Thoughts — 22 May 2011

Photos in North Carolina and Jeremy’s first rollercoaster ride at Sesame Place, Pennsylvania

My kids were hiding matzah around the apartment during Passover; at least I know that is the one kind of food they can hide anywhere that even the cockroaches won’t want to find and eat..Digesting matzah brings new meaning to the phrase “let my people go.” ..I was explaining the story of Passover to my kids and they know all about the bitterness of slavery of Egypt but when I told them that even after all the working that Pharaoh didn’t give them any treats, it then sunk in that this was a problem. Working hard to a 3 year old kid is not an issue of concern.

We had our holiday after Passover. In an age where people go on Passover programs, we’re into After-Passover Programs – after we’re all exhausted from Passover!

What is shaping up as a long-term issue is a cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia with the rest of the world caught up in it. Bahrain was the latest staging ground. But it’s everywhere in the middle east. The US, Israel and Saudi have to put Iran out of business. Will Egypt be part of this arc and will Syria be taken out of Iran’s forward orbit are the issues of the day.

People talking on telephone in a car, even without using hands, are 4x likelier to be in accident. If they are texting, it goes up several more multiples. Both of these are bigger risks then drunkenness; legislatures and governments need to deal with this.

Can I ask you a question: How stupid were the Mubaraks to wind up in prison in Egypt? Why didn’t they just have left when they could have? Another question in the same department: Why would Obama make a speech telling Israel to return to 1967 borders just a few days before going in front of the AIPAC convention (the pro-Israel lobby) – there are several thousand activist Jews all in DC waiting for this annual convention and now they are all ready to go out and campaign against Obama – good luck with his 2012 fundraising in the Jewish community….Ha! I read that the reaction is so bad that the AIPAC organizers hurriedly printed leaflets requesting people at the convention to be polite to Obama when he shows up.

Oil prices will go up and they will also go down sharply. We’ve already seen the going down part during the month since I wrote this earlier in the month. We will live with spikes. 40% of oil investment today is by speculators who don’t take delivery of it. This will increase supply but also make prices volatile. I expect the US dollar to remain weak.

Syria over the long term will change rulers; harder here since there is no real leader and the opposition all hate each other. If Lebanon had been free, it would have been easier. If Iraq works out, it would be easier. I think though at some point the army will throw him out and put someone from their ranks in, just like Mubarak. They are not going to all run around killing civilians forever and have the government look like it stands from Friday to Friday waiting every week to see how it holds up with the demonstrations of the week. I figure it will be another 6 months. In Libya, the rebels are slowly gaining momentum and Khaddafi will be out probably within a few months. A telling factoid is that petrol in Benghazi is 13 cents per liter (rebel-held) while in Tripoli (the capitol) it is $6 per liter with cars in queues for several days.

I know people are getting excited or nervous about the Palestinians getting the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state. Notice a month ago Bin Laden died and hardly anyone talks about him now? That’s about what you can expect from that Palestinian state a month after the UN has its vote. I think a bigger problem for Israel is that the younger the American Jew is, the less they think of Israel. Over the next 20 years, unless the Christian evangelist community becomes the anchor of Israeli support, the American Jewish lobby as we know it will be much less of a force when it comes to standing by Israel because most of the vocal support is from increasingly elderly people and most of the money is coming from them. I would even venture to say that if Israel were in a war, if you had to count on people under age 40 running out and buying Israel Bonds today like their parents did in previous times, Israel would be sunk. Fortunately, Israel doesn’t need anyone to buy its bonds; those bonds cost more than they pay on the open market and the organization that sells them is basically a source of junkets for government ministers and jobs for people on its payroll who are often political appointees. But seriously, over the long term, Israel is losing the war of public opinion within the American Jewish community future generation that just doesn’t really think all that much of it and doesn’t see affiliation with it as a significant part of their identity. This is a well established fact by now; it is not just my assessment. A lot of the young people visiting the country are flying on free or subsidized tickets on joy trips and the fact that they are going there is not really an ideological statement. There is little evidence that they come away knowing very much from these trips or that these trips have any long-term effect on their thinking, despite the self-serving statements of the organizations that sponsor them.

This week I was in Houston, not my favorite place. Hotel this time was the Intercontinental and it wasn’t bad but the food is lousy, even on the club level. It’s all out plates. Sheraton in Philadelphia Society Hill was really awful on the club level and the property is 20 years behind and sorely needs renovation. These chains are really making hotels pretty lousy and uniform. Makes you just scream for independent hotels.

Family went again to the Grove Park Inn in North Carolina; springtime is a great time to go and travel. Not like it’s a total thrill to be there but we have a good time; they have a band in the lobby every night with dancing; a dueling piano bar and we had a nice drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are several flights each day from New York to Asheville, and the city itself is quite nice and the airport is great and a 25 minute ride from the resort. I went to my 20th law school reunion; about 1/6 of my class showed up and most of the people there were those I never knew. I still think that I am probably in the top 10% in terms of someone who looks like he is having fun in his life.

This week Karen and I are celebrating the end of the full-time nanny for Elizabeth and Jeremy as they begin to start camp and school till at least 2pm daily. So we’re off to Paris for a few days without them! One of those things we haven’t yet had a chance to do. Stay tuned next month.

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