Monday, June 23, 2008


Whenever someone died my mother always said, “Now there will be two more deaths; they always happen in threes.” I don’t know if that was an old wives tale or some Irish expression, but it frequently seems to be true. Back on May 21st I wrote about loosing two good friends, Jim Baumgartner and Mike Kiley, and now there is a third.

That memorial statement of my mother’s came back to me with the sudden passing of Tim Russert, the beloved moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. When his death was announced the television, radio and newspapers were filled with expressions of sorrow for him and his beloved family from millions of his fans across the nation.

Back in the early 1990’s I was a member of the NBC Television Station Affiliates Board of Directors and was attending an affiliate meeting in Los Angeles. On the opening day there was a luncheon in the big dining room of the Century Plaza Hotel and about half-way through the luncheon Tim came bounding into the room looking for a seat. He had just flown in from Washington and there was one empty seat next to mine. Upon inquiring if the seat was taken, we introduced our selves and Tim took his seat. When he learned that I was then living in Duluth, Minnesota he said, “Bob you and I will get along very nicely, because you can survive the winters in Duluth as I have in Buffalo; we’re tough guys.”

From that day forward, whenever I saw Tim his big infectious smile greeted me “How’s Duluth. Bob?” he would say and this wonderful memory lasted well after I had moved on from that city. While Tim’s fans and family will miss him greatly, it will be NBC that will really feel his loss. They say that nobody is irreplaceable, but Tim is almost impossible to replicate. His program on NBC, “Meet The Press”, appearances on MSNBC, and the Washington News Bureau will never be the same, but different for better or worse.

Just prior to Tim’s public memorial service at the Kennedy Center in Washington June 18th, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the noted historian, was interviewed. She said that at this time she was reminded of the late Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment about great men who were loved by the public, such as Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The best of them had a little boy in them.” Had Eleanor known Tim, she surely would have included him, too.

I am honored for having known Tim. Thanks Tim for being an important part of so many peoples’ lives and thanks, too, for making life in these United States better for all mankind. Unfortunately God has called you far too soon, but he apparently has a greater need for your gentle loving hands.


Sunday, June 15, 2008


For weeks now I have been blogging and composing essays that are full of doom and gloom, so it is time to tell a story that is filled with love, happy days and a more gentile life.

Back in about 1938 there was a 6 year old boy by the name of Bobby who lived with his parents on the far north-side of Chicago. Occasionally, they would drive all the way down Western Avenue dodging the street-cars and finally emerging in the farmlands enroute to Bobby’s Uncle Harry’s farm. You must remember that there were no expressways or divided highways, so the trip of about 70 miles took over three hours. In the summertime the Pontiac Chieftain was boiling without any air-conditioning and in the winter Bobby bundled up in a heavy lap-robe to keep warm.

The occasional trips were great adventures for Bobby, who was an only child and lived in an apartment building in the city. Uncle Harry’s farm had dogs, cats, chickens, goats, sheep, cattle and a huge assortment of exciting things to do. By the end of the day, Bobby frequently would sleep all the way back to the city, because he just ran out of gas.

Uncle Harry and his wife Mabel were wonderful people and welcomed company to their rural lifestyle. Bobby’s Mother’s parents lived close-by on another farm and Mother’s sisters and their boyfriends gathered at Uncle Harry’s frequently. Harry and Mabel lived a quiet life and Uncle Harry was the first handicapped individual Bobby had ever met. When Harry was a young man, he fell off a horse or wagon and badly broke his leg. With somewhat limited medical facilities on the farm, Uncle Harry’s leg became infected and it became necessary to amputate it entirely. Uncle Harry never complained, but he limped badly on a stiff artificial limb.

With his limited mobility, Uncle Harry leased his farmland, but developed a very successful business of breeding, raising, training and showing Shetland Ponies. As a matter of fact, he had pictures of him driving a hackney rig with his Grand National Champion Pony, Black Patent.

One day, Uncle Harry took Bobby out to the barn and showed him a new young beautiful Shetland pony named Tony. After feeding Tony some carrots and lumps of sugar, Uncle Harry asked Bobby if he would like to have Tony as a gift from him and his wife. Excitedly, Bobby ran across the barn yard to his parents who after some slight period of consideration gave their approval. Bobby was ecstatic with joy and almost wet his pants.

From that day forward, Bobby wanted to go to the farm every weekend, but that was impossible. His Father had responsibilities with his week day job at the steel mill and many weekends were occupied by his position as a Captain of the 122nd Mounted Field Artillery Regiment of the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Division. Bobby’s Father was an excellent horseman and owned a gorgeous Arabian Thoroughbred horse that was stabled at the Armory just east of the Water Tower on Chicago Avenue.

Shortly after receiving the gift of Tony, Bobby’s Father took him to a wondrous harness shop near Lincoln Park and bought him riding britches, shiny brown leather riding boots and his own riding crop. He was a vision in that little outfit.

One weekend, Bobby’s best friend in the world Buddy Johnson and his parents, Gladys and Don, joined everyone at the farm. Bobby and Buddy spent the entire day riding Tony in the woods exploring for Indian Arrowheads, which were abundant near the last camping site of the Pottawatomie Indians. The boys announced that they would buy a big farm someday, but no girls were welcome, except their Mothers, who would do the cooking. Those were wondrous days in the life of the boys and their families.

Digressing, several years later, Bobby lost his best friend Buddy in a tragic airplane crash. Buddy was a young Marine jet pilot and he experienced a flame-out returning to Pensacola Naval Air Station and crashed short of the runway. From that day forward, Buddy’s great dad, Don, never worked another day and walked through life like a zombie.

Returning to those early visits to the farm, it became necessary to find a new home for Tony, because Uncle Harry was retiring. It was decided that Tony had to be moved to the Grandparent’s farm some two or three miles away. No one had a truck or trailer so Bobby’s Father had to put Tony in the back of the Pontiac Chieftain for the journey. No one can remember just how Bobby’s Father was convinced to attempt this tricky journey.

With Tony positioned standing on the floor of the back seat they took off on the gravel road to Grandparent’s farm. That was the very first time that Bobby heard his Father utter a swear word when he announced to his wife…”If that Dam pony craps in this car I think I might kill him” and Bobby immediately began to hug and pet Tony saying, “Oh Tony, please don’t go pee pee in Daddy’s car.” With wide eyes and his ears forward Tony was clearly scared stiff and Bobby kept pleading throughout the journey. Bobby’s Mother sitting in the front seat pulled down on her hat separating the brim from the crown.

Somehow the transfer was accomplished. Pulling into the yard of Bobby’s Grandparent’s farm they were waiting with expressions of grave concern. Bobby’s Father opened the door of the Pontiac and Tony sprang out and ran like a bat out of hell while exploding both #1 and #2 all over the yard. Everyone became hysterical and Bobby chased down Tony and hugged him excitedly.

Shortly thereafter, world events took priority with Bobby’s Father’s time at work and with the National Guard. The latter was about to be federally activated for World War II, so it was decided that wondrous Tony would have to be sold. Bobby was crushed, because he loved Tony more than anything else in the whole wide world.

By this time, I am sure that you have figured out just who Bobby was…Bobby was me… COMMANDER GRANGER. As I was completing this piece, I closed my eyes and clearly saw my Mother and Father in living color standing in the barn yard laughing as I chased my dear Tony. Now, after more than seventy years, and five major wars, I still remember vividly minute details of my days with Tony and the great love that abounded in the family. It was a different time, a more gentle time, and a way of life that I wish we could all recapture. A tear comes to my eyes when I think about those grand, happy days that can never be recaptured, only remembered and cherished.


Saturday, June 14, 2008


As you know, I have been ranting against Congressional earmarks for several months. In an earlier blog dated April 17, 2008, I addressed by concerns with you and I followed that up with a Letter to the Editor at my local newspaper, the South Bend Tribune, which one of my good friends calls THE TRUMPET OF TRUTH.

On June 2nd I sent the following letter and a few days later I received a telephone call to verify that I had actually authored and sent the letter. Then a few days after that, I received another call expressing the paper’s concern relative to my letter’s content and suggestions. I told the paper that I did not agree with their concerns, but they could do whatever they desired, but I strongly felt the letter should be published.

Here is a copy of the original letter…………..


“Why is it so difficult to secure details surrounding Earmarks attributed to our Congressman? I have repeatedly approached the South Bend Tribune with story requests on this subject and have directly contacted Congressman Joe Donnelly’s Washington Office to no avail. I was called by one of his assistants and referred to a confusing web site that required computer expertise beyond my talents.

It has been reported that Congressman Donnelly had delivered over $9,600,000 in Pork Barrel funds to the 2nd Congressional District, but one must suspect there is some reticence against full disclosure. Are we to assume that Cong. Donnelly is repaying his election obligations to Luecke-Land (South Bend’s Mayor Luecke), the West Side Democratic Club and his alma mater Notre Dame?

Earmarks are financial appropriations approved by Congressional backroom deals with little or no legislative oversight and are a huge drain on the taxpayer’s of the 2nd Congressional District’s pocketbook. If Donnelly’s Pork is really providing value, why are the voters not thoroughly informed?”

In the Friday June 13th issue of the Tribune the letter was published, but edited as follows:

“Why is it so difficult to secure details surrounding Earmarks attributed to our Congressman? I submitted a request to The Tribune for a story on this subject and directly contacted Congressman Joe Donnelly’s Washington Office deleted to no avail. I was called by one of his assistants and referred to a confusing web site that required computer expertise beyond my talents.

USA Today last December reported that Congressman Donnelly delivered over $9,600,000 in Pork Barrel funds to the 2nd Congressional District. deleted remainder of paragraph

Earmarks are financial appropriations approved by Congressional backroom deals with little or no legislative oversight and are a huge drain on the taxpayer’s of the 2nd Congressional District’s pocketbook. If Donnelly’s Pork is really providing value, why are the voters not thoroughly informed?”

I feel that I have a right to my opinion and that The Tribune is going soft on our local politicians. Recently it was reported by The Tribune that Congressman Donnelly had delivered over $900,000 to the new Notre Dame Nanotechnology facility for laboratory equipment. I think that the Lab’s potential to deliver huge technological financial benefits and patents are very likely, but why should the taxpayers foot the bill when Notre Dame and the Lab’s participating investors will benefit significantly from any subsequent inventions and/or breakthroughs. Notre Dame is sitting on a massive endowment fund of about $6,500,000.00 and can well afford to finance their new buildings and endeavors.

Maybe I am being oversensitive, but it seems to me that Congressman Donnelly is abusing his position to support his Alma Mater. Why are we being required to financially fund entities whose pockets are already stuffed within a tax-free educational environment? In my humble opinion, I believe Congressman Donnelly and most of his fellow elected officials are blatantly exploiting their positions of power with their ability to dip their hands into our national treasury without any oversight.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


Over the past two days I have been preparing a blog addressing our current gasoline price crisis. After the essay grew to over three pages I decided to step away and give the project some further reflection.

I have done some detailed research on this subject and determined some interesting facts about certain background factors. One name kept coming up going back to 1914 when Winston Churchill was the British First Lord of the Admiralty. Preparing for potential war with Germany, Churchill convinced his government to convert the British Royal Naval Fleet from coal power to oil fuels to support heavier ships and larger guns. He was further influential in the establishment of the British 51% ownership of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company with the direct support of the House of Rothschild banking family and the Standard Oil Rockefellers.

During World War I, Churchill was in charge of the British Dardanelle campaign that led to the taking of Constantinople, the capital of the then Ottoman Empire. Churchill later called for the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the vast oil fields of Mesopotamia came under British rule. In order to establish control and safe conditions and transit for their oil holdings it was determined that a balance of power be fashioned, thus under Churchill’s substantial influence they established Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait while the British oversaw Palestine. Here is where T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) came in as one of the individuals who manipulated the British supported Puppet-Kings.

All this information was garnered from a fascinating article written by Clifford Shack (The Rothschilds, Churchill and “The Final Solution”). The frightening revelation in this article is the complicity of previously under-reported influences in the Holocaust. To read the article yourself here is the link:

All of this appears to be a huge digression, but it is really background to the influences that got us to our current gasoline price problem.

While I was reflecting yesterday, I received an email from a good friend in Philadelphia referring me to a You tube video. While the video is 9 minutes long it is well worth your time, because it clearly places the blame and answers the solutions better than I have ever heard before. Here is that link:

Happy viewing, reading, and please call, write, or email both your Congressional Representative and Senators to solve our economically disastrous gasoline price problem. Nothing will happen, unless you apply direct pressure.


Saturday, June 7, 2008


No matter where we garner our news; mainstream network television, cable, magazines, shrinking newspapers or the exploding internet, we are bombarded with news about terrorism, Muslim extremists, Al Qaeda expansion, and death and destruction at their hands. To say the least this is both alarming and disturbing, because there is a direct relationship to the future well being of our way of life.

While there were significant signs of growing threats to our society for many years, it was not until the horrific attacks within the United States on September 11, 2001 that we really took notice. As is frequently the case, America snapped to attention that the terrorist threat was real and it was right here on our home ground. There were earlier signs with the partially successful bombing of the World Trade Center garage in 1993 and a number of years earlier the bombing of the U.S Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. The USA had not been directly attacked since Pearl Harbor and the invasion of two small islands in Alaska by the Japanese early in WW II.

The roots of unrest in the Middle East go back to the vast influence of the British Empire in the colonial days. Few know that the British had widespread influence since the demise of the Ottoman Empire and decisions of the legendary Winston Churchill to intercede in the establishment of the nation of Iraq and the subsequent Plebiscite that created Israel and failed to resolve the Palestinian issue. The vast Indian sub-continent and huge portions of the Middle East have long been warring among the various tribes and have been ruled by numerous conquerors that fomented unrest and desires of independence. The entire region has been a powder keg for hundreds of years and the USA has repeatedly demonstrated the audacity to think we can resolve the long festering multi-cultural hatreds with democracy and money.

Clearly, the USA has not done an objective necessary historical background study. Many smart leaders have been unsuccessful in uniting the conflicting tribal interests long before the USA even existed. Were we correct to intervene when Iraq invaded Kuwait during the first President Bush’s term? I think the quick easy answer is yes, but the real problem has long festered with our failure to address properly our ever-growing dependency on oil and our repeated unconditional endorsement of Israel without acknowledging at least some accommodation of the Palestine side of the argument.

It is not a popular subject, but it is clear that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded in March, 2003. History may eventually prove we were correct in this decision and to depose their diabolical leader. The attack on the Kurds proved that there were WMD’s.

In Legacy of Ashes (The History of the CIA) by Tim Weiner, we learn that the CIA has repeatedly failed to provide accurate intelligence to our leaders. Longstanding problems within the CIA have repeatedly led our country into inappropriate actions resulting in dire consequences, and it is still questionable as to whether the agency has been brought to the required effective operational standards. From the time President Truman created the CIA through President Bush 43, the internal problems have not been solved.

The recent political debate has whipped this country into an emotional frenzy and candidates will do anything and say anything to get elected. The threat to our way of life is real and it is repeatedly being ignored.

It was evident to me that the Muslim Religion was heavily involved in the current terrorist threat, but I did not know anything about it. In an effort to garner some objective facts about a subject I knew little about, I talked with my Muslim Cardiologist who is a highly educated, successful family man in our community. He recommended I buy the book Muslim for Dummies, and I am now convinced that it is not that religion, but an unknown number of misdirected, rebellious religious zealots who are the problem.

What has caused the radical teachings of those fringe leaders to call for our ultimate demise is rooted in several converging facts. The colonial interests (British, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish Ottoman tribal dictatorial leaders) abused their subjects over a long period of time. Long destitute poverty has bred unrest repeatedly and festered desires for these radical teachings and beliefs.

Looking for answers and solutions, I have just completed a fascinating book by Steve Coll entitled The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century.
This is a very insightful review of the Bin Laden family’s rise from desert sand poor poverty in the Empty Quarter of Yemen to unbelievable wealth and dominance in the Middle East.

This somewhat ponderous read (600 pages) provides minute details into the rise from the humble Hadhramawt region of Yemen by Mohammed Bin Laden (Osama’s father) who was blind in one eye and could neither read nor write. His devotion to the House of Saud, the Koran, aggressive business development, his family, his multiple wives and numerous children were central to his huge financial success. A pivotal development was Mohammed’s divorce of Osama Bin Laden’s mother. Osama was well supported financially, but never received the normal formal education provided to the other twenty some sons and over twenty daughters of the multiple remaining wives. Osama drifted into radical Islamic schools in Saudi Arabia and slid away from the family business and into radicalism.

While Osama was not the only son to disappoint his father, he is by far the one that brought great shame and embarrassment to the family and the world. I drew many conclusions, but I won’t spoil the book’s message. Beyond the Bin Laden family, the book provides a unique perspective into why radical Islamic factions have flourished and exists today. The book further proves…You can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your relatives.

How we combat this real terrorist threat to our future remains to be seen. History will tell us whether we were right or wrong in going into Iraq the second time, but I believe we did it to oust a dangerous dictator and not to control his oil resources. We cannot simply walk out of Iraq tomorrow (or even over a 16 month period as Barack Obama proposes). We have to find some kind of a just, reasonable solution to Iraq’s stability. Let’s face it; we will have to have some troops there until that happens.

I pray we do not dilly dally in reaching a fair, solid resolution. Death means nothing to the fanatics and War alone may not be the answer to the decade’s long grievances. America is paying a terrible price for the sins of past individuals and generations, but we owe it to the over 3,000 killed in the airplane attacks and the 4,000 plus brave men and women who have given their lives in the Middle East to preserve the American way of life. We also owe it to many brave Iraqi’s willing to stand with us in order to gain freedom and also the innocent ones who have paid with their lives, too.

One final thought, I still believe that America does not yet understand the culture, minds, and desires of the people in the Middle East. It’s just possible that democracy will not work there, but we and the region must find something that will.