Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Real Ale Brewing, Handcrafted Ales from the Texas Hill Country

Brewing beer is my hobby. I enjoy brewing. You combine several ingredients, none of which you would consume on its own, mix them together, allow Mother Nature to process and produce a wonderful food. Yes, food and not a beverage. Budweiser, Miller, Coors and the like are beverages, barley pop. Good beer is food. Good beer has taste, aroma, calories, vitamins and active yeast.  The ancients considered beer a food for the masses.

Because of my interest, Deb and I drove to Blanco, Texas to Real Ale Brewing, http://realalebrewing.com/home, while I was visiting Austin. Real Ale was my first tour of a working microbrewery. I was impressed.

Before the tour, Real Ale lubricates you a bit. Deb, I and about 15 others congregated in their tasting room before the tour. We sampled many of their beers. My favorite was the Rio Blanco Pale Ale. This beer was smooth on the palette and a little hoppy.  Deb liked their Porter. We enjoyed all of their beers except one, Mystereum Verum – The Kraken. This beer is their barley wine, cask conditioned in wine barrels. The alcohol in the beer strips the wine residue from the oak barrel. I am not saying it was a bad beer. The Kraken was just not for me. 

Well slightly inebriated, we took the tour. I was fascinated. Tim, one of the brew masters, took us through their whole process. All of the technicalities presented might bore you. They interested me but I am into the process. Two highlights of interest are they do all they can to recycle and re-use as much as possible. The spent grains from the mash, after the sugars have been extracted, are used by local cattle ranchers for animal feed. The water used to chill the wort, now heated, is utilized in their next batch for brewing. Second, Tim paid great homage to the brew masters at the mass consumed beers. To paraphrase him, “They are great brewers to so consistently produce flavorless beer.” From the silo at the beginning where the malted grain is held to the bottling and kegging equipment at the end, I was wowed.

Before we left, Deb and I sampled of our favorite Real Ale Brews one more time. This tour was a great experience. Sadly, Real Ale only sells beer in Texas. Until they expand to South Dakota, I will find excuses to go back to Texas to enjoy their great beer.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Author and Professor: Dr. H.W. Brands

On a whim just a week before I left for Austin, I contacted Dr. H. W. Brands, http://www.hwbrands.com/, author and professor of history at the University of Texas, about possibly meeting him while there. Graciously he accepted my invitation and suggested that we meet for breakfast at an Austin classic, Austin Java.

Being a University of Texas history major, gives me additional reason to enjoy his books. I previously met Dr. Brands when he spoke at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls in 2004. By coincidence, I discovered two of his books, Lone Star Nation and The First American, just before the festival. The topics of these books, the birth of Texas and Ben Franklin are two of my favorite subjects. His talk in Sioux Falls was on an upcoming book on Andrew Jackson. Following his talk, he signed my copy of Lone Star Nation and we talked briefly about Austin and UT.

I do not know what Dr. Brands was expecting when he agreed to meet with me. Deb and I greeted him around 8:30 am. I did not bring books to sign or a written agenda. In my mind, I had two specific questions about his books, but mostly, I wanted to get a feel for his style, his opinions and his future books. You, also, have to understand that I am very jealous of people that are very knowledgeable and extremely articulate because they have so much to offer. As you can see from this blog, I am neither. In fact, I usually tell people that English is my second language and that I do not have a first.

To begin, we talked about North and South Dakota. He is on the advisory board of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University, Dickinson, North Dakota. Dr. Brands has a basic understanding of East River versus West River as we know it in South Dakota. We discussed the new oil finds in North Dakota and how they are pumping large funds into North Dakota state government coffers. I told him about Hyperion Oil’s proposal to build a refinery in southeast South Dakota for oil from the Canadian Tar Sands. I presume North Dakota oil will find its way there, if the refinery is built.

So much for the ice breaker. We got down to talking about his books. He talked about a couple of books that are to be coming out next year but I will leave that for another time. Dr. Brands picked up on technology when I mentioned about listening to his books as well as reading them. Accordingly as an author, he considers digital formats such as Kindle or Nook and spoken formats as well as print when writing today. While the author and publisher have absolute control over how the words and pictures appear on a printed page, in digital format they have no control. The device owner chooses the font size and layout on their device. In the spoken or story format paragraphs lose their importance. He is very excited about the spoken format. Stories have been the way to pass information for millennium. Writing is a relatively recent invention. While I am aware of all of this technology and use it, I never contemplated how they differed from printed material. I do not know how a writer meets these challenges effectively in the same work.

We last discussed my questions about his books. Probably no one is interested in knowing why the Americans mostly settled between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers in Texas and did not colonize further south into present day Mexico. Or why Dr. Brands does not believe Masonry influenced Benjamin Franklin? His answer on the Americans in Texas convinced me. The area where they settled was fertile. Going south the soil quickly becomes very poor. His answer on Masonry left me thinking about which came first, the chicken or the egg. Ben Franklin was a person who did good deeds. Did he become a Mason because joining the fraternity was the popular thing to do? As we know, many of our founding fathers including George Washington were active Masons. Masonry teaches doing good deeds. Or by joining was he validated in doing those things? I want to think that Masonry was at least a partial influence. Being a Mason undoubtedly affects my judgment.

I want to thank Dr. Brands for taking the time to meet with Deb and me. This breakfast was truly one of the highlights of my trip. I look forward to reading his future books as well as several others that I have not yet read. I hope that when my travels again take me to Austin I can call my friend, Dr. Brands, and absorb more of his knowledge.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Give Till It Feels Good

I was on a conference call this morning as a member of the Projects Committee for the The Network of Independent Jewish Communities which is part of the Jewish Federations of North America. We were  asked by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (known as JDC or the Joint) to contribute $300,000 to assist elderly, poverty stricken Jews in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Documents have been circulating amongst the members of the committee for a week or so and today we had a presentation by several staff members from JDC. Following their presentation, we went into a closed session and unanimously passed providing this money. I have been associated with the Network for a long time but I can say today that I really feel good about the work that we do. Today, my small contributions along with many others are doing their part in Tikkun Olam or the Jewish commandment to repair the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Austin or Bust

Last week, Max, the wonder dog, and I took a road trip to Austin, Texas to deliver some goodies to daughter Deb, husband Josh and Stella the pug. After an overnight with son, Dave, wife Tina, grandson Drew and goldens Phog and Cooper, we headed for Austin. We hoped to escape, at least for a few days the cold and snow of Sioux Falls. 

Needless to say, this was a fantastic trip. Usually one dreams about a trip and the actual trip while great does not live up to the expectations. On this trip the events exceeded what I dreamed.

I left Sioux Falls earlier on Wednesday than originally planned because of potential weather. After a short 6 hour drive, I was in Lawrence, Kansas at the home of my children. I got to watch a little Sponge Bob with Drew and then it was out to eat with the family. We enjoyed just the usual typical quiet evening at dinner. We were home early to sit around and visit and play. Finally we were off to bed for an early start for the trip to Austin.

By 6:30 am on Thursday, we hit the road. Max just snuggled into his blanket in the back seat and I had an easy drive down to Fort Worth. We made a quick stop to visit with my high school best friend Robert and then back on the road to Austin.

As we drove into Austin, she lived up to her reputation for traffic. If the traffic were normal, the trip should take 3 hours but we were lucky in that it only took us 3 and a half to Deb and Josh’s house. For me Austin is about food. We went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, El Chile. Their cuisine was a bit different than my usual Tex-Mex. My enchiladas were fantastic.

Friday was just more than I could have expected. Before I left Sioux Falls, I emailed author and Professor of History at the University of Texas, H. W. Brands. He was kind enough to have breakfast with Deb and me. I cannot tell you what an enjoyable hour that we talked. I greatly enjoy his books and his insights on various topics were remarkable. I will hopefully write more about Dr. Brands in another post.

Breakfast was followed by taking my car in to have some service work and then we were off to lunch. Deb and Josh took me to one of their favorite places, Rudy’s Bar-B-Q http://www.rudys.com/. I was surprised that I really liked it. Let’s see. I had a little (or was it a lot) of sliced brisket on a sandwich and some smoked sausage. All of which was washed down by an IBC Root Beer. God it was good.

We said good-bye to Josh. Poor fellow had to go to work. Deb and I had decided to explore another passion of mine, brewing beer. Online we had found, Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, Texas http://realalebrewing.com/. Off we went the 50 miles to Blanco for the beer tasting and tour. Real Ale Brewing was just another great experience.

After a couple of hours in Blanco, we headed back to Austin. We got home and played with Max and Stella. Josh came home and then we were off to our next food establishment. A year or two ago, I saw a program on Diner’s Drive-In’s and Dive’s on a bar in Austin, Casino El Camino http://www.casinoelcamino.net/. Guy Fiery showcased the bar’s Amarillo Burger. Well, I wanted to have one. Fortunately, Deb and Josh agreed to indulge me. All I can say is that it was very good, just not fantastic. I would go back again however.

After a six thousand calorie day, we went home for a little TV and to bed. I needed my rest for Saturday’s excitement.

Believe it or not, Saturday began with food. We started with breakfast at the Counter Cafe http://www.countercafe.com/. My Breakfast Tacos were excellent. Of course you are supposed to start the day with a good breakfast and that is just what we did. Then we returned home. Josh went to work out and Deb and I just vegged.

When Josh returned, we headed to our next local to gorge ourselves. We headed for Smitty's in Lockhart, Texas http://www.smittysmarket.com/. Lockhart has been voted the Barbecue Capital of Texas by the state legislature and I have been going there since my student days at UT. Smitty's is the original home of Kreuz Market but after a split in the family changed its name. The barbecue is still out of this world. I only had a little for lunch. Let's see, a half pound of smoked brisket and a hot ring of sausage. Oh don't forget the Coke to enhance the meal.

We ended the tour with a drive through the UT Campus. The campus is obviously a great deal larger than when I graduated 37 years ago but I don't remember all the buildings that seem to have been there when I was. I did see some familiar ones which flooded my mind with super memories. Nostalgia is great.

We ended the day with ice cream from Amy's http://www.amysicecreams.com/2.0/#/home/. The Belgian Chocolate ice cream was just over the top. Can you believe that I wasn't hungry for dinner. Well after a relaxing evening with family and the puppies, Max and I turned in. We were up early for what turned out to be an 1100 mile drive on Sunday to return to Sioux Falls.

As I began, this trip went beyond my expectations. As you can tell, I love to eat and I went to one of the culinary centers of the world. Probably, it is a good thing that I don't live there as I would certainly weigh 300 pounds. But Austin is a wonderful place to visit. Maybe next time I will do the music scene for which Austin is famous as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Middle East Problem

Below is a video from Dennis Prager on "The Middle East Problem." I am so jealous when some people are so articulate that they can condense a seemingly complex subject into a short coherent statement. In the movie, 1776, Thomas Jefferson describes the reason for needing a document for the Declaration of Independence rather than just a motion similarly. Jefferson states the need, "To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent." I believe that this short video by Mr. Prager does just that. Please take the time and watch the video. As always, comments are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Israeli Pranksters Embarrass Iran

Photo by Google Earth

After over 30 years, a Google Earth photo reveals the Star of David atop Iran Air's headquarters. The symbol of the State of Israel must have been put up there during the time of the Shah. I find it humorous that it took an American company, Google, to reveal this artwork to the ayatollahs. The prank reminds me of the high school rivalry between my high school in Fort Worth, R. L Paschal and its main rival Arlington Heights. The two schools used to pull pranks on one another during homecoming week. The schools considered it vandalism when one school painted its colors on the other but the damage was minimal and usually done with good humor. I doubt the ayatollahs are laughing at this one.

The news of this event is covered in the Jerusalem Post. The article is entitled Google Earth reveals Star of David on roof of Iran Air HQ. 

For the entire article, please go to the following url:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beer - A Thanksgiving Tradition

From previous posts, you may know that I am a homebrewer and a history major. Somewhere I missed learning that our Pilgrim ancestors may have stopped at Plymouth Rock because they had run out of beer. This article presents the view and then dismisses it but leaves one with the knowledge that beer has been important to American history. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and toast it with a nectar from the gods - beer! 

From the article:
Brooks on Beer: The pilgrims, Thanksgiving and beer - San Jose Mercury - 11/24/2010

Legend has it that the Pilgrims decided to settle at Plymouth Rock, instead of continuing south to Virginia as originally planned, because they had run out of beer. There is a grain -- barley, perhaps -- of truth to the story, as evidenced by the oft-quoted "For we could not now take time for further search our victuals being pretty much spent especially our beer."

For the entire article:

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Find Causes Italy to Claim Jerusalem

Absurd that Italy would claim Jerusalem for its own? At least the Romans governed Jerusalem unlike some groups who claim her for their capital today.

Today it was announced that Israeli archeologists discovered an ancient Roman legion bathing facility in the Old City of Jerusalem.

If you are interested go to the article:
http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/roman-swimming-pool-found.html

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Education - Are We Finally Getting It?

Our education system continues in a downward spiral. This opinion piece by Tom Friedman of the New York Times gives me some hope. I come from a prejudice that our system is just a baby sitter for both teachers and students. We talk about the importance of education but reality shows that we are only paying it lip service. Performance seems to be dropping especially when compared to the rest of the world. Maybe Secretary of Education Duncan recognizes fundamentally what needs to be done. If the quote below is an indication, I salute him.

“We have to reward excellence,” he said. “We’ve been scared in education to talk about excellence. We treated everyone like interchangeable widgets. Just throw a kid in a class and throw a teacher in a class.” This ignored the variation between teachers who were changing students’ lives, and those who were not. “If you’re doing a great job with students,” he said, “we can’t pay you enough.”

For the entire opinion piece by Mr. Friedman, go to:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coming soon to a store near you!

I just read this short article and found its possibilities amazing. Will we find this material at the grocery store or the clothing store? Maybe both!

Cheap Carbon Cloth Can Zap Toxins, Kill Bacteria
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/11/cheap-carbon-cloth-can-zap-toxins-kill-bacteria/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+GearFactor+(Blog+-+Gadget+Lab+(Gear+Factor))&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is the Palestinian Authority a Partner for Peace?

I came across this little article from Palestinian Media Watch and just thought that it is worth noting and sharing.  Just a short article to remind people of the partner with whom the Israelis are negotiating.


From the article:
"Contrary to the PA's moderate statements to the West, its statements to its people in Arabic continue to delegitimize Israel's existence, deny Israel's right to exist, define the conflict with Israel in religious terms, promote hatred through demonization and libels, and glorify terror and violence:"


The link to the article:
http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=3503



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Interesting - A New Chinese Invasion

What implications does this article in today's (November 7, 2010) New York Times hold for America? Are these young Chinese planning on staying and getting jobs upon graduation? Are they going to be Americanized and take our values of freedom and democracy back to China? How is this experience going to affect them and can they bring China and America closer together?

The article does not answer my questions. It just brings them to the forefront. The article is long but I believe worth the read and thinking about its potential.

From the article:
After a year, Ms. Liu believes she is less of the quiet-Asian-nerd stereotype that she had felt followed her through Yale’s Gothic hallways. Now she wears makeup, raises her hand in class, and has a different perspective than her friends in China, according to whom “I’m contaminated by American culture and not Chinese anymore.”

Perhaps most unsettling to Chinese students is the robust activist culture on campus, where young Americans find their voices on issues like war, civil rights and immigration. In China, protests are illegal and vocal dissent forbidden, and on sensitive topics like Tibet and Taiwan a majority are in lockstep with their government. It can be especially painful hearing Westerners condemn China after growing up steeped in propaganda blaming the West for the suffering before Communism.

With China becoming a world power and so many American high-tech companies investing in China, I was under the impression that our great universities had taken a back seat to the Chinese. Maybe this is not the case. One thing that is obvious to me is the importance that these students' parents place on education. As heavy as the cost burden is for families here, without government assistance the cost for a Chinese family must be staggering.

For the entire article, click on the link below.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/education/07china-t.html?_r=1&ref=us

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oldest beer found on this day in 1992

From Wired's This Day in Tech





As a homebrewer, this article is a great reminder that I am following a tradition that goes back at least 5000 years. In today's world of change at the speed of high tech, I find comfort knowing that some things are just too difficult to improve upon. Great beer is just great beer! For all of my friends (I don't have many), and with those whom I have shared my efforts, enjoy the article and as Charles Papazian says in his book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, "Relax and have a homebrew!"

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/11/1105nature-5000-year-beer/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wired/index+(Wired:+Index+3+(Top+Stories+2))&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It’s About Change

Wow, what an election; what a roller coaster ride. The excitement, the scares, the thrills are over and both the politicians and the public are back on earth. The time of yelling and screaming, of laughing and crying, of eyes wide open and eyes tightly shut ended. We must return to the real world and get to work.

In both South Dakota and the America, the people sent a strong message to our politicians. The message’s content is not a secret but I fear that our elected officials will not understand the message. The people voted for Change! Rather than continue playing the gotcha politics of the past, we want our government to work. Politicians need to find common ground. We want our elected officials to address the numerous problems facing families and Main Street. We want solutions that everyone can see and understand. We do not want secret deals to buy the votes. When the President tells us that Congressional committee hearings on health care should be held on C-Span, we expect that to happen. When the Speaker of the House tells us that any bill relating to an issue will be online for everyone to examine for at least 72 hours prior to their voting, we cannot understand why that simple promise does not happen.

The problems facing our country are enormous. Maybe they are too large to expect our government to solve. The number one issue is the economy. (Remember from past elections, “It’s the economy, stupid!”) Well having thrown trillions of dollars at the problem, unemployment stands at 10 percent. Economists are talking about a double-dip recession. Rather than calling the opposition ideas idiotic or dead on arrival, maybe both sides should sit down and seriously attempt to address the problem.

Health care is next. I already see that the Republicans are stating that they are going to repeal it. My opinion is that is not what the American people want. We want a system that is affordable and understandable. If the Republican leadership believes they can just throw it out, they got the wrong message. Even if a House bill were to pass the Senate which is doubtful, President Obama would certainly veto it. Why not examine what we passed this year and fix it to what the people want. To do that, Republicans and Democrats must work together. Talk about change. Can you imagine that happening?

My next issue is the deficit. Working class Americans understand the notion of a balanced budget. We understand that we cannot continue to borrow and borrow and borrow. We are leaving a huge burden on our children and future generations. Together our politicians must examine our budget figure out how to get back to balance and then to pay down our debt.

Lastly and the one issue who long term impacts our country the greatest is education. Like all of the other problems listed and those that are not, this one truly seems unsolvable. We have so many causes or maybe excuses as to why we cannot make our education system the absolute best in the world. We are losing out to so many countries that do not have the resources that we have. The big difference is they understand that education is the great equalizer. America, both the people and our leaders need to get that message.

We have a great deal of work to do in the next 2 years. If you listen to the political rhetoric of the campaign trail and even last night, our politicians admit that we have tremendous challenges but they tell us that we are bigger than them. If our legislature and executive branches do not meet them head on and soon, in 2012 we will likely see a new group of politicians heading to our state and national capitols.

To those who won yesterday, congratulations. Enjoy the euphoria of the ride that you just took for a day or two. Then get to work with an understanding that you represent more people than those who voted for you. The problems we face confront all of us. Those who voted for you and those who voted for someone else are proud of our democracy. We still have hope in our system of government. We hope for change in the way business is done. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That would certainly be a change.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Plentiful, Inexpensive Green Energy

The title of this blog post must be oxymoronic. The title is impossible. Solar, wind, and other green energy technologies are more expensive than our dirty coal, CO2 emitting natural gas and waste producing nuclear power plants. Last January, I posted a blog on Thorium. Frankly, I had forgotten all about it until an article, I just came across on Israel21c.com. Two scientists, one from Israel and one from the United States, are collaborating on a Thorium reactor. I recalled my previous post. I wanted to know more about this material and what we are doing to investigate it. The Wired Magazine article was so convincing to me, I felt there must be something wrong with the technology. You know when something seems too good to be true it usually is.

Needless to say, I am not a nuclear engineer or an electrical engineer or a scientist. I am just a small business owner. Our government and many social activists, talk about Global Warming and making our environment better. We have clean air laws and clean water laws. In the last congressional session a Cap and Trade Bill on carbon emissions was discussed. Because of waste by-products and potential meltdown, nuclear energy never seems to be seriously discussed. From my simplistic understanding, Thorium takes these issues off of the table.

Why are we waiting? Much of the rest of the developed world is not. Obviously, Israel is working on this. In my investigation, Russia, China, India and France are also. I would be surprised if others were not working on it as well. Apparently, Russia is working with an American firm and licensing its technology.

We need a huge push to get us started. Our leaders need to start leading. My guess is that there are several special interests that will work to poison this technology. The first group would be the coal companies. If Thorium reactors live up to even half of the potential represented, coal powered plants will be extinct dinosaurs in a decade or two. Natural Gas companies for many of the same reasons would be the next powerful group to be against these reactors. Lastly, even the utility companies themselves may line up against Thorium. They understand present technology, why change?

Below are listed several articles and websites on Thorium. If you are interested in learning more about this elements future, please look at these. If you Google “Thorium” you will find much more information. I look forward to any comments and please feel free to share this and any other information with friends and colleagues.

My original blog on Thorium with its link to the article in Wired Magazine.
Self-sustaining nuclear energy from IsraelIsrael 21C
Thorium Energy Alliance
Lightbridge Corporation – Nuclear Energy for the 21st Century
Energy Cheaper than from Coal
Lightbridge Enters Into Strategic Agreement With Russia-Based SOSNY
India to build prototype thorium reactor

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

South Dakota Budget Crisis Solved

Because of the economic impact that our university system has on the state, I propose that the state of South Dakota give all of its money to the Board of Regents. I do not know anywhere else we can get over a 1000% return on our investment. Just imagine how much our sales tax revenues will increase and the number of jobs that will be created.

Public universities generate $1.97 billion a year to South Dakota's economy, from a state investment of $176 million. That's 5.3 percent of the state's gross domestic product.
                                                                     -From the Argus Leader - September 21, 2010

To view the entire article, go to:

Unfortunately, the Argus Leader only keeps its articles posted for 7 days.

Sioux Falls is Number 1! AGAIN!

Our look at the best small American cities for business and careers is chock full of locales between the two coasts that offer low business costs and strong employment prospects. Leading the way for a seventh straight year is Sioux Falls, S.D. Credit business costs that are 26% below the national average, low crime rates and an economy that is expected to expand 4.1% annually over the next five years. Another enticement: South Dakota does not levy individual or corporate income taxes.


For the entire article go to:

America's Best Small Cities For Business And Careers


http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/americas-best-small-cities-for-business-and-careers

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rosh Hashanah 5771

As I sat in services during Rosh Hashanah this past week, my mind wandered as I listened to the prayers. When I heard he words Day of Remembrance, I was stirred. Somehow this small group of people whose influence on civilization over millennia seem to forget that we are all connected. All Jews who survived the Shoah knew that they were connected. The Nazis would not let them forget. They did not care whether a Jew was Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Secular or your family had converted to Christianity a generation or two before. They did not care whether a Jew was married to a Jew or non-Jew. A person meeting their qualifications was lower than human and a virus to be expunged. Following that horrific tragedy, we found that we are One people. The fate of the smallest of us is connected to the fate of all. Why after only 65 years do we not remember and understand that simple fact?

Why can we not remember Torah or what our prophets and sages said? Just a few quotes I recall. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:8. “What is it that the Lord your God requires of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord your God? Micah 6:8. The story of the pagan who tells Hillel he will convert to Judaism if he teaches him the entire Torah while he stands on one foot. Hillel responds, “Do not do unto others what is hateful to you. All the rest is commentary. Now go and study.” Such straightforward precepts, that even I understand. They must be for some other group, not for us.

I know that I have previously blogged on the “Blind Men and the Elephant.” Maybe my thoughts here are similar. We Jews all have the same body of writings to teach us. Jewish tradition teaches us that debate is the proper forum to air our ideals. Instead of challenging ideals, we denigrate our opponents. We cast them as less than equals. Liberal Jews cast the Orthodox as evil fundamentalists and the Orthodox cast the Liberals as apostates. Rather than acknowledging that each has a large following and finding areas of cooperation, we prefer to fight.

What does it mean, when we say in our prayers the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? If the perfect view of God were so simple, we would say the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Midrash teaches us that each of our fore-fathers had a slightly differing view of God. Why should we be different? I am not asking any Jew to accept any other’s view are 100 percent correct. I ask only that they treat others with dignity. If we cannot make peace with ourselves, how can we continue to survive as a people? This is not the first time in history that we have bickered and attacked one another. Jewish historians blamed the destruction of the Second Temple and the Jewish dispersion into the Diaspora on similar actions. Wake up, O Israel, before such a calamity or worse befalls us.

As we begin 5771, let the piercing sound of the Shofar awaken us to our dilemma. I pray that we work together to insure that we continue as a people another 4000 years. In the outside world, we have great antagonists who promise our destruction. If we continue our self-hatred and demonization, we only assist them. If we embrace each other as brothers and sisters and stand united, no outside force can harm us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First, Deal With the Enemies of Peace - Khaled Abu Toameh








The major threat to the peace process is not an Israeli checkpoint or a new housing project in a West Bank settlement, but the threats coming from the evil forces in the Gaza Strip, Damascus, Beirut and Tehran.

For the remainder of the article go to:


I have previously posted some articles by Mr. Abu Toameh. Because of his background, he brings an interesting perspective to the Israeli - Palestinian Arab Conflict. I hope that you will take time to read the entire opinion piece.

Below is a short bio.

Khaled Abu Toameh
Journalist

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem. Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the eyes and ears' of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abu Toameh's articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London. Since 2002 he has been writing on Palestinian affairs for The Jerusalem Post. Abu Toameh has also been working as a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Must Be a Military Target

Mortar shell hits near school 30 minutes before class




No injuries reported at Sha'ar Hanegev kibbutz; building, only reinforced at the roof, sustains light damage; studies to continue as usual.


For the entire article:

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=187532

Friday, September 3, 2010

Three Words

Just a little plug for my alma mater. Hook 'em Horns!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Skip the lecture on Israel's 'risks for peace' - George Will - Washington Post



In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam.

For the op-ed piece, click on  the url below:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/18/AR2010081804691.html


George Will gives an important history lesson on what Israel risks in her search for peace. Whether you think Israel offers too much for peace or not enough, this opinion piece presents a very good insight for all to consider.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Time to Betray - by: Reza Kahlili


A very interesting autobiography by an Iranian who became a Revolutionary Guard shortly after the overthrow of the Shah and then became a CIA agent.


Quoting from the Publisher's description on Amazon.com:
“A true story as exhilarating as a great spy thriller, as turbulent as today’s headlines from the Middle East, A Time to Betray reveals what no other previous CIA operative’s memoir possibly could: the inner workings of the notorious Revolutionary Guards of Iran, as witnessed by an Iranian man inside their ranks who spied for the American government. It is a human story, a chronicle of family and friendships torn apart by a terror-mongering regime, and how the adult choices of three childhood mates during the Islamic Republic yielded divisive and tragic fates. And it is the stunningly courageous account of one man’s decades-long commitment to lead a shocking double life informing on the beloved country of his birth, a place that once offered the promise of freedom and enlightenment—but instead ruled by murderous violence and spirit-crushing oppression.”


The book truly fascinated me. You feel inside the workings of the Revolutionary Guards. You witness torture, beatings and killings. You meet many personalities that are still around today. You are at the front during the Iran – Iraq War. You, too, question why America and the West are supporting the Iraqi thug dictator, Saddam Hussein. The book teaches history from an inside perspective.


Mr. Kahlili weaves a great story. He plays on all of my prejudices about the “democratic” government of Iran. He makes me feel justified in all of my biases. Then I came to an event that just seemed too timely. The event is the death of his friend Kasem. I am not going to reveal exactly why this bothered me but if you read the book you may feel the same. This one incident makes me question all of the other facts in this book. Is Mr. Kahlili really who he says that he is? Did he really work for the Revolutionary Guards? Did he really work for the CIA? Is he just a gifted bard telling us that fiction is fact?


Believe it or not, I enjoyed reading this book. I love spy thrillers. When I started this book, I thought that it was real. I took the publisher's description, stated earlier, as fact. When I finished, I am doubtful.


As always, I appreciate people's comments. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Middle East Coexistence? On Aisle Two, Next to the Cornflakes

Press accounts, political pundits, and pontificating politicians portray the situation in the West Bank as bleak and insoluble. Perhaps that’s why I was in awe on my first visit, when I saw Palestinian families and Israeli “settlers” mingling in the aisles, thumping the watermelons and squeezing the plums. My checkout cashier was a Jewish woman from Kiryat Arba of Moroccan descent, on the cash register next to her was a blue-eyed Muslim woman from Halul, and working the register behind me was a member of the Bnei Menashe tribe from India who had formalized her conversion to Judaism.


------------


Is there really hope for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Maybe if it were just left to the people and not the politicians there would be a chance. This article by Lenny and Shellie Ben-David gives hope that the people can live together in peace. 


I have known Lenny for nearly 30 years. He was at AIPAC before he made aliyah to Israel. He is a consultant today. He has served in the Israeli diplomatic corp. Approximately 12 years ago he was the number 2 diplomat at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Today, he lives in Efrat next door to my cousins. I usually see him when I am visiting them. I hope that you will take the time to read the entire article. Here is the link:


http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/middle-east-coexistence-on-aisle-two-next-to-the-cornflakes/?singlepage=true

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Google Helps Find Simplest Solution to Rubik’s Cube

After 2000 moves, I still was having problems solving the cube.


From the article:
That means all the 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 positions of the Cube require no more than 20 steps to get the Cube in shape.

Read More http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/08/google-rubiks-cube/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GearFactor+%28Blog+-+Gadget+Lab+%28Gear+Factor%29%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher#ixzz0wEL0Ueby

Monday, August 9, 2010

Frozen in time, addicted to pity

I just came across this op-ed piece in the National Post (Canada). This piece's viewpoint deals with the plight of the poor Palestinian refugees in the various Arab countries in which they live. Mr. Fulford questions why after 60 years there are still huge numbers of Palestinian refugees when no other group has remained as such. With the Arab world's vast oil resources, why  have the Palestinians not been integrated into the societies in which they live? 


Frozen in time, addicted to pity
Robert Fulford, National Post · Saturday, Aug. 7, 201


Refugees? Canadians, even if their families have lived here for centuries, know something about refugees. We know Hungarians, we know Vietnamese, we know many others. We admire their energy and their accomplishments. Observing them can be a bracing lesson in human tenacity under adverse circumstances.
But that pattern doesn't cover Palestinian refugees. They are a special case. For many reasons, various populations across the planet are displaced; only the Palestinians cling to their "refugee" status decade after decade. They present themselves as helpless victims of Israeli aggression. They await rescue-- as they have been awaiting it for three generations, since Israel was founded in 1948. Members of other history-battered groups choose to live by an urgent ethic: Get up, get going, make a new life. Palestinians have a different approach: Sit down, wait, stay angry till the world provides for you.
For the rest of this op-ed piece, click on the link below:
http://www.nationalpost.com/Frozen+time+addicted+pity/3371479/story.html

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Modernization

Does maintaining team athletics in our school systems make sense today? Our school systems’ primary focus is education. Taking away resources either fiscal or mental is a waste. We can do better for both.

Am I proposing the ending of team sports for middle school and high school age children? Absolutely not! Team sports train young people in working together to accomplish a specific goal. They teach the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as headlined by “The Wide World of Sports.” They teach sportsmanship and treating your opponent respectfully. They teach working with others who in normal circumstances you would have no involvement. Team sports are a great educator. They are not for everyone. Individuals may not care to be involved. Individuals may want to be on the team but are not capable of being selected. I would not change any of it except to remove them from our school system.

What do I propose? Many team sports already are organized outside of the school system. In Sioux Falls, we have soccer, baseball, swimming and youth football outside of the system. Certainly we have others. I propose that our cities or counties find funding. Maybe we examine our schools’ resources spent on sports and set those monies aside in a separate fund. We should not kill team sports! Teams would become city teams. In Sioux Falls we may have a north or south or other named teams. In the smaller communities school teams already are city teams.

I strongly support youth team sports. School supported team sports takes away from the schools’ mission. A strong educational system is the backbone of a strong America. Let those committed to education concentrate on educating our youth. Let those committed to training athletes teach sports. Is this modernization? Yes!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pro-Israel Entertainment

Once again my pro-Israel sentiments come out. You can view 2 videos with this blog post. Telling Israel's story with a lecture or a debate is a failed method for driving a point. Humor and music as shown here is much more effective. My only recommendation for these videos they should be shorter. Most people's attention span is miniscule. If you find these video's moving, please pass them on.



Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Pay and Sit Bench

Now that the City of Sioux Falls has decided to charge $25 to reserve one of the taxpayer financed park shelters, maybe we should consider this pay and sit bench as well. Click on the link and see the article.

Pay & Sit Bench Keeps the Poor Standing, The Rich Relaxing
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/07/pay-sit-bench-keeps-the-poor-standing-the-rich-relaxing/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+GearFactor+(Blog+-+Gadget+Lab+(Gear+Factor))&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Liberal Case for Israel

While I believe that Israel and the pro-Israel community need to think in terms of sound bites rather than debate with our arguments, I found this video to be poignant. I hope that you can find 4 to 5 minutes to watch this video. Pro-Israel or not, this video will give you something to think about.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Humanitarian Assistance

Gilad Shalit banner
Quote of the Week: "There are 1.5 million people living in Gaza and ONLY ONE of them really needs humanitarian aid; ONLY ONE of them is locked in a tiny room and never sees the light of day; ONLY ONE of them is not allowed visits and is uncertain health. His name is GILAD SHALIT!" - author unknown - ONLY ONE of them is not able to have freedom!
                                          -From email from Steven Shamrak


Tomorrow, June 24, 2010 Gilad Shalit will have been held for 4 years since being kidnapped by terrorists from Gaza. He should be freed immediately. Assuming that he will not be freed by his captors, he should be given the minimal rights of a prisoner of war. He should be allowed visits and packages from the International Red Cross. Anything less is just inhumane treatment. Against any other soldier the world's response would be overwhelming condemnation but I guess Israelis are not human.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ever So Rare...

Ever so rare as a day in June
For then, if ever, did God make perfect days.
                                         -George Smith



Lunch with my good friend Dick.
A walk through the center of the city.
Coffee with Carol and Max.
Walking and more walking
On the bike path along the river.
A nearly cloudless sky,
Warmth from the sun,
Coolness of the breeze,
Murmuring of the river,
Sweet scents of late spring in the air.
O what a glorious day.
Paradise!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Milton Friedman on Greed

I was sent the following video and I just thought that it is too good not to post. While I completely agree with Friedman that capitalism and free enterprise are truly the best means for advancing the welfare of society, he does not delve into the need for government oversight. We know that unsupervised greed can create tremendous havoc for our economy. Capitalists require restrictions so they do not go too far. We saw what unrestrained capitalism did with our last investment bubble. It nearly destroyed our way of life. We are still feeling the effects and will for some time. We are also seeing the effect of regulations not being enforced properly or the right regulations put in place in the fiasco going on in the Gulf of Mexico with British Petroleum.

Both of these events deserve a great deal more input than I am giving them here. I hope that you enjoy this video. The message is pertinent but only a portion of the story. Comments are always appreciated.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Right to Vote

With the low turnout in the South Dakota Republican Primary election and the similar turnout in the Sioux Falls City election in April, I am very concerned about the lack of voter interest. My parents and my education instilled in me a regard for citizenship. Our democracy is anchored on our citizens assuming their responsibility to make informed choices as to who should lead them.

The Right to Vote is not an ideal to be taken lightly. With this right goes a responsibility to use it and use it wisely. Originally in America, only white males who owned property were granted this right. With much struggle over the last 2 plus centuries, America enfranchised all citizens over the age of 18. Is it because everyone is eligible and it is so easy to register that so many of our citizens do not vote? If the ability to vote were taken away, would people finally realize its value? Or are we so apathetic toward our government at all levels that we just do not care? The knee-jerk response I receive when I ask why people do not vote is that most do not believe that voting makes any difference. I just will not accept that freedom and democracy are spectator sports. Voting is the minimum we must do to maintain our democracy.

I have a radical idea as a possible solution. Any registered voter who did not vote in the last 2 elections will be dropped from the roles of eligible voters for the same category. This sounds complicated but let me use the examples of the 2 elections previously mentioned to explain my proposal. If you did not vote in this last South Dakota Republican Primary or the prior one 2 years ago, you would be dropped as a registered Republican but not from the voter roles. If you did not vote in this year's Sioux Falls City election or last years, you would not be eligible to vote again in another city election. This proposal is drastic but I think it would get people’s attention. Actually, I would not be too harsh. If you did not vote in the last 2 elections, you could get back on the roles for the next one by going to the County Courthouse and re-registering to vote in the next election. I believe this to be a small but necessary inconvenience for those who want to maintain this basic right.

The Right to Vote is the cornerstone of our Freedom and the foundation of our country. My father told me when I was a youth that Freedom is not Free. Every citizen must do his or her part to insure that our government works. By people not voting, a minority of the electorate decides how we are to be governed. This is a travesty. I pray our citizens wake up and understand that they must play their part.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blessed

On Sunday, Deb and I were driving back to Barry and Debby’s home from the Savannah airport having just dropped off Josh for his long trip home to Zurich. Our beautiful weekend of family getting together for Nathan’s Bar Mitzvah was slowly coming to a close. I do not know how we got on the subject of raising children. I don’t remember if Deb asked me about my philosophy (like I would have one) or what. We talked about parent’s difficulty in making the right decisions with children especially teenagers. As a parent, you want your kids to learn independence but how independent? When a situation arises, a parent does not have the luxury of saying let me think about that for awhile. I will get back to you. Usually, a decision is required immediately. Some parents are just lucky, I guess. I know that Carol and I have been. I know other parents and friends, who are fantastic people but struggled and still struggle with their children's problems.

Our discussion brings me to the point of this blog. Following our discussion, I reflected on how blessed Louis, of blessed memory, and Bernice are. What a fantastic weekend of such nachas for Bubi. She has so much to be thankful for. Look at Bubi and Zadi’s children and their spouses. Could one have asked for better spouses? Well, maybe they batted 75% because they got me in the mix. Their children’s successes are not bad but look at their grandchildren. Wow!! Absolutely, these kids (I use the term loosely.) are some of the brightest, most talented, intelligent and well-rounded that I know. I am prejudiced about David and Deborah but all of my nieces and nephews (including my Rosenthal niece and nephew who do not count as part of this group – sorry Jackie and Harry) are incredible people. A book could be written about all of them and what they have accomplished. Lastly, we come to the top for me, Carol’s and my grandson Drew. He may be only 4 but what a great child. As the ditty goes, “the seed does not fall far from the tree.” He fits with this family.

Well the Bar Mitzvah weekend was excellent. Nathan did an incredible job but what would you expect? It is in the genes. I am saddened that it all came to an end. The time I spent with family and friends was great. I know that I feel blessed but I am just a small part of the blessings that have befallen Louis and Bernice. I wish I understood what they did right because the results say that they did it exceedingly well. Thank you Bubi and Zadi.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Israel and Our Failure at Social Networking

I find this article on Wired.com to be powerful. We in the Pro-Israel community have constantly been looking at ways to get our message out to the world. This article discusses how the "Peace Flotilla" used social networks that literally cost them nothing to win the public relations campaign in this battle with Israel. We need to study, understand and learn. We should be the best at this not our adversaries. Our adversaries mobilize loosely connected groups while we try to centralize our communication. We look to only convert the faithful while we also need the uncommitted. I believe that this article is a wake-up call. The article does not provide all of the answers nor all of the questions but we should use it as a starting point.

Please read the article, pass this blog or the article on to others and please comment if you would like.


How Free Explains Israel’s Flotilla FAIL



http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/how-free-explains-israels-flotilla-fiasco/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wired/index+(Wired:+Index+3+(Top+Stories+2))&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Friday, May 28, 2010

Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace

While I believe that Israel and the Palestinians need to agree on peace between themselves, this video shows the strategic problems for Israel in going back to the 1967 Armistice Lines. This video makes a good argument for its case. One can argue that if true peace comes, there is no need for what this video proposes. On the other side, if there is true peace between them, the Palestinians will understand Israel's need for security. This video graphically shows the problems whether you agree with the conclusions or not.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Real Palestinian Traitors

Is it my Jewish – Western or Judeo – Christian values? Khaled Abu Toameh must be lost in the wilderness. As an off-shoot of a quote from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir who said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” When the Palestinians care more about their own people rather than stealing the world’s generous donations, there will be a chance for peace. Khaled’s lone voice does not give me confidence that the situation will change. But one voice is hugely better than none. Maybe we will see other Palestinians take up his call.

In his article, Mr. Toameh really nails the problem of corruption. Here is an excerpt from the article. If you are interested in the entire article, I have put the link below.

The real traitors are those who established another corrupt dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and stole billions of dollars of international aid that was supposed to improve the living conditions of their people.

The real traitors are those who built a casino for the Palestinians instead of building them a hospital and a school.

The real traitors are those who are trying to silence journalists and reformists who want to see a better life for their people.


Khaled Abu Toameh (born 1963) is an “Israeli-Arab-Muslim-Palestinian” journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and U.S. News and World Report, and has been the Palestinian affairs producer for NBC News since 1988. His articles have appeared in The Sunday Times, Daily Express and many others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pentagon to Troop-Killing Superbugs: Resistance is Futile

I do not know how worried most people are about the new superbugs that have found ways to overcome our most powerful anti-biotics. Historically before penicillin bacteria were a very significant factor in causing death. Our world population exploded once these new cures were found. Like most living organisms, bacteria has found ways to counter anti-biotics and today we are faced with an enormous problem. If this research is accurate and a new system of defense has been found, our Defense Department needs to be congratulated. Separately, I see from one of the comments that there maybe a chance that we have also found a means of destroying viruses.

Here is the link to the article if you are interested:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/05/pentagon-to-troop-killing-superbugs-resistance-is-futile/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wired/index+(Wired:+Index+3+(Top+Stories+2))&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Christians United for Israel Sunday

I want to talk about miracles. I read a story a long time ago that I want to give credit for to Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, To Life. My problem is that I do not have the book with me and so cannot find the specific quote. I hope that my attribution is correct but if it is not I hope that the correct author will accept my apology. Plus, I am butchering the story. At least maybe you will understand the message.

When the Jews were crossing the Red Sea, Sholmo and Haim were pushing a cart. God had split the sea and the walls of water were on both sides of them. All that they could do was complain about pushing this cart through the mud and how much mud was getting on their sandals and clothing.

Rather than see and accept the miracle that was happening all around them, they could not break out of their self-centeredness. Having just been freed from slavery, they could only see trauma not miracles. Has the effect of centuries of inhuman treatment and the Holocaust at the hands of Christians in Europe blinded us from miracles?

Today, Christians United for Israel is having a day of prayer and support for the State of Israel. Thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of Christians are standing up to be counted for their support of the Jewish state. Isn’t this a miracle? For how many centuries would our people cried for such support? Today, we would rather think that these people are anti-Semitic or have some other agenda. I say that we need to wake up and say thank you for their help.

I close with a couple of attachments. Please click on them and watch the video and read the article.

The first is a video by Pastor John Hegee of CUFI. The video is entitled, Christians United for Israel Sunday 2010 - A message from Pastor John Hagee

The second is an article written by Dennis Prager on the Conservative Website, Townhall.com. The article is entitled, Obama, Israel and the Genesis Prediction.

Like this blog and most things I put up, I do not expect everyone to agree with my views. I hope, no really I pray that you find my Random Thoughts at least provocative enough to think about them. I would appreciate any comments.