Monday, February 9, 2015

A Book Review of "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" by Tim Weiner

Monday, February 9th 2015

My Dear America:

It has been awhile since I wrote a legitimate Book Review.  I felt Hillary Clinton's last book deserved a review and I wrote one.  That was awhile ago and it was a relatively current review for a relatively new publication.  "Legacy of Ashes" is not a book that is newly published.  It was published in 2007 by Doubleday, an ancient and highly respected publishing house.  The book was written by Tim Weiner, a New York Times Writer who has written two other previous books on subjects connected to the Central Intelligence Agency.  The book is 516 pages long.  The page print is small. The book has an additional nearly 200 pages of notes and an Index.  

The primary reason that I read this book is because I saw it sitting on Rachel Maddow's Television Desk on a night that she was presenting a story about the CIA.  Since I have been writing fictional books on the CIA for a few years now and reading a lot about "The Agency" in an effort to make my fiction more relevant, I decided to check and see if my local library had the book.  They did.  I checked it out and following two renewals I finally finished reading "Legacy of Ashes".  

Although initially I had plans to write my review immediately after finishing the book, I found myself reluctant to try to write my review without some serious reflection on what I had read in Tim Weiner's history of the CIA.

Weiner has written a remarkable book that is loaded with well organized, well researched and well documented historical facts concerning the CIA.  In addition to combing the archives of the CIA and the Library of Congress and Presidential Libraries, Weiner seems to have talked with nearly every living Past Director of the CIA and countless other agency professionals.

The result is a book of history that reads like a Novel gliding the reader from decade to decade in an almost seamless manner as Mr. Weiner tells his story. The story that he tells about the history of this previously secret spy agency to which he seems to have opened the door to many of its secrets, is a deeply disturbing story, indeed.

Although the United States has always spent enormous sums of money keeping this highly secret agency afloat the reader learns pretty quickly and pretty consistently throughout this history that Americans have never seemed to get enough bang for their buck from the CIA.

Although the agency has often had very bright and high minded employees working for it, the history of CIA according to Mr. Weiner seems to indicate that over the years of CIA's prominence it has had far more intelligence failures than successes and, in fact, has in its history had almost no successes at all.

CIA and it's predecessor agency, The OSS, had almost no success at all in planting spies in Soviet Countries, in Red China or in North Korea.  Despite the fact that most of its thousands of potential spies dropped behind enemy lines disappeared without a trace the CIA kept dropping doomed agents seemingly without any concern for their welfare.

CIA's obsession with anti communism led to many assassinations all over the world and helped in many cases to topple legitimate governments that were thought to be pro communist.  These pro communist designations were often made by the CIA with poor or little or no actual evidence and more often than not left in place of the "pro communist" assassinated government leaders, many leaders who were often times more pro communist than those assassinated and far more dangerous, brutal and repressive than the leaders who CIA brutally replaced.  Some of those leaders who CIA helped to put into place were Saddam Hussein in Iraq, The Shah of Iran and Manuel Noriega in Panama, although there were many other brutal dictators who also came back to bite CIA and America in the rear end.

The spies who couldn't shoot straight, according to Tim Weiner, have seemingly maintained a continuing attitude of arrogance and disdain for controls over their agency by anyone, including Presidents or the Congress, as evidenced by the recent scandals involving brutal abuses of captured individuals from other countries, who in many cases don't even turn out to be spies.  This arrogant stupidity seems to have had a long tradition in the CIA and although CIA is supposedly not as powerful today as it once was, It still seems to continue its long standing tradition of not answering to anyone.

Over the past few years I have read a lot of Non-Fiction Books about the CIA on my pursuit of knowledge about this troubled American Spy Agency.  Many of these books were frightening but none of them were as frightening as "Legacy of Ashes".  In this book Mr. Weiner has gathered together some well organized and well documented information about the CIA that should scare the living daylights out of all Americans who have concerns about the history of the CIA.  The CIA is and always has been a dangerous, well funded and out of control agency which still does not seem to wish to have any controls put on it.

Many years ago back in the 70's I had the incredible opportunity of going to a lecture at Lehigh University in Behtlehem, PA where I listened to Author, Norman Mailer rail about the CIA and Watergate.  Mailer had been researching the CIA for a Novel called Harlot's Ghost, which he eventually wrote.  At a fraternity party that I attended after the lecture I got the opportunity to talk to Mailer and I asked him if he was serious about the idea he had promulgated during his lecture.  That Idea was to establish a "Peoples CIA" to keep tabs on the real Central Intelligence Agency.

Mailer assured me that his research had showed him that the CIA was extremely dangerous and needed to be reined in and watched closely by individuals outside of the agency.

Tim Weiner's research and writing seems to show that Norman Mailer was absolutely right in his mistrust of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Can Brian Williams be Trusted: I Believe the Answer is Yes

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

My Dear America:

In our Great Land of The Free and Home of The Brave we seem to have lost our way in recent years when it comes to evaluating the Truth and Responsibilities and determining blame when it comes to Journalists and Journalism.

While many Americans continue to place implicit trust in notorious liars such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and countless other Fox News personalities, those same supposedly conservative Americans seem to fail to adhere to the spirit of fairness when it comes to the evaluation of NBC News Managing Editor and On Air Anchor of NBC's Nightly News Program, Brian Williams.

Now the truth of the matter is that there seem to be some serious holes in William's story of what happened in Iraq 12 years ago when he was on assignment for NBC covering the American Invasion of Iraq.  Williams claimed, and has so for years, that he was on a plane that received small arms fire and Rocket Propelled Grenade or RPG fire.  Although servicemen including pilots of the planes involved in the incident or incidents sometimes differ in their assessments of what happened and where Williams was when the incidents went down, they all seem to agree that Williams was in Iraq when there was serious fighting going on in the air and on the ground there.  

Brian Williams has already apologized for his "mistake' on the air earlier this week and has acknowledged that his remembrance of this incident or incidents that occurred or did not occur during his time in Iraq may have been faulty.  While in my opinion that should have been the end of this problem, it has not been the end but possibly just the beginning of the end of Brian William's long and dedicated career with NBC News.  Had Brian Williams not apologized I would also have found fault with him also. But he did apologize yet the Brian Williams Beatdown seems to continue to go on - To Where, Nobody knows.

The NBC News Division President has announced that an investigation is being initiated by NBC to get to the bottom of this situation.  That is probably a good thing and an appropriate move, in my opinion, unless it leads to the public execution of a fine NBC Journalist.  Back in the days of real TV Journalism this seemingly minor story would not have had "legs" and wouldn't have lasted this long.  There is, after all, real news to report on.  CNN and Fox News might try to keep that in mind as this Williams mess seems to have energized their baser instincts.

Certainly Williams might want to cooperate with some interviews with reasonable interviewers who might give him a chance to explain himself with the style and grace that he usually seems to try to show to others.  Perhaps Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Tavis Smiley, Anderson Cooper or even David Letterman might be good interviewee choices.  If he is given a choice in the matter by NBC he should not resign if the story is simply the one that exists right now.  

Williams screwed up.  Of that there is no doubt.  He has seemed to embellish the story of his Iraq adventure over the years.  That is true.  But did he deliberately lie to make himself look better.  We don't know that.  Only Brian Williams knows that.

But let's give this quality Journalist the benefit of the doubt.  He, after all, went to Iraq to cover the invasion that probably never should have happened.  Did he misremember or did he deliberately lie.  The truth is that Brian Williams seems to have had a pretty decent record when it comes to telling the truth to the American People over his long and up until now distinguished career.  

Before we crucify this seemingly decent newsman who has traveled with us through Iraq, Afghanistan, Through Superstorm Sandy and many other national and international stories let's cut this guy a break and ask a relevant question.

Question:  What did Brian Williams do that was so awful.

Answer:  He may have intentionally outright lied.  If he did that he probably should lose his job.  However, if he simply had problems correctly remembering his Iraq war stories he has probably joined the ranks of countless Americans who have problems remembering everything they have ever done and said correctly throughout their lives.  If this was the case then he should be forgiven.

I think back to 1977 and 1978 when I worked on a book about my road trip through America and Canada that I took in 77.  I finished the first draft in 1978 and simply put the manuscript away, never to retrieve it until a few years ago, when I went back to it to work on preparing it for publication as a Word Document.  What I thought I remembered about my trip turned out to be far different and filled with gaps that my manuscript reminded me of.  I forgave myself for my faulty memory and in so doing I am willing to cut Mr. Williams a break for his faulty memory. 

I think it is interesting that the one person of any significance who has come out to defend Brian Williams is Dan Rather.  Dan Rather has been and continues to be the kind of newsman who sticks to his guns and lost his job at CBS primarily due to the CBS Corporate coddling of the George W. Bush White House, unhappy with Rather's powerful story of George Bush Junior avoiding the dangers of war through his daddy's contacts.  Dan Rather was a brave and truthful war correspondent in Vietnam just like Brian Williams was in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They apparently share a bond and I am hopeful that NBC does not cave in and destroy Brian William's career like they did David Gregory's when they tossed Gregory off "Meet The Press".

I think that what is most shameful about the Brian Williams situation is that it is once again showing how awful 24 hour news can be.  In addition to being boring it also seems to be unnecessarily vindictive and punitive.  I hope that Brian Williams' decision to take some time off from the NBC Anchor Chair will not lead to his termination, but to people and networks returning to what is truly important and responsible journalism rather than "Gotcha Journalism".

To Brian Williams I say Good Luck and God Bless.  I remain looking forward to your return to the NBC News airwaves where you belong and genuinely deserve to be for a long time to come.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher 


Friday, December 19, 2014

Welcome To Cuba And Farewell To The Colbert Report

Friday, December 19th, 2014

My Dear America:

At a time of the year when normally nothing of any substance seems to happen, in December of 2014 all Hell seems to be breaking loose.  

First of all, Congress once again played Chicken with the U.S. Government's budget and very nearly shut down the Government again.  Ted Cruz, the Arrogant Egomaniac Senator from Texas once again grandstanding, pushed the discussion past where Republicans thought that it should have gone and in so doing produced an extra Saturday Session in which Democrats in the Senate pushed not only the budget through, but also pushed through a number of Barack Obama appointees including a new Surgeon General, after not having one in over a year.  Republicans were furious with Cruz while Democrats thanked Ted for his service on their behalf.

Also this month JEB Bush announced that he was exploring the possibility of his running for President in 2016, which, in essence, means that he is already running and actively fund raising for the prospect of his Campaign.  While in another era JEB Bush running for President would infuriate me (He is, after all, the prime mover in his brother George Bush's despicably flawed Florida "Victory" along with the Supreme Court in 2000") considering the other Republican Clowns gathering on Deck to run, suddenly the prospect of JEB in the mix is more acceptable than it has a right to be.  I will certainly never vote for him but the prospect of Clinton versus Bush is far more preferable than Clinton Versus Marco Rubio, Rand Paul or (God Forbid) Ted Cruz.

Another rather earth shattering incident that happened this month is the cancellation of the release of the controversial Seth Rogan and James Franco comedy movie, "The Interview."  The release of the movie was cancelled after devastating cyber attacks on Sony Pictures Studio in which hackers stole pretty much everything they could find on Sony's computer system.  The hackers, which by this time have pretty much been identified as North Korean Government Nerds, left messages on Sony Executives computers threatening 9/11 style attacks against theaters showing "The Interview," which is a fictional comedy about a plot to kill North Korean Leader, Kim Jon Un.  Clearly the North Korean leader did not see the humor in this premise.  The end result of all of this was the apparent disappearance of "The Interview." into the world of movie oblivion.  It was canceled by the studio from opening this weekend after nearly every movie chain in the country canceled it from playing on their screens.  Sony, at this point, has no plans to release it on video and the North Korean hackers have notified Sony That they have done the "Wise" thing.

President Barack Obama has condemned the North Korean Hacking and has indicated disappointment with Sony's abandoning the movie and, indeed, it is a disturbing precedent.  The American President has indicated that there may be a response to the North Korean outrage but has not said what it will be.

The truth is, however, that President Obama has more than North Korea to worry about these days.  Even though Key ISIS leaders have been killed recently, ISIS remains a threat to human decency in the Middle East and the rest of the world.  ISIS apparently was a motivator for a murderous terrorist incident in Sydney, Australia, of all places.

Obama is on a roll, however, these days.  After announcing a blistering indictment of Republican inactivity in the area of immigration, the President courageously set out to do what he could under the law without the help, or more likely hinderance, of Congress.

Even more courageous, however, is the fact that following contacts and encouragement by Pope Francis with both President Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro, President Obama has announced the normalization of relations with the Island Nation of Cuba after more than 50 years of poor or no relations at all with the island.  Although there is much to dislike about Cuba it is about time that we establish relations with them.  Certainly when we have established positive relationships with Russia, China and Vietnam, it makes very little sense to continue to maintain hostile relations with Cuba. He will undoubtedly take considerable heat on the subject but his actions on Cuba are warranted and, in fact, long overdue 

President Obama is not taking the actions he is taking without commenting on them.  He has recently been interviewed by nearly everyone willing to have him on their Radio or TV Show or in their Publication.  Clearly President Obama is not going to be a shrinking violet in these last two years of his Presidency.  He is kicking butt and taking names and after six years of Republican obstruction of every effort he has made to do anything, clearly his days of trying to compromise with no positive response from the other side are over. Clearly the President realizes at this point in his Presidency that whatever he does or doesn't do he will be castigated by the Republicans.  So knowing that, he is clearly choosing to do whatever he can to get done what he believes he can and should do. 

One of the recent Television shows that President Obama appeared on was "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central.  When President Obama was Stephen Colbert's guest recently President Obama seemingly took over the show from Stephen for the evening.  It was not the first or last time that Stephen Colbert would engineer something outrageously funny.  Last night, however, was the last time that Stephen Colbert would play his incredibly funny outrageously conservative fool of a character on his Comedy Central Show.  

As the last "Colbert Report" drew to a close Stephen Started singing "We'll meet again, Don't know where, Don't Know when" and suddenly the stage was filled with well known individuals from all walks of life standing on the stage with him in tribute to his remarkable talent.  Although Colbert will be missed by a lot of people for awhile at 11:30 in the evening, he will not be gone forever. He will be back sometime in 2015 when, after David Letterman retires, Stephen Colbert will take Letterman's spot on CBS and will no doubt do a great job.

Well, as we count down to the end of 2014 it might be a good time to repeat what Charles Dickens Tiny Tim said so long ago.

"God Bless Us, Every One".

Surely we need it.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An Open Letter To Senator Bernie Sanders - Bernie, Please Don't Do It

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

My Dear America:

(I would really appreciate it, America, if you could look over the following "Open Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders" and provide me with some feedback regarding the letter.)  

Dear Senator Bernie Sanders:

Greetings Senator Sanders.  My Name is Jerry Gallagher and I am a lifelong Democrat.  In recent years, however, I have found myself paying increased attention to much of what you have had to say and have found myself in agreement with almost everything you have had to say.  Thank you for your extremely honest support of issues like Free Healthcare for Every American and Sensibility in Foreign Policy.

I know that at this point in time when it is looking like the front runners in the Republican Presidential Race for the White House look like a bunch of Lunatics, that it must be difficult for a Socialist like yourself to look at  the 2016 Republican prospects with anything besides horror.  

I saw you last night on "The Colbert Report" and listened with intensity to your announcement that you are considering a third party run for the Presidency.  While it is a free country and you are certainly free to do what you want to do, I sincerely believe that your candidacy could, and probably would, lead to another Republican Presidential Victory in 2016.

The truth is that while many Americans do consider themselves to be Independents, like yourself, most Americans, even those on Social Security and Medicare do not consider themselves to be Socialists, even though they might be living fairly well as a result of those admittedly Socialist programs, which the Tea Baggers and the Republicans in Congress are intent on destroying.

The truth also is that in a Perfect World I would be the First person to get on board the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon and promote your candidacy.  As you know very well, however, we are living in a far from perfect world and political realities being what they are your chances of reaching the White House are as likely as a snowball's chances of surviving in hell.

Whatever you do, Senator Sanders, I wish you well in your endeavors.  I must admit that there is a  nagging little thought in my brain saying "Why Not Sanders?  Maybe he might just have a chance.  Maybe its his time.  Maybe the American People are ready for a candidate as good as Sanders"  All of this may be true I tell my brain but lets be realistic.  

Although Ralph Nader never had the decency to admit to or apologize for his role in giving us George W. Bush, Nader's candidacy certainly played a role in Al Gore's defeat and our having to live under the yoke of W's 8 years of hell on earth, especially for Iraquis.  Certainly Nader had a role in Democratic defeats more than once.  It is troubling to recognize that although Nader did a lot of good for America, he will always be remembered mainly for his role in defeating Democratic Presidential Candidates in 2 major elections.

I hope, Senator Sanders, that you never have to apologize for playing a role in Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016 when and if she runs.  Although Hillary Clinton is not a perfect Democratic Candidate she certainly is heads above the entire Republican Presidential Hopeful Candidate Cast of Mad Men.

Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker.

As my mother, bless her heart, was fond of saying: "God Bless Us And Save Us." 

As I said previously I admire you, Senator Sanders,  for continuing to speak out bravely and consistently on the issues which confront Americans every day and I hope that you continue to do so.  I would advise you, however, to, if you feel that you must run for President, to abandon your Independent label and turn Democrat and then run for the Democratic Presidential Nomination.

Who knows, that Snowball's chance in Hell is still a chance, after all

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yesterday On A Bad Day For Democrats The 2014 Campaign Ended But Today The 2016 Campaign Begins

Wednesday, November 5th, 2016

My Dear America:

Back in 1972 outside of Senator George McGovern's South Dakota Campaign Headquarters on the day after the landslide defeat of McGovern by President Richard Nixon a sign said the following:

                                             IT IS OVER

When the Supreme Court in 2000 declared Al Gore's Election prospects Dead, once again it seemed to Democrats as though the roof had caved in.

Today, once again we have seen the fickle finger of election fate poke Democrats in the eye once again as the Arrogant Bastards in the Republican Party who have continually stalled progress since the election of Barack Obama in 2008 have prevailed in yesterdays elections and have been rewarded for their arrogance and lack of cooperation and respect in the United States House of Representatives and Senate by now having full charge of not only the House of Representatives but also the Senate, as well. 

What in the hell is going on in this country?  Why are people so stupid that they vote against their own interests time after time after time.  It is maddening and frustrating.

The truth is that we Democrats in Pennsylvania don't have as much to bitch about.  At least we replaced our awful Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, with a man who looks to me like a light at the end of the long dark Corbett Tunnel.

I spent part of my day at my local Emmanuel Church Polling Place handing out flyers for a congenial and I thought genuinely good candidate named Walter Felton who was running for the Pennsylvania State Senate.  Unfortunately Mr. Felton lost his race although he did have a good showing in his race against a long time incumbent Republican who has proved to be unbeatable over many years in office. 

While I passed out flyers at my poll I had the pleasure of spending time with Pete Schweyer, a young man that I have known for several years, who was running for the Pennsylvania State Legislature for the first time.  Watching Pete meet and greet voters was like watching a young master politician at work.  Pete instinctively knew the right things to say and do as he shook hands with and talked with the voters arriving at the polls.  Pete had met many of these voters at the polls before when he ran for the Allentown City Council and whether they might have been Democrats or Republicans everyone who was greeted by Pete left the polling place with a good impression of this fine young Democrat.  I also enjoyed my talks with Pete when we were both without voters to greet, which was much of the time. I felt as though I was watching an expert politician at work at the Emmanuel Church polling place and indeed I was.  Pete Schweyer is a Democrat who is going places.  One of the places he is going is to the Pennsylvania State Legislature.  Pete beat his Republican opponent in his race by a landslide margin.  

Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania's new Governor, might have been responsible for at least some of Pete Schweyer's success but not all of it.  Wolf seemed to bring out a far larger number of voters to the polls than normally show up at Pennsylvania Polling Places in off year Pennsylvania elections.  Tom Wolf was able to establish himself early on even in the Primary Elections as a Man of the People and since his Republican opponent, Tom Corbett, was a well established man of the Corporations and in particular the Fracking Industry there was a clear choice for Pennsylvania Voters. Wolf won by a hefty margin.

Elsewhere in the country things clearly did not go as well for Democrats as they did for Tom Wolf and Pete Schweyer in Pennsylvania.  Certainly efforts to prevent blacks, hispanics and young voters must have had some effect on some of the Congressional and Gubernatorial races in some of the states that had succeeded in trying to limit voting by those voting blocks. 

Why things went so horribly wrong for the Democrats is actually not that easy to figure out.  The Dems had some very good candidates who were unsuccessful.  There were also several candidates who ran away from President Obama and his policies and accomplishments, who might have done better with the President's help.  Certainly Tom Wolf was welcoming of President Obama's stumping for him in Pennsylvania and the President's endorsement didn't seem to hurt Wolf.  

There were also some Democratic Candidates who just weren't great candidates.  Bruce Braley in Iowa and the attractive but dimwitted young lady who ran against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky who would not admit whether she voted for President Obama in the 2012 Election.  That was not a good move.

There will be a lot of time in which to second guess this election but what Democrats need to do is to take stock of what went wrong in this election and fix those things that can be fixed by the time 2016 rolls around.

In the meantime the politics of obstruction will continue to go on only this time we won't have the U.S Senate to save the day at the last minute.  

President Obama seemed today in his news conference to be unperturbed by the Republican successes.  "Republicans had a good night," he admitted but he made clear that although he would consider some reasonable tweaking of the Affordable Health Care Act he would be vetoing any attempts to repeal the act.

In the end the Republicans have proved that with unlimited amounts of unidentified and untraceable money available to fund trash talking television ad campaigns for their candidates they can find enough Americans stupid enough to buy their bullshit and vote against their own individual interests. 

As the 2016 Campaign begins it is certainly frightening to view the Republican Presidential Campaign prospects.

Good God.  Say it isn't so.

Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker to name a few.

Suddenly Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush don't seem so bad.

I think it is likely that Hillary Clinton will Run for President and if she does run I think she will win despite the Republican Venom Machine.  I hope so anyway.  If she does run and win I think the Republicans will do to her what they have done to Barack Obama, as well as to her husband.  They will make her life a living hell.  Certainly a lot of things can happen between now and election day, 2016.

Hopefully some of the things that might happen will be better than what happened last night.   

As my mother used to say:

"God Bless Us and Save Us."

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For Pennsylvania's Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, There's A Wolf At The Door

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

My Dear America:

Democrats have had very little to cheer about lately.

Although they might be counting their chickens before they hatch, Republicans seem to be already counting on savoring their victories in upcoming off year elections throughout the American landscape.  It is hard for me to understand how and why American voters seem to continually vote against their interests and for seemingly more and more extreme Right Wing Republican Candidates.

In a world that has bogged down Democrats, especially President Obama, with Crises in the Ukraine, in Israel and most disturbingly in Iraq and Syria one would think that polls would show that voters might be coming to their senses and voting for candidates that look out for rather than look down on the American Middle Class.  Unfortunately most polls don't show voters headed in the direction of Democrats, however.  But as we have seen many times polls cannot always be counted on to accurately predict the outcomes of American elections. 

One can only hope that countless previously foolish American voters will somehow wise up by election day and not only pay attention to expensive and often less than accurate Television ads but also actually pay attention to real issues and save the day in the nick of time at the ballot box.

In the Northeastern State of Pennsylvania's Governor's race the outlook for Tom Wolf, a Democrat businessman and Former Revenue Secretary under popular Democratic Governor Ed Rendell, the prospect of a Democratic victory looks incredibly bright.  Wolf rather easily defeated a number of better known Democrats during the Pennsylvania Primary by a wide margin.  His rather wide margin of victory in that race has continued to progress as he winds down his campaign against incumbent Republican Governor, Tom Corbett.  Corbett barely squeaked out a victory in his last Gubernatorial Campaign but this time the life and legend of Tom Wolf apparently seems to have stopped Tom Corbett in his tracks.  

Wolf has shown in his television ads in the primary and in the general election that he has the kind of background that resonates well with Pennsylvanians.  His ads have featured mainly his family members and workers in his company, Wolf Industries, an office furniture manufacturing company.  His two cute daughters were effective in the primary ads and his parents are now being featured in ads during the waning days of the general election campaign.  Also featured have been Wolf's employees and co workers who have touted the generosity of Wolf's profit sharing with those employed in his company.  

One disastrous ploy made by Corbett early on was to try to tie Wolf in a television ad to a deadly racist incident in York, PA, where Wolf lives.  Wolf countered that ad with one featuring the black mayor of York (a woman, no less) who raved about what a racially sensitive man Tom Wolf was and how lucky Pennsylvania would be to have him as Governor.

Wolf has also featured his Jeep in his TV ads.  When he was PA Revenue Secretary Wolf refused to use a government car and traveled the state in his own jeep.  He continues to drive it as he combs the state these days in search of votes and Pennsylvania voters love him for it.  Although Wolf is a millionaire with deep pockets, which have kept his TV ads running constantly in his campaign for Governor, Wolf is also a man with a deep respect and concern for Middle Class and poor Pennsylvanians.

On the other hand Tom Corbett has shown his allegiance to the corporations, including the Koch Brothers and the Natural Gas Frackers who have bankrolled his Gubernatorial Campaigns during his time in office.  Under Corbett Pennsylvania was the only state in America not charging Natural Gas Drillers an extraction tax.  Since Wolf made this an issue and pledged to right this wrong if elected, Corbett has suddenly and late in the game changed his tune on this issue.  Corbett also put every school district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so far in debt that thousands of teachers have lost their jobs during Corbett's tenure.  Wolf has pledged not only to charge an extraction tax for the frackeers but he has pledged to take themoney raised by the tax on frackers and put the money into the Pennsylvania education budget.

Other Democrats throughout the country might learn some valuable lessons from the Wolf Campaign.

The number one lesson is that when the Democrats give their voters a good candidate, voters respond.  Tom Wolf may now be the darling of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party but it was not always that way.  Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Rob McCord was the Democratic party pick and Tom Wolf beat him and three other good Democratic candidates in the Pennsylvania Primary election in order to get the opportunity to run against Corbett.  

Now in the last days of the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Campaign Tom Wolf is at the door of Tom Corbett's Pennsylvania Governor's office and is knocking hard. It appears to be only a matter of a couple of weeks before Tom Wolf will have found entrance to the Governor's office for good.

Hooray for a Pennsylvania Democratic Party Victory.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hard Choices for Hillary Clinton But Not For Me - This Book is a Political and Historical Classic

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

My Dear America:

It has been a long time since I took the time to write a book review.  The last time was back in the 70s when I had the pleasure of reviewing books for "Best Sellers" Magazine which was published by The University of Scranton. The Magazine is long gone now and I miss it.  

My first published review for the magazine was for "The Other Woman" by Rona Jaffe.  The book was awful and I was upset that I was not going to be able to write praise and accolades for my first published review.  What I learned from that review and others after it was that I could be honest and write actual Constructive Criticism rather than Destructive Criticism, finding both positive and negative things to say about the books I was reviewing.

I will not have any problems coming up with praise for Hillary Clinton's book.

The reason I am writing this review when I haven't reviewed a book in several decades is because I feel strongly that this book can and will undoubtedly have a significant influence on the Presidential Election of 2016. It certainly will have an influence if Hillary runs for President in 2016.  After reading this book I am convinced that if she is elected President she will do an extraordinarily good job.

Well, Ready or not - Here it comes

Title:  Hard Choices

Author:  Hillary Rodham Clinton

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

Pages:  635

Hard Choices is a book that has almost everything going for it.  As a book it is well crafted and well published by one of the nation's leading publishers, Simon and Schuster.  The extraordinary digital photography included in the book of Hillary with National and World Wide Figures is First Rate, as is the Cover and Endpaper photography.

Hard Choices is also very well written by Hillary Clinton.  Certainly Hillary has enough power and influence to have organized a talented crew to help her with this project and she acknowledges that this was the case.  She also has another excellent writer in the family (Bill Clinton - A Book Award Winner) who no doubt assisted Hillary in completing this incredible historical undertaking.

In the end, however, this book is the product of Hillary Clinton's intellect and writing ability and as such it proves to be an incredible accomplishment.  The book is essentially a well organized series of chapters documenting what occurred during Hillary's extended period of employment as Secretary of State.

The book begins as her disappointing Campaign for President in 2008 ends.  Hillary acknowledges that the Primary Campaign loss to Barack Obama was not easy for her.  She was truly shocked when future President Obama, probably influenced by Doris Kearns Goodwin's Lincoln Biography, "Team of Rivals" which was popular at the time, asked Hillary to become Secretary of State in the Obama Administration.  Although she didn't decide quickly or easily she did finally say yes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton has been and continues to be one of the most influential political figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.  In terms of political influence in the Obama Administration it appears as though she had a great deal of influence and was a trusted adviser particularly on International affairs.

Certainly the image of Hillary Clinton traveling around the world is one that we all recall.  Just how much traveling was involved is documented in the pages of Hard Choices.  It seems as though she traveled everywhere and met and dealt with everyone of any importance during her State Department Duties.  

Hillary not only tells the stories of National and International events but she also presents honest portraits of World leaders and people who worked with her and for her at the State Department.  One of the most touching verbal portraits that she paints is that of Richard Holbrooke, an outstanding personality who was almost single handedly responsible for the end of the Bosnian War during Bill Clinton's Administration.  Hillary Clinton put Holbrooke in charge of attempting to resolve the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two equally impossible world conflicts.  In Hillary's estimation Holbrooke did an outstanding job but was not able to finish the assigned tasks.  Clearly Holbrooke's  sudden death hit Hillary hard, as did the death of two State Department Representatives and two CIA Agents in Benghazi.

Hillary tells the story of Benghazi in detail and after what appears to be her rendering of the complete story of Benghazi one wonders why Republicans continue to try to dig up more details in expensive inquiry after inquiry about this rather simple, yet terrifying story.

Hillary Clinton has much to say in her book about many world leaders, including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, both of whom have much to do with what is currently occurring on today's world stage.

After finishing Hillary's highly readable and interesting Autobiography I felt as though I had traveled the globe with Hillary and in a sense I had.

This book is not only extremely interesting from a historic perspective it is simply extremely interesting from any perspective.  Clearly this book shows that when Hillary Clinton has a job to do she will do her best to do it well. Even Republicans would have to agree, after reading this book, that Hillary Clinton really did a good job as United States Secretary of State.  In my mind Hard Choices is evidence that Hillary Clinton is up to the task of being President.  In fact, if and when she is elected perhaps she can return the favor to President Obama and ask him to be her Secretary of State.  He will of course be out of a job in 2016 and may be as grateful for the opportunity to work for Hillary as she was to work for him.

Actually one of the amazing things about the Clinton-Obama relationship is just how much Obama trusted Clinton with regard to world affairs.  

They had occasional disagreements, however.  What has been revealed by Hillary recently and is revealed in this book is that she and President Obama did not agree on what to do about Syria.  Clinton wanted to arm the less extreme Syrian rebels to fight against President Assad and President Obama refused to do so.

As ISIS terrorists roll into the consciousness of the world it is still hard to see who was right about Syria, Obama or Clinton.  Many experts disagree as much as Clinton and her President did.  Many say that arming Syrian rebels other than ISIS could have made life tough for ISIS.  Others point out that ISIS has stolen and bought equipment from other Syrian rebels and still others point out that other Syrian rebels besides ISIS sold the recently beheaded American Journalists to ISIS.

The mysteries of World Politics continue and the truth is that we will never really know whether Clinton or Obama made the correct decision regarding arming Syrian rebels.  We also don't know from reading Hillary's book whether or not the Syrian Rebel arms decision was the one that led to her departure from the Obama Administration.

Certainly I feel that the question of her readiness for Presidential leadership is answered by this book.  Anyone capable of writing a book this good about a job well done by Hillary Clinton, in addition to the other outstanding items on her resume, including Senator from New York and First Lady of the United States, is enough for me and I think should be enough for anybody.

Hillary has stated that she will be making an announcement regarding whether or not she will run for President sometime early next year.  If we are lucky she will run.  If she is lucky she won't run and put herself through the wringer any more than she has already and she will ride off into the sunset with her grandchild.  Presently, however, the mystery of will she or won't she will haunt the media for the immediate future while she makes up her mind.

Presently, if you haven't made up your mind about Hillary, I suggest that you take some time and read this book and I will be very surprised if you don't get ready to sign up for her campaign.

Well, there it is.  Take it or leave it.  I admired Hillary before reading the book but I really admire her now.  I will certainly be in her corner if she makes the leap back into politics and I will vote for her in the Pennsylvania Primary just like I did last time.  This time, however, I hope that I will get a chance to also vote for her in the 2016 Presidential Election, as well.  

Certainly, I don't see anyone in the Insane Republican Clown Posse who can hold a candle to Hillary.  In fact, I don't see anyone in the Democratic ranks who could possibly steal the Primary from her.  But lets be cautious here. Nobody with any real insight saw Barack Obama coming the last time out in 2008 and it is Mr. Obama in the White House.  There could be other candidates, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Former Governor Brian Schweitzer.  We will have to see what happens after Hillary makes her decision and lets the rest of us know what it is.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher