Freeing A Spy

Today Jonathan Pollard was freed.  Pollard, a former analyst for the U.S. Navy, was a notorious spy who passed classified secrets to a foreign government before being caught in the 1980s and sent to jail for life.

So why isn’t Pollard mentioned in the same breath as the Rosenbergs, or Benedict Arnold, or other notorious spies in American history?  Could it be, perhaps, because he was an agent who spied for Israel, that long-time U.S. ally?

jonathan_pollardWeird, isn’t it, that Israel would spy on the United States?  Not really.  I’m quite confident that the United States regularly collects data on friends and foes alike — remember Angela Merkel’s cell phone? — because intelligence gathering is what intelligence agencies do.  If America thought that finding out what was going on at 10 Downing Street was essential to its national security, America would figure out how to get that information out of Great Britain, by hook or by crook.

That’s not to diminish what Israel did in the Pollard case, or Pollard’s betrayal of his country.  He purportedly thought the United States should give more information to Israel, and he provided Israel with huge amounts of classified data.  After he was arrested in 1985, Israel initially denied that he was an agent, but they eventually ‘fessed up and began to quietly lobby for Pollard’s release to eliminate a source of tension between Israel and America.

Now, after 30 years, Pollard has been freed.  His parole conditions require him to stay in America for five years, wearing a GPS bracelet, and submitting to inspections of his house.  His lawyers say the conditions are onerous and oppressive.  Of course, they beat being in jail for life.

Advertisements

The Colossal St. Florian

IMG_7485St. Florian Roman Catholic Church is about a block away from Russell’s apartment in Hamtramck, Michigan.  It is a huge, beautiful church, with a multi-colored spire that stands out in sharp relief against the blue sky that prevailed during our visit.

It’s hard to accurately describe the colossal size of the church, which dominates the neighborhood, is twice the height of the neighboring homes, and can be seen from blocks away.  That’s a good thing, because we knew Russell’s place was near the church, and all we had to do to find it was keep heading unerringly toward the spire.

Construction of St. Florian was begun in 1926 and completed in 1928, when Hamtramck was home to thousands of Polish immigrants who came to America to taste freedom, establish a better life for their families, and obtain employment in the booming auto industry.   It’s a rich and familiar American story, where immigrants brought their traditions and cuisines to the New World and, once they put down roots, wanted to establish their houses of worship there, too.  St. Florian still hosts festivals with a strong ethnic flavor, and even though the neighborhood has changed in the last 90 years you’ll still find some pretty good Polish restaurants, that offer some pretty good Polish beer, located close nearby.

These days, it seems, we often forget that America is truly a land of immigrants.  In Hamtramck, St. Florian provides a beautiful, tangible reminder of that fact.

IMG_7461

Kowtowing To The Rich And Famous

Nobody likes traveling through the LAX airport, one of the many airports serving southern California.  It’s crowded and hectic, jammed with luggage-toting people heading east and west and crammed with the fast food outlets and franchise shops you find in every airport.

So, nobody likes traveling through LAX.  But you know who really doesn’t like LAX?  Movie stars.  Star athletes.  The random celebrities who have somehow become famous in America despite their apparent lack of any discernible talent or known accomplishment.  They hate rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi, being recognized despite their ever-present sunglasses, being photographed by paparazzi and the masses alike, and being pestered by fans for an autograph.  God forbid that they should have to hobnob, unprotected, with the common folks who buy the tickets to their movies or games or watch their reality TV shows.

paris-hilton-walking-through-lax-airportSo what do you do if you’re on the Board of Airport Commissioners that controls LAX and you learn of the evident dissatisfaction of the rich and famous with LAX?  Tell them, sorry, but they’ll just have to suck it up and endure an occasional interaction with the plebes when the celebs pass through a facility built largely with public funds?

Nah!  You vote to authorize the construction of a private lounge for the glitterati in a converted cargo facility, where the celebrities and sports stars and one-percenters can use a private parking lot and access area, sip wine and eat brie in posh, ultra-private suites, and be whisked off to their boarding areas in private shuttles if they’re unfortunate enough to be traveling by a commercial flight.  Of course, they’ll pay for the privilege of being shielded from the smelly, bustling peasants, and the operators of LAX will earn additional millions in revenue from the fees paid by the VIPs and the company that will run their special little enclave.

It’s just another example of the trend toward kowtowing to the rich and famous and allowing them, for a price, to be removed from any of the unseemly disruption that is part and parcel of everyday life for the common man.  They can pay to skip lines at amusement parks, pay to bypass the standard security screening at airports, watch movies at private screenings, sit at private boxes at sporting events, avoid buying their own groceries, hire private assistants to handle their daily affairs, and otherwise avoid the hassles that are all-too-familiar to the rest of us.

There’s nothing to be done about it, because money talks, and airport commissions and sports franchises and restaurants and other businesses are perfectly happy to honor the celebrity desire for separation . . . for a hefty price.  But just remember, the next time a celebrity tells you who to vote for, or offers their confident, all-knowing assessment of how to cure the country’s or the world’s ills — the speaker is someone who probably has only a hazy understanding of the realities of everyday life and who would rather shell out thousands of dollars than walk through an airport concourse with the likes of you and me.

So why in the world would we listen to what they have to say?