Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Blog is Back

After a long lay-off, I've decided to go back to blogging on a more or less regular basis. I need something to challenge me in my 10th decade. Since I'm not an artist or a poet and I can't sew or make quilts, blogging will have to do. Please bear with with me as I fiddle around for a while trying to make this website a bit more attractive and interesting. I hope that as the new blogs start appearing, my friends and others will sign in, comment on my comments, and send in some suggestions.

Ladies of the Lake
To begin with today, I want to learn to insert photos now and then. Here's a try...
This past Friday there was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the big upgrading project around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Highlighting the celebration was a fleet of boats - dragon boats, kayaks, a gondola and two surf boats from the Oakland Women's Rowing Club. At stroke, in the front facing the camera, is my wife, Gail Weininger. The bond-funded project is making Oakland strikingly beautiful and a first-class people's park area. It has also provided jobs and a good example of public policy for the rest of the country.

Now, changing the subject, I want to remember Leon Taub, my brother-in-law, who died last month. He was a beautiful character, gentle and kind, exemplifying shared ideals of social justice in the way he lived his 87 years. His obit appears at the end of this blog. Here is a picture of him with Roz, my wife of many years, who died in 2009:

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To include some politics in this experimental post, Julie Mandel, Leon's loving companion for the last twelve years of his life. wrote to me after listening to Rubio's GOP rebuttal to the State of the Union speech:
I just finished reading Paul Krugman’s column today about Rubio’s speech the other night, and about the path the Republicans seem to be taking.  I’m really puzzled.  The Republicans can’t be that stupid.  Why don’t they seem to learn from their mistakes?  Didn’t the last election tell them anything?  I really don’t understand why they don’t change their tune.  Do they really think the American public is that stupid?
I tried to come up with an answer to Julie's question:

I had just finished reading the Krugman column when I opened my email to find your note...As usual, I agree with Krugman. As for Rubio and the Republicans, the main faction seems to think that by tinkering a bit to soften the GOP image on a few social issues (immigration, gays, etc.), they can become more acceptable while not giving an inch on their economic ideology. Unfortunately, there still are an awful lot of Americans whom they've convinced that government debt and spending are our biggest problems.

Why won't they give ground on the economic front?  I can think of a few reasons: 1) Their bottom line really is their absolute commitment to the "free enterprise" system of inequality where the rich get richer, no matter the consequences for the rest of society. 2) They see the great recession as their best opportunity to dismantle the social programs (sneeringly labeled  "entitlements") which the GOP and the plutocrats have hated and fought since the beginning years of the New Deal. For this purpose, blaming "big government" and busting trade unions are crucial. 3) They are afraid that if they compromise on the debt and budget front, the Tea Party  caucus will explode and split the GOP beyond repair.

It's interesting that the election results and the demographic changes in the country have convinced some GOP pundits to try to appear a bit more reasonable on some social issues, while they hold fast to their "austerity" mantra. After all, the recession hasn't hurt the 1%, far from it, as profits exceed all-time highs; nor has it altered the insatiable greed that's in Wall Street's DNA.

You ask whether the Republicans "really think the American public is that stupid."
Who can tell when so much that's irrational is pumped out by the highly financed right-wing  propaganda media? At least the elections gave ground for hope that things may be moving toward a more rational course. Before the elections, I had a more negative feeling about the probable outcome than Leon and you. Thank goodness, the "public" proved that I was too pessimistic."

Future blogs will not be so long — just experimenting.


Leon Taub died after a short illness on Thursday, January 17, 2013. He was 87.

Leon was an engineer, a teacher, and a musician. He never retired, remaining fully engaged until the short illness that took his life. He had a deep lifelong commitment to civil rights, equality and social justice. He was lovingly devoted to family, not only his own, but extended by his warm and remarkably wide outreach.

Leon was born in the Bronx, the son of Chaim and Mollie Taub.  His parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland, laboring long hours in a small tailor shop while caring for Leon and his older sister, Rosalind. They instilled in both children a love of learning and a rich appreciation of music.

Leon was a graduate of the High School of Music and Art, where he formed lifelong friendships and met his future wife, Rena. He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music. In 1950, he became the first Music Editor of Sing Out Magazine, which was a major promoter of the upsurge in folk music that became so vital a part of the emerging civil rights and peace movements. Leon composed songs over the years, even more in the last years of his life. He put poems that he loved to music, translated some to Yiddish, a language he became increasingly fond of. He wrote music to accompany the publication of children’s poetry and art of Helen Webber, a friend since they were students at the High School of Music and Art. Leon left a beautiful memento of his music and of his own sweet self in a website:

Leon graduated from CCNY (now CUNY) with an engineering degree. During World War II, he served four year in the US Navy. After the war, he got a Master’s Degree in Engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology.  For many years, he was Chief Engineer designing air conditioners for the Welbilt Company. He gave up work in private industry in 1978, preferring to take a job he loved, teaching mechanical engineering at SUNY Farmingdale. Until his death he was still active as Professor of Engineering at Farmingdale and his students were devoted to him. His textbook, based on the courses he taught at Farmingdale, was published in 2012.

After leaving the Navy, Leon married Rena Richter, an artist and children’s therapist. They had two sons, Paul, now a music professor and flutist, and Fred, a computer specialist, both living with their families in Seattle. Rena died in 1998. Leon leaves a grandchild, Dana, daughter of Fred and Beth.

Leon was a resident of Valley Stream, Long Island since 1957. He was President of the Valley Stream Board of Education during the tumultuous late sixties and early seventies.

During his last twelve years, Julie Mandel Dachs has been Leon’s loving companion. Julie is a composer, and they enriched each other’s lives in musical projects and in every way, including the shared embrace of family and friends.

Listing facts doesn’t tell the whole story. Some things about Leon were special almost to the point of being unique. To appreciate him fully, you would have to have seen him with children. In his presence, they would be laughing and joyful, immediately responsive to his interest in them, his gentleness, playfulness, humor and whimsy.

Beneath Leon’s self-effacing ways, there was also an unusual measure of personal courage and perseverance.  He kept his trademark optimism despite political disappointments and personal ordeals. He never accepted gloom and doom, not when McCarthyism reigned nor when the Tea Party raged. Colon and prostate cancers and two open-heart surgeries did not keep him down. Moreover, he won a struggle with depression when he was a young adult and never turned back. He attributed his success in that battle to help he sought out from psychologist Alfred Adler. Leon and Rena became active in the Adler Institute, and contributed original papers at its conferences.

Few people can keep going strong, not slowing down, until death at 87. Few people gave and received more love in a long and admirable lifetime.

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