Posted by: raoulfelder | September 7, 2010

The Empire State Building & Mother Teresa

The owners of the Empire State Building refuse to honor Mother Teresa, but saw no problem with honoring with lights on Bastille Day, Frank Sinatra, Fay Wray (she is the actress who was wrestling with a monkey on top of the Empire State Building), Queen Elizabeth, the Knicks, the Rangers, the Belmont Stakes, Rutgers’ womens’ basketball team, Microsoft Windows 95 and The Simpson’s Movie. But they have no time for Mother Teresa.

The Lord put 10 plagues on Eqypt. Number 8 was a plague of locusts.

Three weekends ago the press reported that there was an infestation of bedbugs in the Empire State Building that began in the mens’ locker room.

The 9th plague was darkness.

In the morning’s paper last weekend, there was a report that the city council approved the building of a 1250′ high skyscraper near the Empire State Building. It would throw its shadow over the Empire State Building.

The moral is: Don’t mess with Mother Teresa, she has another 8 plagues up her sleeve.

Address at a rally at the Empire State Building
August 26, 2010

Posted by: raoulfelder | August 2, 2010

The ‘make woman disposable’ law

  As goes the effort at social commentary sired by Cahn/vanHeusen by way of Frank Sinatra,

         Love and marriage, love and marriage

         Goes together like a horse and carriage,

    But sometimes people want to shoot the horse and burn the carriage, which is what Governor Patterson is about to do with a stroke of his pen.

    A new divorce bill has passed both houses of what can charitably be described as our state legislature. It only waits the virtually (this time a back room deal did not even have to be made) assured blessing of our governor to become law. The law will make it easier to get out of a marriage than out of a magazine subscription.  

    One spouse, usually the husband, has merely to sign an affidavit that his marriage has irretrievably broken down. Since it takes two to tango or at least to agree that it has not broken down, the couple are – give or take a few legal papers (for which, undoubtedly the lawyers will be generously paid) – divorced. In time, the law may come to be called The Lawyer’s Relief Act Of 2010.

    All the descriptions of the law make it sound good and modern.  But is it really? It is a bit similar to a description given, in another context by John Randolph of Roanoke, [It is] like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shined and stunk. The law, as hyped, glitters, glimmers and shimmers but when examined closely, is odiferous.

    This law would permit an older, long married and rich man to unceremoniously dump his wife. Sure, for being thrown under the bus, she will receive money, perhaps lots of money. But money is a peculiar commodity. The more you have of it, the cheaper it is to you. And with all the impedimenta of science, its practitioners have still not been able to effectuate the transmogrification of money into the lost years of a woman’s life.

     At the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, women would lose all power to obtain a better settlement from a husband who has a similar emotional attachment to his wife similar to that which he enjoys with an empty, crumpled package of cigarettes he tosses into a waste basket.

    The law will surely raise the divorce rate since the human condition is such that if you allow something to be done with less difficulty than previously, more people will do it. Result: more disposable women.

        The proponents of the law point to the fact that New York is the only state to require grounds for divorce. There never was a worse reason for a law than everybody else has one. This may be a reason to buy a new necktie, dress or computer, but not for something that will affect the lives of, ultimately millions of people. Justice Holmes used the word “revolting” to describe this kind of decision-making.   

     What about the fact that after thirty years of taking a contrary position, the women’s bar associations now, like Paul on the road to Damascus who saw the light of the Lord, suddenly realize that the present law prevents suffering women from obtaining a divorce? Nonsense! There are presently five “fault” grounds for divorce and additionally a “non-fault” ground.

There are, of course, “good” divorces, ones that should take place and that are appropriate on both a societal and personal basis. But divorce is not nor was meant to be a remedy for ennui, boredom or the desire to trade a spouse in for a newer model.

        For the last two thousand years, marriage has been treated as a societal good and divorce a state of grace not to be desired. Jesus taught, “Let those who are for putting away their wives consider what would become of themselves, if God dealt with them in a like manner.” Still sounds like pretty good advice!

                                                                             Raoul Felder

                                                                             “The Good Divorce”

                                                                             Pub. date January 2011

                                                                             St. Martins Press

Posted by: raoulfelder | May 6, 2010

MOTHER’S DAY

Mothers travel the landscape of life starting as the centerpiece of our lives to becoming the butts of jokes (in the history of the world were there ever father-in-law jokes?), to becoming a final way station on the road to endless nothingness: a place where grown children make obligatory visits with squalling broods of grandchildren in tow on occasional Sunday afternoons (unless it is good golf weather). As a young medical student, working in an innercity hospital, I was surprised at the number of women in labor, who cried out for their mothers in an assortment of languages – never a husband, lover or father. And yet, from Kipling (If I were damned of body and soul/ I know whose prayers would make me whole /) to Georgie Jessel (God’s gift from above/ A real unselfish love/), to the drivel contained in a million Mother’s Day cards, whose purchase sadly, is usually nothing more than an inexpensive assuage of guilt where she is praised and raised to sanitized sainthood.

The law protects children from unfit mothers, but short of that they can come in all sizes and temperaments, good and bad and even some who are lousy cooks.

Although, it may be true that the ghost of every judge’s mother walks the courthouse corridors, the law, in its “majesty equality” treats her as an equal with fathers in matters of custody. Unfortunately, equality is often a step downward. Obviously, there are mothers whose temperament, sanity or judgment would render them unfit to mother a Pekinese. But there are also fathers who use the threat of a custody fight as a kind of Vergeltung Waffen to terrorize a mother into not pursuing the alimony, maintenance or child support to which she would be otherwise entitled.

Until the scientists are able to replace the years of a mother’s life devoted to her children in the same currency of time, money itself is a cheap and paltry currency…particularly if a man has a lot of it.

Researchers, in their quest to reduce things to scientific equations believe that the love between mother and child is the result of a complex cocktail of hormones, Oxytocin, Prolactin, endorphins, Pregnenolone and assorted chemical relatives. But that still does not explain those birthing women in the hospital crying for their mothers, nor a mother’s toil year after year, nor the self-sacrifices, nor the doing withouts. So, until these things can be explained away by chemistry, I’ll tell my kids to keep buying Mother’s Day cards, trite and awful of expression they may be.

Posted by: raoulfelder | April 13, 2009

Untitled

          There is nobody this side of a lunatic asylum that could have a kind word or thought about Bernard Madoff. He has indiscriminately destroyed the remainder of many people’s lives, made wastes of the earlier parts of their lives wherein they worked and saved for a financially secure old age that will now never happen, and ruined many of the proud unique hallmarks of our American civilization: our communal efforts to help the lives of others by supporting and sustaining vast numbers of organized charities. To be fair, he has also hurt people who sacrificed caution on the altar of their own greed. Bill Clinton said, “If something looks too good to be true, it usually is.”

          Newspapers have run headlines like, “Burn in Hell” and people publically compete with each other to suggest punishments, each one more barbarous than the other.

          Presently, Madoff is confined to a small cell under conditions that compared to those the terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay enjoy should make them think that they have arrived at the Pearly Gates, or wherever it is they believe to be their last deserved resting place. Madoff is even denied the right to read, and since this presumably includes the Bible, denies him the right to religious conversion – a state of grace for which my fellow co-religionists and I wish would occur as soon as possible.

          It is easy, in a society founded on the Judeo-Christian principles of compassion, redemption and forgiveness to extend these virtues to socially acceptable and attractive individuals. It is much harder to do so with parasitic lice like the Madoffs of the world. To hold out a hand to a hungry child is commendable, self-satisfying and comfortable. However, to treat Madoff not with mercy, but in a way that allows him to undermine the better angels of our nature, does more to harm us as human beings than he could ever do, and in the last analysis, makes him and others like him, the winners.        

 

Posted by: raoulfelder | March 25, 2008

OBAMA’S SPEECH, AND EXPERIENCE

   

 By Raoul Felder

          Like senior citizens stampeding into a restaurant for the Early Bird Special, commentators are falling all over each other in trying to declare that the Obama speech on race was the best speech since the Gettysburg Address, or at least since their Bar Mitzvah speeches, usually begun, “Today I am a fountain pen …” or perhaps now it should read “computer.”   

          The speech, however, was brilliant for a different reason.  He gave a speech about race when race was not the issue.  It would be like President Bush addressing Congress and making a speech about crabgrass.            

         The issue was Obama’s nitwit pastor.  His sermons – inconveniently for him (and Obama) videotaped – ran the spectrum from hateful “Goddam the United States” to the ridiculous – America caused the AIDS epidemic, to declaring that the Government was the cause of 9/11.  Although Obama claimed he never actually heard the preacher say these disgusting words, it was rapidly becoming absurd for him to continue in that position, given the fact the pastor was his spiritual advisor, married him, baptized his children, counseled with him, and made these remarks to many thousands of people in his audience.  The conservative press (as few as they may be), and conservative commentators were closing in.  It was only a question of time before people would turn up who were sitting in the audience with him while the pastor was spewing his idiosyncrasies.  He arrived at a brilliant solution – make a speech about something else before the rug is pulled out from under him and he would have to do a Spitzer. 
 

           The problem is that today race is not really a problem in America.  The President of the largest entertainment conglomerate in America – Time Warner – is an African American, so is America’s leading talk show host.  The highest non-elective post in America, Secretary of State, is filled by an African American who, incidentally, replaced another African American. All of this is not to mention that Obama himself has astounding popularity and has a lead in being his party’s nominee for President.   

            Obama has successfully, by his speech, deflected attention from a potentially lethal blow which reflects on a real issue – his judgment.          

            Obama seems to make a keystone issue that the major difference between he and Hillary is that he was opposed to the Iraq War from the start.  So what!  So was our brother-in-law.  And neither he nor Obama was in the Senate at the time to vote for or against the War, and who knows what they would have done if they had all the information available to them as Senators.

            Hillary says she is the candidate of experience because of her time in the White House.  Experience doing what?  Arranging flowers (as her recently released records revealed)?  Experience being one step ahead of the Sheriff?  Her just released records revealed that she was upstairs in the White House, while her husband was getting “Lewinskied” downstairs.   Some person might ask the uncharitable question: How is she going to figure out what’s going on in the rest of the world, when she could not figure out what was going on downstairs in her own house? 

          The real question is: In a country that has so many talented people of all races and religions, in varying sizes, from giants to midgets, how did we end up with these two duds?

Posted by: raoulfelder | February 13, 2008

Some Pieces of Our Minds

Raoul Lionel Felder

           In all of the thousands of photographs of Hillary on the campaign trail she always appears wearing trousers – not even one photograph with her wearing a skirt.  Not a peep on the subject from any commentator or member of the media.  Yet, if on a particularly steamy day campaigning in Florida or Georgia, Senator McCain wore a skirt, it would be the major story on every media outlet.  Is this fair?

            There was, rightfully, outrage when an MSNBC commentator referred to Mrs. Clinton as “pimping” out her daughter.  The comment was disgusting beyond disgusting, but the point attempted to be made, while foul in its expression, might be valid in its underlying concept.  The exploitive use of a particular person in a way where that individual’s personae is connected to a cause when the person’s views or expertise is unilluminating or irrelevant on the issues, is worthy of note, in an appropriate manner (as opposed to what was done on MSNBC).  Chelsea Clinton was paraded about not because of anything she could offer by way of sagacity in foreign or domestic affairs.  Let us be frank: she was on the tour because it pointed out Hillary’s non-robotic side – that she also is a mother – something that hopefully would resonate with other mothers.

            But to be fair: They all do this.  The Edwards campaign exploited Mrs. Edwards’ cancer.  President Bush had his half-Latino Spanish-speaking nephew working his campaign in areas where his speaking Spanish and his ethnicity would help him.  Celebrity endorsements are just another – perhaps more remote – manifestation of this same sort of campaign strategy.

           All of this is fair game for comment IF the commentary is couched in appropriate and non-offensive language.  Worse would be a paralyzing fear that frightens us into silence – even when it involves legitimate observations.

           Obama has run a brilliant campaign, is a mesmerizing speaker, and has captured the yearnings and hopes of millions of people.  He has transcended, in his appeal, race, ethnicity, age and sex.  But the fact is that he is experienced in running no enterprise and yet seeks to run the largest enterprise in the world.  He is virtually inexperienced in government, domestic and certainly foreign policy – all of which should be at the heart of any president’s expertise – and yet the same could really be said of Lincoln, and to some degree Franklin Roosevelt.  But somewhere, somehow, what Churchill referred to as “a little mouse of thought” must be considered: That is, if Obama were white, given his lack of experience, he would not be in the lead for his party’s nomination for President of the United States. 

           Commentators should have the intellectual honesty to note this, as well as the fact that it might be, in effect, a good thing.  His candidacy, with all of his lack of experience stands as a stark contrast and home for those people who are fed up, or, to be charitable, disenchanted with Washington’s business-as-usual, and the usual group of subjects simply playing musical chairs in the running of this country.  Credit must also be given him for not claiming experience when it does not really exist – which is precisely what Hillary Clinton has done.  Her experience basically has been to sleep with the President (hardly a unique claim – at least for females under eighty years of age in the Washington area), become an enabler for the President to carry on with his extra-marital activities and, as all first ladies, arrange for the catering of State dinners – hardly fitting the job description for a President.

           Nobody mentions the fact that senators, of both parties run for president and ask us for our support, money, effort and loyalty.  But yet these same senators do not have enough faith in their own cause to quit their day job and leave the senate.  Putting aside the fact that if they are running for president, they cannot put in full time to do their jobs in the Senate (for which we pay them), why should we have faith in them and give them our money when they hedge their bets?   Would it not make more sense to say to them, “When you show me you believe in yourself and your cause to the extent you give up your other job, then we will support you”?  Is there any business where you can say to your boss, “Keep paying me my full salary for two years while I spend my time looking for another job”?

Posted by: raoulfelder | February 8, 2008

Give Me Halloween

by Raoul Felder

Oh, what’s love got to do, got to do with it,What’s love but a second-hand emotion.

Tina Turner

Valentine’s Day is about romantic love: gushing, vibrant, tender, heartbreaking, heart pounding, pulse quickening, knee weakening, lump-in-your-throat-can’t-eat-or-sleep love. If you really want to know about love, ask me. I am a divorce lawyer.

Putting aside the kind of love that results from a train wreck of crashing hormones (best confined to the backseats of Chevrolets), and the purest of loves – familial, parental or grandparental – the love they sell the cards about, is the product of habit or fear – or both.

Habit: Human beings follow Newton’s First Law:Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. In Sheldon Harnick’s lyric, Tevya asks Goldie:

Do you love me?

Goldie: Do I love you?For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes,Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,Given you children, milked the cow…For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him,Fought him, starved with him,Twenty-five years, my bed is his,If that’s not love, what is?

No less an authority on the subject than I, Jackie Mason points out that the only two questions answered by a number are about marriage or prison sentences (some might arguably make a connection between the two). He points out that if you ask a man if he liked a steak, or a particular movie, he will not hesitate to answer “Yes” or “No”. Ask the same man if he is happily married, and the likely answer is a shrug of the shoulders and “25 years.”

Fear of: Being alone, dying alone, being able to get the laundry done, bringing up the children, poverty, fear itself.

There are things worse than being old and alone: To be old together, filled with hate, or worse, indifference – two sexless lumps, staring across the truce line of a morning breakfast table waiting for the other to die, or having to attend a dribbling, feeble and ruined carcass of a memory.

The institutionalization of romantic love is, of course, marriage — but marriage in America is a failed institution. The usual statistic is one out of three marriages end in divorce. But if you add the married couples who live apart (for which there are no reliable statistics), and those slugging it out in court (who have not yet become statistics), and the really big Number: People who are simply unhappy, but stay together “for the children” or for economic reasons, “We two shall be lapt together in a five-percent exchequer bond.” (Eliot), the relevant number – the marriage failure rate – must be in excess of 50%. There is no product in the world (except perhaps commercial Xerox machines) that have a 50% breakdown rate and are still in business.

The underlying problem may be that monogamy is a learned societal trout. Out of 4,000 mammalian species, only a handful are monogamous. These include beavers and a couple of other rodents – hardly desirable bedmates.

Valentine’s Day, humbug! Give me a holiday with real meaning, like Halloween.

Posted by: raoulfelder | February 4, 2008

CAMELOT OR A CESSPOOL?

By Raoul Felder

           The Kennedys recently endorsed Barack Obama, and Teddy Kennedy drew a parallel with President Kennedy – a vision of a new Camelot rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of the Bush Administration. Either he was addressing the largest group of amnesiacs ever gathered in one place in history or the media and much of America has been eating funny mushrooms and is in the throes of a mass delusion.

           Back to reality: The late President Kennedy bears responsibility for the initiation of one of the bleakest episodes in modern American history – the Vietnamese War. Only because Khrushchev had more common sense than he, did we avoid an enormous catastrophe. After the fall of the Soviet Union, when the Russians’ secret files were opened, we learned (among other bits of knowledge, such as the fact that the Rosenbergs were indeed Russian atomic spies) that there were functioning, deployed, short- and mid-range atomic missiles in Cuba. If we ever, as threatened, tried to land troops directly after the Bay of Pigs debacle on Cuban shores, our troops would have been slaughtered – one missile, thousands of Americans annihilated. This is all not to mention that the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs was authorized by President Kennedy himself, and then he left the Cuban patriots out to dry by withholding promised air support.

          Many of Kennedy’s private and cabinet sessions were secretly recorded; and many years later, one of these recordings from the time of the Bay of Pigs episode reveals Kennedy musing that for a President to go down in history he has to have a war. “Where would Lincoln be without the Civil War?” A cynic might therefore suggest that Kennedy’s trip to the brink of a nuclear holocaust was not the result of his inexperience but, rather, it had a more selfish origin. On the domestic front, he accomplished little, and his promises had to be delivered by President Johnson. He did, however, inaugurate the White House revolving door policy as far as women were concerned, and even in this area it needed a subsequent President (Clinton) to bring it to a point of perfection.

           The other members of the Kennedy bunch are also hardly poster boys for responsible government – or even human beings. The liberals hug Robert Kennedy’s memory, but choose not to remember that he personally authorized the wiretaps on Dr. Martin Luther King. He also carried on the President’s policies; and, as in many families, there were traditions such as passing down clothing from an older to a younger child – only they did this with women. (The most well known of these involved the late Marilyn Monroe.) After the President was through with her, he passed her down to Bobby. Ultimately, as we all know, the poor woman eventually killed herself.

          There are, of course, the gaggle of Kennedy relatives who have been arrested and charged with everything from drunk driving, to rape, and even murder. This, of course, brings us to the present Bloviator-in-Chief, Teddy Kennedy. It would be easy to write him off as another senatorial windbag. But he bears a distinction born by no other Senator: He has killed someone – and not while serving as a member of the armed forces. After a drunken party, he drove off a bridge and left his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, alone to drown to death, trapped in his car.

          All of this makes us wonder at the judgment of Mr. Obama, or the American public. Camelot, once the fairytale aspect is put aside, is as attractive as a cesspool – and may even smell a lot worse.

Posted by: raoulfelder | January 7, 2008

BRITNEY SPEARS

            In a crazy sort of way, Britney Spears being taken to a mental institution may be the best thing that ever happened to her in terms of her custody case.  It’s one thing to be a rotten, spoiled, willful and immature brat.  These are basic character traits with which the law deals, with difficulty.  But if a person is a drug addict or an alcoholic, or mentally ill person, the courts are experienced with those situations and when a parent is so possessed of such an affliction, usually when they come into court they present proof they have sought treatment and are actually undergoing treatment.  America loves to give people second chances, and in those sad cases, the courts usually condition visitation and/or custody upon continued treatment and policing of that treatment.  If I were Britney’s lawyer, that’s exactly how I would play it:  she has an emotional problem for which she is undergoing treatment, but basically she is a decent person who is ill, and illnesses of this sort today can be, if not cured, at least contained, with the victim being able to function appropriately. 

Posted by: raoulfelder | January 7, 2008

Obama and Clinton

            Don’t get me wrong.  I would vote for Obama if he was an Albino, Penobscot Indian whose religion was sun-worshipping, or if his sex life included sleeping with a horse (except, as Jackie Mason noted, if it were MY horse).  This would all make no difference to me … IF he was the most qualified person running for President, and I felt that he would be the best person suited to deal with emergencies and the unexpected crises facing the next President that will certainly arise.  Unfortunately, Obama has nothing in his background or foreground that indicates he is that person.  Sure, he is charismatic, but so was Clark Gabel, but I would not have voted for him for President.  Obama’s experience in governance is non-existent.  This is not a place for on-the-job training.  If I wanted to hire somebody to run a supermarket I would want a person who has some experience in running a supermarket.  As for running a country, I would want – at least – a bit more experience.         

            Talking about experience, Hillary Clinton keeps saying she has 35 years of experience.  Her experience, doing what?  Her experience is having been married to the man who was the President.  Since when does sleeping with somebody give you experience?  If I knew a doctor’s wife or girlfriend, does that mean because of sleeping with him she is competent to take out my appendix?  As a matter of fact, if sleeping with Bill Clinton gives Mrs. Clinton the experience to run the country, there must be 100 girls around Washington who could claim even better – or at least more – experience through him. 

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