What's All This Then?
Friday, March 30, 2007
THE DONALD WANTS ME AND MY WIFE TO BE AS RICH AS HE IS……..
Now why do I find that hard to believe?
I don’t know how he found my wife, but she just received a communication from none other than one of the characters mentioned in yesterday’s comments. I won’t keep you in suspense. It was the Donald. The Trump man himself.
When I first saw the envelope, I thought - for one fleeting moment - that Trump had joined the growing list of presidential candidates. It certainly looked like one of the appeals for money or announcements of candidacy that we’ve received over the past few weeks. My wife’s name and our address hand written - or at least a good looking simulation of a hand written address. And the return address in a light brown neat type style - Donald J. Trump, 230 Park Avenue 10th Floor, New York, NY 10169. It used to be called The Helmsley Building and I think it still is. If Leona had anything to do with it, she’d never let the name be changed - even though it’s now owned by the Royal Family of Dubai - who also now owns the Essex House on Central Park South where I used to stay whenever I was in New York. Not any more. It’s been owned by foreigners for years and once the first foreign owner took over - it just wasn’t The Essex House any more.
I guess the Donald must have the whole 10th floor of The Helmsley because the return address didn’t include a suite number. You’d think Trump would have offices in one of his own buildings - but maybe he has a sweetheart deal with Dubai. It does seem to be the deal-place de jour. Maybe Trump has stock in Halliburton.
But I digress.
There was no announcement of presidential candidacy inside the envelope - just a beautifully designed and printed "Special Invitation" with two "Special Guest VIP Tickets" complete with a picture of the Donald - and his daughter Ivanka. Yeah. That’s the right spelling. Ivanka Trump.
And to what was my wife - and presumably me since there were two "Special Guest VIP Tickets" - being invited to attend? A story telling!!! That’s what the invitation said:
Please be my personal guest to hear my real story on Trump wealth creation from my daughter, Ivanka Trump.A bit of a disappointment I must say. Here the invitation was from the Donald - signed by the Donald - with his picture on the invitation and on the "Special Guest VIP Tickets" - but the story teller was going to be Ivanka Trump.
Still, it was intriguing. You have to assume that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree - so maybe Ivanka knows how to make deals and fire people. Besides which, the invitation also invited us to be "trained" by four self made multimillionaire experts. It didn’t describe their expertise. Maybe they are experts at being multimillionaires.
Anyway, it turned out that this was going to be an all day "financial conference" at a fancy suburban hotel and with enough perks to take one’s breath away. If we accept the invitation, we get a free copy of the Donald’s book - " Trump - Think Like A Billionaire - and the "suggested tuition fee" of $149 will be waived for we two VIP Guests. Not only that, but by the end of the day of financial conferencing, we will have learned what others have paid over $20,000 to learn!!! That’s what the invite says. In black and white. So what will we learn if we accept the invitation - saving $20,149? Why just how to:
1. Find income producing properties the Trump way.It all sounds so wonderful. Almost too good to be true. Which is usually the case. If something sounds too good to be true, you can be pretty sure that it is.
The Donald and his daughter aren’t unique when it comes to this kind of offering. There are all kinds of self made millionaires who extend similar invitations to ordinary non millionaires like me and my wife. There are two or three self-proclaimed real estate multimillionaires who I hear all the time on the radio telling us common folk that they want us to join them in their richness. . They want all of us to be real estate multimillionaires - and to show us how easy it is, they want to send us a free CD that tell the "how to be a multimillionaire" story.
I don’t know about you but these offers strike me as being just a little strange. One of the nice things about being a multimillionaire - or just a plain old millionaire - is that you’re able to live in a grander style than people who aren’t as wealthy as you. And one of the ways that multimillionaires and millionaires accumulate and retain their wealth is by being smarter than ordinary working folk. So smart in fact, that the way they accumulate wealth is by taking advantage of ordinary working folk. Not necessarily in any illegal way. They can do it by hiring you to work for them and then taking the product of your work and selling it for a profit. Or, in real estate, buying or taking away your property and selling it for a profit..
I have no personal way of knowing this to be a fact, but I would imagine that being a millionaire or a multimillionaire has got to be fun. By being able to do anything you want to do any time you want to do it, it lifts you above the crowd - separates you from the riffraff. People look up to you. They admire you. They cater to your slightest whim. And you need those people in order to enjoy your wealth. If they were all as rich as you - if everyone was as rich as you - it wouldn’t be that much fun to be rich. And besides, where would you find people to look up to you and admire you and cater to your whims?
So I get a little suspicious when a multimillionaire tells me he wants to share his secrets with me - and without it costing me a dime. No matter what the Donald says about waiving a $149 fee to learn what cost other, not so lucky people, more than twenty grand to learn, at the end of that financial conference day - if we were to accept his and Ivanka’s invitation - unless we were in full body resistance armor - I’d bet dollars to donuts we’d be out or on the hook for some pretty big bucks.
Trump of course is ostentatiously rich - and I don’t doubt that some of those self-proclaimed real estate millionaires have made a buck or two buying and selling buildings. But once you realize that these people are not really fairy godfathers or genies taking a time out from their bottles, you come to understand what is really going on. The beneficent ones have discovered cornucopia - the Horn of Plenty - David Hannum’s (not PT Barnum’s) "Sucker Born Every Minute."
If it was that easy making big money doing whatever it is they want to teach you to do - why wouldn’t they just continue doing it? Unless of course the really big money is in having you pay them for telling you what it is they do - in the full knowledge that only a fraction of then will ever make the kind of money that you tell them is potentially attainable. As I said, what’s the fun being filthy rich if everyone is filthy rich?
One quick note before I sign off on this subject - and for the week. I just heard one of those "how to make it in real estate" moguls on the radio offering to send me his tell all book - the one that could make me rich - for free. Just pay shipping and handling.
I was once in the business of producing and distributing information on audio cassette tapes. They were paid for by large companies that had something to sell - but let’s assume for a moment that no such companies were involved but that I wanted to get those tapes into the hands of the public - for whatever reason. I would simply have bought time on the radio and offered to ship them out free - except for the minor cost of "shipping and handling." And if enough people had responded to such a "free" offer, I would have made a fortune. How and why? Because the modest "shipping and handling" fee far exceeded the actual cost of turning out, packaging and shipping those cassettes. And I guarantee that is the case with many "free" items being offered today for the cost of "shipping and handling." Money is being made from the "shipping and handling" cost of those "free" items!!
Anyway, I don’t think we’ll be accepting the Donald’s invitation. I’ll file it with all those other offers from multimillionaires offering to tell me how to join them. It would be tempting though if he was going to be there himself instead of his daughter - just to get a close up look at his hair.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
THE CURRENT STATE OF ‘PROGRESS’ IN THE MIDDLE EAST
One thing I can be sure of if I’ve been away from blogging for a while - as I was a week or so ago - is that I will have missed nothing when it comes to the never ending Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As the French would say - Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s like being a soap opera fan and being away from it for a while. I’m not a fan but my wife is - and once in a while, when she’s off from work for a few days, she’ll tune in to one she may have watched in the past - and in no time at all she’s into the flow of the story line - as though she’d never missed weeks or months of programs.
I have written about this subject many times before and from time to time I try to sound a hopeful note - even proposing my own idea for solutions - with the caveat that any kind of solution requires the participation of sane participants. Unfortunately, insanity continues to dominate and sure enough, while I was away from my computer, the same garbage was being regurgitated by the same set of players.
We have a "unity" Palestinian government. Wow - what an accomplishment. Maybe there can be some movement in the "peace process." But wait a minute. What’s this? A pronouncement from one half of the "unity" government. And what does it say? It says Jihad for ever. Whew - for a moment there I thought that I might have actually missed something new and different. But just to be sure, I took a quick peek at the Electronic Intifada. And what were they saying while I was waging war with the bugs and evil spirits? This brilliant idea. A bi-national state. No Israel. No separate Palestinian State. Just one big happy state with Jews and Christians and Muslims living side by side in democratic unity.
You know I’ve never been a fan of Donald Trump and I’ve never watched his "you’re fired" program - or whatever it’s called. But a few days ago, there he was being interviewed on CNN and he was taking Condoleezza Rice apart. She’s out of her league he was saying. All we see her doing is having her picture taken with all these people she’s supposed to influence - and we see her waving and getting on and off planes - but she never makes a deal. And now it seems that she may have proven the Donald wrong. We have big time reports that she has made a deal. She talked Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas into an agreement to meet every two weeks. How’s that for a deal Donald?
At the same time, the big muckety mucks of the Arab world are meeting in Saudi Arabia and once again are talking about the way to peace for Israel and all Arabs everywhere including Palestinian Arabs - which presumably would include Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Brigade and the rest of those merry men. All Israel needs to do is pull back behind its1967 borders, give its blessing to a Palestinian government structure in Jerusalem - and - what was that other thing? Oh yes - a "just solution" for all those Palestinians who were "uprooted from their ancestral homes" six decades ago. Them and their millions of descendants who inherited keys to all those no longer existing ancestral homes.
The reason I mention these things is to make one of my unerring predictions. Olmert and Abbas will not meet every two weeks. Not even every fortnight. . They might meet a few times. They have done so before. They will accomplish nothing just as nothing was accomplished in previous meetings. Nothing will come of the Saudi "peace" proposal first advanced in 2002.
I dislike having to make such gloomy predictions, but I see nothing on the horizon to make me think that anything is about to change for the better in the immediate future. Abbas has no power. Olmert is on his way out,. With America bogged down in Iraq and making threatening noises about Iran, our reputation as a "peacemaker" has plunged to what is likely an all time low - and the pronouncements of Condoleezza Rice have become something of a continuing joke that few take seriously. As if there was anything that she could offer or did offer that would attach any real significance to future "maybe" meetings between the powerless Olmert and Abbas.
For my money, if Condy could qualify as a candidate on Donald Trump’s TV show, I doubt she would last more than two episodes before the Donald pronounced her dismissal.
And while news reports speak of a "warming" of Israel to the Saudi "peace plan" - that must be because it’s causing a national fever. It didn’t sound that peaceful when those royal Arabs proposed it five years ago - and now it has a new wrinkle. Take our deal or prepare for war. How’s that for a "peace" proposal?
At least the nut groups don’t bother with either-or "peace" offers. They might babble about one kind of deal or another - such as temporary "truces" - but anytime anyone starts to get the wrong idea, they rush to set the record straight. Their policy is jihad forever. Arab hegemony from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean with no Israel in between.
And I predict that if I shut down my computer for a month and then come back to make comment about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - I’ll be writing about the lack of communication between Olmert and Abbas and of the Saudi "peace" plan not having contributed an inch of movement toward Middle East Peace. And I predict it will remain that way until the madmen of the region pass away and a generation of sane Arabs take their place. But don’t hold your breath. I’ve been holding mine now for close to sixty years and I’ve already had two lung transplants and had four new shades of purple recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.
Not true of course, but you know what I mean.
Monday, March 26, 2007
A STICKY WICKET - OR THE END OF DAYS??
I never thought I would be writing about a matter such as this - or that it would ever occur during my brief lifetime. But I cannot ignore the signs. Much as I want to believe that I am misinterpreting the obvious - that it is so obvious that I must be wrong - my heart and gut and what’s left of my flaking gray cells tell me that I am right.
We are approaching the end of days.
Followers of various religions have their own ways of interpreting what they perceive as warnings that the final chapter of this earth and its inhabitants is about to be written - or that the writing is well underway. Their record isn’t that good however and a lot of religious people have given up preparing for "ends" that come and go as regularly as the seasons. Nowadays, most of them react the way I do when I see a wild eyed, bearded prophet holding a sign that reads "The End Is Near." They shake their heads sadly and give the sign holder a wide enough berth to avoid being asked to donate the bus fare to get to wherever the "end" might be.
Scientists have a better approach to the gloomy subject. They know that this world - that this universe - will assuredly end and they know how it will end. They just don’t know exactly when . I don’t either, but though I am neither wild eyed nor bearded, I know that the end is near. Very near. And I know it because of a single sign. The corruption of cricket.
To some people, cricket is little more than a sport - understood by few in this (the US) part of the world. But to those who understand the deeper meanings of what cricket represents, the news that has been unfolding tells an ominous story of doom. Let’s face it - even those who know not the first thing about cricket and couldn’t distinguish between a silly mid-off and a square leg, understand that it keeps the scales of existence level by being all that is good as opposed to all that is evil. You know the expression when something is not as it should be. It simply "isn’t cricket!" You don’t have to know the game to understand the meaning.
For centuries, cricket has been the physical and visual expression of the nobility of man and the symbiotic relationship between our earth and the cosmos .Whether a match lasted a few hours, a day, two or three days or a five day "test match" - it spoke to the world and to the heavens of truth and beauty. As long as a beautifully hit "six"(the equivalent of a home run) was greeted with polite applause and cries of "well hit sir" - or a hard smash caught one handed greeted with a "well caught sir" - and tea was served at appropriate intervals, one could believe that all was right with the world and the cosmos.
But suddenly we have been shocked to the very marrow of our bones by the news that Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer didn’t just die but was murdered - and that he wasn’t just murdered - but very likely murdered because of the game of cricket!! The stories now appearing in the newspapers of civilized countries of the world (those where cricket is a national sport) are revealing a dark underbelly of the game that those of us who have watched it with adoring eyes for centuries never knew existed.
Match fixing! Ball tampering! Cheating! Gambling! Angry fans threatening players! Riots - like soccer hooliganism!! It’s been happening before our trustful eyes for decades, moving closer and closer to the crescendo that is the actual murder of a cricket coach - and we didn’t see it. We didn’t realize what those signs that the wild eyed bearded ones were holding up for all to see really meant. We didn’t wonder when they appeared suddenly or in larger numbers just before, during or after a test match. We didn’t realize that the cosmic powers that be were sending us warnings - and we in our prideful ignorance continued to ignore them.
Now, when we look back at the darkness that has descended upon the earth since the ascension of George W Bush to the US Presidency and correlate it with the descent of cricket into a parallel darkness, the message has become clear. But it may be too late. The end of days is close - perilously close. I’m not sure that the descent toward what certainly seems to be the inevitable can be halted - or even slowed down. I have wracked my brain for days - since the news that Woolmer’s demise was attributed to murder most foul.
There is perhaps only one desperate chance left to us. We must confuse the cosmic powers that be. We don’t need or have to know who or what they are - only to understand that judgment has been rendered because of what we have done to cricket. Not literally of course. What we have done to cricket has been revealed to us as symbolic of what we have become - a total disappointment to those powers that be - and thus unlikely to be worthy of any further attention. An experiment gone bad - destined for deposit in the cosmic waste disposal - and soon.
So how do we confuse the cosmic powers? We must suffuse all other sports with the spirit - the very essence of cricket as it was meant to be. . During a baseball game for example - a home run must be greeted with polite hand clapping and cries of "well hit sir." Not too loud mind you. We don’t want to disturb the tranquillity of the game. The same with an impossible catch. "Oh, well caught indeed sir." And of course tea - or coffee break instead of the seventh inning stretch. And if no team has won at the end of nine innings - no overtime. We all shake hands, perhaps saunter down to the local pub for a pint and continue the game the next day. After tea.
Apply the same principle to all of our other national and international games and soon the symbol of cricket no longer being cricket will be so widespread that the powers will have to step back to analyze its meaning for a few cosmic minutes. And since this translates into millions of years, we’ll be O.K. The poor suckers a few millennia down the line will have to worry about it. Not us.
So I recommend spreading the word as far and as fast as we all can. To make everything cricket - so that cricket becomes no longer recognizable as the cricket we have all known, loved and looked to for our understanding of good and evil. Write to your congressman. Call radio talk show hosts. (Not Rush Limbaugh. If I’m reading the signs correctly, Limbaugh is the anti-Cricket and one of the evil forces driving us to our doom)
You can thank me later - but in the meantime - if the muse grabs you - by all means send money.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
WHAT’S WRONG WITH TIM RUSSERT?
I’ve been too sick to blog for more than a week and that’s a shame - not just because I’ve been sick - that’s always a shame - but because what I do here is record my comments on unfolding history - and with so much happening that’s deserving of comment - if I let it pass by unnoticed, I feel like I’ve created the equivalent of an historical report of Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 without any mention of the speech he gave there.
But I’ll try to catch up. Last Sunday for example.
I tuned in Meet The Press - watched some of the interview with Chuck Schumer and came back later just as Russert started a discussion about Iraq with a four man panel - and became appropriately shocked and disgusted to see Tom DeLay sitting at the table. Tom DeLay? What was Russert thinking? Probably without all of his faculties considering this opening exchange:
Russert: "The war in Iraq is four years old, and let me show you some of the numbers after the first four years. U.S. troops killed, 3,192; US troops wounded, 24,042. The cost is $351 billion. If you include budget requests, it would be about $500 billion. And the Iraqi civilian deaths, some 54,000. Congressman DeLay, is the war in Iraq worth the cost in life and treasure?"And on and on he went. Of course I expected that Russert wouldn’t let such nonsense go unchallenged and I waited for him to point out that our attack on Iraq had nothing to do with us being attacked four years ago - except in the constant flow of spin coming from the White House. But he didn’t. He let the answer go and turned to another panelist, former Maine Democratic Congressman Tom Andrews to ask the same question and Andrews did what Russert should have done - express amazement at DeLay’s bull!!
MR. RUSSERT: "Congressman Andrews, worth the cost in life and treasure?"Among the panelists was Richard Perle, whose arrogant response to the same question began with
"Forgive me for saying it, but I think it's the wrong question. It's a bit academic for one thing. But the question is what is in our national interest now, what is going to make Americans safer."And on and on. You’d think that Russert would have stopped this arrogant twit in his tracks and told him that on Meet The Press it’s the moderator who decides what questions to ask. But again - he let Perle ramble.
Later on there was a question of who the hell the "enemy" is in Iraq - and Perle not only identified who they were but offered his prognostication of what would happen if we set a date to pull out:
Mr. Perle: "The enemy are people who are placing roadside bombs, suicide bombers who are recruited often from outside Iraq because they're very much a part of the war on terror, very much a part of the terrorist threat that we face. The enemy is identifiable, and what you're saying is that we should pull out. Setting a date certain only anticipates the pulling out, but it will unleash forces that will be completely uncontrollable. And the consequences of an American pullout will not only be a defeat for the United States and a setback in our effort to combat terror around the world, it will be a catastrophe for the people of Iraq."
I don’t expect Russert to attack people who he talks to on Meet The Press, but I do expect moderators of any and all of the non Fox talking head programs to point out the obvious fallacy of arguments proposed by guests. In the case of neocon Perle - one of the architects of the Iraqi misadventure - his pre-war prognostication was that we’d be welcomed as liberators and that a new, democratic Iraq would be achieved and change the whole political structure of the Middle East and help solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem. Remember the neocon mantra - "The road to peace in Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." Perle and his neocon cohorts were wrong about everything they thought and said about Iraq - so when he offers prognostication about the future of the country on Meet The Press, the very least thing you’d think Russert would do is point this out. Gently - but point it out. But he said nothing - so I was left with the troubling question - what the hell is wrong with Tim Russert?
The whole transcript of what transpired last Sunday on Meet The Press is right here.
Later that evening, I watched a late version of Sixty Minutes - the lateness due to non stop coverage of the end of one basketball game after another. One of the segments was devoted to Simon Cowell - the insulting judge of "American Idol." I suppose there’s some justification for Sixty Minutes to devote time to someone like this. I’ve never seen the show - nor do I have any desire to watch it - but I understand it to be one of the most popular shows on the air. I suppose if executions were televised, they too would generate very high ratings and Sixty Minutes might devote a segment to an executioner - in a black face mask of course.
I have nothing against talent shows. There was nothing wrong with "The Original Amateur Hour" that served to launch the careers of people like Frank Sinatra and Gladys Knight - but American Idol is a combination of The Original Amateur Hour and "The Gong Show" - and as such - to my mind - loses all sense of credibility. The people appearing on OAH weren’t all great amateur talents - but they were good enough to appear on an amateur talent show. No part of the show was devoted to "showcasing" people with absolutely no talent so that they could be ridiculed by the show’s host - and perhaps brought to tears. Apparently, that is Simon Cowell’s major contribution to the American Idol show and one of his major claims to fame. Sorry Sixty Minutes, you may think it’s important but I find that sick.
I may have some future comments on what passes for talent in this day and age, how it came about and how it relates to the success of American Idol - besides the attraction to those who tune in more to see some poor schmo destroyed by Cowell than to enjoy genuine performances.
I left Sixty Minutes before Andy Rooney was 30 seconds into his end of program bit of prime time wasting nonsense. The guy’s 88. And shows it. CBS needs to put him, his packages of cereal and assorted junk from his office out to pasture. Remember Point Counterpoint? "Jane You Ignorant Slut." No - that was Saturday Night Live’s parody of Point Counterpoint - but even a parody would have to be better than Rooney to close out what is still - barely - one of the worth while shows on television.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
THIS BLOG AND THE BLOGOSPHERE - MUTUALLY EXLUSIVE
The other day I said I wasn’t going to bother to check to see what bloggers were saying about the Libby verdict and I said that I might comment about that later - specifically the relationship between this blog and the blogosphere. Here’s that comment.
I’m old enough to remember pre-television days - a time when there was no television in the house to hold our attention and draw us to it like flies to a spider web. We listened to the radio. We read books and magazines. We spent time on chores and hobbies. Now - in my house - the television is on before dinner - a set is on in the kitchen where and while we eat dinner - and it’s on in the den where we sit down to relax after dinner. We’re addicts. Television became as common a household item as a table lamp and it became a central part of our leisure time.
Not too many years ago, there was no computer in our house. As far as we were concerned, if we ever got one it would be to do word processing and at one time we decided that a word processor would do just as well as a more expensive and more complicated computer and so that’s what we got. It didn’t last long. We quickly realized that a computer could do all the word processing we needed to do - plus provide us with the ability to do all kinds of other things.
Our first computer and our first attempts to access the world of the Internet were too primitive to imagine. I won’t try to describe them here. Let’s just say that it was like trying to drive a model T down a dirt road. Today we have a cable connection and a 160 gigabyte hard drive in our Dell - and our computer usage has become as common and as routine as our television usage. I turn on the computer first thing in the morning - usually while I’m shaving - before I hop in the shower. It gets turned off last thing at night - before we turn in - and during the day, I find myself sitting before it for far too many hours. It has become a central focus in my life - and something that I’ve decided I have to deal with before it consumes me.
There are two reasons why the computer - and the Internet - have assumed such a large role in my life. One is that I’m retired from the business of making a living - so the hours that I used to devote to that task have been freed up. The second reason is that in 2003, I was introduced to blogging - and since then, way too many of those "freed up" hours have been consumed by creating entries for this blog. I started on April 2, 2003 - and if Blogger records are correct, I have posted 759 commentaries or works of fiction since that date or close to four postings per week Some of the fiction - probably all of it - was written before I started blogging - so not a great deal of time was used in creating it for his blog - just the time it took to type it in. Everything else written here was and is original and its creation was at least somewhat time consuming.
When I started - and to this day - blogging was for my own amusement. I had no particular ax to grind. I wasn’t interested in writing a political blog or a religious blog or any other kind of single theme blog. My idea was to write about whatever struck me as interesting when I sat down in front of my computer. I hoped people who knew about it would read it and I hoped that some people would run across it accidentally and perhaps enjoy it - but I wasn’t interested in making a career out of being a blogger.
In my early days as an amateur blogger, I occasionally looked in on blogs that were called to my attention in one way or another. This may sound arrogant, but I found most of them boring - and that includes some that claim to have huge numbers of visitors every day. And I was astonished by a couple of thing. One was the number of separate entries some bloggers made in a single day and spread out throughout the day and sometimes into the night - which made me wonder how they had time to do anything else - such as work for a living!! The other was the inclusion of dozens upon dozens of links to other sites - many of them other blog sites - and that made me wonder to what use they were being put. Surely the blog writers wouldn’t be spending time clicking on all those links and reading what they found there. There wouldn’t be time to contribute to their own blogs - particularly if they were some of those all day and into the night blog writers mentioned above.
I know there are reasons for including large lists of links other than having them there for the purpose of connecting to the sites they represent - but I decided early on that I wanted no part of being a "linking blog." I have two links to blogs on my home page. One to an Israeli round up of opinion writers because I have an interest in Israel. - and a link to this blog can be found in a very long list of links on their home page. I used to have links to two other Israeli blogs - but one stopped blogging and the other included too much personal family information that was of no interest to me and it didn’t last long on my home page. And I link to a local columnist who links to me and with whom I once had a back and forth discussion with and about our respective blogs. I don’t click on him too often because I can read him in the Chicago Tribune. And as you can see I have a "non-blog" link to a commodity broker because it’s someone I know personally and whose trading judgments I trust. And that’s the extent of my involvement in linking to other parts of "the blogosphere."
For a short while recently, I found myself getting sucked into "the blogosphere" when I subscribed to e-mail editions of Capital Hill Blue. It’s run by one Doug Thompson who claims that he’s a newsman and not a blogger - but his daily output reads like a glorified blog. I subscribed because I heard someone on the radio citing an exclusive of his about the Cheney shooting incident - but it turned out to be unsubstantiated. I say I was "sucked in" because I wrote a couple of responses to things that Mr. Thompson said on his site - to which he responded with insult and arrogance - which gratefully helped me to clear my head and ask myself what the hell I was doing wasting my time this way. I’m no longer a subscriber.
I do check on a couple of Iraqi blogs from time to time, including one that I’ve mentioned here on several occasions - Baghdad Burning. And once in a while a blog pops up when I’m looking for information. - and I get a glimpse of the number and variety of blogs out there in the blogosphere. It’s staggering - and that’s at least one reason why, even though I’m part of it - I don’t particularly want to join it.
I can understand single topic bloggers having an interest in being part of a "blogging community." Political bloggers of the left and right. People writing about religion or computers or any other narrowly focused topic. But with what community would I identify with such topics as "NEW BASEBALL RULES" or "MARKET FLIM FLAM" or "BOBBIES IN TURBANS" or "PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY PREDATORS" or "AIR FAIRS TAT AREN’T" or "ALABAMA FLYING CIRCUS" or "BRITISH BEING BEASTLY" or "THE WISDOM OF THE TERMINATOR" or "GOD/NO GOD ARGUMENTS" or "ABOUT DOGS" and on and on with almost as many separate topics as total blog posts?
What my blog is - in my humble opinion - is a "body of work" - an eclectic collection of creative writing that I might put together in book form one day and that I could just as well have produced without it being a public blog - in the same way that one might keep a personal diary. This is in a sense a personal diary - a combination of occasional comments about my personal life but not so personal that I wouldn’t want to share them with perfect strangers - my myelogram being a prime example - and commentary on anything and everything that piques my personal interest.
Where it belongs in the blogosphere I don’t know. It’s one of millions - I don’t know what the latest count is. Some I’m sure have some minor influence to narrowly defined audiences - but in spite of all the palaver I hear about the power of blogs - and in this country - about political bloggers of the left and of the right who have become known and who are thus invited to perform in other media- mostly cable TV talk shows - I don’t believe that blogs can be considered as valid a source of information and opinion as the conventional print and broadcast news media. Of course that doesn’t include blogs that are little more than extensions of conventional news media organizations - and there are plenty of them around. In fact it’s more likely to be an exception if a major newspaper doesn’t have a blog - or a number of blogs authored by some of its reporters and columnists.
Individuals like me can enjoy being our own blogging reporters, columnists, editors and fiction writers - but my view of blogging is that we bloggers shouldn’t take ourselves, our relationship with or our contribution to the blogosphere and beyond too seriously.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
A FAREWELL TO RED QUINLAN
The letter is dated February 10, 1959 and reads as follows:
Sir:It was addressed to
Director of PersonnelNo zip code. As I recall, in those days it was a single digit.
Having revealed my age - yes, I’m a true ancient - I can also reveal that the letter, signed of course by me and addressed to an unknown "Director of Personnel" - found its way into the hands of the man who ran the station - Red Quinlan - and I was hired. Not as assistant manager and not as a janitor but as a mailroom grunt. I may have impressed Red with my letter but the mailroom was where many people with potential but no prior television broadcasting experience started .
Red Quinlan died last Sunday at the age of 90 and I feel like I’ve lost a little piece of my life.. I didn’t work for ABC for very long. Just a few short years, after which I left to become a director at WCIU, Channel 26 in Chicago - and then went on to other things, some of which are mentioned here. I might have stayed in television had I been able to hang on to the license for Channel 50 (originally assigned to Gary Indiana) which I and some partners acquired in the mid sixties - but we ran out of money battling with some well heeled opponents who were determined to stop us from transferring the license to and broadcasting from Chicago.
There are some jobs that stay with you - that become a part of you - long after you’ve left and gone on to other things. My brief tenure at Channel 7 in Chicago was one of those jobs. It’s been more than forty years since I was there and worked under Red Quinlan - but it seems like just a short time ago. I still sometimes watch a television program - particularly one on Channel 7 - and direct it. Call camera shots.
I was a lowly mail room employee when I started and I never rose above the position of stage manager at the station - but Red and I became friends. I’d been there less than a year when I had an idea to create a company newspaper - and Red encouraged me to do so. It was called "The Pioneer" and I still have a handful of copies from 1960 and 1961. Even while I was still a mail room employee, Red would occasionally invite me to lunch in the executive dining room and we would chew the fat as equals. Sometimes we talked about what was in "The Pioneer." I remember one occasion when one of the station’s union honchos was upset about something I had written and had complained about it. I don’t recall exactly what it was. Some sort of criticism of union rules. It came up in one of our conversations. I asked Red how he thought I should respond. His answer? Fuck ‘em!! You’re the editor. If they don’t like what you write they don’t have to read it. Or they can write a letter to the editor. Which was something they frequently did.
Red wanted to me to move into sales because he said that was the road to management and he though I could make it to the top. But I was more interested in the creative side of broadcasting and spurned his advice. You can see how well that turned out from my puny resume!!
I haven’t seen or spoken to Red for more than 40 years - but as with other people that I knew long ago and whose deaths I have read about and written about here from time to time - I died a little when I read about Red’s death. I’ve touched on this topic before - and I’ll say it again. It’s my feeling that those of us who are lucky enough to live into old age don’t just die when we stop breathing and when a doctor pronounces us as having shuffled off this mortal coil. I think we begin dying long before that as the world that we know and are comfortable with recedes from us. Our music. Our movie idols. Our sports heroes. Our friends. As they change beyond recognition or leave forever, the world in which we live shrinks and becomes less friendly. It’s no longer "our" world. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I often think of it as nature’s way of preparing us for our own death. Of moving us slowly and gently in that direction. And each time we lose a part of our life, we die a little.
Ninety’s not bad for a ripe old age. I hope I make it that far if I’m able to get rid of my sciatic pain and with my marbles intact. Red got a lot done in his 90 years - not the least of which was to make me feel good about myself for the few years when I was proud to call him Boss!!
Bon voyage Red - from an old friend.
Monday, March 12, 2007
ISRAEL NEEDS NEW LEADERSHIP - AND SOON
It seems like I’ve been stuck on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for a few days and much as I’d like to become unstuck, things keep happening that stick in my craw - and you know there’s only one way to treat that problem. Write some angry words and post them on a blog. Well, not too angry. Just troubled.
Ehud Olmert, who, from the vantage point of my computer room in a Chicago suburb, seems to screw up on a regular basis - is now telling a commission of inquiry that plans to go to war against Hezbollah existed months before the killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers in July of last year - but we have military officials who say that’s news to them.
Considering the way the "war" unfolded from the Israeli side, it’s hard to believe that any carefully pre-conceived military plan had been launched. Military plans for all kinds of contingencies exist all over the globe of course. I’d hate to speculate on how many we have in the hopper. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Israel had as many. But it’s a far cry from having a contingency plan to say that Israel had a plan to attack Hezbollah and wreak aerial havoc on Lebanon on a date certain without first being attacked by them.
What troubles me is that after all of the death and destruction that took place last year - in Gaza - in Lebanon and in Israel - and after a UN brokered cease fire with Hezbollah - kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held somewhere in Gaza - and Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are still being held somewhere in Lebanon. All that death and destruction and nothing was accomplished in terms of securing the release of these three young men.
I know it’s supposed to be noble to refuse to negotiate with so called terrorists - but Israel has done it before and likely would have done so again if Ariel Sharon had still been in charge. Yes - I know that if you negotiate the release of captives in return for the release of people you are holding - it will encourage the captors to do the same thing again. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the fanatics who captured the three Israeli soldiers would never release them in response to a military attack - and that of course is just what is happening. The demands for their release remain the same as they were before the bombs rained down on Gaza and on Lebanon.
I know Israel faces tough decisions every day - but I also know that tough decisions require the best possible minds to make them. For where I sit - admittedly looking in from the outside and not from a close up position - Ehud Olmert isn’t someone with that best possible mind.
Speaking of the need for new leadership…..
Some interesting combinations are taking shape among the Republican presidential hopefuls and wannabes. Of all people Rudy Giuliana is leading in polls of likely Republican primary voters - but whose that moving up on the outside? Why it’s (so far) unannounced candidate Newt Gingrich - fresh off his confession of marital infidelity while he was trying to unseat Bill Clinton for more or less the same offense - and of course the recipient of instant forgiveness by none other than that great American patriot and arbiter of good taste and moral values - Jerry Falwell.
Giuliana and Gingrich. Could it be? The Gee Gees running for President and Vice President - the roles interchangeable of course. What an attractive couple they’d be to the yahoo voting block. Can you imagine the slogans they’d be able to use? We laid six wives. With six you get egg roll.
And what great arguments they could make about their leadership qualities. How they both faced great issues without regard for political fall out. Gingrich telling his wife she was being dumped while she was hospitalized with cancer. Giuliana moving his girl friend into Gracie Mansion to co-habit with his wife and kids. These are men of action and purpose.
It’s still early in the game - but I’m pulling for the Gee Gees to make it all the way. There’s no way to guarantee that we’ll have a Democrat for our next president, but having these two as the Republican ticket comes pretty damned close.
Friday, March 09, 2007
KING ABDULLAH’S FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM
Just a quick follow up on King Abdullah’s formula for peace in the Middle East.
I watched as much of the Lehrer/Abdullah interview as I could stand Wednesday night - and read a summary of his speech to Congress.
And when he met with Jewish leaders later - whoever they were - they never seem to be identified by name - he said that the "Right of Return" - which Palestinians have used as a Sword of Damocles hanging over any attempt to reach a reachable peace agreement, should be seen as an attempt to reach out to Israel and not as a bottom line!!
I won’t be disavowing my comments of Wednesday. Everyone in the region is insane - even the sane ones!!!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
PEACE OFFERS - HAMAS STYLE
As I was saying below - it’s a little hard for Israel to be able to live in peace and stability with its neighbors when she has neighbors who have their own ideas about what peace and stability means.
You don’t have look far to find stories like this one or this one. They’re all over the place. They reflect the views of "neighbor" Hamas - the Palestinian "faction" that the folks on the west bank and Gaza elected to represent them.
They have a fine peace offer in mind - from their perspective. Israel should pull back behind its 1967 borders, release all Palestinian prisoners - and allow any Palestinian who lived behind those same borders before 1948 - and all their descendants - to come and live there again. The nonsensical demand of "right of return." Just a few million Palestinian Arabs to join their million plus Israeli Arab brethren. After which Hamas would be willing to offer anywhere from a 10 - 20 year truce!! Not a peace treaty - but a truce. No attacks for 10 to 20 years - depending on which story reflects their most recent "offer."
Of course they wouldn’t have to offer an actual peace treaty. There would be no need. With millions of Palestinian Arabs exercising their "right of return" - it wouldn’t take anything like 10 to 20 years for Israel to cease to exist as a sovereign Jewish democratic state. And Hamas is quite open about this. Read the statement of their spokesman who made it clear what they and their predecessors have had in mind for decades. That each concession by Israel is just one more piece of the puzzle - the finished picture of which displays Palestinian control of all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river.
What is amazing is that despite their stated intent to destroy Israel, well meaning - and perhaps some not so well meaning people - keep insisting that the absence of peace is Israel’s fault. That - according to the wisdom of Jordan’s King Abdullah - all that is needed is for Israel to get rid of its fortress mentality and live in peace and stability with its neighbors - whether their plan is to destroy you or not.
I don’t know what you’d call that kind of logic but I’m sure glad it isn’t taught in Israeli schools where its future leaders are being educated. On the other hand, maybe it should be taught so that future leaders would be well versed in the language of madness before they ever sat down at a negotiating table with madmen.
Incidentally, Abdullah is scheduled to be interviewed by Jim Lehrer on the PBS New Hour tonight. Maybe we’ll all be enlightened and I’ll have to disavow these comments.
I suppose the blogosphere is full of commentary on the Libby verdict. I really don’t know because I don’t have the time - or any strong interest in looking for it there. I’ll have some comment on the relationship of this blog and the blogosphere later - maybe tomorrow or the next day.
I’m not one who’s rejoicing at the verdict or thinks something good has been accomplished. I heard Joe Wilson express some satisfaction but not with any great sense of victory or vindication.
I’m willing to accept the fact that lying under oath to a grand jury is a criminal offense - and there were just too many witnesses contradicting Libby’s memory of conversations about Valerie Plame to accept his defense that he just plain forgot who told him what and when. It would have been more credible - and kept him out of trouble - if he had said just that in front of the grand jury - that he couldn’t say for certain who told him what and when. But to recall a conversation that never happened with Tim Russert was the height of stupidity - and one doesn’t get the impression that Libby is a stupid man - so one has to wonder what the hell was going on here.
Fitzgerald is a hot-shot prosecutor who prosecutes where he sees a provable crime - and it’s disturbing that he couldn’t find a way to prosecute the crime of outing a covert CIA agent under The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 - the statute covering such issues.
But as disappointing as it might have been, I think it would have been better to return no indictments rather than offer up Libby as a sacrificial lamb to those thirsting after the blood of Cheney or Bush or even Bob Novak.
Now we have competing cries from the right and from the left - one for the President to pardon Libby and the other for Congress to conduct more investigations - and my question to the left is - to what end? If Fitzgerald couldn’t find a prosecutable violation of the law other than Libby’s obstruction of justice and perjury - what is to be gained by more hearings on the same subject other than some additional embarrassment for the administration? You win some and you lose some. Congress has better things to do.
However, there’s a great big elephant lurking on the edge of the clearing - just waiting for the right moment to enter the arena and send dirt flying in every direction - and that’s the pending civil suit filed by Valerie Plame against Cheney, Rove, Libby et al.
If this case goes forward before the Bush/Cheney administration expires - maybe then we’ll really get the fireworks that Fitzgerald couldn’t light up. And as far as I know, the assets of the defendants in that case aren’t protected by the equivalent of an NFL pension.
Monday, March 05, 2007
THE "WISDOM" OF JORDAN’S ABDULLAH. THE MOUTH THAT SHOULD BE CLOSED
How about this for some great advice?
Homeless people should move into houses or apartments.
People who are starving should eat more food.
You wouldn’t expect to find either of those statements in the headline or as part of the substance of a newspaper story. Not in any legitimate newspaper. They would be the kinds of advice that morons would offer as solutions to problems. But they are on a par with statements contained in a story being published around the world in such papers as the Chicago Tribune and Haaretz.
The statements are those of King Abdullah ll of Jordan. Yes, in this day and age we still have countries ruled by kings and we do business with them. Abdullah is on his way to visit us here in the USA and had some comments about one of the favorite topics in his part of the world - the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how to solve it. And what words of wisdom did the king have on the subject ?
How about this great advice?
"Israel must choose between the mentality of "Israel the fortress" or "peace and security with its neighbors."
"The main responsibility [for achieving peace] lies with Israel, which must choose either to remain a prisoner of the mentality of `Israel the fortress' or to live in peace and stability with its neighbors."
As a great philosopher once said when asked the eternal question "why is a mouse when it spins" - say what???
Israel must choose between being "Israel the Fortress" or living in peace and security with its neighbors?? I guess we can cut the king a little slack. After all, the conflict began long before he was born . But surely someone must have told him by now. Israel chose what you want it to choose a long time ago. It chose it the day it declared itself a state. Read the declaration. Read the part where it says
WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.But here’s what happened. It’s neighbors didn’t want to live in "peace and stability" with Israel. They still don’t. That’s why Israel has its so called "fortress mentality."
It’s astonishing really that comments like this are deemed worthy of reporting as a news item just because the speaker is the son of King Hussein and the grandson of King Talal. It makes you wonder if the problems of the region can ever be solved when people in positions of leadership emit such driveling nonsense. It isn’t that much different from the nonsense that Jimmy Carter spouts in his book - blaming the absence of peace on Israel’s policies.
I can think of a way to put Abdullah’s suggestions to the test. Ask all of Israel’s neighbors to agree to the following. That from this moment forward they will pledge to live in peace and security with Israel. That they will not attack Israel or Israelis or allow renegade groups to attack Israel or Israelis from within their borders - and that any and all disputes will be settled through dialogue - and that even if disputes can not be settled through dialogue, they will not resort to violent action.
It is of course a ridiculous suggestion - but no more than Abdullah’s simple remedy - that if Israel tells its neighbors that it wants to live in peace and stability with them and not inside a "fortress"- everything will be just fine.
Anyone who reads my commentaries from time to time knows that I can be critical of Israel’s policies and actions when I think they are in the wrong - and there is no question that they make life difficult for Palestinian Arabs living in the west bank. But their role as "occupiers" is not one that they set out to achieve. It was forced on them. There were efforts to reach Abdullah’s desired "peace and stability" with its neighbors before and after the 1967 war. With the entire Arab world in fact. But peace efforts were rejected.
It takes some basic ingredients for Israel to reach agreements to live in peace and stability with its neighbors. For one thing, all of the neighbors have to accept the fact that Israel is a sovereign country that has a right to exist and isn’t about to disappear. Secondly, those neighbors, including the Palestinians, need to want to live in a state of peace and stability with Israel. Third, those neighbors, including the Palestinians, need to be able to control the activities of people living within their borders and not allow independent and unregulated armies to exist and to engage in violent attacks against Israel and Israelis at will. Fourth, in seeking peace with Israel - if that indeed is their desire - they have to refrain from making demands that they know can never be met. Continuing to make such demands - the "right of return" for example - demonstrates that their goal is not peace with a sovereign nation - but victory in a war that they see as ongoing since May 14, 1948 - the day on which Israel declared its independence and the day before five Arab nations went to war against the fledgling state - a day that is "celebrated" by Palestinians every May 15 as "catastrophe day."
Whatever Israel’s mistakes and missteps - and there have been many along the way - it cannot be blamed for the absence of peace as long as there is an absence of total acceptance of its right to exist and live in peace and as a Jewish nation - by all of its Arab neighbors and by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza and all of their military and political "factions."
Remember that the Arabs can lose war after war and still come back to fight another day. If Israel loses one war, its enemies will have achieved their ambition to wipe it off the map. There will be no more democratic Jewish state. So one can logically conclude that above all Israel wants to live in peace and stability with its neighbors - as long as its neighbors are ready and willing to live in peace with Israel!!
If King Abdullah of the 80% of original Palestine neatly carved out for his Hashemite ancestors by the generous British has something constructive to suggest about how to achieve peace in the Middle East, it will certainly be welcomed by anyone truly seeking peace. Otherwise, we’d all be better off if he would keep his royal mouth shut.
Speaking of mouths that should be kept closed - how refreshing is it that in the midst of the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, no arrogant midget nitwit has seen fit to explain to complainers that "we treat our war wounded with the facilities we have - not the facilities that we’d like to have."
And - still on the topic of open mouth garbage - isn’t it time that we stopped paying attention to the ravings of Ann Coulter?
Thursday, March 01, 2007
SEARCHING FOR NEWS ACCURACY
Some people on the political right - in fact a lot of people on the political right, don’t believe that you can get the real news from mainstream media - that you have to listen to what Rush Limbaugh is saying or look at the Drudge Report.
To a certain extent they’re right. Not that you’ll get a better understanding of the news by checking in on Limbaugh or Drudge. Those are the last two people in the world to look to for straight news reporting And not that you won’t get real news in the mainstream media - just that you might not get all of a story because of time constraints or editorial judgments.
The news reporting on Louis Farrakhan’s farewell speech is a prime example. If you were to just glance at the headlines that come up if you google the former calypso singer’s name - you’d think that his so called "final speech" last Sunday was all about "religious unity" and U.S. foreign policy. Indeed it took some searching through a number of press reports of his speech before I came across a reference to his anti-Semitic bigotry - a reference to his calling Judaism a "gutter religion" in the Baltimore Sun story.
But nowhere in the so called mainstream press - including the Baltimore Sun - was there a reference to the anti-Semitism that he saw fit to include in his highly touted swan song. For this, one would have to look elsewhere - and if you are not regularly exposed to other media, you just wouldn’t learn about it. But here it is - "minister" Louis Farrakhan’s farewell words to his flock - remember who it is we hate the most - the Jews!! No - I don’t know what he actually said, I haven’t been able to find a transcript on line. But I’m interpreting his intention in giving his followers their reading assignments for the post Farrakhan era. Books that prove that the Jews are evil, money grubbing devils. Take a look at them. I’m surprised that he didn’t recommend the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Whether it’s from the right or from the left, you sometimes have to check on what’s being reported as actual events. Case in point - Randi Rhodes on Air America Radio. I’ve said vaguely complimentary things about her in the past - but after some concentrated listening over the past few weeks, I find that about half the time she sounds like a left wing version of Michael Weiner Savage. A few days ago, Savage was ripping into Diane Sawyer, calling her a whore for interviewing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . Lately Rhodes has been calling President Bush a psychopath and saying that he hates the troops.
Both can be disgusting - but I look to Rhodes to be more accurate when reporting on actual events. After the horrible conditions at Walter Reed were disclosed, the army began to take steps to rectify the situation - and at the same time tried to clamp down on possible future exposes. They told patients that they should not talk to the media and that they would need to have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m. - which some believe is a form of punishment for talking to the press in the first place.
Rhodes reported this more or less as follows: The patients have been told to "shut the F up" - a phrase she repeated multiple times during the course of her show. As to the morning inspections, she reported that the building had no elevators and that patients had to maneuver their wheelchairs down flights of stairs to arrive at some inspection point. She cited as her source for this jaw dropping information - The Army Times. Well - here’s the story in the Army Times - and you tell me how accurately Ms Rhodes reported it.( If you get a "this page has gone AWOL" when you click on this link - as I got a couple times- just type "Walter Reed - Patients Told to Keep Quiet" in the search space on the home page and it should come up.)
The army has denied the story the way it was reported in the Army Times - and here’s their denial in that same paper. (And if THAT link gives you an AWOL response - type "Army denies patients face daily inspections" in their home page search space and it should link to the story. Don’t use quotes or put a period at the end. This is one strange site for links!! One minute they work and the next they don’t).
But as you can see from the original story, no one was told to "shut the fuck up" or to roll wheelchairs down flights of stars.
And as you’ve probably heard by now, General George Weightman, commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center - has been fired.
The horrible conditions that were exposed by the media at Walter Reed were inexcusable - and no doubt part of the reaction of the army brass is the usual CYA maneuver. The first law of self preservation in the service. Cover your ass. But that’s a far cry from what Randi Rhodes was reporting. Be critical by all means - but when you make up your own version of what was said and what was ordered - you relinquish your right to blast all those radio talk show hosts at the other end of the political spectrum for their lies and distortions.
Of course anyone who reads this blog knows where to look for absolute truths.