• Category Archives US
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  • I just saw Herzl at a bar.

    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl at a bar
    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl at a bar

    I just saw Herzl at a bar.

    You know, Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl.

    At first I thought, oh boy, maybe he’s here to drink away his sorrows, with Israel, the modern state he envisioned, forced to fight, defending itself from Hamas’ barrage of missiles, and from ridicules public opinions, blamed for not being careful enough in its fight against terrorists that use civilians as human shields, and want nothing but  killing all Jews.

    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Drinking Water
    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Drinking Water

    So I looked carefully. All he drank was water. I thought, hey, Benyoomin, you don’t seem so stressed. What are you really thinking about?

    Then he texted a bit. Maybe tweeted. Glanced at me for a split second. Watched a bit of TV. Looked pretty calm. Not as troubled as he was during the Dreyfus Affair. Interesting.

    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Tweeting

    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Tweeting

    So it looks like he’s pretty chill. Maybe it’s something to learn from. What’s on his mind? I tried to imagine what he could be thinking now:

    Israel is a strong state. Innovative and creative, highly educated population, with an amazing infrastructure built over the last 66 years. An army that is considered one of the world’s best. Peace-striving yet strong enough to defend itself against most anything.

    Times are tough, no doubt. Civilian targets being attacked day and night by Hamas. Some, from the UN through the likes of Roger Waters and Barak Obama, show different levels of irrational thinking condemning Israel’s actions, while being blind to the facts and actions of terrorists and organizations that threaten not only Israeli, but western life and culture as a whole.

    But Israelis are tough. Their motivation is aligned with right causes and a strong righteous code of behavior. Being Innovative and strong-willed does and will prevail. Naysayers will eat their hats. This cannot result in anything but Israel winning.

    Well Benji, I agree. Now I know why you’re calm. Just as I considered  to maybe walk over and buy him a round of Pellegrino, he walked out, and I thought to myself, if a man that had such an amazing forward looking ability stays so calm, he must have a reason. He surely knows that there is no other way this will end but with Israel on top.

    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Walking Out Of  a Bar
    Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Walking Out Of a Bar

  • Really Roger? My response to Roger Waters

    This is in response to Roger Waters’  “A note from Roger – July 11, 2014“, and to his overall anti-Israel opinion.

    Really Roger? I’d like to see your reaction if Italians would break into your house and try to butcher your wife Laurie. Or try and shoot your son Jack in his house, or bomb your kids Harry and India’s houses. I’m sure you will say “Hey, it’s fine, Brutus is Britain’s founding father, Italians have the right.” And then when they will poke your eyes out laughing at you while you try to talk sense to them, I’m sure you’ll say “Oh well, it used to be their land after all”. Should Dutch descended Americans justify a Native American trying to scalp them in their home because they were there first? Mexicans bomb Texas at will? I’m sure you loved the IRA killing Brits. Really Roger?

    You are naive Roger. I’m sure you are a good man by heart. But I’m also sure you try to use common sense to analyze Hamas and co.. A big mistake. You assume these terrorists think like you. Can you use your common sense talking with a fanatic suicide bomber? Or a person who brainwashed a teenager to be a suicide bomber? Telling him 72 virgins will wait for him in heaven? Did Americans understood the Kamikaze in Pearl Harbor? Do you justify the fanatics that crashed their plains into US civilian targets on Sep 11 2001 or the ones that bombed London targets on July 7 2005?

    Let me quote from Wikipedia one of the London bomber’s:

    ‘Tanweer argued that the non-Muslims of Britain deserve such attacks because they voted for a government which “continues to oppress our mothers, children, brothers and sisters in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya.” ‘

    So you do you oppose British security profiling and taking action against these terrorists because you think that their cause is justified? This is what Israel is doing. Trying to prevent terror. Israel’s official stand, and the vast majority (there are always exceptions) of its citizens would love to live in peace, and they tried to do so for many years, unlike Hamas and co. Israeli forces are doing their best to prevent civilians getting hurt. You believe Israel should not strive to secure the safety of its citizens? Really Roger?

    Dear Roger. You sit in your $20M house in England and do a white board analysis of a situation you do not understand. I wish that you had the opportunity to talk to one of the terrorist that bombed the Boston Marathon and try to understand from him why he did it, try to convince him it is wrong. You’ll be frustrated by feeling you are talking to a brick wall. I feel for you Roger. They say ignorance is a bliss, but you have too much exposure in this world to show off your ignorance as you do. And your opinions? You are as fanatic as these terrorists, your messages shows you do not try to understand the situation, but rather blindly try to prove a point you dug yourself  into, not trying to understand the situation.

    London has the risk of becoming an extremist Islamic city in the near future. You might think it will never happen. Ask my mother. She and her uncle are the only family survivals of extremists. The vast majority of her Polish-Jewish family did not survive the holocaust. Other than her, her “crazy” uncle that foresaw the future and left to Israel was the only survivor. She was raised as Christian by the family house maid until she was ten, and bought back by her uncle (yes, he paid to get her). You were blessed with easy life Roger (in comparison, so did I). I tip my hat to your success and I’m sure it required hard work, but the fact that my kids can enjoy the Dark Side of the Moon, is due to the fact that my uncle was smart enough to see the trend and save himself and my mother. You read the world wrong Roger. Very wrong. People will die. People are dying. Innocent people. And not the ones you try to protect.

    This should not even be called a conflict. This is Israel trying to prevent terrorism. I don’t think you support terrorism. If I’m mistaken and you do support it, you are part of the problem the world is facing. I hope you’re not.

    Israelis are of the most innovative and entrepreneurial people you can find. They want nothing to do with killing any Arabs. Israelis do not want to spend any time nor effort defending themselves. Of course you’ll find exception, there’s always a crazy person shooting at school because he doesn’t like Mondays (thank you Bob), it doesn’t reflect on the whole population.  Israelis have to defend themselves, they do it out of necessity.

    Serving in the army for a mandatory 3 years (2 years for women), serving in reserve for what is for most a month out of every year, risking life and spending so much precious time because of the need to defend Israel from suicide bombers that target civilizes, from kidnappers and murderers of kids, from barbaric lunatics that brutally kill anyone who think other than them (including their own if they are gay, abused women or anyone who doesn’t agree to be their human shield or is not a Muslim). You really think Israelis shouldn’t defend themselves? Really Roger?

    I don’t expect you to admit you’re wrong. To a man like you who has experienced so much success and feels so powerful, the public humiliation of admitting you are wrong would be devastating to you at this point. Maybe softly toning down will be best. But please stop showing everyone, especially fans of your great musical creations, how you so miserably fail in understanding life. Get out of the Dark Side Roger, and into the light. We want to remember you for what you did best, not what you show us now you do worst.


    Bibi Netaniahu
    I was never a big fan of Bibi, but this sentence does capture the situation nicely.

  • Forgive me consumer for I have sinned

    The story is simple. We were in NYC, and needed a restroom stop. Starbucks was just in front of us (try to find a place in the US that you don’t have one in front of you), so we stepped in.

    I was waiting and was thirsty, plus I felt that I need to buy something as we were after all using “the facilities”.

    I’m not a big fan of Starbucks coffee, to phrase it gently, so I was looking at the cold drinks and saw the Cool Lime Refresher. Sounded good, and I was thirsty, so I ordered the large one, which had an outrageous price tag of $4.45, but I figured that for a good refreshing drink and a brief use of the plumbing I’ll for once bite the bullet and pay the price. Plus tax. And waiting in line.

    While waiting between a Grande Latte suit and a Tall Mocha Light Frappuccino brunette I watched the dedicated employee making my Cool Lime Refresher, not expecting a gilded rim and a carbon nanotube straw but at least a drink made of something that looks like it’s worth the money.

    Ha. This is what happened next: Into the not-that-huge cup the young-and-restless loyal Starbuckhipster  poured a concentrated liquid out of a carton, added some ice cubes, topped it with, no, not freshly spring water from the melting snow of the Upper Peninsula but with NYC’s own tap water, stirred a bit, threw in a slice of lime to make it look au natural and placed a good plastic lid over it.

    I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe some fresh lime juice? Something that looks like an effort to make a real drink for $4.45? Like a virgin cocktail? I guess I’m naive.

    But I paid.  So why do I say  forgive me consumer for I have sinned? Because by the act of  me buying that drink for that price I legitimize the price point, so I need to apologize to my fellow consumers for buying a (maybe) $1 drink for $4.45. So I said a few Hail Marys (being an atheist that was born Jewish it might seem a bit strange though) and I promise I’ll never buy it again.

    Though we did use the facilities.


  • Sears anyone?

    I’ve been a Sears customer for many many years. I even liked them, especially for tools. Now let me tell you how this all changed a hundred and eighty degrees.


    Yesterday around noon I was home  and discovered that my water heater broke. Water was flowing nicely, there was no question about it – it’s the water heater. It was manufactured less than 8 years ago with a 9 years warranty for the product. A no-brainer, it’s under warranty.

    Sears bad service
    Sears bad service.


    On the water heater there are nice big stickers, one stating the 9 years limited warranty (no labor after the first year, only parts) and one showing a toll free phone number to call. So I called.


    After a “short” ten minutes with hold music, I got a heavy accented rep, and explained the situation. He said, oh, this is not the water heater department, let me transfer you.  I was immediately transferred to the hearing aid customer service, listening to music on hold again. Can they hear it if they call for service? Anyway, after a few minutes on hold I tried pressing “0” to get an operator to transfer me to the correct department, and got disconnected promptly.


    So I called again. I’ll cut it short here in sake of you the reader, and get to the point where, after another half an hour, I actually spoke to someone in the water heater department. I explained the situation. The response: “No problem, we need to schedule a technician that will come and check that the heater is really broken, and the earliest is tomorrow between 1-5″.  I said “what? I need this replaced today!” Again, I’ll skip the long talk and say they wouldn’t budge. I said, OK  let’s schedule this first, before you’ll tell me it will take even longer.


    Then I asked what will be the cost for Sears to replace it after the inspection. The answer? First, the rep said, you will be charged $79 for the inspection, and the replacement labor will cost you additional $299.99.


    Stop, I said. You mean that in order for Sears to honor the warranty, I have to pay $79? The rep said “no, it’s the trip charge”. I replied that I don’t want to pay it, I have my plumber that approve that it’s the water heater, he can bring it to the store for them to inspect when he will come to pick up the replacement. “No sir, we have to send a technician first to verify it is broken.” And I have to pay for that? I asked to speak to a supervisor. “We don’t have one available, I can ask one to call you back when he’s available”. When will that be? I asked. “Tomorrow” was the answer. “And you’ll pay for me to go shower in a hotel?” I responded.


    I kept trying. I got two reps to hang up on me when I insisted to talk to a supervisor or a manager about it. I also spoke to one rep that assure me I will not be charged for the “inspection” but after I asked for his name and rep ID, and that he’ll put a note under my account that I will not be charged, he suddenly “checked” and said I will be charged $79. Ah, yes….


    Eventually, around 7pm, after trying everything from calling to online chatting on the Sears service website which is completely pointless (all they do is give you phone number to call, they don’t answer any question), I called it a day. So a technician is scheduled to come the next day between 1-5 “and he will call before to give you a better time frame to when he’ll come” they said.


    So this morning I called again and asked to talk to a supervisor or manager. “not available to take you call”. Are they ever? Eventually through online chat (remember, they give you phone numbers to call, it’s like a 411 for sears, maybe they should call it Sears 411) I got a number for “retail customer care” 800-549-4505 option #5. I called.


    After a short wait (really, this time it was short) I got a very nice lady (Miranda) that said she understand but needs to put me in touch with someone from that department – I begged her to not just transfer me, so she promised she’s going to conference them in and stay on the line. And She did! Amazing!


    So, Miranda, John and I were cheerfully chatting about my situation. I explained – I have a product under warranty that is broken. I need it replaced. I don’t want to be charged $79 for Sears to honor the warranty. The warranty does no say that I need to pay $79 for it to be honored. John tried to argue a bit, but hey, that’s his job. After a few more minutes of me repeating my argument they both found safe haven in the dreadful answer we all know “sir, it’s the policy and we can’t change it”. Hmm…I guess that is the law of the land! So I requested an official complaint to be filed. I stayed on the line with Miranda while she wrote the complaint and we parted as friends.


    At 1pm I was still waiting for a call from the tech to tell me when he’s coming over (“between 1-5”), so I called. Surprisingly I was on hold for only a few seconds. Wow!  For the 13th time I repeated my phone number, and then my name and address for them to make sure it’s me and that they know where I live. I asked about the technician “we don’t have this information, but I’ll send him a message to call you before he’s heading over”.


    At 4:07Pm the guy shows up without calling first. He was nice, Orson.  I took him down to the basement. He said “what’s up” I said “it’s leaking” he bent a bit, pulled the cover off, said “yep, you see the rim is wet? It’s the water heater leaking.” Wow! He should change his name to Sherlock! He was actually nice, and knew exactly what I was referring to with the service and the $79 charge, and then he nicely asked me for a check or credit card.


    So $79? It’s actually $84.53 with the tax. “Verify Tank Leak” $79. “Tax on Labor” $5.53. This is for Sears to honor the warranty. Nothing else was done.


    You think this is over, right? Too much to read already? And I skipped a lot… well, it’s not over yet.


    The tech says that no I have to call Sears to get an authorization number and store availability. He was on the phone with them to tell them that he verified it, but I have to call too. I asked him to wait and I called.


    Hold music…a rep answered…”I’m not from that department, I’m transferring you” Hold music…eventually Keisha answered. She needs to process it, please call again in 10 minutes. “WHAT?” It takes more than 10 minutes for you to answer when I call. “We can call you back in 10 minutes”. OK, please give me your rep ID # “ I can’t do that sir, that’s personal information” Hmmm…isn’t that the reason you have a rep ID #, so I don’t get your full name? Well, Keisha gave me a case reference number and said they’ll call me back in 10 minutes. “it’s 4:32pm no Keisha, I’m waiting for a call by 4:42. Before hanging up I asked her “how much will it be for the labor if I want Sears to do it today” just to verify it’s $299.99 as they told me. Well, the answer was $344 and they can’t do it today, too late. Unbelievable.


    At 4:50 I called them again. Hold music…hold music…hold music…a rep answered. My phone number. Name. Address. “I was promised a call back with the authorization number”. Sir, we don’t call back. Great, can you give me the authorization number? Sir, you only called half an hour ago, it takes at least two hours to process. WHAT? Let me talk to a supervisor or a manager. “None are here”. Are you there alone? In the dark? It’s cold? I insisted to talk to a manager.  After a few minutes of me explaining the facts of life to her, and she insisting it takes two hours and there’s no manager on site or anywhere in the known universe, she said “let me put you on hold for a minute and check”. Two minutes later she came back with an authorization number for the store and the store to pick it up from. Hmmm….two hours…no manager…I guess that is kinda proven false.

    So…I got my plumber to pick it up from the store. Amazingly it was smooth. It’s already installed, for $250 including everything. I will still fight Sears about the $84.53 inspection charge. Good luck to me.


    I know where I will not buy a water heater at anymore.  I’m not sure about anything else either. Shame.

  • Small businesses

    This is a comment I posted to this article:  “Small businesses: Obama worse than Lehman collapse

    I live in north east NJ. All you have to do is drive around and see how many stores are empty with a “for rent” sign on them. You can do as many interpretations of the statistical information,  try to extract conclusions out of them and analyze the situation, or just open your eyes and see what is really happening.

    Small businesses are getting crushed between no spending and no support to keep them afloat. Despite Obama’s promises over 4 years ago (during his first campaign) that loans will become available for small business, the reality is that it is virtually impossible for a small business to get a loan. What was done to help small businesses since he was elected?  If something was done, I can’t see the results, for sure not around here.

    The proof is in the no-pudding. Small businesses are closing left and right, and the fiscal cliff will accelerate it even more. Whatever Obama was and is doing to date results in a lot of empty commercial spaces. Analyze that.

  • The Fall of the Nation

    In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, an overused and abused phrase by now, I came to realize something that’s been lurking in my mind for quite a while now. We are going downhill. When I say we,  I mean the USA, though in many ways this is true of many other nations, but since I live here in the US, specifically in the torn down and ripped apart eastern part of New Jersey, I am most concerned about the US of A.

    I’ve been pointing  it out for a while, in many different ways, referring to many different subjects. Customer service, quality of products, integrity of elected officials, medical insurance, cost of living, national debt, even the way the president talks, all not only going from bad to worse, but the rate of deterioration is increasing.

    Last year’s storm left me without power for a week. The temperature inside my house was close to freezing. I was better off leaving my refrigerator door open than closed. My basement was flooded as the sump pump ran out of juice with the long power outage. Cars stretched in long lines to refuel and you couldn’t get bottled water anywhere. Roads were blocked for days, power lines were tangling loose ended in some locations for over two weeks… I was sure this will be an eye opener to the authorities of what needs to be done in order to prepare for such events. Oh how naïve I was.

    Here comes Sandy. Yes, a very strong storm, blah blah blah. I was here during the storm. Very strong winds in our area. Some rain, but not enough to flood anything here (lucky us). Temperatures were high enough to go outside in a t-shirt to check things. So the real factor was only wind in my area.

    In my neighborhood, at least in a radius of 100-200 houses around my house, there were no major trees or branches that fell down. We were lucky.  Travel a little further and you see trees, big branches and utility polls that crashed down – but not as bad as the storm the previous year, or the storm two years before.

    Yet, the whole area surrounding my house was without power from Monday evening to Friday evening.

    Lines to gas stations, the few that were open in the days after the storm, were longer than ever before. Some stations limited gas to only handheld containers, with lines of hundreds of people standing, under sporadic rain and windy conditions, to buy gas for their generators and cars.

    I stopped my car looking at this scene of people on foot waiting in line for gas, seeing it with my own eyes, yet finding it hard to believe what I see. Where and when are we? The old pictures of bread lines in Russia during the war were my immediate reaction.

    Hurricane Sandy aftermath - a line for gas in NJ
    Hurricane Sandy aftermath – a line for gas in NJ

    This morning of Election Day, 8 days after the storm, I waited in line for gas for half an hour and had to drive away, not even half way to the gas station. And I’m at an area that had it easy. Staten Island, Toms River, Breezy Point and many more were and are still in a much worse situation.

    I find it a shame and a disgrace that the USA government is not capable of getting prepared for such events. From power lines that snap every time it’s a little windy to insufficient or no flood protection to the shoreline, from no contingency plan for gas shortage to insufficient crews to clear blocked roads – as I see it, these are all a reflection of how the nation is falling apart.

    The country that planned missions to space, covering unpredicted scenarios and successfully putting man in space and on the moon, with leaders that established forward looking laws as the US constitution, structuring a foundation that holds to this day. Where are these achievements today? It’s not that Americans are not as smart, creative or capable of hard work as they were in the past. Ideas and creativity and motivation to succeed are probably stronger than ever. But leadership? I find this is the missing part.

    I read in a TIME magazine a quote of the US philosopher Mortimer Adler:

    “In Aristotelian terms, the good leader must have ethos, pathos and logos. The ethos is his moral character, the source of his ability to persuade. The pathos is his ability to touch feelings, to move people emotionally. The logos is his ability to give solid reasons for an action, to move people intellectually.”

    Can you see these three simple definitions in any of the current elected officials? My personal opinion – the only one that can touch that, is New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg. The two presidential candidates? Eh…no.

    I watched the debates. Both candidates and both VP candidates were a far cry from earning my respect. How do you consciously vote for a president when your criterion for choosing him is that he’s not as worse as his opponent?  Yes, I’m not voting today.

    And this trickles down to the lower ranks in the government, local authorities and the private sector, creating a situation that weakens the nation, hurt our quality of life, and a change in that trend seems impossible with the current mindset and structure of the US leadership.

    I can write dozens of pages about the subject, but my point will be the same. I don’t see how the election results today are going to have a substantial effect on the downslope we slide on as a country. We need change. I can’t say I have the answers, but neither candidate seem to have them either. And that’s their job which I find hard to believe they can perform.

    How do we turn this horror movie to one with a happy ending?

  • Democracy?

    I don’t like politics. My writing here is for the sole reason of thinking about democracy as it is practiced today.

    So, Obaden or Mcalin? Election shmelection… Who determines it? Let me make some assumptions here…

    My first and most important assumption would be that over 90% of voters do not know much about the guy they vote for. When I say don’t know much, I am very gentle.

    My guesstimate about eligible US voters’ knowledge:

    10%-15% can’t name the 4 main presidential and VP candidates.

    20%-30% can’t associate the candidates to their party

    40%-50% never read or heard the views or issues statements of the candidates.

    80%-90% did not read at least 10 issues and plans for their presidency of neither candidate.

    Let’s face it – most people get their knowledge (or lack of) from hearsay, mostly what they hear form colleagues, friends, family etc, which is many times already a second or third hand information….

    They also get bits and pieces they heard on TV/radio/newspaper, that are in most cases incomplete, biased, maybe interviews with celebrities that were brought to shows as Real Time with Bill Maher (nothing against the show, on the contrary) for entertainment purposes, but their sometimes humoristic views, on a stage like that, seed many minds with very unrealistic ideas. “It was on TV” so it must be true.

    Or take online videos, as the Obama births certificate questioning http://willnevergiveup.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/lawsuit5/

    the 2008 wassup youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq8Uc5BFogE (almost 4 million views)

    McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEtZlR3zp4c (over 8 million views)

    And almost 13 million viewers of Dear Mr. Obama http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4fe9GlWS8

    Over 11 million views of Yes We Can – Barack Obama Music Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY

    For sure, more people saw these and similar online videos than read the McCain and Obama views and plans. Of course, all of these are great, freedom of expressing views and opinions, the foundations of democracy.

    But is it right to vote by only seeing these incomplete biased and inaccurate opinions? If you say nah, people don’t take it seriously, you are very wrong. As an example, these fake videos of cell phones causing corn to pop into popcorn got countless people all over the world to try it (was originally done as advertisement for and Israeli headset manufacturer…). Of course it is not real…

    Or should I mention lonelygirl15 on youtube? (New Zealand actress that for a long time was believed by many to be a real story). The list is long. People take written and over the TV information as granted. Even hearsay from friends is used over and over again, usually in a very “creative” way after a few times (ever played “phone”?…).

    So, after I establish this issue of lack of knowledge, or knowledge based on inaccurate or incomplete information, let me ask the radical question…

    Yes, it is a democracy, but should everyone have the right to vote?

    Ha, dangerous ground. That’s the essence of democracy, everyone can influence…

    But maybe you should be pre-qualified? Maybe, in order to vote, you should pass a test showing you know at least the basic information about who you’re voting for? Name, party, five to ten major points of view?

    Radical? Let’s take a non democratic organization as the army. Why isn’t it a democracy? Because you can not take the time and risk of having a vote during combat, sure. But also because not every soldier has the ability to make the right decisions because of lack of knowledge, experience and ability to be a commander (call it talent?).

    So there are qualified people who make the decision. They are being scrutinized, they pay for their mistakes, but they have the power to make the decisions for their troops because they have the know-how to do it.

    Take business. It is not a democracy. There is usually one or a group of people who decide. If they are qualified, the company has a good chance of succeeding, if they are not, well, then not…

    My point? Just to make us think. Will you let a 3 year old chose who will be the next president? So why let someone with hardly any knowledge about it vote?


  • Power outages

    We have PSE&G here, I also have experience with ConEdison (NYC).  Same. The system is lousy. The service is lousy. Prices are high.

    In our area, all power lines are up on the poles, nothing is in the ground. Every time there’s a storm or strong wind trees and branches are falling. Every time they cut power lines, and there are power outages, blackouts or brownouts. Then it takes them sometimes days to get it fixed, stop traffic for hours or days, fire trucks, police, the whole shebang…

    Burry those wires in the ground! To make it easier, every time a section is damaged, burry instead of fixing it as is. Or do the whole thing as one big project, but do something…

    Unlike in newer cities, where planning of the utilities was done before the houses were there, this old infrastructure of hanging all the wires in the air (so ugly) has been added in many cases after many of the houses were built, and has been there for decades.

    Time to change!