Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 30, 2005--Fore! Kemo Sabe.

Since I love anything having to do with Druids, the last time I was in England I visited Stonehenge. It was a great experience except for one thing—I had brought along my golf clubs but there was no place to pitch and putt at Stonehenge.

So when I read in the NY Times recently that in Newark, Ohio there is a golf course at the Moundbuilders Country Club where the holes and sand traps are laid out over hundreds of acres of 2000 year old American Indian mounds, when I learned about this unique course, I made plans to visit and hit a few balls (see link below for full story).

These mounds were shaped by the Hopewell Indians, who over decades moved seven million cubic feet of earth to form them, using just sharp sticks and clam shells as their tools. I learned further that the so-called Newark Earthworks are the world’s largest ancient mound site and that it is, like Stonehenge (which could fit in its entirety into just one small section of the Newark Earthworks) an ancient astronomical observatory—the geometric shapes align with the moon at its northernmost point in the heavens every 18.6 years, and that these mounds are twice as precise as a lunar observatory as Stonehenge.

So it must have seemed fitting to destroy a large part of them so they could be turned into a golf course. Since the mounds in Newark range in height from three to 14 feet, think about how the golf course designers and builders did not have to move around too much earth to create their undulations and hazards. The job was half done for them 2000 years ago! It doesn’t get any better than that.

But of course things always get a little complicated when boys just want to have fun and games (and get in a little drinking at the 19th hole). Actually, there are some Indians remaining (who we didn’t manage to get onto reservations) who consider the mounds sacred ground. A local professor, Richard Shiels from Ohio State’s Newark campus says, “Playing golf on a Native American spiritual site is a fundamental desecration.” (To get a full view of these incredible mounds, I have attached via the link below an aerial view.)

Be that as it may, the course got built and it is very popular, including among amateur archeologists who have been seeking permission to come to the golf course at just the right lunar moments to check out if the old observatory is still working. But the golf course folks have not been that cooperative, claiming that the visitors will run all over the course and ruin the putting greens. The Moonrise Committee, which wants to visit occasionally, was rebuffed the other day when the Moundbuilder Country Club demanded that they purchase golf-green insurance for $23,252. A steep figure for folks who just want to watch the moon rise.

By the way, on October 22nd, a propitious day to use the mounds as an observatory, a few dozen members of the golf club dragged themselves from their watering hole for a private view. And maybe a little meditation and prayer.

To quote Tonto, “Hi Ho Kemo Sabe.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

November 29, 2005--Don't Know Much About Geography

I’m not talking about students not knowing geography, but rather about their educators not knowing much about education.

They have been attempting to perpetrate a fraud on students, their parents, tax payers, governments, and the rest of us. Here’s how this massive fraud works.

There are about 45 million children in the nation’s public schools. By various measures it is conservatively estimated that at least a third of them, 15 million, are not receiving an adequate education—they are being left behind by the educational system and will not as a result be viable in the 21st century economy.

The NY Times reported recently about the most recent scam—how as the result of the No Child Left Behind legislation, in order for states to receive their share of federal money, they have to demonstrate, via achievement testing, that students in their states are making satisfactory academic progress (see link below). If the tests show that the students aren’t, the states do not get the money. The whole idea behind this was to hold states and local educators accountable for student achievement—set standards and then test to see if students are progressing.

So what have the states done? They’ve dumbed-down the tests, thereby making it easier for students to do well so they can claim that their schools are improving.

They got caught at this shell game because the federal government also administers a much more demanding test to a statistically significant sample of students in all states—the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). If you compare how students are doing on NAEP versus the state tests you find that though they are doing “well” on the latter they are doing miserably on the former. Here’s an example or two to illustrate—In Tennessee, 87 percent of 8th grade students tested proficient in math on the state test but only 21 percent did as well on the federal test. In New York, 70 percent of 4th graders were proficient in reading on the state test while just 34 percent did as well on NAEP. This sad reality is true for literally every state in the nation.

It gets worse. Even more cheating goes on at the high school level. Here it’s a matter of definitions—how do you calculate high school graduation rates, a critical measure of student achievement considering the kinds of jobs that are available in the US. The most legitimate way to do this is to track how students entering 9th grade fare four years later—what percentage of 9th graders graduate. Sounds simple. Well, not one state does it this way. More typically, states determine high school graduation rates by calculating what percentage of 12th graders graduate at the end of the 12th grade, 10 months later. This is an obvious fraud because students entering the 12th grade are in effect the survivors of a failed system and so it is not surprising to find states reporting graduation rates of 80-90+ percent, whereas if they gathered data more honestly, by tracking 9th graders through high school, they would find statewide graduation rates hovering at about 50 percent, with youngsters from inner-city schools doing about half as well as that.

How do the educators respond? They begin by attacking the methodology, saying, for example, that the state and national exams are testing for different things; and thus by comparing the two sets of scores, you are comparing apples with oranges. There is some truth to that, but the magnitude of difference between the test results is so great as to counter that claim—it is well known, and even openly acknowledged, that under pressure from No Child Left Behind, states have lowered testing standards in order to make themselves look good.

If this statistical argument fails then educators blame the children and their families—what do you expect of us if the children arrive at school under-motivated and not speaking English? Considering how little we are paid and appreciated by society what can you realistically expect us to do?

How about doing what my mother and her contemporaries did in the public schools of New York City—teach the kids to read, write, and do math so they can make lives for themselves. Those children also came from low-income families who did not speak English at home, but somehow their teachers (most not even college graduates, but still well trained) managed to get the job done.

It is time to stop the excuses; stop blaming the children; and, most important, to stop the deceit and the lying.

November 28, 2005--Mr. Potato Head

Now that you’ve recovered from all the turkey leftovers and the endless football, it is time to reflect on the real meaning of Thanksgiving—shopping. No better way to do that than by taking another look at the Macy’s Day Parade. Sorry—the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A hundred years ago, when I was a kid, I seem to remember that it was all about Santa, his helpers, and the Turkey. True, we knew the parade was organized and paid for by Macys and that it would remind us to get started on our Christmas shopping, but it all felt quite innocent and relatively free of commercialism. Oh, how things have changed!

As reported in the NY Times (see article linked below) in case you haven’t noticed, the parade is now much more a means to launch campaigns for movies, TV shows, and merchandise than to help Santa make his list and check it twice. With 2.5 million lining the route and another 50 million tuning in, it’s a marketer's dream come true.

The Scooby-Doo balloon (Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite; I swear I heard him say this) is not just Scooby but also a subliminal reminder that a new line of Scooby-Doo toys are available at Macys and elsewhere. The Chicken Little balloon alerts us to the fact that a new CL movie is about to open. And the Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi float paid for by the Cartoon Network, is to let us know that they are about to air a rash of Hi Hi shows.

It’s almost a relief to have a street lamp come crashing down on your head so you can escape to the emergency room.

On that subject—did you see that NBC, which aired the entire parade with the Today Show news people hosting (Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, and Al Roker), did not choose to report what turned out to be front page stories the next day in all New York City papers (the Times included)—the crash of the M&M balloon and the resulting injuries to two good folks from Albany (“good” because they announced that they will not be suing Macys or NYC—though I understand Whiplash Willie is right now on a bus heading up to Albany). Here they were, on the air live and they were presented with this scoop opportunity and what did they do--intercut a video tape of the M&M balloon from last year’s parade so as too be able to present the parade “in its entirety.” Good Night and Good Luck, Kati and Matt.

Back to the parade itself—Mr. Potato Head has been a staple for years but with all the concern about nutritous food Mr. Potato Head reemerged this year as Mr. Healthy Potato Head. Mr. Head’s website (he has one) reports that this is not the first time he has undergone a makeover—introduced in 1952 he at that time came with a balloon pipe in his potato hand. That was dropped in 1987. I guess the United States Potato Board (his sponsor) didn’t want to have its “spokespud” get dragged into the Phillip Morris lawsuits. This year’s Mr. PH showed up replete with a water bottle (I didn’t catch if it was Poland Spring or Evian—I leave it to you to guess), running shoes (Nikes? Addidas?), and an MP3 player (iPod??). He also seems to have been in the gym, what with those new Popeye biceps. Though I was a little concerned to notice that even more than last year his eyes appeared to be popping out of his head—nip-and-tuck, thyroid?

On thing they forgot to mention is that about 80 percent of potatoes consumed in the US are fried. Oh well, so much for Mr. Healthy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

November 26, 2005--Saturday Story: "Turkey Wars"

Turkey Wars

It took a while for Jews to get used to turkey, much less Thanksgiving.

We are as you know a stiff-necked people. Actually, we are more a brisket and roast-chicken people. Especially if you throw in some nice gravy and a well-done piece of kuggel, a slice from the corner of the baking dish being preferable so that there are more burnt crispy noodle ends to pick at. Not to mention dessert! And though eager to assimilate in other ways, when it comes to food, there is a limit to what we are willing to sacrifice in order to be considered American. Thus Thanksgiving presented us with problems.

Yiddish we were prepared to jettison (though recently we are wanting to rescue it), yarmulkes and other religious garments could be put away except for weddings and funerals, and our shules would become synagogues before they became temples. But keep away from our gefilte fish!

Therefore, Rosh Hashanah and Passover were everyone’s favorite holidays because they both emphasized the food. The best versions of either were when the prayers get read at breakneck speed and the food arrived before anyone fainted. In my family this meant not stopping to answer any questions, even from the children, and not allowing either my father or Uncle Harry to get away with too much tummeling (translation—making side comments of a distinctly sacrilegious sort, which was a specialty of theirs) because that interrupted the flow of the chanting; and, if it got out of control, elicited a sneer or worse from the one of two huddled at the table for whom the ancient sounds (no one understood the meaning of even one word) evoked reverberations in their tribal DNA, and thereby delayed dinner.

“Hello, let’s eat,” could be heard from New World ghetto to ghetto--from East Flatbush to East New York, from Boro Park to Bensonhurst, from King Highway to Kings Point. There might be mortal disagreement about Eisenhower or Stalin or about the Rosenbergs or Roy Cohen; but about a good gedempter bris or a piece of rugulah there were only smiles and nods of agreement—to be able to put heaping portions of this kind of food on the table was why we came to America. Particularly for the children because in combination with the cod liver oil we were forced to swallow every morning, this would assure we would be big and tall and strong and smart, even if we might still pop out the womb with a beak for nose and kinky hair—both of which could be taken care of later in life in a variety of ways. In these ways we would become truly American while still devoted to our chopped liver.

But what to do about Thanksgiving, the quitessential American holiday, which the revisionists among us (the ones going to Columbia and CCNY) recognized as a Protestant, meaning Christian, holiday? And to make matters worse, did you ever have a piece of turkey that wasn’t so dry that you could choke on it? It only reinforced the view that the goyim knew nothing about food. True, they may have been in charge of the country and had the monopoly on old money, but what’s this with their cooking? No wonder they all looked liked skinny wretches. So to truly take on and embrace Thanksgiving was a challenge. We could deal with the Pilgrims and the Indians, but that pumpkin pie, which tasted like orange library paste, was another matter.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Jack, who were the first and until that time the only relatives to escape from the confines of Brooklyn to the suburbs, saw their destiny to include bringing the family into the embrace of Thanksgiving. It was, in a sense for them, an assimilationist metaphor. If they could accomplish this, then we all would finally be at home in America.

They knew they needed to make Thanksgiving a family occasion for it to be authentic. Families gathering from all reaches of the country was an American tradition and prerequisite. So they began their conversion of us, by luring us to Great Neck by adding brisket to the turkey in the certaintity that that would assure we would at least show up. That was the first step—getting us there. Then, if we could get something to eat, we would feel good and maybe begin to see the virtues of Thanksgiving. Especially if there was enough for many second helpings and at least three desserts.

We arrived in family groups—the Krupins always first to assure Uncle Eli some time alone with Uncle Jack. So they could talk about Business. Uncle Eli was in business for himself and in that saw himself equivalent to Jack though not nearly in the same league of success. In fact, Uncle Eli lived life barely one step ahead of the loan sharks who were always hunting for him, threatening, if he didn’t pay off his debts, to break his knee caps or worse. Thus to have some private moments of huddled conversation with Jack, to in effect rub up against his success helped bring Eli out to Great Neck for these Americanisher occasions. We would be next, not so much to enable my father to have an audience with Jack (that’s how they each would view it). No, we arrived right after the Krupins to assert our place in the family hierarchy--that because my father was the only one from his generation within the family to have been from German-Jewish stock and, most important, had actually been born in America, no one could call him a kike or machie. And there was some significant competitive strain between Jack and my father which trumped Jack’s economic success that my father was eager to flaunt: It had more to do with the fact that my father was fully six feet tall (Jack was no more than five-four) and my brother and I were already towering over Jack’s son, Lewis. Clear evidence that the Zwerlings were doing a better job of this version of assimilation than were he and his progeny. And we had better posture. Then the other Krupins would arrive. There were two separate sets of Krupins since Eli and Harry were Krupin brothers who married Tanna and Fannie, two sisters. These Krupins also struggled. Harry was in the “Bar and Grill” business, which meant he both never made a living (a Jew owning a bar was a version of an oxymoron) and needed to spend all his evenings and very late nights dealing with the goyim and maybe, just maybe it was whispered with a floozy or two. So to be in the presence of Uncle Jack, who roamed the world among the goyisher elite, was enough to get Harry out of bed earlier than his usual 3:00 pm and onto the Belt Parkway early enough for a little rubbing. Next were the first of the Cantors—Uncle Bob and Aunt Gussie. He worked in a gas station and though he thus had the best car in the family, he never was able to get all the axle grease off his hands and out from beneath his fingernails. This stigma served as a constant reminder to all of us that, though we were progressing in America, in truth we hadn’t come all that far; and with a little bad luck (which we devoutly believed to be the basic force operating in the universe), we would quickly revert to being Grease Monkeys, a kind of reverse evolution. The Dinersteins followed Aunt Gussie and Uncle Bob. They had a very complicated connection to Uncle Jack in that Cousin Murray “worked for him.” That was a great opportunity, to be carried along with Jack’s success, but as with all such it came at considerable cost. Jack, though immensely successful, operated his global enterprises as if they were Mom and Pop businesses. Which meant that he kept all know-how locked privately in his head (he trusted no one—not even his nephew Murray) and all his papers in empty cigar boxes which he carried back and forth with him from home to office. This meant that Murray, who graduated at night from NYU’s business school, could not put any of what he learned there, “modern business practices,” to use. He therefore, though doing well financially as a derivative result of Jack’s acumen, worked in huffs of understandable frustration. One could not then expect him to be the first to arrive. In fact, one could not expect him to even want to be there. Enough was enough. Being under Jack’s thumb and scrutiny so many hours each week could not be wiped away by a second helping. And finally, finally, the last to arrive were the Fursts—Nina (ne Cantor) and Hank Furst and their children. Not because they came from furthest away. In fact, in ways none of us could figure out or calculate considering that Hank never seemed able to keep a job, they had managed to buy a private house of their own recently in one of the Five Towns and were as a result geographically closest to Helen and Jack. But Hank was an Austrian, born there and then escaping to America at the end of the Second World War, and he moved at the pace of an Austrian gentleman. Not that he was a “gentleman” by Austrian standards (by definition no Jew attain that status); but he had an elegance all his own, moved at an Eastern European pace, and spoke in an accent to envy. Plus a classic style of smoking cigarettes (I think between his two middle fingers) rivaled only by Adolphe Menjoe in the movies. And drank more black coffee each day, in the slowest sips imaginable, than were consumed by the entire family. Our favorite story about Hank was how one day, in his Five Towns’ kitchen, he sat smoking and sipping, barely noticing his son Roy attempting to stuff his sister into the stove, saying, with that killer accent, “Roy, please, don’t put your sister in the oven.” Not getting up to intervene, not missing a sip or a puff. So amazing, so cosmopolitan in a family of hoverers. So we very much looked forward to his arrival because that meant he would bring along his own unique touch of class; and it would signal that we could, at last, eat!

Aunt Helen was a bit of an artist and among the best of her ouevre were the hand painted place cards that she created for each holiday occasion. They were to be taken home by each of us along with the flower centerpieces. But they also served to assign us to seats. (My special place and assignment involved sitting next to her mother, Mrs. Selig, to make sure she would eat, which she did with flamboyant abandon after claiming she had eaten before leaving for Great Neck from Brooklyn and as a result wasn’t hungry. She was totally deaf so I was relieved of the need to make conversation with a 90 year-old—listening was all that was required and that took some effort since she talked, chewed, and swallowed simultaneously and so I also needed, as a result, to blot her face frequently and pick up her spillings from the table cloth and rug below her chair.)

The seating arrangement was more than just about who would get first crack at the circulating platters of mounded food—though that was to be sure not insignificant. Your place also assigned you to Helen and Jack’s judgment about your place within the family itself. Admittedly their idiosyncratic view; but considering the provenance—Jack was the only male child from his generation of six siblings, a very big deal, and he was a legitimate multi-millionaire (not just a so-called Jewish-Millionaire which meant you were worth $100,000)—being literally put in your place by them was, well, being put in your place.

It was location, location, location—a family real estate calculus that defined one’s worth. This hierarchical derivative was greatly facilitated by the layout of Aunt Helen and Uncle Jack’s dining room. It was of a size that none of us had personally experienced except in Cary Grant movies, but even at that it could accommodate just eight around the faux Louis XV table. So an aluminum folding table was affixed to that end of it that was closest to the living room, extending the seating into there. But that too had it limitations—by butting up against the dining room table it eliminated one place and added only seven more of its own—we were thus up to being able to seat 15. Six more places were needed to accommodate us all, and thus to accomplish that a second folding table was hooked at right angles to the end of the first so that in their now full manifestation the three tables represented a hugely enlarged set of wandering domino tiles. Thereby there were now places for Jack and Helen’s family, both sets of Krupins, the Zwerling four, the Dinersteins, Cantors, and Fursts. Do I have them all?

The first time the 21 of us were called to this meandering set of tables we circled each other peering at the place cards to find our assignments—clearly understanding that though all of us began at the head of the Louis XV, being at the imagined self-assigned apex of family prominence, we knew that some of us would inevitably be destined for just that first time to the Siberia right-hooked end that was virtually in the play room—the former now-converted garage. This would be more than compensated for come Thanksgiving when we would find ourselves at our more rightful place around that gilded dining room oval. So we sorted ourselves out on that initial occasion, half of us looking forward to our improved lot a few months hence.

But then when the first of our Thanksgivings was organized, when we circled the tables once more, all of course beginning again at the head of the head table, it was thought to be an oversight that we all found ourselves once again where we had been that previous spring.

At the next Passover, however, it was clear that Helen and Jack were thinking about us in immutable ways—there was no forgetting, no “understandable” confusion (no possible way to make excuses for Uncle Jack about this)—the Krupins (the Eli and Tanna ones) and the Zwerlings (plus my dinner mate—Mrs. Selig) were permanently, better, perpetually situated at precisely where we were meant to be.

And when we had our second Thanksgiving, there was no wishful circling of the dining room table, no close reading of the autumn golden place cards, as if in a trance state, we all robotically went right to where we knew too well where we belonged. It was not a festive situation.

Those most “progressive” family members immediately saw it for what it was—a reflexive assertion of American capitalism where class distinctions caused that historical imperative—the grand dialectic—to be played out amongst us. This Bolshevik reality right here in America would make it impossible to convince us that Thanksgiving wasn’t another opiate of commoditization. In fact, the very idea of “family” itself within which we sought haven in a heartless world, it too was exposed in our very midst to be a socially-constructed fiction.

Thus that time when the platters of turkey began to circulate, just as the aromatic evidence of a very special stuffing began to emerge from the kitchen, the smell of which hinted at the promise that it might perhaps surpass in incandescent deliciousness of the kuggel from last Passover, and in savoring it, seeking second and third helpings, we would at last cross that final border between the Old and New, Aunt Bertha, the oldest of the sisters, and the most eager reader of that very Red afternoon newspaper, PM, when Bertha realized that her distant place at the groin of where the living room folding table made a sharp right turn toward the old garage, denying and defying age and primogeniture, that that table placement was evidence of the Running Dogs of Capitalism’s way of classifying and defining her, she bellowed out for all to hear—all in Great Neck, all in Brooklyn, all even in the shtetals of Poland, that she was not eating. Not one bite.

She would not take, chew, or swallow one mouthful of that cursed bird or allow herself to be tempted by that stuffing you-could-die-for. She was prepared to die for something else, something higher and more universal. She was at last drawing the line. A pox on your turkey; a pox on your house and fancy dining room. A pox on your turkey and cranberries and stuffing. She was mobilizing herself for the resistance and final struggle of the proletariat; right there on Long Island in the very heart of the Imperialists’ stronghold. The time had come. It was her 1917!

Folding her arms across her extraordinary chest, Aunt Bertha glared at her tiny brother at the head of his bourgeois table.

As always with his sisters, nothing was that different now, Jack kept his eyes averted, focused on the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. Everyone else became silent, the rich ping of sterling silverware on bone china ceased.

The only sound came from Cousin Chuck, who hadn’t missed a forkful, asking if there was a second helping of stuffing and to be sure also to pass him the giblet gravy. The rest of us were ready as well for another round of stuffing and the maids had to run back and forth to the kitchen to keep the supply up with the demand.

As a man of business, that was something Uncle Jack understood. And for the first time in family history he was reported to have been seen to smile. Even he had another helping.

Thanksgiving had arrived, but The Revolution had to wait until next Passover.

Friday, November 25, 2005

November 25, 2005--Fanaticisms X--"Filth" In the Church

The NY Times reports that the Vatican is about to release its long-awaited report about the ordination of gay priests (see full article below). Actually, about the non-ordination of homosexuals. That is, about the non-ordination of men “who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” Really that is, how men who have had only “transitory” homosexual tendencies, which they have “clearly overcome,” will be eligible for ordination. Actually that is, how these men who have overcome these tendencies can become priests if they overcame them at least three years before ordination. Truly actually that is, if anyone can actually define “overcome”—it comes down to what your definition of “is” is. Sorry—what your definition of “overcome” is.

Now that this is perfectly clear, the Church can get back to its basic business—ministering to its flock, saving souls, and paying off all those children who priests have been convicted of molesting.

After all, that’s what these new directives are about—the trouble the Church got into when the molestations and cover-ups became widely known. The belief that this situation was caused by gay priests gone wild.

There are a few problems here. To begin, not only do we have to figure out how to define “transitory” and “overcame”; but also, since there are no known blood or DNA tests yet available that can determine who has or does not have gay “tendencies," bishops, seminary directors, and “spiritual advisors” will have to come up with their own methods (confession??) to detect those tendencies or determine what has or hasn’t been overcome and how long ago that overcoming happened. We’re not talking “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Perhaps, more, “Do tell.”

Then we have the problem with all the clear evidence which states that homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing nor are they equatable or causal. So even keeping gay men out of the priesthood will not guarantee that priests will keep their hands off little Jimmy.

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who served as Pope John Paul’s “defender of the faith” for two decades and as Prefect for the Vatican department that oversees Catholic education ordered this new document, spoke out recently about the “filth in the Church” that needs to be dealt with. It’s good to know that as the result of his good work they have finally figured out how to do that cleansing.

On a related subject—for some time I have been wondering about nuns. From the many stories I have heard from friends who went to Catholic school, it is clear that we may have a problem here as well. In the spirit of gender equity, what is Cardinal Grocholewski thinking about this "filth" and what is he going to do about it? Now that we have the priest situation taken care of I think we also have to get to work on this.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

November 24, 2005--Poor Little Lambs

Anything that upsets the alumni of Yale University upsets me as well. So when I read in the NY Times that Yale officials had promulgated new rules that forbid “binge drinking and public drunkenness” at football games, you can only imagine how upset that made me (see link below for full story). Half the reason I went to college (not Yale) was so that I could drink beer and be drunk in public as much as possible. Therefore, this was a cause about which I could be passionate.

As I read further into the article, those unnamed Yale officials were reported to be backing off from their new prohibitions—making a distinction between what was to be tolerated for currently enrolled students versus alums.

This all surfaced big time because The Game (note the capital “T” in “The”) between Harvard and Yale was coming up. As a tradition-bound institution, Yale took a look at the tailgating rules at Harvard, where at last year’s version of The Game, at Harvard, 50 students wound up in hospitals and another 100 were ejected from The Game for public drunkenness. Thus Yale established its own stricter rules.

Alums particularly were outraged. One wrote to The Yale Daily News, saying, “For many of us tailgating all day on game day has become the most vital ritual [must be an anthropologist] in maintaining our desire to support and participate in Yale’s future” (i.e. give money).

So Yale bent the rules for alumni, allowing them to tailgate all day long—before The Game, during The Game, and after The Game.

And tailgate they did. But they also dined in elegance, not squatting on the back of pickup trucks and SUVs. After all, Yale alums are not like those prole NFL crowds slobbering down slabs of ribs while guzzling Buds. The Times reported about thousands of old Yalies seated at small, cloth covered folding tables, with wine bottles and glass stemware and liver pate on china. Replete with “ramekins” of almonds and olives (ramekins??) and wedges of cheese and crackers.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, former cheerleader, Yale legacy and alum (history major), esteemed member of Skull and Bones, President George W. Bush, class of 1968, watched The Game while on his treadmill, longing for a long cold one.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

November 23, 2005--Leave My Peepee Alone!

Call me old fashioned, but I’m glad my parents referred to my penis as my peepee.

Always at or ahead of the cutting edge when it comes to Fashion & Style, the Gray Lady NY Times reports that the most enlightened parents these days much prefer the former to the latter when talking about you know what (see link).

I can understand but still like to think that some things are best left wrapped in innocence. I know, I know, to be anatomically correct both in dolls and language will assure that our little ones grow up without hang-ups and will enjoy a loving, sexually fulfilling life. After all, look at how well their parents are doing, having been brought up in this most healthy way. Don’t we wish the same for children??

And don’t we want them, at the very earliest age, to begin to prepare for entrance to the finest and most exclusive pre-schools and universities? How can we expect our precious ones to pass a nursery school admissions interview if they blurt out during it that they have to go Potty with their Peepee?

And we’re not taking about just using more authentic language for “private parts”; we’re also talking about toddler sex education.

Parents these days are saying they don’t “have the luxury of silence anymore” so even their babies are learning about how babies are made. They do not want to wait until their two-year olds learn about intercourse from TV or some other kid in Gymboree. According to this view, they should learn about “vulvas” while at the same time learning about “ears” and “noses.” There is no “right age” to learn about sex, according to Dr. Justin Richardson, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School. “If you’re talking about how babies are made, there’s no age at which it is harmful to learn that the penis goes into the vagina.”

If you are a follower of this blog and read Larry the Fag (posted November 12th), you know about my own pathetic introduction to sex and are probably thinking, “I should take anything he says about sex seriously? No way.”

I understand, and I also understand the sense of upset felt by that parent whose son, when he typed “Katrina images” into Goggle, found himself bombarded by pictures that had nothing to do with the hurricane!

Having confessed some of my own hang ups in that story and indicating here how I understand the challenges facing modern parents who want only the best for their children, I still contend that you can do unintentional harm by being too explicit too early. I think there is a “too early.”

I may have been rubbing up against my friends at an early age, but I’m not sure it would have been a good idea for me at, let’s say, five (which today would be “late”) to know any more than I did. Especially about where my peepee would go if I wanted to make a baby. Or just have some fun.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22, 2005--Bitch Betta Have My Bar Mitzvah

One of my father’s best jokes was the one about the Safari Bar Mitzvah. It goes on forever but let me get to its essence—

It seems that the Jews of Great Neck, Long Island were competing with each other to see who could have the most elaborate Bar Mitzvah. So Schwartz had a Rodeo Bar Mitzvah which included horse rides and food served from a chuck wagon. To top him, Ginsberg had a French Revolution Bar Mitzvah where everything was very Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, excluding the guillotine of course. What then could poor Cohen do?

He thought—I’ll have a Safari Bar Mitzvah. No one will ever be able to outdo that. Thus, he flew all 200 guests to Africa and they began to work their way along the trail into the heart of the jungle, with hundreds of porters carrying the luggage on their heads. After 12 hours of trekking and swatting mosquitoes, they came to a halt. Cohen was at the back of the line and wondered what had happened.

The word worked its way back along the trial, from person to person, from the front of the line to where he was.

“The reason we’re stopped,” he learned, “is that we have to wait our turn--there's another Bar Mitzvah ahead of us.”

Though Mr. Cohen didn’t manage to top Schwartz or Ginsberg, the Ridingers of Miami probably have superseded even those Great Neck religious rites. As the NY Times reported (see link below), at their 215-guest Bar Mitzvah the other day, the Ridingers had Ja Rule perform for the 13 year-olds and their families.

You of course know who he is—the rapper—but have you ever understood much less read any of his lyrics? Since I suspect not, I thought to share some excerpts from his hit, "Bitch Betta Have My Money."

I peep you at that strip joint
You and that little black chick
Acting like you so innocent . . .
Usually that bring the freak right out of a bitch
I knew something was wrong
Lesbian I go on
And nothing wrong with bump n’ grinding right
I like mines tight
You like yours licked
And we both have bitches to get high wit . . .
My hoe . . . got a hot little co-op
Rock a Cuban link with Jesus
Lord have mercy
Let me touch this
Tease it
For reasons
I can’t explain to you lord
Cause you know my actions are censored
Don’t diss chips to fuck with no broad

I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Rule performed after Zaidi Ridinger said the barucha over the challah or before they danced the hora or perhaps while they passed around the chopped liver and pigs-in-blankets.

Monday, November 21, 2005

November 21, 2005--Dashboard Jesus

I would ordinarily save this one for a Friday Fanaticisms blog. But this is such a good story that I couldn’t wait to share it with you. It’s from an article in the NY Times that reports about a 62 foot high Styrofoam Jesus that has been erected beside Interstate 75 in Monroe, Ohio (see link below for full story).

It cost $250,000, but to the patrons, Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, a rags-to-riches couple, it is a pittance considering that they head up one of the nation’s largest megachurches, Solid Rock Church, situated on a 100-acre “campus” that not only houses the Church (which seats more than 3,000) but also a Bible college, music amphitheater, and of course a gift shop. If you can’t get to Monroe before next summer, visit their website where you can both shop and tithe on-line.

Lawrence stared out in the Appalachian village of Zag (relax, not Zig Zag), Kentucky where, at age 10, he bought his first horse for $25, and though it was blind, sold it later for $250. He then went on to make his fortune as one of the nation’s leading quarter horse dealers.

He reports that “God ordained all this to happen.” Thus in arranging for the construction and siteing of what some nearby residents call the Super Jesus, he was just following God’s direction.

But it did present some problems—first of all, when workers started installing the statue they discovered that the head and arms were too small for the torso. So they needed to rip it apart in order to recast the arms and face. They then found that the skin was so thin that it could be indented with the mere touch of a finger. But there it is, proud and tall, illuminated (artificially) at night.

Some claim that it’s presence has led to a reduction in the number of accidents on what had previously been one of the most dangerous stretches of I-75—two years before the statue appeared there were eight people killed along that stretch of the highway; since then there have been no, read zero deaths.

But before you lobby your highway commissioner to have equivalent 62 foot highway Jesuses put up along the Long Island Expressway or DC Beltway, listen to what officials of the Ohio Department of Transportation have to say. They claim that the reduction in deaths is the result of having built a $1.1 million high-tension cable in the road’s median. It has caught cars about to jump that median more that 180 times. By my calculations, if even half of those cars had not been caught by the cable, and even a quarter of that half had caused fatal accidents, that would mean that there would have been 22 deaths along that stretch.

It could very well be that the garishly illuminated statue itself (not exactly in the class of Michelangelo’s David) might actually be the cause rather than the prevention of all those accidents.

No wonder then that the Intelligent Designers are not claiming it to be more evidence of the correctness of their views. Maybe in this one case, science itself (in the guise of high-tension cable engineers) has the upper hand.

But then there could be something else at work. Other locals have dubbed it Touchdown Jesus because its raised arms remind them of a football referee signaling that a touchdown has been scored.

In any case, ordained by God or the Ohio Department of Transportation or Ohio State’s football coach, it’s worth a visit. And don’t forget to pop in at the gift shop—you can buy your own 10 inch version.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

November 19, 2005--Saturday Story: "The Washing Machine"

The Washing Machine

As difficult as it is to imagine, even in Brooklyn, a place that has everything, there was a time during my life when there were no washing machines. I don’t just mean no one had one. I’m saying, they didn’t even exist.

And since disposable diapers also didn’t exist, this meant that doing the wash was an arduous and very messy business. True, those who had some money had diaper service, which meant that their dirty diapers were kept for a week in a sanitary hamper and then picked up by a service and a new supply was delivered. And even people of more modest means arranged for their bed sheets and towels to be professionally washed and pressed—I remember that the Cascade and Pilgrim Laundries divided the territory.

But everything else needed to be washed by hand—men’s dress shirts, underwear, all children’s clothes. Quite a weekly load. And quite a smelly situation if you didn’t have the money for the diapers.

I of course was fascinated by all the laundering, fascination being a luxury for me since my job was simply to pass my mother the clothes pins as she leaned out her bedroom window when hanging the clothes out to dry on the clothesline that was attached from the window frame to the pole in the back yard. Better yet was my other job—hauling in the clothes when dry. It was even more fun in the winter when the clothes came back less than dry but frozen solid. But best of all was when the line broke from a year’s use and I had to climb the laundry pole out back and thread the new line through the pulley hooked at the top. Perched high up above what passed for a back yard garden, I dreamed one day of flying in a plane, or at the minimum working for the phone company where most of the work was at the top of telephone poles. This was thus either a form or escape or early career training.

For my mother of course, who did all the washing, none of this was either fascinating or fun. It was just hard, hard work.

The kitchen had a double sink. On one side my mother washed the dishes and on the other she washed the clothes. To do so she used a Wash Board, which was a rippled glass sheet about 14 inches wide by 20 inches long, enclosed in a wood frame. She would stopper the drain, fill the sink half way with hot soapy water, place the wash board half submerged in the sink, leaning it back against the rim of the sink, and then proceed to scrub the clothes up and down on the rippled glass. In a version of what women did in rural India--they beat their clothes against stones in a river; my mother did it against the wash board. It was that basic, that “primitive.” And it was going on in my house and virtually every other house all over Brooklyn. It didn’t get more exotic and thrilling than that! For me I mean.

This was a lot of work at any time, but during summers that were as hot as fire, where the word was that you could fry an egg on the asphalt street (some actually tried and occasionally got their pictures in The Daily News), doing the wash in the kitchen was like working in a boiler room. My mother was someone who never seemed to sweat, but when bent over her wash board in August, scrubbing my undershirts, she was as wet all over from the heat as her hands and arms were from the water. This sight, even for me, was a little less fascinating and fun.

It was an era, sad to say, when we took this for granted. My father made the money and expected his shirts to be washed and pressed; I went through fresh underwear faster than a speeding bullet but didn’t give much thought to how they seemed to keep showing up in my dresser cleaned and folded. And my mother never wavered or questioned that this was her “woman’s work” (proverbially and literally, “never done”), her role or, more biblically, her lot in life. In fact, she took great pride in how spotless and neat we and everything were. In a neighborhood where there was little opportunity to be consuming conspicuously (who had the money for that?) the competition among families was as much about their wash as their kids’ grades in school. Maybe more so.

Things proceeded without much change, with life continuing pretty much as we knew it. No one seemed to make much progress—very few managed to do well enough to move away to the emerging suburbs; even fewer had enough money to be able to buy a new-new car; when a kid got to be 17 or 18 he went into whatever line of work his father was in; the girls would get engaged and marry, most typically moving into a basement apartment on the block or at most around the corner. There wasn’t much striving or even the imagining of a different future.

In consequence there wasn’t too much hope on the loose in East Flatbush. But in compensation, things felt settled and secure. Even the larger world did not intrude excessively. We knew things were tense and even dangerous in other places, and at some point we became aware of the fact that there was the possibility of a sneak atomic attack to be concerned about. But even about that there was some assurance—all you needed to do to avoid the consequences of an A Bomb being dropped on Times Square was to dive under your school desk fast enough to survive, or when the sirens sounded go down into a Fallout Shelter in the basement of one of the nearby apartment houses.

But inevitably but gradually there were some inklings of change. A World War II veteran who had been a radioman in the Army built his own version of a TV set, hand-soldering all the wirings. He would invite us to his basement apartment where we huddled together before a flickering image of what looked like a puppet’s head or a reptile. It was clear from even just that that the world was shifting on its axis. And then someone got a window fan, less tectonic to be sure, but we knew from that that life in the summers would be more endurable. Another bought a Victrola phonograph and Caruso sounded as if he were in the other room, which made that walkup apartment sound like the Metropolitan Opera itself. And the Leshowitzs acquired an electric coffee pot; also in its own way life altering since Mr. Leshowitz drank at least 20 cups a day; and between making him coffee and washing his clothes (he weighed 300 pounds and just one set of underwear, suffused with the sweat that only he could produce, took half a day to wash), with the efficiency that gadget brought, Mrs. L experienced an early form of liberation.

But most amazing, after still more years, one of us, Aunt Helen, who had made her way to Long Island with her husband and children, Helen was the first to have a washing machine. Talk about life altering!

Her husband, Uncle Jack, was a legend in the family and some suggested in the wider world. This status was the result of his prowess in business and his great success. Financial success. At the end of the Second World War, for example, when every Jew in America refused to buy anything that had “Made In Occupied Germany” stamped on it, he had the vision and ability and ambition to put the living memories of the Holocaust behind him, and as a self-assigned agent of the German rehabilitation process, though this was never discussed or acknowledged (Jack was “out of town” again), he ventured there and came back with lucrative deals to manufacture cheap watches and imitation cuckoo clocks in the newly rebuilt factories of Bavaria.

He was remarkable, not even having a problem at Temple on Saturdays, as long as his contributions to the building fund or rabbi’s health care plan were among the leading donations. And when the rabbi at Great Neck Jewish Center showed up one day driving a Mercedes, Uncle Jack was among the first to understand. (He on the other hand refused to even be driven in a Germany car!)

All was forgiven Uncle Jack, the only male child in a family of six. The last born to boot, and thus the child of both his mother and his five sisters. He could do no wrong, with the possible exception of when he was discovered thinking about marrying a divorced women, a women from Cuba no less. This was such a potential family tragedy that three of his sisters traveled to Havana by boat (they had never ventured west of New Jersey) to get the goods on her, suspecting something fishy—why would a 35 year old floozy with bleached hair be interested in a 26 year old who was a full head shorter than she? It was obvious--because of his money.

They came back filled with pride—they had found out that she worked in a night club in the Tropicana Hotel. Not as a singer or cigarette girl, if you know what I mean. And when they reported this finding to their mother, their beloved mother, Jack’s angel, she summoned him to the kitchen table and in her Polish accented Yiddish told him what to do—find a nice Jewish girl to marry.

Which he did—Aunt Helen. Equally glamorous and tall but Jewish and from a good family. In other words, they were German Jews (not machies) and were “comfortable” (they had money). (It was only 25 years later, in my snooping around, that I discovered that Helen too had a “past”—she too had been married to someone other than Uncle Jack, which I must admit made her much more alluring to me. But this was never spoken about. Whispered about, yes, but never spoken!)

They had a Ranch House on a full acre of land, with trees that were theirs (they were the first people I knew who owned trees). They were also the first people I knew who had a separate dining room where they actually ate—everyone else huddled around tables adjacent to or in their kitchens. And so it befell them to host all family occasions—Passovers and Thanksgivings were theirs exclusively to organize and provide. And to pay for. No matter that it took three hours to drive out there on those holidays, the traffic was so intense. “The mole hill was summoned to the mountain,” as my father felicitously put it, and schlep there we did.

On one such Passover, Helen took my mother to her laundry room (who else had one of those?) to show here her--brand new washing machine.

My mother sat transfixed throughout the rest of the evening, as if she had witnessed a miracle. So totally transfixed that she didn’t even, as she always did, jump up to pass around the platters of brisket or to bring Jack a second helping of kuggel. And on the way home she neither slept nor belched (“cooking with gas” my farther always said) which were always her wont. Rather, she sat in the back seat, nestled against the window, gazing out at the snarled traffic and slowly passing scene. She had seen life as she had always wished to live it, but ruefully knew was still out of reach or even imagining.

Life went on as it always did and always seemed it would. Bumps and scrapes, strep throats and socks that needed darning. One business failed that my father was in with his Uncle Herman; but together, without missing a beat, they picked themselves up and somehow managed to find the money to buy a parking garage in Park Slope (some would suggest that Uncle Jack helped finance that). It largely remained empty, eating overhead, and thus it too failed. But at least they could say they had a business of their own. Just like Jack. However, that is where the similarities ended.

One day, after yet another business needed to be abandoned and my father was faced with the prospect of either sending my mother back to work as a substitute teacher or his having to go to work for his brother Ruby, he came home wearier than usual. The future in truth looked bleak. Neither prospect felt good to him. Either or both would be one further blow to his manhood. (Having his prostate removed two years later would finish the job.)

He dragged his body up the stairs to where my mother was waiting. This took him aback a bit because she never met him that way, always so busy with her chores (today we would call it “work”). What was making her so happy when he was feeling so defeated??

Her new washing machine!!

It resided gleaming in all its porcelain brilliance in the kitchen, right beside the icebox with its rubber hoses connected to the water taps in the sink.

I stood there too, full of thrill and awe. The 20th Century had just arrived at East 56th Street, clearly thanks to Uncle Jack who, it turned out, had bought washing machines for each of his sisters. And through this amazing new appliance I would begin to partake of this new era.

Even a TV was now a possibility! Uncle Milty here I come!

My father glared at it and then at me and then, then at my mother. He squared his shoulders, turned, and headed for the living room where he collapsed into his green corduroy chair.

He sat in that chair for two full days. Uttering not a word. Eating nothing. Maybe not even going to the bathroom. Totally unresponsive to any of us.

“Can I bring you some water?” Nothing.

“Do you want something to eat?” Nothing.

“What’s wrong dad?” Nothing.

“What’s wrong David?” Less than nothing.

He sat and sat and sat as night followed day which led to night and then to another day.

He had withdrawn into silence many times in the past—over very little things such as my not doing well in a Spelling Bee or my mother serving something he didn’t like—the liver was overcooked and tasted like shoe leather. But this endless silence and accompanying sadness was unprecedented.

His depression was so deep and so profound that we knew it could only be about the washing machine.

On the third day, when I came home from school, I saw that my father was no longer in the living room. But I heard what sounded like sobbing from the other end of the apartment.

I ran there and found my mother slumped on the floor of the kitchen, clutching her knees to her chest, moaning as if someone had died.

I of course thought my father had, of starvation or thirst. But a glance at the washing machine told me what had in fact happened—

He was still alive, very, very much alive. But the machine was destroyed, totally, savagely destroyed.

The rubber hoses had been slashed and sliced into chunks and slices. The enamel surfaces, all of them, top and sides, were pockmarked with deep violent dents, and chipped as the result of what had clearly been severe hammer blows. The door through which the machine was loaded had been ripped off its flanges.

It was carnage. The literal death of a machine.

My mother was inconsolable. In fact, for the rest of their lives she could not be consoled.

My father returned later that day and my mother said not a word to him. Or for more than a week, not even a good morning or good night.

But then life as we knew it, the surfaces of it at least, slowly resumed—my father did in fact go to work for his brother; my mother did in fact resume her teaching; I moved from school to school and then to a separate life of my own; and of course my mother resumed her housework—meals got cooked, the house was always clean, family members visited, and yes clothes got washed and laundered, even in a washing machine that he bought some years later.

It just appeared one day.

Friday, November 18, 2005

November 18, 2005--Fanaticisms IX--The Political Economy of Sperm

In our brave new world, how would you think about the following questions that were posed in a recent NY Times article (see link)—

If a husband does not want his wife to have an abortion but she wants to, does he have the legal right to stop it?

In a second situation, a married couple arranged to have one of her eggs fertilized by his sperm. That couple is now divorced. The ex-wife wants to become pregnant by having the embryo implanted in her womb. The ex-husband does not want her to do this. Does he have legal recourse?

If you said “No” in the first instance and “Almost always yes” in the second, you are a qualified candidate to be nominated to the Supreme Court--that is if Judge Alito doesn’t get confirmed--because that is the current “Law of the Land.” Of course only until you, as the swing vote, join a majority to overturn one or the other.

The Casey decision (where the Supreme Court overturned a decision of Judge Alito’s) affirmed that a husband does not have the right to stop his wife’s abortion; that decision is left entirely up to her. The SC ruling effectively said that the embryo, because it is in a woman’s body, cannot be thought of as separate from her, and thus it is solely her right to decide whether or not to bring that embryo to term.

Regarding the frozen version of embryo, since it is not a part of the ex-wife’s body, but is in a flask in a lab freezer, it does not involve her “physical integrity.” Thus, the sperm supplier has a say because not to have a legal right in the matter is a “violation of [his] parenthood” (I almost wrote "manhood").

It can get more complicated—A Massachusetts court in 2000 ruled that even if a couple signed a contract specifying what could be done with their leftover embryos, for example donate or sell them, if either party changes their mind the contract would no longer be valid because to hold them to it would force them "to become a parent in circumstances where they [now] object.”

It can get still more complicated—If somehow a frozen embryo (or life if you prefer) gets implanted in some womb and a child is produced, do either the biological father and/or mother have any legal obligation to provide 18 years of child support?? (College tuition is a whole other conversation.)

It can get yet, even, still more complicated--What will happen when technology takes a few more steps forward to where we can arrange to have men become pregnant—trust me, this is not biologically impossible—or if we develop artificial incubators or if we move ahead with cloning humans and not just sheep??

Oy vey.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 17, 2005--Dr. Spot

Now I’m learning that dogs are more than Man’s Best Friend. They are also Man’s Best Doctor.

The NY Times reported the other day about a study that revealed that when dogs were allowed to visit hospitalized patients who are critically ill with advanced heart disease, their levels of measurable anxiety dropped 24 percent, as compared with anxiety declines associated with visits by volunteers (10 percent), and of course not at all for someone without any visitors. This is significant because anxiety impedes recovery.

As a former pre-med, I was (1) not surprised by these results, but (2) had a number of questions both about the methodology and limits of the study.

First of all, missing from the study entirely is the effect on patient anxiety by visits from family members—they measured the impact of visits by just dogs and non-family volunteers. What do you suppose they would have found if they had included data from visits by spouses, children, or in-law?? I suspect there could easily have been an increase in anxiety. After all, how did the patients wind up in the hospital in the first place? How many people, for example, experience heart fibulations after a long day at the Thanksgiving table, to make a seasonal reference? And, again as a lapsed former doctor-in-training, I also offer this as a cautionary suggestion.

And why did the study over-privilege dogs? What about the effects of cats or parakeets or gold fish? I find contemplating a bowl of guppies to be very therapeutic. And wouldn’t it be more practical to have fish tanks in the ICU than beagles?

Furthermore, have they studied the effects of plants and flowers on patient progress? If they don’t work, why not report that so we could save ourselves a lot of money when visiting friends in the hospital?

So you see, there is more work to do.

Imbedded in the Times piece was something equally intriguing. In a separate study reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, “Scientists [German scientists] found that riding roller coasters may set off dangerously abnormal heart rhythms in people with heart disease.” Now that’s a big surprise. I want to know who funded this study (surely not Great Adventure) and how much it cost, because I have something else I want to research and could use some funding—

What’s the effect on the heart when reading about Scooter Libby or Tom Delay or Judge Alito or the new prescription drug “benefit” or . . . .

I need to stop; my pulse rate is approaching 220.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

November 16, 2005--www.Col.Muammar.Quadafi.ly.com

I hadn’t heard from Muammar for quite some time so I thought I’d drop him a note via email.

You know, “How are things now that you no longer have nuclear weapons? Without The Bomb, is anyone returning your phone calls? Do you have any spare oil because we can’t seem to get that much any more from Iraq, and gas prices here are killing us? Is the family OK now that we’ve stopped bombing your tent?”

But I kept getting a message back—“File not found” or “No such person.” I was getting worried. He had promised to send me one of those cool hats he wears all the time, and where would I now get one if he somehow couldn’t be found?

But then once more the NY Times came to my rescue, reporting that Libya lost its Internet domain for five days recently and thus there was no way to reach anyone with an email address ending in “.ly”-- Libya’s domain (see story linked below).

But thankfully that got cleared up. Libya paid the fees it owed and service was restored. I’m pleased to be able to report that Muammar is OK and the hat is on its way to me and should get here before it gets cold in New York.

After relaxing about the situation in Libya, since I had the article in front of me, I read deeper into it, and learned for the first time that because the US invented the Internet (not Al Gore silly), we set up a company, a nonprofit no less, called Icann (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to allocate and control (ah, control) access to the Internet. Til now I had thought that everyone had open, uncontrolled access to the Web. Just the other day I had causally secured a new email address for myself in about five minutes and it didn’t cost anything. I didn’t even have to contact Icann or fill out any forms for the Office of Homeland Security.

But now I know that the US holds power over access to this essential tool for commerce and communication; and, no surprise, this is not making other nations very happy. In fact, some are saying it’s another form of American “unilateralism.” They are calling for a new intergovernmental body to set principles for running the Internet, to end America’s monopoly. We are of course resisting all such efforts, especially when some were foolish enough to suggest there might be a role here for the United Nations.

In the spirit of attempting to figure our how other peoples might feel about the US controlling and dominating the Web (and the nearly universal use of English as the language of the Internet), turn the situation around—

Say you were wanting to drop George Bush a note to see how he is doing now that his approval rating is in the 30s and Scooter has been indicted. You entered his email address (http://www.GeorgeW.no43.WH.US.Gov) and you got back a message saying “No such person.” Well, you sort of knew that already—no such person—but wouldn’t you be especially upset if you then needed to ask Britain or Libya or, worse, France to fix the situation because they controlled country domain names?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 15, 2005--Measure Pour Measure

Last evening there was a lovely bon voyage dinner for friends who are about to leave for Paris where they plan to live for at least the next few years. They will be taking their five month old son, Jose, with them. You know what a worrier I am and I suspect you think I am fretting about how safe they and Baby Joe will be surrounded by the current “unrest.” Well, you would be wrong.

I promised just yesterday to stop blogging about The French and promise that this will not be about them. Rather it’s about how they will fare in the food markets.

I worry because when I have been in Paris for any extended period of time, and do any food shopping, I always wind up buying more cheese than I want and too little liver. It’s because I can’t ever seem to figure out how to convert grams into ounces or kilos into pounds. I know theirs is a more rational system, but what can I say, I am always confused.

So I was a little assured by what I read in a recent article in the NY Times about a vault in Paris that keeps safe a platinum and iridium cylinder about the size of a plum whose weight is exactly one kilogram. In fact, this platinum plum is the kilogram (see link below for full article). It has resided there for 116 years and has for all that time been the defining unit of mass for the entire world. It may be that in spite of French resistance, English has become the virtual universal language, but when it comes to weights and measures, it’s all French. Or it has been up until now.

Just when the French thought their cylinder would never be supplanted, some pesky scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland (in, what can I say, the United States) has been arguing in favor of doing just that--replacing that hunk of platinum with a new standard that is more cosmic and less subject to wear and tear—a sort of high-tech kilogram (thankfully, not a pound) that is based on “the universal constants of physics”—something that scientists anywhere in the world could use for calibration purposes in their own labs. Instead, I suppose, of checking out the French kilogram from its vault in Paris and taking it home with them.

You can understand the value of this idea--what would happen, for example, if someone, say, in Shanghai checked it out and lost it? Not a good situation at all. In fact, there is precedent for thinking about universalizing the standards of our standards. One of the world’s earliest measures, the cubit, was the distance from an Egyptian pharaoh’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger. Well and good. That makes great sense to me. But what happens when you need to figure out how many cubits a new tomb needs to be in, for example, Phoenicia. It isn’t very practical to check out the pharaoh’s arm.

The good Dr. Steiner back in Gaithersburg has now worked out a way to fix the mass of his kilogram to 99.999995 percent accuracy. That would work for me, but before he can get anyone to agree to his version of a kilo it appears he has to raise that last “5” to at least an “8.” Doesn’t sound like that much of a problem.

But back to that food shop in Paris and my worries. While tossing and turning last night, thinking about how my friends would be able to figure out how to get the right amount of saucisson in the market, I realized there was an easy solution—as soon as Doc Steiner refines his numbers, that old cylinder is history. Maybe then Noki and Alex can get their hands on it and take it with them when shopping. Baby Joe is a growing boy, and I want to be sure he gets the right amount of nutrition so he can grow to be big and strong and smart.

Monday, November 14, 2005

November 14, 2005--"Frere Jacques [Chirac], Frere Jacques [Chirac]. Dormez Vous? Dormez Vous?"

OK, the Devil made me do this—I’m blogging again about The French even though I took the vow here not to.

But when they say, as they are now, that they don’t want to keep track of how millions of French citizens are faring, especially immigrants and the children of immigrants, because people in France, “have it in their heads that surveying by race or religion is bad [because] it’s something reserved for Americans and [therefore] we shouldn’t do it here,” well, that makes me crazy and thus here I go again.

This quote is from Yazid Sabeg, the only prominent Frenchman of Arab descent to head a publicly owned company. It was part of a story that appeared in the NY Times (link below), appropriately titled, “What Makes Someone French?” It was one in a series of stories seeking to understand what is behind the current “unrest” sweeping France.

It is by now pretty obvious what’s behind that unrest—Arab and African folks, even third generation “immigrants,” feel isolated and rejected by traditional French society. They may be citoyens and have all the rights that derive from the Revolution, but they are largely confined to suburban ghettos (don’t be thinking Scarsdale), undereducated, and substantially un- and underemployed.

At the heart of the matter is the French secular ideal that does not acknowledge the existence of religious or ethnic minorities: if you live in France and are a French citizen, you are, well French. There is no concept equivalent to ours where you can be Italian-American, Polish-American, African-American, Islamic-American. There are no hyphenated French, no Algerian-French or Senegalese-French. Just French.

Guess what—this noble, secular, non-racialist ideal isn’t working. Maybe we should regard it to be more of a social fiction that helps French elites and others of “French Stock” believe that if they do not allow kids to wear head scarves in schools they will thereby become French. Just impose this and voila, egalite!

The concept behind this ideal is that by officially ignoring ethnic differences the country will avoid the kind of social stratification that one finds in places such as, shall I say it, America. We in contrast do in fact acknowledge these differences and at times even pay attention to them. For the French to see this as a cause of instability and inequality surely misses the larger point—if the problems that are the result of racism are understood then it is possible to think about ways to perhaps ameliorate them. For example, we had a Civil Rights Movement and a Women’s Movement and Affirmative Action. Far from ideal, far from perfect, far from assuring egalite, but at least we at our best are on the case and there have been some improvements.

So what we find in France are all those cars ablaze. And what are we hearing from the leaders? Essentially, “Behave yourself.”

Quoted in another Times piece (linked), President Chirac said he would “wait until order is restored before reflecting on the causes of the violence” and, “When the time comes, I will share with you my reflections on the entirety of the problem.”

Dormez vous?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

November 12, 2005--Saturday Story: "Larry the Fag"

Larry the Fag

It was not a good thing to be the neighborhood Fag. Certainly not during the 1950s, and especially not on my block in Brooklyn. It was such a bad thing, in fact, that even before any of us knew what a Fag really was, it was still not considered to be a healthy condition. It might have been sort of OK for him (if nobody else knew about it), but it was dangerous for the rest of us because we feared it might be catching.

Whatever the “it” was. Like the croup or polio.

But let me take a step back and tell you what we knew about sex at that time, or rather what our parents referred to (if the subject ever came up)--as “the birds and the bees.”

What we knew came from two very distinct streams of information—from quick glimpses at books such as The Stork Didn’t Bring You (there was a sticky, dog-eared copy in my Aunt Tanna’s apartment tucked behind the Haggadah); and much more intriguing, there was what we picked up on the street from the few Italian and Irish kids who lived among we Jews. (The assumption being that they “did it,” again whatever the “it” was.)

The Stork Didn’t Bring You was full of what I would today understand to be euphemisms—about how if Mommy and Daddy hugged each other closely when they were sleeping together, a little fish that came from Daddy swan over to where Mommy was and then together with Mommy’s egg a Baby moved in to live in Mommy’s stomach, growing bigger and bigger. And then one day, after nine months, Mommy would go to the hospital and come home a week later with a Baby Brother or Baby Sister. And so you see though the stork didn’t bring you, you picked the Baby up in the hospital. Like it was store for babies.

From the street we learned that girls had big dark holes where we had our dicks, and that if you put your dick in that hole and peed in there you would make the girl get a baby. We also learned that girls started out as something the Irish and Italians called “virgins,” which meant that no one yet had put their dicks in their holes because they had teeth in there that needed to be pulled before you could do it without getting your pecker bitten off. If the girls didn’t want to be virgins anymore—before they could get dicks put in their holes or get married or just wanted to be bad (we understood that something like that would happen maybe once every ten years)--- they had to go to special kinds of dentists to have those teeth pulled out.

When we learned about those teeth and those dentists, we hung around Dr. Glick’s office to see if he was that kind of dentist. Unfortunately, though we took turns staking out his office, we never saw any girls going in there who seemed to have any teeth down there. But when we heard that the neighborhood shoemaker, John Innusi, was going to get married, even though he just got here from Italy and didn’t speak much English, we figured out that he didn’t know about those teeth and that he had better get Maria to Dr. Glick before they got married because otherwise he would have his dick bitten off when he stuck it in her hole.

At our urging, he did make an appointment for her, accompanying her there a few weeks before the wedding; but when he returned to his store, where we were eagerly awaiting a firsthand account, he said nothing. In fact, he never again spoke to any of us. And when we would come into his store to get a new used rubber heel to play Heels with, he would pick up his largest hammer and chase us down the street and around the corner, screaming in incomprehensible Sicilian. (We did get even with him though—frequently firebombing his store with Stink Bombs made from rolled up photo negatives.)

And so, armed with all of this basic knowledge about sex (amalgamating what we read in The Stork with what we were told by the big kids), we were ready for the next stage in our sexual education.

Larry Diamond’s dog was very helpful in this regard.

Larry was the only rich kid on the block, which meant that his parents owned a house and didn’t even have to rent the basement. They also bought a new Buick every year, while those other families who had cars, far from most, hondled for theirs in New Jersey, near the Lodi Traffic Circle, which was famous for its used car lots. The clunkers they would buy there often died on the George Washington Bridge on the way home, and those that survived the interstate trip rarely live through a full year.

We never figured out what Larry’s father did for a living, but we did know he went to whatever he did for work at about two in the afternoon and reportedly returned home about two in the morning. Though they lived in the neighborhood for at least 10 years I think I only saw him only twice. (Both times he needed a shave.) Whenever we were over Larry’s house he was said to be on the third floor sleeping.

Since they had a house all to themselves, they also were the only one’s to have a dog—Sludge. Sludge was unusual for a number of reasons—first of all, as the only dog nearby, he was a biological curiosity. We knew about dogs from comic books and from the one they had in the neighborhood firehouse, but we had limited experience with any dog in the flesh. And Sludge was, if anything, all about flesh.

He was famous for licking his dick compulsively and, more to the point, dry- humping your leg as soon as you came in the front door. He would wrap his incredibly strong front legs around your pants (you couldn’t pry him loose--not that we tried very hard since what he was up to was so fascinating) and hump away until he made your pants wet with some sticky stuff that wasn’t pee. And when he was done he would resume his licking.

Only Larry seemed to know what was going on, telling us it was a version of what his father sometimes did to his mother up on the third floor. Try as we could, it was hard to imagine how Mr. Diamond could wrap his legs or maybe arms (since he had only two legs) around her leg and hump it and make it wet. But Larry was a year older than we and his family owned a house of their own and a new Buick and thus we assumed he knew what he was talking about. But still, it was hard to form a picture in our minds of what his father and mother were doing upstairs while we were in school.

Larry played a role in our sex education in yet another, also unusual way—he had a darkroom where he would develop and print photographs (need I say his was the only darkroom in probably all of Brooklyn?). There was to be sure the virtual miracle of the photographic process itself, how images would form in that black lit room, seemingly as if by magic, from the bottom of those trays. But beyond that magic, often, when we came over, and squeezed into the darkroom with him, the images that would emerge from that chemical soup were grainy pictures of what looked like naked women. Naked women!

You need to know that the closest we ever came to seeing naked women at that time were from the brassiere ads in the Sears Catalog (no one had the money yet to subscribe to National Geographic where much later we could get a close and clear look at African women’s chests).

So when Larry would finish printing one of his fascinating pictures we would run from the darkroom, with the paper still dripping fixative, out to where the light was bright enough to enable us to peer through the graininess to, above all, see how the tits were attached to the women’s chests. A revelation to us, in our pre-anatomical state, was that they did not hang like sacks from a sort of slit in their chests but rather seemed to be attached around the entire circumference of each of them. The pictures weren’t clear enough to learn much more, that would come later, but what we saw there was intoxicating, and for a few of us caused some mysterious stirring down below in our dicks.

As you might imagine, there was more.

From all the pictures of the naked women that Larry kept developing (though none emerged in any sharper focus than any of the others), we began to figure out that his father’s business was somehow related to those intoxicating images. We didn’t have a name for that business yet, or a sense of how he could make money from even such things, but we were aware enough even at that early and naïve age to understand that the Diamond’s material well-being was somehow related to what that darkroom could produce.

So when one day Larry announced that his parents were away and that he had something very special to show us, it was not much of a problem to get me and Heshy Pearlmutter and Mel Streisand over there in about two minutes flat.

We arrived breathless and Larry slyly asked if we wanted to play cards. Playing cards didn’t seem to be reason enough to have us rush over there, but we trusted Larry sufficiently in the realm of sly to say, “Sure. Why not.”

So he sat us down around his mother’s bridge table and pulled a pack of playing cards out of his back pocket. He shuffled them and then, face down, dealt each of us in turn five cards, announcing we would play poker. Strip Poker!!

In truth, neither Heshy nor Mel nor I knew how to play poker, but we had heard about Strip Poker on the Street and thus nodded, “OK.”

So Larry said, “Before you pick up the cards, let me tell you about Five Card Stud.” And so he did--about how two pairs beat one pair; what a straight was and a flush. And how before each hand each of us had to ante up something and how the one with the best hand at the end of each game would win all that was anted up and in the pot. Enough to get us started.

Then before he would allow us to pick up the cards he told us that for Strip Poker you anted up clothes! With that, he pulled off his shirt and put it in the middle of the table, telling us we had to do the same. Which we did. He told us he’d talk us through the first hand until we got the hang of it. And then instructed us to pick up our cards. Which we did.

There were pictures of naked people on each of the cards! Not just naked people, which would have been enough to stop our hearts with excitement, but rather pictures of naked women and naked men in various poses. Poses that reminded us of the things Sludge did to himself, and to us!

Since your imagination is much better equipped than anything I can tell you about what was pictured on what Larry called French Cards, please imagine away! One hint—all the men wore sunglasses and black socks, most with garters.

We got the hang of Poker pretty quickly, enough to get Heshy and Mel and me down to our underwear in less than 15 minutes. Larry was obviously experienced enough with Five Card Stud to not only have gathered virtually all of our clothes on his side of the table but also to remain fully dressed.

Then he paused, peered at us, and said, “It’s getting very hot in here,” and with that quickly took off all, and I mean all of his clothes. Announcing that he was anteing everything he had for one final Winner-Take-All game.

This meant that we would have to ante what we were left with, just our Jockey shorts. Which we did.

He as usual won and pulled everything across the table. And so the game was over with Larry the big winner, but with all four of us as naked as the men on the cards.

Larry then said, "Let's play a different game, also using the cards."

We were sufficiently compromised and excited that we continued to trust him and again nodded our heads in unison. He said, “Let’s take the cards with us into the living room." Which we did.

He placed all 52 cards face down on the rug and swished them about so as to mix them up. He then told Heshy to pick one, any one, which Heshy did. Larry said, “Hold it up so we all can see.” Which Heshy did. It was a picture of a French women doing something with maybe her mouth to the French guy’s dick.

Larry said, “OK Heshy, you be the guy, and I’ll be the girl. Let’s act out what they are doing on the picture.

And with that he bent over Heshy in a version of what the woman was doing to the guy. Heshy jumped back before Larry could get close enough to touch him and scrambled away, looking for his clothing.

Larry next turned to Mel and asked if he wanted to pick a card. Which he did. It too was of a man and woman, this time in a position quite similar to the one Sludge assumed when he wrapped his paws around your leg. To simulate this picture, Larry turned his naked back to Mel and instructed him to play the man. He would again be the woman. Mel as if in a trance began to approach Larry, but before he got to touching distance he too ran from the living room.

That then left just Larry and me.

He told me to pick a card from the pile. Which I did.

It showed a man and woman facing each other, apparently about to do to each other what the Italian kids said men did to women. Larry, once more playing the woman, his favored part, waved me toward him. I closed the distance slowly.

And we did touch.

* * * *

Some weeks later, Heshy and Mel and I met in front of Larry’s house, thinking we could get him down to play Heels with us. It was a game that we excelled at and where we often took advantage of Larry’s lack of skill. We would clean him out of his baseball playing cards—the currency for which we gambled while playing Heels.

His house looked still and empty. We went up the stoop and rang the front door bell. Repeatedly. There was no answer, just the sound of chimes echoing in what felt like a deserted hall.

The next day stories swept the neighborhood about how the Diamonds had moved out quickly and silently the night before under cover of darkness. Some said that they had moved down to Florida. Others that they were upstate.

And furthermore, Mr. Diamond had been arrested and was in jail for some reason having to do with his business. No one knew what that might be—maybe for cheating on his taxes, maybe for stealing, maybe for gambling. Perhaps he was a Bookie. Or a murderer!

Heshy and Mel and I had our own ideas about what he was in jail for. But we never told anyone. We never even talked with each other about the cards much less the Poker game.

But our education had taken quiet a leap forward, and we knew what Larry was.

And I knew that it wasn’t catching.

Friday, November 11, 2005

November 11, 2005--Fanaticisms VIII--The Dover Monkey Trial

Science itself is under attack. And I’m not just talking evolution.

If you have been wondering, what’s the matter with Kansas, I’ll tell you. But there is also good news. Let me take you through this, starting with Kansas.

Kansas for some time has been the front line in the Culture Wars as it was in the Desegregation Wars—recall that Brown v. Board of Education was about desegregating the Topeka, Kansas public schools.

Most of the recent attention has been focused on the struggle between Intelligent Design advocates and the Evolutionists within the Kansas Board of Education. State boards such as the one in Kansas have the constitutional power to determine what is taught in all the schools statewide, including which texts to use. And thus this battle has been fierce. The NY Times reported (see link) that the Kansas School Board this week voted 6 to 4 to adopt new standards that require that "alternatives" to evolutionary science be included in all classrooms.

Advocates of Creationism and ID claim that they were “simply trying to open students’ minds to alternative viewpoints.” Others assert that Kansas is now “the laughingstock not only of the nation but of the world.”

In an attempt here to resist joining in on the mockery justifiably directed toward Kansas, in my restraint, let me share some concerns about why this situation is more dangerous than laughable.

A defender of Evolution, Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, fears that the new standards in Kansas will become the “playbook for creationism” nationwide. Here’s how this might happen:

It’s all about how the textbook industry works. When a state decides to teach science in a certain way, they simultaneously need to decide which textbooks to require and purchase. In order for textbook publishers to make the substantial investment needed to produce new texts, they have to be assured that there will be enough statewide bulk orders to make this profitable. Thus, if Kansas is interested in, say, Of Pandas and People, a favorite of IDers, the publisher can then go to other state boards to make advantageous deals with them. Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all call for their science courses to include a critical perspective on evolution and thus are now prime targets for goods deals for the same texts that will be purchased in Kansas—it’s all about reducing per unit costs as a way to make the price of texts attractive to state textbook committees. Kansas will now help induce that momentum.

There is though a greater concern--if what the Kansas board promulgated becomes a precedent, we will be talking about more than just providing “critical perspectives” on evolution. They are in effect attempting to redefine science itself. Included in their new science standards there is the explicit requirement that science instruction that derives solely from “natural explanations” will no longer be permitted. In other words, the centuries-long requirement that in order to call something science it needs to be experimentally verifiable via natural explanations is no longer the definition of science in Kansas.

Leave it to the youth to sum up the situation—A high school senior from Overland Park, Kansas said, “I’m glad I’m a senior. I feel bad for all the kids that are younger that have to be taught things that aren’t science in science class.”

Meanwhile, back in Dover, Pennsylvania, where in their Monkey Trial they are awaiting a decision about the inclusion of Intelligent Design in their science courses, the entire eight member Dover school board was voted out of office, in a sort of a kick-them-all-out kind of gesture. To quote one voter, “We are tired of everything this school board brought about.”

In fact, they may have even brought down on themselves the Wrath of God. Or minimally, the wrath of Pat Robertson, who said yesterday that because they “voted God out of their city,” God is no longer available to the people of Dover when disaster strikes, as Robertson claims it now surely will.

Maybe through, while waiting for The End, the kids from Dover will be able to find jobs when they graduate.

I wonder what the kids from Kansas will be doing?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November 10, 2005--Vanity, Thy Name Is Man

Call me old fashioned, but when I go for my facials I prefer not to have any women around (except for those applying the facials). What with all that pureed cucumber smeared on my face I’m not sure this is the way I want to be seen by the opposite sex. Much less the way I want either to meet people (if you know what I mean) or conduct business.

But as with so much in life, I find myself once again behind the trend. Or if you will, behind the times.

A recent NY Times piece reports on the latest hot thing to hit the Big Apple—co-ed day spas complete with full bars and food catered by the renowned Jean-George Vongerichten. And for those who want to conduct business while being gigong-ed ($65), there are WiFi hot spots and places where the bath-robed exec can meet with his assistant while being pummeled for $115 a pop.

You may not be surprised to learn, as I was, that nearly one-third of spa clients in the US are men. And thus the niche opportunity to convert upscale spas into places where these men can meet equally toned women (they offer “complete date packages” [don’t ask]), have a belt or two, and even enjoy a Jean-George meal for $80 to $90 a person. I suppose it’s easier to get a reservation at Completely Bare (yes, I am not making this us) than at his hottest new Perry Street restaurant.

And for those of you who are historical or multicultural minded, you need to know that spas of this kind were not invented on New York’s Upper East Side. Quiet the contrary. They are derived from ancient Arab bath houses, hammams, a town’s center of activity, where families would visit to check out eligible men and women for potential arranged marriages. According to Yasmine Djerradine, owner of an eponymous spa on East 60th Street, “You would go to gossip with your girl friends, and you would have coffee and talk with hair masks on, while someone under the table was working on your feet.” And someone else was inspecting all of you as a prospective bride for their shiftless son.

We prefer to do our own checking out these days, and so I am not surprised to learn that these nouveau spas are opening as fast as they can get the City permits they require.

Table for two has a new meaning in this, our brave new world.

Anyone catch the news today about Amman, Jordan?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

November 9, 2005--Jujitsu Toyota Style

Here’s something else I don’t understand. I’m old enough to remember when those first tiny foreign cars began to show up here. Because those Morris Minis, Renaults, and VWs were dwarfed by the gas-guzzlers of that era, they were more laughed at than admired. But slowly and inevitably for The Big Three that laughter and mockery about “Jap” and “Kraut” cars turned into despair as Toyotas and Hondas and VW Beatles eventually took over a disproportionate share of America’s auto sales. Eventually, Ford and GM and Chrysler began to produce smaller cars of their own. But it was too late to catch up, in part because the compact cars they produced were, frankly, inferior.

What I didn’t understand than and do not understand now is why the American manufacturers, who after all dominated the industry worldwide for decades, when American cars like American cigarettes were the envy of the world, why didn’t they anticipate or at least get on top of the trend?

And why today have we again allowed our overseas competitors to get the jump on us when it comes to developing and producing more fuel efficient cars?

A recent NY Times story is instructive (see link below). When Toyota and Honda ramped up their production in the past, they needed to buy and license American technology-—recall how we proudly proclaimed that, yes, because of lower labor costs Japan and Germany can produce cheaper products but only by copying American technology and know-how. And to boot, the goods they maufactured were shoddy.

Well, guess what, as US auto manufacturers scramble to catch up, a decade late, with Toyota and others in the hybrid field, they have to lease or buy technology from Toyota and often must buy parts from Japanese companies!

How did this happen? First, Toyota plowed some of its record $10.5 billion in profits into new fuel-saving technology. Second, they moved “quietly and aggressively” (how Japanese!) to cultivate a network of suppliers for critical hybrid parts. Then, without intentional irony, Toyota bought from GM, a large holding in Fuji Heavy Industries, manufacturers of a smaller and lighter lithium battery that is essential to the future of hybrid cars.

And how are American auto manufactures responding? First, betting that the future belongs more to fuel-cell cars than hybrids. But then, more than anything else, they are whining, crying “Foul!” Ford is claiming that Toyota “is manipulating supply.” (Ford should know a lot about that from their own past history of market control and monopolistic manipulation.)

But other, more neutral parties are saying this is not the case. Kurt Sanger, Macquarie Securities Japan automotive analyst, counterclaims, “Toyota developed it all. Toyota does a lot in-house. Someone is pointing a finger at Bill Ford [Ford’s CEO] saying, ‘Why don’t you make more hybrids?’ So he has to point his finger at someone else.”

Who are you betting on? I can tell you where my two dollars are placed—let’s say, not in Detroit.