Saturday, 16 March 2019

University of Toronto, Sports Hall of Fame, 2009

During my studies at University of Toronto I had taken up fencing. Got to love the sport, which I have continued  to this day, at veterans' level.

In 2009 I was invited to attend a ceremony where , among 15 other athletes,  I was inducted into the university Sports Hall of Fame. The award was for my result in the 1962-63 school year, university intercollegiate champion.

My acceptance speech ( with a bit of humor 😅)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Judge: Hitchens , how do you plead, are you a socialist ? (or a man of the Left?)

Hitchens: yes, your Honor, with an explanation...

This 'explanation' is more than adequately done in 'Hitch 22, A memoir' which I happened to have been reading during last summer, just at the time when I was about half-way through my chemotherapy and Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer.
Some authors, whom we have been lucky to experience in various media in addition to writing only, leave us with a more palpable personal touch.
Hitchens was not happy with many of the descriptions that were "inflicted" on him, as he said, in the chapter Something of Myself. He would have preferred the simple term
"oppositionist", as someone who tries to do his own thinking. And thinking for himself he did all through his life. His memoir, so sadly but accurately timed for publication just on the eve of his, as proved to be, fatal diagnosis.
Reading through it last summer I have found myself, as countless others no doubt, feisty and ready to argue and fight with him on various issues and opinions.
Fortunately, for most of us, a one on one confrontation with him could never materialize because given Hitchens' formidable knowledge and debating skills, we would have been laughed off any venue.
We did what was available to us, writing hasty, sometimes angry, sometimes acquiescing penciled notes on the margins of his book. At times, such as his enthusiastic support of the Polish and Czech anti-Moscow resistance, his almost total lack of evaluation and appreciation of the Hungarian Freedom Fight of 1956 left
many of us dumbfounded. No bigger event had taken place in Eastern Europe since the end of WW II.than the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fight, yet Hitchens totally ignored it in his book. Although he refers to it once, the Index makes no mention of Hungary at all. How can this be explained? But short of an explanation, there is a revealing passage in Hitch 22, towards the end. Hitchens explains that he always felt the lack of courage of being a soldier or a "real dissident". He had preferred to be an intellectual partner to causes and ideals. The Hungarian Revolution was for him, most probably, too bloody, too real. (Or vehemently against all left-wing causes).

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dear Mr.Prager

I have been your   enthusiastic listener for more than ten years. Of the three regular talk shows I listen to, Hewitt, Medved and yours, I have a hard time to justly allocate time. However, I often manage to listen and enjoy most of the  shows, even if many of these I have to listen to after the fact, that is on podcasts, both in the US and Europe.

You have many listeners and differences of opinion on topics, discussions, opinions can and do vary.

I am not going  to talk about the many wonderful hours you have given your listeners on many , many topics. You don't need accolades, you hear them , live, every day of the show.

However, I have some observation about some aspects of your discussions which need to be corrected. I have waited, literally some years, before I decided to write you an open letter on these issues. I would like to tell you about these, as well as your listeners , via Twitter, so they get a different view from that of yours.

You are , unfortunately, not well informed about Europe. You make groundless generalizations about some aspects of European lives, particularly about present  lives. Having lived some 3 months in a UK college , decades ago,  cannot qualify you as someone knowledgeable about present day Europe.

You often state that "Europe has no talk radio", and then make some rather sweeping conclusions about this.
Let's take it from the beginning.
Mr.Prager, today's Europe  is comprised of some 50 countries. Nearly as many languages are also spoken on the continent. How do you mean that Europe has no talk radio? If there were, in what language would they broadcast ? And what company would sponsor such a "talk radio"? What market opportunities would they represent  to someone like Salem  Radio Network?
You are trying to equate the US  with her uniform language and market place from coast to coast with that of Europe and bemoan the lack of "talk radio", as you know it.

But let's suppose you meant just a few big "markets" , like Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain.
You are sadly mistaken about these as well. There are many radio and television shows, with diverse and colorful differences of opinion from politics to everyday living. Some of these are state owned , and some are privately owned. Nearly all of them offer a variety of "talk shows" with commercial sponsors, as well. State owned tv and radio is not closed to diverse points of view at all. Just as other means of media, they  are free from censorship, even in today's Russia, opposition is still alive , although becoming more  difficult under Putin.
You may argue that many of the leading publications, broadcasters are left leaning. You may be correct. But they don't have a monopoly in any European country on public opinion of today. There is plenty of alternative viewpoint, and not all current governments are centre left. There is plenty of change from election to election, perhaps more so than in the US in recent years.

Your listeners are not served well  by  you giving a false picture about Europe today. If there are notions about Europe that come to the surface, the reasons for these  must be elsewhere than in the absence of "talk radio", as you know it.


Peter Urban , aka @eurobird

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Jean Beliveau, my all-time sport hero, passed away.

As a very young man I had the good fortune to start my adult life in Canada.Like millions there, I have become an ardent hockey fan, and a Montreal Canadiens fan at that.

 Not an easy chore living in Toronto, going to school at St.Michael's College at that  time, home of the local Blues! 

I have never played ice hockey , never had skates on my feet. 

Later in years I had been transferred to Montreal by my company and had a chance to see real live hockey at the old Forum, proudly (openly!) support the Canadiens. And on one occasion I had seen my team win the Stanley Cup, celebrating with thousands on St.Catharine St. 

Everybody loved, respected and appreciated the skills and behavior of Jean Beliveau, Le Gros Bill, on and off the  ice. They said he was a gentleman in one of the roughest body contact sports, and if you know hockey, you know  it is not easy to be and remaining a "gentleman" in that sport.

His life's accounting will be left to others so much better qualified than this European import who had never played the game, or skated on ice.

But I had met twice Mr. Beliveau and I can attest to all the accolades you hear about this wonderful man. Once I was waiting for my flight at Dorval (Montreal) airport for Winnipeg, when I saw this imposing figure  among the waiting passengers. It was Mr. Beliveau. I was hesitating to approach him, to say hello and how it is nice  to meet him, but didn't. 

I didn't have to. I was seated next to him! 
He had smiled and greeted me before I had a chance to recover my senses. After quick introductions and pleasantries , we had the most enjoyable and it seemed , genuinely interesting conversation for the next 3 hours or so.  He had actually more questions about me and my life, background than I had a chance to ask him about anything. I had to tell him about the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fight, and our miserable existence in Hungary that led to this revolution. My arrival in Canada as a 19 year old, my early struggles to learn and live and prosper as millions before me. My love of sports and fencing in particular which led me to become a member of the Canadian Fencing Team in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.    
What an experience, sitting with Jean Beliveau for all this time, and humbling in the sense that this giant of a man, in the land of hockey, had gently insisted that I talk and  he listens most of the time.
At the end of the flight we had said good bye, not knowing that there will be one more chance meeting between us. 
It happened in the summer of 1985 , when Toronto hosted the first ever Masters' Games of several sports, including fencing. I was "representing " the Nederlands at that time, living and working there. On arrival we had to register our participation  at a hotel across City Hall in Toronto. There was Mr. Jean Beliveau in the hall, as honorary chairman of the first ever Masters Games, warmly greeting the arrivals.
He had a pleasant chat for a few minutes and it seemed to me (wishful thinking?) that he remembered the Hungarian refugee from a few years before...

We often hear about the great personalities in our times  , so often magnified and polished for posterity, but seldom have we the chance to  verify all that we hear and imagine.

All that you hear and read about Jean Beliveau is genuinely true.

Big Jean, is now on the limitless ice of the heavens.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Friday, 9 November 2012

What if Obama would have lost the election by 2 % of the vote?

Should we be elated if Obama had lost the election by 2% of the popular vote? If some 58 millions of voters were cast for 4 more years of the same policies and omissions as the last 4 years, would that be cause for celebration? 
Just read this quote from a Czech newspaper, the Prager Zeitungon:
 "The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president."

Eking out a win for the GOP while 58 million voters are wishing for a continuation of the Obama Administration would hardly be reason for contentment. There is just a very real , steady development of the country moving to the left, already resembling the social democracies of Europe. When the upfront socialized, even 'communized' countries have proven to be foolish utopias at best and unbridled dictatorships at worst, post-Soviet Europe is slowly embracing economic and political systems that led to the dismal failures of the Soviet empire, Cuba , North Vietnam and others.

That, in spite of  historical precedents of failed social experiments, a large part of the US population  is blind and ignorant about the dangers it courting, is cause for real concern for the future of the Republic. 
It may take years, still, or even another 2% win for 'progressives'  as they call themselves, but the final  act of this drama could be cataclysmic.

So, losing or winning by 2% does not change the dangerous shift of the Republic towards economic and political suicide.
Large blocks of the US electorate are poisoned  by class envy, false future entitlements and absolution of individual responsibility. The 2008 recession was the direct result of the 'affordable' housing fiasco.  Look for of the same result for the 'Affordable' Obamacare, just about to be implemented.  If you want to be certain about ANY program that will be a costly failure, look for the moniker 'affordable' .
In social democracies 'affordable' means, not corresponding to real cost , subsidized, usually by taxpayer funds.   

It will take only days to watch the Obama administration becoming emboldened to enact their agenda for redistribution and 'social justice' . After all, they have 60 millions of our fellow citizens' support to do so.   

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The student loan cliff is coming...

An article this weekend appeared in the WP, citing the plight of a  young woman. She was teary eyed and in rapture in the evening listening to Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Grant Park, back in 2008. She was a college student then and felt a new world was opening up for her with Obama in the White House. 
Today she is still, if somewhat disillusioned , believer in the magic of Obama and liberalism. Having graduated since then, she has found the real world less than Utopian , unable to find a job, she has applied for more student loans to continue with graduate studies.

Where did young people learn today that if a college degree does not get you a job , the next best thing to do is to take more student loans and keep on studying? Is this the same mentality that is spawned by Obama and his party that economic setbacks   can be resolved by borrowing more and spending that borrowed money? This is what they see from today's Administration. Economic ills, social ills have a simple solution: money. And if that money is not available, it is borrowed. But it's not the government's money and it's not government of the moment  that is responsible for repaying that money.

Student loans have escalated to unprecedented heights, and repayment of the these taxpayer "advances" are increasingly in  jeopardy. Of the threatening fiscal cliffs, the student-loan-cliff is going to be cataclysmic in  the not too distant future.