Majors and Minors

– J. Tortorici

Enigmatic counselors and “dark ministers” of the political system have an enduring history in America. My liberal’s dismissal of Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and their ilk, is rooted in remembering genuine, diabolical giants of the Washington power drama. Over the decades, perspective is revealing.

One of my first memories of world events involved the Dulles siblings, John-Foster and Alan. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John-Foster, built Cold War alliances, most prominently NATO. With his brother, Alan, head of the CIA, he helped instigate Operation Ajax, the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, and the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état. Alan oversaw the U-2 spy aircraft program, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. After President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs, he forced Alan Dulles out of government service. Thus began one of the premier conspiracy sagas surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Robert McNamara was the classic hero/villain conundrum. He was an author of an imaginative global nuclear strategy known as “MAD” (Mutually Assured Destruction). As Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson he escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, yet advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, averting a nuclear confrontation. I highly recommend “The Fog of War” for his unique view of global power politics.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, USMC, oversaw an illegal arms program (from the basement of Reagan’s Whitehouse) with Iran (designated State Sponsor of Terrorism) and Nicaraguan rebels, the Iran-Contra scandal.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a contemporary legend. Rumsfeld played a central role in planning a response to the September 11 attacks, which included two wars: Afghanistan, the seat of terrorism; and Iraq, an inspired, erroneous WMD conflict. His tenure then became controversial for prisoner abuse.

Imagine the cost in human life and physical resources this gallery represents. It is not arbitrary to say “immeasurable.” These were cabinet secretaries, administrators, and principals of the National Security apparatus… the major league of decision makers with high executive function. Their influence and the consequences of their decisions were so profound as to effect the course of history in ways we continue to experience.

No, the Bannon coterie, including Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, appear like so many Dick Tracy villains by comparison. Strip away the bravado and hyperbole, little of purpose remains… and I always worry less about the guy needing to tell me what a bad-ass he is. For the time being, they have access to the halls of power, and history proves these characters will fade along with the aberrance of their views. Consider the fate of so many that had the same access, the same bombast, the same imagined elevation, whose existence is now more ignominious than influential. Their ideas were not durable.

Perspective, indeed. Time is an ally. Every organization, General Electric down to your local Cub Scout Pack, reflects the tenor of its leadership. In spite of all the media exposure, we are dealing with a farm-team of limited political acumen and untenable schemes. Deep governmental skills elude them, they refuse to be “coached,” in many ways to our good fortune. Their limits become our safety net.

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American Statesmen –

US-state-department

Before introducing this month’s articles, it is worthwhile for every American to reflect on some of the unsung heroes populating the halls of our government. Theirs is an unwavering path of significance.


In January of this year. I enrolled in an honors course examining International Relations. The class, through the City Colleges of Chicago, was uniquely chosen to participate in a State Department program called The Diplomacy Lab. Launched in 2013, this is a Public-Private Partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at colleges and universities across the United States.

Within the structure of Public/Private Partnerships, we examined social entrepreneurship, the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, USAID , and a variety of programs addressing issues around the globe: children’s rights and public works in India, land rights in Thailand, citizen sector and renewable energy in Brazil, public health in Nigeria, environmental concerns in Iceland, microfinance in Bangladesh, and nascent entrepreneurship throughout Central and South America.

My class interacted, one on one, with representatives from the State Department and other universities in the evaluation of selected social programs. It was the experience of a lifetime. Thank you, Professor Mayer.

A potent example of unified effort can be found in this TED Talk:

Myriam Sidibe – The simple power of handwashing

I find myself in awe of the career diplomats we met. If they had a partisan dogma, it was never evident. Theirs is a world of global perspective and a deep sense of responsibility for utilizing the vast resources of our country in an effort to address real-world problems. These are dedicated people that see possibilities through countless improbabilities, venerating the art of statesmanship. They function with little fanfare, remaining the quiet steady force of an America we seldom acknowledge. It was a humbling example of true patriotism.

I learned the community of nations operates most productively at the conference table. Civility, language, accountability, and the nature of practical debate are more formidable than any force of arms. The future belongs to this conviction.

Within the tsunami of reading required to survive this course, Professor Mayer included two exceptional books. For those interested in world affairs, I highly recommend:

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Collier, Paul. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

The Wilsonian Moment: Self-determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism – Manela, Erez. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)


I can’t overstate the superlatives when speaking about the exceptional, talented people contributing to this blog. Yet, once again, they exceed every expectation. Please welcome a new page to this humble effort, KIOSK. Quips, commentary, music, poetry, marginalia, all will find a path to the village square of Central Standard Time.

Brule Eagan reports from Los Fresnos, where everything is Texas-sized…including the future, in Land of the Giants.”

Steve Buschbacher never shies from the most difficult questions and his essay Liberal Media? gets to the point. Let’s talk reality.

John Zielinski proves unequivocally “All that we can control is the now” in his insightful essay It’s About Time.”

Tom DeMichael has few peers when it comes to the topic of baseball. Tom breaks down the current highs and lows of our Cubs and White Sox in Crosstown.”

Marc Piane is back with brain food. When Marc’s research includes Monty Python, his philosophical perspective Thinking Critically vs Being Critical is likely to include an Argument Clinic.

Our new page, KIOSK, will begin the urban affectation for violating “Post No Bills.” This month we are treated to some verse from Rebecca Francescatti and Linda Solotaire. So much more is coming for this part of our monthly presentation.

My 50th high school reunion is on the immediate horizon. It’s been months of reflection and wonderful memories. I hope my former class-mates will join me in The Reunion.”

Thank you for being here. Let’s take a break from the common and keep company with the uncommon. As always, fill your favorite mug with designer coffee and have a seat. Let us know your thoughts and wishes…this publication belongs to you.

Looking East…

Cardinal

I recently took a regular Amtrak line, the Cardinal, to the great city of Philadelphia. A visit with my daughter and granddaughter proved to be all the joy I anticipated. The train traveled about twenty-six hours across the southern border of Ohio, into West Virginia, and on to the eastern megalopolis. As expected, the Smoky Mountains are a vision this time of year. Nature throws a blanket of vegetation over the rolling terrain in what must surely rival any great rain forest of the tropics. Our country has many beautiful vistas.

As American cities go, Philadelphia is one of the elder statesmen. Established in 1682, Philadelphia played a pivotal role in the formation of a nation that revolutionized government in the modern world. In this place, the finest minds of an age met in conference and debate to plan for our future. For as much verbiage given to the considerations of the “common” man, this was no ordinary gathering. Among the participants to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were future presidents, ministers, ambassadors, and cabinet administrators. This was the best and brightest the colonies had to offer. We should do as well for representation in contemporary times.

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Independence Hall

I discovered Philadelphia is also one of the great “Food Towns” on the continent. Oh man! The classic cheese-steak sandwich and hoagies of doom; a fine colony of Italian restaurants; seafood befitting a culture in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; and home-made beer seems to be a “thing.” To my pleasant surprise, the Amish know a good meal, and their pastries are to die for…trust me.

I also saw stark contrasts in the culture of America. Coming from the urban sprawl of Chicago, the physical “rust” of Appalachia was very evident. Not crumbling, as some alarmists would have us believe, but more like aging and un-renewed. Along rail sidings appear miles of coal tenders and bunkers of ore waiting to be loaded. A glow of pastel orange emerges from the darkness and then a processing plant would come in to view. Enormous spherical tanks and pipes in a tangle of unknown purpose covering acres of land. In the distance were cracking towers venting licks of blue flame. It occurs to me that this is capital investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The human component is only part of the equation.

The motif of Mamet’s “The Water Engine” takes form in reality. Should science discover the grail of inexpensive, renewable, non-polluting energy tomorrow, there will be an inestimable physical, economic, and cultural impact. Can we abandon entire segments of the existing labor pool, let alone this infrastructure? In the name of progress, can we deny anyone a chance at survival in the modern world? Finding the “science” is only the tip of an iceberg we must surely face. Once more, we need the best and brightest minds to formulate a future in our best interests.

Indeed, the train was a welcomed break from the superhighway of regulated concrete. It was a time for reflection, extrapolation, and a quiet scotch as the sun went down. Highly recommended.

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July marks a return to publishing on the first of every month. This is far more considerate to the wonderful writers and artists that contribute to this blog, as well as you, the readers. On this sultry summer morning we offer two essays from mid-June that were not given their requisite fanfare.

Steve Buschbacher offers a double-dip of commentary with “Innocents Abroad?” and “Mascot-eers“…which conveniently segues to this month’s sports features. Baseball savant, Tom DeMichael, talks about the legendary Jimmy Piersall in “There Was No One Like Jimmy” and my cousin Nick Goehrke and I commence a running bucket of opinions on the state of the Chicago Blackhawks in “Hockey, Hockey, Hockey,” this is only the beginning (yes, that’s a threat). Hey, nepotism works!

Welcome, my friends, to the July issue of Central Standard Time. Grab your coffee.

Summer Breeze…

exotic-island-beach-
Wish you were here…

…and not a moment too soon.

Welcome to the June edition. We revel in the coming of pleasant temperatures and sunny skies. The briefest getaways take on the gravity of great expectations…every moment counts! Let’s make it so.

City dwellers, such as myself, participate in an additional custom this time of year…road construction. My neighborhood is easily compared to the pit of hell for drivers, cyclers, and pedestrians alike. No, your GPS can’t keep up with closures, so don’t even try. Successful detours are for experienced neighborhood commuters as small side-streets and alley-ways become the secret passages to reach your destination. It’s an art.

As temperatures an humidity rise, the savvy population takes to the wooded areas that dot our environment. Great care is taken to provide these preserves as an oasis of sanity and depressurization for a harried urbanite. On the most muggy mornings, I can get on my bike and take a short run through the local Forest Preserve Trail. A moderate pace under the canopy of tall Elms surpasses any mechanical air-conditioner man can devise. Indeed, every moment counts.

John Zielinski is here with a wonderful essay near and dear to my heart…audio. But wait! John takes it one step deeper, as always. A great read in “I know What I Like…”

From the Publisher’s Desk, a review of the current environmental crisis and some very important, over-looked consequences of the “low-carbon” culture. A demon lurks in our midst disguised as a solution…it is not. Take a Moment with “The Nuclear Stain” and recall what the Hippies were protesting about fifty years ago. The truth is timeless.

Relax and pour a cup of your favorite bean. Join us for good conversation and the occasional spontaneous grin.

Thought Bubbles…

ThoughtBubble  by J. Tortorici

DJT: These Arabs know how to party! Huh!? This is a monarchy as it should be. And they know how to treat a guest. F**kin’ gold everywhere, and a necklace! No way!

Saudi King Salman (SKS): Infidel! You are easy. 

DJT: …and swords! Heavy! Nice…oh shit. Dance? No, don’t do this… 

SKS: Not like the smart-aleck Obama. What a pain he was. As for the Slavic barbarian, Putin, bah! This is how kings do it, bitch. 

DJT: The Brit’s are such tight-asses about royalty. Although there are some hot English women…Racheal Hunter! Remember her in “Jesse’s Mom?” 

SKS: Just the beginning. We will show him true wealth. Russians…goatherds! Walk him through the palace and bring the bling. Bring him young Fatima for the “Babylonian Onsey-Twosy.” This is easy. 

DJT: On to the Pope. Another tough guy. He’ll probably come after me…they all do. I fixed his ass though. Callista Gingrich! Bwahahahaha! 

SKS: Grinning baboon. Stick to the script and you will be rewarded. 

DJT: I have to rethink this culture. Their system with women is centuries old and it seems to work for them. 

SKS: Now, to purchase some military assets in our favor. He seems dazzled by the swords. 

DJT: Couldn’t live here. Too effing hot. But this palace, wow! The Mar’ is due for an upgrade. 

SKS: The preening unbeliever only now begins to understand the world he is in. 

DJT: I’m keeping the necklace. 

May 3, 2017

Greetings, and welcome to the May edition of Central Standard Time. This issue characterizes all the diversity and insights one could hope for. We want to tickle your humor and intellect at the same time. As always, we get the conversation started and let you take it from there. This issues line-up of articles and essays is ready for a cup of your favorite coffee.

Our favorite baseball guy, Tom DeMichael, finally gives up his age. For all of us elder pretenders to the baseball diamond, Tom hits it out of the park with “The Game…In Another Way.”

We are so pleased to see John Zielinski return to the blog with his salient insights to the modern world. John examines the coming tech’ revolution in “It’s All Part of the Job.” Buff-up your resume’.

Steve Buschbacher talks Blues history and the recent loss of giants in our uniquely Chicagoan style in his essay “On Those Who Preceeded Us…”

From the Publisher’s Desk, we have a bleated birthday celebration for Edward “Duke” Ellington, born April 29, 1899. He remains one of the world’s greatest composers and innovators. Profiled in a re-print of an article from January 2015 (The Chicago Progressive) “Happy Birthday Duke…”

Current events in our troubled world take the stage in an opinion piece examining the harsh realities of political posturing, “A War of Errors.”

Grab a seat at the table. We are here to talk and entertain each other with thoughts and opinions.

April 16, 2017

Ukrainian Village Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to a new edition of Central Standard Time. I am pleased to welcome back old friends, regular contributors, and some fresh talent. Grab your coffee and join us for comments, opinions, and interesting thoughts.

My friend Greg King is back with an observation on religion in today’s world with his essay, “Can We Talk?”

The bon vivant of South Texas, Brule Eagan, looks to his local politics for some contemporary perspectives in “The Trouble With Eddie.”

How fortunate we are to live in an urban environment brimming with the creative ethos. It is my pleasure to introduce Rebecca Francescatti. Rebecca’s art graces this issue’s cover.

I met this talented lady at a professional function in which she served as secretary and reporter. Her articles were very good. As I am always on the spy for exceptional writers, this was someone I needed to court for CST. The more you know of Rebecca, the more you see the essence of a complete artist. For some people in the world, the muse descends from Olympus and touches them on the forehead…”This is for you.” Writer of songs and insightful prose, and stunning artist, Rebecca is one of those people.

The SCIENCE page returns. Here is an essay on the fate of our species, “The Solar Federation.” I can promise my favorite page will get more attention in the coming months.

From the Publisher’s Desk, a long hard look at the myth and fate of one particular Arab Spring. “Out of Egypt…” examines the zero-sum game of power in the Middle East.

Here we go! Summer is pulling at our sleeve and the time is right for a moment of leisure and good reading.

 Rebecca “F” Francescatti is a performing songwriter, musician, artist and writer residing in Chicago.  Currently a student in the M.A. Counseling program at Northwestern University, she holds an M.A. in English Literature from DePaul University.  When not moonlighting with her bands Rebecca F. & The Memes or Night Jogger, you’ll find her serving the humanities in the fields of counseling and publishing.