May 2nd - and this is meeting #37!

Yes, just eight to go! -and Pres. George is counting the days, I'm sure.   We had a light turnout, with lots of our members already in San Diego for the District Conference.

MIKE O'CONNELL led the Pledge - again, giving everyone time to get set, and it went well.  LENNY FRIEDMAN stepped forward for the song - and when he asked if anyone present could play the piano, there was  deafening silence.  Thus, A Capella, we produced My Country Tis Of Thee - and we did quite well - LENNY had all the moves, and everyone chimed in.  HANK HEUER gave the Invocation, thanking the good Lord for food, health, and friends - well done, and certainly well received.

PP JIM SUMNER had a Special Guest, Al Bellanca, a retired CPA - his second visit.  JOE FISCHER brought Dolly, his wife of 42 years!    There were some announcements, of course.  Most pressing was the importance of booking early for the Paul Harris Dinner on November 2nd.  Several of our allotted tables are already filled, so call PP STEVE DAY or DOUG to be sure you are included.  Remember, it is being held at the new Catholic Cathedral, and seeing that alone is a reason to attend.  A bit before that - June 12th, to be specific, HARLAN LEWIS will be hosting his Yearling Cocktail Party.  Time is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, and this is always a special treat.  Call Shirley MORE to make reservations, please.  Note that Virginia Gandy is back in the hospital, and DAVE MORE is still at the VA Hospital.


This was Birthday Day, but almost not.  Seems that both Pres. GEORGE and KEN LEVER had lost their list - and if there was another list extant, the dog ate it, I guess.  So KEN valiantly asked for volunteers, and three stepped forward.  GEORGE COX came along on the 27th, hailing from Westmoreland - and I'm sure you all know that is in California.  Next, alphabetically, was JOE FISCHER, born in Biberteich, Germany on the 28th.  And the last of the triumvirate (that means three) was PP HOWIE HENKES, whose date was the 16th, - HOWIE came from Vincennes, Indiana. KEN LEVER then provided a poem - it even rhymed, and was funny, of course.

KEN the reminded us that, indeed, this was the week that was not.  He made the sad announcement that a widely-read magazine was folding, alas.  He pointed out that with the demise of this publication, we were losing an important source of the naked truth.  This could be nothing other than Penthouse, which, as he reported, "was going belly-up".

At this point that well-know expert on girlie magazines, DON NELSON, was called forward to report on the true significance of this earthshaking event.  (Editorial Note - for those of you who don't know, DON can be a bit of a loose cannon once at the mike, in particular if encouraged to report in German - give him a try, sometime).  Anyway, up came DON, who first suggested something we all recognize - with his retirement, KEN obviously has too much time on his hands, so the question is, when you spend all day doing nothing, how do you know when it's over?  DON then proceeded to tell a really terrible story about a Pakistani and a Spaniard, who married and had twins.  They were named Juan and Amahl.  Moving right along, this was followed by a story about the Titanic, and ended, sort of, with a story allegedly involving SHARON RHODES-WICKETT.  Anyway, you get the idea, and DON did convey the true significance of whatever it was he was supposed to be talking about.  With a bit more elucidation like this, we will soon be experts on all sorts of topics…Note - in all fairness to our audience, it should be reported that PP STEVE SCHERER, referring to the last couple of speakers, suggested plaintively, several times, "Give him the hook".  Alas, it wasn't done.

BILL EDWARDS introduced our Speaker, Linas J. Kojelis.  He is a real native, born in Los Angeles, with a BA from UCLA, then a Masters in International Relations from Princeton.  Linas began working in Washington D.C. in 1979, for Senator Richard Schweiker.  He moved to the White House, and served there during the entire Ronald Reagan presidency, specializing in International Affairs. From 1990 to 1997, he was President of the U.S. Baltic Foundation, and then founded his own company, which specialized in public media and government relations.

He is an expert on the Baltic republics, and talked mostly about conditions in Lithuania.  There, and throughout the former USSR, the economy was in free fall from 1991 to 1995. During this period, the then-managers of many of the state owned companies simply took them over as their private fiefs.  This in turn made many of them instant millionaires - but their problem was that they were only able to operate in the present, with no concern for the future.  Records of who took what do exist, which may be useful later.

The good news is that the Young Lions began to emerge - these men were all in their 20's and 30's.  They started from scratch, built their bases correctly, and founded the Liberal Party, now the 2nd largest in Lithuania (the ex-communists are presently the biggest).  As an example, one of the men that Linas knew well first saved from 5 to 10 thousand dollars, began buying real estate, and did well.  He is also a Rotarian!  The two really necessary means of attracting foreign capital in these former republics is transparency and good accounting.  The old industrial barons don't seem to understand this, but the Young Lions certainly do.

Q&A - YOE asked about corruption. An example - in a 450 million-dollar deal for energy, the former baron who controlled access insisted on a twenty million-dollar payment - and the deal fell through.  Transparency International, started by some Americans, fights this, and they are having some success.

RAY ZICKFELD -What about the two former U.S. Army officers - does one of them run the Army in Lithuania?  Yes.  And as a result, they are getting good equipment, and may be able to join NATO soon.

LILLIAN KLIEWER - Does a group exist which is similar to the Hungarian Mafia? Yes, this does go on.  

LENORE MULRYAN - Do they have working international institutions?  Yes, even though much infrastructure is still owned by the State.

FLOYD DEWHIRST - Are they quite dependent upon Russia.?  Yes, but this is improving.

JOE FISCHER -What is happening in agriculture?  The very small farms are struggling, but the mid-size and larger ones are doing well.  

PP JIM COLLINS - What percentage of market share is handled by the Black Market?  Hard to estimate, but there is a large gray market - that is, a combo of legal and otherwise.

GEORGE COX - How does one take over a company?  It only takes money.

PP HOMER NEWMAN - Is there a Mutual Fund we can invest in, to ride this coming boom in the Baltic states?  Not really.

CATHY REZOS-Will Lithuania be important to the U.S.?  We have general interest, and their peaceful transition helps.

PP STEVE SCHERER - Do they have rap music?  Yes, they have their own, but don't much like the U.S. variety.   Note that 70% of the residents there are studying English.  

PP MIKE NEWMAN - What is the source of your information? It is from private sources, but these are reliable, and they are getting better.

Linas Kojellis, thanks for all your information.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe

P.S. - I'm just back from the District conference, which was organized by PP Ron Lyster, and was a good one.  On Friday noon, the speaker was the son of the Shah of Iran, and since I took notes, I cannot resist passing them along, OK?

His name is Reza Pahavi, he is 42 , graduated with a BA in Political Science from USC!

Always interested in flying, he soloed at 12, and when he was 17, flew an F5. There are 1 l/2 million Iranians now living in the U.S., all of whom either left just ahead of the Revolution in 1979 or got out just in time afterward.  At this luncheon, by the way, there were about 225 Rotarians and spouses, and 260 Iranians!  They refer to him as Prince, and were wildly enthusiastic during his presentation.

He frequently referred to the Diaspora - which is defined as the dispersion of the Jews after the Exile - they were sent to Gentile nations.  Thus, he was placing displaced Iranians in that category.  Almost 70 million Iranians remain there. He pointed out that the serious human rights abuse that are constantly occurring are totally ignored by the world press.  He advocates establishing new rules for the government - upholding basic human rights, and full participation of the people in a democratic and secular government.  Women must be guaranteed full rights, and there can be no religious or political beliefs that can be forbidden.  Thus, freedom of speech and thought must be allowed and protected. He summarized his talk by saying "The world has been chasing fires for 20 years but has ignored the arsonists " referring to the theocratic religious leaders who now control the country.  His audience was enthusiastic - it was impressive.