Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I dedicate this post to Bernard Madoff.

There are only a couple of days left to donate to your favorite charity to receive the benefits of tax deductions. I am listing 20 charities here. The first 10 will be charities not affiliated religiously. The second 10 (coming tomorrow) will be Jewish charities - because that is where my expertise lies. Any charity or not for profit on the list has either personal significance or significance to close friends. However, as an employee of a not for profit, I do not gain anything from any of these endorsements.

1. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

2. National Multiple Sclerosis Society

3. Autism Speaks

4. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

5. The Innocence Project

6. Homes for Our Troops: Building Specially Adapted Homes for Troops with Disabilities

7. International Planned Parenthood

8. American Brain Tumor Association

9. Parkinson's Disease Foundation

10. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who to blame for Gaza crisis

I am sitting in an office in Jerusalem as I write this piece about Israel’s attack on Gaza.

But I want to be clear that I have no more insight into the crisis than if I were sitting in my condo in Chicago looking at the snow. The only difference is I spend my day with Israelis, but life here, in Jerusalem, is normal and seemingly safe.

A coworker and I joked yesterday that if he gets called up to the reserves, he will be getting shot at as I phone him for directions to get from one place to another. (This is my first time driving in Israel.)

“Sharna, this is kind of bad time,” he joked holding his phone to his ear.
“But I can’t figure out how to get to this hotel in Talpiyot; it will only take a minute.”

Today’s news is focusing on the rising death toll in Gaza and the outrage of the Arab population against the Arab League that has not met about the attacks. Also in the Jordanian parliament a member lit an Israeli flag on fire and then stepped on it to put out the fire. (smart guy! He could have burned down the fake parliament. If a fake parliament burns, does anyone smell it?)

Perhaps I am being too glib in the wake of this humanitarian catastrophe. But how can I be anything else when this situation was predictable six months ago when the Egyptians negotiated the so called cease fire otherwise known as time to amass weapons for Hamas and time for Israel to spy from the air where Hamas is amassing the weapons? Or the cease fire where Hamas was firing rockets into towns in southern Israel as the Israelis in Southern Israel are terrified and furious with its government for not caring about them or as the song here says, “coffee at home in Tel Aviv, rockets at home in the South.”

This situation is a failure of the international community and of the Arab League, not to mention the power vacuum in Washington. Indeed, the populace of Arab states should be angry about the situation in Gaza. However, their viciousness is misguided as it is fueled by hatred of Israel, Anti Semitism and Anti Americanism. Their message gets lost in their burning effigies.

What they should be angry about is that during this cease fire the nations of the Arab League and the International Community should have been bettering the lives of the Gazans through building of schools, hospitals, industry, etc. instead of twiddling their thumbs awaiting the cease fire to break and all hell to break loose. Instead the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is some strange pawn in an International game where Israelis and many, many Palestinians end up being the big losers.

Remember, Egypt has a border with Gaza. It’s not Israel’s (sole) responsibility to help Gaza (who elected a government – Hamas - that doesn’t recognize Israel’s existence and tosses rockets into its southern cities to rebuild its infrastructure. Arab governments could have been smuggling in supplies and blockaded the Iranian weaponry.

This conflict serves Arab governments in many ways: it raises the cost of oil, it provides a bargaining chip for Arab governments in terms of its relationships with the Security Council, and perhaps mostly importantly, when Israel attacks Gaza it serves as a distraction from their own countries’ failings and demonizes the Jewish state in the eyes of the media and the international community.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Illinois passes emergency law forcing next governor to star in reality t.v. show

In a special session concluded at midnight on Wednesday morning, the Illinois house and senate unanimously passed a bill forcing the next governor of Illinois to star in his/her own 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year reality show.

The reality show will play on WGN, to the glee of the Tribune Company, which declared bankruptcy the day before Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was arrested by the FBI on corruption charges.

“That *&%$ governor really saved our asses,” said Tribune owner Sam Zell.

The State and Zell have hired Mark Burnett to be creator and producer of the channel’s programming.

“The hope is that if the Governor of Illinois is on television all of the time, he/she will be less likely to accept bribes and engage in corruption,” said Sara Feigenholtz, 12th District State Representative.

The bill was endorsed by the FBI.

“We can’t afford to investigate and prosecute another Illinois governor,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. “Chicago has gang problems, we still haven’t found Bin Laden, it would simply be less expensive to produce a reality show where the public could watch the governor’s every move.”

Burnett is hoping that the next person elected will be single, attractive and fit so that they can film a “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” series while the governor is in office.

“Husband and wife stuff is boring,” Burnett said. “How amazing would it be to see the governor making out while on a boat on Lake Michigan and then making out with someone else the next day at the Lincoln Memorial Museum in Springfield?”

In the reality television tradition, Burnett said, the next governor will face a myriad of challenges besides balancing the budget, getting funding for public transit, and improving performance in Illinois public schools.

Proposed episodes include having the governor spend time in jail with other convicted Illinois politicians for an “It Could Happen To Me” series. The governor would play a game show to pick, “Who was wrongly put on Death Row?” Also in the works is the governor attending a semester at the University of Illinois and rushing a sorority or house entitled: "I'm cool enough to be Governor but am I cool enough to go Greek?" During the sweeps periods look for, “Torture or Talking?” and “Bribe or Banter?”

There is even hope of training the governor in curling to represent the U.S.A in the 2016 Olympics being vied for by Chicago. Others are hoping the next governor will train for double dutch jump rope, which Chicagoans are trying to make a sport in the 2016 Olympics.

The bill initially faced some opposition when one representative asked, “What about when the governor poops or is naked and stuff?”

However, once an amendment was added that all unfamily friendly material would be aired only on premium channels (with subscription proceeds going to the Chicago Transit Authority), the bill was passed.

When asked if he thought anyone would run for governor under these conditions, President Elect Barack Obama said that he he thought they would. “If we aren't willing to pay a price for our values, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.”

And that price will be aired on Channel 9 beginning in 2010 or sooner if Blagojevich resigns or is jailed first. Blagojevich is in talks for a reality show of his own called: “Blagojevich Behind Bars.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

thought on Hudson tragedy

I read a book a few years ago by Jason DeParle, “American Dream: Three Women, Ten kids, and a Nation’s Drive to end Welfare.” The book popped into my head after reading today’s headline in the Chicago Tribune: “The troubled life of William Balfour, the suspect in the slayings of Jennifer Hudson's family members: Documents show a depressed, suffering man with an unhappy childhood and a lack of stability”

Balfour is accused of killing singer and actress Jennifer Hudson’s nephew, Julian King, mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother Jason Hudson. The horrific murders rocked the country and further exposed the City’s rising murder rate, specifically in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.

Today’s newspaper article summarizes the public records featuring Balfour, which journeys his encounters through the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The picture painted is of an abused, unwanted child evolving into a drug using, abusive gang member suffering from some degree of mental illness.

The likely end of Balfour’s story will be behind bars or leaving the world from a lethal injection. Jennifer Hudson will somehow move forward with her life, however one can when they are haunted by the murders of loved ones.

However, when reading Balfour’s rap sheet, the question screams, “Could this have been prevented?” Was Balfour destined to be a triple murderer or might the Hudson nightmare never enveloped had Balfour been intercepted somehow by a loving family or the state?

Some of the answers to these questions and more are delivered in Jason DeParle’s book. However, DeParles’ book investigates why some fail to succeed during the economic boom of the 1990s. My concern is that in economic good times, our prisons were still filled, what is going to happen during this recession or perhaps eventual depression when so many more young children will be exposed to the stress and quick sand of large scale poverty?

During WWII, children were evacuated from London to the countryside to save them from the brutalities of the forthcoming air strikes. How are we as a society preparing to protect the meekest and most vulnerable of our society: our children?

Was Balfour destined to kill three people when he was born? I don’t think so. It sounds like he was failed by so many people on so many levels and eventually became a cold blooded murderer.

Where could Balfour have been helped before he became a monster? Because although the Hudson family deserves justice, isn’t that justice futile if we don’t begin addressing the larger issues that are causing these violent crimes to proliferate our city?

They were all once children. How can we stop them from becoming murderers?

American Dream

The Troubled Life of William Balfour