Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Company Man


Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA

By John Rizzo

Spanning more than three decades, Company Man by John Rizzo, top gun and highest ranking lawyer in the CIA bureaucracy’s history,  the book is the both timely,  candid and flawed as a history of American intelligence.

As a young lawyer, looking for something more interesting than tax law, he found a job in the CIA where after thirty some years of dedicated service he had become both an honored and despised public figure.  Interpreting Constitutional, legislative law and Presidential orders he was one the scene  in one way or another for all of the significant operations of the CIA’s modern history.

The inside stories, events and personalities are all there in Company Man as Rizzo tells of thirteen  CIA Directors and seven Presidents. The big and little people and controversies come to the fore from Iran Contra to waterboarding and all the dissembling and controversies in between.

It all seems like a tell all tale but is it really?  No. The title is revealing.  Rizzo is the archetypical “company man” He loves the agency perfectly. He apparently believes its  leaders from Presidents to Directors have no logical or moral deficiencies.  It’s all so titillating but do we really care if Dick Cheney smokes cigars?  Faulty analysis,  slanting the facts, ineptitude and worse don’t get much attention in this book. When problems crop up, shaping public opinion comes to the fore. Rizzo was apparently good at that.   Perhaps things like why our intervention in Iraq wasn’t a “slam dunk”, etc. could be missed. Today we need much better analysis of policy decisions based on American values involving the shadowy world of espionage and foreign affairs.  Sometimes secrets are necessary but so is oversight by the Congress and most importantly by an informed American public.  The rose colored and one sided story by John Rizzo doesn’t help a bit to solve the real issues related to intelligence gathering, freedom, democracy and privacy in an increasingly dangerous world.  Rizzo was there for a lot of it all but doesn’t seemed to have learned much of importance from the experience and tells us even less….

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GSD's Have Big Ears

Baron was my first non-hunting dog and a giant for his breed. His large size and bone structure led to his demise after seven wonderful years from elbow dysplasia.  He was my best buddy. 
Now Lily, our rescue GSD, has taken his place and she is a sweetheart for sure.  We continue Barons tradition of one or sometimes even two long hikes per day.  Keeping fit works for all of us. 
One of our favorite hiking places is the Goethite WMA.  There is a certain routine to this place. A dog can run free, which is not an option at the State and County Parks and on the bike trails. Baron would bring me a stick hoping I'll remember he likes to fetch in the water. So far Lily hasn't shown much interest in that activity.
Lily and Mrs. T.

Then, of course, there are all those interesting smells along the animal trails. 
 Baron  ran way ahead once following a scent through the prairie, heading toward the distant mountains. I followed his big ears bouncing through the tall grass…..   Wait a minute! He does have big ears but there are no mountains in Minnesota’s Bluff Country.

Honest to God. This is what happened. Baron ran ahead out of sight. When I finally caught up with him,  there he was greeting a hiking couple on the trail . This is exactly what the woman said to me. "We saw him running towards us through the grass. We thought at first he was a LLAMA. He does have big ears you know."     Good grief !!!  Well,  at least,  so far,  no one has accused Lily of that.....

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Burglary

It was during the Vietnam era and the country was torn and divided.  Some thought the war was immoral or unnecessary. To the patriotic “silent majority” it was essential to prevent the march of atheistic communism combined with “my country right or wrong.”   That is all water over the dam now though the fact that China attacked and fought a war with Vietnam in the aftermath and Vietnam now wants to  be our friend seems historically relevant. There was no "domino."

Still, The Burglary is only indirectly about Vietnam, what makes it an important and riveting book, is its portrait of the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.  Relevant today, it tells the story of J Edgar Hoovers  FBI and his attempt to stifle any dissent by any Americans and/or groups he personally didn’t like……   And thus strike at the core values of a democratic society. 

The groups he hated included blacks, war protestors, the highly educated, unions, most homosexuals, left handed people, people with a certain shaped skull, hippies, anybody who disagreed with him and also strangely the C.I.A.   He loved secret files he had built to coerce and blackmail people and petty and stupid easily caught criminals who built the FBI’s “success ratio” though the mob didn’t attract his attention as they were a tough nut to crack.

The heart of the book though is about a very small group of ordinary criminals who broke  into an office in a small suburb of Philadelphia, stole some government files, and then sent them off to major newspapers across the country.  It was, of course, an FBI office  and the files revealed the depths of  Hoovers paranoia and violations of the American Constitution.  They, three women and five men, some with families and young children, were never caught.They were  quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans but nevertheless their  break-in of the FBI office made them criminals in the eyes of the law.

It begans in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . This small group of activists the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.

   The would-be burglars—nonpro’s—were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock smith ; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.

Betty Medsger's extraordinary book The Burglary recreates the who, the how and why of this fascinating story. The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she'd left the paper.  Regardless of any preconceived views you might have on the people and events of the Vietnam era,  The Burglary is a book well worth your time. I found the story both appalling and inspiring at the same time….

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brother In Law Bill

Bill is the outdoor physical fitness type and an avid biker.  He and his wife Candy also are serious "dog rescuers" usually keeping the maximum allowed by city law in Minneapolis.  Bill visited us a couple of weeks ago and the weather was glorious.  Naturally,
 we took Lily our new GSD for some hikes and also went biking.....
The native prairie at Lake Louise State Park.  The next day Bill and I biked the Shooting Star Trail which partially runs through the same park. It was there a year ago last June that I crashed and burned. It was then that so enthralled by the spring wildflowers, the birds singing and the gorgeous views that I forgot I was biking, rolled to a stop and fell off my bike.  It's true. Anyway this was my first outing since then.
Bill with our bikes at the Shooting Star trailhead in the little town of Leroy. Not wanting to overdo it I put a halt to the ride at about the ten mile mark.  Heading back home Mrs. T. had a nice lunch ready for us.  Afterwards, leaving me in my easy chair, Bill headed off for a thirty plus mile ride on the Root River Trail.  That man is definitely an inspiration for my physical fitness program!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hearing and Pronouncing


Me and two other retirees, each with a hearing loss, were playing golf one fine April day. One remarked to the other, "Windy, isn't it?" "No," the second man replied, "it's Thursday." And then I chimed in, "So am I. Let's have a beer." 

 Which reminds me, I have to run into town to get some new hearing aid batteries.

A Polish immigrant went to the DMV to apply for a driver's license.  First, of course, he had to take an eye sight test. The official showed him a card with the letters:

'C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.'

"Can you read this?" the official asked.

  "Read it?" the Polish guy replied, "I know the guy."

On my first day as a high school teacher I was doing quite well in front of a class of seniors.  I managed to correctly read all the names on the class roll.  Then for a reason I’ve long forgotten I had to read some of my fellow teachers names. The first one was Mr. Czapiewski.   Cee zap ewe ski I tried.  A burst of laughter that followed from my students told me I hadn’t even come close….  It was shah pesk  e.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Empire - A Novel of Imperial Rome

Ok, cutting to the chase I love some historical fiction a lot.  Others, especially the mushy stuff, take Harlequin romance wannabes, not so much.  The Romans, the Middle Ages, and the American Civil War I’ll give a shot anytime, which brings me to Steven Saylor’s  Empire. 

Saylor, Latin scholar and author of the acclaimed Roma Sub Rosa mystery series, knows his Romans. Especially the emperors around whom the historical record mostly focuses. The emperors command center stage in most accounts of Rome, as they did in life. Saylor’s novel  Empire   brings to life the period of the Imperial Rome  from the reign of Augustus to the burial of Hadrian. He tells the story of the aristocratic Pinarius family.  It is through several generation of this family we see an insider’s view into imperial palaces and gladiator games and even  daily life in Rome. Good historical fiction takes the true facts of an era and in the words of a knowledgeable author we can read characters words and thoughts and see those people come alive.     Thus,  the great events of the span from 14 C.E. through 141 C.E., including the Great Fire, the persecutions of Christians, numerous military campaigns, and, of course, insanity and perversion among the emperors also come alive.   Saylor does this well.

On the negative side there isn’t really much of a plot. The point seems to clearly be that the majority of the emperors in the period focused on where bad bad bad.  The tale does, however show how the underlying strength of Roman culture held firm in spite of some bad leadership.  The characters are somewhat thinly sketched except for the emperors and what a collection both good and bad they are……

All in all though,  I enjoyed the book but   it doesn’t come close to author Coleen McCulloughs novels on ancient Rome. Now that woman could   really write....


Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I’ve been really busy the last month with limited time for blogging.  It seems some trees had taken over my time. Dead ones that is.  Huge ones like this oak.  Actually, there were eight just like it that had given up the ghost in the last two years, probably due to “oak wilt” a fungus born disease.  I had much experience clearing out dead trees to burn in the furnace in our old house next door.  Then with several quite close to our new house in the woods, I opted to save big money by having a local tree service put them on the ground leaving me to cut up, clean up and dispose of the remains.  And what a job that was…..

First I had to clear path thru some obnoxious buckthorn so the big truck lift could get into the backyard to deal with the dead oaks.


Then make a deal with a neighbor who gets the logs to heat his house while I get them cut up on the ground and hauled away. Fortunately Dewey has a tractor with a scissors fork lift that can lift and carry the giant logs next door to his property and a number of wagons to haul the smaller stuff. 

Finally, there were mountains of branches to be cut up, twigs and leaves to rake up and all to be burned.  That was my job.  Busy Busy Busy.  Maybe I'll go fishing next week....:)