Thursday, March 27, 2014

Assorted Stuff

So, somehow, today the oldest BHG kid turned 15.  He is tall, has an insane mop of curly hair, is easy-going and is well-liked by his friends and peers.  In other words, he's everything I was not (and still am not).  He's a great kid and I'm incredibly proud to be his father.  On the other hand, he's now legally allowed to apply for his learner's permit, something of which he keeps reminding Mrs. BHG and I.  This is quite alarming to us...............

As I write this, it looks more and more likely that the missing Malaysian airlines flight, or wreckage from it, anyway, has been located in the southern Indian Ocean, well off the west coast of Australia.  See here for more on that.  Unfortunately, there is a distinct possibility, if not a probability, that we will never know how the plane came to be in that location.  The "black box", which contains the cockpit's voice and date recorders, will only send out "pings" for 30 days, and even if the searchers do locate it in this remote and deep part of the ocean, there is a very good chance the critical period of time--when the flight made its inexplicable turn to the west and then south, may very well have been overwritten.  So, sadly enough, we may never find out what exactly happened with this flight.

So, Richard Falk is set to step down on May 1 from his position as the United Nations Human Rights Commissions' "Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.  This 9/11 conspiracy theorist, a guy who blamed the Boston Marathon Bombing last year on Israel, is an anti-Israel zealot.  Unfortunately, he is set to be replaced by someone who is just as bad.  I guess that it's too much for to expect Israel to get a fair shake from the odious United Nations in general, let alone the despicable Human Rights Commission...........

Higher education is doomed.  Skidmore College, a prominent and (to this point) well-respect liberal arts college, is set to offer a course on......................Miley Cyrus.  I hardly think that she merits a mention in the newspapers, let alone a class devoted to her.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The political insane asylum that is Quebec

I grew up in Montreal, but I haven't lived in the city--or the Province of Quebec--since 1991.  Still, I have family and friends there, so I maintain an interest in the place.  For the life of me, I truly don't understand the linguistic insecurity of the French-speaking majority, the result of which has been oppressive, anti-democratic measures employed by even the so-called "federalist" (i.e., they don't want to dismember the Canadian Confederation) political party (The Liberals, for those keeping track).  The overtly separatist party, the Parti Quebecois ("PQ"), doesn't hide what it is, and as a result of that, we have the bizarre spectacle of so-called language police running around the city of Montreal citing people working in retail outlets for the horrific crime of saying "Bonjour/Hi!" to store customers.  Worse yet, the PQ has promised much more in terms of restrictive legislation if it wins the provincial election scheduled for April 7.

I must be weird this way, but it seems to me that if you want to call yourself a truly democratic society, everyone should have the same rights.  In other words, a person should be able to speak the language that they want, when they want, and where they want.  If they want to put up an English-language business sign, that should be fine, too.  It may not generate much (if any) business from the French-speaking majority in the province, but that's the problem of the business-owner.  It should not involve the government.  I really don't understand why so many non-French speakers accept being treated like second-class citizens in a place where many of them have lived for (in some cases) hundreds of years.  It boggles the mind.......................

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shut up, anti-vaccination idiots

I'm a big believer in science, especially medical science.  That's why I get so worked up when I see people taking their cues in life from idiot celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, Kristin Cavallari, etc.  This is particularly true when it comes to the subject of vaccinating your children.  Sometimes, there are NOT two sides to every story.  In any case, as the result of the actions of these celebrities spewing their mindless, scientifically-debunked nonsense that vaccination can lead to an increased risk of autism, we now have increasing numbers of people all over the world who are being diagnosed with diseases which had basically become extinct in this country, such the whooping cough, mumps and measles.  Recent stories confirm this fact:  See here and here.  Again, let's keep in mind, these diseases had effectively been eradicated.  They are now back.

Does this mean that a fractional percentage of people aren't at risk of a bad reaction to these vaccinations? No, of course not, but the vast, vast majority of people are protected by them.  As well, and as a species, we benefit from a "herd effect"--in other words, society is protected by the fact that we are all (supposed to be) immunized.  That herd protection is eliminated by those who are not vaccinated.

I'm willing to go one step further than most people--I think that those who peddle these dangerous ideas are guilty of criminal negligence.  At the very least, they should be open to civil suits.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Florida is long, and other random thoughts

People in other states don't realize how freaking LONG Florida is.  When I lived in New Jersey, I could drive from one end of the state to the other in two hours.  In fact, I used to do it all the time for work.  Well, on Wednesday, I had to drive from where I now live to Pensacola.  I got in my car and started driving.........and then I kept driving and driving and driving.  After about 4+ hours, I finally got to the state capital, Tallahassee.  The most depressing thing was realizing that I had another three hours of driving ahead of me.  I live in the northeastern part of the state.  Imagine if someone was doing that drive from the Miami area, or even worse, the Keys.  The drive would take about 11 or 12 hours.  That's just crazy............

The story of Malaysian Airlines Fight 370 is one of the most bizarre stories in a long time.  If it's even possible, let's leave aside for the most the fact that there are just under 240 people on the flight who have seemingly vanished into thin air.  First, there was the story of those stolen passports, the users of whom ended up on the flight.  That seems to have become a non-story.  Then, there were the two Iranians on the flight, and that fact alone caused alarm bells to go off before that too became a non-story.  Now, we have the latest wrinkle, which is that the flight was diverted hundreds of miles off course, according to tracking by military radar.  I have to be honest; I suspected terrorism from the get-go, because planes do not suddenly go wildly off course and then vanish with not a single word from the pilots, or some indication of a mechanical problem.  On the other hand, terrorist groups invariably like to take credit for doing stuff like this. The silence after this plane vanished  has been deafening.  Not a word from any of the "usual suspects" (al Qaeda or one of its affiliates; Hezbollah; etc., etc.), or even some lesser-known outfit.  I just hope that this mystery is solved sooner rather that later, as the families of the passengers and flight crews deserve some type of answer as to what happened to their loved ones............

Am I the only person who is utterly repulsed by the entire Kardashian family? Honestly, what have any of them contributed to the world?  ANYTHING?  They seem to be incredibly good at self-promotion, I'll give them that.  Yet, they draw fans from all over the world--Kim Kardashian, who might be the trashiest of them all, has over 17,000,000 fans according to her Facebook page.  To me, that just means that there are over 17,000,000 stupid people on the planet who take their cues in life from a vapid "celebrity".  I get that we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture.  I don't like it, but such is life.  The thing is, the Kardashians aren't even famous for any particular reason.  The women are pretty.  Well, so what, there are millions of pretty women in this country and elsewhere in the world.  They're not smart in the conventional sense (though they're certainly savvy enough to turn their inexplicable popularity into dollars).  They've contributed nothing to the world.  Can anyone explain their popularity to me?????

I'm a grammar freak.  It drives me up a wall when I see people confuse the words "they're, there and their", not to mention "your" and "you're".  They are NOT the same words and they do NOT mean the same thing. People who can't tell the difference look like idiots.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Wound is Reopened

Peter Lanza, the father of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, has given an interview to the New Yorker which is causing a fair amount of controversy, as people predictably line up to either excoriate him or ask "what could he have done to stop this?"
Personally, I have no idea how as a parent, especially one who was divorced, and one who had been cut off from his son for over a year by his son's actions, he could have been expected to stop Adam Lanza from committing his horrific act of mass murder.
And, if you read the comments on the stories reporting on the interview, all the nutcases are out in full force--the "false flag" loonies, the "the government did it to take away our guns" or "it never happened" crowds, and of course the mandatory "the JEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS did it" collection of whack jobs.  Of course, because that's just the way we Jews roll...................

As a society, have we become so completely unhinged and distrusting of everything that we don't believe in ANYTHING anymore?

For what it's worth, he's a link to the actual article: Peter Lanza Story

Sunday, March 9, 2014

You can't trust the Obama Administration on Israel

The American betrayal of Israel is continuing apace. Now, we have the announcement (done quietly, of course) that the U.S. will not insist that the Palestinians recognize that Israel as a Jewish state. So, what exactly have the Palestinians been asked to give up thus far? Near as I can tell, the answer is "absolutely nothing." Israel , on the other hand, is being asked to give up everything or face international isolation, sanctions and world opprobrium. I expect this of the feckless and inherently anti-Semitic Europeans, but am disappointed that even the Americans are seemingly now failing to have Israel's back.  Sadly, it appears as though no one has Israel's back, anymore................

I hate tree pollen

No, I mean that I REALLY hate tree pollen.  Yes, I know that trees use it to "procreate", but given what it does to my sinuses and my immune system in general, I have no choice but to hate it.  When the BHG family left the Garden State, I hoped that the tree pollen issues would improve.  Uh uh, not meant to be.  Turns out that North Florida has some of the same types of trees as New Jersey, and given that nothing ever really freezes or dies down here, those trees can happily pollenate all year long.  Woo hoo!

My Habs had a very rough trip to the Left Coast.  First, there was another futile offensive effort against the Los Angeles Kings, making for a 2-1 loss.  That was followed by a surprising but heartening 4-3 shootout win over top team in the West, Anaheim.  However, two one-sided losses (to Phoenix by a score of 5-2 and San Jose, by a score of 4-0) rounded out the road trip.  Basically, unless Montreal plays Anaheim, things don't look good for the Habs if they somehow make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  My money is still on a repeat of last year's final, Chicago vs. Boston, with the same result.

Baseball season is just a few weeks away.  Last season, my Red Sox surprised everyone with their third World Series title in nine seasons.  I'm not expecting a repeat.  The team hasn't added anybody, while it has lost Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew.  The Evil Empire--I mean, the NY Yankees, added Ellsbury and Japanese ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, and they will also have a healthy Mark Teixeira this season. Bottom line, this is the Yankees' World Series to win, much as I hate to write that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You never really know about someone else

A friend of mine sent me an article this morning about an attorney from New Jersey who recently pleaded guilty to defrauding his clients out of more than a million dollars--well, specifically, he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.  The friend sent me this article to "tweak me" and poke fun at the state where I lived for 18 years.  What the friend didn't know is that I actually knew the attorney, who is potentially facing a long jail sentence and/or a huge criminal fine.  In fact, I worked with him for a few years, before he left my old firm suddenly.  The article on him is pretty damning, reading in pertinent part (names redacted):

"XXXXXXXXXXXX, of XXXXXXXXXXXX, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge XXXXXXXX in federal court to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud. During the proceeding, XXXXXXXXXXX admitted that he fraudulently inserted the names of his former law firm’s clients into legitimately filed XXXXXXXXX suits and charged the clients more than $1 million in attorney’s fees, costs and settlements to defend them.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Specifically, XXXXXXXXX admitted, he obtained copies of legitimately filed XXXXXXXX complaints and fraudulently altered them by deleting a named defendant and inserting the name of one or more of his firm’s clients. XXXXXXXXX admitted that, unbeknownst to anyone else at the firm, he forwarded those fraudulently altered complaints by email, fax and otherwise to the firm’s clients, their representatives and insurance companies.

After notifying the firm’s clients of the suits, XXXXXXXXXXXXX – and others at the firm who were not involved in the scheme – undertook the representation of the clients, by attending depositions, answering discovery and even settling claims. It is estimated that XXXXXXXXXXX inserted his firm’s clients’ names into more than 100 lawsuits, resulting in the generation of more than $1 million in fraudulent fees, costs and settlements. XXXXXXXXXXXX personally benefitted from the scheme through bonuses and increased compensation."

The conduct to which this attorney pleaded guilty took place long after he had left my old firm.  When I worked with him, he never seemed like the kind of guy who would do anything like this.  He was diligent, worked hard and well-liked by the powers that be at that firm.  I personally really liked him and was disappointed when he left that firm.  I guess that it goes to show that you never really know someone.............

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesdays Stink (and other miscellaneous thoughts)

Really, they do.  You don't have the "glow" of the just-completed weekend anymore, and the next weekend is still far off in the future (or so it feels, anyway).  I have always hated them and I still do.  I remember that as a kid, I used to routinely "get sick" and end up in the nurse's office on Tuesdays, to the point where it was a running joke at my elementary school, and my late mother threatened me that unless I was near death, I was NOT going to be allowed to come home early from school, and even then, she wanted to speak to a doctor first.

I'm still a sports fan, but as I've gotten older, my interest in it has really dropped off.  Growing up, and even into my twenties and early thirties, I would often plan my life around sporting events (when my favourite teams were on tv, etc.).  Now, I often don't even bother to watch when those teams are on tv.  Is that typical?  Don't get me wrong, I still have teams for which I cheer, and those against whom I cheer just as strongly, but the outcomes don't really affect me the way they did in the past.  I remember in 1988, when I was still in my early twenties, the Montreal Canadiens lost a playoff series to the Boston Bruins, and it was the first time in 45 years that that had happened.  I was devastated for weeks, and it was just as bad the next year when Montreal lost to Calgary in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Now, when the Habs lose, it bothers me, but my attitude is more of a "Oh, well", a shrug of the shoulders, and life goes on.

One of the "joys" of getting older is seeing the people with whom you have interacted vanish from your life. In the past few weeks, four people (one judge, three lawyers) with whom I had dealt regularly all passed away.  It really is depressing.  Three of them were older, so their passing wasn't entirely unexpected, but one of them wasn't much older than me.  It really makes you think.  Good Lord, I'm turning into Billy Crystal's character at the beginning of the first City Slickers movie...................

I get that people aren't happy with the way President Obama has responded to the Ukraine crisis, and one thing that hasn't changed in the four years that passed during my blogging hiatus is that I continue to be a critic of his foreign policy.  However, what exactly SHOULD he be doing?  Do people want us to intervene militarily in the Ukraine, and if that's what they want, are they prepared for the consequences of such an intervention?  We would almost certainly lose, given that Russia is right next door and we have no large numbers of military forces nearby.  The world economy would tank.  Oil prices would double (or worse). The Europeans will not help us, given that they are completely dependent on Russian gas to heat their houses. And, then there's that little matter of all of those Russian nukes, which a despot like Vladimir Putin might be willing to use.  So, again I ask, what exactly should President Obama do?  Don't give me talking points; I want specifics.

I've been asked fairly often over the years why I am such a strong supporter of Israel.  Well, there are "macro" and "micro" reasons.  Dealing with the "micro" reasons first, I have friends and (distant) family there. The "macro" reasons are a bit more complex.  There is a total of around 14,000,000 Jews on the planet, at least as of 2012, the last year for which I could find a statistic.  Over 82% of them live in Israel or the United States.  Especially after the Holocaust, I view it is one of my responsibilities as a Jew to ensure that my fellow Jews will always have somewhere to go in the event of war, discrimination or intolerance. Fortunately, here in the U.S., it seems as though "our place in society" has largely been accepted.  In Israel, the only Jewish-majority country on the planet, that "place in society" is under attack, both militarily and socially. No, there are no large-scale military invasions of Israel under way, nor do any appear to be imminent (the fantasies of Iran's mad mullahs notwithstanding), because the Arab world has come to realize that more insidious forms of non-military warfare such as attacking Israel in international organizations (such as the odious United Nations) and the "BDS" (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement, which has successfully turned the image of Israel into that of a modern-day South Africa--even though that is simply a lie--are far more effective. Hatred of Israel is at an all-time high, and hatred of Jews in general is following suit.  What does it say that the sole country in the world which is the target of such a movement is the world's only Jewish-majority state?  Not China, which has oppressed Tibet and the Uighurs for closing in on 70 years. Not Russia, which has already violently taken over part of Georgia and is now occupying part of the Ukraine.  Not Morocco, which has engaged in a virtual war of extermination against the native inhabitants of the Western Sahara, to the point where the natives of that region are now a minority in their own land.  Not Saudi Arabia or Iran, which practice gender apartheid and still stone people to death for adultery or "religious blasphemy", and which ban other religions (in the case of Saudi Arabia).  I could go on and on. Nope, only Israel is worthy of world opprobrium--and then people wonder why I am convinced that the BDS movement is by and large anti-Semitic?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I Hate Travel Soccer

So, the older of the two BHG girls plays travel soccer.  She's had some pretty bad experiences with it over the last few years (not last year, though--we loved her coaches and the girls on the team).  Come to think of it, all three of the older BHG kids have had their issues with travel soccer over the years, though younger BHG boy and oldest BHG girl really seem to have taken the brunt of the misery.  Still, that was in New Jersey, where politics and travel soccer go together like France and losing wars.  When we moved to Florida, we hoped that things would change a bit, and my daughter was thrilled when she made a local travel team.  Well, today was their first game, and she had a great view of it, seeing as she spent the entire game on the bench.  Yup, she didn't play one single second of the game.  Now, keep in mind, we pay money for her to do this.  And then we pay MORE money for her uniform.  So, are we now paying money for the privilege of watching her be a uniformed spectator?

What is it with travel soccer and asshat coaches??????  I hate this................