Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Culture of Civility on our Streets


I tried to make a case for licensing bicycles, a practice more and more states and cities are adopting, in the following letter published recently in the Register-Guard.  I have come to the view that only the threat of withdrawing the privilege of cycling on our paths and streets will change scofflaw behavior. 

“I watched two bicyclists breeze through three red lights in downtown Eugene yesterday afternoon, an infraction I see all too frequently.  So I, an avid cyclist, support Marlene Cook’s letter of August 21 calling for the licensing of bicycles but for different reasons.  In addition to supporting the maintenance of Eugene’s bicycle network, license fees could have the following additional benefits:     

Licensing could be done in a manner (embossing the license number on the bottom of the frame) to make is easier to track and recover stolen bicycles

Fees could pay for the production and distribution of a booklet distributed at licensing that would explain the rules of the road and common courtesies for cyclists too rarely observed in Eugene. 

Repeated serious infractions (running red lights) would be cause for suspending the license.  

Such a program would contribute to the safety of cyclists and calm the nerves of those who fear of a deadly collision with scofflaw cyclists on our streets.    The bikes of cyclists 12 years old and younger would not require licenses.  Students would pay only half of whatever fees are charged.  

It’s also time to remove the option of bike riding on sidewalks in areas of the city heavily used by pedestrians.  The greatest danger to us pedestrians in the Midtown and Downtown zones of South Eugene is not automobiles.  It is….cyclists.” 

Why I Gave Up Hunting

The following letter, published by the Register-Guard, in 2013,  is still relevant in my opinion

I follow the hunting debate with interest.  In Ohio, in the l940s, shot guns were plugged to allow three shots.  After three misses, the game deserved a walk.  Quail were song birds, not hunted.  I recently wrote the following memoir of this hunter at age 14.         

“Eventually the rabbit circled around, as they always do, towards his burrow.  I saw him running up along the ridge of a meadow some 30 yards away. I quickly raised my shotgun and fired without thinking at all.  The rabbit tumbled.   I ran over to him, surprised to have made such a good shot, my heart beating wildly."    

"He lay entirely still and was looking directly at me with large brown fearful eyes.  He was exhausted from running, his small body steaming in the cold.  His gentle warm eyes were so familiar.  I could feel the pulsing of his body in mine.  I knew what I been taught to do, however much I dreaded doing it. I took his hind legs in my hand, placed my booted foot gently on his head and pulled, amazed at how easily his lower body separated from his head. Tufts of gray fur with speckles of blood in them made a ring around his neck.  I carried his headless body by the hind legs to my father who placed the decapitated rabbit in a pouch around the back of his khaki hunting coat. 
             
“Well done, son.” Father said.  “That was a good shot.”    

I never hunted again.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

MEMORIES OF THE FIRST PRESIDENT BUSH


This is a memoir piece I wrote years ago and now remember these events fondly on the death of President  Bush


                    ENCOUNTERS WITH PRESIDENT BUSH
       When on home tours in America I lived a mere block from the C and O Canal in Cabin John, Maryland.  One afternoon in the early autumn of 1981 I returned from work and invited my son Michael to join me in a run along the canal tow path. As we ran from 81st Street down to and along the canal path we heard:

“Molly?  Molly?  Where are you, Molly?”  As we walked on, the voice, which sounded distressed, continued to call, Molly?  Molly?  Come, Molly, come.

Suddenly a figure I immediately recognized approached us.  Behind him were two men on mountain bikes in dark suits with those funny Secret Service wires in their ears.  The figure was Vice President Bush.  Then I noticed there were two more SS agents up the tow path in front of him.  As he continued to call for Molly,  he suddenly turned back down the tow path as he and the secret service agents continued to call for Molly (you will want to know this) which they eventually found. 
Michael and I continued on our walk up the tow path and as we did I thought to myself,  isn’t it wonderful that the former head of the CIA and the vice-president of the most powerful nation in the world would show so much concern for the family dog?  Actually it shouldn’t have amazed me at all.  Our public officials are also human beings who make their pets members of the family as many of us do. 
Such encounters with well know public political figures were fairly common in the Washington area when I lived there. Later, at Ft. McNair where I did an academic year at the War College in l982-83, I watched New York Marathon winner Alberto Salazar and vice-president Bush run a few laps together around Ft. McNair's track. 
          My next encounter with now President Bush was involvement in his visit to Australia.  Such a possibility was first mentioned in l988.  In 1990 President Bush called Australia's Prime Minister Bob Hawke and told Hawke he would be coming later that year. 
          In July of l991 my designated deputy Ray Burson called me while I was visiting my sister in Ohio, to say the White House had announced the trip for later in the year.  I was glad for the challenge, glad I had the seasoned, steady, pro Ray Burson as my deputy.  I was pleased to have such advance notice and would begin to staff out and plan visit support in August. I thought this would make the Coral Sea commemorations less important to the ambassador. It would also be  a good challenge other than Coral Sea,  which did not entirely enchant me.
          In September I went to Townsville in north Queensland to pre-advance for the Bush visit because we had been told the president would enjoy one day of bill fishing.  I chose an outfit that arranged such adventures. They took me out in their boat to show how they would manage a trip for a senior American official. (I could not say the senior official was the president.)  They said they would treat me as the senior official and show me what they could do.  So I was given the privilege of hauling in the first strike.  A tuna took the bait fish, about 12 inches long, dressed in a pink plastic collar and skimming along the surface of the water only about 30 yards behind the boat.  In saltwater, the boat's crew told me, the noise of the boat attracts rather than frightens the fish.   The tuna gave me a terrific fight for half an hour, running out again and again towards the horizon.  I finally pulled it alongside and one of the crew of five gill gaffed it and lifted it into the boat.  I think I was nearly as exhausted as the fish.  It was such a beautiful blue and silver creature that I regretted I was involved in taking its life.  As it turned out, the president did not go bill fishing. 

In December, l991, in my annual year end letter to family and friends I wrote:

“Some of you may have read that George and Barbara Bush are dropping in to spend New Year's Eve with us.  It will be just like old times with George and Barbara arriving in their own 747 accompanied by 250 White House aides.  They have all been invited to come along to do the New Year Down Under and on their trail will be over 200 White House journalists who have chartered their own 747 to join the party.  George has asked me to “do something” with the press. 
          We are not yet sure that 747s can land at Canberra's modest airport, which is only the first of a series of possible complications that only you who have worked in embassies abroad can fully appreciate.  But matching White House expectations with local realities should be easier here than in most nations in the world.” 

          Then we were told the visit was postponed and probably would be canceled.   You could reasonably have expected me to feel relief.  But I had put so much of myself into gathering and organizing staff and resources and preparing for the visit that the cancellation deflated me.  Plus there were two events, one the launching of a new national Australian center for American studies and the other the opening of the American gallery in the National Maritime Museum in which I had played a major role, start to finish.  Nothing could promote the success of these projects more than being formally opened by an American president. 
          Then we were told the visit was on again and I wrote in my journal that despite the on again off again confusions,  the visit should go well.  I was at the peak of my effectiveness in Australia, was consulted by everyone from the ambassador on down, and had begun to feel like the embassy's historian, the one who always knew how it was done the last time.  I wanted this visit for our bilateral relations with Australia and for my officers and staff.  And for me.  These last months of my tour will include a presidential visit and the 50th Coral Sea commemorations.  That is a fine ending to my four years in Australia. 

December 1991 notes from my journal weeks before President Bush arrives.       

 In Sydney, after three days with a White House advance team, I lay on the point of Mrs. Macquarie's chair, a lovely park that reaches into Sydney's harbor.  The first governor's wife used to sit at that spot at the end of the l8th Century.  A soft breeze comes off the harbor as the ferry boats go to and fro.  A splendid view of downtown Sydney and the opera house and the bridge.  I lay there for an hour like a wounded animal, exhausted, trying to recover.  Is it my age? 
          I walked by the Fleet Steps and read the memorial where Elizabeth II first put her foot on Australian soil in l954 and then walked to Lord Nelson's Pub in the Rocks. This is the Lord Nelson l8th Century pub Dan Quayle dropped into when he visited Australia in l989.  One of their offerings is now Quayle Ale.  The White House staff wants Bush to do a pub stop.  
          We stand between the White House and the prime minister's office.  The language is English but nonetheless we are interpreters, explaining the habits and practices of one to the other. 
          I learned at 9 am this morning that the Bush visit has been shifted at Australia's initiative to begin on New Year's Eve in Sydney with fireworks and to end in Melbourne.  I think this will be a much better program for Australia, for the Australian and American media and almost surely for the President and his party.  There have been so many shifts in his program that that we have now adjusted to adjusting. 
          There is unhappiness in my office because of the schedule change.  I managed to get one exception to the “no leaves” policy for a marriage in the US.  Otherwise I refused leaves to everyone.
          The advance crew from the White House seems a nice bunch and I now believe that the fundamentals (services, space, personnel, policies) are in place for this visit and that they look good.  We have had some shifts this week, especially with the change in Australian prime ministers (Bob Hawke to Paul Keating). Now comes the endless detail and rehearsal of details that makes the difference between excellence and disaster; there seems to be no middle ground in these matters.
          President and Barbara Bush were great ambassadors for the US, a big hit.  He was the first American president to visit our ally Down Under in 25 years.  But I will always cherish the memory of his humanity during the minutes I heard him trying to find his lost puppy.   When he did not know anyone else other than his security detail was listening.    


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

THE ROLE OF THE ARTS IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION


I had the great good fortune to attend an Ohio University-sponsored elementary school, Rufus Putnam, that emphasized creativity, especially in the arts and in science.  Some parents in the city school system made disparaging comments about the academic program at Putnam, usually complaining there was too little emphasis on the three Rs rather than saying there was too much emphasis on literature, music, and art.  

But Putnam students did well in the city high school when they arrived there, and I––and surely others–––missed the environment of encouragement, the permission to integrate my personal interests into the program, the emphasis on creativity in the arts and in science, and the study of foreign countries and cultures that Rufus Putnam provided.  

Putnam creative arts programs also contributed to our mental health.  I was one of four abused and neglected children saved through a remarkable adoption. The arts programs of Putnam played an important role in our emotional healing. 

A fuller description of this amazing school can be found in Book One of Children of the Manse.  



SING OUT OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM


Sing Out!

Rather than a flag in the lapel, I suggest a better test of patriotism would be learning the words of our national anthem and singing this hymn to the nation from our hearts at public events.

What I hear, instead, at sports events is a single vocalist performing while the rest of us mumble in near silence.   

There are more and more important evidences of our love of country but learning and singing the words of our national anthem would be a good beginning.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

IS TRUMP A FASCIST?


To the Editor:
I am surprised the Register-Guard printed and gave first place to an emotionally unhinged letter claiming that President Trump is a Fascist.  One distinguishing mark of Fascism is anti-Semitism.

Recently, eminent sociologist Nathan Glazer pointed out that a Trump son-in-law is a Jew and that one of his   daughters has converted to Judaism.  As for the charge of Fascism, Glazer said he was in Europe in the l930s and saw real Fascists up close.  “Trump is no Fascist,” he concluded.
 
I t would be helpful if those who dislike President Trump would get hold of their emotions so that we can have a rational discussion of our national politics.

Sincerely, Lewis R, Luchs

Thursday, November 22, 2018

WHAT MAKES A GOOD AMBASSADOR?


           Good ambassadors have a large capacity for human relationships, can give a finished speech or media interview at a minute's notice and on any occasion, can inspire the work and loyalty of embassy officers and staff.  They should also have excellent digestion. 
          The ambassador is Mr. or Ms. Outside.  The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), almost always a career Foreign Service Officer, is Mr. or Ms. Inside. DCMs assure the smooth functioning of the entire mission and deal with internal problems that do not require the ambassador's attention.  The DCM drafts the efficiency reports of the other senior embassy officers which the ambassador then reviews.
          Of the many fine ambassadors I worked for, I found two outstanding.  One was a career Foreign Service Officer, the other a political appointee.  The worst ambassador I worked under was also a political appointee.  In general, I have no objection to politically appointed ambassadors if they have experience in managing a team in a complex organization, are politically savvy, know something about the history and political culture of the country to which they have been sent, and have at least a minimal professional level in the local language.  A previous connection to the country in question can be helpful but is not necessary.