Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Pavel & I       
By Dan Vyleta
Publisher: Bloomsbury,
Hardcover, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59691-451-3

There are a lot of war novels out there. War and its aftermath have the fascination to draw us in, to hold us in thrall. Here’s another, but unlike every other war novel, this one eludes our attempts to put the story in its place. It is an espionage story, pitting Russian British and a lone American spy against each other and at odds with the local populace.

Set in the anarchic period of a divided Berlin in the winter immediately after the defeat of the Nazi horror that enveloped Europe in the mid twentieth century, the author has chosen an unusual anti-hero for his narrator. Peterson is an under-the-radar spymaster working for a fat slut of a British colonel The colonel is trying to find a midget and acquire the important information he possesses. Peterson is not an admirable character. Indeed of all the evil and detestable characters in this novel, he is the most detestable, obsequious, pandering, sliding slimily through the pages, wringing his hands and desperately trying to avoid blame. The I of the title.

Jean Pavel Richter is apparently nobody, a former GI left adrift as the war wound down,suffering from bad kidneys, somehow involved with one friend, an American whore-master for whom he is willing to get involved. And that is the core of Pavel. His humanity runs so deep he will got to almost any lengths to protect those he deems worthy. Some of them are boys of the street gangs left parentless and homeless. Others the prostitutes of the district. And always there is the microfilm that drives this narrative, but is not at the center of the story.

The vortex of this novel is an illumination of the evil mankind is willing to bear and to visit upon others in order to achieve desired ends. Pavel, at the center of both the evil and the transcendent goodness that somehow rises from juddering cold, cross and double-cross, and sudden brutal violence, somehow manages to achieve his ends, although readers looking for a neatly tidied ending to this dark disturbing novel will be sorely disappointed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


A 2005 film from Stephen Spielberg.
In 1972 Black September, a terrorist Arab organization of the PLO took Israeli athletes hostage at the Olympic village in Germany. Eventually eleven hostages were murdered.

The film is a dramatic film, which studies and illuminates issues of retribution and unintended consequences in a world of conflict. In a special feature included on the rental DVD, Spielberg points out that while certain facts form the basis of the film, “Munich” is not a documentary.

The film has particular relevance to today’s war between Israel and Hamas. It is an intense, agonizing piece that looks inside the people tasked with finding and eliminating the Black September Arabs who murdered the Israeli hostages.

The film  came in for some criticism when it was originally released but Producer Spielberg points out that certain facts are indisputable: Hostages were taken by Black September and eleven were killed. Prime Minister Golda Meir authorized a team to find and kill the original perpetrators. That mission was successful.

“Munich,” is an excellent thriller, well worth watching with fine acting, rich production and stems from a finely researched and written script.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I read in the local newspaper to which I subscribe, about one of the Republican party candidates for governor here in Minnesota. Like so many conservatives, he echoed the knee-jerk line that we need more local enterprise and less government because government doesn't create jobs, only local investment does. That attitude disses the contributions of thousands of federal state and local government employees.

Here's a family I know about. Both wife and husband worked for the state for more than 25 years. Each. Filling jobs created by state agencies. Let’s just ignore the value of their work output. They raised 2 children who went to public schools. They paid income taxes, school taxes, real estate taxes, city assessments for streets and water and they paid excise taxes. They bought clothes, food, toys, and other stuff from local businesses and they saved money to invest in sound stocks and a pension plan. They bought insurance and cars. It sounds like a regular American family, right? So where do some politicians get off claiming that family didn't contribute to the American economy because "government doesn't create jobs?"

Folks that is a flat out lie. Without government there would be no economy. So-called small businessmen, the ones making 2-3 mil annually, make that money by selling goods and services to the people of the community which includes government workers at the federal, state, county and local levels. Candidates who tell you that government is bad for you and doesn't create jobs are lying to you and they should never be elected to public office.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Lying in Wait   
Author: J. A. Jance
Copyright: 1994
ISBN: 0-380-71841-3<

This one will give you chills. It’s now available in a variety of formats and while it was written more than ten years ago, it holds up extremely well. I don't think Jance has written a better book; here she's at the height of her narrative powers. Expertly blending family and personal relations with a historical reality, Jance first introduces the reader to Seattle detective J. P. Beaumont's grandmother, a delightful old lady. Then the world turns dark. A fisherman is found murdered in a peculiarly brutal way and his widow turns out to be a woman from Beaumont's teen-aged past. The case quickly develops odd and puzzling elements. Jance provides clues aplenty in this complex story of terror and greed, but you have to pay attention.

Woven into the tight fabric of the main plot Beaumont pursues a better relationship with his grandmother, assists his new partner with some domestic problems, and resolves some lingering questions from his own background. The characters for the most part are fully-rounded, and the pace of this complex mystery may keep you up past your bedtime.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


As a former broadcaster, I’ve been watching the disagreements and flow of bad information over the recent maneuverings by the Federal Communications Commission to fashion new rules for the Internet. They have tried before to regulate the Internet only to be shot down by the courts for lack of legal foundation and missing logic.

The underlying question I can’t seem to answer is why. Why is this appearing now? The timing seems odd and I must have missed the economic reasons why some big users of the Internet pipes are pushing this now. I assume large Internet service users believe they’ll improve their incomes through an FCC approved method of regulating the commerce of the Internet. And what is the problem the FCC is trying to address?

The question and concern seems to be, will this proposed regulation leave smaller and start-up organizations at an unfair and economic disadvantage? There are a lot of petitions flying about the Internet requesting anti-rule signers. Most of those I’ve read take an extreme gloom and doom position, predicting that if the rule is passed, innovation and the creating of new apps and companies will die. Really?

A little history. In 1934, after long and sometimes acrimonious debate, the Congress passed the Communications Act, establishing broadcasting rules for the nation. If readers of this blog think the Internet is like the wild west, you should have heard radio in the USA in the 1920’s. Apart from the rabid blasphemous peudo-religious rants and the sale of dangerous and even lethal potions and drugs, anybody who wanted to could set up a tower and a broadcasting operation on any frequency they wanted. The result was total chaos.

When the FCC was created as a part of the 1934 Communications Act, a lot of the chaos went away—eventually. In the development of the act, foundations, civic groups and many educational institutions across the country made strong logical representations to the regulators, the Congress, that a number of radio and television channels should be reserved for the direct use of the public, and thus, the foundations for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting and a whole host of educational broadcasting enterprises were born and fostered. The people of American have been educated and enriched tenfold by the production and programming of non-commercial educational broadcasting over the past fifty-plus years.

So, why can’t the FCC use the history of the Communications Act of 1934 to fashion some amendments to the Act to solve whatever problems have developed. And, again, what are the problems this new Rule is designed to address?