Longing For The Slow and Happy Bungalow Days

So I used to hear from my wife about when she was young and went to the bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains.


And today, I heard from a wonderful young Ukrainian woman whose family does the equivalent in the mountains there in the summer. 


When I listen to the stories, it sounds so good to get away with your family and friends for the summer to the countryside. 


Just live simply in a cabin, stay up late by the campfire singing songs, get up lazily in the morning, and during the day play sports, go fishing, and swim in the lake. 


I can’t imagine talking 3 months a year and actually being able to do this…so natural, so carefree, so back to living!


Yes as kids, we went to camp, but it’s not the same as living communally like this in such freedom and fun. 


Honestly, listening to the stories about this, left me amazingly jealous!


Perhaps, it’s a lesson about life these days…we’re adults, we’re responsible, we have to earn a living and take care of the bills and all of life’s responsibilities. 


But maybe, just maybe, there is something–a lot–to be said for letting loose a little, and just being with your loved ones, and living, really living again. 


Why do we have to wait until we’re old…too old to work anymore…and maybe too old to appreciate life as life was meant to be.  


We can’t run from our responsibilities but isn’t it worth looking for ways in life to enjoy more than a long weekend or a week vacation.


Life is too short to let it get away from us. 


Balancing the contributions of our hard labor with the enjoyment of family, friends, and fun…those are the memories that last a lifetime and beyond. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Evil Seems To Prevail

Break In.jpeg

So there is this little Chinese restaurant–it sounds so cliche. 


But this one really is so small and bare that despite its name, which I don’t even know, we call it “The Hole In the Wall.”


This poor family with their children work behind the counter and kitchen serving up to the locals in the area. 


We know them from the neighborhood and they are always friendly and nice people just trying to make their way 


Well, over the weekend, this is what happened to their little hole in the wall. 


See the photo at the top!


I asked the lady, “What happened here?”


And she told me they had been broken into.


“That’s terrible! Well, what was taken?”


“Just a little cash box, but there wasn’t much in it,” and she half smiles.


Like this is what they smashed their door and broke in for…a few measly bucks. 


I told her how sorry I was for her and her family.


The people with nothing break into the other people who have nothing to steal basically nothing. 


While so many of the gazillionaires are choking on their wads and wads of money lavishly spending on mansions, yachts, planes, cars, drugs, prostitutes, clothes, jewelry, and endless parties. 


Let the others starve…except let me give a little to start a foundation…it’s a great tax shelter!


What type of world is this?


I’ve been sick the last few days and had the chance to watch a few movies related to this theme.


One was the Bitter Harvest about how Russia raped and pillaged Ukraine in the 1930s treating them as their breadbasket.


In the movie, Stalin says to take 90% of the food from the Ukrainian peasant farmers whose land they invaded and seized.


His henchman replies:  “But they’ll starve to death.”


To this Stalin responds, “Then takes everything!”


The movie well-portrayed the merciless killings and the people starving in the villages and the city streets. 


According to the postscript at the end of the movie 7 to 10 million Ukrainians perished.


Those were the days of great evil–Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hideki Tojo, etc. 


Then another movie, The Birth Of A Nation, showing the horrors that the black people endured under slavery in this country.


The beatings, the rapes, the hangings, at one point, they even took a hammer and smashed the teeth out of the poor black man’s face as he hung from the wall in the barn in order to force feed him.


The brutality was unbelievable. 


What type of world is this (again)?


G-d must watch this evil and want to smite mankind for the seemingly endless evil, but for his mercy and love the world endures another day. 


Our challenge in the face of all the freakin’ evil out there is to do one good deed, say one good word, change the script of the evil doers…that’s all you and I can really do.


Change the script…mend the broken glass of the poor restaurant owner…mend the broken world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A NATO In Shambles

NATO
For months and months now, we’ve seen Russia aggressing against the West and NATO cowering in fear of an escalation.



Russia is the largest country on Earth covering 9 time zones and they are truly a formidable bear. 



Recently, with the Russian blitzkrieg into Crimea, the West was taken by the surprise and the speed of the attack, as Russian helicopters, tanks, and soldiers violated the borders that were once Ukraine. 



At the same time, Russia attack planes and subs have been probing the skies and waters of Europe, and NATO has been feebly attempting to intercept them over and over again–always on the defense. 



Russia continues to upgrade their nukes and conducts nuclear games and brinksmanship, while the U.S. dismantles it’s Cold War arsenals according to previous START treaty.



Last week, with the U.S considering light arms for the Ukrainians, the Russians warned that would cause “colossal damage” to ties. 



When the U.S. threatened to throw Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, we were warned, “Russian response — economically and otherwise — will know no limits.



But as Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, stated, “You can’t provoke them. They’re already on a path to do what they want to do.



While Russian Spetsnaz are pulling their country identifying insignia off their uniforms to make the world hesitate, question, and cower at those behind the masks, NATO is still grappling with plans on how to put together a simple rapid reactionary force of just 5,000 soldiers to get themselves together within 48 hours and then 25,000 troops within weeks. 



Uh, the battle or even the war may be over by the time our sleepy NATO gets it’s boots on and muskets loaded. 



In the age of fiber optics and ICBMs steaming across the networks and skies, taking days and weeks to mobilize is b*llsh*t!



NATO cannot even get but 4 of it’s 28 member nations to maintain the minimum 2% contribution to defense, because once defense is treated as belonging to the commons, the attitude is just let the others worry about it or the U.S. will provide the fallback for all anyway. 



While Russia only worries about Russia and moves in forward thrusts, NATO dances around trying not to get speared, because they theorize now it’s only Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and so we don’t want to antagonize the bear and end up being it’s next dinner. 



But the Great Bear is hungry for power and respect, and as NATO runs and pees it’s pants, the bear smells it’s prey and is in fearless chase. 😉



(Source Photo: here with Attribution to Crown, UK Defense Ministry)

Chocolate Putin And Lemon ISIS

Lemon Ices Chocolate Pudding
Ok, so Chocolate Putin and Lemon ISIS are a true recipe for global disaster. 



GLOBAL THREATS: With Chocolate Putin, we have the old Cold War back again (or maybe it was never really gone) with nation states facing off and state-of-the-art weapons galore such as thermonuclear ICBMs onshore, offshore, and aloft. And with Lemon ISIS, we have extremists posing a new level of terrorist threats such that we have never seen before with beheadings, crucifixions, and mass killings, and the potential for (very) dirty bombs. 



PSYCHOLOGICAL INTIMIDATION: While Chocolate Putin still denies his troops are even in Ukraine or that they all along wanted to harbor Snowden, Lemon ISIS tells the whole world they seek to establish a caliphate across the Middle East. Either way the psychological impact is to confuse and scare.



OPPRESSION OF THE PEOPLE: Both Chocolate Putin and Lemon ISIS declare that the people (along with their territory) in their sights are really wanting it–Ukrainians, Georgians, the Baltic States and Poland want to be Russian and maybe really are, while ISIS declares that good Muslims really want to live under strict Sharia law. The victims are not victims, they are willing participants in their own takeover. 



RULING BY AUTOCRACY: Chocolate Putin and Lemon ISIS rule by dictatorship with a supreme leader or all powerful president, the people must follow or be put in the gulag or hung by a tree limb. Either way, you will obey, freedoms begone, and the collective will be better off for it. 



The list of ingredients and description for world chaos and terror can go on and on here…but the point is that we are facing enemies that are digging in to inflict serious metabolic harm on us. 



While some may like chocolate Putin or Lemon ISIS, the results of closing our eyes to the calorie count will be catastrophic to a peaceful world order. 



(Source Photo for Lemon ISIS is Andy Blumenthal and for Chocolate Putin is here with attribution to jlib)

Jewish is Super

Jewish is Super

So with the shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Oakland Park, Kansas this week right before Passover, and the near simultaneous “grotesque” targeting of Jews by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, we are reminded that while Jews are no longer slaves in Egypt (thank G-d), we are still unfortunately targeted by evil people around the world.

In the Kansas City incident, I read how the white supremacist shooter went right up to a lady visiting her mother at the old-age home and asked her “Are you Jewish?” And when she replied in the affirmative (even though she was not), he shoot her dead on the spot.

It turns out this lady was an occupational therapist that helped blind children…what kind of monster would just murder someone (anyone) like this?

Similarly in eastern Ukraine, leaflets are being handed out demanding that Jews register in the government office, pay special taxes, and declare their property or face deportation. Here too, we witness the devilish markings of some that are repetitive of their deplorable past as Nazi collaborators, concentration camp guards, and murders.

I read yesterday, that not only Jews, but Christians are being targeted in the Middle East with churches burned, those of faith being driven from their homes and ruthlessly murdered, except in Israel where the Christian population is actually increasing and thriving.

While Superman may not be Jewish (I know of no Jews on planet Krypton), being Jewish is super–and for that matter being any person of faith and dignity is super! Hate mongers and murders of today, like the evil oppressors of yesteryear–know that truth and justice and the 10 plagues of Egypt are just a {pow!} and {bam!} away–believe it! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Restraint or Recklessness?

Restraint or Recklessness?

Like many of you, as I watch the events unfold with the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, I am amazed at the “restraint” being shown by the West.

But I can’t help asking myself why a military invasion by the Great Bear into a sovereign nation that is leaning toward democracy is being met with restraint.

Sitting in Starbucks, I overheard one young women saying to an older gentlemen that she did not understand the reaction of the President in saying there would be “consequences” and that no one took that seriously as there was no specificity, almost as if their where no real consequences to even threaten Russia with.

So why all the word-mincing, dancing around the subject, and restraint by the West in light of this very dangerous escalation in eastern Europe:

1) Surprise – Was the West completely taken by surprise by Russia’s military intervention? Didn’t something similar happen with Georgia in 2008–less than 6 years ago? Did we not foresee the possibility of Russia lashing out against Ukraine to protect its interests when Ukraine turned back toward European integration and away from the embrace of Russia that it had made only weeks earlier? After Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and with all our “Big Data,” intelligence, and military planning–how did we miss this (again!)?

2) Duped – Were we duped by the misinformation from Russia saying that the 150,000 troops they called on a “training exercise” was planned months ago and it just happened to coincide with the toppling of Ukraine’s President? Also, were we fooled when the “mysterious” soldiers showed up without national markings and Russia said they weren’t their military–uh, where did they come from–did they float down from the heavens?

3) Apathetic – Are we just apathetic to Ukraine’s plight? Are they just a poor country of little strategic value to us? Are we so war weary from Iraq and Afghanistan that we just want to place our heads in the sand like ostriches even when democracy and freedom is threatened in a European nation of some 45 million people?

4) Fear – Are we afraid of the military might of the nuclear-armed Russian Federation? Is America, the European Union, NATO, the United Nations all not willing to stand up and hold Russia accountable even if that means a military confrontation? Not that anyone wants World War III, but if we don’t stand up and defend against wanton aggression, how can any country or anyone be safe going forward?

5) Optionless – Are we just out of options? Russia got the upper hand on this one and they are logistically right there on the border and in the country of Ukraine now and what can we do? Despite the U.S. assertion that it can project military power anywhere around the world and a defense budget bigger than the 10 next largest combined–how can we be out of options? Are we out of options because we tacitly understand that one wrong miscalculation and we could end up with WMD on our homeland doorstep?

6) Butter Over Guns – Have we retrenched from world affairs, downsized our military, and emphasized domestic issues over international ones? Have we forgotten the risk that comes from a world without a superpower that helps to maintain stability and peace? Are we just under so much financial duress with a growing mountain of national debt, a economic recovery still struggling, and the lowest employment participation in over 30 years that we can’t even entertain spending more treasure to fight again?

7) Leadership – Who is managing the crisis? We’ve seen our President speak, various other government officials from the U.S. and European Union, the Secretary General of the U.N., the Secretary General of NATO, and more? Who is in charge–setting the tone–deciding the strategy? Who has point so that we and Russia know who to listen to and what is just background noise?

What is so scary about this whole thing is how quickly things can escalate and seriously get out of control in this world, and this despite all the alliances, planning, and spending–at the end of the day, it looks like we are floundering and are in chaos, while Russia is advancing on multiples fronts in Ukraine and elsewhere with supporting dangerous regimes in Syria, Iran, North Korea and more.

Whether we should or shouldn’t get involved militarily, what is shocking is: 1) the very notion that there wouldn’t be any good military options, and 2) that the consequences are not being spelled out with speed and clarity.

In the streets, at the cafe, on the television, I am seeing and hearing people in shock at what is happening and what we are and are not doing about it.

Even if we get Russia to stop advancing (yes, based on what happened with Georgia, I doubt they will actually pull back out), the question is what happens the next time there is a conflict based on how we’ve managed this one?

I do want to mention one other thing, which is while I feel empathy for the plight of the Ukrainians seeking freedom from Russia now, I also must remember the events of Babi Yar where, between 1941-1944, 900,000 Jews were murdered in the Soviet Union by Nazi genocide and their Ukrainian collaborators. This is history, but no so long ago.

All opinions my own.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Utenriksdept)