I have driven to Toronto twice in the last two weeks, unfortunately it was to say goodbye to my

Uncle Moses. Uncle Moses lived to be 101 year old.

Uncle Moses was, when my presence, and from what others have said about him, a gentle man. He started his life in Farrell, PA and finished it in Toronto Canada. Toronto from my limited experience was well suited to my uncle, a gentle city.

Perhaps the best way to remember my uncle is to share what I wrote about him on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Dear Uncle Moses,

Marcia and I are thrilled to be even a small part of this momentous celebration. There is no doubt that there will be many tributes to your accomplishments. Your earlier years in Farrell, your business acumen, the loving way you raised your family, your love for Aunt Honey.

The courage you showed in risking all to imagine and create a new life, first in Montreal, and then again in Toronto.

I want to say something about your children, and your grandchildren. Whenever my family and I have had the occasion to come to visit your family, which, to my regret, has been far too infrequent, we have alway been made to feel welcome, but more than welcome, more than family. The Nathans’ of Canada have always made us feel like honored guest. I can never remember a time first as a child first in your home in Farrell, and later in your Montreal home, when that wasn’t true.

As I have grown older, and had the privilege of visiting with you and your family in the homes of your children we are always keenly aware of the graciousness with which we are welcomed.

There are many things in your life of which you can be justly proud, none more so than the legacy of your family. We are fortunate  you have shared your family with the rest of us.

On this the occasion of your 100th year we thank you for all you have given us, and this world and our lives are infinitely better for the part you have played.

Now we say goodbye for the last time, and again it is your family that will be your true legacy. Other accomplishments are ephemeral, fleeting as a blade of grass or blast of wind, but the values you lived and shared with your children, grand-children, and great-grand-children will affect the world around for many generations.

May your memory be for a blessing.


As some of you know I was writing a blog, and the postings got further and further apart, until I ceased posting altogether. My reason for abandoning the blog is it made me sad. I was trying to write topically from my, liberal, leftist prospective. I was fighting the greed of the wealthy. I was fighting the false fear that requires a person to carry a hand gun. The truth is I have spent my life futilely fighting for the hard working people, the people of color who never seem to catch  a break, people who for whatever reason seem never to get ahead.

I read all kinds of articles on happiness, read all kinds of quotes. Abraham Lincoln said; “man seem to be just as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” Interestingly enough recent studies bear out that statement. I also notice that happy people see the positive side whenever possible.  The optimist sees the glass as half full, the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. When I am not pessimistic I am cynical which means I see the glass as too big. That is what I have told people for years. I have, since childhood known I would have tattoos, I have matching scorpions facing out, one on each inner forearm. I kiddingly tell people they are there to protect my heart, which I wear on my sleeve. Often times the  either way the on November 29th of this year four weeks before my fiancé and I were to be married, Marcia had a third major stroke. (It has now been confirmed that this is her third major stroke.)

We are, as you might expect, (I and her daughters) are devastated by this event. In the midst of this I have rediscovered the innate goodness of most people. As one would expect my family and friends have been a source of support that has helped to lighten the burden some; and of course, thank you doesn’t come close to the gratitude I feel for that support. But support comes from other sources some more expected than others.

First the medical staff were caring and efficient from the EMTs to the nursing staff. That was almost expected, certainly people in these caring professions are not primarily motivated by money. The nursing staff is amazing in their depth of caring That alone can be inspiring; but, even more so is the support staff. The patient accounts person spent no less than four hours resolving insurance issues for us. and through it all she never lost her patience with the people at the various agency. This lady is an angel, who reduced the stress level immensely by allowing me to focus on my partner rather than paperwork.

This to me was amazing, but even this level of care, this level of assistance, was within the healthcare setting.

We all have a favorite restaurant ours is not the one with the best food I’ve ever eaten, although it is good food and the pizza is a very good version of greek pizza, and the prices are even better, we go there primarily as a matter of convenience. When the waitress heard about what  had happened she expressed the appropriate level of concern and empathy. This past week my faith in people was completely restored. This waitress asked what we were doing for Christmas, I explained that Christmas was not really our holiday, still concerned she announced, after her family celebration winds down she intends to bring three plates to the rehabilitation center.

Like the people who ran to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, I have once again rediscovered the humanity of people.

I started this blog by calling these people angels, but in reality people are superior to angels. We are told that angels are what they are, they have no choice but to act as they act. Meanwhile human beings have freewill when they do good it is from the heart done with the knowledge that they chose to do good; and, when these people do good they not only raise the spirit of those they help, and God will remember. And so will we.

It is an uninteresting, trite fact that the old have contempt for the young, and visa verse. It is natural and necessary for the young to rebel and reject not only the advise of the previous generation, but to experiment with alternative ways of living seeking their own experience.
Experience being the one thing that cannot be taught or passed on.
Normally, over time this experimentation, and rejection of the older generation sorts itself out. The newer generation continues to keep what was useful of their new ideas, incorporate the old ideas and with a little luck advance the cause of what laughingly passes as civilization. About sixty years ago the issue of civil rights was starting to heat up by 1960 the issue was reaching a boiling point, meanwhile in far off Southeast Asia a little civil war in a country called Viet Nam was beginning coming to a boil. The recognition that the racism of the past was so pervasively evil that it tainted everything that was part of America’s culture, while the new generation eventually does return to what we assume was good about the previous generation (with a vengeance). Following closely on the heels of the civil rights movement is the expansion of the Viet Nam war, a war of dubious value and even more dubious legitimacy further delaying the younger generation maturation. For awhile the baby-boomers turned society on its head, and for all the dire predictions of the time American society survived. Not only did we survive the upheaval for all the furor of the sixties very little actually changed for the better, with much evidence that it has become worse.
Bullying is an example. For as long as there are two people there will be a power structure, and where there is three people there will be the potential for bullying. The difference however is, unlike the past today bullying can happen 24/7 as they say in business.
This is probably a strange segue to Ralph Cramden.
For some unknown reason I found myself thinking about old T.V. characters; Ralph Cramden, Fred Flintstone (the caveman version), Archie Bunker, Fred Sanford, Dan Connor (Roseanne’s husband), The King of Queens, and others. All these characters were gruff, They all had a streak of stubbornness. Even a hint of spousal abuse (“right to the moon Alice”) as Ralph makes a fist, this at a time when spousal abuse was often as not a family matter. However, I don’t see them as bullies, rather I see them as the bullied beaten up by the world and circumstance, even Archie Bunker, a groundbreaking character shown with all his prejudices and racism, yet in the end we even love Archie.
Because overtime we recognize these are men who are victims as much as victimizers, but more than that, they love their wife and family. For all their blunder and bluster they dedicate themselves to making a better life for their family. All their bluster, all their hair-brained schemes, for all their bravado, and for all the seemed groundbreaking language of All In The Family, these are all mainstream characters, characters we can find at our favorite watering hole.
The other reason our society has not progressed is we ourselves. Some of us, children of the sixties, really believed in ending the war because it was illegal and immoral. Some of us did believe the draft was (as practiced) as racist and classist. But in the end most of us were just cowards who didn’t want to go to war, and didn’t want to do their fair share; and, now that they are no longer in danger and their children are not in danger love sending other people’s children off to die for their financial benefit.
What a world.ss

This is my favorite time of the year. The weather is turning a little cooler, I get to wear the clothes most flattering to a full-figured guy like me; and, even though we are three months away from turning to a new year, for school children and the Jewish people it is a new year. Not only is it a new Jewish year, it is when we start to read Torah from the beginning again. We do this every year and many take it as a mater of course, what they have done all their life. I see it as starting to read it for the first time, and as compared to many, I am.
I love Genesis above the others because it is the simplest. The youngest child can relate to the stories on some level. Yet they can offer the most complex of moral questions not to mention the questions of creation versus evolution.
This week we read of the great flood and Noah. One of the truly improbable bible stories, God destroys the entire world? And, yet almost every ancient culture tells of a great flood of destruction. What makes the Torah version distinct it is the only version with a moral component. It is not two gods fighting for power one over the other, or some other cause independent of human behavior. Rather it is The God punishing man for his sinful ways. It is also about regret God regrets his decision to create man.
There is much in the story of Noah that can be discussed. One of the interesting points of the story is that Noah doesn’t speak, he listens, and he obeys without question.
So let us jump ahead. Noah builds the Ark, gathers the animals, survives forty days and forty nights of rain, (a feat in its own right) waits until the land is dry and exits the ark to see what? It is not hard to imagine the barren landscape void of vegetation. The sense of aloneness, the sense of helplessness, the overwhelming feeling of the task ahead, and what is one of the first things Noah does? He makes a sacrifice to God. Not in gratitude for his survival, not even to ask for his help in the struggle that lies ahead, but a sin offering, he is atoning for sin. What sin? We are told Noah was a Tzadek, a holy man, He and his family have just left the ark, They’ve not yet committed a sin. In temple this week many explanations were offered. Let me tell you mine. As you will recall I told you Noah does not speak. I have heard it said that Noah was not the father of the Jewish people because he only obey God but made no attempt to save the rest of humanity. I think this is the sin Noah is atoning for, in the post flood clarity of this aloneness Noah realizes not fighting for humanity was a grave error in judgement. Noah now realizes that although God was angry and disappointed with humanity he was ambivalent, although his first inclination was to destroy the world, he was hoping Noah would rise to the occasion and talk him out of this idea, but Noah did not, leaving God no choice but to carry out his judgement. I think there is ample evidence for this position, as we see in future parshat time and again God’s first, rash, harsh reaction is ameliorated through man’s intercession on behalf of his fellow-man. This may be one of the lessons, that we are tasked by God to not only look for that which is good and divine in each person but moreover we are commanded to find it.

Dog is man’s best friend, not so. Dogs are pack animals. The reason that dogs seem to be man’s best friend is because man is also a pack animal, and dog’s are more loyal to the pack than humans ergo the illusions of being man’s best friend. That is the real reason men and dogs work so well together, they are both pack animals, and once the animal knows its place in the pack evolution takes over and the animal instinctively known its role.
This may be one of the great non-sequiturs in history, or one of the best segues ever, either way here goes. I just finished watching an old PBS series American Masters, a two-hour show about Johnny Carson, focusing on his career and the influence his midwest upbringing had in his life.
I don’t want to get to side-tracked except to say that, while Mr. Carson did not invent late night television he did forever define it. I  can’t do justice to his thirty years of work here, and it is not his work that most interested me, it is that this man from the midwest with all the outward appearances of midwest sensibility became, as one interviewed said, to comedy what Walter Cronkite was to news. Aside from his brilliance as a comedian, and his ability to empathize with the everyday man in all of us, he had a compassion that is lacking in today’s world of glamor and paparazzi.
Today, when Lindsay Lohan has her problems we not only take perverse joy from it, we revel in her misfortune and track her every movement secretly cheering and hoping for her failure. Mr. Carson was not above taking advantage of the foibles of the powerful, just the opposite that was the bread and butter of his monologue. When Congressman Wilbur Mills was discovered drunk and naked with a local Washington Stripper, Mr. Carson got great mileage from the incident, then one day the jokes just stopped, he later explained in an interview the jokes stopped the day the Congressman announced he was an alcoholic. Mr. Carson explained at that moment the Congressman was no longer a buffoon, he was now a man dealing with a private issue and deserved the privacy to deal with it. How much better the world would be if we all adopted that attitude.
What struck me, stuck with me, and prompted this blog was the private man described by the special. Everyone described him as a loner, comfortable in his own company, quiet and stand-offish. Someone who had trouble outwardly showing his feelings, even to those closest to him, his sons, and his wives. He also comes across as a wary individual whose trust it was hard to earn, remained fragile at best, and was lost in the end.
A loner, alone but not lonely; but, as I watched the special I got the sense, that although he may have been comfortable being alone, as he got older he became less and less trusting of those around him. He was a loner only in part by choice, that his upbringing and essential nature left him more alone than he would have liked with his world continually shrinking and suffocating him.
I started this blog by stating man is a pack animal, we become loners as a result of our inability to meld into the pack, or in our attempt to fit in we disrupt the pack to the point of ostracization by the rest of the pack.
Mr. Carson was more fortunate than most for thirty years (at least in his public life) he was not only a part of the pack, he was the alpha male.

Here we go again. Twelve dead, three wounded and the NRA, National Retard Association (sorry for the politically incorrect reference) is already trying to blame everything under the sun except easy access to weapons for the latest tragedy involving guns. They will say it is exposure to violent video games. Japan has far more violent video games, result eleven murders by firearms. It must be the desensitization to violence because they see so much of it in the media; but so many of see the same violent images and themes, and a relatively few access firearms and become mass murderers. Then there is the ultimate argument there people are mentally ill. At last, the paranoids running the NRA have an argument I agree can accept.
But as paranoids often do they have reversed the logic of the solution, as it is easier for the mentally ill in this country to get fire arms than treatment.
Shall I point out once again, the inconvenient truth that owning a firearm makes you forty-seven time more likely to be the victim of gun violence. The reality is owning a firearm makes you less safe not more.
Wedged within the news today was another tragic story, a young, black, man was in a relatively sever car accident. It required him to climb through the back window to exit the car. He knocked on a strangers door for help, the homeowner not recognizing this person called the police. When the young man saw the police he ran toward them for help. The police person misinterpreted the situation fired on and killed the unarmed black man.
I am certain that race played at the very least unintentional part in the officer’s decision to fire. I am reasonably certain had it been a white man there is the possibility that the homeowner might not have been so reluctant to help, perhaps the officer would have not fired as quickly, would not feel as threatened. But there was another calculus at work, not only was the man black (and presumably large as he was a former football player), there was, I am sure the fear that the man running toward him was armed, it turned out he was not; but, the fact is that if access to weapons were rather difficult, with few people having access, and much tighter control on who those few owning weapons was, perhaps there would not be the assumption that the person was armed or that he and his fellow officers were in danger regardless of skin color, and perhaps one less man would be dead at the hands of the police, and one less officer will carry the knowledge that an innocent, unarmed man died as the result of a bad decision made in the blink of an eye.
I will say again, the inalienable right to life claimed in the Declaration of Independence, supersedes the created right to own a fire arm.

I’ve been thinking a lot bout the brave members of the minimum wage workers, who, without protection, and with only the conviction that they are right went on symbolic strike last week. Workers from McDonald’s, Subway, and Dunkin Donuts went on strike for several hours. What are they asking for? They are asking for $15.00/ hour. Assuming a 40 hour work week (by no means a guarantee any place) their gross pay is $600.00 per week. with a take home (after the new health care take effect) of a guesstimate of about $375 – $400 per week. If you look at your own budget you will see that still isn’t much of a pay check, but with two full-time workers in the family it is probably possible to have a life that has a modicum of financial dignity.
The greedy bosses at Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s are fighting tooth and nail to prevent this. Wal-Mart is firing employees who involve themselves in these union activities. McDonald’s is trying the old tactic of pitting its customers against its employees. By false claims of inflated costs to pay for the higher pay. McDonald’s claims the increased costs would be extraordinarily high. This argument was it true, assumes passing the entire increase on to the customer rather than absorb some of the costs through a lower profit margin.
In truth according to an independent economic study, if we paid McDonald’s workers $15.00/hr is would add an average $.17 per value item. How greedy do we have to be to be unwilling to pay an extra $.17.
The implications of these low wage food service / Wal-Mart employees is tremendous.
First and most importantly there is the practical implications. It would force all employers to meet the new de facto minimum. Corporations, making record profits would all have to meet this new standard or beat it if they don’t won’t to be seen as The Wal-Mart of their industry. People who go to college who star at the bottom will finally feel like maybe that investment in college was worthwhile after all. Would this cause cost to rise initially perhaps, but as competition reasserts itself prices will once again go down.
The second thing it accomplishes is it empowers the people to take control of their own destiny rather than beg the government for help. When we force the $15/hr standard the minimum wage will become irrelevant.
The third thing it does is it changes the dynamic between those who invest the money and those that do the work to increase the value of that money.
It can also be the rebirth of worker solidarity, (the term unionization is out of favor).
there is, of course, a delicious irony here. One of the reasons this nascent movement exists is the unwillingness of conservatives to recognize the need to increase the minimum wage. A second irony is that while they oppose the goals, these goals are being accomplished by the very idea the conservatives have always supported. People taking personal responsibility for their situation, and having looked at their situation the pronounced it intolerable.
We the people of conscience must speak the truth we must demand this dignity for the workers, we must stand up and say we will pay $.17, and we must encourage others to do the same.