Orleanians spearheaded by Erroll Laborde, a local editor, author and Carnival historian, re-instituted the practice of having the Phunny Phorty Phellows announce the start of the Carnival season and to highlight their glorious past. The group's symbol is still an owl and the head of their organization is called simply "The Boss" (sorry, Bruce). In addition the group has two mottoes, one in French - "Honi soit qui mal y pense," which translates into "Evil to them who think evil" - and the other more easily understood "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men." It's all in fun and over the past three decades has become one of the more eagerly anticipated events each year. This year marks the second-longest period of time between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras, just like a few years back the second shortest period of time was when Mardi Gras was on February 5. Just keep in mind that no matter the date of Mardi Gras, the balls and parades can't be that far off.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our third anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of this blog. When I first began the Kosher Computing blog in 2008, I was ever so dedicated, forcing myself to write no matter what obstacles or outside activities lay in my way. I am happy to report that I have found time to just say no to the blog, but I nevertheless feel guilty. Since 2008 I have written about a myriad topics in over 500 posts. Given the fact that I started out trying to write every day and now find myself unable to even remotely pass near that goal, there is a feeling that I should perhaps apologize or make penance in some way. But I fear no such apology will emanate from my lips or from my nimble fingers on the keyboard. I am definitely happy I have found many other outlets to feed my jones for writing including my work at a reporter/reviewer on While other pursuits may keep me busy, know that my love of writing and my dedication to the time-honored profession of journalism and the high ideals it exudes will never keep me very far away. The new year portends several new endeavors that will occupy much of my time in the coming months. Details on these new opportunities will be announced in due time, but it will mean an even higher level of commitment from me and more time focused on writing. I'm not sure just how that will affect my ability to be faithful to this blog, but I am hopeful it will be a good and positive force overall and in the end give even more back to those who take the time to follow this blog. I invite everyone to become "official" followers through the application Google provides, but remember it is not necessary. You make it over here when you can and I will do the same.