Friday, December 31, 2010


“Never be rude to an Arab, an Israeli, or Saudi, or Jew. Never be rude to an Irishman, no matter what you do” go the lyrics to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus ditty lampooning our political correctness. Yet for all its crassness and seeming insensitivity it does have a message for this New Year.

While the ditty sinks deeper in being downright offensive by hectoring us to “Never poke fun at a Nigger, a Spick, a Wop or a Kraut. And never put down….” it ends in a catastrophic explosion, “kaboom”. Keep on doing what we are now doing, denigrating all that is not “us”, and we will end up with an explosion that will destroy us all.

For all of its political incorrectness, Monty’s Circus preaches tolerance albeit with puerile humor. The Circus, so aptly named, goes on to note that “there are Jews in the world, there are Buddhists, there are Hindus and there are Mormons and then there are those that follow Mohammud [sic], but I’ve never been one of them” before staunchly proclaiming “I’m a Roman Catholic”. By explicitly naming the world’s many religions Monty Python has tacitly given them recognition and their just and proper due.

Tolerance and understanding is what we need in this New Year. If we learn to leaven tolerance with puerile humor and remember that “the world today seems absolutely crackers, with nuclear bombs to blow us all sky high, there are fools and idiots sitting on the trigger. It’s depressing and it’s senseless, and that’s why…” we should all sing Monty Python’s Gospel of Tolerance, with all of its irreverent wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Most of us take the elevator unless something prevents us, forcing us to creak up or down the stairs. In late November my offices were in the throes of renovation. The elevator landing was being sanded and painted, so you had to walk down six flights of stairs. As I meandered down the little used stairs, at some landings I was confronted by this large yellow and black “cd” sign with “fallout shelter” below with an arrow pointing to the left.
          Unwittingly I went beyond the ground floor and found myself in the basement. My building was probably built in the 20’s, well before the Second World War and its aftermath, the Cold War. Down in the basement were more “cd shelter” signs and tucked in the corner were some olive drab barrels labeled “survival supplies - drinking water”. Stacked next to them were a dozen dusty aluminum containers labeled “shelter - food”. I had stumbled upon one of the last vestiges of the cold war, a fallout shelter. 
          That brought back memories of the early 50’s when I was a kid attending Public School 22 in Flushing, New York. My teacher, Ms. Anita Tully, she who all the boys lusted after, would have us sit at our desks and when the bell started ringing, announcing the monthly civil defense drill, made us hunker down under our desks. “Duck and Cover” was what that stupid maneuver was called. The shelter of our wooden desks was supposed to shield and protect us from the blast of an exploding atomic bomb. Having survived actual bombs during the “Big War”, and having witnessed at first hand the destruction wrought, I thought then and now “Fat chance! What a crock!”
          We did drop the bomb on Hiroshima, then Nagasaki. I will get to that later. But I just want you to bring back from the recesses of your mind the mushroom cloud, the destruction, the wasted bodies, the rubble, the utter devastation, the bricks strewn about, men with white gauze masks picking up what looked like barbecued spare ribs, total and utter devastation.
          I often wondered what ever happened to that bombed out city, the subject of “Hiroshima Mon Amour” the film with the unforgettable “You are not endowed with memory” line. My mind further conditioned by science fiction and apocalyptic movies, “On the Beach”, “Mad Max”, “Planet of the Apes” and “The Omega Man” among others, conjured up a vast arid plain doted by twisted building skeletons devoid of life. A man made desert doomed to eternity by radioactive waste never to bloom or welcome mankind.       
          Yeaterday's reality as revealed in contemporary photographs is even more disturbing. I invite you to visit I do not have to add any words to what you will experience.
          But is that the Hiroshima of today? Does my vision of the nightmare still hold true? No. Someone just sent me a link contrasting the yesterday's Hiroshima with the today's Hiroshima in all of its modern electric magnificence, in full glorious color and glory. Google “Hiroshima and Detroit after 65 years” or go to
            But the authors of these sites go one step further. They document the present glory of a modern, vibrant Hiroshima with the present hardscrable, abandoned, destitute burned out hulk that is today’s Detroit. Apartment buildings with empty eye sockets for windows that once kept out the cold. A grand Municipal Building, or is it a train station, with marble Doric columns framing stories tall windows shattered as if by the siege of Stalingrad. Roofs crazily sagging on burned out frame houses that were once homes. And a shuttered empty Tiger Stadium sporting an ironic “welcome” sign. Welcome to whom or to what, one asks?
          I am not about to lay blame at anyone’s feet for the dire straits of our cities. I will let others far more competent than I to administer to this task. I will not offer an opion on the viability of the proposed new arms control treaty except to note that it could, just possibly could, prevent another Hiroshima. I merely suggest that we should take our cue from our Japanese friends, our former enemies, and do something about Detroit, once my amour, so that it doesn't remain yesterday's Hiroshima. After all, we won that war, didn't we?          

Sunday, December 19, 2010


          Frank Emi died yesterday at the age of 94. I had never heard of him until his obituary caught my eye in this Sunday’s New York Times. Then the magnitude of the crime that we perpetrated on him, and then compounded, sunk in. It made my head hang in shame, especially in light of the not as yet repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
          After Pearl Harbor, in one of the most constitutionally illegal and reprehensible Executive Orders ever, Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the detention of more than 110,000 American citizens and permanent resident in makeshift “detention centers”. To me these were nothing less than concentration camps. The only transgression that these Americans were accused of was that they were of Japanese descent, deemed “threats to national security” by that Executive Order. So much for due process and “innocent until proven guilty”. It was the purported “Champions of Justice”, the President and the Supreme Court of the United States that perpetrated the foul deed.
          One of these was Frank Emi. He was born on September 23, 1916 in Los Angeles. He was married with a kid running a food market when he was interned. Back then you couldn’t really rebel, you had no choice but to go along, get along, even though it was at the end of a fixed bayonet.
          Two years later, with America quickly running out of men of draft age, the policy abruptly changed. It was decided to add insult to injury. The interned Japanese Americans were subjected to the draft. Go directly from jail to the killings fields of the European Theatres of war. You were still suspect and not “American” enough to die fighting the Japanese. Some, Frank being one, just said “Hell no, I won’t go!” not until all of my rights as a true natural born U. S. citizen have been restored. That cry, to be echoed anew during the Viet Nam War, resulted in criminal charges. Found guilty of draft evasion, Frank Emi was sentenced to four years of hard labor at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
          Today’s military age gays and lesbians are really better off. They are not in jail nor are they subject to the draft. Which brings us to yesterday’s non repeal of the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. While the Senate’s vote ostensibly repeals it, it still leaves it in effect, its final repeal slowly inching forward.
But here is today’s version of “insult to injury”. If there was a draft today, as it should be so as to have all of us bear the burden of war, and you were a gay draftee openly declaring your sexual preference and you did so “for the purpose of avoiding or terminating military service” you would be subject to criminal prosecution for draft evasion ,just like Frank Emi. Damn if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Frank Emi stood up for his rights and was rewarded with a stay in the Leavenworth brig, surely not a tourist destination, not a Disneyland. Lest we forget, the last stand up Japanese American is down. He was a patriot in that long ago war to be remembered for standing up for all of our constitutional rights, which we “round eyes” utterly failed to do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Richard Holbrooke, a founding member of the Dead Diplomats Society, passed away yesterday. The Establishment and the media promptly canonized him and suggested a posthumous Nobel Prize. The eulogies are fraught with      hyperbole calling his role on the world stage “larger than life”. The pomp and circumstance surrounding his death make him a messianic, bold and courageous envoy of peace and stability. What pure and unadulterated bullshit. “Much Ado About Nothing”, say I, except his role was in the world’s sad tragedies, not Shakespeare’s light comedy.
Holdbrooke was the false bright and shining beacon of America’s failed diplomatic and economic disasters. His life was nothing but “A Bright Shining Lie”, starting with his service in Vietnam in 1962. He went on to Lyndon Johnson’s White House were he wrote a volume of the Pentagon Papers, but didn’t do a damn thing about the lies, deception and corruption that embroiled that war.
This man’s career spanning 50 years, in public service as well as substantial stints in the private sector, involved him with every conflict and with every subsequent defeat and humiliation. He participated in every failed attempt at diplomacy from Vietnam to Afghanistan, with stops in Bosnia, Kosovo and Cyprus along the way. His diplomatic efforts lacked a moral compass. He saw no shame in dealing with dictators, despots and corrupt politicians and actively supported their financing at the tax payers’ expense. He expressed outrage only after the corrupt official was of no longer use to his Machiavellian intrigues.
Holbrooke denied having made a deal with Bosnia’s Radovan Karadzic: withdraw from politics in return for a “get out of jail card” and no prosecution. But his denial was flatly refuted by Bosnia’s Muslim Foreign Minister, Karadzic’s arch enemy, Muhamed Sacirbey. His denial has been further refuted by Momcilo Krajisnik, Republica Srpska’s Parliamentary President, who was present when the deal was struck, and who personally recounted the encounter to me.
He, along with that other unprincipled eminence grise, Zbigniew Brezinski, facilitated the delivery of arms to Indonesia and supported Suharto’s brutal counterinsurgency which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths of East Timor dissidents. Likewise he supported Croatia’s “Operation Storm” which ultimately resulted in 250,000 displaced Serb refugees, destined to be strangers in a strange land, far greater than Kosovo’s Albanians who ultimately returned to their homes. All this in direct contravention of United Nations’ sanctions and embargoes and in violation of US domestic penal statutes. So much for abiding by international law. Holbrooke did so only when it suited his purposes.
His performance in the private sector was far from stellar. The financial institutions he was associated with skirted and openly flaunted the law. He was not passive but a proactive participant.  He started as a Senior Advisor, then Managing Director, of Lehman Brothers, the financial behemoth that ultimately made the largest bankruptcy filing in US history in 2008. Lehman was the firm embroiled in the sub prime mortgage mess and one of the firms that settled with the SEC and New York’s Attorney General for $1.4 billion in 2005. From 2001 to 2008 he was on the Board of Directors of American International Group, “AIG” the failed and flawed insurance giant that engaged in wildly speculative credit default insurance schemes during his watch that precipitated today’s recession. Those schemes have cost the American taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars to date. And, lest we forget, he was Vice Chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston that reached a settlement with the Government for violations of sanctions regulations for financial transactions with Iran and paid a $536 million fine in 2009. So much for his financial rectitude.
The least said about his three marriages and his adulterous liaisons, Diane Sawyer amongst others, the better. So much for his moral compass.
His last post, as President Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was another moral debacle. He allowed the flawed elections of Hamid Karzai to stand, while other more upright diplomats were given the sack for denouncing them. He allowed graft, corruption and a flourishing narcotic state to flourish all in the name of nation building. Damn the torpedoes, the millions of dollars and American lives lost, full speed ahead.
I do not regret his passing. But I am comforted by the fact that there is one less malignant diplomatic fraud running amuck, feathering his financial nest, wreaking havoc on the world. Thank God and God speed, Richard Holbrooke, wherever you are!      

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


          I personally like old Charlie Rangel, the penultimate Harlem pol, duded out in pin striped suits complete with flashy ties and matching pocket hankies. It’s just too bad that today’s sartorial rules will not allow him to sport white linen spats, you know those things that go over your shoes, and saunter down the House of Representatives’ aisle with a gold headed ebony cane in hand. That would wake up that bunch of hack politicians. While I have always liked his style, I detest, despise and deplore his sleaze. I shed no tears for old Charlie.
          Old Charlie’s demise and fall has been eulogized and praised by none other than Washington Post’s David Broder, the so called “dean” of the Washington press corps. He calls him sadly, and without an iota of irony, one of the “Happy Warriors Brought Low”. You may like old Charlie like I do, but you can’t condone his depredations and hand him a get out of jail Monopoly card, all the while praising the way he played “the game”, or rather the way he gamed the play.
          Old Charlie claims that “he did not go to bed with kids” and that “he did not start a revolution against the United States of America”. Way to go Charlie, after all you have just been a Representative for 40 years. But when he claims that he “did not steal any money” and that he “did not take any bribes”, that’s where I draw the line.
          Old Charlie was given the use of at least three rent stabilized apartments, those almost impossible to find rent abated havens, in New York City by his landlord. That was either income or a reportable benefit, depending on how you look at it. He also failed to report rental income on a Dominican Republic villa while serving as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the guys who write tax legislation for you and me. He solicited donations for an educational center bearing his name from corporations that had business before his Committee. Was he to benefit upon his retirement just like Ronald Regan with his outrageous speaking honoraria in Japan? Now we have a new ethics probe, his misuse of some $400,000 in campaign funds for legal defense. All of the above should have landed him in jail. Censure was but a gentle reprimand, a “do go gently into that good night” goodbye from his fellow representatives, to their everlasting shame.
          Old Charlie shed copious crocodile tears in the well of the House, so much so that I feared that he would just float away. I also liked his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Now old Adam really had class. While the House was voting to expel him did old Adam shed crocodile tears? No. He was smiling the day away on a cabin cruiser near Bimini, the Bahamas, enjoying the rays, a drink and cigar in hand, surrounded by bikini clad lovelies, all but saying “Do what you want, you dumb white honkies!” Now that took balls and class. I met old Adam, Charlie, and you ain’t no Adam! He never shed a false tear or offered a lame excuse, No Siree, Bob!