Thursday, June 22

Those who need Driver Training



Normally young people are the most logical candidates for driving lessons from a driver’s school. An older friend taught me how to drive when I was coming out of high school, but when he thought I was ready for my driver’s test he recommended I take some commercial driver school training. I took three hours, went for the test and aced it. 

There are exceptions. My mother and an uncle learned to drive when they were in their fifties and each learned under the guidance of driver’s school instructors.  My mother got her license but never drove. My uncle got his, bought a car and enjoyed the experience which came to him late in life.  

There is another identifiable group of people who will undoubtedly benefit from a licensed driver’s school - government executives at all levels who enjoy the luxury of chauffeurs and government cars during their service. For many years in some cases, they are ferried everywhere and then one day they are on their own. 

A reliable and knowledgeable source told me Mrs. Robert Mueller said when her husband left the FBI after 12 years, “The first thing we are going to do is get him some driving lessons. I’m not riding with him and the grandkids aren’t either.”

In 1975, Joseph L. Schott, a former FBI agent, wrote “No Left Turns” in which he told the story of J. Edgar Hoover riding in a chauffeured bureau car in Texas, and while making a left turn the car was almost hit by an oncoming vehicle. After Hoover returned to Washington, the Bureau sent out a notice to all Field Offices that when chauffeuring the director there was to be “no left turns.” 

Hoover served for 42 years. Would you have ridden in a car driven by a man who wouldn't make a left turn?

Think of presidents, vice-presidents, cabinet officials, agency heads, leaders of Congress, senior military officers, and who knows who else, who haven’t been behind the wheel for years and one day they are out of office, back in private life, and the wife says, “Honey, drive down to the drug store and get a bottle of aspirin.”

Government officials worldwide are just like Americans. They could use refresher driver training. In Nixon’s memoirs, he told the story about Soviet President Brezhnev driving at Camp David.

"He got behind the wheel and motioned me into the passenger seat. The head of my Secret Service detail went pale as I climbed in and we took off down one of the narrow roads that run around the perimeter of Camp David….
At one point there is a very steep slope with a sign at the top reading, 'Slow, dangerous curve'….
Brezhnev was driving more than 50 miles an hour as we approached the slope. I reached over and said, 'Slow down, slow down,' but he paid no attention. When we reached the bottom there was a squeal of rubber as he slammed on the brakes and made the turn….
'You are an excellent driver,' I replied. 'I would never have been able to make that turn at the speed at which we were traveling.'
Diplomacy is not always an easy art.”

At the state level, there are officials starting with the governor and the lieutenant governor and other state office holders who serve for years and ride in chauffeured cars. One day they will find themselves on their own. 

In the private sector, there are also thousands of executives - men and women - who would benefit from driver’s training after they leave the company and no longer have the privileged perk of being chauffeured. 

The late William F. Buckley, founder, and editor of National Review rode to work daily from his home in Connecticut to his office in Manhattan in the back seat of a chauffeured stretch limousine so he could work en route. If Buckley had decided to drive one day, would Mrs. Buckley have ridden with him?

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Thursday, May 25

Leaking sensitive government information

President Trump has pledged his administration will get to the bottom of alleged leaks of information coming out of the government and put stop to this practice. He is not the first president to stake out this position, particularly when it puts him in a bad light.  Not only presidents but cabinet officers, senior government officials, Generals, and Admirals, also have made the promise to “get to the bottom of this” and send someone to prison. Much of this is bombast to placate the public. 

Many leaks from the government are planned, well-thought out, desirable, and often serve an official purpose. An official can leak something and if the public outcry is against it, the official’s identity, reputation, sanity, and job are not at stake. Masters of the convenient leak are found in the executive branch of government and the Congress. Supporting all these officials are thousands of workers from attorneys to file clerks who may also leak information for various reasons. Leaks have occurred since the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to form a more perfect union. 

In 1953, I was a young airman in the USAF and assigned as the senior clerk in the Sabotage & Espionage Branch, Counterintelligence Division, HQ, USAF Office of Special Investigations, (OSI). There were six officers serving under the Branch Chief, a Lt. Col. We had two civilian secretaries. We all shared a rectangular office with four desks lined up on one side and five on the other side. Conversations among the officers were open affairs. 

These were the days when hardly a week went by that muckraking columnist Drew Pearson didn’t publish something that someone in the government fed him. Whether it was true, accurate or fair, did not matter to Pearson.

One day a particularly inaccurate and offensive Drew Pearson column dealing with Air Force business appeared in print and the matter came to the attention of OSI. Senior Air Force officials were furious and characterized the story as a mixture of bad information, half truths, and blatant inaccuracies. Three officials in the Air Force were suspected of being the source who leaked to Pearson. 

A plan was hatched by the officers in the S&E Branch. It called for putting together a classified report to be circulated to the three suspects with minor variations in each suspect’s copy. The fabricated report would be close to reality and the type of story Pearson would jump at. Based upon what Pearson published it would be highly possible to identify the source based on the variation revealed.

The plan was worked and re-worked and ready to be put in play. Appropriate officials in the hierarchy of OSI and the Pentagon were briefed. Then the word came down from on high. Scuttle the operation. No one wanted to learn the identity of the leaker.  

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Sunday, May 21

The world has lost one of the good people

The call came shortly after eight a.m on Friday from my daughter, Martha, informing me that “Jo Rogers died last night.” She was 90 years old. 

This saddened me and brought tears to my eyes. It was as if a member of the family had died. My friend Karen Spica was with me at the time and she put her arm around me to comfort me.

Josephine (Jo) Rogers was the best friend my late wife Mary (1931-2010) ever had. They met in 1964 and instantly bonded. They were two mothers with young children who met in Hanahan where we lived for decades. Our families went to the same church forever, or at least it seems that way, and Jo and Mary were part of the parish activities that unite people and make life happy and worth living. 

Our children went to Catholic and public schools together and the Rogers girls, Ann and Laura, became life-long friends to my daughters, Martha and Wynn.  Ed Rogers, Jo’s son, and my son, Patrick, are friends to this day. Billy Rogers and my sons Frank and James also attended school together and hung out in early life. 

Jo and Mary would confide in each other like only sisters could do. They shared the happy moments and the times when one was in the pits for something or other. When Jo came to the house Mary always fixed her a cup of tea. Jo was not a coffee drinker like Mary. They would sit at our kitchen table and talk to each other and give each other friendly advice if such was needed or enjoy something to laugh about. 

Jo and her late husband, Jim, met in New York While he was in the Navy. They were married over 50 years. Jim died several years ago. Jo had asked me to speak at his funeral and as I was dressing that morning to do so I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) and had instead to go the hospital. Jo was understanding in speaking to me later. 

She had the good quality of being able to see and deal with life in its many perspectives, pitfalls, humor and exhilaration. At a low point in my life, in the late 1980s, she bought me a book to read, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Jo was that kind of a caring person. She was a friend for the ages, for my wife and our family, and all who knew her.  The world has lost one of the good people. 


Wednesday, May 17

The President's First Trip Abroad

President Trump is on track to make the first foreign trip of his presidency. “Aides said he would leave Washington on May 19 and stop first in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before moving on to Jerusalem and then Rome. He will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels that opens on May 24 and then fly to Sicily, where the leaders of the Group of 7 will meet starting May 26.”

The New York Times reports President Trump, who is somewhat of a homebody, would like the trip shortened to five days instead of the nine planned. Obviously, this would require massive re-scheduling on the part of foreign nations and would send the wrong signal to foreign leaders, diplomats and the common people who would perceive it as a slight or lack of interest in them by the leader of the free world. 

From John Kennedy on, Presidents have been aware of the impact their visit overseas has on the world. Practically everyone wants to see the American President up close. To say that the red carpet is laid out for the President wherever he goes is an understatement. Nothing is left to chance and no expense is spared. 

The eyes of the entire free world will be on President Trump, and here at home, we can only hope he stays on script and surprises us with a successful nine-day first foreign venture. The prestige of the United States is at stake. 


Saturday, May 13

The next FBI Director

Back in the day, Boston bus tour guides would ride tourists from the Dakotas, Kansas and other parts of middle America past the Boston Shipyard and tell them that during the war the Shipyard was guarded by the FBI. Then with a chortle, he would explain, “Foreign Born Italians.” Jokes aside, a new FBI Director is to be appointed.  

In days to come, President Trump will nominate a person to be FBI Director for the statutory term of ten years. The President begins the appointment process by selecting and vetting his preferred candidate for the position. The vetting process for presidential appointments includes an FBI background check and financial disclosure. 

The nomination will be forwarded to the Senate and then to the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee usually holds hearings regarding nominations to be FBI director. The committee may then vote to report the nomination back to the Senate favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation. Once reported, the nomination is available for Senate consideration. If the Senate confirms the nomination, the individual is formally appointed to the position by the President.

At this point, only the President knows who his nominee will be. It is worth considering, however, what the initials F.B.I. represent and what the country has a right to expect from the nominee and should settle for nothing less.

Fidelity: faithfulness to a cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support: he sought only the strictest fidelity to justice.

Bravery: courageous behavior or character.

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness: he is known to be a man of integrity.

Let the process go forward. 


Tuesday, May 9

Trump 's Very Strange World

The firing of FBI Director James B. Comey via President Trump's letter on May 9 is the latest craziness to come out of President Donald Trump’s administration in recent days. Does the President really believe we need a daily shock or surprise to get through each day, as he seems to?  

Or, is the FBI getting too close to uncovering collusion between Russian President Putin’s government and the Trump campaign team during the 2016 Presidential election? 
Never mind that in the firing letter, President Trump thanked Comey for telling him on three separate occasions he (President Trump) was not under investigation. What the devil does that have to do with “You’re fired?”

Does President Trump believe he is going to get an FBI Director who will do his bidding like the White House butler who brings him coke whoever he presses a red Coca Cola button on the Presidential desk?  Go back and read the fate of L. Patrick Gray who tried hard to please President Nixon, 

Another piece of weirdness the administration sent to congress would butcher the federal tax code to obscenely benefit the rich and cut the corporate rate from 35 to 15 percent. The Alternative Minimum Tax and the Estate Tax would also be scrapped. All of this will enrich the Trump family, if he is as rich as he claims to be. 

More importantly, it will stick working people in America with an additional $7 Trillion in national debt over the next ten years. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin, a well-educated and successful businessman, stepped forward with a straight face, looked right into the cameras and said President Trump’s tax cutting proposal will promote extraordinary growth and “pay for itself.” This bit of pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking has never happened in the history of this country. It is a carryover from the days of Ronald Reagan. (Probably something that card reader in California told Nancy Reagan.)

Of course, by the time the national debt goes up another $7 Trillion, President Trump and the millionaires and billionaires in his administration will be long gone from office and probably sitting around in some country club smoking cigars and drinking 40-year old Scotch while enjoying their windfall gains.

Hooting and hollering galore broke out when House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans were keeping their promise when the administration on its second try successfully twisted the arms of enough Republican Congressmen and women to pass a measure to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Never mind it will likely cost 14 million Americans their health insurance and screw over those with cancer, physical and mental disabilities, or other pre-existing conditions. 

And that wall that is supposed to be built between Mexico and the United States, well forget it. The latest spending bill did not include any money for the wall. Add to this “minor detail,” Mexico says it will not pony up a dime and then there are pending lawsuits filed by Texans to protect private lands, disruption of wildlife issues which will probably also wind up in court, a 1970 treaty prohibiting blocking a river, erosion and drainage issues, etc. etc.ad Infinitum. 

Wednesday, May 3

Harper's Review of the Week

I am tweeting this for the record in the sure and certain knowledge that even the smallest detail of our American experience should be recorded and remembered. 

Hope you enjoy. 



HARPER'S WEEKLY REVIEW
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PUBLISHED BY HARPER’S MAGAZINE (EST. 1850)
May 2, 2017
By Joe Kloc     

   
U.S. president Donald Trump, who once hosted a radio show on which he discussed how there was "no question about it" that Britney Spears had "gone down" in sexiness because she got married, gave himself an "A" for his performance in his first 100 days in office, a time period during which he implied Frederick Douglass was still alive at a breakfast celebrating the start of Black History Month; said on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day that Georgia representative and Freedom Rider John Lewis was "all talk"; commented at the National Prayer Breakfast that he wanted to "pray for" Arnold Schwarzenegger's "poor ratings" on The Celebrity Apprentice; accused former president Barack Obama of "wiretapping" Trump Tower in Manhattan, which the FBI had legally surveilled for two years as part of an investigation into the money-laundering ring of a Russian mafia boss known as "Little Taiwanese"; ordered the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles valued at $60 million at an airfield in Syria, which he described as an attack on Iraq that he carried out while eating "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake" and which his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, referred to as "after-dinner entertainment" that "didn't cost the president anything"; and played golf more than twice as often as the previous three presidents combined, despite having once criticizing Obama for golfing "while America goes down the drain." "I don't stand by anything," Trump said. Trump told interviewers that he thought being president "would be easier," and that the constitutional system of checks and balances is "a really bad thing for the country." Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, said that Trump, who has tweeted that the media is "the enemy of the American people," was considering abolishing the First Amendment. Trump, a former casino owner who once paid $1 million for an ad campaign alleging that the Mohawk people were cocaine traffickers and on another occasion claimed he "might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians," said that his campaign for president was "most like" the "very mean and nasty campaign" of former president Andrew Jackson, a slave owner and frequent cockfighting gambler who signed legislation that forcibly removed indigenous tribes from the southeastern United States. Trump praised as a "smart cookie" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has executed hundreds of people for offenses such as slouching and having a bad attitude, and invited to the White House Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of ordering the extrajudicial killings of 8,000 people. "I am tied up," responded Duterte, who added that he had already made plans to visit Russia, the government of which the FBI and both houses of Congress are currently investigating for interfering in the 2016 presidential race in order to elect Trump, whose Las Vegas steakhouse was once shut down for serving customers two-week-old tomato sauce and a five-month-old duck. "We," said Press Secretary Sean Spicer, "want to start talking about the next 100 days." 
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