Friday, July 27, 2012

Linkin Park's Bennington Urges Fans to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Rock band Linkin Park, whose new album "Living Things" recently debuted at number one on Billboard 200, and Incubus, gave a conference call yesterday to discuss their upcoming 2012 Honda Civic Tour. The tour, which will continue its tradition of being environmentally friendly, will play at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on August 17.

Two time Grammy winner Linkin Park has been at the forefront of the green movement. In 2005, they founded Music for Relief to provide aid for the victims of natural disaster and work to prevent future disasters. They launched the Power The World campaign to help bring energy solutions, such as solar suitcases capable of powering remote hospitals, to the 20% of the world that currently do not have access to energy.

Linkin Park's lead vocalist, Chester Bennington, voiced disappointment with the environmental stances of both presidential candidates.

"Neither future presidential candidate is thinking about the environment," he said.

Like many of his generation, he is cynical about the political process.  The group's current album "Living Things" is devoid of politics while concentrating on human relationships.

"The green movement needs to be humanitarian not political," he said. "It needs to come from the people."

Bennington is concerned that our current cavalier attitude towards the environment is having a dramatic effect on natural disasters and plants and trees. He is asking his fans to reduce their carbon footprint. The Honda Civic tour will provide recycling receptacles for fans and band members and encourages carpooling to concerts. The band's tour buses will be fueled with bio-diesel.

Unlike George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey, Bennington does not want to use his star power to influence his fans in the voting booth.

"Americans keep private who they vote for," he said. "I want my fans to vote for who they want to vote for. I do not want someone to vote for a candidate because they are thinking of me."

But he did give a hint.

"I may not reveal my voting. But I discuss the issues that I care about so you can guess from that," the singer said.

I am inferring that he is not going to vote for the party that wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although both bands are touring together and have similar musical styles, Brandon Boyd of Incubus admitted that he had not seen Linkin Park live in 10 years. Now that they will be sharing the same stage, the bands are congealing. Fans may be treated to a joint performance at some of the concerts. During their down time, the two bands hope to compete against each other on the soccer field.

Envying the timelessness of the Rolling Stone, Boyd and Bennington both hope that they will be performing their earlier songs in twenty years. Bennington joked that he hoped a throat plasty would soon be developed that would rejuvenate his throat like a vaginoplasty refreshes a woman's vagina. He seemed to think that the throat and vagina were similar.Although I have both and can not imagine the similarities, I did not have the temerity to ask how.

Apparently touring post 9/11 is not so easy for rock stars. Bennington and Brandon Boyd of Incubus warned each other that the TSA frowns on bringing knives on airplanes. In the past, members of both bands have had previous knife incidents. The TSA thinks that my 70 year old mother and rock stars are potential terrorists.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romney's Desecration of Jewish Holiday Underscores Staff's Incompetence

Presumptive Republican Nominee Mitt Romney is arriving in Israel this Sunday on Tisha B'av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. The somber holiday marks the date on the Hebrew calendar when both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. It would be the equivalent of a foreign leader arriving in the United States on 9/11 or in Hawaii on Pearl Harbor Day.  

The state orders all businesses, except those selling necessities, to be closed on Tisha B'av. It is prohibited for cafes, gyms, nightclubs, and movie theaters to be open on Tisha B'av. The only other day of the year that Israel enforces such a ban is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. 

Religious Jews observe the day by fasting. Secular Jews will commemorate the day in a more low key manner, but they will note it. There is no Israeli that does not feel the pull of the Temple and Wall. I have pictures of my great aunt Fela, who was an avowed secularist, rushing to visit the wall in the days after Israel recaptured it during the 1967 Six Day War. 

Israelis were buzzing with excitement upon the arrival of Obama in 2008. The Jewish press is already noting that Romney's arrival has received a ho hum reaction. Romney came to Israel to shore up his Jewish vote, but by arriving on a somber Jewish holiday he risks offending his mostly likely Jewish constituency-religious Jews. He has already been forced to change a fundraiser to the next day. 

I really hope that Romney does not exacerbate his mistake by desecrating the holiday with the staging of a photo opportunity at the Wall on its most somber day. Jews should be allowed to pray at the Wall on this special day without the distraction and interruption that a Romney visit and the accompanying media will bring.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Will Smith Regales Hometown Crowds-Video Bonus

Actor Will Smith, son Jaden Smith, and Charles Mac at the American Benefactor  Foundation

Actor Will Smith was back in Philadelphia to attend the American Benefactor Foundation award ceremonies in honor of his longtime associate and good friend of 26 years, Charles "Charlie Mack" Alston. The American Benefactor Foundation was founded by Marla Green DiDio.

Mayor Michael Nutter could not help himself and did a short rap, which Smith pronounced as "perfect" because it was "short and left a little mystery."

Will and Jaden Smith bopping to the rap performance of Yung Poppa, a Charlie Mack protege.  

Jaden Smith, who is a very poised young man, remembered his father's close friend as 'funny". Charlie Mack was his Uncle "But He Do Though." (The video will explain.) 

Will told tales of their misspent youth and Charlie Mack's first hustle. 

"Charlie was always dreaming," said Smith. "When we crossing the bridge to go to a party in Camden, Charlie thought a toll booth would be the perfect hustle."

He poked fun of Charlie for wearing a "teabag" on his trip to Africa and his first meeting with Nelson Mandela.

Will spoke movingly about the Charlie Mack Cares Center as a place where kids can go to feel safe. Will said, "I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are very few people that you will meet in life that care like Charlie Mack cares."

Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews, who is appearing in Aaron Sorkin's "Newsroom" gave a long heartfelt speech  about Charlie Mack,. Here with his wife, Rebecca Crews.

Since the event was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Zoot was one of the guests of honor

Akim, one of the "I will be Great"student honorees, was dubbed Fresh  Prince Akim by  Will  Smith

Yung Poppa performing

The entrance to the Academy of Natural Sciences

The cake to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Academy

Literally partying with the dinosaurs

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alicia Keys is Better Than A Super PAC

I had tears in my eyes at the Organizing for America Women Vote Summit in Philadelphia. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was at a Democratic Party event. The speakers not only remembered what the party stood for, they were proud of it. No one was trying to move towards the center. Healthcare, Michelle Obama, and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Act drew the most cheers.

Over all, this was a positive rally. There was very little bashing of the Republican nominee because Obama has a solid record to run on., 

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a mother of two daughters aged 13 and 8, cited that the president had signed the Lily Ledbetter Act Fair Pay Act early in his administration. Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor that is only alive today due to early detection, zeroed in on some important healthcare statistics for the state of Pennsylvania. 

The head of the Democratic National Committee said, "Thanks to Obamacare, 3.4 million Pennsylvanians have had pap smears and mammograms. 5.9 million people with preexisting conditions are now covered."

She continued, "We don't want to go back to a team when our bosses are making our healthcare decisions."

The best speeches of the night were given by two super volunteers. When one was about to retire and attended financial seminars in preparation, she learned, to her surprise, that she would not have good health insurance after a lifetime of working. Upon retirement, she would have to navigate a world of high and low deductibles and doughnut holes. 

She said at the end of her speech, "With Obamacare, the only doughnut hole that my 94 year old mother has to worry about is the one at the store."

The second volunteer is head of a team of senior citizens at the Obama West Philadelphia campaign office that is called the "Mommas and the Poppas." She said, "We all have preexisting conditions." 

When it was White House adviser Valerie Jarrett's turn to speak, she mentioned that the president is already getting nostalgic that this is his last campaign. Jarrett, who has known the Obamas for 21 years, told a moving story about a time when the Obama's daughter Sasha was sick.  

She recalled, "Barack called me from the hospital. He said, 'I can not breathe.'"

At the end of the story, she asked, "Don't all children deserve the opportunity to get better?"

Singer Alicia Keys, who had attended a breakfast with young African American women and visited the West Philadelphia campaign office earlier in the day, started her speech, "I love being a woman," 

She listed some of the reasons that she supported Obama: healthcare; equal pay; and funding for science, engineering and math education. Keys, who held up 4 fingers, led the crowd in a stirring rendition of "Four More Years". 

At a press conference after the event, she urged young people to utilize social media in support of the president and indicated that her music will be getting more political. Don't be surprised if there is a love song to Obama on her new album, which is expected to come out soon. Now that there is a Senator Franken, maybe next will be a Senator Keys.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Freeh's PSU Report Scapegoats Paterno and Whitewashes Trustee's Role

I attended today's press conference given by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who was well guarded by the Philadelphia Police, to discuss his scathing report on Penn State's actions in the Sandusky scandal. After the arrest of Sandusky for child molestation, the Penn State Board of Trustees hired and paid millions of dollars to Freeh to prepare an "independent" report on the scandal.

He said near the beginning, “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

He placed the blame for not reporting Sandusky's penchant for young boys to the authorities on only four men- the late football coach Joe Paterno, former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and a university vice president Gary Schulz- out of a university community that numbers into the hundreds of thousands.

This is comparable to blaming the Nazi death camps only on Hitler and Goebbels. While they were the leaders, the complicity of many Germans contributed to the death of millions of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals.

Of course, these men are the most culpable, but the conspiracy of silence and dereliction of duty in the child molestation scandal goes much further than that. When I interviewed a former Penn State athlete, he told me that Sandusky’s child molestation was an open secret among the tightknit athletic community. He blamed the military, chain of command for no one reporting it to the authorities or alerting the press.

Freeh does lightly admonish the PSU Board of Trustees for failure of oversight and reasonable inquiry. Freeh mentioned that PSU had not taken steps to implement the Clery Act, which was enacted in 1990, until Sandusky was indicted in 2011. The act requires universities to report crime statistics in or near campuses. None of the trustees, who should have known about the widely publicized federal law for 21 years, ever asked about Penn State’s compliance with the law.

When asked at the press conference if he would advise the board to resign in light of his investigation, Freeh disingenuously dodged the question.

“They are my clients,” he answered.

In a way, Freeh answered the question. If he thought that they should remain, he would have said so in his characteristically blunt way.  Instead he declined to give them that protection. It is unlikely that any of the trustees will do the right thing and resign.

One reporter bested summed up the mood after the press conference.  He said, “I am glad that I went to Temple.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shut Up About The Mommy Wars Begs This Singleton

Being single and having no children, I try to stay out of the mommy wars. The essay of Ann-Marie Slaughter, the former director of policy planning in Hilary Clinton's State Department, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All"  recently published in the Atlantic Magazine reeked of so much smug entitlement that I felt I need to mention it. 

Apparently, Slaughter believes in her alienable right to the pursuit of happiness even more than Mr. Big, the Lothario character in "Sex in the City". She thinks she deserves an interesting job that pays well, mind bowing orgasms every night, dry cleaning that magically appears in her closet, a Mr. Mom husband that is also a dynamo in his chosen profession, and two perfect children.

Salon's Rebecca Traister request to ban the phrase having it all from the feminist lexicon was perhaps the most eloquent response to Slaughter's article.

Feminism is not just a movement for Hillary and her acolytes. Slaughter seemed completely out of touch with the concerns of the average woman. Better daycare programs and longer school hours are a nice idea, but where is the money going to come from in the current political and economic climate where basic aid programs are being cut?  Mothers in Philadelphia, who are struggling to keep their children in school in a city that has a 40% drop out rate, are too busy to join the fight for longer school hours.

By focusing so much oxygen on the problems of elite women, the feminist movement is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the general public. I do not care that Slaughter had to leave her high powered job at the State Department to return to her job as a college professor at an Ivy League University. I am more concerned when a single mother, who is the sole support of her family, is unable to work at all due to a lack of daycare for her children.

I am also not sure that Slaughter's son is better off having her home. Nowhere in the essay did she mention the joy that she derives from motherhood and marriage.

Not having children, I am often shocked how mothers invade their children's privacy and exploit them in their writing. I was startled to read that Slaughter specifically mentioned that her son's unruliness as the reason she was forced to quit her job. He will forever carry the burden of knowing that his mother was forced to give up her dream job for him. No child should have to carry that burden. 

Elizabeth Wurzel's Atlantic essay, "1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism And Making The War on Feminism Possible",was similarly objectionable. My own anecdotal research, at least, indicates that her premise is right. Having interviewed many of the 1%, many have commented on how lazy their wives are.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

JDate for Free?

Intermarriage has been on my mind since my brother, who is a successful Jewish doctor in Manhattan, married a Polish Catholic in 1999. With a father that was a rabbi and parents that survived the Holocaust, I would have thought marrying a Jewish girl would have been a top priority for him.

This past month there were two prominent interfaith weddings: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to Priscilla Chan, and Ashley Biden, the daughter of the Vice President, to Howard Krein.  I was surprised to see that those interfaith weddings were met with nothing more than a shrug by the organized Jewish community. We were more excited that Vice President Biden danced the* hora* than upset about the threats intermarriage poses to our community.

These seems a strange reaction from a group of people that bring out the big guns in reaction to the minutest hint of anti-Semitism or the tiniest slight to Israel from the White House. We seem ready, willing, and able to fight the enemies from the outside, but go radio silent about the danger from within. Apathy about intermarriage is far more of a danger to the Jews’ survival than Mel Gibson’s drunk anti-Semitic ranting or T shirts with a yellow star that Urban Outfitters did not sell. 

When I tried to write about intermarriage and possible solutions for several Jewish media outlets that I regularly freelance for, my editors either said no or put up ridiculous road blocks. They insisted that I dress up the turkey subject of intermarriage with side dishes, which made the piece too complicated for a simple blog post.

One editor, who regularly assigns inane stories like "My Daughter's High School Graduation" wrote, "I think it needs some original reporting - maybe you can try some of the funders? Other Jewish dating experts? Matchmakers?

There is one synagogue, Temple Israel of Norfolk, Virginia, that deviated from the Jewish community’s traditional code of omerta about intermarriage. Locating near Virginia Beach, the synagogue members organized an annual low cost Sun N’ Fun Jewish singles weekend. The weekend attracted more than 400 singles each year with some coming from as far away as Michigan. The program was later discontinued due to a lack of funding.

Enthusiastic after attending, I tried to persuade my local Jewish community, Philadelphia, to host a similar event in conjunction with Atlantic City. Although I was very involved with Jewish Federation at the time, I could not even get anyone to meet with me on the subject.

When I interviewed Rabbi Joseph M. Forman of Or Chadash synagogue in Flemington, New Jersey about performing the Jewish rituals at the Biden wedding, he suggested an innovative solution for the intermarriage problem.

“I would like to see the Jewish community subsidize JDate or set up a competitor so that online dating for Jewish singles is free. Many Jewish singles, which is the least affluent group in the Jewish community, do not join because they can’t afford to.”

With more and more people living online, his suggestion has merit and is worth discussing. Right now JDate ( is the most popular Jewish dating site. It costs $39.99 for one month membership with discounts available for longer memberships. According to Arielle Schechtman, director of public and community relations for Sparks Networks, the Jewish Networks segment of our business had 86,433 average paying subscribers for the first quarter of 2012. 

I ran the idea of the Jewish community subsidizing JDate by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, who has become the Jewish community's de facto yenta through his Birthright program. He objected to the idea because “not all the people on JDate are Jewish.”

He has a point. I recently attended the wedding of a Jewish-Presbyterian couple that met on JDate. Three out of the 14 religious categories on JDate are for non-Jews: willing to convert, not sure willing to convert, and not willing to convert. Older members may still be using the "I will tell you later" option. 

Schechtman claims 97% of the people on JDate are Jewish. When I tried to verify her number independently by hand counting the people living 25 miles outside of Philadelphia and in North Carolina, I got higher percentages of non- Jews.

JDate did not reveal how they determine someone is Jewish and seems to rely on the honor code rather than independent verification. A glimmering of their attitude about Jewish weddings could be gleaned from a press release from the pr team that listed 5 recent Jewish celebrity weddingsThe Jewish Journal noted that the only problem was that only one of the five weddings listed was actually Jewish. 

"JDate values honesty in profiles and if we learn that anyone has lied, we will terminate them for violating our terms and conditions of use," she said. 

Saw You at Sinai, which uses both online profiles and live matchmakers, might be a better alternative for promoting Jewish marriages. The site’s proprietor, Marc Goldmann, contends that his rigorous screening process insures that only Jewish people can join. Currently, veers towards the more religious members of the Jewish community, but that would be easy to change.

Goldmann, previously a management consultant, said, “We have currently 20,000 members paying $14.99 to $19.99 a month to use our site. We have successfully arranged 1600 marriages in our 8 years of existence. Someone that we matched up just sent me a card telling me that he recently had his second child.”

Goldmann believes that many more people would try online dating at a Jewish only site if the cost was lower.

“Cost is a barrier. Some people cannot afford. Others feel a stigma for paying to find a mate.”

Although Steinhardt wants to increase the number of Jews marrying Jews, he does not believe that subsidizing online dating is the answer. Steinhardt believes that the only way to increase intra-marriage rates is through Jewish education and affinity to Israel. A survey of Birthright applicants, compiled by Leonard Saxe and Ted Sasson of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, validates his thinking.

“The study surveyed more than 3000 married people who applied to go on Birthright in the years 2001-2004. It surveyed those that went on the trip and those that didn’t. The two groups have basically the same demographics.” he said.” 72% of the Birthright participants married Jews while only 46% of the nonparticipants married Jews.

The study was updated in 2011 with similar results. Michelle Shain, who worked on the second study, believes that the most of the survey readers do not understanding the significance of the data.

People often focus on the probabilities (77% of Birthright participants marrying Jews versus 51%, of nonparticipants marrying Jews etc.), but I think the key findings is actually the percent difference between the probabilities of in-marriage for participants and non-participants,” she said. “The fact that Taglit participants are more than 50% more likely to be married to a Jew is really quite incredible.”

The prominent Jewish journalist Jeffery Goldberg once wrote that he was uncomfortable that 10,000 Jews gathered at the AIPAC convention each year for the sole purpose of lobbying for Israel and not to learn Torah. I just wish that leaders of the Jewish community would meet one time to discuss intermarriage. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eagles Owners Divorce No Surprise

Christina Lurie solo at the Barnes Gala

Jeff and Christina Lurie, billionaire owners of the Philadelphia Eagles, have announced that they are getting a divorce after twenty years of marriage. For anyone watching, this is not a surprise. 

Christina Lurie often appeared without her husband. I remember seeing her alone at the Steppingstone Scholars benefit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in June 2011. She also came solo to the opening gala of the Barnes Collection. At both these events, she was very pleasant and approachable. 

She animatedly discussed her Oscar winning film, "Inside Job" at the Barnes and the Eagles Charities at the Steppingstone. By contrast, she was very nervous when she came to the star studded opening of the Museum of American Jewish History with her husband. 

David Binswanger, who is on the board of Eagles Youth Partnership, once told me that she had a hard time when she arrived. She was not used to all the attention. 

Later, he said, "She came to her own after the Oscar." 

Lurie did not just write the checks to get that Oscar. The director of "Inside Job" said that she provided him introductions to people in the financial industry that were invaluable to the film. Lurie wants to be intimately involved in filming, but that was very hard to do from Philadelphia. Her work with the Eagles did not keep her occupied. 

Her friends tell me she will be sending more time in Los Angeles to concentrate on her film career. NBC recently bought a television series from twitter celebrity Kelly Oxford that she championed.

Christina does a lot of good. The Eagles Youth Partnership has a mobile optometrist's office that used the celebrity of the Eagles to convince kids to get eye exams. 

I hope that both Luries find happiness. For two billionaires who could have anything they want, they never struck me as particularly happy. 

I am wondering who gets to keep the former Annenberg estate that they are currently living in. 

NBCUniversal CEO Burke: "I Am Having Fun"

Steve Burke, CEO/President of NBCUniversal, was chatting with other executives in the Comcast family at the opening gala for the Barnes Foundation in May.

He said, "I am having fun. I am making some progress."

I repeat these words now not to gossip, but to illustrate how clueless an executive, who is paid $23.7 million,   is. It is obvious that he does not know what is going on at his network.

Today show host Ann Curry, one of the first personnel decisions made after Comcast took over NBC, left the show a few weeks later. NBC will be stuck paying Curry $10 million for the next two years. As one blog put it, Curry, who will become a foreign correspondent, will be paid more than the GNP of some of the countries that she covers. 

The Today Show brand was damaged during the personnel change. NBC's golden boy Matt Lauer was made to look like the heavy in Curry's leaving. The introduction of Savannah Guthrie, Curry's replacement, was handled as awkwardly as a teenage boy going on his first date. 

After NBC was forced to apologize for their editing of the Zimmerman tapes, you would have thought that the network would have put in steps to avoid this kind of misstep in the future. They obviously didn't.

The tapes that NBC handed over to the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse trial contained errors. This time, an apology will not suffice. The error on the Today Show tape, a repeat of a question by Bob Costas making Sandusky look even guiltier, could be the basis of an appeal by Sandusky.

At the end of the incredible evening, I caught NBC anchor Brian Williams, who served as the evening's master of ceremonies, on his way out. Williams' wife, who could not have been nicer, asked if I wanted to take a picture.

Williams said in his booming announcer's voice, "Hurry! We are making like the Von Trapp family. We are vamooosing to New York."

I am guessing that the "Sound of Music" is one of Williams' favorite movies.