What's All This Then?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

People much more knowledgeable than I have said that the Bush administration is the most secretive in history. I can’t quarrel with them because I have no direct knowledge of what goes on in Washington - but I do know, simply from observation, that Washington has an ongoing and long standing love affair with the concept of "classified information."

Just what is classified information? Well, you can look here and read what the 1980 act says. I’m sure there have been modifications or newer laws enacted since, but without question they would all include the basic reason for information being classified - and that is for the purpose of national security.

But boy what a catchall two word phrase that is. And no doubt it has been used to hide billions of documents from the light of day and to make any shedding of light on them a Federal offense punishable by penalties up to and including death.

Last August 30 I asked the question - Should Classified be Re-Classified? I was writing about the case of Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin who had allegedly discussed the contents of a classified document at a lunch meeting with two employees of AIPAC - The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, who in turn might have passed them on to someone in the Israeli government.

Now, nine months later, Franklin has been indicted and I ask the same question I asked last year. Word for word. Why should there ever be any need for someone at Larry Franklin’s level to look for ways to keep Israel informed on issues that could affect its future security, that for reasons that I don’t understand, are stamped "classified - do not discuss with family and friends?"

Israel’s security may not have been the primary motivation for Franklin to have discussed classified information. News reports say he didn’t think his views on Iran were getting the attention they deserved and he was hoping that he could engineer AIPAC to bring them to the attention of the White House.

But no matter what the subject, I can’t believe that any discussion between this career public servant and people at AIPAC could have an adverse affect on the security of the United States or any of our military forces or diplomatic missions abroad. Yet here we go again. Because the information discussed was written down somewhere and stamped "classified" - Mr. Franklin is facing possible jail time.

Does the name Jonathan Pollard come to mind?

Somehow, I think the Franklin case will follow the Pollard routine. There will never be a trial where the specifics of what might have been discussed sees the light of day and the question posed in open court for all to hear - in what way was this conversation a threat to US security?

And if that happens, do you really think we will be a more secure nation, or, if Franklin goes to jail, that justice was served?

The never ending United Airlines debacle

Countless bloggers I am sure are expressing their anger over the court decision to allow United Airlines to dump their pension obligations, slashing the retirement income of thousands of United employees and retirees.

I’ve written about this before and there’s little to add. It’s a disgusting situation - and perhaps the most disgusting thing about is the hiring of Glen Tilton two years ago with , as I recall, a signing bonus!! The guy pulls down over a million dollars a year. He has a guaranteed four and a half million dollar pension after only two years employment. . And he has the balls to say that reneging on the pensions of employees who have spent their working lives with the company is necessary for the airline to survive.

As what? A slave labor airline?

Reading the story in the Chicago Tribune this morning, I gagged on the commentary that the United Board isn’t about to respond to threats of haphazard strikes by dumping Tilton because they think he’s been doing such a good job squeezing concession after concession from the unions - and now dumping the pension obligation. Well worth his big bucks and his guaranteed pension.


I seem to remember a story of another major corporation in big trouble many years ago. They brought in a new CEO to get them out of trouble. He squeezed concessions from the company’s unions and he successfully petitioned the government to guarantee a billion and a half dollars in loans. The company was Chrysler and the new CEO was Lee Iacocca. And his signing bonus and first year salary? A buck. A single dollar. He didn’t take millions out of the pot while asking his workers to sacrifice. When Chrysler was out of trouble and making money, Iacocca pulled in the ridiculous amounts of money that companies pay their CEO’s, but he didn’t do it while the people who did the real work were taking the hits.

If United hadn’t hired Tilton - if they had stayed with Jack Creighton and Rono Dutta and cut the pay of their CEO and all senior management to the same level as say a senior pilot - and stayed at that level until the company was out of trouble, United employees might not have felt as they feel today. Betrayed. Disrespected. Used.

My suggestion to the unions is to go into court and petition for the reduction of all executive salaries to a level no higher than the highest paid non executive employees, the temporary suspension of all bonus payments and the cancellation of guaranteed executive pensions. And then to present their own plan for saving the airline, though at this late date, it may be beyond saving as an independent company.

The saddest part of this mess and others like it - and make no mistake, United is now the poster boy for more horrors to come - is that the people who do all the manipulating and wheeling and dealing in these situations, never get hurt. Whether the troubled companies go under or survive as skeletons of their former selves, the management suits take no hits. They continue to draw their humungous paychecks while their golden parachutes sit quietly in silk lined cabinets.

And that’s part of the wonderful system of freedom that we want to spread around the world. To which all I can say is - look out world.