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Carl Pope: They’re Back…

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

San Francisco — Just when we thought we were getting a fresh start with a new decade, some of the worst actors from the previous one popped back up to say, “You’re not finished with us yet.”

Richard Pombo, the unlamented former chair of the House Natural Resources Committee who tried to sell off our national parks, has announced that he will run for Congress, not in his old Congressional district (where his family has deep and lucrative real estate development roots) but in a neighboring district where incumbent George Radanovich is retiring. Were he to win,  Pombo would have the chance to sell off a really big  park, since his new district would include Yosemite National Park.

Pombo will face a hotly contested Republican primary, though, and is vulnerable as a carpetbagger. I also expect that voters in his new district will remember — or be reminded  of — his seedy relationship with former Congressional influence peddler Jack Abramoff. I was very proud in 2006 when the Sierra Club and a coalition of environmental groups replaced Pombo with Representative Jerry McNerney.

The other ghost of the decade past is a project by Senator Lisa Murkowski to gut the Clean Air Act by specifying that air pollutants that cause climate disruption are not subject to the law. Murkowski’s amendment to this effect was rejected by the Senate last fall, but just before Christmas she and other Republicans held up voting on an essential bill to allow the federal government to continue borrowing money until Senate Democrats agreed to give her a vote on her proposal to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that it must regulate pollution that causes global warming under the Clean Air Act.

Before Murkowski was carrying this water, we watched the Bush administration stonewall for two years after the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to act (by the outré expedient of refusing to open the email to the Administration from the EPA with its legally required finding that, yes, Virgina, carbon dioxide does disrupt the climate).

It’s important to note how this plays out. The Senate Republican leadership won’t allow the Senate to vote on climate legislation that it knows a majority would approve. At the same time, it insists that the Senate get to vote on amendments that have already been rejected — but only under ground rules that prevent the majority from offering its own alternatives. Murkowski claims she is gutting the Clean Air Act only so the Senate can pass its own version of climate legislation rather than rely on the Clean Air Act. But she won’t agree to help bring such climate legislation to the floor, and she hasn’t sponsored any of her own. So while Murkowski gets to offer her amendment to prevent Clean Air Act action on climate, Senator Boxer cannot offer a bill that would put in place the kind of comprehensive climate action that Murkowski claims to favor — the rules the Republicans have insisted on won’t allow it.

This is both obstructionism and hypocrisy at its worst. It’s driven not by policy concerns over energy and climate but by a purely partisan political desire to prevent President Obama and the majority of the Congress from doing what the American people elected them to do — govern. Every senator needs to stand up to these kinds of petty, rule-or-ruin tactics. Congress needs to vote on comprehensive climate and energy legislation — and the EPA needs to carry out the Clean Air Act. Murkowski is trying to prevent one by gutting the other. And she needs to be called on it.

If you agree, I encourage you to email your own senators to let them know that 2010 is not the year to start  backpedaling on progress toward a clean-energy future for America.


Categories: World Tags: , , , , ,

Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 12/25/09

December 26th, 2009 admin No comments

Also known as the “while you have been travelling and festive” edition of the Wrap-Up. No news today, of course, so allow this to serve as a synopsis of the week’s biggest political events, as well as the week’s polling data in capsule form.

Merry Christmas, and see you on Monday!!

THE POLLS: DECEMBER 21-24, 2009

ND-Sen: John Hoeven (R) 58, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) 36 (Rasmussen)
IL-Gov: Jim Ryan (R) 46, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) 39 (Rasmussen)
IL-Gov: Dan Hynes (D) 42, Jim Ryan (R) 40 (Rasmussen)
FL-Sen (R): Charlie Crist 45, Marco Rubio 36 (Zogby)
CT-Sen: Rob Simmons (R) 51, Sen. Chris Dodd (D) 46 (GQR–D)
CT-Sen: Sen. Chris Dodd (D) 46, Linda McMahon (R) 46 (GQR–D)
MN-06: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) 53, Maureen Reed (D) 37 (PPP)
MN-06: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) 55, Tarryl Clark (D) 37 (PPP)
KY-Sen (R): Rand Paul 44, Trey Grayson 25 (PPP)
KY-Sen (D): Jack Conway 37, Dan Mongiardo 33 (PPP)
SC-Gov (R): Bauer 22, McMaster 22, Haley 13, Barrett 9 (I-A)
SC-Gov (D): Rex 21, Drake 15, Sheheen 8 (I-A)
KY-Sen: Rand Paul (R) 42, Jack Conway (D) 36 (PPP)
KY-Sen: Rand Paul (R) 42, Dan Mongiardo (D) 36 (PPP)
KY-Sen: Trey Grayson (R) 40, Jack Conway (D) 33 (PPP)
KY-Sen: Trey Grayson (R) 44, Dan Mongiardo (D) 35 (PPP)
CT-Sen (R): McMahon 37, Simmons 35, Schiff 4 (Moore Methods–R)

IN OTHER NEWS….FROM THE WEEK

  • Follow me over at Twitter. If you did, you’d know that I know a lot more about politics than I do college football (isn’t everybody 1 and 4 5 in their bowl pools right now?).
  • As we prepare to put 2009 in the books, one of the truly bizarre stories for political junkies has been the rise and utterly bizarre fall of Strategic Vision, the polling outfit that had been prolifically releasing political data for half a decade.

    In his column for National Journal, one of the deans of political/polling blogging, Mark Blumenthal, pens a postscript to the whole affair. You might recall that the whole affair began back in September, when Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight began to raise questions about some anomalies in SV’s data. This happened at the same time that the AAPOR (American Association of Public Opinion Research) had just censured SV for failure to disclose on some of their past polls. At the time, the head honcho at Strategic Vision, David Johnson, was loudly proclaiming that his firm would be vindicated.

    And, then…as Blumenthal writes…nothing happened. Not only did Johnson never provide the exculpatory evidence that he promised back in September, but his firm has not released a single poll since. Lawsuits against both Silver and the AAPOR, as had been threatened by Johnson back in September, never materialized.

    Furthermore, when Johnson penned an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his bio identified his firm as a “public relations and public affairs agency.” Previous bios for Johnson represented SV as a “public affairs and polling company.” A small change in wording, but a potentially critical one.

  • VA-05: Hard to say whether this is good news or bad news for the Republican Party. The Richmond Times-Dispatch crunches the numbers, and finds that there are at least seven Republicans vying for the opportunity to challenge Democratic freshman Congressman Tom Perriello. The problem is that some of the more vocal right-wingers in the party are now openly gunning for the frontrunner (and NRCC darling), state Senator Rob Hurt. This week, right-wing talk show host Laura Ingraham (who is being quite the kingmaker lately) announced a preference for real estate developer Laurence Verga. Hurt has rankled some on the right because he voted for a tax increase once, but he did get spared a bit by the decision that the nomination would be done in a primary rather than by an activist-driven convention. Remember that it was the threat of having to win a convention that drove somewhat sane Republican Congressman Tom Davis out of the 2008 Senate race, serving up Jim Gilmore to lose by thirty points to Democrat Mark Warner.
  • NV-Gov: Those organizations seeking to award their “Man of the Year” awards might want to keep Nevada’s GOP Governor, Jim Gibbons, on their short list. In a court filing exposed by the Reno Gazette-Journal, Gibbons is seeking to not have to pay alimony to his soon-to-be-ex-wife Dawn Gibbons past 2011, on the grounds that he might not win re-election as Governor next year.

    To that, the judge should have only issued one response: “Might not win re-election, Governor?!?”

  • AL-05: A day after Freshman Congressman Parker Griffith made the jump from the Democratic Party to the GOP, there was quite a bit of fallout from his sudden move across the aisle. In one potentially incendiary scandal, Griffith’s campaign consultants, Main Street Strategies, were accused of downloading Democratic voter data from a party database just hours before the Congressman’s defection on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, a Griffith staffer promised that the congressman would return all the data swiped the day before. The kerfluffle cost Main Street Strategies a gig, as the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis fired the firm on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, Griffith was only a Republican for about 30-35 hours before potentially drawing a high-profile Democratic challenger. In something of a surprise, state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is currently in the midst of a bid for Governor of Alabama, refused to close the door on a bid for Congress in the 5th district.

    Finally, the “warm welcome” from local Republicans continued, as well. Just a day after both Republicans already in the Congressional field held press conferences to insist that they were staying in the race, and would merely beat Griffith in the GOP primary, the newly minted Republican also got dissed by one of the state’s gubernatorial candidates, state Treasurer Kay Ivey:

    “I can’t help but regard this ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion of Parker Griffith’s as solely a ploy to cling to his seat in 2010…Political self-preservation isn’t a virtue. In fact, political expediency is an insult to every grassroots activist who commits untold hours in devotion to getting candidates elected.”

    For more about the potentially rocky path for Congressman Griffith, read
    DavidNYC’s must-read piece from Wednesday morning here at Daily Kos.

  • PA-10: It seems that some state GOP officials in Pennsylvania are not feeling the Christmas spirit. After all, they have the burden to trying to recruit a legitimate candidate after the high-profile failure of the national GOP to lure Democratic Congressman Chris Carney to switch parties. Less than 24 hours after that attempt to pull Carney across the aisle came up snake-eyes, the state GOP wanted it made perfectly clear that they had nothing to do with the recruitment effort. Meanwhile, one of the local GOPers already committed to the race, county commissioner Malcolm Derck, was livid, calling the effort to recruit Carney a “slap in the face.”
  • VA-Sen: It’s not until 2012, but here is a quick item for the “Holy Crap!” file. Jim Webb already has a Republican who is casting at least one eye on a challenge for the U.S. Senate. The GOPer coveting a shot at Senator Webb? None other than former Senator George Allen. That’s right…Senator Macaca is contemplating a comeback:

    “Many people have encouraged me to run,” Allen said in a telephone interview. “Susan and I have heard that from many people. And the answer is: perhaps.”

    It is not beyond the realm of possibility, of course. Despite a Democratic year and the gaffe heard ’round the world, Allen did tally 49% of the vote in his narrow defeat at the hands of Webb.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lynda Resnick: A Government Of One

December 26th, 2009 admin No comments

This New Year’s, instead of waiting for our government to solve your health care needs, take action and do everything you can to keep yourself and your loved ones well — and away from doctors and hospitals. So many in our society are already suffering from disease, but for those of you who are healthy — I urge you to do everything possible to keep yourselves that way!

Eat sensibly, exercise and do those boring but important things that keep you out of harm’s way; like washing your hands often during flu season, reducing stress through mediation and yoga, and taking a daily multivitamin. So much of your medical future is within your power to control. Visit the websites of Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Andrew Weil for helpful hints and great lifestyle choices for maintaining optimum health throughout your life. Additionally, RealAge.com can help pinpoint areas in which you need to improve to be as fit or more fit than others your age. The site will also keep you updated with the latest health, diet and fitness tips. Studies show that people who keep a log of their diet and fitness have a better success rate with reaching their goals. You can track your diet and exercise progress on MyCalorieCounter.com.

Instead of waiting for our government to solve the education needs of our society, do everything you can to educate your children and yourselves outside of the classroom. It is about lifelong learning at every age. The online courses are inexpensive and so easy to access; there really is no excuse for people with access to a computer not to take advantage of them. BTW, if you don’t have a computer, your local library does. Learn another language by purchasing software from Rosetta Stone, or take a course in bookkeeping or real estate at your local community college. Get the math help your child needs at Math.com. And if you want to impact the needs of your local schools, go to DonorsChoose.org (”an online charity connecting you to classrooms in need”).

Instead of waiting for our government to solve the energy problems of the world, start doing what you can to keep your carbon footprint in check. There are easy and inexpensive solutions that not only impact the planet, but also favorably impact your pocketbook in a very substantial way. Calculate your carbon footprint – and learn how to offset it at CarbonFootprint.com, or visit Care2.com for helpful tips. Every day, industry is inventing new ways for us to use less energy in our daily lives; with energy saving appliances, light bulbs, and new solar panels that are inexpensive and easy to install. Even a simple click of your mouse can help save 11.4 square feet of rain forest.

Instead of waiting for our government to solve the poverty issues in our country and abroad, do what you can to give back. For just a dollar a day you can help eradicate poverty at 1dollaraday.net. Their slogan is:”$1 a day for those living on less than $1/day.” Or go to Endpoverty2015.org where your money can be targeted toward worldwide hunger, child and maternal health, worldwide education, gender equality and more.

If you don’t have the money, give of your time to the local food bank, or spend an afternoon at the senior home, where many residents go for months without a visitor. Become a volunteer at your local Red Cross, you’ll be amazed by how much good work they do in cities across America. Volunteers are as valuable as dollars in conquering the needs of our struggling planet..

Tragically, our government has become a partisan quagmire. Most of us have lost focus on what the truth is. Talking heads bark their distorted viewpoints at us all day through the media. The din has become so intense; I for one have begun to tune it out. Let’s face it: nothing of any real consequence happens in this country without the support of both parties. Think of the War Crimes Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the original passage of Medicare in 1965. These initiatives passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate. The Health Care bill was voted on strictly along party lines with unfathomable concessions given to certain senators to get their vote.

This is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people — it is a government of special interests. My hope for change has not dimmed, but my confidence is greatly diminished on effecting change through government intervention.

What are caring, engaged citizens supposed to do? Go for it; be a government of one and start to make things happen. There’s a perfect match for you out there, and now it’s easier than ever to find it at VolunteerMatch.org.

Happy New Year… the future is yours!


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Alan Elsner: The Sad End of Romanian Jewry

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

In a classic Yiddish theater song from the 1920s that is still popular today, Aaron Lebedeff, known in his day as “the Maurice Chevalier of the Yiddish stage,” opened with a striking cantorial-style refrain: “Roumania, Roumania, Roumania, Roumania.”

The first verse declared:
Once there was a beautiful land – Roumania!
Life was so good!
No cares, just wine,
Mamaligeh (Romanian polenta),beautiful girls and merriment!”

Lebedeff was exaggerating the charms of the Eastern European nation, which even before the rise of Nazism was known for its virulent anti-Semitism. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities in Romania and areas it controlled during the Second World War. Still, the majority of Romanian Jewry survived the Holocaust. In 1947, there were still around 430,000 Jews in the country.

During successive decades, most left for Israel. Romania’s communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, allowed Jews to leave in exchange for billions of dollars in secret payments from Israel and world Jewry. Today, there are probably fewer than 10,000 Jews remaining, many of them aging and poor.

But in a strange twist of history, even as the indigenous Jewish community falls away, Israeli investors, businessmen, companies and products have been building a growing commercial empire in the East European state.

According to Bucharest Business Week, Romania hosts over 5,000 companies with Israeli capital. Elite coffee, Prigat juices and soft drinks and Sano cleaning products are just a few of the Israeli brand names on sale in Romanian supermarkets. Bank Leumi has branches in all the major cities.Food conglomerate Tnuva opened a dairy production facility outside Bucharest a few years ago with a planned capacity of 60 million litres of milk a year. Israeli developers completed construction this year of the largest shopping mall in Eastern Europe, outside Bucharest. Some of the best hotels, casinos and cafes in Bucharest are Israeli-owned. Wandering the streets of Bucharest, one often hears Hebrew being spoken.

It is a little sad and strange to compare this vibrant economic activity with the plight of the few Jews who remain.

When my wife and I spent nine months in Bucharest in 2007, we made friends with one couple in their 80s who had decided not to leave the only country they had ever known when most of their friends emigrated. In failing health, they barely made ends meet on meager government pensions. Forced to grapple with a dysfunctional and corrupt public health system, this unfortunate couple faced a grim daily struggle to survive.

Efforts are underway to revive the community. The opening of the Lauder Reut school in a renovated Yiddish theater in 1997 was a significant step. It quickly won a reputation as one of the best private schools in the city.

Students learn all their subjects in English, which they begin studying in kindergarten. By the time they reach second or third grade, most have achieved a remarkable mastery. They take Hebrew, taught by emissaries from Israel and locally based instructors, three times a week beginning in first grade.

But many of the students have only a tenuous connection to Judaism. Some have Jewish grandparents or great-grandparents, some have Israeli fathers who came to do business and married Romanian women. Some have no connection whatsoever. In a survey, when asked to state their religion, many children wrote “orthodox” — by which they meant the Romanian Orthodox Church.

During our stay in Romania, we didn’t experience any expressions of anti-Semitism, although some Israeli friends did encounter racist remarks from time to time. Most Romanian racism nowadays — and it can be virulent — is directed at the country’s significant gypsy or Roma population.

Traveling around the country, one often sees abandoned synagogues, unused for 30 or 40 years. We visited a town in Transylvania called Deva and were introduced to the head of the Jewish community, which numbered seven. The youngest member was in his 40s and had no children. We were taken inside the once-gorgeous synagogue with beautiful stained windows, two galleries with lovely wooden carvings and an ark with an intricately embroidered red velvet covering. But there were holes in the ceiling, mold grew on the walls, the dust was several inches thick and the wooden pews were turned upside down or piled on top of one another. On one bench, we found discarded candlesticks, menorahs and even some beautiful Torah crowns lying abandoned.

It seemed like a fitting metaphor.

More on Real Estate


Alan Elsner: The Sad End of Romanian Jewry

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

In a classic Yiddish theater song from the 1920s that is still popular today, Aaron Lebedeff, known in his day as “the Maurice Chevalier of the Yiddish stage,” opened with a striking cantorial-style refrain: “Roumania, Roumania, Roumania, Roumania.”

The first verse declared:
Once there was a beautiful land – Roumania!
Life was so good!
No cares, just wine,
Mamaligeh (Romanian polenta),beautiful girls and merriment!”

Lebedeff was exaggerating the charms of the Eastern European nation, which even before the rise of Nazism was known for its virulent anti-Semitism. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities in Romania and areas it controlled during the Second World War. Still, the majority of Romanian Jewry survived the Holocaust. In 1947, there were still around 430,000 Jews in the country.

During successive decades, most left for Israel. Romania’s communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, allowed Jews to leave in exchange for billions of dollars in secret payments from Israel and world Jewry. Today, there are probably fewer than 10,000 Jews remaining, many of them aging and poor.

But in a strange twist of history, even as the indigenous Jewish community falls away, Israeli investors, businessmen, companies and products have been building a growing commercial empire in the East European state.

According to Bucharest Business Week, Romania hosts over 5,000 companies with Israeli capital. Elite coffee, Prigat juices and soft drinks and Sano cleaning products are just a few of the Israeli brand names on sale in Romanian supermarkets. Bank Leumi has branches in all the major cities.Food conglomerate Tnuva opened a dairy production facility outside Bucharest a few years ago with a planned capacity of 60 million litres of milk a year. Israeli developers completed construction this year of the largest shopping mall in Eastern Europe, outside Bucharest. Some of the best hotels, casinos and cafes in Bucharest are Israeli-owned. Wandering the streets of Bucharest, one often hears Hebrew being spoken.

It is a little sad and strange to compare this vibrant economic activity with the plight of the few Jews who remain.

When my wife and I spent nine months in Bucharest in 2007, we made friends with one couple in their 80s who had decided not to leave the only country they had ever known when most of their friends emigrated. In failing health, they barely made ends meet on meager government pensions. Forced to grapple with a dysfunctional and corrupt public health system, this unfortunate couple faced a grim daily struggle to survive.

Efforts are underway to revive the community. The opening of the Lauder Reut school in a renovated Yiddish theater in 1997 was a significant step. It quickly won a reputation as one of the best private schools in the city.

Students learn all their subjects in English, which they begin studying in kindergarten. By the time they reach second or third grade, most have achieved a remarkable mastery. They take Hebrew, taught by emissaries from Israel and locally based instructors, three times a week beginning in first grade.

But many of the students have only a tenuous connection to Judaism. Some have Jewish grandparents or great-grandparents, some have Israeli fathers who came to do business and married Romanian women. Some have no connection whatsoever. In a survey, when asked to state their religion, many children wrote “orthodox” — by which they meant the Romanian Orthodox Church.

During our stay in Romania, we didn’t experience any expressions of anti-Semitism, although some Israeli friends did encounter racist remarks from time to time. Most Romanian racism nowadays — and it can be virulent — is directed at the country’s significant gypsy or Roma population.

Traveling around the country, one often sees abandoned synagogues, unused for 30 or 40 years. We visited a town in Transylvania called Deva and were introduced to the head of the Jewish community, which numbered seven. The youngest member was in his 40s and had no children. We were taken inside the once-gorgeous synagogue with beautiful stained windows, two galleries with lovely wooden carvings and an ark with an intricately embroidered red velvet covering. But there were holes in the ceiling, mold grew on the walls, the dust was several inches thick and the wooden pews were turned upside down or piled on top of one another. On one bench, we found discarded candlesticks, menorahs and even some beautiful Torah crowns lying abandoned.

It seemed like a fitting metaphor.

More on Real Estate


Alan Elsner: The Sad End of Romanian Jewry

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

In a classic Yiddish theater song from the 1920s that is still popular today, Aaron Lebedeff, known in his day as “the Maurice Chevalier of the Yiddish stage,” opened with a striking cantorial-style refrain: “Roumania, Roumania, Roumania, Roumania.”

The first verse declared:
Once there was a beautiful land – Roumania!
Life was so good!
No cares, just wine,
Mamaligeh (Romanian polenta),beautiful girls and merriment!”

Lebedeff was exaggerating the charms of the Eastern European nation, which even before the rise of Nazism was known for its virulent anti-Semitism. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities in Romania and areas it controlled during the Second World War. Still, the majority of Romanian Jewry survived the Holocaust. In 1947, there were still around 430,000 Jews in the country.

During successive decades, most left for Israel. Romania’s communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, allowed Jews to leave in exchange for billions of dollars in secret payments from Israel and world Jewry. Today, there are probably fewer than 10,000 Jews remaining, many of them aging and poor.

But in a strange twist of history, even as the indigenous Jewish community falls away, Israeli investors, businessmen, companies and products have been building a growing commercial empire in the East European state.

According to Bucharest Business Week, Romania hosts over 5,000 companies with Israeli capital. Elite coffee, Prigat juices and soft drinks and Sano cleaning products are just a few of the Israeli brand names on sale in Romanian supermarkets. Bank Leumi has branches in all the major cities.Food conglomerate Tnuva opened a dairy production facility outside Bucharest a few years ago with a planned capacity of 60 million litres of milk a year. Israeli developers completed construction this year of the largest shopping mall in Eastern Europe, outside Bucharest. Some of the best hotels, casinos and cafes in Bucharest are Israeli-owned. Wandering the streets of Bucharest, one often hears Hebrew being spoken.

It is a little sad and strange to compare this vibrant economic activity with the plight of the few Jews who remain.

When my wife and I spent nine months in Bucharest in 2007, we made friends with one couple in their 80s who had decided not to leave the only country they had ever known when most of their friends emigrated. In failing health, they barely made ends meet on meager government pensions. Forced to grapple with a dysfunctional and corrupt public health system, this unfortunate couple faced a grim daily struggle to survive.

Efforts are underway to revive the community. The opening of the Lauder Reut school in a renovated Yiddish theater in 1997 was a significant step. It quickly won a reputation as one of the best private schools in the city.

Students learn all their subjects in English, which they begin studying in kindergarten. By the time they reach second or third grade, most have achieved a remarkable mastery. They take Hebrew, taught by emissaries from Israel and locally based instructors, three times a week beginning in first grade.

But many of the students have only a tenuous connection to Judaism. Some have Jewish grandparents or great-grandparents, some have Israeli fathers who came to do business and married Romanian women. Some have no connection whatsoever. In a survey, when asked to state their religion, many children wrote “orthodox” — by which they meant the Romanian Orthodox Church.

During our stay in Romania, we didn’t experience any expressions of anti-Semitism, although some Israeli friends did encounter racist remarks from time to time. Most Romanian racism nowadays — and it can be virulent — is directed at the country’s significant gypsy or Roma population.

Traveling around the country, one often sees abandoned synagogues, unused for 30 or 40 years. We visited a town in Transylvania called Deva and were introduced to the head of the Jewish community, which numbered seven. The youngest member was in his 40s and had no children. We were taken inside the once-gorgeous synagogue with beautiful stained windows, two galleries with lovely wooden carvings and an ark with an intricately embroidered red velvet covering. But there were holes in the ceiling, mold grew on the walls, the dust was several inches thick and the wooden pews were turned upside down or piled on top of one another. On one bench, we found discarded candlesticks, menorahs and even some beautiful Torah crowns lying abandoned.

It seemed like a fitting metaphor.

More on Real Estate


Shari Arison: On The Spirit Of Giving: Connecting Business To Spirituality

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

The spirit of the holiday season is now spreading all over the world. For most people, this is a time of good will. I believe that we should take the good will of the holiday season into our everyday lives. It is possible to give back to the community, to inspire the spirit of giving in all of us through everything we do: personal, business, philanthropic – in every aspect of our lives.

Many years ago, I tried to understand what my calling was and arrived each time at the same answer: world peace. I am not a prime minister and I do not intend to be a prime minister, so what is my connection with world peace? How can I contribute to world peace? But then I received a message: to achieve peace in the world, each one of us must achieve peace within ourselves and with our surroundings. Peace begins within us.

I commissioned an international study to check the means by which to facilitate this change. We examined programs for rehabilitating prisoners, educational programs in schools, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, and more. After about a year and a half of searching and review, I realized that all of the methods–both conventional and alternative–are used in Israel. Since I believe that each of us can attain inner peace, and is personally responsible for this, I understood that my contribution is to spread the message and to make the path to change more accessible.

Which path, however, do we choose? Each person is entitled to choose the path that is most suitable and correct for themselves. Therefore, I decided to create a pluralistic organization that includes representation of and references to these numerous methods and various paths. Through this organization, each person can choose what best suits him, can find his path to inner peace, and thus plant the seeds for world peace. This is how the Essence of Life organization was created. It is a non-profit organization that is entirely financed from the family’s funds via the Ted Arison Family Foundation, and works to raise awareness and provide tools for inner peace, in accordance with the vision we have formulated.

I also worked to promote a policy of contributing to the community — through mobilization, of course, and not through coercion. I brought Matan, an organization that encourages businesses to give back to the community, into Bank Hapoalim. I wanted everyone to understand how important it is in my view to give back to the community in which we live, because we are the community and the community is us — and to understand that giving is more than just a supreme value and obligation. Giving promotes a feeling of camaraderie among the workers and a knowledge that they are working for a place they can be proud of, a worthy place that has important messages and principles. Today, in my tours of the bank, when I see employees for whom each customer is important, who sit in branches that have a uniform and orderly appearance, who are proud of their giving –I feel great joy.

I began to understand that the business world is no less important than philanthropy, and perhaps even more so. It means investment in the State of Israel, creating employment for thousands of people, livelihoods for countless families. I realized that the bank is part of my mission, that there is a reason I am here, that I have a platform from which I can create change that can influence, in ever-expanding circles, the country and the world. It is perhaps a difficult burden, but I have a purpose, and I must fulfill it. However, I am not alone. We all can contribute to this cause.

In my new book, Birth, my goal is to share the path I have traveled in the spiritual sphere and in the business and philanthropic sphere, in order to reveal the essential connection between the two. In Birth, I explore the nature of the new world we are approaching with my business-spiritual model, a new model for a new world. This view will enable individuals, companies and even nations to move from collapse to positive change, and bring together the spiritual and the material, giving birth to a new future.

The State of Israel is not unique. Every country in the world faces the same issues we face here, either physically or morally. I feel we all have a stake in our community as much as we do in our own spirits, and seeking avenues of generosity is the direct path to peace among us. Whether it’s an anonymous donation to charity, or a face-to-face, hands-on gift like helping a person in need in your neighborhood, we can each transfer a little of our positive energy toward greater ends.

About Shari Arison:

Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist. Arison is repeatedly ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s wealthiest women, and was also ranked by Forbes among the world’s 50 most influential women in 2008. In both 2007 and 2009, Shari Arison was chosen as Woman of the Year by Globes, one of Israel’s leading financial newspapers.

Arison heads the Arison Group, a business and philanthropic group made up of leading corporations including Israel’s leading bank, Bank Hapoalim, Shikun & Binui, one of the largest real estate and infrastructures companies in Israel, and Salt Industries Ltd. She is also the founder of Miya, the Arison Group’s global water company.

To learn more visit www.arison.com and www.eolife.com

More on The Giving Life


Categories: World Tags: , ,

Rabbi Abraham Cooper: EBay Listen Up: Who Do You Stand With: The Victims of Genocide or Those Who Celebrate Its Perpetrators?

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

I’m currently in Jerusalem celebrating the birth of a grandson where I receive two emails from the headquarters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, both related to the theft of an icon of evil — the Arbeit Macht Frei sign from the Auschwitz Death Camp.

The first came from the Midwest:

Hello, my name is Dan I read about the theft of the sign an wanted to see if I could be part of an effort to make a replacement. My father fought against the SS and he was affected by it for his entire adult life until his passing on Dec. 13, 2003. He never had a good nights sleep after being in the Ardens during the “Battle of the BULGE”. I am a Roman Catholic and am very saddened by the theft. I have fallen on extremely hard times, but I think I could rally some support to replace the sign in St. Louis if you think the original my not be recovered. Our family business is no longer, but we had an 83 year old steel fabrication plant. I have no treasure, but do have a desire to help. I may be able to recruit some people here to replace it if given the proper dimensions. I Don’t know about transportation .etc. I know people in the St. Louis Mo. Jewish community who may want to help. . At your service Dan…

The other email came from an outraged son of Holocaust survivors who sent me an SOS with a link to an online eBay auction. Here’s the description posted by a Pennsylvania man using the Nazi “SS panzergrenadier” title:

For sale is a sign in German meaning ‘Work for Freedom’ that dates back to the 1700s and was used in many Nazi Concentration camps. It was designed specifically from the sign over the main gate at Auschwitz. It measures about 7 feet long and is made from 1/4 round bar steel with 1/8 x 3/4 steel lettering…Gate is not included, just the actual lettering and boarder pictured.

To date there have been 7 bids, up to $142…

And eBay has also included these additional items in the auction: “Concentration Camp” armbands and various SS daggers among other hateful items.

2009 has been an especially painful year for the dwindling Holocaust survivor population and their families. They have watched in horror as Iran, a member state of the United Nations (founded 70 years ago to ensure the eternal demise of Nazism and everything it stood for) make Holocaust denial official state policy. There have been official Holocaust cartoon competitions and media interviews with “academic” experts. Worst of all, they see Iran’s soon to be nuclearized, Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad, threatening Israel, the Jewish state born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

Whatever the motivations of the five thieves who stole and sliced up the Auschwitz sign, their actions reflects the growing sense of dread for the survivors, that as their generation leaves the stage of history, their suffering and their loved ones’ martyrdom is being debased, manipulated, and desecrated. “It’s like they are murdering my family again” is the sigh I have heard from too many survivors.

Which brings us to the Internet. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been monitoring digital hate for over a decade. There was one hate site in 1995. Today, well over 10,000. The Internet, it turns out is also tailor-made for big lie conspiracy theories from denial of the Holocaust to 9/11 as an American plot. Taking advantage of our First Amendment, many overseas extremist and pro-terrorist groups post on US servers, seeking to wrap their hate around the flag of Freedom of Speech.

But eBay is not about Speech, but about commerce. And if anyone has any lingering doubts of the unparalleled marketing power of the Internet, just look at the Nov 1- Dec 23rd, 2008 figure: $25.5 billion online — in a bad economic year!

Without a doubt, eBay occupies prime virtual real estate in our digital malls. Out in the real world, malls do not allow the KKK and neo-Nazis to rent space and pedal hate. They can and should do a better job at being good online neighbors–inviting bigots and those seeking to cash in on the suffering of others to take their pushcarts elsewhere. We don’t need new laws, debates or lawsuits, but the application of common sense and Menschlichkeit. The Jerusalem Post reports that …”there are no restrictions regarding facsimile signs from concentration camps listed under “offensive material policy” on eBay, but there are restrictions regarding other Nazi memorabilia including films, toys and most products containing a swastika.”

So how about it eBay: This Christmas send a clear message who you stand with: The victims of genocide or those who would like to see Hitler’s vision fulfilled.

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Sheer nonsense

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Right-wing activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com are teaming up to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder investigate White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for — drumroll please — corrupt practices involving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oh, and they want Rahm to resign as well.

Unfortunately for Norquist and Hamsher, they sound a little bit more like Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes than Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their allegation — that Emmanuel and the White House are not only covering up past corrupt practices but are also creating an $800 billion slush fund with which they can carry out even more corruption — is reminiscent of the fanciful allegations that Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown.

Unlike the efforts to push the envelope on health reform, advancing this conspiracy theory is not the kind of thing that helps the progressive movement. Consider:

  1. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are key elements in the right-wing narrative about the recession. Their script goes something like this: ACORN, Fannie, and Freddie worked with the Democratic Congress to pressure banks to lend to “risky” borrowers, using the Community Reinvestment Act as their leverage. This storyline is totally false, but wingers love it because it not only absolves the financial and real estate industries of responsibility for the financial crisis, but it puts the blame squarely on the backs of blacks and Latinos. Absent evidence, lending credibility to the this right-wing shibboleth is a great disservice.
  1. There are precious few reasons for progressives to partner with someone like Grover Norquist. As Hamsher herself wrote, when Grover Norquist called Barack Obama “John Kerry with a tan” he was engaged in the kind of race-baiting that has been the hallmark of Republican politics since the civil rights era. Moreover, even if these allegations were credible, why partner with someone who has his own ties to corruption, specifically the Jack Abramoff scandal.
  1. Finally, and arguably most importantly, this smells an awful lot like a Ken Starr-style witch hunt all over again — except even more divorced from reality. The key point here is that an investigation of the sort Hamsher and Norquist want would be a massive burden on a White House that is already struggling with enormous problems with no end in sight. Does anybody think that tying the administration up in knots with a politically-motivated investigation will help get a public option enacted or pass immigration reform? Will it help strengthen the economy or move us towards alternate energy?

Bottom-line: there’s no question that the White House has work to do when it comes to achieving progressive goals, and there’s no doubt that holding their feet to the fire is a good thing, but this kind of stuff won’t help us achieve any progressive goals. It’s understandable that Fox or the GOP would want to push it, but pushing it from the left is sheer nonsense.

Update (8:02AM): Join the discussion in dengre’s recommended diary Grover Norquist is our ally? Are you f@%&ing kidding me!


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Nicolas Cage Targeted Again in Fraud Lawsuit

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

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The stand-in-line-to-sue-Nicolas-Cage saga has just deepened — Nic’s being sued again for allegedly stiffing someone over a loan.According to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ, Red Curb Investments loaned Cage $3.5 million for a real estate deal back in …

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