What's All This Then?
Friday, July 27, 2007
FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND
One of the certainties of growing old is that you will lose friends and friends will eventually lose you.
Readers of this blog know that from time to time I acknowledge the passing of an old friend or former work colleague. I did so for my old friend and sometime business associate Fred Weituschat three years ago - for my old friend and former partner Bob Lewandowski in September of 2006 - and for my one time ex boss Red Quinlan this past March,
A couple of weeks ago I lost another old and dear friend - a former colleague and poker playing buddy. For whatever reason, I couldn’t find any published obituary, but his passing was acknowledged on line by the medical association that he served with great distinction for more than two decades and continued to serve for years beyond his "retirement." The following, posted by the American Osteopathic Association will mean little to those who never knew Bob Klobnak, but it will mean something to the one or two people who knew him and who read this blog - and most certainly to me. And so, with your kind indulgence - a word about one of my best and oldest fiends.
July 12, 2007As will I. And all the good times we had together over a close to forty year span.
Goodbye old friend. Rest in peace.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
TRAPPED IN GANG AFT AGLEY LAND
I wouldn’t exactly say that I feel much like a
"Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie"though I don’t totally dismiss the feeling of experiencing a
"Panic in thy breastie."But I can totally identify with Robert Burn’s admonition that
"The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley, An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!I did not have major spine surgery on July 17. Some mystery ailment attacked me a few days before and it landed me in the hospital - coincidentally on the very day my operation was scheduled - where I was poked, prodded, stuck, scanned, MRI’d , pumped with IV antibiotics and assorted medications for days - all without discovering the source or nature of the problem - which persists as I write.
A hospital is entirely another world from the one we normally experience - and I have yet to complete my (temporary or permanent) return to the "real" world - and so am not quite ready to resume my commentary on the passing parade. Pity - because so there’s just so much on which to comment. But with luck, I’ll be back in the groove soon.
Meanwhile, let me leave with just one brief comment about the "debates" that Democrats and Republicans have been waging and on the pundits who announce "winners" and "losers." It seems that the easiest way to come out a "winner" is to have the "one liner" that most impresses these pundits.For example, Obama says he’d be willing to meet with leaders of so called "rogue states." Clinton jumps all over him , saying she wouldn’t think of having such meetings during her first year. The pundits say that show Clinton is more mature than Obama. Winner Clinton.
If those are the rules for deciding who is more ready to run for - and maybe win the presidency - HennyYoungman must be turning in his grave in frustration. But then again he was born in England so even if he could have participated in these so called "debates" and topped all of his opponents with one one-line zinger after another, he couldn’t have won the nomination or the office.
But based on what we’ve been hearing at these "debates" - he’d be as qualified as anyone running from either party. And though I’m not quite back in the "real" world - that’s not just the residual effect of all that IV medication fueling that opinion!!
Friday, July 13, 2007
This blog has been quiet for a while as its author has been doing what needed to be done to prepare for major surgery on July 17. And it'll be quiet for a matter of weeks following surgery. But with any luck, as the Governator once said - I'll be back.
So wish me luck.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
IDLE THOUGHTS ON THE PLAYING OF THE LIBBY GET OUT OIF JAIL FREE CARD
I did some on line searching this morning to see what inquiries about Scooter Libby and his commutation would produce - and here’s the results. Just the name - Scooter Libby - produced 5,380,000 Google "hits."
I’m always suspicious about the numbers that Google churns out. You have to wonder how many of the hits refer to actual "scooters" or some other variety of foot propelled wheeled vehicles. If you just type in "scooters" for example, you get a claim of 11,400,000 hits - the first three of which are all about the wheeled gizmos - but hit number four is the Libby type of Scooter. Oh for the intelligence of the Enterprise computer - along with that friendly female voice.
Anyway, continuing with my search, I tried "Bush Commutations" and got 83,500 hits. Changing to G.W. Bush Commutations in creased that number to 226,000. G.W. Bush Pardons revealed 1,600,000. And I don’t know what to make of my last couple of inquiries. Bill Clinton out of office for six years but "out-hitting" Dubya 494,000 to 226,00 on Commutations and 2,270,000 to 1,600,000 on Pardons.
I can’t say for sure - but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those hit numbers could be the result of intense interest by and on behalf of a group of people who I am sure are rejoicing over the commutation of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence - people of all political, ethnic and religious persuasions who are currently serving time in federal, state, county and local jails - and who have clearly been given "excessive" sentences which will now surely be considered for possible adjustment.
Yes, they are rejoicing. They are rejoicing at a promise fulfilled. A long time coming - but fulfilled at last. The emergence of he who has been suppressed for lo these many years - but who has always been him because he told us so. George Walker Bush. The Compassionate Conservative.
His compassion was honestly honed during his term as governor of Texas as he agonized over the execution of 152 felons - none of whom he was able to determine had received an "excessive" sentence. Maybe he could have shown his compassion for one or two of them if - in addition to the death penalty - they had been fined a substantial amount of money - say $250,000. Then he could have upheld the jury verdict while just re-arranging the sentence - make ‘em pay - just not with their lives.
Incidentally, the news is that Libby had already paid his $250,000 fine. Petty cash!! Would that mean that he isn’t going to appeal his conviction? And if he does appeal and wins - does he get his money back with interest? And how about the probation that the compassionate president let stand because he respected the jury verdict? What happens if Libby violates the terms of his probation? Does he get sent to an imaginary jail? Does he get a time out? Can he even get probation without serving a day in jail - since probation attached to a jail sentence, follows that jail sentence. Even the judge seemed confused about this one .He’s asking for a clarification.
Maybe all that is left of the lengthy investigation of the Valerie Plame leak after the compassionate president protected himself, Dick Cheney and Libby’s rear end - is the $250,000 petty cash payment - which the news report about this said did not come from his legal defense fund.
You have to wonder what agents of the United States operating under the cover of Brewster Jennings & Associates must think about that kind of outcome. Assuming they have been able to survive the revelation that it was a CIA front.
And of course one of the reasons why Bill Clinton out-polls Dubya in the "Pardon" search - has got to be Bush supporters offering or searching for the perfect defense to this or any other of the president’s shortcomings. That good old reliable "Clinton did it" defense. Bush isn’t doing anything that Clinton didn’t do. He pardoned Marc Rich didn’t he? Isn’t an indictment for commodities fraud the moral equivalent of obstructing the efforts to discover who committed the treasonous act of "outing" a covert CIA agent? Of course there is an interesting kind of "equivalency" between the two cases. It is that of the lawyer for the fugitive finacier at the time - and a strong supporter of a presidential pardon for Mr. Rich. One I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Attorney-at-Law and officer of the court. Upholder of the rule of law.
There’ll be hearings on the commutation in the House. As I recall, there were hearings on the Rich pardon. And the outcome will be the same. Nothing will come of any hearings other than some political posturing and some cries of anguish. They might get to question Libby - but he’s already off the hook, so what could they possibly get him to say that might point the finger of guilt at his ex boss? Or at anyone else?
What we’re left with is pretty much an O.J. outcome - with a twist. A guilty verdict in the criminal trial - nullified by the playing of a get out of jail card. Bush as the legal equivalent of the "racial pay back" O.J. jury. And a civil trial to come - if the evils ones aren’t able to derail it before it can even be presented to a jury. That may be the only way that the true story of who did what and when and why in the Valerie Plame case that Libby protected with his lies, will finally be exposed to the light of truth.
The president can’t pardon the loser in a civil suit can he?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
BRITAIN’S WAR ON TERROR - HOME GROWN AND IMPORTED
I have to comment on what has happened in London and Glasgow. It sickens me. Those are two of my favorite cities in the UK and my wife and I have stood and walked where the bomb rigged cars were found in London - and inside and outside of the Glasgow airport. We can be grateful that they didn’t result in any death or injury - other than to the one terrorist who died in the burning car in Glasgow - and for the swift actions of the British authorities that have resulted in multiple arrests. I know those arrested were not British subjects, but I also know that there is a Muslim community in the United Kingdom that provides more than adequate cover for foreign Muslim terrorists wishing to "blend in" while they plan their dirty work.
It may sound strange, but apart from being grateful that no lives were lost - perhaps we should also be grateful for the messages that these kinds of incidents send - messages that help the Brits - and us - make sense of the "war on terror."
First of all, these attempted acts of terror show us very clearly where this "war" will be fought - and against whom. It will be fought against the individual crazed Islamist - or small groups of crazed Islamists - who try to wreak havoc on innocent civilian populations for whatever reasons occupy their demented minds. I say demented because these people may act in a deliberate manner - but they are driven by insane beliefs. And it will be fought using intelligence and alertness and - as we have just observed in the London incidents - with blind luck.
Where and how it will not be fought - cannot be fought - is with armed might against nation states. "Terror" doesn’t reside in any particular area of the globe where it can be cornered, attacked and wiped out. "Today’s Islamic terrorists" are not citizens of a nation called "Terror." They may come from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or Lebanon or Syria or Pakistan or Indonesia - or from practically anywhere - including the United Kingdom and the United States. What they have in common is a mindset and a hatred for values and conduct that do not come from or are governed by the Koran and Sharia law.
We have to fight them - proactively whenever and wherever we can and if we have the proper intelligence - and most certainly re-actively when there is intelligence of a possible imminent attack - or when there is suspicious behavior that might be indicative of an attack in the planning stages. We have to use every possible means - all of the law enforcement agencies at our disposal - which of course is not restricted to police. And when it makes sense, we shouldn’t hesitate to use military force. But only when it makes sense. Iraq never did make sense and doesn’t make sense today. Just as it wouldn’t make sense to launch an attack against Jordan if the Jordanian doctor arrested in connection with the attempted London car explosions turns out to be one of the instigators.
Long term, the war has to be fought by encouraging sanity wherever we find it in the Muslim world. I gave an example a few days ago in my June 18, 2007 comments. We can’t eliminate the Muslim faith - any more than Islam can eliminate Christianity. We have to live with the madness that is religion and the crazed beliefs that it engenders. But we have to try to deal with it rationally. It doesn’t help to dismiss the crazed Muslims because they believe that by committing suicide and taking a crowd of infidels with them, they will be going straight to Paradise where 70 virgins will be assigned to provide them with eternal pleasures. That belief isn’t any crazier than things believed by many Christians or Jews. So the one thing that we don’t want to think of as a "solution" or an "inevitability" is a "religious war" - which of course no one can win. Neither can we think in terms of engineering "regime change" in countries where we believe the concept of Jihad is encouraged or allowed to grow unchecked. . We’ve done it in the past with disastrous outcomes. It’s not a viable weapon in this strangest of "wars."
But knowing where and how this "war" must be fought isn’t much help if we conduct ourselves in ways that make us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than need be - and that I believe is what has happened in the United Kingdom over the course of several decades. People practicing the Muslim faith have poured into the UK with very little restriction for years - and the British authorities have bent over backwards to accommodate their needs and demands. You would think that this would engender gratitude and good will - but from what I have been able to observe, it resulted in very little gratitude and an increase in demands. And an insular population of British citizens having more loyalty to their faith than to their country.
Part of the "bending over backwards" was allowing radical Muslim clerics to publicly praise terrorist attacks against "infidels" and to preach the overthrow of the British democracy and the substitution of Sharia law. This was tolerated in the name of free speech - and it still goes on. There have been some crackdowns but nowhere near enough to stop the preaching of hatred and the radicalizing of young British Muslims. I wouldn’t want to see the sort of thing that has been happening here in terms of warrantless wiretapping of citizens and the ability to arrest and incarcerate anyone without charges for an unlimited period of time - but I would want the British authorities to declare in words that everyone will understand that upholding the principle of freedom of speech is not a suicide pact.
I have stood at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park and heard speakers advocating all sorts of radical actions - and they didn’t have to be Muslims to spout their nuttiness There were anti-Semites. Anti Blacks. Pro Nazis. The flat earth believers. Elvis is living in Wales. You name the nuttiness and you could find it in Hyde Park on a Sunday morning. At one time, it was enjoyable to gather with the crowd and drift from speaker to speaker, listening to them act out what was once a wonderful portrayal of democracy in action, whether you agreed with what they said or not.
But in this post 9/11/2001 and 7/7/2005 world, Britain needs to put at least a temporary stop to the flood of Muslims entering the country from Pakistan and elsewhere - and to crack down harder on the radical Muslim clerics who preach Jihad and violent overthrow of the government under the protection of free speech. The UK has enacted an anti-terrorism law that gives police broad powers to combat the threat of terrorism at various levels - but it also has watered down wording from the way it was originally introduced for fear that it would impinge upon the right of free speech. To which I say poppycock!!
In Germany, if you gather a crowd - get up on a soap box and declare that the Holocaust is a myth - that it never happened - you can be arrested, charged with a crime and end up in jail. That doesn’t mean that the Germans have banned free speech - only that a specific speech - deemed dangerous and untruthful - is illegal and punishable by a jail sentence.
In a world gone mad - with no indication of how long it will take for sanity to take hold - it makes no sense for the U.K. to allow the preaching of that madness to go on unchecked , claiming that it is protected by the principle of free speech. Any speech advocating acts of terrorism should be designated as criminal incitement and those who say such things should be prosecuted and if found guilty - jailed. I doubt that it will happen. Not in stiff upper lip Britain. But if these attacks grow in number and frequency, Gordon Brown might become even more forceful than Tony Blair was in pushing for truly stringent authority to clamp down on this growing, modern day "Fifth Column."
I hope so. Before "Londonistan" become little more than a small part of "Great Britainstan."