The Carrier Plant in Indiana

December 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | Leave a comment

Before we all start patting each other on the back about saving American jobs, Trump’s “deal” with United Technologies regarding the Carrier plant in Indiana includes Carrier moving roughly 1,200 jobs to Mexico and closing its facility in Indiana.  That’s 1200 families impacted, 1200 people on unemployment, 1200 people no longer earning good salaries and paying income taxes.

First of all, I want to applaud our President-elect for working on keeping his campaign promises.  It’s about time someone shook up the system.  But I don’t think he went far enough.

The deal includes $7 million in financial incentives provided by Indiana –  special tax breaks for a company that earned $7.5 billion in profits last year, got $6 billion in defense contracts and paid its top five executives $50 million, in order to preserve 800 out of 2,000 jobs.

I can’t help but wonder: why do taxpayers have to give a company that earns $7.5 billion in profits an incentive?  What’s the problem, they can’t get by on only $7.5 billion?  Oh, wait a second, that’s $7.5 billion in PROFITS.  Their Gross Revenue for 2105 was $56.33 billion.  Now I understand why they have to lay off those 1200 workers: who can be expected to earn a living only making 56.33 billion dollars a year? Have you seen the cost of vegetables in the supermarket lately?

And they say Bernie Sanders was a socialist who wanted to redistribute wealth.

So a little definition of terms before I continue.  Carrier is owned by United Technologies.  So is a defense contractor named Pratt & Whitney.  So Carrier and Pratt & Whitney are fingers on the hands of corporate conglomerate United Technologies.

In April of this year, Pratt & Whitney got a $1.04 billion contract to sell 63 Jet engines at $16.3 million each to the Department of Defense.  At Pratt & Whitney’s profit margin of 22.5% on its products, the profit on that one deal alone is $225.9 million dollars.  Does that really sound like someone who needs a $7 million dollar gift from the American taxpayer?

I think a far better Trump deal would have been “It will be a lot easier for this administration to support your military sales efforts if you weren’t laying off workers to save your shareholders a few pennies a share.”  It’s disgraceful.

Before you say that Carrier and Pratt & Whitney are separate companies, let me say that if your left hand steals something in the supermarket, your right hand is equally guilty.  When caught, both hands are punished.  Nobody buys stock in Carrier, they buy stock in United Technologies.  That’s where the responsibility lies.

I don’t blame Carrier for taking advantage of the system, but as Candidate Trump so fondly said during the election, the system is rigged.  Companies that outsource American jobs overseas shouldn’t be allowed to sell products to the government.  After all, the government is “of the people, for the people,” not for the benefit of corporations.

Maybe the wall Trump wants to put up to keep Mexicans out should really be to keep American Defense Contractors in.

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My dog peed on it….

December 4, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | Leave a comment

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here.  Sorry to my followers – all three of you (it seems like I picked a new one up.)

Anyhow, as you can tell by the title of this entry, there’s a very good reason I haven’t posted anything.  It’s really my fault, not Rover’s.  I use the front page of the NY Post as my screen saver, and the dog confuses my laptop with the stack of newspapers in the corner of the room.  Now that I’ve reloaded my Gilligan’s Island screen saver, Rover is staying away from the computer and the Writers Regurgitant is back in business.

Thanks for reading, and really — there’s no need to share this explanation with anybody else.

Dave’s one-line movie reviews XVI

January 2, 2016 at 9:58 am | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts, movie reviews | Leave a comment
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The summer of 2015 has been tough on me.  I promised you all a review of Reality Television, and it turned into the hardest writing assignment of my career.  “Reality” TV consists of entitled, spoiled upper middle class trashy people whining about their problems, or making up problems so we’ll watch their escapades.  However, one unexpected problem I encountered was my inability to watch any of the drivel for more than two minutes.  Since the Writer’s Regurgitant Code of Journalism Ethics demands that I watch a minimum of 5% of any movie before writing a review, I have been unable to complete my task.  I seriously contemplated not watching the shows and just giving a “brian williams” review, but felt that would be unfair to the three mental patients who read this column regularly and who depend upon me to tell them what’s worth watching.  The Writer’s Regurgitant Code of Journalism Ethics Committee has been exploring the problem and is trying to devise a new formula to reduce the viewing burden on me, but until the results of their work can be published, I will be unable to review any Bravo television programs.  But, dear follower, have faith, as we are diligently working on a compromise to appease my Writers Regurgitant fans and provide the intellectual guidance and discussion that my readers crave.  All three of you.

But the title of this post is “One Line Movie Reviews XVI” and movie reviews is what we’re all about.

“Joy” follows Jennifer Lawrence and a wonderful ensemble cast as she perfects the kitchen mop.   The advertising is billed as “from the team that brought you American Hustle,” but there is no nudity or sex in the film.  I don’t think any of the cast is even shown wearing anything that would be considered risque.   From a plot standpoint, it is a touching story of innovation and discovery, and shows the importance of American consumerism and shopping.  While not a “chick flick” for story or thematic elements, his movie gets a high “date-night” rating for all its behind the scenes footage of Home Shopping Network.

I caught up with an older film on cable this past week that was also a touching story of innovation and discovery.  “The Theory of Everything” only explores the creation of the universe and has no tie-in to any shopping networks, so you can’t give it the same high regard as the movie Joy.  It follows some science guy named Stephen Hawking, which would actually be a good name for a Home Shopping Network character.  (He’s hawking his jewelry – get it?)  Hawking catches Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is why I wanted to see the movie.  Imagine my disappointment when there was no baseball in it at all.

“Creed,” or “Rocky 6” as I prefer to call it, was one of my favorite movies of the holiday season.  It’s not so much a sequel to Rocky as it is a retelling.  It was a fun movie to watch, the story was kind of believable, in a Rocky kind of way with its whole Underdog versus Champ formula.   This is one of the first movies where Sylvester Stallone got to be an actor, which was refreshing.  Even Jodi liked the movie, which is quite a triumph for a boxing film.  The lead character, Adonis, is the son of a character from the first Rocky movie, Apollo.  With dozens of Greek Mythological characters to use as names, look for many more boxing movies from Hollywood to capitalize on the formula.

Speaking of formula’s and capitalizing, “Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens” has taken over half the movie screens and television commercials in the United States this holiday season.  I liked it, but I must admit there wasn’t a lot of originality in the story.  Okay, you could say it was original because in Star Wars 4 (which was really Star Wars 1), the bad guy’s name was Darth Vader, but in Star Wars 7 (which is really Star Wars 7) his name is Kylo Ren.  But that’s the kind of innovation you’ll see in this movie.  My recommendation:  don’t waste your money on 3D, just see it in the theater with the biggest screen you can find.  I thought the 3D looked very fake.  That whole numbering system that Lucasfilm’s came up with, where SW1 was SW4 and SW4 was SW1 was really confusing to most Americans, and I’m happy that Disney has once again returned to chronological numbering of all sequels.

“The Martian” is the story of an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and is thought dead by his crew and the entire world.  Originally to be titled “MacGyver in Space,” they played around with names such as “Castaway 2,”  “Duct Tape Martians” and “I Eat my Feces” until stealing the 1949 Ray Bradbury short story title “The Martian.”  Actually, they stole the idea too.

Frankenstein’s Army” was on television a few weeks ago.  After seeing “The Walking Dead,” you thought that a story telling couldn’t get any gorier or sadistic, right?  After watching only 20 minutes of Frankenstein’s Army, I had to wash my eyeballs in saline for half an hour to clean away the revulsion.  The mad scientist in this movie is splicing pieces of industrial machinery to POW’s in a Nazi medical “experimentation” facility.  Although I’m not sure if the words “medical,” “experimentation” or “facility” really apply here.  Definitely a movie to be watched with a support group instead of alone.

This month’s review of a movie I haven’t seen is “Ant-Man, a brian williams review.”   After starring in “Dinner for Schmucks” and “Our Idiot Brother,” Paul Rudd dons the spandex suit to play Ant-Man.   He’s a guy with a magic suit that makes him smaller and stronger and he saves the world.  “Judge me by my size do you?  Hmm?  And well you should not!”  I can’t imagine what kind of Christmas toy this movie’s going to generate next year, but I’ll keep a can of Raid by the bedside, just in case.

“The Intern” pairs Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway in a story about a retired, widowed business executive joining a computer company as an intern to fight boredom.  Along the way, he helps the company grow, saves Anne Hathaway from a drunk driver, saves her marriage, mentors horny young geeks and keeps the audience awake for with funny “old people” jokes about twitter and email.  Not a bad movie, but if you watch this with your girlfriend, I think you deserve the right to choose the next film you see together.  My favorite DeNiro movie about marriage is “Raging Bull,” and “The Intern” is a few notches down on the mellow side.

I missed writing my reviews of “Jurassic World” and “Terminator Genisys” this past summer.  To save some time, I’ll review them together.  There’s a few plot twists, by the middle of the film you pretty much know which characters are going to be around at the end of the film, there’s a lot of loud noise, action and murder/death/kills.  In Jurassic World they ooze creativity by inventing a new dinosaur.  In Terminator Genisys they ooze creativity by inventing an operating system that runs on everything.  Wait a second, isn’t that Windows 10?  Anyhow, plot formula + silly plot twists = entertainment.  Go watch them and have a good time.

I didn’t follow the HBO series “Entourage,” although I did see a few episodes.  They made it into a movie this summer and it came and went with the same splash as an Organic Chemistry activity at a Kardashian summer camp.  I paid $5.99 to see it on pay-per-view and highly recommend that you wait until it’s on HBO so you can save that $5.99 for a six pack of Rolling Rock.  As far as the movie goes, it’s a bunch of zany rich kids putting on the big show.  Sort of like “The Little Rascals” with a little bootie thrown in.

It was great finally catching up with some one-line movie reviews, and I’ve got tickets to go see “The Big Short” tonight so I’ll be back here soon with more insightful observations.  I really appreciate when you, dear reader, share this column with your imaginary friends and family and welcome your comments.  Well, I don’t really welcome your comments, but please tell the other patients in the ward to read this column.

Federation of Northern NJ Men’s Leadership Mission to Israel – April 2015

April 28, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | 1 Comment

Last week I had the privilege of joining a “Men’s Mission” to Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.  It was an amazing trip, and the staff people and volunteers who put it together deserve all the praise they receive.  It was an honor to meet the other participants on the trip and share the experience with them.

All the attendees were asked to provide a paragraph or two about the mission to share on the Federation website and Facebook page, but I find it impossible to write just a few short words about the trip.  It was awesome, so much more engaging then my previous two trips to Israel, which I also enjoyed immensely.  We were afforded celebrity status, and invited to visit locations and with people that no regular tourist would ever get to see.  However, there are three experiences we shared that sum up my feelings and thoughts about the mission:

Being part of a minyan at Yad Vashem, participating in the Yom Hazikaron memorial services in Jerusalem, and praying at the Kotel were memories I will always cherish, as bittersweet as they were.

A visit to Yad Vashem

Yad_Vashem_interior_9354sm

The main corridor at Yad Vashem. From Wikimedia

For the third time, I visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.  Yad Vashem is eye opening, it is horrifying, it is captivating and it is emotional.

Yad Vashem is about remembering.  We hope that by presenting the story of the 6 million victims that we can keep the remembrance alive.  If we keep the remembrance alive, hopefully we can prevent it from ever happening again.

One of the men in our group wanted to say Kaddish, and since there is a synagogue at Yad Vashem, it was only natural that he ask the tour guide if we could use it.  Then he asked the men in our group to help make a minyan.

Everybody in the mission was more than glad to participate, and he led us in a very short service.  During the silent portion of the service, I thought how appropriate it was to be saying Kaddish at Yad Vashem, an institute built upon the concept of remembrance.  Not only was it appropriate, but what could be a greater honor than helping a friend in Jerusalem?

Not everyone who visits Yad Vashem is Jewish.  In fact, I would guess more than half of the visitors have no idea what Kaddish is.  But it was a wonderfully memorable moment for me, not just because I was able to help a friend satisfy his need for a minyan, but because I was able to do it in a place that was a testimonial to six million people who had no one to say Kaddish for them.

Yom Hazikaron

To be in Jerusalem for Yom Hazikaron was very difficult.  The older I get, the more emotional I am, and the sadness of the day hit me hard.

VIP seating on Yom Hazikaron

VIP seating on Yom Hazikaron

For some unbeknownst reason, the participants of our mission were afforded “VIP Status.”  We were invited to sit in the roped off area at the Kotel to be part of the ceremony.  At first, I was very impressed.  We were given headsets where a translator provided the speech in English so we could understand what was being said.  We were surrounded by Soldiers, Ambassadors and dignitaries.  The President of Israel spoke at the podium only a hundred feet from us.  The President!  In 56 years of living in the United States, I had never been anywhere near as close as that to my President.  It was a great honor.

The ceremony started as the wife of a soldier who had been killed in Gaza last summer, their young child by her side, walked across the front of the podium to light the flame.  She held her head up proudly, but who couldn’t be impressed by her resilience as the young widow with the little child who would never know their father carried the torch to the gigantic memorial candle?

Memorial Candle for Yom Hazikranot

Memorial Candle for Yom Hazikaron

As the President began to speak, I was overcome with emotion.  The words were so sorrowful.  He talked of the soldiers who had been killed defending the new country back in 1948, and the many military attacks suffered by Israel in the 67 years since then.  After a while, I had to take the headsets off because I was beginning to sob.

As I listened to the words in Hebrew, I found I didn’t need the translation.  I looked around the crowd and saw the long faces of parents who were at the Kotel ceremony to remember their children.  I saw soldiers standing at attention, tears rolling down their cheeks.  I knew by the emotion of the crowd exactly what the President was saying.

Israel is a small country surrounded by enemies.  Regardless of politics, regardless of who started it or who will end it, I can relate to the loss of a loved one.  I can relate, but relating is not the same as participating.  You see, I might care and I might be saddened, but I have no “skin in the game.”

Everyone in Israel knows someone who has lost a parent in battle.  Or a spouse.  Or a child.

For Israelis, Memorial Day is not empathy for an idealistic patriotic motto, or a flag, or an inscription on a memorial statue in a park.  When your neighbor or your family has been killed in war, the memorial is real and the memorial is personal.

I looked behind me and saw a sea of people, pushed back from my comfortable seating position, standing behind barricades to participate in the service, and I was overcome with shame as well as grief.  Here were people who had a much greater cause to be there than I did.

I was a visitor who had paid for his ticket with dollars.   The Israeli’s who stood behind me had paid in blood.   Their children’s blood.  I was ashamed to take the seat of someone who had paid so dearly.  They were the VIPs, not me.

I don’t feel like I did anything wrong by taking that seat.  But I certainly wasn’t worthy of it.  For me, it was an act of ignorance.  I was a stranger in a strange land with no idea what I was doing.   I certainly will never sit in any chair again while a grieving parent has to stand behind me.  And I am now compelled to change myself to be a better person, so that I can at least feel that I have deserved the honor that was given to me, even if others were so much more deserving than myself.

Defining Grandpa’s Tefillin

As Jews, we are defined in many ways.  The Nazi’s defined us as “sub-humans” to be exterminated.  It’s been said we control Hollywood, Washington, the banks – you name it we’ve been defined as running it.  We are also often defined as the people who have all the money, although I’m still waiting for someone to share that with me.

Within our own communities we sometimes define ourselves by our differences.  You are either Reformed, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox or Ultra Orthodox.  The temple in the neighborhood where I raised my son defined itself as “Conservative Egalitarian.”  I guess we were a co-ed equal opportunity synagogue.

I prefer to define us by our similarities.  We are the people who all come together, regardless of the strength of our beliefs or convictions, with no consideration of our clothing, our dietary practices or our wealth, at a central focus point in a little corner of Jerusalem that was once called the Wailing Wall before we were allowed to go there.  Since then, it has become known as “The Kotel.”

I can sit in a synagogue for five hours on Rosh Hashana and feel almost nothing.   I can sit through a 3 hour Seder on Passover, and although I enjoy being with my family and friends and I enjoy savoring the festival, it doesn’t make me feel connected to anything more than the people in the room.  But when I am at the Kotel, I become connected in a way that is hard to describe in words.

I’m not religious, but I am awed to be at this amazing place that so many of my ancestors have craved for, and which many of my family have never had the chance to see.  I don’t think that G-d is living at the Kotel, waiting to listen to my prayers.  Nor do I think that a prayer given in earnest at another location would be any less a prayer than one given at the Kotel.

I don’t understand what it means to be a “holy” site.  To look at the archeological history, the Kotel isn’t even part of a temple, it is a retaining wall built around a small hill to make it stronger so the Temple could be built on top of it.  To say that the Kotel is holy because it is the closest to the site of the old Temple is to insinuate that the further you get from the site of the old temple, the less holy you are.  That doesn’t say too much about us six thousand miles away in New Jersey.

Sunrise at The Kotel, 6AM April 20, 2015

Sunrise at The Kotel, 6AM April 20, 2015

I think that more than anything else, the Kotel is a focus point.  After all, we don’t pray “To” the Kotel, we pray “At” it.   All Judaism shares it as the focus of our desires, our dreams and our faith.  The Kotel is not G-d’s address, it is the address of his people.

My grandfather died when I was 11.  My father would go to daily Minyan to say Kaddish for his father, and I would wake up at 5:30 in the mornings to go with him.  Many of the men at the Minyan service would put on tefillin, and I was taught the same.  My father gave me his father’s tefillin, and it always felt so good wearing them, as if in some strange way that an 11 year old boy couldn’t quite understand, my grandfather was still with me when I wrapped them around my arm.  I have cherished those tefillin for 45 years now, even sending them out to a scribe to inspect the scrolls inside.

These days I don’t wear tefillin much, but on my trip to Israel, I wanted to bring them along for an important reason. My grandfather, who died in 1969 and had been too sick to travel the last few years of his life, had never been able to go to the Kotel.  This would be his tefillin’s first visit.  If grandpa couldn’t be there, at least a part of him would be able to go.

A flight to Israel is not the most pleasant way to spend your time.  There is the discomfort of being in an airplane for twelve hours followed by the time change which plays games with your sleep patterns.  Many people who arrive in Israel just want to go to their hotel room and rest for a few hours.

That was the last thing I was going to do.  I only had one week to be in Israel and I wasn’t going to waste it resting.  I could sleep when I got home.

I had schlepped Grandpa’s tefillin six thousand miles from New Jersey to Jerusalem, and the first thing I had to do once I stepped foot out of the taxi in Jerusalem was to go to the Kotel and wear them.

Walking through the Arab Bazzar at 5:30 AM

Walking through the Arab Bazaar at 5:30 AM

Several of the men from the mission were willing to go with me, so we walked from our hotel, up King David Street to the Mamilla Mall, through the mall to the Jaffa Gate of the old city, and through the Arab Bazaar until we got to the Western Wall Plaza.

I put on my grandfather’s tefillin and approached the wall.  I said the Shehekeyanu blessing because I was so happy to be there.  I said a Kaddish for my father and my wife.  I said a Shema.  Then, fighting down the tears of joy, I tilted my head back, and looked up the wall, past the two thousand year old stones to the blue sky above and whispered in English “Thank you for everything in this world that I have, and thank you for letting me be here today.   Please let me be worthy to be here.”

I like to think my father – and his father – would have been pleased to see their descendent at the Kotel, free to pray as I wished, free to come and go when I chose to, and certainly pleased that I had retained some of the Jewish values they had given me.  By being there, I was honoring them by keeping their legacy alive.  And I was defining myself, not as the world would define me, but as a proud, happy Jewish guy from New Jersey enjoying one of the greatest gifts anyone could ask for, and looking for a way to be a better person.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

If you’ve found yourself moved by my words, remember that the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ, which ran the trip that I had the opportunity to experience, works to build a strong and vibrant Jewish community, fights anti-Semitism and takes care of those in need in northern New Jersey, Israel and around the world.  Please consider making a donation to Federation to support their programs.  Follow this link for more information.

Thank you for reading this post, and please feel free to share it with your friends, family or anyone else who would be interested.

The Twelve Best Books Ever Written

January 10, 2015 at 9:35 am | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | Leave a comment
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I ain’t no English Professor.  Don’t know a participle from an infinitive, and Word keeps telling me my writing is passive.  That’s okay, though, because I don’t think any English Professors are following me, just regular people who might like my feeble attempt at wit.  Or is that just my feeble wit?

What follows are the top twelve books that I think should be required reading for everyone. It should even be a law that you have to read these books.  In no particular order, here they go:

  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  If you think war is nuts, read the backstory.
  2. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.  Not only is it a critical look at art, but it has really short (bowel-movement length) chapters and little drawings.  I know, a lot of critics say Slaughterhouse Five is his best, but I figure there aren’t many critics reading my blog.
  3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.  Published in 1726, a million times better than the Jack Black movie of the same name.  If you can’t handle something with more than 3 pages, read Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and then decide if you can make the time.
  4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  Answers the question, after the apocalypse, who needs punctuation?
  5. Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  I can hear you all groaning.  This play has some of the best action and inaction ever written.  Get yourself some Cliff’s Notes or Sparks Notes if you need help with the language – but it’s really not that hard if you’ll give it a chance.
  6. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  For a good time, you can’t beat an alien invasion.   The original story takes place in England.  Sorry, movie fans.
  7. The Crucible by Arthur Miller.  Well, it’s a play, not a novel.  The Salem witch trials of 1692, brought to life with all their insantiy.
  8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Great story about power, instinct, civilization and a fat kid with Asthma.  For heaven’s sake folks, read the book, don’t watch the movie.
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Americans never seem to get enough of picking on the odd guy.  I’ve never seen the movie because it’s in black & white.  Maybe one day they’ll remake it in color with some cool CG.
  10. Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara & The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara.  One story, sold as two books to double the publishers’ profits.  A novelization of the American Revolutionary War.  History; humanized and dramatized for the “regular guy.”  If this book was available when I was in High School, I would have done so much better in Social Studies.
  11. American Tabloid by James Ellroy.  Communists, Cuba and JFK.  If you always wondered what it meant when a reviewer called something “gritty,” here’s the answer.
  12. Chasm by David Felder.  Hey, it’s my blog, I can say what I want.  And you can download this soon-to-be classic for only $4.99.

 

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