Remembering A Musician Who Touched All of Our Lives

06/07/2017 04:52 pm ET

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157

Today would have been the 59th birthday of Prince Rogers Nelson, known mostly to the world simply as “Prince.” He was an enigmatic figure to be sure, but a creative genius nonetheless. Not only did he sing countless mainstream hits such as “Purple Rain” and “Raspberry Beret,” he also played numerous instruments, and wrote most of his material.

Several years ago when he was on tour, I remember a friend of mine going to see him at the IZOD Center in New Jersey and remarking that it was one of the greatest live events he had ever seen. Prince had that effect on a lot of people, even dazzling the world one year with his talents during the Superbowl halftime show.

Funny enough, Prince was on my mind recently when I overheard a heated political argument between two strangers. I didn’t know these two people and had no idea how they knew each other, but the discussion was so intense that I had to walk away from the area for fear that violence was going to erupt. I honestly don’t even remember the specifics of the argument other than I heard the words “Donald Trump” and “Russia” at some point.

So why did this make me think of Prince? Because I remember a similar heated debate between two people I actually do know – two dear friends of mine – during the Clinton impeachment years ago. One of them was insistent that Clinton be removed from office while the other shouted that the whole thing was a right-wing conspiracy.

I remember things seeming like they might get out of control when the Prince song, “When Doves Cry” began playing on the radio and everybody just stopped to listen. Granted, it was only for a few minutes, but those few minutes of ceasefire were a mighty splendid thing. Some point later that day my friends went back to arguing, but those few minutes of Prince music really mellowed a situation that seemed like it was about to get very ugly.

And I guess that as part of why even though I was never as big of a Prince fan as some others, I always respected his talent, showmanship, and ability to connect with people. If you think about it, that’s the true beauty of music: if a song is good, it doesn’t matter who you are. You could be any race, gender, sexual orientation or religion and have at least a brief moment of common ground with somebody you might otherwise want to spend your day screaming at.

I thought about that today when it was pointed out to me that today would’ve been Prince’s 59th birthday. I thought about how much I wished more people would think about what they have in common rather than fighting over what divides them. And I thought about how much we could use Prince’s creative genius to help people mellow out – if only for a few minutes – and remember that just because you may disagree with somebody, doesn’t make him evil. Hell, he may even like the same Prince song as you!

Comedian Chris Rock joked this morning that schools should be closed for Prince’s birthday, and that may be a bit much. But as somebody who lived through the man’s prime and saw the power of his musical brilliance, I can say with absolutely certainly that the world misses him terribly.

Khan Should Reconsider His Campaign To Disinvite President Trump From State Visit

06/06/2017 04:49 pm ET | Updated 22 hours ago

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that the U.K. should cancel President Trump’s scheduled state visit because of tweets the president sent out criticizing Khan’s response following the attack in London over the weekend. In the tweets, President Trump first said that Khan was wrong to tell people not to be alarmed and when Khan’s camp claimed the president was taking him out of context – Khan said he meant do not be alarmed by the extra police, not do not be alarmed by terrorism – the president labeled that a “pathetic excuse.”

For her part, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said President Trump was wrong to say what he said but that the state visit would go on as planned. Boris Johnson, a leading conservative voice in Britain and the previous mayor of London, defended Khan, saying the current mayor was correct to have said what he said about people not being alarmed by the extra police.

If I am being fair here, it seems as though the president did take Mayor Khan out of context. That said, instead of just ignoring the tweets or choosing to make a brief statement and then let it go, Khan has decided to make a very public show of the matter.

But this isn’t the first time. Khan has made a show of going after President Trump before, even calling him a “buffoon” and “ignorant.”

So while I understand that what happened to Khan’s city is awful and my heart goes out to him and all of his constituents – in addition to the victims – one wonders if Khan is really that upset by a man whose opinion he holds such low regard for – or if he is using the moment to gain support amongst the electorate of a city that doesn’t like the president very much.

It could even a combination of both.

The truth is, President Trump probably shouldn’t have come out so forcefully but Khan’s request is ridiculous. And quite frankly, if he really is a man who wants peace and is interested in building bridges not walls – as the cliché goes – he should welcome the president’s visit. In fact, he should invite him to sit down and try to hash this out.

The United States and England are each other’s closest allies, and both sides need to listen to each other and get on the same page. Prime Minister May understands this and is doing the right thing. President Trump may have metaphorically fired the first shot but Khan has let some hurtful words obscure what the real goal for everybody should be. He is being thin-skinned and petty, which is exactly what he is accusing the president of doing.

If Khan wants to be a hero to his base and prove some sort of political point, he should carry on doing what he’s doing. Refuse to talk to President Trump and keep pushing for him to be banned from state visits.

But if he is really the leader he claims to be; if he is really a uniter; if he is really somebody for whom the well-being of all id the main objective, he should reconsider his actions and attempt to hash out his differences with the president.

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157.

In Attempting To Stop Terrorism, We Must Punish Those Funding It

06/05/2017 04:51 pm ET

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157

The bombing in London over the weekend was just the latest in a long line of reprehensible acts by international terror groups like ISIS.

I know I’ve said this many times before, but these people need to be wiped off the face of the earth. And to be clear, I do not mean Muslims, or anything even remotely close to that. I’m talking strictly about terrorists who believe blowing up innocent people is a morally justified act.

I’ve never liked the phrase “war on terror” because it is too open ended and could mean literally anything. I also don’t want the United States unilaterally invading the sovereignty of countries to chase down these violent extremists.

But what I do want – and what we should all demand, quite frankly – is that the major heads of state finally do what should have been done years ago: put their heads together and agree for the sake of all humanity to align against these monsters.

The Saudis have suggested that all countries should be punished for sponsoring state terror. The Saudis should probably listen to their own advice, and stop doing that themselves, but I’ve come to the sad conclusion at this point that would be too much to hope for.

That said, it is a good idea to cut diplomatic ties with any country supporting terror activities. Qatar has supported numerous extremist groups in the Middle East such as Al Qaeda, Al Nursa, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Qatar government is a bad actor in the region and it may be time to consider moving the U.S.’s base out of that country, either abolishing it outright, or transferring it elsewhere in the Middle East.

Fighting these groups, while necessary, can sometimes feel like whack-a-mole, where each terrorist killed produces even more in his place. This is why while we continue to fight this battle against extremists, we must also deprive them of their main sources of funding that makes their activities possible. Cutting ties with those who fund our deadliest enemies is a must, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Statement on London Attack

06/05/2017 04:41 pm ET

The American Jewish Congress stands in solidarity with the people of Britain following the terror attack this past Saturday in London. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of those effected by this disgusting attack. That so many have lost their lives is heart-breaking.

Once again, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Britain and the friends and family of those effected following the terrorist attack in London. This is the third attack in a matter of months and we have all witnessed first-hand the power of hate and corrupt ideologies. The American Jewish Congress urges decision makers to remain focused on their goals and to not let this evil erode our western values.

Jack Rosen, President

American Jewish Congress

Dr. Munr Kazmir, Vice President

American Jewish Congress

Dr. Ben Chouake, Secretary

American Jewish Congress

Everybody Needs To Calm Down About the Paris Agreement

06/02/2017 04:37 pm ET

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157

In case you missed it yesterday – and if you watch television, listen to the radio, go on the internet, read newspapers, or have any social media accounts, you probably didn’t – President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate agreement.

The agreement was non-binding, the United States still has three years to work out something different, and quite frankly, it was going to be far more punishing to this country than to China and India, two other major users of carbon.

None of that mattered to the Twitter and Facebook mobs, though. All day I read comments like “RIP earth,” or “America is destroying the planet.”

I don’t watch a lot of television but last night I happened to have Tucker Carlson’s show on and one of his guests was a Mayor in Miami. Carlson conceded the point that climate change may be a real issue that needs to be dealt with, but asked a poignant question about how this specific agreement would help make any kind of significant impact on climate change, which given the cost, it should. The Mayor reverted to talking points about climate change in general, never once answering Carlson’s question.

This is important because I saw a lot of it in the wake of the president’s decision. Reasonable minds can argue over climate change itself, but the issue here isn’t whether or not climate change is bad, it is whether or not this deal is (A) beneficial in a significant way (B) worth the exorbitant costs it would impose on our country.

Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, emotions have taken over to the point where as long as “something” is being done, then it must be good. We don’t even need to examine the particulars, we just need to act.

This is an incredibly dangerous way to approach anything, let alone a major agreement like this.

Further, as I said above, the agreement is non-binding, which means there is no enforcement mechanism and any country involved can decide not to hold up their end if they so choose. If you are somebody who truly believes climate change is disastrous and you want real, impactful action, shouldn’t you be lobbying for the president to work with the senate and house to ratify a treaty that can then be presented as legally binding? Isn’t doing otherwise just meaningless grandstanding and posturing?

But none of those questions get asked when hysterics are involved.

The brilliant Michael Malice – whose book on North Korea “Dear Reader” is a must readfor anybody who wants to know what is REALLY going on there – recently said on the Joe Rogan podcast that the issue of climate change is amazing to him because 95% of people who will call you a “denier” for showing even the slightest bit of skepticism about the catastrophic predictions don’t know anything about the subject themselves except that “all scientists agree” and they are intellectually and morally superior to you for not being a “denier.” As Malice joked, the vast majority of these people can’t even name two clouds but they somehow think they are experts on a very complex subject like climate change.

This is not to say that the climate change alarmists are wrong. They may not be. But the ones who sound the alarm without really knowing anything are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Most scientists agree climate change is occurring and that it is a problem. But what to do about it and just how drastic of a problem it is are areas that need robust discussion. It is possible that climate change activists are right when they say the answer can’t be “do nothing.” But the answer also can’t be “Do something…..anything.”

Whatever we do needs to be beneficial to the point of being worth the price that will have to be paid. What does that entail? Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know the Paris agreement doesn’t fit the bill. And those screaming at the top of their lungs need to realize that, too, so that they can focus their energy on coming up with a more practical and purposeful solution, instead of one that just feels good but is merely symbolic.

Lebanon’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Ban Is Immoral

Lebanon’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Ban Is Immoral

Gal Gadot has nothing to do with that conflict. She’s not a soldier or a public official; she’s just an actress.

06/01/2017 03:59 pm ET | Updated 4 hours ago

MARIO ANZUONI / REUTERS

I must admit, I’m not exactly what the kids call “hip.” I do my best to follow what’s happening in the culture, but sometimes things get past me.

So when a friend of mine told me that the actress playing Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot – is Israeli, I was both surprised and excited. Other than Natalie Portman, I’m not aware of a whole lot of Israeli movie stars who have headlined major motion pictures, so finding this out put a smile on my face.

But my smile quickly turned to a frown when I saw that Lebanon will be banning the movie because of Gadot’s presence in it.

The movie does not come out nationwide until tomorrow, so I obviously can’t tell you if it is good yet. But I can tell you that whether or not it is good has nothing to do with the country in which its star was born.

This is textbook racism, and while it is Lebanon so I shouldn’t be surprised, it is still amazing to me that this can happen in 2017. Lebanon’s rationale is that they are fighting Israel so they do not want to glorify a film with an Israeli in it.

First of all, Gal Gadot has nothing to do with that conflict. She’s not a soldier or a public official; she’s just an actress.

Second, who cares, anyway? We have cast actors and actresses from countries we were hostile to for years without a second thought. Doing otherwise would have been discriminatory and morally wrong.

Not to mention it would have robbed us of some excellent acting performances.

And really, all of this begs one question: What exactly is Lebanon afraid of? Do they think that if people in Lebanon see the movie they are going to suddenly start loving Israel? Do they think Gal Gadot will magically turn their citizens into pro IDF zealots or something?

The whole thing would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

The whole thing would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. If individual people want to be closed-minded and not see a movie because the actress is from a country they don’t like, that’s ok. It’s stupid and ignorant, but we all make choices and nobody is suggesting forcing anybody to watch the movie for any reason.

But for a government to outright ban it? Again, I know this is Lebanon and they do things differently over there, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong. Yet I haven’t seen any prominent public officials – including President Trump – condemn Lebanon for this.

By refusing to call them out en masse for their behavior, we are holding the Lebanese government to a different, much lower standard just because of where the country is located geographically, and that is ridiculous. Bigotry shouldn’t get a pass just because it comes from another culture in another part of the world.

This may all seem insignificant, but if we don’t stand up against it as a society, we are essentially saying that behavior like this is ok. That is not a message we want to send to anybody anywhere, especially if we are to ever have hope of changing hearts and minds worldwide.

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157

Lebanon’s Wonder Woman Ban is Not Only Wrong, It Is Immoral

06/01/2017 03:59 pm ET

Follow me on Twitter: @mk1157

I must admit, I’m not exactly what the kids call “hip.” I do my best to follow what’s happening in the culture, but sometimes things get past me.

So when a friend of mine told me that the actress playing Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot – is Israeli, I was both surprised and excited. Other than Natalie Portman, I’m not aware of a whole lot of Israeli movie stars who have headlined major motion pictures, so finding this out put a smile on my face.

But my smile quickly turned to a frown when I saw that Lebanon will be banning the movie because of Gadot’s presence in it.

The movie does not come out nationwide until tomorrow, so I obviously can’t tell you if it is good yet. But I can tell you that whether or not it is good has nothing to do with the country in which its star was born.

This is textbook racism, and while it is Lebanon so I shouldn’t be surprised, it is still amazing to me that this can happen in 2017. Lebanon’s rationale is that they are fighting Israel so they do not want to glorify a film with an Israeli in it.

First of all, Gal Gadot has nothing to do with that conflict. She’s not a soldier or a public official; she’s just an actress.

Second, who cares, anyway? We have cast actors and actresses from countries we were hostile to for years without a second thought. Doing otherwise would have been discriminatory and morally wrong.

Not to mention it would have robbed us of some excellent acting performances.

And really, all of this begs one question: what exactly is Lebanon afraid of? Do they think that if people in Lebanon see the movie they are going to suddenly start loving Israel? Do they think Gal Gadot will magically turn their citizens into pro IDF zealots or something?

The whole thing would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. If individual people want to be closed-minded and not see a movie because the actress is from a country they don’t like, that’s ok. It’s stupid and ignorant, but we all make choices and nobody is suggesting forcing anybody to watch the movie for any reason.

But for a government to outright ban it? Again, I know this is Lebanon and they do things differently over there, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong. Yet I haven’t seen any prominent public officials – including President Trump – condemn Lebanon for this.

By refusing to call them out en masse for their behavior, we are holding the Lebanese government to a different, much lower standard just because of where the country is located geographically, and that is ridiculous. Bigotry shouldn’t get a pass just because it comes from another culture in another part of the world.

This may all seem insignificant, but if we don’t stand up against it as a society, we are essentially saying that behavior like this is ok. That is not a message we want to send to anybody anywhere, especially if we are to ever have hope of changing hearts and minds worldwide.