Wednesday, August 24, 2011


can the ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil

                                                   jeremiah king james version

          Libya’s self appointed National Transitional Council, based in the city of Benghazi, is the official opposition body fighting to topple Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi. “Official”, not because it is has legitimacy, but because NATO and a reluctant United States have embraced this gaggle of opportunists. While the name is grandiose it does profess to represents all of society and has systematically excluded Bedouin and other factions. It is a bald usurpation of power. The name does not elicit high democratic hopes, nor does it purport to adhere to the ideals so dear to Western democracies. It is what it says it is: a transition from a one man dictatorship to an oligarchy of the chosen few, the opportunists.
          Just take a gander at the leaders of the so called Libyan Rebellion. We have Mahmoud Jibril, the “Head of Government”, who had been ensconced as Chairman of Qaddafi’s National Economic Board enjoying all the privileges and perquisites that that post afforded and oil money would buy. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Chairman of the Council, was Muammar’s Minister of Justice, a minister who had turned a blind eye to justice for decades. Ali Tarhouni is listed as finance minister, a man who had abandoned his country and its people since 1974, now hell bent on unfreezing Libya’s billions and managing them in a time of turmoil. Will he hew to the straight and narrow or will he succumb to money’s siren song? Time will tell.
          Don’t forget Khalifa Hifter, another exile from the United States, a former top military officer in Qaddafi’s war in Chad who promptly appointed himself as the supreme rebel field commander. He opposed General Abdul Fattah Younes, Qaddafi’s fast friend and his Minster of the Interior, murdered under murky circumstances after being summoned to Benghazi by the Council.
          Last, but not least is Ali al-Essawi, the Executive Branch Deputy, a former Ambassador and Qaddafi’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Investment until 2007.
          From the safety of the sidelines cheering the rebels on are Ali Suleiman Aujali until recently Qaddafi’s Ambassador to the United States, now espousing the rebel cause, and Ibrahim Omar Al Dabashi, Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations also serving two masters. 
          Leopards have white spots. Libya’s opportunistic leopards all have black spots, black evil spots galore. Do you readily believe that those who are accustomed to do evil will now do good? I, for one, do not.
Since this site embraces and supports on line gambling, we are accepting all bets, 10 to 1 odds, that Libya will have just another corrupt regime in place in six months, any takers?         

Friday, August 12, 2011


I complain often about the undemocratic state of our government where the Electoral College elects a President with less than a majority and where each state has two Senators irrespective of population. Wyoming’s two Senators representing 500,000 constituents have as much clout as Connecticut’s representing 3.500,000. The one man one vote principle has been hijacked and now legislation by elected representatives is being scuttled.
The latest affront to democracy is the recently formed Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Harry Reid’s harebrained “Supper Committee”, tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings and deficit reductions. For the moment ignore the partisan, biased and self serving nature of those just nominated, about that later. Let’s just do the numbers[1], the actual raw numbers that these “super twelve” congress people represent and who will wield power over the rest of us, all 311,000,000 of us, accordingly to the latest Census figures:
          The “super twelve” represent 49,000,000 constituents, see below, and that is but a mere 15% of the population. What about 37,593,000 Californians, Texas’ 25,200,000 souls, New York’s 19,378,000 residents, or 18,800,000 Floridians? Just those four state have 100,171,000 in population, twice the number represented by the “super twelve”, but their voice or the voice of their elected representatives will not be heard.
          In the present scheme of things the legislation provides that just seven members are needed to decide on what cuts are to be made, what taxes and revenues are needed, who will wither and who will prosper. In other words the future fiscal policy of the United States is being decided by a minority, not a majority or even a plurality. If taken to the extreme seven congress people [six representatives and one senator] representing 5,031,000 constituents hold our economic future in their hands. That is less than 2%, 0.015% to be exact, of the population. That’s sheer madness.
          If there is no agreement to be had in the “Super Committee” then spending cuts will be automatically without regard to consequences. More madness.
          When you factor in the corrosive influence of campaign contributions, the outcome will be even more flawed. Washington State received $5.2 billion in defense contracts in Fiscal Year 2009 with Boeing, the state’s largest defense contractor, being Senator Patty Murray’s fourth biggest contributor to her political career. Max Baucus the Senator from Montana [population 968,000] has received “$5.2 million in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate industries since 2005”. Kerry’s Massachusetts has seen its defense industry triple since 2000.
          Do you expect that the general financial welfare of the whole country to be served in the face of parochial self interests? I do not. Yet you voted, and stand idly by, while this perversity of democracy unfolds.

[1]       joint select committee on deficit reduction

representatives                  state                         CONSTITUENTS
Jeb Hensaling [r]         Texas 5th District                               704,000
Dave Camp [r]             Michigan 4th District                           676,000
Fred Upton [r]             Michigan 6th District                           672,000
James E. Clyburn [d]    South Carolina 6th District                  666,500
Xavier Becerra [d]        California 31st District                        635,000
Chris Van Hollen [d]     Maryland 8th District                          709,500
John Kyl [r]                Arizona                                          6,500,000
Rob Portman [r]          Ohio                                            11,528,000
Pat Toomey [r]           Pennsylvania                                  12,842,000
John Kerry [d]            Massachusetts                                 6,534,000
Max Baucus [d]            Montana                                           968,000
Patty Murray [d]          Washington                                     6,566,000               

                                                                total CONSTITUENTS   49,001,000

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


          Back in the sixties I had a job with Retail Credit, a company based in Atlanta, Georgia with offices all over the Eastern United States. It was a primitive version of our consumer credit agencies rating individuals for employment, insurance and department store credit.
          Every morning I would show up for work and get a list of some 35 prospective applicants. It was piece work and you were paid for each completed investigation, $1.50 for auto insurance, $2.00 for store credit and $10.00 for life insurance. You would drive out to the applicant’s home, eyeball the neighborhood, gossip with the neighbors and speak to the applicant or the spouse. I had no training whatsoever. It beats the hell out me how I was supposed to assess risk or credit. Sometimes, when all information sources proved dry, you fudged and made up the information. In other words you lied. Not very scientific or fair, was it?
          This prehistoric method soon evolved into “sophisticated” information and credit driven models run by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Their credit reports now dominate and terrorize the consumer. The reporting models are based on the theory that the more facts you garner, no matter whether they are false, dated or inapplicable, when fed into a computer will generate a true and accurate consumer history and give an accurate forecast of the consumer’s future performance.
          You know that this is not true. Anyone who has requested a copy of a credit score or report knows it is are full of false and misleading information. You are confused with someone with a similar name. A misposted payment made in a due and timely manner is reported as late. A dispute with a car leasing company over an overcharge is reported as default and repossession. A lifetime of financial probity can easily be destroyed making you a deadbeat, to be avoided at all cost. I am paraphrasing, but these credit agencies are “idiot savants with less than a full command of math, and with no idea on how to apply it”.
          The government has done little to stem the abuses visited upon us by these yahoos of the information age. Sure there are rules and regulations in place to protect the consumers. But these are toothless paper tigers. The government agencies meant to protect the consumer engage in endless bureaucratic paper shuffles. Complain, engage in protracted correspondence, wait endlessly to speak to a human being, and ultimately you give up, in frustration. 
          After abandoning us, now it’s the Government’s turn to sing the credit rating blues. Last Friday, Standard & Poor’s, one of the sovereign credit rating firms, downgraded our credit rating from AAA to AA+. Moody’s and Fitch have stood, so far, by their triple “A” recommendations. But the report angered the Administration, prompting the President to deem the action ill advised and “ill informed”. On Monday President Obama proclaimed that “America will always be a triple-A country”. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner did him one better declaring that Standard & Poor’s showed “terrible judgment” showing “a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U. S. fiscal budget math”.
          Yet why in the world do we, and for that matter the world, give a fig or even lend credence to Standard & Poor’s opinion. Its public persona is John Chambers, a “chartered financial analyst” and Chairman of S&P’s “Sovereign Rating Committee”. These seemingly impressive credentials are tarnished by reality. Chambers graduated Grinnell College, a fine institution, with a bachelor of arts in literature and philosophy, not fields usually associated with sovereign debt. He also attended Columbia University, another supper place, leaving with a master’s degree in English literature. He does speak and write the English well, especially at press conferences defending the downgrade. But for a financial background he only has “chartering” in becoming a “financial analyst”, and that’s just three written exams, that’s it. Would you buy sovereign recommendations from this guy? Not me.
          S&P’s track record ain’t much better. Remember Enron, that multibillion dollar financial blood bath that left thousands of employees and investors destitute? On October 29, 2001, S&P’s idiot savants rated its bonds and commercial paper BBB+. That’s exactly one month before Enron filed for bankruptcy on November 29, 2001. S&P’s bad calls extend over decades. For years S&P gave Lehman Brothers an “A” rating, until a month before its collapse [with the help of Tim Geitner, see above] bringing on the financial mess that we find ourselves in. S&P actively assisted in the collapse by giving “AAA” ratings to mortgage backed derivatives [whatever those may be] so that Goldman Sachs, the banks and AIG could book insane profits.
By the way, the present downgrade was based on an error in math, a $2 trillion dollar error in the 10 year deficit projection. No matter, small potatoes, said John Chambers, the downgrade stands.
          You want to take advice from these bozoos? Not me. That is not to say that we are not in a mess made worse by the recent stupidity of Congress, a Congress that has an 82% disapproval rating. Before I forget, the disapproving 82% of the country voted for the very Congress they now disapprove of.
Do I have a solution? No, but I ain’t taking S&P’s flawed advice. As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Obama, we are triple “A”, S&P notwithstanding.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


When someone does a better job than you, give them credit where credit is justly due.
Four hours after posting my latest blog I came across a Salon article that predated my thoughts by a full month. I strongly suggest that you read the clearly better written and more thoroughly researched article:


          Fairy tales are stories with no foundation in fact designed to entertain and educate gullible children. A Thousand and One Arabian Nights is the adult version. It’s a series of adult tales set in the Middle East full of murder, magic, love, lust, erotic couplings as told by Scheherazade, the beautiful daughter of a Sultan’s vizier. These tall tails kept that sucker of a Sultan enthralled and Scheherazade alive, alive to live another day and spin another tale.

          Speaking of fairy tales I am enthralled by the one now being peddled by our very own State Department from the banks of the Tigris River deep in Baghdad’s “Green Zone”. Our modern day Scheherazade is none other than our Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who wants us to abandon reason and buy her version of reality.

          It should not come as a surprise that after having invaded Iraq we have an Embassy in Baghdad. What does surprise is that this “embassy” is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world. It is built on 0.44 square kilometers, that’s 104 acres to you and me, with 21 buildings including six huge apartment house complexes. The total construction costs have not been disclosed but we do not know that the President made two “emergency supplemental funding requests” of Congress, one for $1.3 billion and one for $592 million both in 2005. Now that’s spending with class.

          We now veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. Our Ambassador James Jeffrey announced on Saturday July 2 that, on the very eve of Independence Day, and at the very beginning of the month that the debt ceiling will be debated and decided, he has requested $6.2 billion for the Embassy’s 2012 budget. That’s $6.2 billion. That comes on the heels of the April 27 confirmation that “the number of employees in the US Embassy in Baghdad will be reduced to less that 20 thousand after US Forces withdrawal from Iraq.” That’s 20,000 employees, including 16,000 Americans.

          The State Department [] claims that it employs 11,500 Foreign Service employees; 7,400 Civil Service employees; and 31,000 Foreign Service National employees, for a total of 53,000. If you believe the published and announced figures almost 40% of the State Department’s work force will be employed and deployed in Baghdad.
          You got to be either kidding me or lying. I for one do not believe in fairy tales especially ones that are being spun by Hilary. Perhaps marijuana has been legalized in Foggy Bottom and Hilary is smoking pot or the United States, having invaded and conquered Iraq plans to run that country as a colony for the foreseeable future. 

           What is your take on this seven billion dollar, and counting, embassy?

Friday, June 3, 2011


          They finally arrested General Ratko Mladic last week, todays Monster of the Week. There will be others, tomorrow, next week and next year. These “monsters to be” will be Libyan, Somali, Egyptian, Israeli or even Americans, depending how events unfold and how the world media perceives the truth. It is easy to demonize a person, accuse him of war crimes, ascribe to him horrible acts of insane violence, and condemn him but never the roots, the causes of the conflicts that precipitated them to the world stage.
          It makes us feel good. Another criminal behind bars waiting for justice to be done. We all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Civilization has been saved. But then another war, another revolution erupts and the cycle repeats itself. Mass graves abound and they all look alike, year in and year out.
          And then there are conflicts, wars, Iraq and Afghanistan being but two that make the news day in day out, yet somehow escape being tainted by accusations of war crimes, of genocide or simply the murder of civilians. Those deaths, those murders fly under the radar of international scrutiny. They are simply ignored while we smugly congratulate ourselves on our moral hypocrisy.   
          I do not like Ratko Mladic much. I met him twice back in 1994 during the wars in Bosnia, ex-Yugoslavia. He was an arrogant, ignorant blowhard son of a bitch. He was, and remains, a dumb Bosnian peasant, who just happened to be a Serb. He proudly wore his ignorance as a badge of honor as stupid as that First World War military cap of his, sporting a “kokarda”, an insignia of some sort or another. He was at home in a dump of a café in Han Pijesak, a small decrepit town in Eastern Bosnia close to Sarajevo, where I met him, surrounded by a fawning retinue of like jerks. He was sitting on the terrace of the café, the very image of a war lord, beefy and loud, full of himself. The colorful red and white umbrellas kept us cool and in the shade. There was a lull in the war. The war didn’t seem real.
          Srebrenica, the massacre of 8,373 Bosnian men and boys, was to be a year later in July, 1995. Mladic is accused of ordering this tragedy. As in any war there are deaths in the thousands. Many are soldiers but most probably many more are just innocent civilians. Dresden, a declared “safe haven” at the end of World War II, had 600,000 refugees, and a population 350 times larger than Srebrenica. We, the Allies, fire bombed it and between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians died. In 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki accounted for at least a quarter of a million civilian deaths [150,000 for Hiroshima; 75,000 for Nagasaki; with another 500,000 dead from radiation, starvation and cancer.] Extenuating circumstances were claimed, save our fighting boys, better them than us.
There are always claims of extenuating and mitigating circumstances if you want to justify your war crimes. Naser Oric, a common street thug no better than Mladic, was the Muslim military commander in Srebrenica. He abused the United Nations “safe area” by launching attacks against the Serb population resulting in some 1,800 deaths. But that does condone or excuse Mladic’s actions, nor anyone else.
          Eight thousand deaths is an appalling number, yet insignificant if taken in the context of the civilian casualties of the Iraq War. People disagree as to the actual numbers of deaths, but they all agree that the deaths are in the hundreds of thousands.
          The Iraq Family Health Service, whatever that entity may be, pegs the deaths at 151,000 from March, 2003 to June, 2006. The Lancet, the respected British medical journal dedicated to world health, estimates 601,027 deaths for the same period. Opinion Research weighs in at 1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflict from 2003 to 2007. The Associated Press reports in at 110,600 deaths for 2003 to 2009. The Iraq Body Count Project claims either 98,170 or 107,152 civilian deaths for the same period. WikiLeaks, leaking official United States classified Iraq war cables reports 104,924 Iraqi deaths, including 66,081 civilians. And so it goes.
          So now we have that dumb, stupid Ratko Mladic in the dock accused of 8,000 deaths, with the world braying for human sacrifice, for justice. So who stands accused for the hundred thousands of dead Iraqis?  Any one? No one? Whatever!      

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


On a beautiful spring afternoon I was in the local DMV office waiting to re-register my car. I was sitting on a hard green plastic chair clutching my papers: the insurance card [FS-20], the Connecticut Title Certificate [MVCWA-348], the New York State registration application form [MV-82], the current Connecticut Registration Certificate [F1307A], the New York State Sales Tax Exemption form [DTF-803], my paid Out of State Sales Tax form [DTF-804], my Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin [MCO], my driver’s license and other pieces of paper dear to bureaucratic hearts. I was waiting for my number to come up so I could see the next available attendant in this state sponsored insane asylum.
          Sitting next to me was an overweight housewife bulging out of her purple tube top and green slacks sporting pink flip flops, accompanied by her daughter, likewise color challenged. The girl was clutching a pair of sneakers while wearing another variation of her mother’s flip flops. I overheard their conversation.
          The gist of it was that the daughter had not prepared or practiced for the test. The mother assured her daughter that the test what a “no brainer”, that she really didn’t have to practice, that anybody, I mean anybody can pass the test. By the way, wear sneakers when taking the test. The cavalier attitude to this rite of passage startled me. 
          Their appointed time came and off they went to the parking lot to take the driver’s test. I watched through the window. Some twenty or so teenagers of all shapes and sizes were standing by these huge SUV’s, pick ups and just plain cars, ready to pass the test and hit the road.
As I drove home I passed the campus of the local high school. Dusk was falling but the kids were still out there practicing. The soccer moms were all sitting in their SUV’s or sitting in the bleachers. On the field the kids were practicing, and practicing, and practicing.
          Parents encourage their kids to spend hundred of hours practicing passes for that fleeting minute of football fame and the love a of a pretty cheerleader. Life goes on and they graduate from high school and all those hours are out the window, wasted.
Now back to that driver’s test. New York State requires you to take but a five hour course before taking the driving test. Connecticut mandates an eight hour course. For teenagers, the requirements are greater but not at all commensurate to the task.
We are lulled into a false sense of security. Cars are safer they tell us. You even have air bags in your doors. Your rear view mirror is now a TV. Traffic fatalities are down.
But the facts are horrifying. In 2009 there were 32,788 deaths on our roads as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Compare that figure to the 4,454 deaths in Iraq since March, 2003, an 8 year long war, with people shooting at you and trying to blow you up. There were 5,587,000 reported traffic accidents that year. Statistically 1 out of 50 Americans was involved in a reported motor vehicle accident that year.
So we send out our youngsters unschooled, unprepared and unpracticed to wreak havoc out on the open road. What a deadly rite of passage for these kids, including the girl with the flip flops.  


Friday, May 6, 2011


from the new york times 
all the news fit to print"

benjamin b. ferencz
14 bayberry lane
rew rochelle, new york 10804-3402
914 632 3717

May 3, 2011

To the Editor,
The New York Times
New York, New York

          Jubilation over the death of the most hunted mass murderer is understandable, but was it really justifiable self-defense, or was it premeditated illegal assassination?
          The Nurenberg trials earned worldwide respect by giving Hitler[‘s] henchmen a fair trial so that truth could be revealed under law would prevail. Secret or non judicial decisions based on political or military considerations undermine democracy. The public is entitled to know the complete truth.

                                                                   /s/ Benjamin B. Ferencz

the writer was a prosecutor at the nuremberg trials




          “Justice was done” was Barack Obama’s take on the assassination of Osama bin Laden. It wasn’t. Justice was not done, it was undone. Obama, of all people, a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former law professor and a lawyer, should know better. Justice requires that laws be honored and not discarded for political expediency.
          Assassination is the extrajudicial intentional killing by a government of a person for a political purpose. Perhaps Attorney General Eric Holder should remind him that assassinations, or “targeted killings”, sanctioned by a sate are illegal. As early as February 18, 1976, President Ford signed Executive Order 1190, a finding and directive having the force of law, banning political assassinations [“Prohibition of Assassination. No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”] President Carter followed suit with Executive Order 12036 which banned even indirect U.S. involvement in assassinations. President Reagan finally signed the still in effect Executive Order 12333 on December 1, 1981 which provides:

executive order 12333-- united states intelligence activities  46 fr 59941, 3 cfr 1981 

2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

2.12 Indirect Participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.

          Sadly Obama is following the lead of two morally deficient Presidents. Bill Clinton, a Yale Law School graduate, recently and publicly admitted to secretly approving bin Laden as target for assassination [after the U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar as Salaam in 1998], and George Bush who publicly called for his murder, “his head on a plate”, after 9/11. Fortunately for them, and for us, his murder/assassination did not occur on their watch.    
          Justices Roberts, Thomas and Scalia, and those other dolts now sitting on the Supreme Court, can not be counted on to give the President sage advice. President Truman heeded Justice Robert Jackson’s principled call preventing the summary execution, the “assassination” “murder”, of Nazi leaders after the Second World War: “The only course [we have] is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused [in the present case bin Laden] after a hearing [in a court of law] as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.” The result was the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, an imperfect meting out of a victor’s justice, but justice nonetheless.
Martin Borman, Herman Göring, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Joachim von Ribbentrop, among others, stood accused, tried, convicted and sentenced. The sentences, including the death penalty, were carried out.  Now these men were responsible for the deaths counting in the millions, not the mere thousands that can be ascribed to bin Laden. You can not equate bin Laden’s crimes, as dastardly and cowardly as they may be, with those committed by the perpetrators of the holocaust. As chilling and gruesome as the collapse of the World Trade Center was, with people jumping to their death, it can not compared to the millions gassed and cremated in Auschwitz,  Treblinka, Sobibor and Buchenwald. Think of the heaps of black and white striped pajama clad human remains confronting the liberating United States Army. Remember Schindler’s List. Think of the cities and countries laid to waste, to rubble. These men were truly evil, evil in a way that defies rational description. These men were Major League players while bin Laden was, at best, in the littlest of the Little Leagues.
But then, in 1945, justice was done. The rule of law, as imperfect and flawed as a victor’s tribunal may have been, was followed: indictment, trial, conviction and sentence. Yes, sentence, even the death sentence, if deemed appropriate.
          Bill Clinton, notwithstanding his secret authorization for bin Laden’s assassination, publicly, at least, adhered to the constraints of the rule of law. On November 5, 1998 his Justice Department filed an indictment with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing bin Laden of a host of crimes, some carrying the death penalty. But once that indictment was filed, and it is still on file and operative, the constraints of law came into play. The next step was arrest and trial, not assassination, not murder, unless that killing was the unfortunate result of resistance to lawful apprehension.
          The circumstances of bin Laden’s killing remain murky. Will they ever be fully disclosed? I don’t know.
So far we have been denied the photographic evidence of his demise on national security grounds. The photos are too grisly for us to view, they tell us. Yet Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill I & II, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other grisly images too numerous to name flick daily across our video [no longer just TV] screens. Why does our government seek to shield our sensibilities now?
Is it because, as some senior Pakistani officials claim, the “people inside the house were unarmed”? Is it because “there was no resistance”? Is it because “it was cold-blooded [murder]”? Is it because bin Laden was shot in the back of the head”, execution style? Is it because “……………”? Is it because “…………”? Is it because “……………”? You fill in the blanks.
Now many have voiced opinions pro and con. But voices of temperance and reason are starting to be heard. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Dr. Rowan Wiliams, having just married Bill and Kate, said:

“I think the killing of an unarmed man …[just] doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done. … [W]hen we are faced with someone who ws manifestly a war criminal in terms of atrocities inflicted it is important that justice is seen to be served.”   
          Bin Laden’s demise is not to be celebrated. It is to be mourned not as the death of a hero or martyr, nor as the victory of good over evil. His death, assassination, murder, whatever, should be mourned as the death of justice, as we know it and want it to be.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


My kitchen counter is covered by an unsightly tangle of black electrical cords each terminating in a distinctly different charger head meant to be plugged into an electronic device: an IPhone, a Blackberry, a cell phone, an IPad, a Kindle, whatever. You grope, untangle and then blindly try one after another before finally finding the right one. Comes the weekend when your children visit, the tangle grows exponentially. What a mess, what a waste.
          Way back when, at the dawn of the electronic age, manufacturers conspired, probably in violation of present day anti trust laws, to standardize products. All radios used the same electric plug to access electrical power. You could only buy record players [remember them, those things with turntables?] that rotated at 33 1/3, 45 or 78 revolutions per minute. You could not go out get a record player that revolved at, let’s say 53 revs, no way. You had to go with the flow, the accepted universal way of doing things.
          So what is it with all these electronic geniuses, the MIT, CalTech and RPI graduates, the guys at Intel, Toshiba, Soni, Apple? Can’t they get their act together and agree that power for all of their gadgets will be accessed through a universal power plug that all devices could use interchangeably? Is simplicity, sanity and savings too much to ask?
          Some forwarding thinking electrical engineering students from, of all places, Belgrade, Serbia have just devised a “Strawberry Tree”, a free standing kiosk that harnesses solar energy and makes it available for free to passerby’s  whose electronic device are about to expire and need that an immediate jolt of electricity to keep on going like the Energizer Bunny. But in order to make it function the device has sixteen, count them, sixteen different electric chargers to accommodate the most frequently used devices.
          The “Strawberry Tree” will be installed in front of the European Parliament Building in Brussels and featured at European Commission’s “Week of Sustainable Energy Development”. But does it really take sixteen almost identical charger heads to make the idea work for most of us walking down the street? Do I really want a great big tangle of black wire spaghettini or capellini littering my kitchen counter? I think not. So to you electrical engineers out there: “Come on guys, get your act together!”


Thursday, April 7, 2011


          The “Don”, the Mafia boss, immediately brings to mind The Godfather’s Don Vito Corleone, John “Dapper Don” Gotti, Salvatore “Sammy, The Bull” Gravano, Robert “Bobby Ha-Ha” Attanasio, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, Sam “Momo” Giancanna and Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. All Italian-American gangsters. But this stereotype has it wrong. Think of Otto “Abbadabba” Berman [German American who coined “Nothing personal. It’s just business”], Alex “Allie Boy” Rudaj [Albanian], Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein [Jewish American], Nick “Nicky Nails” Dedaj [Albanian], Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer [German American], Jack “Legs” Diamond [100% American] and Irving “Waxey Gordon” Wexler [Jewish Russian American]. In reality “Dons” come in all shapes and sizes, ethnic origins and religious and non religious persuasions.
          Which bring us to Bosko “The Yugo” Radonjich who died at age 68 in Belgrade, Serbia last month. Now as I write this piece, this Requiem in Pace plea to the Almighty to go easy on old Bosko, to grant him a pass. Oh Lord, show him compassion and mercy for surely he has sinned. But after all, he was a friend; he saved my life and kept me out of harm’s way. The very least I can do is to humbly seek intercession on his behalf.
          Now the question is how does the life path of a fancy Madison Avenue lawyer intersect with that of a rather rough brawler from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen? It’s all a matter of chance, a roll of the dice, and easy, real easy, believes you me.
          The Serbian-American immigrant community in New York in the 60’s was small, no more that an a thousand souls. I was a rising star, a lawyer. You all met on important holidays in church, exchanged greetings, and had a drink or two in the social club next door. When I waltzed in with my two young daughters for the very first time Bosko and others welcomed their arrival with small gold coins, as was the custom.
          Bosko’s father, a Royalist Mihailovich Chetnik, had been executed by Tito’s communist Partisans. Never straying from his political heritage he fled Yugoslavia smuggled on a bus carrying a soccer team to Austria. He washed up in Hell’s Kitchen where he ran parking lots and garages, and dabbled in crime.
          From there he would send me the occasional referral, an assault here and alleged rape there, even the defense of a young man accused of murder. But the referrals were common garden variety miscreants, no organized crime, no Mafia. He could well have referred those potential clients my way, easy money, and God knows I needed it. He did not; he kept that potential danger well away from me.
          Then in November, 1978, the shit the fan. Bosko, Nikola Kavaja [to get the whole story, Google the names] and four others were arrested for conspiracy to bomb Communist Yugoslav consulates. On a Sunday night there I was representing them at arraignment in Federal court, and soon to be trying the case in Chicago.
          Now this is a blog and needs to be short and to the point. Again, if you want the whole story, google away. The trial was a disaster. Kavaja, sorely disappointed by the verdict, decided to hijack an American Airlines plane, together with all the passengers and crew on board. That’s where I came in. By then I was representing Kavaja and I swapped myself for the passengers, becoming a hostage.
          Now I truly believe that Bosko didn’t graduate from high school, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t smart. During a crucial point in the hijacking he persuaded the FBI snipers not to shoot, saving my life.
          That event and the prison sentence he served in Allenwood, that country club of a federal prison, changed his life. There he roomed with Gerald Bull, the inventor of Operation Babylon “super gun” and consorted with the Mafia elite also serving time. He went in a brash, street smart thug and came out a polished man of the world. He went in driving a loud white Cadillac convertible and drove out in a dark blue Mercedes sedan, wearing a Brooks Brother suit.
          He was now in business, including the cement business. See The Mystery of the Rolls Royce Convertible Revealed, The Litchfield County Times Along with Bull he brokered arms deals with China and Cuba until Bull was assassinated by Israel’s Mossad in Brussels. His home base in Hell’s Kitchen put him in place to take over the Westies, the nefarious Irish gang that ran the West Side of Manhattan. His John Gotti, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Gambino family connections allowed him forge a profitable partnership exploiting the dirty world of New York’s trade unions.
          He always eschewed violence. His shtick was the art of gentle menacing persuasion and the occasional necessary bribe, the white envelope in the right pocket. Throughout, even though I was with him on at least a weekly basis, he kept me at arm’s length, away from his other life. To tempt me he never would allow.
          He had to leave the United States in a hurried manner, something to do with an indictment and alleged jury tampering. Finding refuge in a Yugoslavia was that soon to be no more, he lent his resources, his contacts and his talents to the cause that he believed in, that of the Serbs and Serbia. You may not approve of his views and political persuasion, just as some disapprove of Zionists and Israel, but to his own heart he remained true.
          When I agreed to represent clients before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a UN institution sitting at The Hague, The Netherlands, it was he who lent support, who had his contacts locate witnesses, documents, and recordings in support of the defense. The beleaguered poorly funded and outmanned defense was given at least a chance to properly perform its function.
          I thoroughly enjoyed sitting with him in his Lotus Club on Zmaj Jovina Street in Belgrade and the Godfather Casino in Zlatibor. I am thankful for my life, for his saving it, and for the times I spent with him. I am thankful for the care that he took to keep me, his friend away from harm’s way. I just wish there were more of those days. But in retrospect, Bosko, “The Yugo”, “The “Don”, lived a full life, a life well spent.