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One of the few avid readers of my blog wrote to me yesterday soliciting my comments on the controversy over the NY Met’s new performance of John Adams’s opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer.” My reader knows that I am a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state as well as passionately supporting the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and a state of their own. I am also a strong supporter of all forms of art and being somewhat a dadaist I rally to root for the unconventional.

For those who forgot, didn’t and/or don’t care about or were not even born back in 1985; the opera is the story of events when Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Italian passenger cruise ship and murdered an old Jewish man who was confined in a wheel chair and threw him and his wheelchair overboard.

The opera, when first performed in 1991, was subject to a mixed bag of reviews. Many felt that the opera had a strong under-current of anti-semitism. Some believed that it glorified terrorism. Others, especially opera purists, loved the music and staging.

I, for ideological reasons, have chosen not to see the opera so I cannot comment on my individual likes or dislikes with respect to the opera itself.

So the real question is whether an act of barbaric terrorism should be somehow memorialized in an expression of art. How would opera purists feel if the performance they were watching was centered on the terrorists bringing down the World Trade Towers? Could they accept a few arias from one of the terrorists in the cockpit of a doomed planes singing praises to his cause as the towers loomed closer and closer? Could they ignore the subject matter and just concentrate of staging, music and vocalizations?

To many, the Palestinian terrorists who killed Mr. Klinghoffer are heroes. To many Islamic and Arab extremists, the cadre of terrorists who flew those two jetliners into the twin towers are also heroes. Does giving their brutality a voice validate terrorism as a legitimate act of rebellion?

It is a question to ponder – especially today. As this blog is being written, terrorism rages across the world. In Ottawa, Canada, a soldier guarding a War Memorial was shot and killed. Several other people were also wounded in this outburst of violence. In Jerusalem, a half a world away, a Palestinian terrorist ran his car into a crowd of people waiting to board a transportation tram. A four month old infant was killed and nine others were injured.

Will any of these acts of malevolence be the subject matter of John Adams’s next opera?

Will all that being said, the beauty, the value and legitimacy of art remains in the eyes of the beholder. It should not be censored nor restricted because of the politics of the day. Can anyone today imagine the banning of books just because someone or some religious sect oppose its content. (Yes, there are some even today who yearn to ban books and censor art but thankfully, they represent only a minority of Americans.)

I can only hope that those gifted in the arts realize that while their right to express their visions and emotions should not be tempered; it is vital for artists to respect and understand the subject matter they seek to explore.

As for John Adams’s opera, I shall only say that I would be happier if he titled the work, “The Brutal Murder of Klinghoffer.” The man did not just die…he was executed…murdered. An acknowledgement of the senseless horror would probably have gone a long way in mitigating the outburst against the work.

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Over and over again, we hear the nauseating cries of Mike Huckabee and his minion of God-loving followers lamenting over the loss of their religious freedom or the War against Christmas as bellowed by Fox News chief pinhead, Bill O’Reilly.

Huckabee believes that his right to practice his religious theology is being restricted because others, with different approaches to religion and religious theology, choose to advocate doctrines not acceptable to Mr. Huckabee.

Huckabee is outraged when people dare to choose not to believe in a God. How dare people who are not willing to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. How dare people who support social policies like abortion rights, same-sex marriage and contraception. How dare people who dare to believe in compassionate help for the underprivileged.

How dare people not wanting to bring a specific religious doctrine into schools, government and military offices. How dare people for not wanting to demand prayer in schools and not willing to accept the fact that America was established as a Christian nation.

How dare people trying to evoke their own right to religious freedom.

Yet, in the shadows of all this God and Godly-values talk, Mike Huckabee sits on the Board of the anything but righteous organization, Secure America Now.

In seeking donations and support, Secure America Now has stooped so low that it incorporated pictures of the beheading of James Foley in its fund raising media ads.

The family has asked for such outrageous endeavors to be stopped immediately. Their appeals are ignored. How disgraceful. How disgusting and revolting. How utterly ungodly.

But this is how the loud-mouthed Christian values political right think and act. In Native American speak, they speak with very forked tongues. In plain English: they lie their asses off.

The hold their bible in the air quoting pre-selected scripture to rally against anything and everything they don’t believe to be godly. Yet, they turn the other way when their own flock waiver and fall victim to the luring appeal of sinful temptation. When one of their own commits the mortal sin of adultery, the Huckabees of the world sit silently in the shadows of hypocrisy.

The so called Christian Right remains mute (and even participates) in bearing false witness against thy neighbor even though their god says such behavior is an absolute no-no.(Refer to the Ten Commandments and seek out God’s comments on adultery and willfully demeaning one’s neighbor.)

So what gives, Mr. Huckster Huckabee? Are you and your flock godly or is your righteousness based upon a convenient store mentality picking and choosing godly commandments that fit your warped, sinful transgressions of politics first and the god thing second.

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Secure America Now has John Bolton, and Mike Huckabee on its board.


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A recent poll suggests that now a majority of Americans want to send ground forces into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIL. The war mongers have won the propaganda battle. Dick Cheney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and the cable of death merchants have convinced a majority of the American constituency that ISIL is a immediate and imminent threat to our security.

Hell, Congressmen Duncan Hunter thinks they’re already invading our homeland through our porous border with Mexico. He and his fear-promoting colleagues have offered the lemonade and everyone is lining up to get their taste of their ideologic nonsense.

So, okay, let’s send our children, our husbands and wives, our fathers and mothers off to war. But let’s send everyone’s children into battle. Let’s bring back the draft. Wall Street demands boots on the ground; fine, let’s send Wall Street bankers’ children to war. Mitt Romney wants to fight a real war; fine, let’s send his children to do some of the fighting.

It is outrageous and morally reprehensible to send soldiers into combat for six, seven or even eight tours of duty. But that is exactly what we did during the Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts. It is almost – and I am emphasizing ALMOST – genocidal to send just middle class and lower income children off to war while the rich sit back and enjoy the benefits of their wealth.

And to the balance-the-budget war hawks, let’s not pay for this conflict by taking benefits away from those in need of government help. Yes, I am talking about Romney’s 47% who, according to him and his minions, sponge off of governmental giveaways. And while they are doing so, living the easy life, they are sending their children to protect the collective asses of the privileged 1%. So if we advocate boots on the grounds then we should also advocate a “war tax” to pay for sending our children into harms way. And it should be a tax that is mandated and can’t be avoided by witty accounting techniques.

So put those troops on the ground. And back up patriotic concerns with some real skin in the game.

Be willing to send your children and write those checks or shut the fuck up.

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Leave it to God-fearing, flag-waving, fascist Republicans to try to force their heavily biased and ignorant view of history on the rest of the world.

First it was Julie Williams, a member of the Jefferson County (a suburb of Denver,Colorado) School Board who complained that the curriculum for Advanced Placement US History course focused too much on the negatives of American history and not enough on patriotism and respect for authority.

This sad excuse for a caring parent, concerned parent and passionate patriot does not want her children exposed to the truth of our country’s past. She wants to whitewash and sugar coat our history. Is she on drugs or is she just crazy?

She wants to emphasize patriotism and respect for authority and ignore the somewhat darker side of American history. Obviously, Ms. Williams forgot to attend her own history classes in school and missed the discussions on the evils of blind obedience to a tyrannical and oppressive government – like Germany in the late 1930’s.

Ms. Williams wants to abandon the teachings of an American history filled with repression and overt racism, religious prosecutions and dangerous and foolish government policies and replace it with courses in flag waving and Pavlovian obedience to government dogma. Ms. Williams wants to bury the truth and replace it with cartoonish manifestations of an American exceptionalism where Apple Pie reigns supreme, white is the color of governing, God is Christian and all is well across the Great Plains of America the beautiful.

Ms. Williams believes that there is no need to teach our children, even the very smart ones taking advanced placement courses, that the core of any democracy rests in the freedom of a constituency to speak out (and act out) against governmental policies that they oppose.

Doesn’t this ding-dong realize that she should wake up every morning and thank the God of her choosing that she lives in a country that not only tolerates but supports the right of its citizens to participate in acts of civil disobedience. Where would we be as a nation if our forefathers did not engage in acts of defiance against a tyrannical King? Where would Ms. Williams be if not for the woman’s suffrage movement? Did this crusading charlatan every hear of Susan B. Anthony or Carrie Chapman Catt or was Ms. Williams too busy taking flag waving in school?

Why do these evangelists and right wing nut jobs masturbate hatred and ignorance. They orgasm over their efforts to contaminate the world with their putrid obsessions masked in the cloud of a god or patriotic morality. They want to put rose colored glasses on everyone and have us drink their Kool-Aid. They fear the truth, they fear history and seek to indoctrinate the world in a Goebbels-style propaganda cloud of ignorance.

For some obscene and unexplainable reason, these science and truth deniers want to dumb down their own children. Under the bullshit of religious freedom, they seek to force their theological doctrines on all who don’t see the world as they want us to see the universe. Their freedom comes at the expense of all of our freedom to believe as we see fit.

How fanciful is their view of American history? Just ask another in their ding-dong gallery. Ask Pam Mazanec, a member of the Douglass County School Board, about slavery in America. Now get this: she believes and wants to teach our children that slavery ended voluntarily in America. Yes, you read right – voluntarily. Obviously she never heard of the civil war.

On Facebook, this idiot believes that some of the questions asked on the Advanced Placement U.S. history test “portray the negative viewpoint as the correct answer.” She went on to acknowledge that this country practiced slavery but – yes, BUT “we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!” She believes that America is exceptional because we ended slavery voluntarily. Ugh!

So what is next? Outlawing history? Burning books? Censorship? Religious-driven fascism?

Actions to nullify and white-wash our history is a real and viable threat to our national security. Our future rests in the hands of our children and if we in indoctrinate rather than educate them; then our future as a nation is suspect. These revisionists are turning our future into a science fiction movie where the population has been turned into obedient drones. For further reference, see the Hunger Games.

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I guess the older I become the more I become the victim of my own growing cynicism. I have always been the doubter. I never have automatically accepted anything at face value. I aways searched for a different meaning, a deeper, more thorough, more rationale explanation of things. But now, I just do not doubt everything, I just don’t believe in anything in anymore. I tend to doubt even that which I see with my own eyes, hear with my own ears or reason with my own sense of values. I have become the quintessential misanthropist. I trust not God nor mortal man. I don’t even trust myself anymore. Once I was the quixotic idealist; now I follow the darker side of the force. Sometimes I actually sound like a right-wing conservative.

In the most benign, I see conspiracy. In the innocuous, I see an immediate and real threat. In the benevolent I see blasphemy. Ugh. It is not the person I want to be. But it is the image I see reflected in the mirror.

So it was no great surprise when I burst out in anger when I recently read that Susan Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold of Columbine High School fame, had signed a contract to pen her autobiography. Just when I thought that I had seen every possible disgusting manifestation of corporate greed, the men and women of America’s Board Rooms take yet another step into the madness of squeezing yet another dollar of profit off of an American tragedy.

Although Ms. Klebold has assured us that all of her profits from her manuscript will be donated to various mental health organizations, one has to wonder what corporate America will do with their profits. Doesn’t this whole thing just smell of rotten fish or is my plunge into the dark side much deeper than I once thought. Is this (what I see as an)exploitation both pathetic and insulting?

To set the stage: Diane Klebold’s son Dylan, along with a friend, Eric Harris, went on a rampage on April 20, 1999. They stormed into their high school in Colorado firing guns and setting off explosive devices. When the smoke had cleared and after the two boys had taken their own lives, twelve students and one teacher at Columbine High School were dead. Twenty one other people were injured.

Now, almost fifteen years later, Ms. Klebold says she wants to confront the indescribable grief and shame that she has had to endure following the shooting.

So is this tell all book nothing but a catharsis for her? Is this book a way of dealing with her own demons? If so, what about the real victims of this senseless act of insanity? What about the families of those who died or were injured in the violent outburst of childhood aggression? What about their pain? Do they have to relive the memory one more time just to placate Ms. Klebold’s need to cleanse her soul?

I am surely not one who can judge anyone’s parenting skills nor can I nor do I want to pass judgement on Ms. Klebold; but simple logic would think that she, to some degree, is partly responsible for the events on that tragic day. I can sympathize with her for the pain, suffering and shame she has experienced. But does that give her the freedom to put herself out in front of the real victims of her son’s outburst.

I just don’t know; is this the dark side of me or is it just the fast fading common sense side of me?

Would love to hear your comments?

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The Ray Rice domestic abuse story has almost dominated the news for the past few days following the release of a video recording of Mr.Rice knocking his then fiancé, (now wife, Janay Rice) unconscious in a hotel elevator.

Much has already been reported about this tragic incident. Experts, activists and commentators have been popping up everywhere to feed the insatiable hunger of a twenty-four hour news cycle always short on relevant content and long on time to fill in-between long lasting spasms of advertising nonsense.

I don’t know, but at 2am, it seems odd that a story about male aggression and violence against women is immediately followed by two minutes of advertising encouraging viewers to rush out and buy a year’s supply of male enhancement and libido increasing medications.

At the center of the controversy is the question of why did it take the release of a video to force the NFL to act in what most people think is a more appropriate and relevant manner?

Before the video was released, he NFL suspended Mr. Rice for two games. Drug violators are usually suspended for four games which means physically beating up on a young lady is only half as bad as tweaking out on a joint a few nights a week.

What was the wide world of football thinking when it tried so hard to mitigate the reality of a a two hundred pound athlete knocking out a young, almost defenseless women? Do they think the knock out punch was a superficial love tap? Did they really need to SEE a video of the violent and brutal encounter to understand the absolute barbaric and savage actions of a young man who lost control of his emotions and physically lashed out at his fiancee?

As much as I try to restrain myself, I feel compelled to add two things to this on-going dialogue: the first is that it should come as no surprise to anyone that the NFL acted in such a self-serving manner. The NFL is business first, sports second and morality policeman a distant third. The second is that most of society does not care about what is unfortunately and disgustingly perceived as a mundane issue. (So the man hit his wife? She probably had it coming. Just ask sports commentator Stephen A. Smith about his first reactions to the incident.)

To the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice is nothing more than a revenue-producing commodity. He helps his team win football games. Fans love him and buy jerseys with his name and number embroidered on the back. They pay big dollars to file into the M&T Bank Stadium to watch Ray Rice bowl over his opponents. They watch and cheer for him on television. And the NFL sells those television broadcast rights for huge dollars. Everyone wins. Ray Rice is paid a huge salary; some $7 million dollars a year. He was given a $15 million dollar signing bonus.

The Ravens are worth an estimated $1.5 billion dollars. It’s overall financial valuation increases about 7% per year. It’s gross operating profit each year is estimated to be around $50 million dollars.

The Ravens produce over $200 million dollars of gross state product every year. They pay over $10 million dollars in admission and state taxes. The pay out over $120 million dollars a year in personnel and employee compensation.

The NFL itself generates over $9 billion dollars a year in revenue with the goal of tripling that number in the next twelve years. The NFL is a business. It is not a sport.

So who, in the NFL’s very wide, very profitable world of business really and sincerely cares if several players have off the field behavioral issues and verbally or physically abuse their wives. The NFL turns to the long standing tradition that money makes such problems go away. Realities and consequences fade into the oblivion of yesterday’s news. Life goes on; the dollars keep rolling into everyone’s pocketbook. Hell, it is a scene out of the movie, Evita. (Hell, I am already humming the words to the song, “And the money keeps rolling in (and out)”

Even the fans don’t care about such nonsense as domestic violence. When Ray Rice appeared at Ravens training camp several months following the incident, the cabal of concerned citizens gave him a massive ovation. “Gain those yards, Ray,” they shouted. “Score those touchdowns. Win those games. So you hit your wife; she apologized so what the hell?”

We now live in a perverted society where celebrity is the American form of nobility. The more atrocious the movie star acts, the more callous and offensive the sports star behaves, the more society falls to its knees to worship these self-anointed Gods and Goddesses. They are allowed to commit crimes and never see any real and relevant jail time. They need to get back to the sound stage to make money for movie producers. They need to get back on the playing field to make money for team owners and league bureaucrats. Things like culture and civility are deemed meaningless; especially in a world where one’s status is determined by the size of one’s bank account and not one’s compassion and benevolence.

When we live in a world where our elected officials laugh and scorn the debate over domestic violence, where misogyny is seen as something as far-fetched as climate change and the victim is compelled to become an apologist and de-facto enabler of such abhorrent behavior we invite the consequences of such behavior. How often do we read of some disgruntled husband shooting and killing his wife? Unchecked domestic violence is the precursor to a senseless murder.

But the game must go on and touchdowns need to be scored and revenue sources need to be protected. Battered women become nothing more than collateral damage. One day the headlines will go away, a new crisis will sweep across cable news America and revenues, profits and salaries will continue to grow. And once in a while, right before the next male enhancement ad, a twenty second story will document another woman being killed in a domestic dispute.

How sad.

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I read the other day that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand at Penn Elementary School in the city’s Lawndale neighborhood to greet students to the start of a new school year. I could only lean back in my chair, close my eyes and offer a wide smile. Sixty-two years ago, I walked three or four blocks from my home to attend the very same school for the very first time.

But as I read through the article, I realized that much has changed in the ensuing six decades since I was a kindergarden student at Penn Elementary.

In those days of my youth, life was bathed and blessed in a benign simplicity. Most of the fears expressed by my family at the dinner table were focused on the questions of whether or not our next door neighbors were communists (what ever that meant) or having my always outspoken zede (grandfather) wondering in whispers – as if someone was listening at the door – if having children ducking under flimsy, wooded school desks would truly protect them from the effects of an exploding Russian nuclear bomb.

In those days of my youth, life was nothing more than a single cell existence. It was a time and place where Ward and June Cleaver personified the illusion of what American family values should look and sound like. It was a time when the smoke from burning cigarettes was as thick as London fog and as ubiquitous as the Cubs losing another baseball game.

In those days of cultural, religious and racial isolation and segregation, a Christian God demanded that Sundays be a day of prayer and not meant for commerce yet the same God said nothing in rebuttal to burning crosses demanding racial and religious purity.

In those days, the now reference Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago had no such name or reference. It simply was a neighborhood on the city’s West side. My family lived in an apartment building on the corner of 14th and Avers. Two or three stories below our tiny apartment(specifics of that era in my life have long faded away), on street level, my father owned and – seven days a week, twelve hours a day – ran a small neighborhood grocery store.

In those post World War II days, the neighborhood was desperately trying to hang on to its predominately Jewish character. Change was in the wind. Like most inter-city communities, the landscape was in the midst of significant population shifts with whites migrating to the suburbs and mostly blacks filling in the housing voids. My friends were leaving, the Jewish Community Center was closing and my father’s grocery store was robbed not just once, but twice in one week.

I was much to young to remember the social dynamics of this transition. For me, at age six, the world was very small. Television had not yet manifested to the medium that it is today. The reality that surrounded my relatively small dot of existence was both sanitized and sterilized by the elders of my community. Everything that I saw and heard, everything that I did was artificially created; I lived in a microcosm where environmental and social substance was no more real than a Hollywood backdrop.

Today, everything is different from the world that I knew and enjoyed. Everything has been turned inside and out. The corner of 14th and Avers is an empty lot; the old apartment building was burned down many decades ago. The journey from a child’s home to Penn Elementary School now is much more difficult, much more dangerous than it was in my day. It is no longer as simple as the taking the quickest path from one point to another. It is now almost as complex as designing a military maneuver.

Today, parents have to take great care in planning the route their child must travel in order to attend school. It is now about boundaries and borders. It is now about elementary students having to negotiate streets controlled by gangs who care little about the age of transgressors who transverse into their self-proclaimed kingdoms. Each street that the children have to walk through is today a potentially lethal encounter with a minion of different war lords. Safe passage for children whose only desire is to gain an education and escape from the horrors of their neighborhood has to be negotiated, monitored and controlled as if it were a humanitarian effort trying to navigate through a war zone in order to feed hungry non-combantants.

Is this really happening in America? For weeks, the media circus did nothing but concentrate on the the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Yet, as far as I can tell, not five seconds of video or five seconds of commentary was focused on the American tragedy of having to provide safe passage for children to attend a neighborhood school.

Sometimes I wonder what is the biggest and most immediate threat to American security: ISIS or American gangs that control too many of our streets and neighborhoods.

We bomb ISIS positions in Iraq and do nothing to resolve a crisis that compels city officials to line the streets of Chicago with 1,800 adults (some paid, some volunteers) to protect the well being of school children. Where are the church leaders, where is the NAACP, where is Don Lemon and Chris Hayes and their video cameras? Where is the community outrage? Where are the demonstrations, marches, t-shirts and signs?

Racism is a problem in America Interactions between police and civilians of color is a problem in America. No less a problem in America is a socio-cultural environment that threatens the safety of children walking to school to gain an education.

Where is the outrage?

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