Presidential unravelings

 

I was not paying very close attention in the early ’70s to the shenanigans that eventually brought down the Nixon presidency, but recently I’ve been getting that déjà vu feeling. I recall that Watergate was named for the hotel that housed the offices of the Democratic National Committee, which Nixon’s “plumbers” burglarized. How long, I wondered, did it take for that attempt to influence the 1972 presidential election to catch up to Nixon and bring him down.

So, with the help of Mother Jones, I pulled together a timeline of the key events between the Watergate DNC break-in and Nixon’s resignation a little more than two years later:

Watergate Timeline:

Sept. 9, 1971 “Plumbers” Unit burglarizes Ellsberg’s shrink’s office.
June 17, 1972 Five men arrested bugging DNC’s Watergate headquarters
June–Sept., 1972 Washington Post reports various connections
Oct. 10, 1972 FBI establishes Watergate part of massive spying & sabotage by Nixon campaign
Nov. 11, 1972 Nixon reelected by a landslide
Jan. 30, 1973 Former Nixon aides Liddy & McCord + 5 others convicted in Watergate break-in
April 30, 1973 WH staff Haldeman, Ehrlichman, AG Kleindienst resign; counsel Dean, fired
May 18, 1973 Senate Watergate hearings begin, special prosecutor appointed
June-July more & more dirt dug up, revealed
Oct. 20, 1973 Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon fires spec. prosecutor, AG resigns
Nov. ’73–July, ’74 More dirt, Nixon won’t cooperate, Supremes order him to
July 27, 1974 Hs Jud. Comm. passes 1st of 3 articles of impeachment, for obstruction of justice
Aug. 8, 1974 Nixon resigns—2 yrs after DNC break-in, 22 mos. after the election he rigged

I have not made a point-by-point comparison with the current fiasco. The lines between legitimate campaign tactics and criminal intent seem even more blurred these days than in the days of Nixon’s “dirty tricks,” with fewer courageous Republicans willing to challenge the president.

The FBI has identified Russian attempts to swing the 2016 US presidential election. The intelligence community has identified several questionable and possibly unconstitutional contacts of members of Trump’s campaign with Russian officials dabbling in US foreign affairs prior to Trump’s being sworn in and possibly conspiring to swing the election itself.

How much did he know, and when did he know it? The kind of obfuscation we’ve been getting from the White House is reminiscent of Nixon’s and his staff’s stonewalling throughout the beginning of his second term, until his resignation nearly two years after his reelection.

The Muscovian Candidate

“When truth is gone, nothing is stable, and no one is safe.”
For several weeks, I’ve been toying with the notion of a wealthy international real estate tycoon coming under the influence of, say, a beautiful eastern-European model, whom he marries. She becomes integral to the magnate’s empire, an expert in the operations of his business…& his mind. As both a child of Stalinist Soviet society and a fashion model, she is familiar with manipulation of appearances and other stimuli to produce a programmed response. She teaches the tycoon well, & he rises to the highest levels of prominence in the land. After they divorce, she remains a trusted, invisible power behind the throne….

Then, recently, I came across this “Slate” article which explores “the psychology of the nationalized lie.” Here are a few excerpts:

“Trump shares several important traits with his ally Vladimir Putin—foremost among them, the deployment of outrageous lies as a political tool.”

“When falsehood invades the highest offices in the land, it forces the population into a surreal doubleness where there are two sets of memories, two account books, two realities that must be contended with. This chokes those who want to operate through a legal framework, according to the rules, since the rules now apply to a fantasy; a complicated strategic triangulation is always necessary to produce a real result. Opponents have to struggle continually with cognitive dissonance.”

“A regime can work a population so that they don’t object to even the most bald-faced lie. There is no safety in numbers, even vast numbers, if no one speaks up.”

“This gives some idea of the costs that can be incurred when truth is inundated by falsehood. The parallels are useful both for understanding the psychology of the nationalized lie and for glimpsing a worst-case scenario. But the worst-case scenario is exactly that, as we should remember before plunging ourselves into sensationalist panic. Trump seems most interested in kleptocratic plundering, a model of misgovernment very different than the mass murder of Stalinism. On the other hand, it’s hard to precisely calibrate an appropriate sense of disaster when the president-elect’s campaign promises (soft truths, to be sure) include locking up and inciting violence against his opponents, and rounding up and deporting millions of Americans based on national origin or religion. In the barrage of untruths, no one can tell which whoppers Trump plans to make good on. His unreliability is for this reason seen as a plus by his most humane followers, who tell themselves he has lied about the bad parts. It is also one of the things that destabilizes resistance to him—either by the left or the right.”

The mainstream media and a sizable chunk of the general populace have been sucked in by Mr. Trump mind-fucking techniques. I’m glad, finally, to see some analysis of the psycho-social aspects of the Trump phenomenon.

Donald Trump shares several important traits with his ally Vladimir Putin—foremost among them, the deployment of outrageous lies as a political tool. P …
SLATE.COM
Caitlin Gibson has done a Washington Post piece about Trump’s “Gaslighting”: a deliberate attempt to deceive someone into questioning their own perception of reality, i.e., mind-fucking.
The Post’s Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher have published Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. Kranish did an insightful Trump’s backgrounder, “A fierce will to win pushed Donald Trump to the top” & “Trump says he has ‘nothing to do with Russia.’ The past 30 years show otherwise.” Another Post article examines Trump’s various Russian connections in more detail: Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin.
On the advice of my financial advisor, with whom I raised an eyebrow about The Donald’s East European entanglements, I am reading Bill Browder’s Red Notice, which promises to detail how Putin and a few dozen oligarchs control Russia. Browder ran a very successful hedge fund that prospered by investing in the privatization of former Soviet economies. I’m hoping for insight into how Trump may have dealt with that system. Perhaps his tax returns, which rumor says will soon be (Wiki?)leaked, will have clues.

HoJo’s Closes

The Boston Globe recently reported the closing of New England’s last Howard Johnson’s restaurant:

hojobldg4

…and provided a nearly century-long timeline of the rise and fall of the country’s once greatest restaurant chain:

 

In honor of the occasion of the closing of the last Howard Johnson’s in New England, here’s my HoJo’s story:

As the end of my sophomore year in high school approached, I dreaded another summer under the hot Ohio sun, hoeing for seven or eight hours a day. The previous year, a couple of my classmates talked me into joining them working on a truck farm in the muggy Cuyahoga River valley a three-mile bike ride from home. For 50 cents an hour, we toiled alongside a half-dozen Puerto Ricans, who spoke very little English and taught us lots of Spanish seldom uttered in polite company, or in Mexico, I was to learn a few years later.

As summer got underway, some mornings we’d get a brief reprieve from the hoeing; we’d don rubber aprons, grab machetes and cut broccoli or cabbage before the sun transformed the morning dew into the humidity that defied the cooling effect of perspiration for the remainder of the day. Then, it was three or four hours of hoeing until a half-hour break for lunch, which we brought from home and stashed in the walk-in cooler till noon. After lunch, it was back to the hoeing until, some days—maybe—a half-hour before quitting time, we’d get to cool down, bunching and tying in the shade the broccoli we’d cut that morning.

I so disliked farm work that I quit a few weeks before school and went to work for my step-father. He and his brother were manufacturing of some of the first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear. DACOR (Davison Corp.) was behind schedule rolling out some of its first two-stage underwater breathing regulators. I was promised better pay than from the farm to work at a machine shop in Cleveland the last few weeks of summer. I never got paid, but I learned both that I didn’t have to settle for farm work and how to operate a drill press. My stepfather’s attitude was that I owed him.hojobldg3

When I heard that a new Howard Johnson’s restaurant had opened, also a three-mile ride from home, I decided to apply for a job. I was hired as a prep-boy in the kitchen, where I sliced and measured out portions for sandwiches and various menu items. Howard Johnson pioneered processing and proportioning food in company-operated central commissaries. The prepared foods were then distributed to both company-run as well as franchised restaurants for final preparation.

In the back room where I prepped, there were two, very thick three-ring binders with pages for every single item on the menus, which changed for each day of the week. Each entry in the binder included the ingredients down to the tenth of an ounce, how the dish was to be prepared and presented, including the proper garnish and exact plate or bowl in which it was to be served. Everything was documented to ensure high quality, standardized food and service.

Most of the prepared entrees were frozen and, depending on that day’s menu, heated in a steam table, on the stove or baked in an oven. Short-order items like sandwiches, burgers, fries, steaks, salads and breakfast were, of course, prepared to order. One of the benefits of HJ employment was getting to order during your meal break from that day’s menu, which repeated each week. After a few weeks, you could focus on a few favorites. Mine were the clam chowder, short ribs and Indian pudding.

During the lunchtime rush, I was sent out front to run the cash register. If there was a lull at the register and fountain orders were backing up, I’d help out at the counter. It was a quick study learning the location of each of HoJo’s famous 28 ice cream flavors and how to make them into sodas, shakes, malts, sundaes and splits.hojocone

The Independence Howard Johnson’s was located near the cloverleaf intersection at the beginning of the area’s first freeway, connecting the southern suburbs to downtown Cleveland. Each HoJo’s had a turquoise-capped white cupola atop a bright orange roof so travelers would immediately recognize the restaurant. In 1956 there were some 500 of them, mostly in the eastern US. Ours was visible and accessible to people traveling the Cleveland area in all directions; it became popular quickly.

Apparently, however, the Howard Johnson’s that had hired me was not living up to company standards. While some HoJo’s were franchised, ours was company owned and managed. About two weeks after I’d started, several managers from the Chicago and Boston offices arrived to check things out. There had been complaints. The next day, without notice or explanation, everyone was laid off.

I was, as the saying went, crushed. But before throwing in the hot, damp towel and returning to the farm, I decided to look for a job downtown. The next morning, as I boarded the bus into downtown to look for work, I recalled my only previous experience with Cleveland employment, which hadn’t turned out so well.

It was, like most summer jobs in northeastern Ohio, hot and sweaty work that didn’t pay well. I was 13 years old. Somebody had told me that if I went down to Municipal Stadium in the morning before a Cleveland Indians game I could get a job hawking soda to fans.

I hooked the steel coin changer from my paper route to my belt with enough money in it to make change after paying for my first case of orange drink from the stadium vendor. I strapped the halter for the case of orange drink around my neck and shoulders, trudged out into the hot, crowded stadium, and up the steps, shouting above the crowd noise, “Hey, orange drink here! Cold, refreshing orange drink.”

After selling a case, I’d go buy another, and so forth, trying not to get stuck with any extras at the end of the game. By then, I had a pretty heavy bag of coins, but wasn’t feeling all that confident of making it across downtown to the bus stop back to Independence with my meager but hard-earned proceeds intact. It was a tough neighborhood, and I was definitely not from around there. I made it to the bus and home without incident, but it was not an experience I wanted to repeat.

So, the day after my HoJo’s layoff, recalling the trip downtown for the ill-fated stadium job a couple years earlier, I hopped on that same bus for the 12-mile ride to seek my fortunes in Cleveland again. I answered several walk-in ads in that morning’s Plain Dealer and asked for work at the book stores and stamp-and-coin shops I would visit on my occasional forays into Cleveland and any other store I passed that looked like they might need help. The best I could come up with was selling encyclopedias door-to-door, on commission. That, to my mind was pretty much equivalent to hoeing, with less certain results.

I was exhausted and defeated when I walked in the door at home that evening. My mother greeted me, listened patiently to my tale of woe, then said, “A lady from Howard Johnson’s called, and asked you to call her at her hotel when you got home,” and handed me the number.

It was one of the head honchos from Chicago. When I told her who I was, she asked, “Have you ever cooked breakfast?”

I guessed that she meant in a restaurant. I said, a bit hesitantly, “Well, I make breakfast for the family sometimes.”

Would you like to cook breakfast at the restaurant?” she asked. “Mr. Yanke (one of the other managers who’d come in to straighten things out) wants you to come in at 6:30 in the morning. He’ll get you started. The lunch cook comes on at 10:00, and he’ll help out while he sets up.”

I was willing to do almost anything to avoid hoeing or selling door-to-door, and I did like to cook—even though I’d never cooked for more than a few family members. So I agreed. I showed up at 6:30 the next morning. The next couple of weeks are a blur. Mr. Yanke and the lunch cook, who also had survived the layoff, were good and patient teachers.

The system that Howard Johnson pioneered, I realized years later, was an important part of my success. The organization of the kitchen, its equipment, the layout of the whole building was all planned to work together. The procedures I was taught those first few days, those fat binders—there was little room left for failure if I paid attention.

Short-order cooking, which is basically what HoJo’s was, can be intense at busy times. Being well prepared, with enough of everything you need in the right places within reach, keeps one calm, cool and collected when the crowds come. It didn’t take long before I could handle the breakfast shift on my own. I’d help the cook set up the kitchen for the lunch rush and continue helping in the kitchen if needed, then go out front to help at the counter and register. By the end of the summer, I was cooking in the mornings & handling the register, fountain and counter in the afternoons, and totalling the register receipts before heading home.

In those days, you had to be 16 and have working papers to be employed for eight hours a day doing anything other than farm work. I would be 16 in October. So, whenever asked about my papers, I’d stall with whatever excuse came to mind. It was not exactly convenient to get to the school offices that closed at 4:00, where the working papers were issued when I didn’t get off work until 3:30, and it was a long, uphill bike ride. I hoped that I’d become a good enough employee that they wouldn’t care if I was 15. After awhile they quit pestering me to get my working papers.

That summer I learned enough about cooking and the restaurant business to over the years get several jobs cooking and catering and 20 years later to actually open my own restaurant at Onion Valley, California, 9,250 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada. But that’s another story.

 

So, it is sad that HoJo’s is about gone. Many restaurant chains and franchises today essentially operate on quality-control, supply and distribution models similar to those HoJo’s pioneered. Looking back through the timeline provided by the Boston Globe, it seems that, like many ideas of early 20th-century entrepreneurs, HoJo’s got eaten up up in the merger-and-acquisition fervor of the 1980s.

 

Aging in Place: It Takes a Village

Aging in Place: It Takes a Village

“Aging in Place” I doubt the phrase has been been focus-grouped; it sounds geological, staid. However, as the advanced warning systems of Old Age begin to register, it’s what most of us say we want. Rather than senior living communities, old age homes, or assisted living, we want to live in our own place.

The warning signs for me came about a decade ago. I was in my mid-60s. My mother, who is 18 years older than I, was beginning to show signs of dementia. She also began to experience a series of health crises resulting in hospitalizations, followed by rehab before returning home to her apartment. Mom is relatively secure financially; she has excellent health insurance, a modest retirement account and has paid off her mortgage.

Especially after a couple nursing home stays for post-hospitalization rehab, Mom was adamant about wanting to stay in her own place. Even the four-star-hotel-like assisted living complex where we dined when I visited during her rehab stays turned her off. However, she had given little thought to what kind of supports she would need to be able to continue to live on her own.

Hospitalizations seemed to exacerbate the dementia. It became clear that Mom was no longer able to manage her own affairs and that she had made few preparation for transferring those responsibilities. The family rallied, as did Mom after her last hospital stay. She refused offers from me and my siblings to have her move in with one of us.

So, we became quick studies in elder care. I found Jim Comer’s When Roles Reverse: a Guide to Parenting Your Parents particularly helpful. We hired a caregiver to come in a couple hours a day to fix Mom’s meals, make sure she gets her meds, get her to appointments, shop, etc. We got her a medical alert system and installed a couple online cameras in her apartment that we can check from our own computers at any time. Her living will and Do Not Resuscitate orders are in order.

After each crisis, we increased caregiver hours, made safety adjustments to the apartment, etc. Following her last hospitalization, which she barely survived a couple years ago, we signed her up with a hospice Navigator program; next crisis, instead of going to the hospital, hospice care is initiated.

The experience with Mom opened my eyes to how much help I will need, sooner or later, as I continue to live way beyond my statistical life expectancy. I do not want my kids burdened with trying to figure out what to do with Dad when Dad can’t do for himself.

For years, I’ve nurtured a fantasy of growing old in an “intentional” community. Since the 1960s, I’ve also experienced a wide range of communal living situations. For a while my fantasy envisioned the dozen homes in our cozy, double-cul-de-sac neighborhood in the Boise foothills. Then, those homes started going on the market at prices way out of the range of my vision.

In my elder-care research I learned of the Village movement, which started in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood at the turn of the century. The Village concept appeals to me because it attempts to achieve many of the goals of an intentional community without the need for members to move into a commune. Lack of geographic proximity is overcome and many of the inherent difficulties of “living in community” are avoided through communication and organization of resources.

When I returned to Boise from one of my trips to Ohio to visit Mom, I told Diane Ronayne, my wife, about the Village concept. That was in 2012. The rest is history, which you may read here. It is four years later; Boise at Home, Boise’s “Village,” is off and running thanks largely to Diane and Boise elder-law attorney Susan Graham.

This week, Natalie Galucia, director of the national Village to Village Network is in Boise to address the 2016 summit on Elder Abuse and Exploitation. The topic: Aging in Place: Safely, Securely and Independently.

If you’d like to meet Natalie, there’s a public reception for her Monday, June 20, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Riverside Hotel, co-sponsored by JAVA (Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults) and Boise at Home. The summit conference is Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the BSU SUB. Ms. Galucia is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at 9:20 a.m. A panel (including Diane Ronayne) will follow, responding to Natalie’s remarks. Other speakers will address: resources for aging in place, home safety, senior living decisions, communicating across generations about life transitions and red flags of abuse/exploitation.

Oh, and let’s come up with something less staid than Aging in “Place.”