Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Statesman

 Richard Lugar and Birch Bayh
1980 AP photo
Two legendary US Senators

     Richard Lugar was a great man. There is a reason he served one of the longest terms ever in the US Senate; he was a thoughtful, analytical intellect, he was a devoted public servant with a drive to make things better, he stood his ground, he chided and pushed even Presidents, and he worked as hard as anyone to make this world safe from nuclear weapons.
   Lugar's passing at 87 is reason for you to spend a few minutes reading some of the cascade of coverage about this remarkable man from Indiana. 

       Tom and Senator Lugar at Richard Lugar Fitness Fest and Run
Lugar was an early advocate of fitness and was a runner.

      I was fortunate to meet and begin covering his political and public service career in 1969. He was the young mayor of Indianapolis and I was a reporter assigned to cover city government.
     At one of our first meetings, Mayor Lugar, who was organizing an international conference of cities, got down on his hands and knees and worked through an overflowing book case, looking for a manuscript by a scholar. He was an habitual reader, voracious consumer of information which he worked to integrate into his public service.

an historic save

      Lugar's work on Nuclear Disarmament and Agricultural reform were his long suits in the Senate where he was respected by both sides of the aisle. 
      Lugar was at the center of one of the most critical and dangerous tipping points in history.
      The Soviet Union had collapsed and Generals from the Red Army showed up in Washington wanting to talk about life and death matters.  
     Secretary of State Baker and the HW Bush White House were being careful, but to a fault and spurned the contact.
     Lugar took the meeting and along with Democrat Sam Nunn heard this message-The Soviet power structure is gone, so is the command of the Soviet Army and Navy and that means we no longer have control over nuclear war heads that have US addresses on them. The same is true for chemical and biological weapons. 
        Diverse locales, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and other nations that had been under the Soviet boot heel, had weapons, bases, ports and stock piles in their now independent nation. Who controlled them? That was the million dollar question.
      Lugar and Nunn were quick. Lugar, a former naval intelligence officer and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee knew rogue players and terrorists soon would be bidding for control of the old Soviet nukes and chemical weapons and material.
     With in hours he and Nunn had worked legislative handles and had millions of dollars to essentially save the world. Soon they were flying off to the old Soviet empire and "buying" war heads, and paying military officers to stay in place and guard the nukes and subs, paying to house Soviet troops who were ready to desert since the empire was no longer in place and could not or would not pay the troops. The troops had families at home and they needed money. Command control was breaking down.
     What Lugar and Nunn saw would raise the hairs on the back of your neck. They returned to the states and crafted what was known as the Nunn-Lugar act. The US would buy weapons and take them down. It eventually became known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction plan. The two of them built a legislative consensus and kept the program funded. After Nunn retired, the work was Lugar's to do.
     This period of Lugar's work was one of the great diplomatic plays of all time. It is in the echelon of the Marshall Plan.  
    As a documentary maker I developed a project to tell the story. It didn't get made. As we were fundraising 9/11 happened. The focus shifted.

Senator Lugar and Lewis Stiner at the ceremony of Stiner's retirement

    Lugar was a progressive and creative mayor who was the godfather of revitalization of rustbelt cities. The halo around Indianapolis as one of America's great cities, was drafted and   the work began under Lugar, with the assistance of his dynamic staff, especially the visionary Jim Morris. The new Indianapolis that followed became guide light for other cities reinvention. 
     Morris was one of the brilliant young thinkers Lugar brought to public service and there were many.
     I met a young Mitch Daniels as he worked in that era and with Lugar's first political chief, Keith Bulen. Daniels became his Senate chief of staff for several years and later worked in the Reagan and W Bush administrations as well as being twice elected Indiana Governor. He is now President of Purdue University.
    The coverage of his passing reprises the extraordinary record of his 36 years in the Senate. Consider the sweep of history from 1977 to 2013 and ponder that Lugar was often a pivotal player and was revered and respected by politicians from every point on the spectrum.
     Praise came from former Presidents, current candidates, Democrats, Republicans and foreign leaders. They respected his depth and they liked the man. 
     When my fraternity brother and long time friend retired from Naval Intelligence, Lugar was there. He respected Lew's service. Lugar had been a legendary intelligence briefer for Admiral Raleigh Burke. He said that had been a shaping experience.

     A lot of people think Lugar would have been a good President. He gave it a run in 1996. One of his chief operators was Mark Lubbers, another of the brilliant people attracted to service by Lugar. 
     His campaign was themed on fiscal sanity and nuclear security. He was a brainy and non flashy candidate but what was the death knell for his campaign was the day it launched, April 19, 1995, the day of the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City. Millions of prospective voters didn't get to see or hear what would have been his moment in the spotlight.
      Amongst those who knew, worked with or covered Lugar there was always discussion about what might have been, how might the world have been different.
      Lubbers has advised Governors and lawmakers and has leveraged his own creative approach to policy issues, mentored by the Senator. Lubber's wife Teresa has spent her life as a multi term State Senator and Commissioner of Education. Her path to public service was inspired by Lugar who she interviewed as a high school journalist. He had a twinkle and spark and a way of motivating.
       There is a cadre of politicians and public servants who were inspired by the former school board officer, innovative mayor and towering 6 term US Senator.
      I've been ruminating on lots of Lugar reflections. 
      One that makes me laugh is when my first historical mystery-thriller novel was published. I was on Sanibel Island vacationing and doing a series of book signings. Lugar's staff reached me to say the Senator was also on the Island, one of his favorite break spots and that I should take a book around to him.
      When I arrived I was directed to a location near the pool and beach under an umbrella. There was the senator in a polo style shirt, Bermuda shorts, with dark, to the knee socks and I think wing tip shoes. They may have been loafers.
      I've written before about some of the greatest evenings.
When I was president of the Indianapolis Press Club we hosted dinner and conversations with Senator Lugar and Representative Lee Hamilton. Those men were among the most knowledgeable on national security, intelligence and foreign relations. They held ranking positions in the Senate and House. Sitting there and listening to their state of the art information and analysis, and seeing the respect they had for each and the marvelous byplay was a good as it gets.

     And so was Lugar. I didn't agree with all of his votes, but I respected him and the intelligence he put into his public service. He may have read more than anyone I know. He certainly did more to keep the world safe than probably anyone else.  
    If you don't know much about this man, read a few articles. He deserves the attention due a genuine and historic "Statesman." There are precious few.

       See you down the trail.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Take It In....

    It's been a vibrant and colorful spring on the California central coast and our Iris has been resplendent.
    Spring has a way to bump us, to revive our outlook and to pay attention to life, often so beautiful and always moving on.
    The loss of Judy, a life long friend, and a golden anniversary bumped us too, and sent us looking through shots of the old days.
    We picnicked in a clearing in the southern Indiana woods where we would soon build a home. We were practically kids, I think,  as I look back...

    Tucked away too was a photo of our first garden. It was planted when we lived on the Indianapolis east side. Lana came from gardening stock, I did not, which explains why I did the sod busting and she did the skilled work. 
   It turned out to be quite a good garden and gave us the itch for "land," and getting closer to nature.

   We're old boys now. Terry in the red cap is in North Carolina, Dave is on Sanibel and we're on the west coast.
   Back in our more hearty days, even Indiana winter didn't stop us watching grill master Dave and his red weber.
    No doubt you are struck by how impossible it all seems, this advance of the calendar. So, as my dad used to say, "make the most of each day," indeed, take it all in, and with a sense of joy.

speaking of taking it all in
   I wish all US citizens, regardless of tilt, would sit and read the Mueller report. Forget the shill you've heard from you know who and his apologist. Read the report, read the details, read the facts.
   It's clear federal prosecutors and members of the house have. The investigation has legs, and no amount of bs or lies will change that.

parting beauty

     With the color, the return of longer days, a brighter sun and the sense of rebirth, it's clear why spring has been, since ancient days, a time of celebration and renewal.  So, take it all in. Take it deep within. These are days to celebrate life.

       See you down the trail.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In Redaction

Mueller the cat is fine until he goes to the Barr
     Mueller the cat discovers you can't be too careful about who you believe. You trust the wrong person with the truth and it's like they steal your head.

life by headlines
   # It is no surprise, but William Barr's reputation is getting kicked like the soccer ball at the playground. Time to ponder him later. 

    The other headline is what got left out of the early "review." In journalism we call it "burying the lead." 

     Which lead, you ask? What strikes me at the moment is the summary implication of the Mueller Report.
      By way of explanation it seems that Kamala Harris, for example, could say one day-
      "China, if you have any information on the Trump regime, maybe e-mails, tell us about it." 
       She could encourage China to get active in social media and try to get her elected. Maybe she could meet with Chinese agents in Trump Tower to talk about their helping her campaign. 
     Or Kirstin Gillibrand could do likewise with Saudi Arabia, Sanders with North Korea, Warren with Norway.
     It is not illegal to meet with foreign governments who interfere in our election and who work to get you elected, and it is not illegal to deny the meetings or lie about what went on. It is not illegal to re-Tweet or post on social media, outright fabricated stories designed to sew divide in your nation.
     Oh and it's not illegal to secretly connive to build a hotel in any one of those locations, and to lie about that. So there!
     Can you picture the field of debate candidates all wearing blazer flag patches, or pins of their "interfering sponsor."       
     Can't you hear the announcer- 
     "Candidate Pete Buttigieg, sponsored by Oxford University, Betto O'Rourke running this year with interference from Mexico, Corey Booker who is meeting with agents from Canada, Joe Biden who is working on a resort deal in Sydney..."

such is the trump precedent

     The obvious question, if they did nothing wrong, why did they lie about so much? 
      There is so much more life in the Mueller report and on even more serious avenues. 
     The most immediate casualty is William Barr.
     The journeyman Republican lawyer joins a crowd of those made toxic by Trump. He was no brilliant scholar but he paid his dues as a conservative apparatchik. He was not a major player, but his reputation did not have stink on it, until he publicly auditioned to join the gang and then displayed what it  is to be a trump pimp.

wait till mueller talks

      The report is a treasure of findings and insight. Listen to the analysts as you will, but take time to read as much of the report for yourself. Read coverage from a range of views and try to ignore the obvious television yack yacks. 
      This began when Russia interfered in our election and did what they could to get Trump elected. How all of us, and some of us in particular responded to such an obvious intellectual, emotional and informational invasion draws the measure of our character. 
       Several investigations continue. The legislative branch will now exercise it's authority and role. What is toxic and flesh eating in the American body politic becomes more obvious. 
        We just may learn the faces of treason and the motivation of personal greed, and find a new bottom in integrity, capability and national fidelity. 
        but for now, a drive in wine country 

 Halter Ranch Winery

 it's a great year for lupine, even in the vineyards

  Oh, and Cheers! As one observer noted: as much as he tried to obstruct and rant and rave, Trump was unable to break the judicial system, because some around him refused to do what he asked or demanded. But, he tried....and now 
the ball moves to the Congressional Court. 

   See you down the trail.

Friday, April 12, 2019


    There's a rumble in the media.
     Journalists, diplomats, legal analysts, security and intelligence officials, jurists and prosecutors are having a go with the topic "Journalism and Wikileaks." 

   You've read the diverse and emphatic views of whether Julian Assange is a journalist or if Wikileaks is journalism. Good arguments abound.
    During a life in journalism I came to the view that most of government and the business done in the name and employ of the taxpayer, ought to be as transparent and fully disclosed as possible. The public has a right to know and it is an almost unlimited right, almost!
    Investigative reporters rely on sources, some of them confidential. In my experience there were a few times we reasoned a court order to disclose a source could be down the line. I was certain I would not divulge a source and therefore would have to pay the piper for contempt of a court order. I was spared that. 
    Some things need to be undisclosed if trust is to be kept and sources are to be protected. Journalists also look for cover.
    Our sources in the intelligence, security and law enforcement sector have their own sources of information and knowledge. Knowing something is both the commodity and the modus operandi.   
    I knew of investigations, operations, penetrations and understood that disclosure of information would likely cause harm. That is reality. 
   I sat in an intelligence oversight committee room in the Capitol dome as an admired and respected Congressman and committee chair told me "some things that need to be done to protect the US and to give the President and Congress options, do not look so good in the light of day."  That was the standard, and I understood it. But I worked to verify as much as I could. 

    I published and broadcast information and details from files, records, reports, and evaluations that someone did not want released. Often the motive was to protect, conceal or obfuscate something that was illegal, damaging, dangerous, deceitful, wasteful or questionable. In most cases the leaked information was a piece of confirmation, a detail of reality, a fact. 
     When I learned an agency had an asset inside a suspected terrorist cell, when I knew a raid was scheduled at kick off time on Super Bowl Sunday, or when the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) investigated a report of a planted nuclear device near a national sports event, I sat on the info. Though I am a devotee to full disclosure, open access, and transparency, I understand there are limits and for good cause.
      Before I add a voice to the fray, I thought it important to provide a context.

julian assange is not a journalist

      Assange is a hacker, a leaker and he answers to no standard other than his own. He is a self imposed arbiter of right and purpose. He alone divines, subject to himself, only. 
    Still, I think some Wikileaks disclosures are valuable to a public knowledge of policy, though some of the information carries a high price.
     Sensitive information was revealed. Most of the disclosed information had previously been supervised and/or given oversight by appropriate congressional or judicial sources. 
     Some of the information comprised sources and assets and revealed programs that then lost their advantage. State Department officials reasoned with Assange to moderate his leak. He refused.
     Assange is a rogue player operating by whim, zeal, and pride. He has no allegiance to principle but himself. 
     When journalists get information from an Assange, a Snowden or other sources they seek to filter information that might cause harm. They impose standards. 
     There is a history of news organizations negotiating with government agencies or the military about what can and can't be revealed.
     In a democratic republic the last action in the negotiating process is the journalistic decision to publish or not, knowing and weighing the consequence.
      This is a deliberate and intelligent process and while events like the Pentagon Papers, or Boston Globe Spotlight investigation of Catholic sexual abuse or our own revelation of an attempted KGB penetration prior to a summit may leave wakes of turbulence and debate, there are standards applied and levied by multiple voices in a process.  Not for Assange, he shows no such respect for deliberation or reason. 
   Wikileaks is not a journalistic organization. Like its master, it is a leaker of information and subjective about who, what, when, where, and why. 
    In a long view, what they do may be informative, helpful even, but there is no canon, no code, no rules of engagement. At the core there is just Assange and his petulant insistence that we should trust him to know what is best and what should be known.
    That too is not journalism. Our technologies may have eclipsed our sense of judgment. A sense of reason seems endangered in our cyber world.
spring blessings
   The lupine is an especially joyful messenger of our California spring.

    See you down the trail.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fresh Air

    Lana and I have chuckled about what the woman at the garden center must have thought when we showed up back in the spring of 2007 asking about a wonderful plant with which we were smitten.
  After our amusing attempt to describe it, she realized we were talking about Echium, or Pride of Madeira. 
   We moved in January, from a bleak and dreary Indianapolis winter and were bowled over by the vibrance of California winter blooms and Echium was, to our eyes, an exotic.
  When she heard we wanted to "buy" a start she said, "If you have some near by, you might just wait" for it to spread. We didn't know then what we've learned in the last 12 years-it grows mightily and has to be kept cut back or it takes over.  Still, we love it every year at this time as it displays it's arrays of color and hue.

stars of wine country
  The field crews, who work for the viticulturist or wine grower are the unsung heroes of wine country. Here they are doing a late winter/early spring trimming of the vines.
      In the fall these crews will return to harvest, displaying a skill and speed that is stunning.
    We caught these people in action in a region of the Paso Robles appellation know as Pleasant Valley, near San Miguel, north of Paso Robles and east of the 101. It was a good outing for us as we spend most of our wine country visits in the "westside." It stretched our horizon. 
     Navigators Mike and Sue tracked us to a mom and pop winery that is opened on rare days and by appointment.
     The Mom and Pop purchased the land for a retirement home, and thought they might "raise a few vines." He works for a big Winery, she's a writer in tech. Years later they still live upstate and their retirement is still a few years off. They didn't build a home, they built a winery.
   Cinquain Cellars is an award winning artisanal winemaker and is developing a loyal following. 
   The Pleasant Valley wine trail opens with wide vistas and a gentle undulation.
   And it is diverse. The Villa San Juliette Vineyard and Winery sits near more "barebones" neighbors. Out here on the east side, as everywhere in the Paso Robles appellation, there is a range of style, vibe and wine. 

saturday school
   On a recent Saturday in the westside, Denner winemaker Anthony Yount, standing to the left of the chef, conducted an introduction to winemaking and a wine-food pairing seminar. 
        Back in another era I would have bristled at the idea of spending a Saturday in school. With wine and food as the content, I bristle not so much.

land of the free, home of the brave
     Soon we may all have a chance to put our eyes on the Mueller report, at least in some redacted version. I hope everyone takes an interest. Hope so, but some will refuse to read it. Why? 

      It is immoral to separate a child from parents and have no good way to match or record keep. It is evil to keep a child from parents for two years, or longer. 

     Did you see where the American fool told people his father was born in a German village. (Would that be the Bronx?) 
     Is he truly delusional or just a lying chimeric collusion of feculence?
     Aren't either, cause enough to haul him out? Seriously.

     Can't rodent control or crime prevention or no contact with reality be grounds for impeachment? You don't think so? Why?

    Even a cat named Joy seems fed up. 

     See you down the trail.