Sunday, January 11, 2009

Budd Dwyer begs your pardon

Wow, talk about selective memory where a friend is concerned. This morning I ready an editorial in the Inky that really irked the hell out of me. In the piece, former Reagan staffer Jeffrey Lord writes of the need to show mercy and offer a posthumous pardon on his old friend Budd Dwyer. In 1986, Dwyer was offered a plea bargain for accepting a $300,000 kickback. A plea bargain under which Dwyer would be required to serve 5 years, resign as PA State Treasurer and cooperate with the investigation. Dwyer, professing his innocence, refused the offer, went to trial and was found guilty. In early January 1987, Dwyer called his friend Lord to inquire about the possibility of having Ronald Reagan pardon him to avoid a jail term.

I was not a lawyer, but I certainly knew that a request of this nature was "above my pay grade." I told Budd that I would be happy to get the details of the process for him, specifically noting that it was impossible for me to promise presidential pardons to anyone. I brought the request to my immediate boss, Mitch Daniels (now the governor of Indiana). I was given the OK to check with the White House Counsel's Office to get information on pardon procedure and relay that - and only that - to Budd. There could be no promises made.

I mentioned something else to Daniels. I knew Budd well enough to feel very uncomfortable with his tone of voice. "The man on the phone," I said, "does not sound like the Budd Dwyer I know." Daniels nodded sympathetically and encouraged me to get Dwyer his answer right away, which I did.

Budd took the news of the process - the appeal for review had to be made to the Department of Justice, not the president - calmly. While he had the right to appeal and could receive a pardon if his case were approved, this could take years. Certainly this would not happen before his impending sentencing, now only days away.

Dwyer was permitted to continue his position as state Treasurer until sentencing and, on the day of Jan. 22, 1987 he committed his final abuse of that position by calling a televised press conference during which he committed suicide on live television. This was a big case in PA and, since many expected Dwyer to resign during the press conference, viewership was expected to be high. The fact that much of PA was dealing with a huge snowstorm also increased viewership. Dwyer had a sizable audience for his final act and, I'm sure, anyone unfortunate enough to see the spectacle (understand, this was in the days before we were desensitized to the grotesque by so-called "Reality" TV) probably remember it well.

In this morning's editorial, Lord sums up his piece with a request to pardon Bud Dwyer:
If anyone deserves a pardon - mercy - from the president of the United States, it should, finally, be Budd Dwyer. Let him rest in peace.
He doesn't indicate there is evidence that exculpates Dwyer or provide any rationale for the "need" for a pardon except to note that Dwyer professed his innocence, was "broken" by his conviction and inability to get pardoned prior to sentencing.

As I read the article this morning, the only words that came to mind were "you have got to be shitting me!" Dwyer blew his brains out on live TV. He called a press conference to do it and the whole thing was done on a day in which much of the state was in the midst of one heck of a snow storm so quite a few small children ended up seeing this horrific display. This was Dwyer's last act and the only reason to commit this act so publicly would be to hurt others in a sad attempt to martyr himself. If his suicide were only to ensure his wife could keep his pension in addition to avoiding any jail time, he could have killed himself in private.

Be sure, Dwyer's last act was not just a cowardly act to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and paying his debt to society, it was a heinous one in which he intentionally punished others because he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Sorry Mr. Lord, but the callousness & public nature of Dwyer's suicide renders him exceptionally unqualified for a pardon.


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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Air Tran apologizes - sort of

Like many a public figure caught doing something that could impact their bottom line, Air Tran issued an apology for severely screwing up the vacation plans of Atif Irfan, his family, and a family friend. The apology, issued mere hours after the airline insisted all actions taken [or not] were appropriate and that there was nothing for which they needed to apologize has a tinge of a "we're sorry that you are so overly sensitive that you were offended" smell
While Atif Irfan's brother described the airline's about face as surprising and generous, the apology that was issued still misses the mark. Yes, the airline finally agreed to reimburse the Irfan family and their friend for costs associated with a new flight & transport home in addition to granting the full refund for the Air Tran flights they were not permitted to take but they glossed over the fact that the airline itself unneccessarily and, to be honest, quite rudely, aggravated the situation by refusing to just rebook the group on the next flight out and publicly lying about the reasons why. Instead, they chose to point out that nobody on the flight got to Orlando on time without acknowledging their role in making the situation worse for 9 people in particular. Their apology, it seems, is focused on the need to follow security precautions in which air marshalls elevated the situation to the FBI. While, I'm sure, racism and ignorance was the underlying reason that other passengers relayed concerns about the conversation they overheard to the flight attendants, the family was not angry at the airline for doing what they had to do to ensure there was no real threat and that the passengers and crew could have a calm flight. The outcry about the incident was due to the manner the group was treated by Air Tran after they were not only cleared by the FBI, but after the FBI agents themselves requested the group be re-booked on a later flight.


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Friday, January 02, 2009

2009 Predictions

All one has to do to confirm that I have absolutely no psychic abilities is to look at the decisions I've made in my life about men and more than 1 job, however, I'm pretty confident predicting that AirTran will lose (or quickly settle) one lawsuit that has yet to be filed in response to an incident that occurred yesterday afternoon:
A Muslim family removed from an airliner Thursday after passengers became concerned about their conversation say AirTran officials refused to rebook them, even after FBI investigators cleared them of wrongdoing. CNN
Eight members of Atif Irfan's family were supposed to be on an Air Tran flight from DC's Reagan National to Orlando as part of their dastardly plan to meet up with other family members to attend a religious conference. The five adults and 3 children had what sounds to be pretty similar to a conversation I often overhear among people who don't travel [by air] routinely when taking a flight
"We were (discussing whether it was safest to sit near) the wing, or the engine or the back or the front. . ."
My guess is that it is a similar conversation the passengers who reported the group may have, at some point, overheard others have or even had themselves. Unfortunately for Irfan's group, they were FWC (flying while colored) and doing do in the US where, I kid you not, I have personally witnessed Arabs be confused for "wetbacks" and Hispanics/Latinos be confused for "A-Rabs." After other passengers raised concerns to flight attendants, the two air marshalls on the flight contacted the FBI who took Irfan's family and a family friend, an attorney at the Library of Congress who was not traveling with the family but was seen speaking to them, off the plane for questioning.

The entire group was cleared by the FBI, who went the extra step to request the group be allowed to take a later flight to get to their destination. Air Tran may be a discount airline but they certainly know how to give a first class F-you: they offered a full refund and stated the family can [try to] fly with Air Tran again in the [distant] future, just not one that can get them to this vacation.


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