Archive for the International Category


Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.



I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

March 28, 2002


After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.



The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.


My linguistic skills are limited. I speak the mother tongue of English in a generally acceptable form. I used to mutter a few words in Italian and some in German. A lack of use has tended to cause those skills to diminish. And then there are two derivatives of the English language which are worthy of note here. The first is “country speak” which is the language used by my parents and their rural counterparts. Secondly there is another language called “Washington speak.” As a general principle, I understand country speech and Washington speech perfectly. But I refuse to use them for speaking purposes. However, in the current case, there is a phrase in Washington speech which is worthy of our attention. That phrase is “the new normals.” Obviously the new normals are used to distinguish them from the old normals. A few examples come to mind immediately.

Formerly the countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Libya were run by dictators. They offered us no great trouble. So it’s fair to say that they were the old normal view. Now that the dictator of Egypt is banished to live in a palace in the south of Egypt and now that Colonel Gaddafi appears to be headed for the ropes, we have a new normal. Throughout the Middle East, there are other examples of the old and the new normals.

It used to be at this time of year that the New York Mets, a baseball team, would be in search of the free agent market while offering astronomical sums to corral a star performer. Ahhh, but that was old normal. Since the owners of the New York Mets were subject to the magical wonders of the Bernie Madoff scheme, the owners, Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, are out of money and are looking for somebody to buy their ball club. So the new normal is that the New York Mets will go in to the season with a tattered lineup and will hope to make it through September, when some new finances may occur. To put it succinctly, the old normal for the New York Mets was that they were the new kid in town trying to challenge the New York Yankees. But since Bernie Madoff has performed his miracle, the new normal for the New York Mets is that they hope to avoid a last-place finish.

A final example of the old and the new normals has to do with the US House of Representatives. The old normal was that the House was under Democratic control with Mrs. Pelosi being in charge. Since the elections of last fall when 57 new right-wing representatives were elected, the House has changed its speakers and the new normal for the Obama administration has been to get used to the change in ownership.

I hope at this juncture it is clear what I mean by the examples of the old normal and the new normal. I am fond of the new age in Washington speak because it is easily transferrable from the world of politics to the human condition. For example, during the days of our youth, we were not only carefree but pain free. The joints in our bodies were basically pain free and we thought that illness was never going to be our lot in life. That was the old normal. The new normal for older people is the scourge of arthritis and forgetfulness and a string of other failures that are now normal and plague the human condition. The carefree days of the rule of the old normal have been replaced by such things as ingrown toenails, loss of hearing, and diminished eyesight. This is the state of the new normal. Under the old normal, I used to mow our half acre of grass with a 22-inch lawnmower and think nothing of it. In the new normal for the past six years or so, I have asked a contractor to take care of the grass growth.

Under the old normal, I used to be amused by patients keeping track of their doctors’ appointments. That was the old normal. Under the new normal, I’ve got so many doctors’ appointments that it is quite confusing. So you see the new normal has universal appeal that will apply to virtually everything.

The new normal of Washington speak is also appropriate for the end of life. Fortunately, the new normal at the end of life also includes walkers, wheelchairs, and help to climb into bed. I do not mean to end this essay on a downer, but the facts are the facts. With that, it seems to me that life at its end results in more new normals than one new normal being replaced by a diminished other new normal. We can’t all be like my 55-year-old neighbor who was going full speed until he dropped dead. This fellow missed the new normals that go with the end-of-life process. But in any case, according to the hand that we are dealt, we see the end of life as one of diminishing prospects that we are obliged to accommodate. Rather than bemoaning our diminished lot in life, we should all rejoice because we have politicians in our capital city that have finally done something worth while. So let me say hallelujah while we rejoice in ecstasy.

March 11, 2011


Pop had such a funny way of ending his essays. It’s so often punchy, or humorous, or sarcastic, or powerful — I’d say that a strong closing statement is one of the hallmarks of a great Pop essay. I just picked out a random recent one and found this: “I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.”


The morning newspaper in what I generally refer to as my home town was called The St. Louis Globe Democrat. The name of the paper is misleading in every respect. The Globe covered local affairs and rarely ventured into global concerns or even national concerns. Secondly, the Globe Democrat was the voice of the Bob Taft Republicans in eastern Missouri in that they opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s initiatives at every turn. They opposed the establishment, for example, of social security, just as they opposed the lend-lease program that enabled the British to survive the early stages of World War II. While the Globe Democrat had many shortcomings, it did have a lively sports section and it published daily a horoscope. I know nothing about the stars being in perfect alignment but when the whole episode about Larry Craig came to light, my personal stars must have been in complete alignment. The events surrounding Larry Craig cry out to every essayist and newspaper man: “please write about me.”

My horoscope in this matter seems to remain in perfect alignment because of three developments of the past week. First there was the request of the Bush administration for another 192 billion dollars to continue the war in Iraq for another month or so, shortly followed by Larry Craig’s suit to overturn his confession about being gay and his announcement that he could not force himself to say goodbye to the Senate. Finally there was an announcement by the president of Iran about moral turpitude in that country.

Even the Globe Democrat would have had to depart from its coverage of local affairs to report on news of this monumental sort. It seems to me that these are events that change the history of mankind.

My personal belief is that the war in Iraq is a misbegotten adventure. We will soon have squirted away a trillion dollars of our finances and we have suffered the loss of 3,800 dead American soldiers. This is to say nothing of the 20,000 that have been wounded. On top of that there is the displacement of the Iraqi nation.

My proposal takes on all of the aspects of the George Marshall plan which restored Europe after the Second World War. I am proposing that we take the zillion dollars, including the most recent 192 billion dollar request, that we are going to squirt away on the Iraq war and simply buy both Iraq and Iran. They will become our possessions after we pay a fair price. The casualty lists that are published daily will soon disappear.

Now with respect to the second aspect of this proposal: we are assured by none other than Larry Craig himself that he is not gay nor has he ever been gay and that he will serve out his full term in the Senate, regardless of what his Republican colleagues have to say about him. There is abundant evidence that the senator from Idaho is in fact gay, and this old essayist says “so what.”

Finally, last week, the president of Iran announced to a jeering audience that there are absolutely no homosexuals in all of Iran. Simply put, there are no gay people or lesbians within the confines of the great nation of Iran.

Because we have bought Iraq and Iran, we have the freedom to rename them. I propose that they be renamed Iraqaho and Iranaho respectively. This would be in keeping with the name of the state of Idaho, which is stoutly represented by Senator Larry Craig. Senator Craig cannot say goodbye to the Senate, as he has now loudly proclaimed. So I now propose that he be appointed the permanent senator from the two new states that will be added to our federation. This may seem immodest but I would compare it to the Louisiana Purchase, which brought the south and the west into the jurisdiction of the United States. Besides, it stops the daily casualty lists and it gives Larry Craig something to do. If Larry Craig can master the name of Idaho, he ought to be able to handle the names of Iraqaho and Iranaho.

The Globe Democrat stopped publishing in 1956. I suspect that a story of these monumental proportions might even make its pages. I now leave you with the thought that it is time for me to go to work to get Iranaho and Iraqaho membership in the United Nations.

April 6, 2007


I really, really wonder how many acres of Iraq or Iran we could have gotten for the cost of the war if we somehow got them to agree to sell to us. I don’t know how acquiring them would stop the infighting but I think if you’re going to throw money at a problem it’d be good to make some permanent progress towards a solution. Purely from a cost perspective, if you spend a bunch of money to bomb some terrorists, generally speaking you’re just going to make a bunch of new terrorists so you haven’t accomplished a whole lot. But imagine if, instead of bombing them, we were just really shitty landlords. We’d piss them off, nobody has to die, and our bad-landlording would be significantly less likely to create new terrorists than killing them does.


A week or so ago, the English Prime Minister, Tony Blair, came to Washington to discuss how things were going in the war against Iraq. Blair and Bush appeared after their conference to hold a meeting with the press. None of the major American networks carried the program. It didn’t even appear on the Public Broadcasting Systems. It appeared only on MSNBC and perhaps on CNN. That will tell you what the networks think of the importance of the news to be made.

At the news conference, Blair and Bush both appeared to have had a very trying day. Their mood was not upbeat. Quite to the contrary, it was somber and, in both cases, there were apologies or semi-apologies for opportunities missed.

For example, Bush acknowledged that when he said “Bring it on” and “We want Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive” that he should have used “more sophisticated language.” The fact that Bush expressed himself in the language of a cowboy was not lost on the world, yet Bush contended that he should have used more sophisticated language because the rest of the world did not understand what he meant. So you see it is our fault for the mistake we made in not understanding Bush. From my point of view, there was no mistake in the phrases of “bring it on” or “we want Osama, dead or alive.” These comments were extremely provocative and now that the insurgents have “brought it on,” Bush is distraught.

If Bush thinks that he was misunderstood solely because he used unsophisticated expressions, here is my suggestion for a more cerebral comment:

In more sophisticated terms, I should have told you terrorists that we are prepared to engage in stepping on toes, insults, fisticuffs, mud wrestling, torture or controlled and compassionate manslaughter. So kindly advise us whichever you wish to be engaged in. However, if you bring us a televised broadcast statement from Ann Coulter, it will cause us to wilt and plead for mercy.

On Osama bin Laden, I should have said we would like to have him presented to us either pre or post mortem.

Using the terms of “bring it on” or “We want Osama dead or alive” were horrid expressions and we apologize for their lack of sophistication.

Blair was equally regretful for some of the actions that the English had taken. But in the end it must be considered that the limeys have absolutely learned nothing. The British troops are in charge of the southern part of Iraq, based largely around the town of Basra. For the duration of the war, the English had contended that Basra was a model of good behavior, which I assume was a tribute to their troops. In the last few days, we have learned that the new Premier of Iraq has gone to Basra and has lectured people because it is a lawless city that has fallen prey to tribal and sectarian influences.

What the English have always misunderstood is that when they occupy a country, hatred is the inevitable result. For 800 years, England occupied Ireland. The result was warfare at every turn until the English were thrown out in 1922. In all of Ireland, there is not a statue honoring the English occupation. In most cases, the English are reviled and those thoughts of revulsion are passed on from one generation to the next. What England is doing in Iraq, as we are doing also, is generating hatred for years and perhaps hundreds of years to come.

Yet Tony Blair indicated no understanding of this fact. If, for example, an Arab army were to occupy the United States, I probably would be the first one to oppose them with the thought of killing them at every opportunity. In that case, I would become a full-fledged insurrectionist. That is what occupation does to the natives. In West Africa, in Ghana and Nigeria for example, the English excused their occupation on the ground that they were bringing Christianity to the natives who did not know Jesus. Again, I am quite certain that there are no monuments to the Brits in either Nigeria or Ghana now that the Brits have departed. In those two countries, the English required every black native to refer to any white man as “Master.” It made no difference if a British soldier had worked in the garbage disposal vat of a British slaughter house, he was to be addressed as “Master” when he arrived in West Africa. Does anyone now consider building a statue to the former masters? Of course not.

The press conference between Bush and Blair had all the hangdog looks that go with people who had been wrestling with a problem that could not be solved, mainly the occupation of Iraq. Yet, a few days later on Memorial Day, Bush attended a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery to honor our dead. Now remember this is the president who has never attended the funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq. As of this morning, 2,492 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and almost 19,000 have been wounded. Yet Mr. Bush declines to attend a funeral, even those held in Arlington Cemetery where he was speaking.

At the Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, Bush had recovered from his performance at the press conference with Blair and now spoke a little bit more confidently. He repeated his mantra that the only way you can pay tribute to all of these dead soldiers is by staying the course. This means that staying the course may well produce another 2,500 dead soldiers and 15,000 more wounded and that, somehow, according to Bush, is a means of paying tribute to the women and men who are to be interred in Arlington Cemetery. That is the most backward thinking that any chief executive could be capable of. The point is, we should get out of Iraq and do it now before we incur further losses.

Bush and Blair unfortunately are clueless about how to end this war. Somehow they seem to think that incurring more casualties pays tribute to fallen soldiers. I am here to tell you that is not the way to pay tribute to anyone, alive or dead. What we need here is someone with a brain and I am sorry to tell you that between Blair and Bush, they do not have a brain between them when it comes to this war that they started.

This of course is a downbeat assessment of where things stand in Iraq, but that is the state of the record. As long as the United States is stuck with the clueless George Bush, the killing will go on, the execution of civilians as happened with the Marine Corps recently, and the abuses at our prisons will continue to take place. May I ask, is this the image we want to extend to the Arab world as well as to the rest of civilization? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that when Bush told the insurgents in Iraq to bring it on, they brought it on and now George W. is whimpering.

June 6, 2006


The United States could have saved plenty of lives and money if someone had bothered to write a picturebook that explained the concept of a “sunk cost.” Doubling down on a terrible idea very rarely makes it a less terrible idea.

Fun fact: this is the only essay known to me that has an identical title to another essay. A month ago I published its counterpart.


In the space of a week, the Bush Administration has brought four dismal decisions down upon the American people. All four involve our relationships with the rest of the world.

One involves Chaney’s attack dog, John Bolton, being named as our permanent ambassador to the United Nations. The second is the appointment of Bush’s female alter ego, Karen Hughes, as Under Secretary of State in an attempt to change the Islamic perception about the United States. The third was Bush’s petulant withdrawal from the International Court of Justice which is also known as the World Court. And the fourth is nominating Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.

Let’s take them one at a time. When Colin Powell was Secretary of State, the third or fourth ranking member of the State hierarchy was John Bolton. Powell wanted nothing to do with Bolton, but he was installed at the insistence of Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld. Bolton dealt with arms control issues. To give you an idea of how foreigners felt about him, the North Koreans regularly referred to Bolton as the “scum of the earth.” More polite administrations may have also felt that Bolton was scummy, but they suppressed their desire to say so.

When Powell was let go by Bush, Bolton mounted a vigorous campaign to become Deputy Secretary to the new Secretary of State, Madame Rice. Accounts are that Madame Rice simply and defiantly refused to name Bolton as her deputy, the number two job in State. When Douglas Feith announced his desire to resign his Under Secretary job in the Department of Defense, Bolton made a great effort to fill the vacancy. Even with the backing of Chaney, Rumsfeld, a former Bolton supporter, said “No way.”

When it comes to being pushed around, Madame Rice has always been there to succumb to Chaney’s advances. When John Danforth resigned his job at the United Nations, Ms. Rice took a dive and named Bolton to be permanent representative to the United Nations.

When Rice made the announcement about Bolton’s appointment, it was apparent she had to steel herself to conceal her real emotions. Bolton had been forced upon her by Chaney and Bush. Her only recourse to letting the Bolton appointment go forward was to resign. Of course, she had no intention of doing that. She comforted herself with the thought that Bolton would be in New York away from the policy makers in Washington. That is a myth, as Bolton will find a way to barge in and become involved with policy.

Ms. Rice knows what everyone else knows about John Bolton. He is a flame thrower. There is no compromise with him. Bolton wants his opponents – domestic or foreign – to admit they were totally wrong and to at least, resign.

Bush and Rice have proclaimed that 2005 is the time for diplomacy. The trademark of the United Nations is diplomacy. Some you win and some you lose, and in many cases, there is no decision. Sending Bolton to the UN is much like sending an arsonist to a paper mache factory.

Simply put, Bolton’s stock in trade is hatred. For as long as can be remembered, Bolton has hated the UN with a special venom. Bush likes these kinds of people. He mistakenly confuses hatred with courage.

So Bush and Chaney have sent Bolton to the UN in an era of diplomacy. Clearly, Bolton views his appointment as his authorization to “Straighten things out at the UN.” When the United States trusts its fortunes to a flame thrower whose main purpose in life is hatred, this country must be prepared to pay a price. Naming Bolton to the UN job is nothing less than the U.S. sticking its fingers in the eyes of every nation that wishes us well or ill.

Bolton has said, “I don’t do carrots” as in a stick and a carrot. He boasts of “taking a big bottle of WITE-OUT” to erase Bill Clinton’s signature on the statute calling for the International Criminal Court. Nation-building is a “fantasy.” He called for the U.S. to give full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan in defiance of China. He recently suggested shrinking the Security Council of the United Nations to one member: the United States.

Bolton is the kind of man who walks into your living room after spreading manure without changing his boots. His appointment constitutes thumbing our nose at every other member of the UN. When he says, “I don’t do carrots,” the rest of the world is entitled to consider him the scum of the earth as he was called by the North Koreans.

We came now to the ugly appointment of Karen Hughes to serve as Under Secretary of State Public Diplomacy. Her charge is to change Islamic perceptions about America.

Ms. Hughes knows absolutely nothing about relations with Islamic and Arab countries. Her entire public career has been to “fashion a story, regardless of its accuracy” on behalf of George Bush. The foregoing quote is from the Newark Star Ledger. Her career has been to cover the droppings of George Bush. She was there to cover for Bush when he draft dodged into the Texas Air National Guard. Bush’s invading a sovereign government in Iraq was called a matter of liberating by Hughes. On top of her ugly demeanor, Ms. Hughes, for better or worse, is a woman who reports to Ms. Rice, another woman. In the Islamic culture, sending a woman to represent the United States is an insult. It makes no difference what we think of relations between the sexes; the point is what do the Arabs and other people of the Islamic culture think of it. For them, it is an insult.

Karen Hughes is singularly unsuited for a job of changing Islamic perceptions about this country. The overwhelming fact is that our actions are the sole determining factor. Invading Iraq was a disaster in Islamic eyes. No public relations person can change that perception.

Some time back, Bush brought in Charlotte Beers, a New Yorker who headed an advertising agency, for the purpose of making the world feel better about our intentions. After a few months, Ms. Beers, a communications professional, said it couldn’t be done as long as Bush was sticking his fingers in the eyes of nearly every other nation. She quit.

When Bush sends John Bolton to the UN, that action speaks in unmistakable tones. We are going our own way and to hell with the other countries. All the public relations by Ms. Hughes or by anyone else will be for naught as long as our actions fail to match our words.

Karen Hughes is the wrong person in the wrong place. Could it be that Bush, Ms. Hughes only sponsor, has sent her to Foggy Bottom to keep Madame Rice in line? Think about that while we consider another potentially disastrous appointment.

No one around Bush will tell him that he is actively despised by citizens of foreign countries. Their loathing is also attached to his appointees. To top off that loathing, Bush now proposes that the leading neo-con be sent to head the World Bank. In the eyes of the world, Paul Wolfowitz is the epitome of evil. It was Wolfowitz who clamored for invading Iraq even when Bill Clinton was president.

At the World Bank, Wolfowitz will be required to work with every other nation to strengthen their economies and to stamp out hunger. Ordinary observers would say the presidency of the World Bank is a job for a compassionate person. That’s not the way George Bush works. Bush views himself as the chief finger sticker in the eyes of our fellow citizens on this globe. The Newark Star Ledger had it about right when it said, “This is a president with little interest in how the rest of the world views his decisions.” It’s our way or the highway.

To complete this disastrous review of the Bush decisions of the past week, we have a case involving the World Court where W thumbed his nose at every civilized country.

The facts look like this. Jose Ernesto Medillin, a citizen of Mexico, found himself on death row in this country. When he was tried, he was assigned a lawyer who had been suspended from practice due to an ethics violation. The judge did not know of the suspension of the lawyer. The lawyer called not a single witness during the trial and only one in the penalty phase of the proceeding. Medillin was sentenced to death.

After three years on death row, Mexico’s consular representatives finally were told of Medillin’s death sentence. They argued that if they had known of his arrest, he could have been represented by competent counsel. In sum, no one bothered to tell the Mexican authorities.

The Medillin case was referred to the International Court of Justice, the United Nation’s top court for resolving disputes between countries. In a case brought by Mexico, the court said Mr. Medillin and 50 other Mexicans on death row in the U.S. were never given access to Mexican consular officials, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. We have been a signatory to this agreement for many years.

At this point, it would be instructive to read four paragraphs from an Editorial in the New York Times of March 14, 2005.

The administration surprised everyone at first by accepting the court’s judgment and supporting Mr. Medellín’s right to review. It said, in what seemed like a promising change of heart, that “consular assistance is a vital safeguard for Americans abroad” and that if America did not comply with the court ruling, “its ability to secure such assistance could be adversely affected.”
That was good reasoning. It applied in 1963 when the United States itself designed the optional protocol, the part of the Vienna Convention that allows the World Court to hear disputes over consular access. It applied in 1979 when America became the first country to use the protocol by successfully suing Iran for taking American hostages. Now, in a climate of global hostility toward Americans, the right to consular help is all the more important.
But this administration is not always given to sound reasoning when it comes to institutions like the World Court – especially on red-meat issues like the death penalty. Last week, just days after accepting the court’s judgment, the administration revealed its hand: it said it had withdrawn from the optional protocol. Apparently forgetting its concern about citizens arrested abroad, the State Department said it wanted to end the court’s meddling in the American judicial system.
In other words, ideology triumphed over sound judgment and Americans abroad are all less secure as a result.

Remember, more than 50 Mexican nationals had been condemned to death by the American justice system without the right to seek consular assistance from the Mexican government. This is the epitome of shameful conduct.

So the court found against us. We picked up our marbles and left the game in a huff.

By withdrawing our signatures on the agreement, American travelers accused in foreign countries will have no right to seek help from American authorities. The Times labeled the editorial in question “A Travel Advisory.” That’s what it is. Our withdrawal is beyond being stupid.

Well there you have four recent actions that cast the Bush administration as thumbing its nose at the rest of the world. This can’t go on because there will be consequences. And some of them may be dire. When we send Bolton to the UN, and make Karen Hughes an Undersecretary of State and nominate Wolfowitz to the World Bank and withdraw from the World Court, the rest of the world is entitled to believe that we are unable to act in a civilized fashion. And they are right.

Going it alone in defiance of the feelings and beliefs of other citizens of the world will sooner or later carry a heavy price tag. All of us are dependent upon others. Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, cites an Irish proverb to support this thought. It is:

“Ar scáth a chélle a mhaireann na daoine.”

The English translation is:

“We all live in each other’s shadow.”

Bush went to Yale and Harvard, two of Americas best universities. It is a crime that he has learned nothing of the interdependence of mankind.

March 26, 2005


These Bush-era essays have been lifting my spirits lately. If the country could survive eight years of someone like Bush doing his damnedest to screw up the country, it can hopefully take four years of Trump doing the same. Hopefully the latter won’t start any new wars, but I’m not holding my breath.

Re: Hughes, I think there are a great number of legitimate reasons that she shouldn’t have been charged with that job, but her gender wasn’t one of them. Just because she’s dealing with people who don’t value women doesn’t mean that we should stoop to that level when making decisions for our country. The same logic could extend to not wanting to elect a female president for fear of retribution from Muslim countries. Fuck em. It’s time to join the 21st century, where their attitudes are going to (ideally) feel increasingly archaic. No need to pander to that.


Every American essayist prays for a week like this one – even atheists, the Dunkers, and the non-believers ask the One Great Intelligent Designer to give them a week where preachers and politician-preachers become so bollixed up that the whole world shakes its head in puzzlement. The only thing missing is for Charley, the Prince of Wales to screw up, but he has been missing in action since Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles became his new mama.

On August 23rd of this year, the Right Reverend Pat Robertson announced on his 700 Club television show that Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela should be assassinated, presumably by agents of the sweet smelling American counter intelligence forces.

Old preacher Pat, a former contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said assassination of Chavez would save the cost of a war against Venezuela. Presumably, Pat was spilling some plans that the Administration was keeping quiet about Venezuela. Bush and Robertson usually march in lockstep.

Does the fact that Iraq and Venezuela are two countries that sell us oil have something to do with Robertson’s belligerence? Don’t know, but good old Pat wants to save us the cost of another invasion as was done in Iraq. Very holy of him.

The response from the Un-Intelligent Design leaders in the Administration was muted in the extreme. Rumsfeld said that Americans don’t do assassinations. That, of course, is a knee-slapper. We do it but we try to cover it by spin. Karen Hughes, Bush’s long time girl friend, has been appointed Undersecretary of State expressly for the purpose of spinning stories which make all American Republican politicians look like heroes.

In any case, the world saw no response from the bravest of the brave, our Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. The rest of the civilized world is aghast that a preacher can make American foreign policy – but all we have is Rumsfeld saying, “Oh we wouldn’t do such a thing.”

When the next day arrived, Pat started out by claiming that the Associated Press had misinterpreted his outburst – and then he repeated it. So the state of our relations with the sovereign country of Venezuela seems to be that we want to kill its elected president. The honorable Evangelical Methodist, Mr. Bush, is so busy vacationing and making speeches to the heroes of the VFW and the Idaho National Guard and putting down Cindy Sheehan, that he has no time to tell the world that we don’t really want to kill President Chavez. To do so might injure his relations with his political base, and we certainly can’t have that. Robertson now claims that he has apologized, but the words come out again, “Assassinate Chavez” and no Administration official has told the world that Pat doesn’t do foreign policy. Or, does he?

On Monday, August 22nd and Wednesday, our hero president spoke to VFW conventioneers in Salt Lake City and to the Idaho National Guardsmen in Idaho. On Tuesday he rode his bike and visited a recreation area in Idaho. He seemed not to mind as the violence in Iraq went on because he needed to balance his life.

For the record, your old illiterate author has never been tempted to join the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. My interests are not in beer drinking and retelling real or imagined stories of Army life. Those outfits are not my cup of tea.

In his speech to the VFW on August 22nd, which was largely repeated two days later, our Commander in Chief who never saw service in the Army, Navy or the Air Force, and certainly never overseas, said repeatedly, that the nation owed it to the more than 2000 Americans killed not to end their mission prematurely. He went on to say, “Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. We owe them something. We will finish the task they gave their lives for.”

Let’s see how the promise that “we owe them something….We will finish the task they gave their lives for” works out. For rational people, it does not parse. Not at all.

If we have lost more than 2000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan, why do we owe those dead heroes another batch of American soldiers killed as we “stay the course” as Bush demands? This is spending the lives of our soldiers foolishly. This is the time to cut our losses – not to pile up more casualties.

If we “owe” anything to anyone, it is to get out before a sectarian civil war breaks out in Iraq. In that event, we will have 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 casualties before this Administration comes to its senses and finally concludes that the Iraq invasion was one of its monumental blunders.

It is an irony of the first order to memorialize our dead soldiers by condemning other soldiers to the same fate. That’s what “staying the course” in an ill-gotten war has brought us.

It is a particularly ill fitting tribute to the dead Americans when our representatives, who are pressuring the Iraqis who are attempting to write a constitution, have now conceded that one, Islam will have a major role in the new government and two, that women may be worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein.

We want desperately to get a constitution for Iraq in place so that prior to the 2006 elections, the Bush Administration can bring some troops home. It doesn’t matter if there is an Islamic theocracy or whether women are subdued by the law of Sharia. The important thing is the American election of 2006.

The invasion of Iraq was, from its beginning, a complete disaster which George H.W. Bush warned against. But W said he listened to a “higher father.” Unfortunately, the higher father apparently told young Bush how to invade Iraq but not how to pacify it or how to get out.

No matter how you cut it, sending more soldiers to die is not a tribute to the soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq. It is not a tribute ever; it is a treasonable act.

There is a paragraph from the August 23, 2005 New York Times Editorial about Iraq. It reads:

“Americans continue dying in Iraq, but their mission creeps steadily downward. The nonexistent weapons of mass destruction dropped out of the picture long ago. Now the United States seems ready to walk away from its fine words about helping the Iraqis create a beacon of freedom, harmony and democracy for the Middle East. All that remains to be seen is whether the White House has become so desperate for an excuse to declare victory that it will settle for an Iranian-style Shiite theocracy.”

This, my friends, is sobering stuff. The sooner we cut our losses, the better off we will be. Staying the course means more deaths and it becomes a matter of self perpetuation. If more deaths occur in our tribute to the fallen, Iraq will become even more of an American tragedy.

When Bush says we owe the fallen soldiers “something,” it certainly is not more dead soldiers which will be the inevitable price for “staying the course.”

August 25, 2005


Pop has expressed this opinion several times over the course of these essays, so I don’t have much to add. I also feel like I’ve been talking about Trump too much here lately, so I’ll spare everybody the Russia discussion.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON THOUGHTS DURING AUGUST HEAT | Meditations Chapter 14: Verses Amos to Andy

It may be that the string of temperatures of over 90 degrees has gotten to the old essayist. For an old geezer from St. Louis where the summer temperatures are reminiscent of the home that Satan enjoys, it must be said that the heat is more than impressive.

All of this leads to a series of unrelated thoughts that may have some wisdom in spite of the heat. Take for example, Tom Eadone’s Rule.

Verse 1: Eadone’s Rule
For many years, Tom Eadone together with his sisters, ran a limo service based in Chatham, New Jersey. Tom was a man in his 50’s who had grown up in the environs of Newark. Political chicanery was a factor that Tom looked for in every politician. In this state, Tom was absolutely right to doubt any word of any of our politicians.

Over a period of time, Tom developed an immutable rule about New Jersey politics. Any candidate who spent more on his campaign than the job he sought would pay him, was clearly a suspect.

If Tom found a candidate spending $20,000 for a job that paid $8,000 or $12,000, he would be convicted by Eadone’s Rule. In New Jersey politics, any candidate spending more than the job would pay would be aiming for kickbacks and bribes. Think about that proposition. Does anyone spend a fortune for the purpose of pleasure as he watches his money squirt away? Of course not. The candidate is making an investment.

On the other hand, we now have two zillionaires running for Governor where the pay is about $125,000 to $150,000 per year. They are prepared to spend as much as $75 million to get a job that, in other circumstances, would be considered as below their station in life. The Democratic zillionaire hopes the governorship may lead to the presidency provided he doesn’t trip over a girl friend or two. The Republican zillionaire seems at this point to be satisfied if he becomes governor where he can introduce right wing foolishness.

Tom Eadone retired a few years ago and we are left alone without his wise counsel. But if Tom could be reached for comment, it is clear that he would regard both candidates for governor with consummate suspicion.

As a scholar who has studied at Professor Eadone’s feet, his suspicions are shared by me. What would a man who uses a trunk for a wallet do with a job that pays only $150,000 per year? We shall see soon enough.

My memory is that Tom picked me up or delivered me to airports on perhaps more than two hundred occasions. He and his other drivers were never late, and Tom’s philosophy was free. That is my finest tribute.

Verse 2: An Arab Army is a Bona Fide Oxymoron
The United States is on a fool’s errand in Iraq. Our alleged exit strategy from this debacle of a war is to train an Iraqi Army that will see to it that the unpleasantness of war stays “over there and not over here.” We are depending on an Arab army, yet to be formed, to carry our burden in fighting other Arabs. This is treasonable foolishness.

An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as a peaceful war. There is no such thing as a prosperous depression. Similarly, there is absolutely no such thing as an effective Arab army.

A few years back, Iraq and Iran started a war that seemed to be fought at long range. My observation is that hand-to-hand fighting did not take place. Obviously, the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs. The Arab army of Iraq fought their long range war and ended up territorially, right where they started.

Arab armies exist to protect their Arab Kings and dictators. After the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam overran Kuwait which he had always considered merely a province of Iraq. Kuwait had a police force but no Army of any consequence. When the Allied forces showed up, the Iraqi army, including the vaunted Republican Guards, flew headlong back toward Baghdad. There was no such thing as the Iraqi Army when push came to shove.

In 1948 when the State of Israel came into being, there were many people who expected it to be destroyed by Arab armies. Israel defeated all the Arab armies including Egypt, and did so again in the 1960’s. During my service in North Africa, it occurred to me and to several other GI’s that Arab armies were hollow. Again, it is my long held contention that Arab armies exist to protect the king or dictator from the native population. So any consternation about them is nothing more than a continuing oxymoron. When they march in formation, they swing their hands up to shoulder height. Nice to see, but it doesn’t make them anything like an effective army.

And so when we are finished training an Iraqi army, we allegedly can “stand down.” Much more likely is the thought that all our training will be put to use in fighting a sectarian civil war in Iraq. Don’t let the paid commentators who have political fish to fry tell you that life, when all the Iraqi soldiers are trained, will be all milk and honey. It ain’t so.

Al Goebel, a fellow AT&T employee and a B-20 bomber pilot in World
War II, used to say that when you put on a uniform, it was not just for marching in parades or impressing the girls. Sometimes the man wearing the uniform might be asked to shoot at an enemy or to be shot at by an enemy. Unfortunately, my conclusion is that Goebel’s Rule is not understood by the Iraqi recruits being trained by U.S. forces. If and when we leave Iraq, that training and equipment may well be invested in a sectarian civil war. Remember, an Arab army is generally an oxymoron.

Another thought about the situation in Iraq is expressed in Verse 3.

Verse 3: Scowcroft’s Rule
When the Gulf War was concluded by Coalition forces chasing the Iraqi Army back to Iraq, there were many commentators who faulted
George H.W. Bush and his National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for not occupying Baghdad and Iraq.

Scowcroft and the elder Bush thought such a move would have disastrous consequences. They wrote a book in 1998 called “A World Transformed” in which they said occupying Iraq “involved incalculable human and political costs.”

They went on to say:

“We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well…Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different – and perhaps barren – outcome.”
(emphasis mine)

When George W. Bush was asked about his own father’s advice, he said that “I listened to a higher father.” Presumably, Bush receives messages from God. Most people who talk to God are candidates for psychotherapy.

So you see, it was God herself or himself who got us into the quagmire of Iraq. No one can blame Bush as he was a mere messenger.


We started this Chapter with a rule from Tom Eadone and ended with a rule by Al Goebel. The Scowcroft-Bush quote is probably more than a mere rule, but it took the intervention of God herself to overrule it as we are now trying to occupy a “bitterly hostile land.”

When the President talks to God, there are many of us who say the United States is in trouble. Earlier this summer when the Prime Minister of Palestine, Mr. Abbas, came to Washington, he was told by the U.S. President that God had told him to “smite” Al Qaeda. Then he told Abbas that God suggested that he destroy Saddam. So Bush again was simply following God’s orders. To use the elder Bush’s evaluation which comes from a cloistered New England upbringing, “We are in deep doo doo.” Do you believe that it was God who got us there?

August 13, 2005


China is perhaps the greatest violator of Eadone’s Rule of which I am aware. For communist party insiders, governmental positions are basically bought and sold on the market – but the price of each job has nothing to do with the salary it pays, and everything to do with the companies and industries that it has jurisdiction over. Bribes and relationship building (guanxi) are an expected part of any large business venture or contract in the country, so being a gatekeeper can be phenomenally lucrative. Positions that pay a few thousand dollars (USD) a year are routinely purchased for millions.

China winds up with a lot of local gatekeepers, in this fashion. It is one of several reasons that I’m not on the “China is about to eat the U.S.’s lunch” train that seems to be gathering steam lately.

Anyway, the funny part is that this system represents one of the very few ways that China could have downgraded the caliber of those who hold public office, which for centuries (until 1911) were determined largely by a series of incredibly intense examinations where performance was mainly tied to one’s ability to memorize incredibly extensive sections of the ancient Chinese classic texts. You would sit for like a week, quoting these texts extensively, verbatim, in essays that touched far less on good governance than they did on philosophical questions and Confucian principles. The result is that these Chinese government was staffed for years and years and years by those who were, first and foremost, good at memorizing things.

But ultimately, unlike the open-market solution currently in place, the essay system was a vague meritocracy which guaranteed that all officials were dedicated, educated, literate, and capable of applying previous learnings towards new problems; the Tang dynasty would have never been saddled with Betsy DeVos.


When the idea of Meditations was revealed to me, it was my thought that a sentence or two on each idea would be sufficient. As it turned out, some of the Meditations cannot be dismissed so lightly. Some require an explanation that would rival Genesis of Biblical fame. And so it is time to return to the brevity for a series of transient Meditations.

Verse 1: Don’t Wish Your Life Away

As a youngster growing up during the Depression, Friday was a coveted day. It meant two days off from school, for one thing. When my parents would hear me moan that Friday arrived at a glacial pace, they would say, “Boy, don’t wish your life away.”

It took me 50 or 60 years to figure out what they were talking about. Bright guys figure these things out much sooner. These days, life seems to whiz by. The Sunday New York Times, for all its bulk, gives me a good deal of pleasure. While it appeared to me as a child that Friday would never come, now as an authorized geezer it seems that Sunday happens every other day. Wishing my life away doesn’t happen anymore. That function is now on automatic.

Verse Two: Big SUV’s and Small Women
My religious duties have prevented me from doing a scientific study on one important question. There is no love in my heart or lungs or epiglottis for SUV’s. They consume more than their share of what the English call “petrol”. They tear up the roads which the strapped municipal governments fail to repair. They have a high roll-over rate, belying the thought that they are safe vehicles. They take up too much parking space. Parked head to head, it is obvious that an SUV would simply run over our Chrysler sedan.

Having said all that, it appears to me that the biggest SUV’s are driven by small women. Perhaps the male members of the female driver’s families have been sucked in by the mistaken belief that bigger SUV’s are safer and will protect the driver and passengers from harm. Perhaps it is the normal desire of the male to protect his wife and children from injury. While all that is laudatory, it may be well to check the roll-over rate, but that does nothing for my quandary about why small women drive Lincoln Navigators and other humongous SUV’s. It seems to me that the smaller the woman, the larger the SUV. Nobody knows why this is the case.

Verse Three: The Gutless United States Senate
The Emancipation Act was passed in 1865 which was 140 years ago. Since the freeing of the slaves, white men have lynched thousands of Negro men.

The Southerners in the Senate have seen to it, through the filibuster rule, that there has been no apology for slavery. The same has been true for lynching. In June, 2005, Senator Landrieu, a Democrat of Louisiana, and George Allen, a Republican of Virginia, proposed an apology from the U.S. for the lynchings that have taken place. It should be noted that Allen until recently, kept a rope noose in his office. Now that he is in the hunt for the presidential nomination in 2008, the noose, which could be used in lynching, is gone and Allen agreed to co-sponsor an apology from the Senate.

The gutless part arrives now. Allen insisted that any such vote be not recorded. It was to be a voice vote so that any objectors would not have their opposition on record. As the week started, 20 Senators out of 55 had failed to sign on as co-sponsors of the apology. All were Republicans. The New York Times reports from Washington that people were selling T-shirts saying, “My Senator went to Washington and all I got was a lousy lynching.”

In the end, eight Republicans declined to sign on as co-sponsors. They are Thad Cochran of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas of Wyoming, Judd Gregg and John Sununu of New Hampshire and Trent Lott of Mississippi.

In the voice vote taken, no one knows how many voiced opposition to an apology for lynching. The vote was recorded in favor of the “Ayes.” 140 years and we still have Senators too gutless to condemn lynchings. Sad, sad business. Anybody want to sing a verse or two of Dixie?

Verse Four: Exxon Hires a Bush Stooge
You may recall that Bush had a man who repeatedly reversed government scientific reports on global warming to say that any such warnings were greatly exaggerated or did not exist at all. His name is Phillip A. Cooney, former Chief of Staff for Bush’s Environmental Policy Council. Among other things, Cooney edited scientific reports that cast doubt on the link between the omission of greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.

Simply put, Cooney altered the scientific evidence to fit Bush’s ideological agenda. Cooney manipulated scientific findings much the same as the intelligence was manipulated in the run-up to the war in Iraq. When he left, Bush’s spokesman praised him for his work, as well he might.

Exxon Mobil was the driving force behind Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Treaty. Their advertising and lobbying efforts have been devoted to proclaiming that global warming is not much of a problem. When it was discovered that Cooney was altering reports in his government job, Exxon found a job for him. They have yet to say what he will be doing, but he is now out of the line of fire. Altering scientific reports is a form of forgery. In this administration, the forger is rewarded. Something is wrong here, as it was in the promotions of Alberto Gonzales and Condeleezza.

Verse Five: Texas Tells Cheerleaders, “Don’t Shake The Thing”
There were one or more representatives in the Texas House who wanted to introduced a bill to regulate cheerleading. The sponsor thought cheerleaders in Texas had become provocative and showed too much flesh. How much provocation is allowed and how much flesh can be displayed was not specified, but the sponsors knew that godliness was under attack by high school cheerleaders. This ranks up there with war in Iraq, the economy, and filibustering in Washington.

A letter to the New York Times by Mary Alice Carr, no relation, says “The routines may look sexy but that does not mean the girls are having sex.” Ms. Carr goes on to proclaim that these girls are athletes and are less likely to engage in sex than their non-athletic counterparts. There is no scientific evidence to support this belief.

Old Mary Alice seems hung up on whether the cheerleaders are having sex. The Texas Legislature seemed to be hung up on Baptists being provoked by scantily clad cheerleaders. The point that seems lost is that spectators are supposed to be watching Texas high school football. Is it possible that in Texas, people go to the stadium to watch cheerleading while ignoring the game? Maybe so. This is Texas, after all.

The Legislature dropped the cheerleading dance police bill before it could be acted upon on the ground that Texas would become the laughing stock of civilized America. There are those of us who believe the dance police for cheerleaders would not have made much difference, one way or the other, when it comes to being laughed at.

Verse Six: Iraqi Politics
What are the politicians in Washington, who fall all over each other to demonstrate fervor for their Christianity, going to say if the Iraqis want to establish an Islamic government? Will Tom Delay welcome a Government run by Mullahs and Imams? Is this what all the casualties and billions of dollars have bought us? What if there is a sectarian civil war? Will we send more troops or will we bug out? Are we going to fight to save the Sunnis or the Shias or the Kurds? Are we going to sing all the verses to “Onward Christian Soldiers”?

No one in Washington seems to have given much thought to Iraq once the “Mission Accomplished” sign was posted in May 2003. Are we still making stuff up as we go along? My guess is that an Islamic government and/or a civil war are somewhere in Iraq’s future. Do we have any idea what we will do about those developments? Bush thinks about these things as he spends loads of time in Crawford cutting brush and falling off his bicycle.

Verse Seven: A Clean Breast or Boobs & Bosoms Unlimited
Granted that your author is an over-the-hill geezer, but he is repeatedly astounded by women of all classes overly eager to display their bosoms. During my youth in the pre-Geritol years, it seemed to me that modest women wore clothing that made it easy to identify them as females without the females saying, “Hey look here at what I’ve got.”

My sisters and my mother would have had great consternation if a bra strap showed on their shoulders. My mother would consider such a failing as the sinning of a hussy.

My education took place in a public school where there were lots of females. Joining AT&T, which hired hundreds of thousands of women, served to remind everyone that my life was not one of a cloistered monk. The point is that women are an integral part of my life and they are to be celebrated. But all this came before the female mammary gland became such an important part of life that it demanded undue center stage attention.

The desire to display the bosom is not a product of scheming by dirty old men. From what we read in the press, the desire comes exclusively from well endowed women. One model was quoted recently as saying she intended to use her breasts as a focal point to seek more contracts.

Used car ads feature bosomy women. The magazine rack at the check-out counter at super markets is a head turner with one magazine’s exposure trying to out-do the display of breast work on another magazine. Bosomy females are used to sell everything in TV ads as well as in newspaper and magazine ads. They advertise home delivery for newspapers, rental cars and cell phones. Is there a connection between the DD cup sizes and the effectiveness of the advertising? Alan Greenspan should look into booby trap ads.

The other day, Dennis Kozlowski was found guilty for his role in the Tyco affair. When that verdict was announced, his wife and daughter wore dresses to court that many men would consider provocative and scandalous. But what can we expect when on Sunday, the New York Times runs a half page or more of recent parties where the women seemed to be semi-dressed.

In the Irish song, “The Mountains of Mourne,” a young Irish lad on his first trip to London, writes home to his sweetheart that English women are confusing. He could not tell if they dressed “for a bath or a ball.” But Ireland used to be a Catholic country where the clergy would have no idea about the lad’s confusion.

The overt display of the feminine bosom now seems to be a staple of life in 21st Century America. There is not much old geezers can do one way or the other. There are Southern Baptists who would advocate burkas for provocative females, but civilized men, who of course are not Baptists, say it’s here – so enjoy it.

Verse Eight: Intelligence and Morality
Being intelligent is no more the product of a university education than being moral, loving justice and equality is a product of regular attendance at church services. See Micah of the Old Testament.

Verse Nine: The Pope and Condoms
Earlier this month, the new Pope met with five Catholic Bishops who come from HIV afflicted areas of Africa. The Pope, who is presumably celibate, told the Bishops that they must tell their congregations never to use condoms in spite of the widespread affliction of HIV-AIDS in their dioceses. The Pope offered abstinence as his solution to the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Abstinence! Are you still with me?

Since the beginning of time, young and horny African men have always sought out willing women. Sometimes the women are the arrangers. If you are employed in a dead end job with a life expectancy of 40 years, are you going to welcome abstinence during your most productive years? It has always been this way and from all appearances, it will continue to always be this way. The Pope has his head in the ground or up a sleeve in his gorgeous robes. Offering abstinence to Africa is of a piece with Chaney saying the insurgents are now in their final throes. A large shot of reality is called for in both cases.

Curiously, the Pope’s admonition to avoid condom use, came on the same day when it was announced that his church in the U.S. had paid out $1 Billion to victims of priestly sexual abuse. Two other dioceses are involved in bankruptcy proceedings. The Pope had said all the reports of abuse by priests were nothing more than American newspaper hype. The former member of the German National Socialist Party (Nazi) has had his head in the ground for a long, long time. As the kids say, it is time for Pope Benny to “get real.” But that is highly unlikely to happen.

For the time being, this Meditation will complete this series, unless we have another one. If in time, a mysterious revelation should overtake me, an attempt will be made, for historical purposes, to record further Meditations.

June 25, 2005


Oftentimes reading essays, I stop and wonder what could have prompted him to pick the topic at hand. Verse eight is a prime example — was someone insinuating that that wasn’t the case? Or was this just another thought that occurred to him while shaving or driving or so on, and he felt it was worth documenting?


The Commander in Chief/Chief Executive of these United States claims that he has discerned that Social Security is proceeding to a state he calls “flat bust.” If he were talking about female physiognomy, that would be one thing. But Mr. Chief of Everything is saying that the Social Security Trust Fund will be bankrupt in a short period of time. Impartial observers such as the Congressional Budget Office say that Social Security will be able to pay the same benefits through the year 2042, or another 37 years even without help. So a monstrous lie is being told here just as the American public was told about WMD’s and “Mushroom Clouds” coming from Iraq.

Gene Lyons, who writes a column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette offered this observation about Bush’s Social Security crusade:

“…When Bush ran for Congress in Midland, Texas, in 1978, he predicted Social Security’s immediate bankruptcy and advocated privatization. He was 32. Of course, he was still drinking in those days so maybe he forgot.”

A month ago, Bush appeared in Tampa on what Gene Lyons calls his “Magical Mystery Tour”. According to transcripts offered by the White House, here is how Bush explained his proposal on Social Security. The first paragraph is by Gene Lyons.

“The more the administration says about its preposterous Social Security “reforms,” the less sense they make. Even in “red” states like Montana and Alabama, suspicion is growing that Bush’s own arrogance makes him think he can sell any brand of snake oil he chooses. Here’s the White House transcript of Bush explaining his plan in Tampa during last week’s Magical Mystery Tour:”
“Because the – all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those – changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be – or closer delivered to what has been promised.
“Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the — like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate – the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those — if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.”

For all that we know, Bush may have been explaining the benefits of Islamic Sharia Law or he could have been telling Tony Blair how to be a better poodle or he could have been referring to the designated hitter rule. Your guess is as good as mine.

The tragedy is that unthinking Americans will support Bush as he conducts the American economy into bankruptcy. And remember, Iraq is now a wonderful safe democracy. If you have any questions, the Tampa explanation will have to do.

Now on the subject of Iraq, there is some unfinished business that needs explaining. And Italian journalist, Guiliana Sgrena, who writes for
Il Manifesto, was kidnapped for a month in Iraq. On Friday, March 4, she was released and was headed for the Baghdad Airport where a plane awaited to take her to Rome. After passing through the United States Army’s checkpoints on the Baghdad Airport Road, apparently Signorina Guiliana’s car came to an informal or transitional checkpoint. Our story has it that Ambassador Negroponte was to use the road on this same night, so the hastily constructed transitional check point was set up.

Accompanying Signorina Sgrena was Nicola Calipari, a senior Italian intelligence official, and a driver. Calipari is the man who negotiated her release.

According to the Americans, the car approached the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. The Americans said they used hand signals to slow the Italian car down. Failing that, the Americans shot at the engine block.

The Italians said they approached the hastily set up checkpoint at a speed of less than 25 mph with the inside lights on. While the Americans say they shot at the engine block, bullets entered the car killing Nicola Calipari and wounding Guilana Sgrena.

The question remains that if the Americans were shooting at the engine block, why were Nicola Calipari killed and Guiliana Sgrena wounded? They were aft of the engine block and what of the report that spent bullets were found in the passenger compartment of the car? The Italians say the Americans were notified of the passage of the former hostage’s car. Obviously, the word never got to the checkpoint soldiers. After some reluctance to come forward, the Americans finally said a full investigation would occur. If a full investigation ever takes place, it will be interesting to see how the Americans will explain all of this. So far, the Americans place the blame squarely on the Italians. The Italians say the American version is completely wrong.

In the cause of writing about this tragic encounter at a U.S. Army checkpoint, reporters asked the Department of Defense for its rules of engagement when people approach U.S. checkpoints in Iraq. You may be surprised to know that the DOD officials told reporters those rules were classified and could not be disclosed. The question that follows is, if an American journalist cannot find out the rules of engagement at checkpoints, how in the world would an Iraqi be able to follow them? No wonder that so many innocent Iraqi civilians, including children, have lost their lives at our checkpoints. And finally, if the rules of engagement are classified, could they be known to U.S. and other coalition soldiers?

Nicola Calipari has been given a hero’s burial by the Italian government. And now it is hoped that the inquiry will begin. But don’t count on it.

When Baghdad was conquered, a U.S. Army tank parked outside the Palestine Hotel used by journalists, fired a round into the hotel. It killed two journalists. Oh, there were promises of a complete inquiry. Now, nearly two years later, it appears no inquiry has ever taken place. If an inquiry has taken place, its findings must have been suppressed as no one knows about the U.S. tank that put a round into the Palestine Hotel.

For the uninitiated, please let me explain what happened to such things as the Palestine Hotel incident and which may happen to the Italian car being shot up on its way to the Baghdad airport. The Army uses a technical term for this procedure. It is called “Cover your ass.”

The culture in the U.S. Army never, never permits a soldier to say, “Maybe we made a mistake.” Nor does it permit a soldier to say, “I did it.” Quite to the contrary – and particularly in an all volunteer force – soldiers will say they knew nothing about the case or they will attempt to protect themselves, also known as covering your ass.

In the all volunteer force, an unseemly act is marked on the soldier’s record. Promotions will be held up. In severe cases, a soldier will be shown the door. In a force that is intent upon looking for demerits, an entry which says the soldier failed, is cause for some disciplinary reprisal. So it is obvious that every soldier in today’s Army will be intent on covering his backside at every opportunity.

Reprisals vary. You may have read of the poor soldiers at the end of the chain of command who tortured prisoners at Abu Graib prison. Some of them have been sentenced to jail terms. But the man in charge of the Iraqi operation, Lt. General Sanchez, who issued the orders to torture prisoners, has been moved back to Germany and it appears, his fourth star making him a full General, may never occur. And who ever heard of court marshaling a Lt. General?

Donald Rumsfeld, our peerless President, and Attorney General Gonzales, who authorized Sanchez to issue the torture orders, will never face justice. The permission for the torture to take place, came from Washington. But those who issued the orders have their backsides well covered.

In World War II, very few of us ever intended to make the Army a career. Quite to the contrary, we were intent to get the war completed and to go home as quickly as possible. The Army dragged its feet as long as it could so that Colonels and Generals could claim domination over vast numbers of troops. Those Colonels and Generals were usually full time soldiers; the rest of us wanted no part of the sweet smelling United States Army. We wanted out.

If there is a complete investigation of the killing of Nicola Calipari and the wounding of Guiliana Sgrena on the Baghdad Airport Road, it will be a cataclysmic reversal of everything the U.S. Army has ever stood for. The Army is not into such things as Iraqi body counts or of finding fault with its operations, no matter how lethal.

These observations come from an old soldier who served when only a handful had plans to make the Army their full time occupation. Those of us who served only when fighting was taking place viewed the regular full time soldiers as losers. Even then, from 1941-1945, CYA applied. Today with an all volunteer force, it has to be several times worse.

No one has ever successfully accused me of being a shill for the U.S. Army. Serving is often a dehumanizing experience. There are five grandsons in this family. If one of them ever flirts with the Army, he will have to overcome a formidable roadblock in the form of his grandfather.

It should always be remembered that military music is to music as military justice is to justice. Military music and military justice are often abominable. Take if from an old soldier.

March 10, 2005


Holy crap, I didn’t realize that the Bush plan was Bush himself speaking at first, so here’s a rough transcript of my thoughts as I came across those two paragraphs:

I’m an economics major, why can’t I follow this? Am I missing something? I’ll read it again.

Okay, I get that that wages are sticky and don’t necessarily rise when prices go up. So sure, we could try to tie benefits to inflation so that they don’t devalue over time. Great…

…but that would make them more expensive…

so what the hell does it mean that it’ll ‘solve the red’? Who even says things like “solve the red” or for that matter, “the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be – or closer delivered to what has been promised.” Let me read it one more…

oh god dammit this is just Bush babble. I’m pretty sure I just spent more time thinking about this than he did. 

I think eight years of Obama made me forget what it was like to have a president who was fundamentally incapable of assembling a sentence. Trump solves the problem by sticking to the same 50 words over and over. You never have to use scary words like “inflation” if you commit to only rambling about how the press is unfair but you’re tremendous.

The US refused to extradite the soldier who killed Nicola Calipari, incidentally. He seems to have been reassigned to the national guard in New York.



My friends whose native language is other than English, tell me that the
language of England, which is also spoken in many other countries, is a rich and diverse language. By that, it is assumed that the English language has a term or an expression to fit almost any of mankind’s needs. While the compliment is much appreciated, it seems to me as a sometimes speaker of English, that other languages must have much to recommend them, particularly in the preliminaries to love making. It goes without saying that my foreign language credentials are pretty thin on this subject, with my information coming largely, if not exclusively, from watching telecasts of Spanish speaking programs.

When scanning the TV dial in an attempt to find non-political commentary, Spanish programs seem to me to be super heated affairs. When two performers dance the tango, for example, it seems inevitable for one of the performers to ask the other one, “Mi casa. O Su casa?”
(My house or your house?) The English do not dance the tango. Any intrusion of English language in such a situation would be out of place unless it were to cite the decline in gross domestic products for the second quarter. But the growth or decline of the GDP would not be an appropriate subject for love making, except among economists. There is no record, public or otherwise, of economists or statisticians ever engaging in amorous activities.

In Italian opera, there are hundreds of arias where a tenor or a soprano declares that life is not worth living if their emotional needs are not immediately fulfilled. English has no word or phrase to match the fervor of people who sing Italian opera. When the climax to an aria is reached, an Italian opera singer may kill himself. An English speaker might more likely repeat the latest football (soccer) scores. Perhaps the Latins have fire in their blood when English speakers have only tepid ice water.

All of this is a preliminary to a word that appears to have a significant place in the language of Wales, but receives nothing more than a minimum of emotion in English. The Welsh word is “Hiraeth.” The “ae” letters are, of course, a diphthong, and are pronounced as an English “i.” So the word is pronounced as HEAR’-I-TH.

Hiraeth is a longing for things associated with home. It is a longing for the family and the friends at home. It is a longing for the towns and schools of one’s youth. In other words, hiraeth is a longing for everything associated with home. English dictionaries define the word simply as a “longing.” But that absolutely misses the mark. It would be like saying Mother is defined as a close relative whom we have known since childhood.

Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Bretons in Brittany are the Celtic nations of the world. The Bretons speak French because they live in a French society. The other three Celtic nations speak English because it has been their obligation to do so for hundreds of years. But those three Celtic nations kept their original tongues intact. In my estimation, the Welsh choirs, which have world wide recognition, sing their finest works in the original language of Wales. To non-Welsh speakers, the spelling of Welsh words is a formidable challenge, but the choirs of Wales make them sing in grand harmony.

And so the reader may assume that this is a campaign to have the spirit of hiraeth occupy a place of honor in the English language. Everyone knows it will be an uphill battle all the way, but before more people become angels, it would be nice to know that hiraeth has as much meaning in English as it now does in Wales. It may be a long time coming, but it is worth a vigorous try. A good place to start this introduction would be among the American soldiers in Iraq. Ah, but the trend for the time being is not a favorable one. Right now we seem to like macho words like kill ratios and that sort of thing. Maybe in time, hiraeth will be found in English conversations.

Why Don’t the English Sing?

When the word “hiraeth” is mentioned, thoughts automatically turn to Wales and its many choirs and soloists. At the same time, there are thoughts about Irish singers as far back as John McCormack. And the Scots are good singers. The same could be said for the French, the Scandanavians, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, the Polish and the Russians. In short, just about everyone on the European continent sings except the Brits. If they sing, it must be quietly to themselves.

Obviously, singing is not unknown in England, but it certainly does not occupy a place of honor as it does in Wales, in Ireland, in Italy, in Russia or dozens of other countries. Most armies sing even if it is a dirty ditty or a spoof of the generals. But in my time with His Majesty’s forces in World War II, there appeared no song to match the German melody of “Lili Marlene.” That song was taken over by Allied Armies and given English lyrics. Later arrivals did not know of the “Lili Marlene’s” Germanic birth.

At army funerals, the British often have a band that plays “The Last Post” and “The Flowers of the Forest.” Those are moving melodies but they seem reserved for military funerals. Singing the words without band accompaniment would seem be out of place.

Even the Russians with their penchant for secrecy have magnificent choirs. The Latin nations are singers as are the Celtic nations. But the English go their own way without much reference to singing in a group.

My observations about the Brits are never to be construed as a criticism. It is a matter of curiosity. The Brits are good soldiers, but lousy administrators of a governed country as in the case of the United States or British West Africa where the natives were required to address Englishmen as “Master.” Well, it is pretty clear that we can’t have everything. If they sang, they might appear more human to the average observer. May it be suggested that the Brits ought to sing about fox hunting or polo playing to make them appear to be just like other common folks.

Piling On – A Reprise

Earlier in the summer, an essay produced here had to do with a person afflicted with one disease being found to have a second or third ailment beyond the original setback. This is called “piling on” as every schoolchild knows.

All of this is brought again to mind as a result of the recent Florida hurricanes. When a man has his house largely torn down by the storm, he may have no means of refrigerating the insulin for his diabetes. When an elderly couple finds their roof blown off and they receive a grossly inflated bid to replace it, one understands that a heart attack may be the rest of the story in piling on.

In the 1930’s, throughout the American Midwest and Southwest, there was widespread drought. The lack of moisture was so great that a widespread section of the country was called “The Dust Bowl.” So we had a cruel depression which was accompanied by a “Dust Bowl.” That, my friends, is nothing other than piling on.

It has been a source of great pleasure for me to learn that the doctrine of piling on has a historical context. When questions arise having to do with the Jewish faith, it has been a great comfort to me to be able to consult with a matriarch of that religion. My consultant is our neighbor, Frances Licht, who explains the Jewish point of view without proselytizing or evangelizing or patronizing. So Mrs. Licht has all my business when it comes to questions about the Jewish faith.

When Mrs. Licht read the earlier essay about piling on, she offered the thought that piling on was known to Jews who used the term
ala Kletzma” to identify it. If the idea of ala kletzma was familiar to Jews, it is likely that it may be a doctrine that has been around for perhaps 2500 years. My favorite Jewish philosopher is Micah, who advises us to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly. Micah lived 2800 years ago, so there is a strong chance that ala kletzma was known to Jews for at least that length of time. It must be clear that the doctrine of piling on has a historical context measured not in years but in centuries. And it applies to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Moslems as well as to Christian Scientists.

When It Rains It Pours

Closely allied to the idea of piling on, is the thought that when it rains, it never seems to stop. It could also be observed that when the rains go away, drought often follows. Lawyers would say, “in the instant case,” we are being forced to deal with rain of epic proportions. New Jersey has had a wet Spring and Summer, which in no way is comparable to the hurricanes that have tormented Florida. But the weather around here has been wet for some time.

The United States wastes enormous sums on such things as tobacco supports and the billions of dollars invested in the Iraq war. In this country, there are always sections of the country that are dealing with a surplus of rainfall. At the same time, there are other parts of the country always afflicted with drought and wildfires.

It always seemed to me that if the rainfall and the water on the ground were taken to drought stricken areas, we may solve two urgent problems at once.

No one has ever successfully accused me of being a hydraulics engineer, but it seems to me that the waste of funds by the United States Government could be used to ameliorate the effects of drought in many parts of the country. In the past month, the East Coast has had water measured by the foot dumped on it. The water doesn’t run into an old fashioned cistern where it might be used again. That water simply runs away to the sea when it is urgently needed elsewhere in the country.

Of course, it would take an enormous investment to build cisterns, pumps and pipes to move the water from an inundated area to one stricken by drought. Granted, making that investment in cisterns, pumps and pipes is a much better investment for the American people than it is to squirt it away on tobacco subsidies, for example, and on rebuilding countries that have been torn apart by our military. Let’s do something worthwhile for a change.


It seems to me from serving an Army enlistment and from all the news accounts in newspapers, news weeklies and television broadcasts, that soldiers always have home on their minds. It makes no difference whether it is a volunteer army or a drafted army. Women and men think about home. When they lived there, home may have been a place that potential soldiers couldn’t wait to leave. Ah, but once in the Army, home now becomes a place of great interest and influence.

As far back as 62 years ago when my enlistment was served, soldiers had three priorities. First was to finish off the enemy. Second was to get out of this miserable army. And third, was to GO HOME.

Inevitably, soldiers want to GO HOME. Looking back, it is clear that memories of home were exaggerated. The girl friend left behind became a pin-up goddess. The parents were strong Americans. The old job would pay $100 per week when a man came home. Many of these thoughts were completely illusory. Many were the products of imagination run wild. One of my barracks mates had a young wife who became more alluring as he talked about her. By the time he went home, it is my suspicion that, in person, she was not really the sex siren our friend had thought so much about.

The desire to leave the Army and go home could be found in Ted Werre, a Dakota wheat farmer. They could be found in Ralph Tuttle, a wise-cracking Chicago truck driver. There was one immensely likable fellow from Harlem whose name has always escaped me. He and his family were Jewish and had always lived in Harlem – and he wanted to go home to eat the ethnic foods that New York provides. Steve Thorin wanted to go back to Wisconsin to eat the smelt that cavorted in those rivers. And Werner Fredli, an older fellow who loved classical music, wanted to return to Chicago to hear the Chicago Symphony.

As long as there are wars, young men and women will answer the call to adventure. In many cases, the call to adventure results in their deaths. In other cases, particularly in small rural towns, young men join the Army “to get away from this town where nothing ever happens.”

But no matter how you cut it, once a man puts on the uniform, he will soon be talking about home. There is an inevitability about wearing a uniform and talking about going home. This phenomenon has been going on, in my case, for more than 62 years. Today when soldiers are interviewed in Afghanistan or Iraq, they talk about home. Well, all things being equal, the idea of going home, however humble, is probably the best moral booster military service has to offer.


And so for the time being, this completes the thoughts that occur while my face is being shaved. They are not monumental earth-stopping thoughts at all. They are as advertised, which are thoughts that float through my mind when it is temporarily unoccupied by other considerations.

Perhaps when some new thoughts occur sometime in the future, they will be recorded in a following commentary. And so it is now possible to resume my shaving with no burdensome ideas on this ancient mind.

A final thought. On Sunday, August first, Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge announced with great fanfare that we were in danger of being wiped out starting with the financial districts in New York and New Jersey. That was six weeks ago and it will give us something to think about while shaving. It is very difficult to keep ones legs crossed for that length of time. Do you think Tom Ridge is going to say – belatedly – that announcement was an April Fools joke delivered five months late?

September 9, 2004

P.S. from Judy: It is unknown to the author’s wife how so many thoughts could have been collected, since shaving by the retired Ed Carr appears to be an irregular event.

I do remember that Pop quite enjoyed shaving his own head with decent regularity in later years; he’d just run the electric razor around and around it.

This essay series reminds me of another essay called “Whiskers” which I always remember as being one of his oldest essays (despite the fact that it was written in 2007) because it was one of the few that I read shortly after it was actually published. In any event, it would be remiss to not link to the Whiskers essay to conclude the ‘Thoughts that Occur While Shaving’ series.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Pop seems to have answered his own question years before he asked it. In 2007, he wrote: “It is at this point that I must ask, why do men have whiskers?”
Based on these essays, I would posit this answer: “To give them time to think.”