Friday, August 7, 2015

Bombs Away

Monday, August 3, 2015
Life offers many challenges and often resulting in disappointments. Therefore, it’s understandable that a random victory may evoke rabid enthusiasm. So, when the International Olympics Committee with only two options, very bad and maybe really bad, chose Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, many locals were crowing with pride. "Winning the bid will surely make more people know about China, that we are a major power now, and we are no worse than the United States," said Zhang Zhaoshi, 76. Sorry, Zhang. All things considered, China is worse than the United States.  

Joseph Berger, CCNY graduate and distinguished reporter for the New York Times, was born in a displaced persons camp in the Soviet Union. His mother escaped the Nazis in Poland and his father in the Ukraine. Recently, Joe and his sister visited their parents’ birthplaces and attempted to detect any sign of a lost Jewish presence. Please read about it.

My European roots are almost two generations more removed than Joe’s and much more obscured by time and loss, but I am considering a similar trip next year with my second cousin Jerry Latter – grandmother Gotthelf was a Latter (Lato in Poland). Once, I had no interest in time and places past, but the excellent genealogical work of Jerry, Ittai Hershman and Steve ("Stony Brook Steve") Schneider has awakened me, I hope not too late, to what has gone before.

By coincidence, yesterday afternoon, the Gotthelfs met the Gothelfs. We invited Eli and Hana Gothelf, the Israeli couple who recently moved across the hall, over for dessert. Eli and I are both at a loss about our Got(t)helf ancestry, but Hana insisted that, after observing us together for a couple of hours, we must be related. I’m not sure whether this will ever be settled. My Gotthelfs, unlike the Latters, have left very little to go by.

A favorable book review of The Conservative Heart, by Arthur C. Brooks, includes a summary of the author’s view on raising the minimum wage. "Brooks believes that the key to personal happiness is ‘earned success.’ A higher minimum wage means that fewer people have the opportunity to experience it." If Brooks sincerely believes in earned success, he should be advocating a sharp increase in inheritance taxes. Let’s really spread personal happiness up and down the economic ladder.

Today, I experienced a spot of déjà vu all over again when I got an e-mail late morning from Eli S., Sharon C.’s husband, who was down here on jury and wanted a restaurant recommendation. As I told his lovely and talented wife last week, don’t move an inch, I’ll be right over. Eli mentioned the V word, but did not insist on a pure V experience. Therefore, I was able to take him to the ever-versatile Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, where we had mushroom chow fun and eggplant with garlic sauce. I did not feel at all denied and Eli was delighted with our food. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
If I don’t help destroy the health and welfare of future generations, someone else will:
"A group of lawyers, lobbyists and political strategists started devising a strategy for dismantling President Obama’s climate change regulations before he had even put forth a draft proposal." 

The following allegedly appeared in a British periodical:
Sir: I haven’t got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles. Every day, I walk down the street and tell passer-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday, spending time by the pool. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I ‘like’ them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me . . . whether it interests them or not. And it works. I already have four people following me; two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.
Peter White, Holbrook, Derbyshire

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Jeb Bush, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has worked hard on presenting himself as Jeb!, an unscripted and candid individual. His attempt to be free from any entangling alliances, including his family, has led to his one-name persona, the Liberace of American politics. However, on Tuesday, addressing a Southern Baptist conference, he said that "I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues," to an audience firmly committed to prayer and tightly-crossed legs as the answer to women’s health issues. As a result of his remarks, Jeb has rightly regained the name of Bush.

I returned to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street (July 27, 2015), now in its second week, to see how it’s doing and to delve into its varied menu. Nasi lemak ($7.50), Malaysia’s national dish, was an easy choice. Tiny anchovies in a hot, hot onion pepper sauce (sambal), coconut rice, fresh cucumber spears, half a hard boiled egg and a potch of chicken rendang (stewed chicken). It was very good, spicy/mild, hard/soft, hot/cold. I started with a scallion pancake ($3.50), which I didn’t expect to even see on the menu, but always a seductive choice for me. It turned out to be an exceptional scallion pancake, differing from any other that I’ve had. Unlike the normal flat disc, 8 or so inches across, 1/4 inch thick, cut into 6 or 8 wedges, this scallion pancake was a roti, the thin flat crêpe that accompanies the curry dipping sauce in a roti canai, another favorite that I had here last week. This roti had slices of scallion in its batter and was served folded in undulating waves. I did not lay it out flat, but it might have been 14 inches in diameter. The sauce on the side was very good, rice wine, more scallions, but far too little to cope with this supersized pancake. I wasn’t able to get my waitress’s attention, so much of the roti went undipped, but not unconsumed.

That brings up the problem with Wok Wok – success. Today, as the lunch hour continued, the joint became more than half full. The two waitresses were overwhelmed taking orders, fetching from the kitchen, settling tabs, accepting payments. I was there early enough not to experience a problem, except for a refill of dipping sauce. The threesome next to me paid and left after getting only some of the dishes that they ordered. A nearby couple left after waiting several minutes for someone to take their order. Another couple appeared about to do the same as I was leaving. I’ll be back and I hope many others will, too, with ample service provided. Wok Wok seems to have very good food, but it has to get to the table to be enjoyed.

"After a long delay and plenty of pushback from corporate America, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved on Wednesday a rule that would require most public companies to regularly reveal the gap between the compensation of the chief executive and the pay of the rest of their employees. . . . Representatives of corporations and the Republican commissioners had a particular dislike for the pay ratio rule. They disputed whether it would be helpful for shareholders, and they asserted that it was motivated by a desire to shame companies into paying their chief executives less." And what’s wrong with that. "Fifty years ago, chief executives were paid roughly 20 times as much as their employees, compared with nearly 300 times as much in 2013, according to an analysis last year by the Economic Policy Institute."

Thursday, August 6, 2015
The controversy over the Iran nuclear deal is founded on fear and hatred, the motive forces for so much human behavior. For a moment, let’s try to be coldly practical. My concern is for the safety of Israel, although Iran’s neighbors, Arab Sunnis, have longed feared this strong non-Arab Shiite country. In fact, through the Shah’s regime, Israel and Iran were allied at many levels, including recognizing common enemies. Today, of course, Iran is led by religious fanatics who swear to annihilate Israel, making the prospect of increasing their destructive power unacceptable. But, for a moment, let’s give Iran what so many fear, a nuclear weapon or two. Israel is assumed to have at least 80 nuclear warheads.

At least since 1967, the Israel Air Force has been recognized as among the world’s most powerful aerial fighting forces. Additionally, Israel had made a substantial investment in missile, anti-missile and anti-aircraft technology. However, it must be assumed that one or more nuclear weapons could hit Israel.

Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, with its concentration of government agencies, seems at first to be the likeliest target. However, Jerusalem has a very large Arab (admittedly not Iranian) population, and, more critically, is home to Qubbat As-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s most sacred shrines and the oldest extant Islamic monument. Since a nuclear weapon promises to make a big hole, and entails substantial collateral damage, the Dome of the Rock may effectively insulate Jerusalem, and the Israeli government, from damage.

Next stop, Tel Aviv, with a smaller population than Jerusalem, but almost entirely Jewish. Destroying Tel Aviv, however, does not hobble Israel’s ability to react to attack, with a large nuclear arsenal and formidable delivery systems. So, Iran will have to trade Tel Aviv (population 415,000) for Tehran (population 8.4 million) and likely several other major population and industrial centers. Additionally, Tel Aviv is the home to almost every foreign embassy, including Russia (120 Hayarkon Street), the United States (71 Hayarkon Street), Germany (3 Daniel Frisch Street), China (222 Ben Yehuda Street), France (112 Herbert Samuel Promenade), Japan (4 Berkowitz Street). Even if other nations might tolerate the killing of Jews (as they did in the past), the killing of so many foreign diplomatic and support personnel may evoke harsh international reprisals.

Haifa is Israel’s third largest city, and the most secular of the three, although largely Jewish. A nuclear attack would kill many civilians, but not inhibit Israel’s ability to attack Iran.

So, what does the worst case scenario, peddled by heavy-handed Israeli leadership and cynical American politicians, yield? Am I being too casual with the threat to other people’s lives? Not as much as those who flee from negotiation and wrap themselves in sanctimony.


  1. Last part of this post sounds like a plan for another Holocaust. Certainly ayatollahs will accept it, even at a high price. Apparently they already secured obama's consent

  2. Your assessment of the Iran deal is, as usual, well reasoned and clearly presented. My thoughts exactly may I have your permission to cut and paste?

  3. Michael,
    You're good at math. Which is greater, one bomb later or 80 now? Who should worry more, Bibi or the Ayatollah?

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