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.