Archive for April, 2007

1 hour ago…and the news is good

Friday, April 20th, 2007

My father had open heart surgery today. I got the call from my mother. I just got the word an hour ago. The surgery was a complete success…zero complications…my dad is resting comfortably.

This is the best news I have heard in about a decade and a half. There are a million things I would talk about in great detail, but little of it matters at the moment.

On Sunday night, I am off to see the Finale of “The Apprentice.” I look forward to it.

On Thursday, I am off to New York. I will be seeing my 99 year old grandmother. She rocks. There is plenty I could say about her, but that can wait.

On Saturday, April 28th, I am off to the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Will the Raiders draft Jamarcus Russell or Brady Quinn, or perhaps make a blockbuster trade? In a few days I will care. When I told one of my coworkers that my dad pulled through, he replied that now “my biggest worry would be whether the Raiders would be the worst or second worst team in the league this year.” I am comfortable having that worry. One of my dad’s biggest expressions when confronted with trivial matters is “may that be your biggest worry in life.” Well my dad’s open heat surgery certainly qualified.

Jdate adventures abound. I will at some point soon look forward to them. Right now I am less concerned about a woman meeting my dad (he is tough), and more happy that I just have a dad at all…and a mom who takes great care of him.

He will probably want to come home, smoke a cigar, and have a steak with salt on it. He has made it crystal clear in the past that life is about quality, not quantity.

Some of my frustrations have melted away. Yesterday I wondered why Delta Airlines actually thought that I would prefer speaking to people in a call center from India as opposed to people in Utah. It took 30 minutes for them to understand my address, and I was speaking crystal clearly. Normally I would be angry right now because a lunch delivery that was supposed to take 30-40 minutes has taken almost 90 minutes. I am starving, but then again I am too drained and relieved to be enraged.

This feeling will not last. I know myself. The first time a referee makes a bad call, or someone messes up my lunch order, I will have to pray that they get sterilized so that they do not inflict children on us that are even less competent than they are. Some years I vow to be more patient, and yet some years I vow to be even less patient, and demand others meet what I consider to be reasonable standards.

People should not put their lives on hold permanently. I went to a football game the day after my grandmother died because skipping the game (and the commitment I made to my friends to go) was not going to bring her back.

However, putting one’s life on hold temporarily is what makes us human. My dad wonders why I would worry about things I cannot change, but outside of family, nothing matters in this world on such a large scale…when I say family, I do not mean relatives, those people who show up for holidays and occasionally ruin dinners…I am talking family…parents.

My dad will continue to worry about me. When will I get married? When will I have kids? Will I ever get a decent haircut and a shave? (Don’t know, don’t know, probably not).

I am not going to lie and say that his grousing will all of a sudden becoe music to my ears. It will still be grating to hear him question why I like football. Yet, for all the people out there who have regretted who their parents are, that has never been me. My parents mean the world to me, and always have. Alot of people are not so lucky.

I am truly blessed. I pray that my dad’s remaining time on Earth be happy and healthy, and the same for my mom. What else in life is important? I love you mom and dad.

Oh great, lunch just arrived, an hour late, and they totally screwed up the order.

Deep breaths. It’s not life and death.


5 hours to go

Friday, April 20th, 2007

For those of you who read my blog before these last few days, you probably witnessed a person with many varied interests. I spoke about music, sports, politics and women. Ok, so maybe not many varied interests, but at least 4. Over the last few days, I have only spoken about Virginia Tech, and my father’s angiogram. He had the angiogram today, they found a 70% blockage, and 5 hours from this writing, he will be having open heart surgery. It is a single bypass, which is better than double, triple or quadruple, but nevertheless still open heart surgery. He has a 95% chance of being fine, which is much less than 100% when talking about my dad.

I want to thank all the people who have offered me well wishes by mail, email and telephone. People I have never met have offered support. This brings me to one area where my dad and I have disagreed.

He sees the world, and thinks it is a terrible time for a young person to be alive. The War on Terror has left no area of the world safe. People in Madrid and Bali, who have never bothered anyone, have been senselessly killed. Companies are outsourcing jobs. Most people get laid off from their jobs, and there is no company loyalty. Gangs, drugs, and diseases such as Aids are getting worse and worse. Virginia Tech…it just does not stop. He is truly glad that he does not have to grow up as a youth in these turbulent times.

I agree with every concern he has, but could not disagree more with his conclusion. The internet has allowed me to make friends all over the world. As shopping malls become “upscale,” which is a fancy word for overpriced and overrated, I can buy what I need on Ebay, and in some cases, Craigslist. From clothing to football tickets to plane tickets, the internet has been helpful. The internet has also allowed me to find people with similar interests. I am Jewish, and politically I am a republican. Most Jews are democrats. An email I received told me about the Republican Jewish Coalition. I made new friends.
My cousin bought a webcam awhile back. While separated from his family due to being stationed in Cuba near Gitmo, he was able to “see us” and vice versa. Instant messenger has allowed people to have realtime communication. People can buy stocks online, at much cheaper prices than 20 years ago. Thousands of individuals worldwide have created businesses online, out of their own homes. With zero start up costs, no commute, and the ability to wear pajamas to work (unless there is videoconference meetings I would hope), convenience is becoming the norm.

I can go on Jdate, read profiles of Jewish women, and find out what we have in common and what we do not have in common. This does not guarantee that meeting in person will be successful, but it beats going on a date and being uncomfortable because you have zero information going in. This is not just about romance. Websites such as “Friendster” allow people to network with others.

As for my love of sports, the ability to watch a game on a high definition big screen television with a flat surface…technology is growing by leaps and bounds.

Yet for all these wonderful things, there is one thing right now that stands out above everything else. Our advances in medicine are growing by leaps and bounds. From new drugs that can cure (or at least treat) everything from baldness to cancer to high blood pressure and beyond, and pills that can make 75 year old men sexually as potent as 25 year olds, we are doing well as a people. Adult stem cell research is finding cures for many ailments, and the list is growing.

50 years ago there were no human heart transplants. Now, survival is a normal occurrence. My dad worries that the aging boomer population will be a financial drain on society. I am thrilled that people are alive and have that opportunity.

I am worried about my dad’s open heart surgery, as any son who loves his parents would worry. Of course my optimistic outlook on life will take a severe beating if the worst case scenario, which I will not even type, should occur. All I can say is that I look forward to getting back to my carefree world of girls, sports, video games, unhealthy foods, and gallivanting around the country enjoying life.

That is the future. Right now, my focus is on my dad. The world is a wonderful place to be, and he might see it my way if he sticks around another 20 years to see it get better and better. I love you dad, and if the doctors, mom, and me have any say in the matter…you will not have a choice in the matter. You will be around to see all of these wonderful things.

5 hours to go…may the doctors be successful, and my mom and dad rejoicing a few hours after that. Ok, off to toss and turn, and play “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. I will sing him the song “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” It sounds better than “Yeah God, I am a screwup at times, but help me anyway.”

Ok God…I don’t ask for much (glad I cannot see if God has eyeballs, or if he rolls them at me or anyone else who claims not to ask for much)….but this one is a big one. See what you can do.

I look upwards, and realize how we must make the most of every minute because as Journey sings “The wheel in the sky keeps on turning. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow.”

5 hours to go.


Virginia Tech–When there is nothing to lose, nothing can be done

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Unlike television comedies, where everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow in 22 minutes plus commercials, real life does not work that way. Like a dog chasing it’s tail, people witnessing the Virginia Tech tragedy are searching for answers. There aren’t any. They want closure. It will not happen. People move on, but the door of pain is never closed. People want to find a reason…a rationale…a logical explanation.

Irrational people act illogically and unreasonably. Period. This is definitional. The gunman was nuts. The squirrels were dancing a jig in his head, and he was probably arguing with them to stop before he went on his rampage. This is not in any way meant to make light of one of the saddest moments in American history. It is simply an attempt to help people focus on what we can do, rather than going down a broken path of confusion.

People do not act good because they want to. They act good because they have to. Yes, people like Mother Teresa come along once in awhile, but the majority of people do the right things for the wrong reasons. You know what? Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing. It is better than not doing right at all.

I did not do my homework as a kid because I liked it. I always hated school. I did my homework because I did not want my dad to give me a royal rump kicking, or worse, take away my tv set. I was grounded, and missed the 1982 season Super Bowl between the Dolphins and the Redskins. I still can’t watch clips of that game to this day, remembering all the other kids in school talking about what I missed. I can tell you in 1983, being a Raider fan, my room was spotless and my homework was done well before that Raider-Redskin Super Bowl.

Even people who do selfless acts have a selfish motive that might be in the background. We give to charity because it makes us feel good. My dad is having an angiogram today, and I am reminding God of every positive thing I have ever done in hopes it sways his vote. I obey God (as much as possible) not out of love, but fear of a flamethrower being shoved up my hide lightning bolt style.

Yes, human beings are Machiavellian by nature. It keeps us in check. Police officers, teachers, parents…and yes, God…help us behave, whether we want to or not. In some cases, fear of dying motivates us. It gets old people to take their medicine, obese people to exercise and eat better, spouses to stay faithful (Comic Larry the Cable Guy brilliantly states “Guns don’t kill people. Husbands coming home early kill people”).

So the real danger is when someone has nothing to lose. No fear of being fired from their job. No fear of losing their family…and worst of all, no fear of dying. The worst thing you can do to a person is take away their life. If that does not scare them…well then they are one tough hombre (albeit foolish). Maybe they think they cannot die, that they have divinity in them (It is one thing to talk to God, but whne he starts talking back, that is when the problems begin John Denver style).

The VT killer felt he had nothing to lose. When someone has nothing to lose, they can do whatever they please, and nobody can stop them. How do you stop a guy ready to take his own life? The guy was a screwball, and trying to use logical reasoning on a screwball is like trying to teach a pig to sing. As the t-shirt says, it “wastes your tie and annoys the pig.” This guy was simply nuts.

The one thing people should not confuse is hopelessness and craziness. There is an argument that if some people just had “hope,” they would be better. This argument is used to justify why some poor people in some neighborhoods sell drugs rather than work at McDonalds. The “hope” argument is nonsense. Chris Gardner was a homeless man with a child, and he became a multimillionaire stockbroker (Will Smith gave a standout performance in “The pursuit of happiness). Most people are not that far down, and they don’t become criminals. (I can understand stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family…selling drugs…no way).

This killer was geting a college education. How was he hopeless? Were his student loans that bad? No. He was simply crazy. He believed, falsely, that he had nothing left to lose. We could say that the signs were there, and we should have seen them. Most likely, this is not the case. It is easy to play armchair quarterback. Until technology allows us to enter someone else’s brain and live their life in their place, we will never know the complete picture.

People who will demand more gun control, tighter immigration laws, safer schools, or any number of “solutions,” are trying to put a dog collar around an ant. You can’t see what is not their for the naked eye. Using logical reasoning to understand illogical people is as pointless as it is counterproductive.

Nobody…and I mean nobody…in this country…should feel guilt over what happened. We can feel horror…but not guilt. Not the schools, the police, his fellow students, or even his family (unless new information we do not know about bubbles to the surface).

All we can do is love and care about those we lose, and more importantly, those who are still alive. I pray my dad’s angiogram goes well today, and I pray for the VT survivors. Other than that, there is nothing I can do. No one likes being powerless, but whether it is God or nature, we can all be reduced to rubble in an instant. It is not a comforting feeling, but as soon as we understand that, we can use our precious time on Earth to seek solutions to problems that are solvable by logic, reasoning and understanding.

We have to do this. Unlike the VT killer, most of us are good people…with alot to lose.


If Tommy Thompson fell in the forest, positive stereotypes would still be negative

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Despite real issues in the world right now, a few moments to discuss Tommy Thompson should be addressed before people forget who he is, given that this story should have zero traction.

Tommy Thompson is an obscure former nondescript midwestern governor (Wisconsin). He governed during the 1990s, with men named John Engler (Michigan), Jim Edgar (Illinois), and George Voinovich (Ohio). The reason you do not know them is that they were also obscure former midwestern governors. They were all potential vice presidential candidates to Bob Dole until the list was shortened from anybody in America. This is not to put them down. It is just to make clear that they were more substance than flash.

Tommy Thompson was one of the leading innovators with regards to welfare reform. The national 1996 welfare reform law that created block grants was inspired by Tommy Thompson. Yet outside of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson became a national story today for all the wrong reasons.

While speaking to a Jewish audience (and a liberal one at that), he referred to “Jews and money.” This sent shock waves through a news community that is still reeling from the Virginia Tech shooting knocking Anna Nicole out of the news. Two days of substantive news was too much, and the media needed some nonsense. To go back to Anna Nicole right away would have been too shocking, so the Tommy Thompson incident is a slow slide back into stupidity in broadcasts.

First of all, the remark was stupid. Some people think that “Jews and money” is a “positive” stereotype, and therefore ok. It is not. I could not articulate how many times this has been used as a pejorative, but someone suggested tonight that by going to google, typing in “Jews and money,” and observing the results, it would speak for itself. For those who do not know, I will make it clear, “Jews and money” is no better than associating black people with “chicken and watermelon,” or hispanics with “baby making machines.”

Some people think positive stereotypes are ok. Referring to black men as having “large genitals,” may seem like a compliment. Yet when the late Jimmy the Greek Snyder talked about black men being bred for sports since the days of slavery, he was actually trying to pay a compliment. Blacks have had much success in professional sports. Yet his comments were deemed offensive, because slavery simply does not make for a positive analogy.

“Good with money,” is a way of implying Jews will cheat non-Jews out of their money. Some do not make that connection, but that is what the connection is. The fact that (if) I thought chicken and watermelon were tasty foods would be irrelevant. If I offered it to a room full of black people, they would be offended. My rationale does not override their understanding.

I have had very few good hair days since the 1980s (then again, I have a full head of hair, and would rather be unkempt than bald). Don Imus referred to the Rutgers team as “nappy headed hos.” Were his comments racist or sexist? Perhaps both. Yet if someone said I had “bed head (which I do),” I would not bat an eyelash.

Yes, we can go overboard. When Ross Perot referred to a black audience as “You people,” he was criticized. If someone can explain why “you people,” is offensive, please enlighten me. So how do we know if a situation is much ado about nothing or a very big deal?

There are two factors to be looked at. The first is if the person sincerely apologizes. Apologizing does not mean issuing a namby pamby “statement of regret,” or saying “If anyone was offended.” It means saying “I was wrong.” Tommy Thompson passes this test because he immediately did that, without equivocation.

The second criteria is if the incident is isolated or a pattern. Don Imus has a track record of insensitive remarks. Tommy Thompson does not. If in the coming days this is shown to be false, this will not blow over so quickly. Assuming this was one slip of the tongue, to destroy his career would be wrong.

We do not have freedom of speech in this country. Rapper Ice-T has an album entitled “Freedom of Speech…Just watch what you say.” This is important because we have already seen one man with a legitimate shot of being a top tier 2008 Presidential Candidate (George Allen in Virginia) have his political career go down in flames. Tommy Thompson did not have a “Macaca moment.” He spoke carelessly, but on the surface, was not trying to insult anyone. George Allen was trying to be funny, but that is not an excuse.

Tommy Thompson is not an anti-semite. He is a decent guy who misspoke. I am not sure what is worse…the fact that this became an issue…or the fact that Tommy Thompson is a 4th tier presidential candidate who cannot become 3rd tier due to welfare reform, but can make the news for one flubbed gaffe and a half.

There are plenty of black people who suck at basketball and hate rap music. None of my Jewish friends are wealthy…not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett wealthy (neither are Jewish). Not oil wealthy (Arabs nations in the Middle East have oil, not Israel). Not every Asian excels in mathematics and succeeds at everything. The Virginia Tech Massacre was conducted by an Asian man. People may be surprised because “Asians don’t do that,” but you know what? Asian gangs are as brutal as Russian, Italian, Crips, Bloods, or any other gangs. One of my closest friends is Asian. The pressure of adhering to Asian culture got to him. He wanted to be American. This enraged his parents, but he is now happy…and married to an Asian woman he loves, not someone who was “traditional” for him.

We are people first, and as proud as I am that many Jews have succeeded in business, I would love to see one of my fellow Jews throw the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. I suspect most black athletes would be ok if their children avoided the injury plagued sports lifestyle and became Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

Oh, and for good measure, I had a homosexual roommate for 5 years. He had no fashion sense, could not decorate, and had no social skills. He was not offended by Dire Straits using a gay slur in one of their hit songs (they changed the lyrics) because Dire Straits did not have a track record of anything but great rock music. Yet when Ann Coulter speaks about John Edwards…well…point beaten to death.

For humor or serious analogies to work, they have to be based on truth. There is nothing funny about Jews and money….especially with me having student loans up the ying-yang…or maybe I should say wazoo…ying-yang can be misconstrued, and wazoo is fun to say (Unless you hate the Washington State Cougars. The Washington Huskies prefer saying Udub).

The Tommy Thompson Tempest in a Teapot is now Toast. I am not an environmentalist, so we should not recycle it. So before we get back to the real tough issues in life, the only thing left to say is…Wazoo! Wow, that is fun actually.


Our function is to fulfill our responsibilities.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

When we are faced with a tragedy, such as 9/11, Katrina or Virginia Tech, or a crisis, such as my father’s angiogram tomorrow, the initial human reaction is to “do something.” We should get on a plane, make a difference, and be in the thick of things. While this is a noble human intention, it is often counterproductive. We need to listen to what those closest to the situation are saying, and not confuse our desire to heal with their wishes.

In 1991, I was a freshman in college when the ground war began in the first Iraq War. I was attending a Jewish institution, and various students began to come unglued as Iraq lobbed scud missiles at Israel (another reason I supported the current Iraq war and am delighted Saddam is gone). Some students were afraid Saddam would bomb our university in Los Angeles, because it was Jewish. I was irritated at all the hand wringing because I understood that Saddam had bigger concerns than some Los Angeles college very few people knew existed. The conflict was on the other side of the world. However, what really troubled me was some students wanting to drop out of school and join the Israeli army. They were upset that I wanted to stay in America. A phone call with my parents put things in perspective.

My father explained that “Human beings have a function in life. The function of the soldiers was to fight and protect America and her friends. The teachers’ function was not to go out and protest, but to stay in the classroom and teach. Your function as a student was to go to class and get good grades. It is more than your function. It is your obligation and your responsibility.”

Handling one’s responsibilities is never seen as heroic, but it is necessary to prevent a breakdown in the social order.

After 9/11, I wanted to fly to New York. I was born and raised there. I had a job in Los Angeles, and my coworkers were depending on me. I called my relatives, and everyone was alive and safe. Sure I wanted to go and help clean out the rubble, but it was unsafe.

After Katrina, NFL Football star Brett Favre wanted to go and be with his family in Mississippi. Yes, he had enough money and power to get on a plane. Yet that also would have been unwise. When a situation is fluid, and uncertainty is everywhere, arriving just to get in the way is counterproductive. The situation was not feasible for him to arrive. Until things calmed down, he stayed put.

There are so many ways we can help from our own homes. Having everyone arrive on the Virginia Tech campus is not the answer. We do not help those who are mourning by abandoning our responsibilities at home. Yes we grieve. We hurt. We feel like we have been given a big black eye. These feelings are valid, but our actions must be calm and measured, for the sake of the very people we wish to help.

When my grandfather died in 2004, I was violently ill that entire week. I was also financially strapped. I had several job interviews lined up. My parents did not want me flying 3000 miles for the funeral. My dad made no bones about his feelings. “There is no good to you showing up. You are sick, and you need to rest. You need to be healthy for your job interviews. You grandfather wanted you to be healthy and financially stable. Flying here jeopardizes both of those things, and you might get other family members ill. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Everybody knows how much you loved him, and we will all understand why you are not there.”

When I expressed that some family members might be insulted, my dad said “He was my father. Who are you going to make angry? Your mother and I love you, and we want you to stay where you are, get healthy, and go on those job interviews. The only things your grandfather ever worried about were health and money. Honor him by making him proud and getting that high paying job. You have nothing to prove, and nothing to be ashamed of for not being here. Don’t worry about honoring the dead. You honored him every day he was alive. Now go rest up.” I ended up typing up a eulogy on my computer, emailing it, and having it read at the funeral. I also got healthier, and got the job.

I am repeatedly reminded of this because my dad is still preaching it. His angiogram is tomorrow, delayed by one day. He has ordered the family not to visit. When I say ordered, I mean strictly ordered. He knows we love him, and when you love someone you respect their wishes. My mother relayed a message from him yesterday. “Dad wants you to work hard at your job, and make sure the boss is happy. There is no need at this time to fly 3000 miles. You are a stockbrokerage professional, not a doctor. You cannot do anything to fix the problem, so just honor your responsibilities. He loves you and he knows you love him.”

I just saw him 3 weeks ago, and my remaining vacation days will be used to visit him at the end of the year. If the situation gets more severe, I have to decide whether or not to get on a plane. The ethical issue becomes whether I put my own needs against my father’s wishes.  The thing that makes it easy to listen to him is because he does not sugarcoat things. He does not believe this situation is at critical mass. I pray he is right. While I am thinking emotionally, he is using cold logical reasoning. He knows I only get a few days a year, and he believes those days will be needed later on, and the situation does not rise to the level of an emergency trip.

When Ronald Reagan was shot, he told the doctors “I hope you are all republicans.” It was his way of letting everyone know everything would be fine, and if it wasn’t, we should not feel bad. My dad is letting everyone know he is in charge, and he knows what is best for him. He is right about one thing. I am no medical genius.

As we deal with the tough issues in life, sometimes doing what is ethical and moral conflicts with what is practical. Sometimes the lines are so blurry that we want to do something to avoid thinking about it any longer. However, these are times when we must think first. We cannot let our own grief get in the way of what the victims’ wishes are. Some people want everyone around them. Others want peace and quiet, as opposed to chaos.

My father is not alone. My mother is spending hours with him. My father is not kicking her out of his hospital room. They are both retired, and the bills are paid. Looking after him is her function…her obligation…her responsibility. Plus, somebody has to let him know we love him and vice versa. Thankfully she is.


Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo), Jane Fonda (J-Fo), and Virginia Tech?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Some people can’t watch the news. They see Virgina Tech, and they change the channel. I respect these people. We all cope in different ways. I can’t turn the television away from it. I was able to keep my emotions in check until they started showing the names and faces of the victims. Each one of them, gone forever. After five hours, not so much from fatigue as from grief, I changed the channel. There was a movie starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda.

The plot was fairly simple, as one would expect from a movie starring J-Lo and J-Fo. J-Lo was marrying J-Fo’s son, and J-Fo was the evil mother-in-law determined to stop the wedding. This was as “non-Virginia Tech” as one could get in terms of relevance, cerebral capacity required, and seriousness. Then near the end of the movie (please stop reading if your lives will be altered by knowing how it ends…which if this is the case, reread my article about “nonsense.”), the two women start slapping each other. At that moment, the groom’s grandmother (J-Fo’s mother in law, brilliantly played by the queen of battle axes, Elaine Stritch) enters the room and begins torturing J-Fo. J-Lo sees those two women arguing and sees her own future. After grandma leaves the room, J-Lo says to future mom in law J-Fo “It’s never going to stop. It’s never going to end. This is us 30 years from now. It’s always going to be like this.”

The two women then reach a fragile peace agreement to share the son/husband in a fair manner both can live with.

I have to confess that I expected the movie to be terrible. I know nothing about J-Lo’s music. I know she is famous for having a large backside, and that she dated Puffy/Diddy/Daddy/Combs something-or-other (I have no idea what he does for a living…if anyone knows, please clue me in. I know he is famous for something). As far as J-Fo is concerned, I only know about her political activism, which I deplore, and that she was married to two people whose political activism I also have little regard for. So it is to their credit that they produced a movie that was not only enjoyable, but (possibly by coincidence) thought provoking.

These women were fighting about nonsense. Their conflict was as avoidable as it was ridiculous. By gazing into the future through the grandmother, they saw how futile and asinine their feud was.

Most of us cannot see into the future, so we pursue feuds that are unwise, unnecessary, and harmful. What did Donald Trump ever do to deserve Rosie O’Donnell’s wrath? When did being rich and successful become a crime? Also, Mr. Trump gave a young person a second chance. Whatever his motives, isn’t that something positive?

Why are people who believe in God and express pride in their religiosity seen as zealots? Isn’t believing that you are lower and answer to something more important and higher a sign of humility? I worry about people who believe they have no one and nothing to answer to.

When the republican delegates at the convention in 2000 started singing Lee Greenwood’s beautiful song “God Bless the USA,” they were ridiculed on television as being jingoistic. They were not attacking the patriotism of anyone else. They were just expressing their love for this great nation. Why mock something so poignant when alot of life is insincere?

Just because some politicians and religious leaders are phonies does not invalidate them all. To strive to be better than who we are, and reach an ideal of who and what we can and could be…again, that is something overwhelmingly positive.

This brings us to Virginia Tech. Looking for blame rehashes arguments that have not been resolved, and will not be resolved 30 years from now, or beyond. Gun control? Immigration? The educational system in general? Mental health care? These are issues we can talk about LATER. What we need to talk about NOW is how to help the people of Virginia Tech. Period. Paralysis by analysis can be fine later on.

For now we have to let these people know we care. They know we cannot bring back their loved ones. However, we can send cards…letters…emails…silent prayers…anonymous caring. It does matter.

I do not know if we could have prevented this tragedy. I do know that we can compound it by focusing on everything but the only thing that matters…the human beings who we lost and their surviving loved ones.

I say this also because my dad’s angiogram was postponed by one day. He will have it tomorrow. I could focus no the fact that he puts salt on his steaks, or that he may not exercise enough, or that he smokes an occasional cigar, or that he worries too much, blah blah blah…none of that means anything. Do I sue Philip Morris or Lawrys (They make the steaks and the salt)? No. I pray for my dad to live because I love him…and that is it.

We spend too much time judging people, and not enough time loving people. Lord knows I am guilty of that. If we all crossed the aisle and listened to others, we could be who we want to be. I most likely will never purchase a J-Lo album or agree with J-Fo’s politics. However, for a brief amount of time, I was relaxed by a lighthearted movie in which they both gave enjoyable performances.

The movie was fiction. The behavior they exhibited in the end to reach their peace agreement could become reality on a larger scale. Otherwise, we will look into the future and see a world of pain…not only is this consequence awful for human hearts and souls…it is entirely avoidable.

The future will be there. The past is done and cannot be changed. The present is staring us in the face. It is the people of Virgina Tech. I will turn the tv on tonight after work, and for a few hours, they will be in my hearts again. I pray for them all.


Bishop T.D. Jakes Virginia Tech Take–This Dallas Deacon is a Beacon

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

As I struggle to find the right words in post after post, I have been frustrated with writers and thinkers much more eloquent than me unable to say what is in alot of people’s hearts.

Until now. I read an article by Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter House in Dallas Texas. This article was in today’s Washington Post, and the article was also on Realclearpolitics.

As a caucasian Jewish stockbrokerage professional raised in New York and living in Los Angeles, he and I could not be more different. He is a black, Dallas based Christian. Yet when someone says your words for you, you cannot help but feel compelled to thank them. I know nothing about Bishop Jakes, but based on this one reading, this Deacon is a Beacon.

In addition to the Virginia Tech tragedy, I pray for my father, who has an angiogram tomorrow. I remember a folk song my father used to play in the house when I was growing up.

“You can be a beacon if you’ll let it (your light) shine…because there’s a little light in all of us by God’s design.”

It is easy to understand why people lose faith, but it is also to understand why some turn to faith even more. My father lived through the Holocaust, yet believes in a higher power. As I think of my dad, and think of that song, I reread Bishop Jakes’ messages in his article.

1) “It is not so much that we have answers, as we have compassion.” I am glad I read this because I may never have answers. I know that I care about these people I have never met, and that is all I know. I hope they feel the outpouring of caring from strangers worldwide. It will not bring back their loved ones, but it can only help. Tell as many people as possible you care early and often. If you have told them already, tell them again.

2) One lesson to take from tragedies is that “all is not lost. However, if we awake tomorrow to business as usual, we are destined to repeat the same mistakes without remedy.” We have to do better. All of us. That does not mean feel guilt, blame or shame. It does mean striving to make the time on this Earth matter. We are not here to take up space. We are here to make a better world. Slipping through the cracks is not an option. We are all potential beacons of light. We all have value. We all matter. God says this.

3)  “Many of us are suffering from little to no tolerance for people who think, believe, look, dress or act differently than ourselves. We will never agree on all issues; but we can learn to be civil and respectful.” Amen, Bishop Jakes! 9/11, Katrina and Virginia Tech did not know black from white, red republican from blue democrat, liberal from conservative, or short from tall. We have every right to fiercely debate those we disagree with. We should not hate them. The dinner table at many Synagogues I have been to have had spirited verbal jousting sessions, followed by the breaking of bread, the drinking of beverages, and hugs and hearty handshakes afterwards. We also learn and grow more from people we disagree with in ways that our like minded allies cannot aid us in doing.

4) “I hope we find some shred of wisdom in the remains of this. I hope that we do something to dispel this trend we see mounting all around us. I hope that this crisis teaches us to love more deeply, to extend a greater sense of respect and compassion for one another. I understand that it is the loss of life that also teaches us the value of life. It is its brevity of moments that encourages us not to waste days with anger and unforgiveness. May all of us who dare to have a belief system that is founded in God use that faith to find solace in God’s love and presence, beauty in the gift he gives us each moment, and savoring every drop of life we have.”

May we all spread God’s light with the beauty that Bishop Jakes spreads words. May those words be matched by equally beautiful deeds by all of us. We saw the worst of life yesterday. To try and make things better, which I truly believe in my heart we can, slowly but steadily, we will have to give it our best.

May God bless the families of the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre. May God also bless my father, and may he live for a long time to come.

Thank you Bishop Jakes. You said it perfectly. I will simply say to your words “amen.”


The Virginia Tech tragedy…hoping football can come through again.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

11 days ago, on April 17th, 2007, I wrote the following:

“At some point in the future of America, there will be more tough times…perhaps even tragedies. As long as there is a National Football League, I believe that a very small percentage of that pain will be reduced for enough people to make it a relevant healing. While the Super Bowl is for the Championship, and The Pro Bowl showcases the best players, it is the games after 9/11 and Katrina that give the NFL, and football in general, its noble legacy.

I eagerly await the schedule of the 2007 season, and with even greater eagerness, I await the first kickoff of the first game in September. No matter what challenges we face in life, we can meet them. We are Americans. We are led by real heroes, such as Firefighters, Police Officers, and EMTs. Those heroes, in their darkest days, turned to football.

That is why they play the games. That is why I watch the games.

May God Bless the USA and the NFL.”

Yesterday, another human tragedy befell this nation I love so much. The heartless and soulless slaughter of over 30 innocent students at Virginia Tech has boggled my brain with its absolutely mindblowing senselessness. While I caution people not to jump to conclusions, I still want answers. How did this happen? More importantly, Why? I suspect those answers will not be forthcoming.

There is nothing I can say to these families. After watching 5 hours of news yesterday, I turned on David Letterman. After the Top 10 list, still unable to sleep, I turned on the NFL Network. I needed to escape. For someone to understand why that would provide me solace, they would have to either be me, or know me inside out, which a few do. I am not well rounded. I fully concede that. My pursuit of what I enjoy in life has come at the expense of learning about many other things in life, such as art, literature, theatre and music. What I do know, is that everyone heals in their own way. I am thinking about what football can do to minimize the pain being felt by about 1%. It is 1% better than 0.

In 11 days the NFL holds the 2007 draft. Perhaps the league can provide tickets to young kids from Virginia Tech to take their minds off of things, even for a few brief hours. On September 10th, 2007, the first week of the NFL Season brings the Baltimore Ravens at the Cincinnati Bengals. On September 17th, 2007, the 2nd week of the NFL season, Monday Night Football is the Washington Redskins at the Philadelphia Eagles. Given that in both of the cases, these teams play eachother twice, the home and road teams should be switched. Let the games be played in Baltimore and DC, and play in Cincinnati and Philadelphia later in the year. Massive blood drives, food drives and toy drives can be held in those cities for the relatives of the victims. Maybe the players can wear Virginia Tech Hokies decals on their helmets as a show of solidarity. Michael Vick, a famous Hokie, can wear something at Falcons games this year.

I am well aware this will not bring back anyone who we lost, nor will it explain what happened, or prevent future tragedies. Yet when there is only darkness, even a ray of home somewhere…can bring something positive.

I have to travel to Washington DC for a business conference in October. Perhaps I can buy two tickets to a Hokies game and take a young kid to the game. If people have tickets that they cannot use or sell, give them to people in the area. When every minute is an eternity, three hours of football can be a welcome respite. Former Virginia Senator George Allen was the son of a famous football coach. Maybe he can suggest some ideas.

When the bonfire killed students at Texas A & M, their brethren at Texas offered their love. The Longhorns were on the same side as the Aggies that day. When Virginia plays Virginia Tech, all the Wildcats will be Hokies.

I do not have any answers, only ideas. I suggest football ideas because that is the world I know. So I ask everyone out there…come up with ideas. Then try to find people who can help implement them.

Other than that, just pray for the surviving kids at Virginia Tech. They may never be the same, and every word of support will be needed to try and prevent their nightmares from becoming psychological breakdowns. Offer them your quiet peace, love and support.

On a final note, my father has his angiogram tomorrow. My mother said that with worrying about my father, thinking about Virginia Tech right now is too overwhelming. I will pray for the Virginia Tech people for my whole family so my mom can be focused on my dad. If some of you out there can take 1/10th of 1% of your prayers for the people of Virginia Tech, and direct them towards my dad, that would be appreciated.

My dad does not like football, and has no idea why I do. All I know is, right now I need something to think about while I try to make sense of all the things in life that make not an ounce of sense at all.

Go Hokies in 2007. Relieve 1/10th of 1% of the pain, even for a few hours a week, a few days a year.


Virginia Tech, Pacman Jones, J.A. Adande, and our culture of bling

Monday, April 16th, 2007

While it seems cold to talk about anything other than Virginia Tech tonight, a brilliant column was written by sportswriter J.A. Adande in the LA Times today. He wrote it before the senseless slaughter of college students at Virginia Tech, and most likely would not have written it afterwards, given how classy he is. However, due to the brilliance of his writing, I wanted to answer his article before it loses its timeliness.

J.A. Adande is one of the best sportswriters in America. His column awhile back about the death of his mother was a column for the ages. Today he wrote about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tennessee Titans defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones. For those of you who were following the story prior to today, Pacman Jones has had several incidences with the law over the last couple years. After the successful almost 20 year reign of former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Roger Goodell has big shoes to fill. Rather than be tentative, he started out bold. He realizes that the NFL has some tarnish on it’s sterling platinum reputation, and that tarnish is NFL players getting in trouble with the law. From Darryl Henley to Rae Carruth, the news has been headline grabbing for the wrong reasons. Roger Goodell suspended Pacman Jones for a whole season, the largest suspension ever doled out for violations of the league’s conduct policy.

Some say Pacman Jones was made an example of, as a warning to all the other players. I doubt this was the case, but if so, it would not be fair. Each situation should be judged on its own merits, nothing more or less. This brings us to J.A. Adande. He stated that since Pacman only has one conviction, punishing him for ten incidents goes beyond fairness. It is rendering people innocent until proven guilty. Like the Duke rape case, a rush to judgment could be lethal for Commissioner Goodell if Pacman turns out to be innocent of his other alleged scrapes (The conduct rules do not require convictions. That can be debated at another time…the rules itself do not require convictions, which is all that is currently relevant).

A year is a lifetime in football. The average life of an NFL player is 3 years. Even if Pacman lasts 10 years, taking away 10% of his earning power is a stiff penalty, not to be given lightly. I am not implying the Commissioner acted recklessly, but football players do not have 30 year life spans. The bottom line is this…if the Commissioner is going to give such a severe penalty…he had better be right. Pacman is not just being banned from playing a game. He is being banned from working.

Despite the enormous respect I have for Mr. Adande, he is most likely wrong for one reason…we do not have all the facts. Commissioner Goodell knows more than we do. Unless he is Mike Nifong, he values his professional integrity enough to not make a rash decision for the sake of flexing muscle. I suspect (and if I am wrong I will issue a mea culpa to Mr. Adande) that Pacman’s situation is worse than we know, and that Mr. Goodell is sparing Pacman as well as the league. By suspending him for reasons only he, Pacman and some police might know, he is giving Pacman a chance to keep some dignity. As of this writing, Pacman is debating appealing the suspension. If he is innocent, he should fight tooth and nail, and he should win. If he is guilty, he should immediately drop his appeal. Otherwise, his other misdeeds will be exposed and he will be ridiculed.

So what is causing all these problems? It is not guns. Many people own guns, and they obey the law. It is not poverty. The poorest NFL players are wealthier than most. It is not “hip-hop culture.” Snoop Dogg (who has his own legal troubles, to say the least) does not make other people break the law. To say that young black men follow him and other rappers is to say that those young black men do not have minds of their own, which is as untrue as it is insulting. I am a young, white conservative republican. I like Snoop Dogg, and I have never shot anyone, nor do I plan to. The record does not make me do it.

The problem is other aspects of our society’s obsession with “bling.” No, I am not talking about the jewelry itself. The most gaudy jewelry I have ever seen has been worn by 65 year old Jewish women, and they were not out killing each other for it.  The problem is not even racial. So if it is not racial, economic, or religious, what is it? Youthful.

That’s right, I am blaming young men. Young women do not try to be “bad-@sses.” Old people are not obsessed with “representing.” Senior citizens do not “call each other out,” and young women do not “throw down.” (Trash talking on the field is fine. When Cincinnati Bengal Chad Johnson sent Cleveland Browns defensive backs Pepto Bismol with a note saying his play on the field was going to make them sick, it was hilarious. It was also not a crime. It was creative chest thumping that got no one killed).

Young men go to the bars and the clubs, and they have to be tougher than the guy across from them. If one guy has a $100,000 car, the other guy needs a $200,000 car. If one guy drinks 10 beers, the other guy has to drink 11. If one guy has 3 pieces of bling, the other guy needs 4. Backing down is not an option. Walking away is weakness.

I do not go to bars or clubs in LA, and I drive a beat up car nobody most people would not condescend to steal. I wear no jewelry, and I do not talk trash to strangers. I mind my own d@mn business. Does this guarantee my safety? No, but it helps. The country music song “I aint as good as I once was” reminds me that I am simply too old for bar fights and chair throwing.

I am not saying young men should not wear expensive jewelry. However, they should not emasculate other young men who have inferior jewelry. I will not ridicule a man for having a girlfriend that might be less pretty than mine. I will not go to a strip club and throw around $80,000 just because I can (Pacman). Is this illegal? No, but it is unwise. A rich man walking in a poor bad neighborhood does not “deserve” to be beaten up, but it is still bad judgment for him to do this.

Roger Goodell is trying to protect his enterprise. Yes, it is his. He is responsible if it gets tarnished on his watch. Also, in a rare show of unity, the players union supports the crackdown on player conduct. When a union is praising a management policy…dispute should go out the window. What is lost in all of this is that Mr. Goodell might be doing more good for Pacman Jones than we will ever know. Maybe he isn’t…but he very well could be.

As I sit back and watch the carnage at Virginia Tech, I cannot help but think of the NFL superstar who showed everyone Virginia Tech…Michael Vick. What if this tragedy had happened a few years ago? “Superman,” (Michael Vick) would not be thrilling audiences today.

No, his life is not more valuable than those who died just because he is famous. Those who died today could have been the next great scientist, Noble Peace Prize winner, President of the United States, or Oscar winning movie star. We will never know.

I am more than aware that the analogy is not perfect. However, aggressive male behavior could have been the cause of today’s tragedy. Maybe the killer felt “dissed,” “emasculated,” or humiliated in some way. Maybe he felt he had to “represent.” I do not know. What I do know is that Some tragedies are preventable.

Pacman Jones has to decide if he wants to be a star NFL player or a young male statistic underground. It is Mr. Pacman Jones that needs to be questioned, not Mr. Roger Goodell. If the facts prove otherwise, then Mr. Goodell should back down. However, we should not claim to know what Mr. Goodell knows, which might be worse than we suspect.

I look forward to seeing Pacman Jones in 2008. May his career be successful. During his year off, I hope he stays out of trouble. From Tupac Shukar to Biggie Smalls, from coast to coast, this country has lost talented people needlessly. May Pacman not join them anytime soon. May the league support Roger Goodell’s crackdown. Until proven otherwise, it is justified, timely, and fair.


Virginia Tech…Why Everyone Needs to be Quiet

Monday, April 16th, 2007

A few days ago I complained that the news was nonsense. From Anna Nicole to Don Imus to the Duke lacrosse players, I wanted the news to be of substance.

I do not regret my wish, but I, like rationale people everywhere, am horrified by the news today. Virgina Tech is now a phrase for the ages, like Columbine and 9/11. It is burned in our lexicon. The coming days will be filled with analysis and second guessing, which will inevitably miss the only issue that matters. Innocent human beings died way too young.

Children predeceased their parents. This should not happen. It is every parent’s nightmare. I am an adult, and my parents still worry about it. Fathers and mothers lost sons and daughters. College kids lost their best friends. A couple of those teens probably declared their love for each other the night before, and promised to love each other forever. Not only did we lose people…we lost innocent people…tragically. So as we mourn and search for answers, I implore people everywhere to take deep breaths, and not turn this into a political sideshow.

Liberals are itching to exploit this tragedy to promote tougher gun control laws faster than you can say Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Shumer. Maybe they actually believe what they say about this issue. It doesn’t matter. They would be wrong on the issue, and wrong morally for bringing it up. This is not about guns. It is about a human being who did an awful thing.

Conservatives should also tread lightly. If the murderer of these students in Virginia turns out to be an illegal alien, this should not be used to fuel the already high illegal immigration fire. I do not support illegal immigration, but I fear that an angry mob might target every Asian in America. Anyone who thinks this would not happen has forgotten the 1992 LA Riots, when being a Korean grocery store owner was tantamount to wearing a bullseye (the store owners had guns, another reason gun control advocates are wrong).

Liberals will try to somehow connect this to President Bush. He supports the second amendment, and therefore will be blamed for the “cowboy culture” that infects America (while ignoring that Bush is a rancher, not a cowboy).

If the murderer was on drugs, conservatives might try to blame the permissive culture of the 1960s for this heinous crime, as if no one died before 1959. Yes, the 1960s brought us toxic individuals engaging in bad behavior, but they did not make this individual killer decide to declare Virginia Tech his personal armageddon.

Liberals will try to get to the root cause of why this happened. It does not matter. People are dead, and most Americans are tired of social scientists. They want justice.

Conservatives will ask for vengeance. They will want anyone else involved to be immediately killed. While I support the death penalty, we must be measured. If we find innocent relatives of the killers, we have to ask questions first and then shoot, not the other way around. If it turns out that the killer listened to heavy metal or gangsta rap, attempts will be made to blame Snoop Dogg or Metallica for this tragedy. I don’t care if the kid was calling his victims bizzatches and hos while blaring Snoop’s music on his headphones…this was an individual (or individuals) who did an evil thing.

Liberals will claim that since this killer is not an Arab or a Muslim, this proves that terrorism comes in all forms, and that ethnic profiling is not the answer. This is nonsense. If this killer is Asian, as initially being reported, most Americans are shocked specifically because an Asian mass murderer is an aberration. Asians don’t do that, unless they are named Pol Pot.

Conservatives will claim that this proves we need to be tougher on crime, and that we are at war. Unless proven otherwise, while this mass murder spree is terrorism, it is not connected to any terrorist organization or cell. It is, unless shown to the contrary, an isolated heinous act unconnected to any political or ideological statement.

It is quite possible that nothing could have prevented this. Some say that maybe before he killed people, this killer could have been given love. How do we know that this killer did not grow up in a loving home? Maybe the killer had mental problems. This should not turn into a conversation about health care and mental illness. If the killer was poor, this should not be about class warfare. Supply side tax cuts did not cause this. The person may or may not have been evil. Barring surprising information to the contrary, he was. The act was definitely evil. That’s it. Period.

Presidential candidates should issue a statement of sorrow and then shut up. Any attempt to politicize this should be met with voter backlash.

Innocent human beings died long before their time, leaving a trail of broken hearts. Virginia will never be the same again.

To quote rock group Metallica, with regards to this issue, “Nothing Else Matters.” To quote John Cougar Mellencamp, “Time to settle with my neighbor. Time to question my own behavior.” If any positive can come out of this horror, it will be that somewhere…someone who is angry with someone else…about to pick up a knife or a bottle…will instead pick up a telephone…and call their neighbor and say “let’s talk.”

People should call up people we love and tell them. If you have told them 50 million times…tell them again. As Virginia Tech tragically reminds us again, the only guarantees in life are taxes (April 15th does not seem like the end of the world all of a sudden), and sadly enough, death…occasionally an unfair, unjustified and untimely death.

Virginia is for lovers. I am sending my love and prayers to Virginia, as are many tonight. Then I am going to stay quiet and try to make sense of it all. We should all do that.