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  • #91
    Otis ittl was India partitioned, and what is happening with Iran?


    • Otis R. Needleman
      Otis R. Needleman commented
      Editing a comment
      India has just recently become independent. Presently not partitioned. Things are fairly stable. Iran is there but this Middle East is pretty peaceful compared to our timeline. There is no Israel because there never was a Holocaust. The Needleman Administration's biggest foreign policy concern day-to-day is the PRC, then much further down Central and South America.

  • #92
    President Needleman makes two very important speeches in January 2021.

    President Needleman made several speeches during January 2021, but two were mandatory, the annual State of the Nation speech, and the incoming speech to the newly-seated Senators and Congressmen.
    First, here’s an excerpt from the State of the Nation speech, given on January 15th.

    “In general, last year was another good year for our country. The damage from the New Madrid quake has been totally repaired. Yes, we had some natural disasters, but nothing like the New Madrid quake…

    …We paid the national debt down by ten billion dollars last year. This puts our national debt at about $390 billion. And the lower our national debt, the less we need to budget for interest payments. While I will work to keep reducing our national debt, it will never be at the expense of our people’s well-being. If needed, we will borrow to pay for response to disasters, natural and otherwise, military operations, and other requirements.

    …This year’s harvest was another bumper crop, one of the best crops ever. I take my hat off to our nation’s farmers. Thanks to them, there is plenty for everyone to eat.

    …As you are probably aware, I made many state visits last year. One visit was to our southern neighbor, Mexico. President and Mrs. Munoz were great hosts and we discussed a number of matters, revitalizing our mutual relationship. We also, in our turn, hosted a state visit by President and Mrs. Munoz.

    …One, frankly, very sad visit I made last year was for Russian Prime Minister Leonid Entis’ funeral. Prime Minister Entis was a great man, a tremendous leader of Russia, and a staunch friend and ally of the United States. He lost his battle with Babe Ruth’s disease, but donated certain organs upon his passing to scientists working to find treatments and a cure for that disease. Prime Minister Naftaly Frenkel has come in and our relationship hasn’t missed a beat. We work together as if we’ve been partners for many years. The relationship between the United States of America and the Russian Empire remains as strong as ever.

    …The end of this year also saw the departure of another partner. Chancellor Hans Landa of the German Empire has retired, replaced with Chancellor Philip Bouhler, who previously had been Deputy Chancellor. Chancellor Bouhler and I have already met, and I see things between our two countries going along just as before.

    …On a much more cheerful note, last year saw the institution of diplomatic relations between the United States, the rest of the Allies, and the People’s Republic of China. Chairman Han and I have exchanged state visits and are looking forward to expanding our relationship. I can tell you that your American passport is now good for visiting the People’s Republic of China. While their ability to accommodate foreign visitors is rather limited right now, Chairman Han has assured me that over time the People’s Republic will increase and improve their tourist infrastructure.

    …We have been working with the People’s Republic on one very critical matter. This year their grain harvest was somewhat under projections. After discussions with Chairman Han, we volunteered to send a team of grain procurement specialists to the PRC to help them develop a structure and procedures for purchasing grain on the international market. If you follow the commodity markets, you’ve already seen the PRC is looking to buy grain. Hopefully we’ll be able to sell the PRC some grain, if our bids are the winning bids. Chairman Han has expressed his appreciation for our assistance. And please keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, the more ways that we, the Allies, and the PRC can find to work together, the lower the tensions along the border with North China, and the less likely it is that our sons and daughters will be at war in that area of the world. This has been a win-win for all concerned so far, and we’ll work to keep it that way.

    …As every year, there was a selection this past November. This year there was a new Vice-President selected, Senators, and Representatives. Our incoming Vice-President, here with us this evening, is Ron Solmonson, from Tennessee. Vice-President-select Solmonson, a retired United States Army command sergeant major, previously served as a Representative and left just two years ago. Ron and his wife Judy have been here in Washington preparing for their new jobs.

    …Here, I make a public farewell on behalf of our nation to our departing Vice-President, Kenneth Doo. Ladies and gentlemen, you and our nation have been well-served indeed by Vice-President Doo. He has played a tremendous and important part in governing our nation. Vice-President Doo was of invaluable help to me when I became President. Day-to-day, you don’t see the Vice-President in action as you do the President, but I assure you this fine man got the job done. No pun intended, but Ken Doo can do! I will miss Vice-President Doo as he goes to a well-deserved retirement in California, but I believe Vice-President Solmonson will hit the ground running. I also want to bid a grateful and fond farewell to Mrs. Maureen Doo. She has done a tremendous job representing our country on numerous occasions, and has also filled in for the First Lady when the situation demanded. But I believe, just like her husband, Judy Solmonson will also hit the ground running.

    ...In conclusion, let us all hope and work together to make 2021 the best year ever for our nation. As always, it is a privilege and honor to serve as President. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

    On January 21st President Needleman, Vice-President Solmonson, Senate Leader Bustamante, and Speaker of the House Frazier teamed up to address the incoming Senators and Representatives in a joint session for the newcomers. Here’s an excerpt from the President’s address to the new legislators.

    “…I believe that government governs best that governs least. I do not want anyone here to think they need to draw up a lot of bills to believe they are doing their job as a Senator or Representative. If you attend to the needs of your constituents, attend your committee meetings, work on projects, and draw up only those bills for which there is a compelling need you are doing your job.

    …Ask yourself these two questions before drawing up that bill. First, is this a law I would want to obey? Second, if this law requires spending money, is this something I would be willing to pay for out of my own pocket? If the answer to either question is no, then I’d advise not drawing up that bill.

    …Now, for our House members, just because your bill has passed doesn’t mean it will become law. First, the Speaker looks it over and makes his or her comments before sending it to the Senate. Should the Senate approve your bill, either with or without changes, the Senate Leader looks it over and makes his or her comments before sending it to the Vice-President. The Vice-President looks over the bill, makes his or her comments, and recommends the President sign or veto the bill. All four of us up here are going to scrutinize that bill before it is signed or vetoed. So, draw up only the bills we absolutely must have, and as few bills as possible.

    …To our new Senators, Vice-President Solmonson is President of the Senate. He presides over the Senate and casts the tie-breaking vote when a tie occurs. Since Vice-President Solmonson is new in the job, he’ll be presiding over the Senate fairly often to begin with, working with Senate Leader Bustamante. As time goes by, most likely the Vice-President will actually preside less often, and the Senate Leader will preside more often. Vice-President Doo ended up presiding two or three times a month or whenever the Senate Leader needed him there. And the Vice-President, Senate Leader, Speaker of the House and I stay in constant contact, one way or another.

    …I need to talk about money. For many of you, this is the highest-paying job you have ever held. $500,000 a year seems like a lot of money, and it is. However, your take-home pay is $300,000 a year after taxes. Living in the Washington area is not cheap. You should expect to pay more for housing than you generally did back home. Some of you live in Maryland, northern Virginia, and southern Pennsylvania and can commute here. Some of you may choose to commute during the week, get a shared place, and go home on weekends. But many of you will rent or buy houses, condos, or apartments here in the Washington area.

    …Manage your money wisely. If you aren’t careful that money will go fast. And you cannot hold an outside job without the permission of the Senate Leader. Yes, your spouses can work, if they can find a job.

    …Money problems can lead to some much more severe trouble for you. You are part of the United States Congress. As such, you approve and appropriate billions and billions of tax dollars for all manner of goods and services. There are unscrupulous people who will offer you money to vote a certain way on a bill, or write a bill in a certain way, or ask you to provide some seemingly harmless information. Some of you may ask people to pay you to vote a certain way or write a bill benefitting them. Let me officially warn you that soliciting or accepting a bribe is a criminal offense, and is always prosecuted. A few years ago, we had a Senator arrested in the Oval Office when he admitted to taking bribes. Any suspected soliciting of bribes or accepting of bribes will be investigated, and if the charges are true indictments will be handed down and arrests will occur. If you are arrested and found guilty of soliciting or accepting a bribe, you go to prison. And as President I don’t influence the justice process but I do stay abreast of what happens.

    …All of us here want all of you to have a great, productive term as a Member of the House or a Senator. Remember, it is from the ranks of Senators-emeriti and Representatives-emeriti that Presidents and Vice-Presidents are selected. One day you could be up here as President or Vice-President. But it isn’t easy being a Representative or a Senator. This is a new endeavor for all of you. For some, it is a radically different endeavor. You’re going to need to use different ‘mental muscles’ than you may have had to use in the past. If you need help learning how to do the job, it is your responsibility to ask for help. Senator Bustamante will provide contact information for the new Senators; they get a “buddy”, normally from their own state, and phone numbers and websites for financial, family, and substance abuse counselors. Speaker Frazier will have similar contact information for the new Representatives. Make use of these resources. There is no shame in asking for help. The only true shame is being arrested for soliciting or taking a bribe when, with some help, the situation could have been avoided. And if need be, you can contact Senate Leader Bustamante or Speaker Frazier directly. They know what it’s like. They’ve been there.

    …Having said all that, I welcome you again, and wish you a great three or six years in Washington. I look forward to meeting with all of you. Just get on my schedule; your staff will know how to do it. Thank you for your service. Your success here helps our success as a nation. God bless you, and may God bless America."
    Last edited by Otis R. Needleman; 11-19-2016, 05:38 PM.


    • Jim Smitty
      Jim Smitty commented
      Editing a comment
      God I wish our OTL government was so hell been on dealing with people who are dealing with bribes and such.

    • Otis R. Needleman
      Otis R. Needleman commented
      Editing a comment
      Our OTL government is political. The US Government in Otis' world isn't political. No political parties. Yes, you'll have some internal politics in the House and Senate, but there are no political parties per se. Also, you have a wide variety of people filling the House, Senate, Presidency, and Vice-Presidency, instead of a heavy grouping of lawyers, businesspeople, and rich people as in OTL. Serving in Congress or as President/Vice-President is seen a a duty to the nation that nurtured you in life, instead as of a way to gain power and money. The vast majority of those selected take their duties seriously and give it their best. For those who don't, as you can see, there are ways to deal with them. For those who can't do the job, they get help, or are respectfully sidelined, sometimes of their own accord, such as the hapless President Edith Finchley.

      The system in Otis' America isn't perfect, but in many ways better than OTL.

  • #93
    Two former colleagues meet again.

    November 4, 2020, 10:00 a.m.
    South-North Chinese Neutral Zone
    Neutral Zone Meeting Room

    The partially successful 1949-1952 revolution in China that resulted in a Communist South China, or People’s Republic of China, and a free North China, or Republic of China, ended in a truce, much like the Korean War did in our world.

    The truce was monitored by a Truce Commission. On one side, there were representatives of the People’s Republic of China. On the other side were representatives of the Republic of China, the Russian Empire, and the United States, who had all fought together against the PRC during the war. In the middle were representatives from Switzerland, a neutral country in this world as in ours.

    The Truce Commission generally met once a month, primarily to discuss truce violations and matters affecting the truce line and Neutral Zone. Sometimes the meetings were very heated, turning into political harangues by the PRC, depending on what the PRC’s Chairman wanted to accomplish. At other times, the meetings were businesslike and amicable.

    Over the past few years, especially after the Needleman Administration came into office, the Truce Commission meetings were businesslike and amicable, reflecting the greatly diminished tensions in the area due to the PRC admission to the United Nations and now the recognition by the Allies of the PRC. In Chairman Han’s opinion, nothing was to be gained by making Truce Commission meetings verbal battles.

    Today’s Truce Commission meeting, while regularly scheduled, was special. Lieutenant General Bo Kuo Wen, deputy chief, Political Department, People’s Liberation Army, was attending, along with Mr. Tommy Martin, Agricultural Attaché, US Embassy Shanghai, and personnel from the PRC Ministry of Agriculture.

    The main business of the meeting was to devise procedures to evacuate Mr. Martin to Allied forces’ medical facilities back of the truce line should he become sick or injured while working on a PRC farm within a reasonable distance of the truce line, and PRC medical facilities not be able to treat his illness or injuries. This was agreed to in principle by Shanghai, Beijing, Washington, and Moscow, and it was further agreed that the Truce Commission would determine the mechanics of Mr. Martin’s evacuation. There had been a separate meeting between PRC and Russian representatives for Mr. Martin’s treatment by Russian hospitals should he become sick or injured while working on PRC farms near the Russian border. The PRC and the Russians had brought that protocol to this meeting, for possible use. All concerned wanted a protocol in place now that Mr. Martin was on the ground in the PRC. In addition, with the word that other Allied countries would be providing agricultural attaches to the PRC, with a similar mission to Mr. Martin’s, the evacuation protocol would already be in place.

    Also attending this meeting, as an observer, was Lieutenant General (LTG) Joe Patterson, US Army, commanding 6th US Corps, which held part of the truce line, along with Russian and Republic of Chinese forces. The various US, Russian, and ROC commanders attended these meetings, from time to time, depending on tensions. These days, tensions were so low there was no perceived risk on either side in sending top-level people to a Truce Committee meeting.
    The attendees made their way into the conference room, where coffee, tea, and pastries had been laid out. LTG Patterson, in his normal battle dress uniform, spied a familiar face in People’s Liberation Army uniform, wearing the three large stars of a lieutenant general.

    “I hope the coffee is as good as in New York, General Bo!”, Joe smiled.

    General Bo laughed, “We certainly had plenty of coffee there, didn’t we, General Joe?” and stuck out his hand. Joe cheerfully took his former colleague’s proffered hand. “How are you, General Bo?” “Fine. I’m up here today to help work things with Mr. Martin. How have you been, General Joe?” “Very good. I’m visiting today. Normally, I’m commanding troops.” “Looks like we both got sent upstairs after the UN.” “Didn’t we, though. I’d say our work together there is paying off.” “Yes, it is, my friend.”

    Once everyone had gotten their food and drink, the Swiss representative called the meeting to order. Minutes of the previous month’s meeting were read, with no changes or objections.

    The Swiss major general then introduced the business at hand. “We have Mr. Tommy Martin here from the US Embassy in Shanghai. He’ll be working, at times, on farms near the truce line. Should he become sick or injured to where he cannot be successfully treated by PRC medical facilities, it has been agreed that Mr. Martin will cross the truce line for treatment in Allied medical facilities. I understand the Russian Empire and the PRC already have an evacuation protocol should Mr. Martin become sick or injured while working on PRC farms near the Russian border, so we can go from there. But first, I’d like to give Mr. Martin a chance to introduce himself. Mr. Martin?

    Tommy Martin smiled. “Thank you, general. I’m Tommy Martin, agricultural attaché at the US Embassy, Shanghai. Basically, what I do is go to farms in our host country and work with the farmers to improve their farming and soil cultivation practices. I’ve done such work in Africa and Latin America in the past. I work with people from the PRC’s Ministry of Agriculture. We go out on a Monday, come back on a Friday. I’m sure I’ll eventually be going all over the country, as the PRC needs me. I always carry my Embassy ID on me, as well as passes issued me by the PRC Government. Farming has some risk to it. Sometimes you get hurt, get sick, so I appreciate the help.”

    Major General Boris Savchenko, Russian representative, asked, “Do you have a schedule showing where you’ll be traveling? If we had a copy that would be very helpful.”

    General Bo introduced himself and replied, “Yes, schedules are usually drawn up two weeks in advance. They reflect where Mr. Martin will be, or if he’s in his office, or on vacation, or US/PRC holidays. We can provide a copy to the Truce Commission office. We also provide the Russians a copy when Mr. Martin is working near the Russian border.”

    Major General Kwang Bok Yoh, Republic of China representative, asked, “How much notification can you provide should Mr. Martin need to be evacuated over the truce line? I understand it will be an emergency, but even a few minutes will help.”

    General Bo answered, “I agree. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s decided Mr. Martin needs evacuation. Can we agree on radio frequencies and the language to use? That would help everyone.”

    General Kwang nodded. “Well, we can use the VHF and UHF international distress frequencies of 121.5 and 243 megahertz. What about 6,12, and 18 megahertz for modes of transportation that don’t have VHF/UHF radios? As far as the language to be used, I would recommend English, if at all possible, as we are using here.”

    General Bo stated, “That should work.”

    Major General Harry Lawrence, USMC, US representative, asked, “How would you plan to get Mr. Martin across the truce line? What form of transportation would you use?”

    General Bo replied, “Depending on the situation, we could use a car, jeep, truck, or an ambulance. If the situation demanded it, we could use a helicopter. The vehicles would fly white flags. And we would call ahead and indicate where we would ask to cross.”

    General Lawrence said, “Understand. The more notice, the better, but we’ll work it out.”

    General Bo asked, “If Mr. Martin needs to go to a hospital in Beijing, can you let us know?”

    General Kwang answered, “Certainly. We’ll pass word through this office, and I’d guess the US Embassy in Beijing would also tell the Americans in Shanghai.”

    General Bo mentioned, “This plan should work. As we get more agricultural attaches in from other countries, we could use this protocol should they require evacuation.”

    General Savchenko nodded. “It would make sense, if the countries involved have already reached an agreement in principle, but that’s above my pay grade.” Everyone laughed. “What else?”

    General Bo asked, “If there are other US Embassy personnel visiting the farm injured or sick besides Mr. Martin, will they be covered by this?”

    The Allied representatives nodded. “Yes, anyone from the US Embassy. We’ll take care of anyone who comes. Do you expect that?”

    The PRC general replied, “You might see the US Ambassador visiting a farm, perhaps.” He turned to Tommy Martin. “What do you think, Mr. Martin?” “You might see her visiting a farm in the Shanghai area. I would be surprised if she visited anywhere else, unless it was part of a special tour. But as a rule, it should be just me.”

    General Lawrence then said, “Sounds like a plan, then. When can we get the schedule, General Bo?”

    “We can fax the present schedule to the Truce Commission office later today, then as we develop new schedules we can fax them. Please keep in mind that Mr. Martin won’t be near the truce line all the time, just as needed. If there’s a change to the schedule requiring his presence near the truce line, we’ll fax it.” The Allied representatives nodded. “Anything else?”

    General Kwang replied, “That should do it. Why don’t we get this written up before we leave here, and all concerned can sign the protocol? Can you sign, General Bo?”

    “Yes. The Chairman authorized me to come here, work out procedures, and sign off on a mutually-agreed protocol. We have done that.”

    The Swiss general said, “Then if there is no further business, we shall adjourn for refreshments while the protocol is being typed. Our next regular Truce Commission meeting will be on December 9. Thank you.”

    The attendees then took a break, for more coffee, tea, and snacks. Joe again got together with his former colleague. “How much longer will you be here, General Joe?” “I’ve been here about eighteen months, probably another eighteen months, make it three years. How about you?” “Well, my upper echelons seem to like my work, so I’m where I am for the time being. Perhaps one day there may be a move. I don’t worry about it, Joe. I just do my job as best I can and whatever happens will happen.” “Same here, Bo. That’s all you can do. When you start worrying about promotions and jobs that’s a distraction. If my boss is happy, then I’m happy.” “An admirable attitude.”

    Thirty minutes later, the protocol was typed and each nation’s representative scrutinized their copy before signing. With all in order, the protocol was duly signed. That afternoon Tommy Martin’s schedule was faxed to the Truce Commission office.

    The US and PRC lieutenant generals shook hands and wished each other well.

    The casualty evacuation protocol was first used three years later, when a Japanese agricultural attaché was badly injured in a farm machinery accident. The Allies were immediately notified, and an ambulance containing the injured man and his PRC escort crossed the truce line with only a quick check on the patient’s condition. The Japanese attaché was treated at an Allied field hospital, then evacuated to Beijing for further treatment. The attaché made a full recovery.


    • #94
      If President Needleman was given the opportunity to send a letter to President-elect Trump, what might he say? Let's find out.

      President Donald J. Trump
      The White House
      Washington, D.C.

      Dear President Trump,

      Greetings from a different America! I’ve been given a chance to send you a letter, and the entity that will deliver my letter will take a letter back to me from you.

      Our America is different in some ways, the same in others. We are 64 states instead of your 50. We haven’t had a Civil War, and only one Great War, or what you would call a World War. There are about 400 million of us versus your America’s 320. We live in a world with a British Empire, a German Empire, a Russian Empire, and a Japanese Empire, all of whom are our allies. Instead of a “special relationship” with Britain, our “special relationship” is with the Russian Empire. But, as in your world, America is the most powerful country on the planet. The only nation that comes close is the Russian Empire, our dear friends and allies.

      One of the biggest differences between our America and your America is in the political realm, or lack thereof. The people who wrote our Constitution specified all members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches be selected by lot from a pool of those qualified. We don’t have elections, and there are no political parties. I was selected in November 2016 to serve a six-year term. I will only serve one term and when my term is over I am no longer eligible to be selected for any office. As a continuity measure, selections for President and Vice-President are staggered, and one-third of the Senate and the House are selected at staggered intervals. Only those who have served in the Senate or the House are eligible, subject to age limits, for selection to the Presidency or Vice-Presidency.

      Unlike you, I don’t choose my Cabinet. Cabinet members are all civil servants. While Cabinet members submit their resignations to the incoming President, at least in my case I didn’t accept any. The Cabinet members who have left have departed due to retirement, and their deputies moved up to take the departed Cabinet members’ places.

      This doesn’t mean our America and our world is perfect – far from it. We have economic cycles of better and slower times. We had what we call “The Great Crash” around the time of your Great Depression, but it didn’t last quite as long as your Depression.

      While the Middle East is a peaceful place, our America’s main foreign policy concern is with the People’s Republic of China. This PRC consists of most of your present-day China, except for the northeast and Taiwan, which are the Republic of China. US, Russian, and Republic of Chinese forces stopped the PRC from conquering all of China after a Communist revolution starting in 1949. Ever since, as in your Korea, US, Russian, and Republic of Chinese troops man a truce line against the PRC. During my term, we have made great strides in improving the relationship with the PRC and reducing the tension along the Chinese truce line. Basically, we agreed to allow the PRC into the United Nations and later granted them full diplomatic recognition. In return, the PRC agreed to stop all the support it had been providing to insurgencies first in Africa, then in Asia. I know how to make deals, too.

      But as you might imagine, this PRC exports little to our America. Our foreign trade is much more balanced, and our budget by Constitutional provision must be balanced. Our national debt is under $400 billion. Admittedly, our Federal taxes are high, but nobody files tax returns, no deductions or anything of that nature. Taxes are taken out of wages. But you get a lot for your money, such as a national health service.

      On a side note, if you saw our roads, you’d see Studebakers and Packards, alongside Dodges, Fords, Cadillacs, and Chevrolets. You’d see much more in the way of US-made electronic gadgets. Yes, we do import a certain number of cars and electronics, but we make sure American jobs come first. We also do good, fair trade deals.

      Yes, our America is different, but if you came here you’d still see the Stars and Stripes, and a country full of good, hard-working people, just as in your America.

      From what little I know of you, President Trump, you fought hard to win your election, and now you are working to hire your Cabinet members and other officials. While I didn’t have that challenge, I faced the challenge of coming into office with literally no notice. In preparing to serve, and now during my service, I have always kept two things in mind – that government governs best while governs least, and always do right by the country and the people. With no worries about re-election, I can work to those standards. I would suggest not worrying about re-election.

      If you always put America and the American people first in your policies, plans and decisions, the people are likely to re-elect you. If you are ever at a concern as to what is the right or best way to go, you could do what I do. When I am unsure, I ask myself if I could look “the man in the mirror” in the eye if I choose a certain option or a certain course of action. If the answer is yes, then I go ahead. If the answer is no, then I look for more options or courses of action. Yes, I make mistakes. When I make mistakes, I own up to them, apologize, try to make things right, and make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice. I find our people can take tough news straight, and that’s how I deliver it. Trust your people. I trust my fellow Americans, and I believe they trust me.

      My bottom line is always try to do right, no matter what. Like me, you have been given a sacred trust by the country, and that trust must be carried out. I am sure you will do a fine job, President Trump.

      May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America, both yours and mine.

      Sincerely yours,

      President of the United States of America


      • Jim Smitty
        Jim Smitty commented
        Editing a comment
        Trump? Yeah I can't say anything good about him so I'm keeping my trap shut.

      • Otis R. Needleman
        Otis R. Needleman commented
        Editing a comment
        Big Jim, believe Otis' comments would apply to any President of our America. Just so happens that it's Trump.

    • #95
      Tommy Martin, out in the fields of China, sees problems coming.

      February 3, 2021, 11:10 a.m.
      People’s Republic of China
      Kwangtung Province

      Tommy Martin’s satellite cell phone rang. He stopped his digging and picked up the phone. The display read “US EMBASSY SHANGHAI”. Tommy answered the phone.

      “Tommy Martin.”

      US Ambassador Pei-Lin Chang said, “Hello, Tommy! How are you?”

      “Hello, Madam Ambassador. Right now, I’m digging a hole on the edge of a dry rice paddy.”

      “Sounds interesting.”

      “Actually, ma’am, it is. I’m checking to see how dry the soil is three feet down. It’s very dry at the surface. This area hasn’t been getting the rain it needs.”

      “And if there isn’t enough water, the rice won’t grow properly.”

      “Or it might not grow at all.”

      “I called to let you know Chairman Han wants to see you two weeks from today. He wants to know how things are going as you see them. The Chairman specifically said not to tell him what he wants to hear, but what he needs to know.”

      “I’ll be there, ma’am. Before I see the Chairman, I’d like to get with you so you know what’s going on. The lack of rain could turn into a major problem here this year, possibly much worse than last year.”

      “When will you be back at the Embassy?”

      “Late Friday afternoon, probably by four-thirty. Would you be around?”

      “Yes, I should be here until five. Why don’t you call me when you’re on the way back, please?”

      “I’ll do that, ma’am.”

      “Thanks, Tommy. See you then.”

      “Yes, ma’am.”

      Tommy Martin finished digging his hole and got his soil tester ready. The ground looked and felt dry but he wanted a reading he could take back. He inserted the probes at the bottom of the three-foot deep hole. A few minutes later the machine provided a reading. Moisture: 13%. This deep, the moisture should be at least twice that much.

      Tommy’s Chinese co-worker, Comrade Hua Kuo-Feng, said, “How dry is it, Tommy?” “13%. Not good.” “No.” “And the surface read 8%.” “Not good at all. Let me fill in this hole and after lunch let’s look at the weather forecasts for this area.” “I’ll help you with the hole.” Tommy grinned. “Thanks, Mr. Hua.”

      After lunch, Tommy fired up his computer, got a satellite Internet connection, and logged onto the US National Weather Service page. He and Mr. Hua looked at projected rainfall for the next month over this area of the PRC. The forecast called for much drier conditions than usual over a large area of the PRC’s best rice-growing areas in the south, where two crops a year was normal. Planting was to start in late March, but due to dry conditions wells weren’t producing as much water and local rivers and streams were low. Tommy and his partner looked at the screen glumly. “Mr. Hua, how deep do wells here usually go?” “Maybe twenty to twenty-five meters, at most.” “Have there been any efforts to dig deeper wells?” “I don’t know, Tommy.” “We need to ask the head of this state farm, then.”

      Tommy’s other Chinese co-worker, Comrade Tae Jin-Su, ostensibly with the Ministry of Agriculture but actually Colonel Tae of the Ministry of State Security, joined the two men.

      “Look at this, Mr. Tae. If this area isn’t going to get much rain there will be little rice unless we can get deeper wells.” “I see.” “We’re going to ask the head of the farm about digging deeper wells.” Mr. Tae nodded.

      The three men went to see Comrade Ha Vo-Phong, head of the May 17th State Farm. Mr. Ha was in his office. He didn’t like Americans, even if they had a pass signed by the Chairman himself. Mr. Hua said, “Good afternoon, Comrade Ha. We need to discuss water for the rice fields.” Since Comrade Ha didn’t speak English, Mr. Tae translated for Tommy.

      Comrade Ha answered, “I know they are somewhat dry now, but we’ll get rain.”

      Mr. Hua responded, “We’ve just checked some forecasts, and it doesn’t look like there will be enough rain. How deep are your wells?”

      Comrade Ha replied, “How do you know there won’t be enough rain? Are you listening to this American? What does he know? Do you trust all these machines he brought? Maybe he’s a spy or a provocateur! I think I’ll call State Security!” Tommy watched Comrade Ha’s face and listened to his angry speech. Mr. Tae translated and nodded to Tommy.

      Mr. Tae stood up and pulled a special wallet out of his pocket. He opened the wallet and showed it to Comrade Ha. Comrade Ha then realized he was dealing with a high-ranking member of State Security.

      Mr. Tae, with a face of iron, said, “What’s your problem? You’ve seen Mr. Martin’s passes. The Chairman himself has signed both of them. Comrade Zhou (Head of the Ministry of State Security) personally checked all those machines, in the presence of the Chairman. We use them every day in the field, all over China. Mr. Martin is here at the request of the Chairman. He reports to his ambassador and to the Chairman. Now if you don’t want to end up in a State Security cell RIGHT NOW, you’d better apologize and cooperate!”

      Tommy watched Comrade Ha’s face turn white under Mr. Tae’s tongue-lashing. I figured Mr. Tae was with State Security. No big deal. I’m not doing anything I wouldn’t want the Chairman to see.

      Comrade Ha was used to intimidating people by threatening to call State Security. Faced with someone who could throw him in a cell or even shoot him, Comrade Ha quickly changed his tune. “Comrade Colonel, I apologize. Comrade Hua, our wells are about twenty meters deep. And with the dry weather they aren’t producing much water, just a little more than enough for the people to drink and water the animals.” Mr. Tae translated for Tommy.

      Tommy asked Mr. Hua how the farm dug wells. “By hand, with a well point.” “Has anything been done to deepen the wells? Those well points are still in the ground. Get some more pipe for one well and see how far they must go to hit more water. Do they have pipe?” “He says they have enough pipe to go down ten more meters with one well.” “Mr. Hua, Mr. Tae, I would advise they deepen that well right now. We need to see how far they might have to go. If they can’t hit a good source of water by hand I would recommend drilling wells. I don’t know the geological makeup of the area but I would think your geologists could find the present water table.”

      Mr. Tae said to Comrade Ha, “Mr. Martin has advised that you should try to deepen the well you have pipe for immediately. It is important to know how far down we’ll need to go to reach a better supply of water. Why didn’t you do this earlier?” “Comrade Colonel, I thought it would rain.” “The State expects their farm managers to consider all possibilities. Your answer is not acceptable.” Comrade Ha’s face turned white again. Mr. Tae’s really getting on him. I wonder if he will be fired or go to jail.

      Mr. Tae looked at Comrade Ha. “Your lack of action smells of a wrecker!” In the PRC, those who considered to be enemies of the Communist Party and the state were called wreckers, among other things. At this, Comrade Ha’s face got even paler. “Comrade Colonel, I’m not a wrecker! I swear I’m not!” “What have you been doing here, then, just sitting on your ass and eating well? Why aren’t you monitoring the land, this land the Chairman has entrusted to you? When we came here we could see things were dry. We didn’t need any American machine to tell us that! Then Mr. Martin himself dug a one-meter-deep hole and we checked the moisture. Did you even think of that? You could have dug some holes. I didn’t see any. If you were doing your job you should have told us the moisture levels in the soil at various depths, and what you had done to get more water. No! You didn’t. You just said things were dry but you expected rain. Then you walked away, after giving our guest Mr. Martin a dirty look. You don’t think I didn’t see that? Your criminal laziness is that of a wrecker! Stand up! Hands behind your back!” Mr. Tae handcuffed Comrade Ha and picked up the phone. He looked at Tommy and said, “I’m sorry you had to see this.” Tommy said, “I understand, Mr. Tae.” Their country, their rules. I just do my job. If Ha had been more cooperative, or had done his job in the first place, Mr. Tae wouldn’t need to arrest him.

      Twenty minutes later, a car from the local Ministry of State Security office arrived, along with a prosecutor from the Procurator’s Office. Comrade Ha was bundled into the back of the car, while Mr. Tae and Mr. Hua told the prosecutor what had happened. They showed the prosecutor the hole Tommy had dug, the printouts of soil moisture, and Tommy, after showing the prosecutor his passes, turned on his computer and showed the prosecutor the long-range rain forecasts for the area. Mr. Tae and Mr. Hua translated the English on the display. The prosecutor took notes and Tommy also gave her copies of the printouts from the soil analyzer. The prosecutor, who had never seen an American before, asked Tommy what he was doing here. “I’m an agricultural attaché at the US Embassy in Shanghai. Together with Mr. Tae and Mr. Hua, I visit farms and do what I can to help the farmers grow more food.” “And you have met our Chairman!” “Yes, I have met with him and showed him and Comrade Zhou all these machines I use, and how they work. I analyzed the soil in a plant pot in the Chairman’s office. I’m not doing anything secret, or anything the Chairman wouldn’t want me to do.” The Chinese lady smiled and said, “I am sure of that.”

      The next day, some of the farm’s workers deepened one of the wells, which was twenty meters deep. Using the last of the pipe, a better supply of water was found at the thirty-meter level. Tommy recommended to Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae that a geologist come to check the local water table, if possible to get more pipe to reach accessible water, and see what well-digging capabilities were available. “Gentlemen, I’m concerned that this problem is widespread, and there may not be enough time to provide enough water to those two-crop areas. We’ll need to let the Ministry of Agriculture know about this immediately.” Mr. Hua passed on the news to Shanghai.

      Friday afternoon, as advertised, Tommy Martin made it back home to the Embassy. He lugged his tired carcass and his gear up to see the Ambassador.

      “Welcome back, Tommy!”

      “Thank you, ma’am.”

      “How did it go after our conversation?”

      “We were able to get one of the farm’s wells deepened with the pipe available. They hit good water at thirty meters. I suggested the water table be checked by a geologist, and try to deepen as many wells as possible.”

      “That’s just one farm.”

      “Indeed, ma’am. The lack of rain is widespread, especially in the areas where the PRC gets two crops of rice a year. I don’t know if the Chinese will be able to get enough water in time for the March planting. Then with so many deeper wells, the water table will lower and the amount of water will go down again. In my opinion, we could be looking at a much smaller harvest, at least in rice, than this past year.”

      “I see. What should the PRC do?”

      “I’d say they should get with their grain dealer, once they have an idea of how much they’ll be short and in which grains, and try to get some options contracts. Lock in prices before they get too high six or eight months down the road. At least that’s what I’ll recommend to Chairman Han, plus the wells and well-drilling, and water conservation measures.” Tommy paused. “I’m also going to suggest giving the state farm workers bigger plots for their own use, as well as allowing people to have more chickens and pigs. It wouldn’t take a lot of land, probably not that much grain, and you’d see more vegetables and eggs available.”

      “How much extra land and animals are you suggesting, Tommy?”

      “Each family is allowed an eighth of an acre, twelve chickens, and two or three pigs, or one cow. I’d recommend doubling those.”

      “Yes, it isn’t that much. Can’t hurt to suggest. I think that’s all you can do. Could I trouble you to write this up, please?”

      “Can do, ma’am. I’ll get it to you early Monday; I’m in the office all morning. Ag needs to know about this, as does Mr. Zappa. This could end up being a big problem.”

      “Why do you say that?”

      “The PRC may need a lot of rice, maybe more than they can afford, maybe other grains. Could be a very tough year here next year.”

      “Thanks, Tommy. Enjoy your weekend.”

      “Thank you, ma’am. You, too.”

      With that, Tommy headed home for the weekend. The first thing Monday morning he wrote up his observations in an emailed report for the Ambassador, with copies going to the Agriculture Department and Mr. Zappa.

      February 10, 2021, 10:00 a.m.
      NISA Headquarters
      Office of Mr. Frank Zappa

      Frank looked at Tommy Martin’s report, paying particular attention to the implications of the expected shortage of rainfall in the main Chinese rice-growing areas. Tommy also told Frank he was meeting with the Chairman on the 17th. He logged into a NISA classified weather site and the more-accurate weather data and forecasts confirmed Tommy’s concerns.

      Mr. Zappa did a quick email to Colonel Murtaugh. “Boss, our guy on the ground in the PRC says ground moisture in at least one two-rice-crop/year region is very low, and not much rain in the forecast. Planting starts next month. Our guy doesn’t think they’ll get enough wells drilled or deepened to provide enough water to the region. Likely impact – PRC could be facing a major rice shortage, possibly other grains, too, bigger than last year. Colonel Murtaugh forwarded Mr. Zappa’s email to the Director, who passed it to the President with a note that Tommy would be meeting with Chairman Han on the 17th. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Ken Doo may well have a job this fall.

      February 17, 2021, 11:00 a.m.
      Chairman Han Un-Sok’s office

      Tommy Martin, bringing his by now familiar equipment, was ushered into the room, where he was met by a smiling Chairman Han.

      “Good morning, Mr. Chairman.”

      “Thank you for coming, Mr. Martin. How have you been?”

      “Good, sir, and busy.”

      “That’s what I like to hear. I wanted to see how things are going from your perspective. I get reports from our people but I need to be able to see the picture from every angle.”

      “I understand, sir. I would say Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae have been great to work with. I believe we work well together.”

      “Funny, they say the same about you.”

      Tommy smiled. “Well, Mr. Chairman, we’ve been to a lot of places and done a lot in a pretty short time. And in addition to making suggestions, I’m starting to provide training to trainers, so information can go farther faster.”

      “An excellent idea, Mr. Martin.” The Chairman paused. “I understand there were some issues a couple of weeks ago, at the May 17th State Farm.”

      “Yes, sir. First, the whole area is very dry, not just the topsoil but as far as three feet down. If I could, let me set up my equipment and I can show you the readings. Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae were also present when I took these readings.”


      Tommy set up the soil analyzer, his computer, and got out his satellite phone. “I have things to show you on each device, Mr. Chairman.” Chairman Han nodded.

      First, Tommy punched up the results for the two readings he took at the May 17th Farm. “Here’s the date and time, sir.” The Chairman smiled. “I trust you.” “The surface moisture is 8% and three feet down it’s 13%. Those numbers should be at least twice as high. And just looking, you can see everything is very dry. Wells aren’t producing much water, streams and rivers running low. This area is supposed to produce two crops of rice a year, with planting starting next month. With so little moisture, I don’t believe you’ll get much of a crop from that farm, if any, or, from that region.”

      “What are the prospects for rain, Mr. Martin?”

      “Got it right here, sir.” Tommy went to the National Weather Service site and looked at the projections for rainfall for the upcoming four weeks. These projections were more accurate than the data he had accessed two weeks prior. Tommy expanded the map. “Mr. Chairman, in this area the forecast is for below-average rain. Since things are already dry, you need above-average, heavy rains to make up for it. It doesn’t look like that will happen.”

      “I understand. What do you suggest?”

      “Sir, first the farms need to deepen their wells as soon as possible. We deepened one on the May 17th Farm and got good water flow at thirty meters. But there was only enough pipe for one well, and that farm has eight. Multiply that by all the dry farms in the area and you’re talking about a lot of pipe.”

      “I see.”

      “I’m not a geologist, but I would suggest getting geologists out to the area and determining the level of the underground water table. That gives you an idea of how far down to push those wells, or maybe drill new wells.”

      “I understand.”

      “Mr. Chairman, should you not get much of a first harvest, the rice crop will be short. If the second harvest isn’t good, the rice crop will be even shorter.”

      “That’s correct.”

      “Sir, I understand that the PRC has hired an international grain dealer to purchase grain overseas. You might want to meet with this dealer and get some of what we call futures options.”

      “What are futures options?”

      “They are a means of making sure you can buy grain in the future at the best possible negotiated price. If I may see your ink pen, I’ll give you an example.” The Chairman handed Tommy his pen, with a quizzical smile.

      “Mr. Chairman, you sell pens. But I don’t need a pen today, I need one six months from now.” The Chairman nodded. “So, I come see you, admire your pens, and offer you twenty-five chon (PRC small change, at 100 chon to the yuan) for the right to buy a pen six months from now for three yuan. You agree to take the twenty-five chon now and sell me the pen, if I still want it, six months for now at a price of three yuan. We write the terms down, both of us sign the paper, I pay you twenty-five chon, and I leave. Six months later, I need that ink pen. But the price has gone up to five yuan. Since I have a contract with you covering my future purchase, all I have to pay you is three yuan. But let’s say the price had gone down to two yuan. I still must pay you three yuan, per our contract. Or I may not need a pen at all. I can walk away from the contract, or I may have to pay you, say, twenty-five chon to end the contract. There are many ways to write these contracts, and these contracts can cover all sorts of things – grain, oil, metals, personal services. I don’t know everything about such contracts but I believe your grain dealers will.”

      The Chairman considered the information carefully. “If we need grain in the future, when would we want to make these future contracts?”

      “Sir, as soon as you know how much grain you may need, you would want to talk to the grain dealer, but I would do so very quietly.”

      “Why is that?”

      “Because as soon as it is known that the PRC is looking to buy a lot of rice, or any other grain, the prices will start to go up. Other rice-growing areas may also have bad years. When the supply shrinks, the price grows. But your grain dealer is used to working in such an environment, and can advise you.”

      “Can you help on this?”

      “Mr. Chairman, I don’t know enough to give you the best counsel. I know the basics, but this can be very complicated. I would suggest asking for some people from our Department of Agriculture for advice, such as happened with the recent grain purchases. They can help make sure you get good contracts at fair prices.”

      “So noted. Anything else?”

      “Yes, sir. I’ve seen a number of state farms. I noticed each farm family gets a certain amount of land for their own use, and can keep up to twelve chickens, two or three pigs, and a cow. These small plots are very well-tended, and I didn’t see a family that didn’t have twelve chickens and at least one pig. One way or another, you get a lot of food out of those plots.” Tommy turned on his satellite phone. “Here are some pictures, Mr. Chairman. The farmers didn’t like me taking these.” “Why not?” “I believe they think they would get in trouble when their small plots are compared to the farm fields, which aren’t as well-tended.” The Chairman looked at pictures of small, well-tended plots, where food was coaxed from every possible square inch of soil, and animal manure fertilized the ground. “Yes, I see what you mean. So, what do you suggest?”

      “Mr. Chairman, I would allow these families to have bigger plots and raise more animals, perhaps double. You’d only be talking two dozen chickens, four pigs, and two cows, at most, and a fourth of an acre of land, plus selling more feed grain and calcium for the animals. This would give you more eggs, more meat, and perhaps more dairy products. Some would be eaten at home, some sold in village markets, but overall more load taken off the rationing system.”

      “I will take that under consideration, Mr. Martin. Let us go back to wells. Can you go down there and supervise well deepening and drilling in the region over the next four weeks?”

      “Yes, sir, but if you don’t mind, I would like to act as an adviser instead of a supervisor. There was a problem at the May 17th Farm with the farm manager. He believed I was an American spy, here to cause trouble. I see this from time to time, but Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae get them to cooperate. I would say Mr. Tae and Mr. Hua might be better as supervisors. The farm managers wouldn’t be taking orders from an American, but another Chinese. As an observer and adviser, I can make suggestions to Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae and they can follow up on them, if they agree.”

      “I have heard what happened at the May 17th Farm. I’m sorry.”

      “I understand, sir.”

      “Your idea about being an adviser on the well work is a good one. Please do that, then.” The Chairman wrote down a phone number on a card. “This number rings here, and here only.” Chairman Han pointed to a red phone on his desk. “You call me any time you need to do so. I have your number, too.” The Chairman gave Tommy the card.

      “Yes, sir. I will do that.” Tommy paused. “I would make one more suggestion, Mr. Chairman.” “What is that, Mr. Martin?” “If you get a chance you might want to make a visit down south, let everyone know just how important these wells are to the nation.”

      “Don’t be surprised to see me. When will you be going south?”

      “Tomorrow. This afternoon we’ll rework our schedules and get you a copy. I come home for weekends but head right out on Monday mornings.”

      The Chairman smiled. “Thank you very much for your work, Mr. Martin. I appreciate it, as does the People’s Republic.”

      “You’re welcome, sir, and I would also commend Mr. Tae and Mr. Hua for their help, and I thank you for your support, as well.”

      “Let us meet again in a few months, then. I’ll let you know.”

      “Indeed, sir.”

      Tommy Martin shook the Chairman’s proffered hand, packed his gear, and left. Upon returning to the Embassy he let Ambassador Chang know how things went, and told her of his new assignment. “Sounds good. If you need anything from us here, just call.” “Will do, ma’am.”

      When the Chairman wants something done in the PRC, he gives the word, and people get cracking. He directed an “all-out shock effort” to deepen wells and drill new wells in the areas affected by the shortage of moisture. Supplies of pipe were brought in from other parts of the country. Geologists determined water tables. PRC Army units helped drill wells and deepen wells. Irrigation ditches were cleaned out to maximize use of every drop of the precious fluid. Political propaganda brigades helped keep the workers informed, entertained, and motivated. Agents of State Security monitored the effort workers and especially farm managers devoted to the Chairman’s directions, taking action as needed. Tommy Martin, Mr. Hua, and Mr. Tae went from farm to farm, the two Chinese supervising as the Chairman’s emissaries, Tommy as an observer and adviser.

      And the Chairman was as good as his word. On March 8, the Chairman happened to meet up with Tommy, Mr. Hua and Mr. Tae at the Comrade Xu Gong-Fang State Farm.

      “How are you, Mr. Martin?”

      “Good, Mr. Chairman. Making progress.”

      “Do you think it will be enough?”

      “Sir, I don’t know, but we are much better now than we were a month ago. These paddies need a great deal of water to make up for the lack earlier. Every drop is helping.”

      “Well, we shall see. Even if the spring crop is poor, at least we should have enough well water for the summer crop.”

      “I would agree, Mr. Chairman.”

      The spring rice crop in the affected areas was only 60% of normal. Rain was sparse, but without the well water losses would have been much higher. The summer crop was rather better, at 75% of normal. Nevertheless, all concerned saw grain supply problems coming up, and started preparing to meet those problems. This information was also passed to Washington.
      Last edited by Otis R. Needleman; 11-26-2016, 04:26 AM.


      • #96
        Keep it up, Otis!


      • #97
        It's been a while. Hope it won't be so long between future installments. Just have a lot of things going on in life these days. In this one, the husband of a friend and colleague passes away.

        February 23, 2021, 6:30 a.m.
        Tokyo, Japan
        Residence of the Prime Minister

        Yuriko Ojima awoke, without an alarm, as usual. As she cleared the sleep from her head, Mrs. Ojima realized she didn’t hear the normal sounds of her husband’s breathing, even though he was lying next to her in the bed. The Prime Minister checked her husband and found he had passed away. A wave of sadness engulfed the Prime Minister as she dialed for her security people.

        Two hours later, 6:30 p.m., February 22
        The White House
        President and Mrs. Needleman’s family quarters

        Otis and Vicki were just starting dinner when the red phone rang. “Sorry, sweets.”

        The President looked at the phone display, which read TOKYO, as he picked up the receiver.

        “Hello, Yuriko.”

        “Hello, Otis. Sorry to bother you, but my husband passed away in his sleep last night.”

        “I’m sorry, Yuriko. How can we help?”

        “There isn’t much you can do, but I hope you and Vicki could come to the funeral.”

        “We’ll be there. When is it?”

        “At 1:00 p.m. our time on the 26th.”

        “Got it. I’m sorry. If there is anything you need, anything you want us to bring, or anything we can do just let us know.”

        “Thank you very much, Otis.”

        “You’re welcome, Yuriko. We’ll see you very soon.”

        Otis hung up the phone. “Yuriko Ojima’s husband just passed away. He went in his sleep. The funeral’s at 1:00 p.m. Tokyo time on the 26th. We’re going.”

        “Yeah, wouldn’t miss that for the world. What a shame. He was a very nice man.”

        “I’m going to finish dinner and then make some calls. I want to see if Naftaly is going, we could add a day to get with the Frenkels. Always things for us to talk about face-to-face in the flesh.”

        The President finished dinner and then called Secretary of State Bob Gibson. “Bob, Prime Minister Ojima’s husband passed away last night in Tokyo.” “Yes, I just got a call from Ambassador Markovitch. Coming out now on Japanese TV.” “The First Lady and I will attend the funeral from here.” “Got it. The Ambassador and her husband will be there, too. She’s making arrangements for flowers.” “Great.”

        Next, Otis called Ron Solmonson. “Hi, Ron.” “Hello, Otis.” “Heads up – Prime Minister Ojima just called. It’s morning in Tokyo. Her husband passed away overnight.” “I’m sorry.” “Vicki and I are going to the funeral on the 26th. We’ll leave some time tomorrow, most likely. We may stay an extra day afterward to meet with Naftaly Frenkel. When things like this happen, I try to build in an extra day to meet with people before going home. When I can I like to talk face-to-face.” “Understand. Anything I can do right now?” “Nah, we’ll discuss it tomorrow, just wanted to give you a heads-up. You’ll handle things while I’m gone.” “Will do.” “See you in the morning.”

        The next call was to Naftaly Frenkel. “My apologies for the hour, Naftaly. Has Yuriko Ojima called you?” “Yes.” “Will you and Yuliya attend the funeral?” “Yes.” “Want to stay a day after and get together?” “Why not?” “Okay. I’ll call you later.”

        Otis then called the White House operations office. “Yes, Mr. President.” “The First Lady and I will need to go to Tokyo, arriving on the 25th. We’ll go back to Washington on the 28th. We are attending a funeral for Prime Minister Ojima’s husband in Tokyo starting at 1300 on the 26th and staying over an extra day for meetings. Can you start building our travel, please?” “Yes, sir. When do you want the departure time from the White House?” “Could I get something before 2200 this evening?” “Yes, sir.” “Great. Thank you very much.”

        8:30 a.m., February 23
        The Oval Office

        The President and Vice-President were talking about the funeral and the trip.

        “Ron, we’re leaving this evening, should be back on the 28th. Since this is the first time I’ve left town since you came on board, here are some tips to help. Ken may have also provided you some info.”

        “He did, Otis, but I appreciate everything.”

        “You won’t need to worry about the nuclear codes. Things with the PRC are quiet. I’ve been told Chairman Han is attending the funeral, so I’ll try to meet with him. Just like the Allied leaders, any time I can meet with Chairman Han, I try to do so. This advances relations and could keep small problems from turning into big ones. Now, the one Allied leader I always spend time with on these occasions is Prime Minister Frenkel. We usually carve out a day together. We’ll discuss various things, socialize a bit. The wives will do some things together, maybe get in some discreet shopping. The Tsar won’t be able to attend, but if he and the Tsarina were attending we’d spend some time with them. Keep this stuff in mind should anything ever happen to me.” The Vice-President nodded.

        “Otherwise, just act as President, chair meetings, do whatever. If there’s anything routine to sign, sign it by direction. If you think I should sign it, forward it to the Embassy in Tokyo. Ask the Chief of Staff what the deadline would be to send it out so I get it. I’d rather do a bunch of paperwork on the way home instead of seeing a ton of papers in the in-basket when I get back. Far as bills go, take a look, make any comments or call the Speaker or Senate Leader. Forward them if you like. Should any emergencies come up, such as a natural or man-made disaster, take care of it. If you have questions, get with the Chief of Staff and the respective Secretaries. But don’t sit on it, take action immediately. Lives are likely to be at stake. Do what needs to be done and back-brief me when you get a chance. It is always better to make a mistake by trying too hard than by not trying hard enough.” The President paused. “Any questions, Ron?” “No, Otis. Makes sense to me.” “Yeah, once you’ve done this a couple of times it’ll turn into second nature. And everyone’s always willing to help out.”

        The President and First Lady departed Andrews AFB that evening on Air Force One for Japan, landing at Yokota Air Base. On the way over, Otis called Yuriko Ojima to see how she was doing. The Needlemans stayed at the Tokyo Grand Hilton, where the Frenkels were also staying. The two leaders and First Ladies met for breakfast the next morning and traveled with their respective ambassadors in a joint motorcade to a Buddhist temple for the funeral. Mr. Ojima’s cremation would come after the funeral, and the ashes would be inurned and interred privately.

        President Needleman gave one of the eulogies for Mr. Ojima. “Ojima-san was a great man. He was a trail blazer for Japan. As Prime Minister Ojima has been the first Japanese female Prime Minister, Ojima-san was the first male First Spouse, as it were. He took on this new job without hesitation, serving as a fine ambassador for the Japanese Empire. Ojima-san carried out every duty in a dedicated manner.” The President paused.

        “But Ojima-san had a lighter side, too. A couple of years ago, we had our annual summit in Havana. One afternoon we all went out on a boat for sailing and fishing. Ojima-san hooked himself a nice tarpon, which gave him a good battle before Ojima-san could reel it in. He took the fish back to Japan and had it mounted. But every time Ojima-san told us about catching the fish, the fish got bigger and bigger, and the last time he told the story it took two additional people to haul it in.” Prime Minister Ojima smiled. “But we grieve for our friend, and we grieve with Prime Minister Ojima in the loss of her husband. He is missed.”

        After the funeral, there was a luncheon with the Prime Minister and her family, the Japanese Emperor and Empress, and the leaders. Chairman Han sat next to President Needleman. Chairman Han asked President Needleman if he would have some time for a short, informal meeting that afternoon. “Certainly, could I trouble you to meet at our hotel, in our suite?” “That will be fine.”

        Later, at the hotel, Chairman Han and President Needleman met in the Needlemans’ suite. The two men discussed various things, especially Mr. Martin’s work. “Mr. Martin has only been in our country for a short while, but he has gotten much done.” “I’m glad to hear that, Mr. Chairman. We think highly of him.” “Mr. Martin has cautioned me that due to a shortage of rainfall our crops will likely be insufficient. He has advised getting with the grain broker to see about what he called futures contracts.” “Mr. Chairman, if Mr. Martin has advised that I would advise contacting the grain broker immediately. The sooner you can secure those future supplies, the less it will cost you.” “Mr. Martin said the same thing, about getting those contracts done soon, and quietly, to help keep the costs down.” “Well, you want to get the most for your money, and when it’s known that the People’s Republic is looking for grain in the future, prices will go up.” Once again, this President Needleman is an honest man. “We’ll do that. In talking with Ambassador Chang, she has offered technical assistance from the United States regarding the futures contracts.” “I hope you would accept the help.” The Chairman smiled. “We have.” Otis already knew that, but making the suggestion was good diplomacy, as he saw it.

        Dinner that evening was at the Embassy, with Ambassador and Mr. Markovitch. They discussed the funeral and how Prime Minister Ojima was doing. After dinner, the President went to the Embassy’s secure vault and went through some papers the Vice-President had sent. There would be one more delivery the next day before the President returned to Washington.

        The next day was a day to get together with the Frenkels. It had been a few months since the two couples had had the chance to enjoy each other’s company. Otis and Naftaly spent the morning discussing several issues. Otis mentioned his meeting with Chairman Han regarding the crop situation in South China. “Naftaly, it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. We should be prepared to see anything from, say, a 20% reduction to maybe 50% less of a crop there.” “If that 50% is all in rice that’s going to be a problem.” “Yeah, between the two of us, if we make good bids, we could cover wheat, soybeans, and corn, but no way in hell do we grow that much rice.” “What does Mr. Zappa and his people say?” “That’s what he told me, in a little different wording.” “Apparently, your Mr. Martin was able to help get a push for drilling wells in those areas.” “Yeah, but he isn’t sure yet how the crops will look. Their two-crop rice areas have been pretty hard-hit.” “Otis, at the upper level, do you think the South Chinese are going to have the money to pay for all the imported grain?” “I can’t be sure right now, Naftaly. I could see the Allies either donating grain or money to buy grain. Cheaper than going to war.” “I don’t want them to become dependent on relief, Otis.” “Neither do I. I don’t think Chairman Han does, either, because that would give people reason to challenge his regime.” “We’re going to have to play this one very carefully.” “That we shall.”

        The two men also talked about Raisa Entis. It had been almost a year since Leonid Entis had passed away. Otis had last seen Raisa in California when his daughter Donna went to Vandenberg AFB. He knew Vicki and Raisa were staying in touch. “Otis, Raisa’s doing better. She’s working with the Russian chapter of the Babe Ruth Disease Society. Keeps her busy while still remembering Leonid.” “I’d say her involvement as the wife of a former Prime Minister will help raise awareness and donations to the cause.”

        After lunch, the two couples visited a couple of art museums. The break felt good. They’d be seeing each other again no later than November, in Sochi.

        The next day President and Mrs. Needleman paid a quick departure call on Yuriko Ojima. “Thank both of you for coming, and Otis, thank you again for the eulogy.” “You’re welcome, Yuriko, and if you need anything please call us.”
        After leaving the Prime Minister’s residence, the Needlemans went to Yokota AFB and Air Force One headed back to Washington. Otis went through papers and emails and made some calls. Ron Solmonson was doing fine. Vicki also went through some emails and made some calls, then rested.

        Air Force One touched down at Andrews AFB on time that February 28th. As President and Mrs. Needleman walked down the air stairs, a light snow began to fall. “Home again, honey.” “Yes, we are.”


        • #98
          The First Lady develops cancer. The Needleman family goes through the experience, just like so many other families around the world.

          March 3, 2021
          The White House

          President and Mrs. Needleman had just had their annual physicals, a little late this year due to attending Mr. Ojima’s funeral. Otis was about the same, still needing his blood pressure medicine and proton pump inhibitor medicine due to job stress, as well as the ongoing “battle of the bulge”. The doctor had found a lump in Vicki’s left breast. A mammogram confirmed the lump to be cancerous. Remember, in this USA, all cancers were treated via the cure provided by the aliens. Accordingly, an appointment was made for Vicki to go to Walter Reed Army Hospital on the morning of Monday, March 8 for administration of the cure. The First Lady would be asleep until early Friday afternoon, standard after the cancer cure was administered.

          That evening Otis called the kids and let them know about their mother. While he expected Vicki to recover fully and quickly after the treatment, Otis didn’t want the kids to be blindsided by any news accounts. While he told the kids there was no need for concern and no need to come to Washington, Donna became very concerned. “I’m coming back to be with Mom, Dad.” Otis knew better than to say no to his daughter in this situation. “Okay, when are you coming? I’ll send a plane to Vandenberg.” “Sunday morning, say, 11:00 Pacific time. I’ll leave the next Sunday, after Mom is out.” “Yeah, we’ll work your return after you get here. You can get your leave taken care of tomorrow.” “Okay, Dad.”

          Vicki called her brother Charlie and let him know what was going on, and to let the other San Angelo family members know. “Did the gringo do this to you?” “Oh, God, Charlie. No. Anyway, the cancer will be gone real soon, just like it was never there in the first place.” “Do you need us to come?” “Nah, nothing to see. They start an IV, give you the medicine, then you sleep for the rest of the week. Wake up, eat, go home.” “How’s Otis doing with this?” “He’s concerned, but okay. Donna got upset and she’s coming here the day before, even though Otis told the kids no need to.” “Well, shit, Vicki, you’re the only mother she has.” “I know, she’s still my baby.”

          The next day
          Vandenberg AFB, California
          30th Logistics Squadron
          Supply Division chief’s office

          Captain Russ Gorrell heard a knock at the door and looked up from his paperwork.

          “Hi, Donna! What’s up? Have a seat.”

          “Russ, I got a call last night from my dad. My mom’s been diagnosed with cancer. Her treatment starts Monday and I want to be there with her. So, I’m requesting leave for all next week.”

          “Yeah, sure, let’s see that leave form.” Donna gave Russ the leave form and he signed it, after noting the dates of the leave on his calendar. “Not to worry, Donna. That cure works every time. I’m sure your mom will do just fine.”

          “Thanks, Russ.”

          “You’re quite welcome. Have you told your security people?”

          “Yes, I told the agent in charge last night. I believe they’ll let the SPs and the OSI know.”

          “I’ll give the colonel a heads-up. Anything happening next week I’d need to handle?”

          “Probably not. Once I get the leave number I’ll let my NCO in charge know. I don’t see any problems.”

          “Okay. Please drop off my copy of the leave form after you get back from the orderly room. Give us a holler if you need anything or you need to stay on leave longer.”

          “Will do. Thanks again, Russ.” With that, Donna left her boss’ office.

          Captain Gorrell picked up the phone and called his boss.

          “Lieutenant Colonel Judisch.”

          “Boss, this is Russ.”

          “What’s up?”

          “Donna Needleman just came by, sir. Her mom has cancer. Her cure starts on Monday. Donna’s requested leave to be with her. I’ve approved it.”

          “No sweat, Russ. How long will Donna be out?”

          “Leaving the 7th, returning the 14th, back in the office on the 15th.”

          “Has she let her Secret Service people know?”

          “Yes, sir. Donna believes they’ll coordinate with the SPs and the OSI.”

          “Most likely, but I’ll give the wing head shed a heads-up.”

          “Yes, sir.”

          “Thanks, Russ. Oh, ask Donna where her mom’s being treated so we can send flowers.” In the military, it’s customary for the unit to send flowers to the hospital where a sick family member is being treated, or to the funeral home in case of a death in the family.

          “I’ll ask her when she drops off her leave form, sir.”

          “Great. Thanks!”

          Lieutenant Colonel Judisch then punched some numbers on his cell phone.

          “Colonel Mach.”

          “Colonel, Bruce.”

          "What's going on?"

          “Just a heads-up, ma’am. Lieutenant Needleman’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer. Treatment starts Monday. Donna’s going on leave Sunday for a week to be with her mother, back in the office on the 15th.”

          “Thanks for the heads-up, Bruce. Has she let her Secret Service detail know?”

          “Yes, ma’am. Last night. She believes they’ll advise the SPs and OSI.”

          “I’ll let them know, too, as well. How’s Lieutenant Needleman doing?”

          “Doing well. Works hard, makes mistakes, learning a lot. Nothing out of the ordinary for a second lieutenant.”

          “She’ll be a first lieutenant in a few months.”

          “That she will. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if her dad came out to pin those silver bars on her.”

          “Have you heard anything?”

          “Not yet, ma’am. But the family seems pretty close-knit. I could see the President coming here on the way to Santa Barbara for a vacation.”

          “And there might also be some foreign high-rollers, too, like when she first reported.”

          “Indeed, but they seem to be pretty low-maintenance.”

          “Okay. Thanks, Bruce. Let me know if anything changes with Lieutenant Needleman’s leave, or if her dad plans to come out for a pin-on.”

          “Will do, ma’am.”

          The White House, that day
          The Oval Office

          President Needleman and Vice-President Solmonson were talking.

          “Ron, Vicki’s been diagnosed with cancer.”

          “I’m sorry, Otis.”

          “Thanks, Ron. She’s going into Walter Reed first thing Monday morning to start treatment. I’ll be with her probably all morning, until she’s all settled. Then the rest of the week I’ll go by in the evening, except Friday, when she’ll be discharged in the afternoon.”

          “Got it. Any problems letting the Allies know, if they call while you are out?”

          “Nah. I told Naftaly Frenkel and the Tsar this morning, in the usual calls.”

          “You’ll probably hear from everyone else soon.”

          “Likely. When you get down to it, we’re a family of our own, in that respect.”

          “Anything Vicki needs Judy to do while she’s in the hospital?”

          “Probably, but I’d think Vicki will call Judy. Thanks.”

          Monday, March 8, 2021, 7:30 a.m.
          Walter Reed Army Hospital

          Otis, Vicki and Donna Needleman were in the Presidential Suite, consisting of a standard hospital room, a living room, and a dining room. Four Secret Service agents, from the President’s, First Lady’s, and Donna’s details, stood guard outside the entrance.

          Vicki undressed and slipped on a hospital gown while Otis and Donna were out in the living room. Once changed, the First Lady got into the bed and called her husband and daughter to come in. The nurses began to hook the First Lady up to monitors.

          Always Mommy’s little girl, Donna’s eyes shone with tears. Vicki looked up at her daughter and smiled. “No need to cry, sweetie. I’ve been told this stuff always works. I’ll get out of here Friday and we’ll go shopping Saturday, okay?” Donna hugged her mother.

          Then it was her husband’s turn. Up to now, the only time Vicki had been in the hospital since they were married had been for the births of their children. While Otis knew the cure would work and the cancer would be gone, he was still worried about his wife. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have someone you loved dying of cancer, after all the treatments have failed. Thank God that doesn’t have to happen anymore. “It’s hard for me to see you here in the hospital.” “I know, but I’ll walk out of here cured.” “I think of what it must have been like when people died of cancer, after all the treatments stopped working.” “Don’t aggravate yourself, Otis. You have enough to handle. I just want to get this done and go home.” “I do, too.” Otis hugged and kissed his wife of nearly forty years. To Otis, Vicki looked as beautiful as she did on their wedding day, so many years ago.

          The First Lady laid back on the bed and a nurse started an intravenous line. A saline drip started. A few minutes later the White House doctor, Rear Admiral (Dr.) John McIntire, came in, accompanied by Colonel (Dr.) Henry Blake, head of Walter Reed’s cancer treatment department. Dr. Blake was pushing a small cart with syringes and medication.

          “Good morning. Mr. President. How are you, Mrs. Needleman?”

          Vicki smiled. “Looking forward to getting this done and going home, doctors.”

          At this, the medical men chuckled. “That’s what every patient says. Then, shall we?” The President, First Lady and their daughter nodded.

          Dr. Blake scanned the monitors attached to the First Lady, nodded, and filled a syringe from a bottle of the cancer cure. The green fluid filled the syringe. For someone Vicki’s size and weight, the dose was 50cc. Dr. McIntire had previously told the Needlemans what to expect – as the cure entered Vicki’s body, she would get drowsy and then fall asleep. Vicki would have a catheter inserted to collect urine, and she would be fed through the IV line.

          The doctor injected the cure into the First Lady’s IV line. The green medicine began to enter Vicki’s body. Otis asked, “Can you feel anything, toots?” “It’s warm, soothing.” A minute or two later Vicki looked at her husband and daughter and said, “Getting sleepy now.” “Have a good rest, sweets. We’ll be here when you wake up.” The First Lady’s eyes closed.

          Otis and Donna sat back on their chairs and just watched the First Lady sleep, while the cure worked to eliminate the cancer and return Vicki to health. The President looked at his wife’s sleeping face and remembered all they had been through together.

          An hour later, Otis got up. “Not much else we can do now, Donna. Do you want to stay or go home for a while? I’m coming back this evening after dinner.” “I’m going to stay another hour or two, then come home for lunch.” “Okay, let me know when you are back and we can eat lunch together at home.” With that, the President kissed his sleeping wife and went back to the White House.

          Later that day, the flowers started coming in. Otis looked at the various displays. Two of the biggest sported cards from the Tsar and Prime Minister Frenkel. Donna’s unit had sent a nice display. As the week went on, so many flowers came in that the President, after noting who had sent them, asked flowers go to other patients. There was simply not enough room in the Presidential Suite for all the flowers.

          Otis sent an “all-call” email to his colleagues:
          Hi, folks!
          Thanks much for all the flowers. Please pass on our thanks to the respective sovereigns. We’ll be sending formal thank-you cards when Vicki is out of the hospital.
          Things seem to be proceeding as normal. The medicine was administered and Vicki went to sleep. I look for her to wake up Friday, eat something, and go home. Our daughter Donna is also here with her mother.
          That’s about it for now. Thanks again.

          As always,

          The week passed quickly. Otis worked during the day and visited his wife after dinner. Donna spent the day in her mother’s room. Otis and Donna kept the rest of the family posted.

          Friday morning, the President received a call from Dr. McIntire after the morning intelligence briefing. “Mr. President, Mrs. Needleman is doing well and the monitors show she’s just starting to waken. The First Lady should be fully awake in a couple of hours.” “Thank you, doctor. I’ll be at Walter Reed soon.”

          Just after 10:00 a.m., the President entered his wife’s hospital room. Dr. Blake smiled and said, “Mrs. Needleman’s starting to come out of it, Mr. President. I’d say maybe ten minutes.”

          Eight minutes later, Vicki Needleman opened her eyes. The monitors showed all systems normal. She yawned and said, “I’m back.” Otis and Donna smiled. Dr. Blake and the nurses also smiled. They always enjoyed seeing a cancer patient awaken after their cure. “Welcome back, toots. Any neat dreams?” “No, nothing. I drifted off and now here I am.” “Ready for something to eat?” “Oh, yes.”

          The IV line was removed, as was the monitor leads. A few minutes later, brunch was served. The First Lady ate hungrily, the strength quickly returning. Dr. Blake smiled and said, “Par for the course. The patient awakens, eats, and goes home. Mrs. Needleman, after you eat let’s do one last mammogram of the affected area, then you can go home.”

          After Vicki finished her brunch, she had that mammogram, showing no trace of cancer whatsoever, all healthy breast tissue.

          At high noon on March 12, 2021, First Lady Victoria Needleman departed Walter Reed Army Hospital and returned home to the White House.


          • Jim Smitty
            Jim Smitty commented
            Editing a comment
            Damn Otis sometimes I wish there really was a cure to cancer.

          • Otis R. Needleman
            Otis R. Needleman commented
            Editing a comment
            Me, too, Big Jim.

          • Archangel
            Archangel commented
            Editing a comment
            So would I.

        • #99
          Good to see you keeping up the tl Otis.


          • Otis R. Needleman
            Otis R. Needleman commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks, been busy these days. Lot of stuff going on.

        • For another change of pace, let's meet one of this USA's greatest in baseball - as a player, coach, and manager.

          The Fidel Castro International Airport in Havana, Cuba is named after the greatest baseball player so far to come from the state of Cuba.

          Fidel Castro Ruz was born in Santa Clara, Cuba on January 26, 1944. His father, Dr. Hector Castro, was a doctor, and his mother, Juanita Ruz, a nurse. Fidel started playing baseball in pickup, sandlot games as a kid. He was a starting pitcher for the Santa Clara High School baseball team for three years. A right-hander, Fidel earned a baseball scholarship to the University of Cuba in Havana. While at UC-Havana, Castro set records for strikeouts and wins during his three years on the varsity team. Fidel graduated from UC-Havana in June 1966, with a degree in physical education and his commission as an officer in the United States Army.

          Castro spent his four years as an Army officer working in the medical administration field, stationed in Texas. While there, Fidel played on the base’s baseball team and was a member of the all-Army baseball team. He was heavily scouted by many Major League Baseball teams, including his home state’s Havana Sugar Kings of the National League. Being a Cuban boy born and bred, Fidel didn’t want to play for anyone but the Sugar Kings, and made that politely but firmly clear.

          Upon Fidel’s honorable discharge from the Army in late 1970, he was signed by the Sugar Kings. While Fidel couldn’t sign with any baseball team while on active duty, he and the Sugar Kings had negotiated a three-year contract, for one million dollars, plus a $100,000 signing bonus. It seemed like half of Havana came to the Havana International Airport to see Fidel come home from the service. He and Juan Arocho, owner of the Sugar Kings, signed the contract right there in the arrival area as soon as Fidel got off the plane. Arocho cheerfully handed Fidel his signing bonus, in the presence of Fidel’s family and all in attendance.

          Fidel reported to spring training in February 1971 and ended up being assigned to the Sugar Kings’ AA minor-league club in Holguin. The Sugar Kings didn’t want to rush Fidel’s development but wanted him nearby if he looked ready for the big club. Castro compiled a 16-8 record for Holguin and came up to Havana when major-league rosters expanded to 40 on September 1.

          Fidel Castro never returned to Holguin. He started and won three games in September 1971. Castro joined the Sugar Kings’ starting rotation in 1972, and embarked on his career. Fidel went 18-11 in 1972, then reeled off five consecutive 20-plus win seasons from 1973 to 1978. Castro helped the Sugar Kings make the playoffs in 1974, 1975, 1977, and 1978, and was instrumental in the Sugar Kings’ back-to-back world championships in 1977 and 1978. Fidel had a down year in 1979, going 16-12, but snapped back with three more 20-plus win seasons from 1980-82.

          After a rough season in 1983, when he was plagued by injuries, Fidel went into the bullpen and became a reliever. The Sugar Kings believed he could pitch more years as a reliever than a starter. Fidel first worked as a set-up man, then transitioned to a closer, with an occasional spot start. Castro was a reliever for six years, with his last season as a player coming in 1989. Fidel was always a fan favorite, and the “Fidel Castro Day” at Jorge Batista Stadium on October 2, 1989 drew a packed house.

          Fidel Castro put the Sugar Kings’ uniform back on in 1990, this time as the pitching coach. Fidel was unstinting in his advice and guidance to his pitching staff, taking a keen interest in each man’s performance and development. He salvaged the career of more than one pitcher whose career had gone off on a tangent.

          After seven years as a pitching coach, Castro took on a new responsibility, that of bench coach. For the next two years Fidel was the manager’s right-hand man, managing himself from time to time in the absence of the manager.

          After a very disappointing 1999 season, Fidel Castro was named the new manager of the Havana Sugar Kings. While 2000 was a rebuilding year, Fidel and the team laid the groundwork for a resurgence in 2001, where the Sugar Kings got into the World Series, where they lost in seven games to the New York Yankees. But the Sugar Kings won the rematch in 2002 and won again the next year. World Series wins came in 2005 and 2007, with Fidel’s last World Series win in 2009. He retired from managing after the 2009 World Series, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in four games.

          Fidel has stayed a part of the Sugar Kings, working as a part-time special assistant to the Arocho family, owners of the club. He is always in uniform during his spring training visits.

          Fidel was a unanimous pick for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame at his first opportunity in 2014. That same year, after Castro’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Havana International Airport was renamed Fidel Castro International Airport.


          • La Rouge Beret
            La Rouge Beret commented
            Editing a comment
            Good change to the otl. Keep it up Otis.

        • It's been a while since the last story. Just been a turbulent time, lots of things going on. Then writer's block set in. Have written some stories in my head, just wasn't able to get them down on paper, if you will. I trust the logjam is broken now.

          Here are some excerpts from Secret Service Agent (Retired) Mark Grechniw’s book, I Protected Three Presidents, published just before President-emeritus Otis Needleman’s death in 2042.

          A summary of Agent Grechniw’s career in the Secret Service:

          2014 - Joins the Secret Service at 26.
          2016 - Protects President Otis Needleman, until 2023.
          2023 - Protects President Mike Garrity, until 2029.
          2029 - Protects President Hannah Kim, until 2035.
          2035 - Special Agent In Charge, New York, until retirement in 2040.

          “I first met President Needleman the day after his selection in November 2016. He greeted me with a handshake and a smile, and asked me what I wanted him to call me. From then on, it was ‘Mark’ except in certain circumstances, when it was ‘Agent Grechniw’”.

          “All the Presidents I protected took their jobs seriously and worked hard, but President Needleman just edged out the others as the hardest worker. Since he was on the older end of the selection age bracket, President Needleman knew he had to work smart, pace himself as much as possible, and get his rest and exercise.”

          “Most days in the Oval Office started at 8:00 a.m., and went until noon. Then President Needleman would head for the gym or the pool unless he needed to attend a luncheon. The President would get in some jogging, maybe shoot some baskets, and from time to time he and I would play catch with a baseball. The President liked to swim laps or just float around. Afterwards it was to the locker room, then usually to the family quarters for lunch, occasionally lunch at the desk in the Oval Office. Back to work at 2:00 p.m. until 6, when the President knocked off for the day. He and the First Lady would take a walk outside, if the weather allowed it, then to the family quarters for dinner, unless they had a dinner engagement or went out to eat. They usually spent the evenings at home.”

          “You could always tell when the President had gotten big news overnight. He wouldn’t go back to sleep, but rather go to the gym and shoot baskets, while listening to the TV. He and I would shoot baskets together, but you could see he was thinking about the news he’d received. After the gym, he’d go to the staff dining room for breakfast and watch TV some more. All the time, you could see the wheels turning in his head. This happened from time to time, perhaps once a quarter during President Needleman’s term.”

          “One of the hardest things I ever saw President Needleman do was ask me to arrest Senator Jared Graves in the Oval Office when the Senator admitted taking bribes. I took Senator Graves into custody while Agent Lorraine Wagner backed me up and stayed within an arm’s length of the President. Lorraine called the FBI and they came, quietly, to the Oval Office to pick up Senator Graves and get statements from everyone present. I could tell the President was upset over what had happened, but he said nothing.”

          “President Needleman developed friendships with all his contemporaries in Russia, Japan, Germany, and England. He had a very special friendship with the Russian Tsar and Russian Prime Ministers. Whenever they got together, anywhere, they always had a good time. They made the most of every get-together, fishing, shooting, dining, playing with the grandkids.”

          “The saddest aspect of President Needleman’s term was the death of Russian Prime Minister Entis. I’ll never forget the silence in the front parlor of the Entis’ Kremlin apartment while the President kept a vigil over the dying Prime Minister. From time to time my Russian Federal Protective Service counterpart and I would exchange glances. President Needleman wept quietly when Prime Minister Entis passed away. The President attended many funerals during his term but this one hit the hardest.”

          “President and Mrs. Needleman were part of a very close family. That was immediately apparent that Thanksgiving right after he was selected to the Presidency. That house was full of people having a great Thanksgiving. But the Needleman family, to a person, was always very polite to and considerate of all the Secret Service agents. The President wouldn’t have tolerated anything less. We chuckled to ourselves when the President’s brother-in-law Charlie offered to guard the front door with his AK-47 while we took turns eating.”

          “One thing that stood out about President Needleman was his desire to ensure everyone was always taken care of. He’d regularly climb up to the White House roof, no matter what the weather, at night just to spend a little time with the protective detail stationed there. President Needleman always wished the Secret Service people and the White House staff the best at holidays. And when he and the Vice-President went out on their periodic nighttime shopping and donut trips the President always picked up the tab for the agents.”

          “With President Needleman, what you saw was what you got. He was always polite, professional, but direct and plain-spoken. People, no matter who they were, always knew where they stood with him. He treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”

          “Presidents make a lot of money. But I’m here to tell you President Needleman earned every penny he was paid. I’m glad to see him enjoying a well-deserved retirement.”


          • La Rouge Beret
            La Rouge Beret commented
            Editing a comment
            Glad to see you have kep this up, and your alter ego seems to have a balanced structure to his day. Apparently, President Reagan had a similar work day from what I have read.

          • Otis R. Needleman
            Otis R. Needleman commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks, just been a lot of stuff going on here. Otis knows the Presidency is a marathon and not a sprint. He needs to be just as effective on the last day of his term as he was at the beginning. Otis also wants his staff to stay as fresh as possible, and he wants a good work-life balance for everyone. So, except in case of emergency, days in the White House are structured and balanced. In the same vein, the First Lady's White House days are structured and balanced. Otis believed his wife has done plenty already in life, being an Air Force officer's wife, putting up with all the moves, and bearing the children. The Needlemans want to have a life after the White House so they take care of themselves.

          • Jim Smitty
            Jim Smitty commented
            Editing a comment
            Its good to see Otis pace himself in White House life. Sounds like a likeable guy all around.

        • This America has no political parties, but this Russia does. Let's see how the Russian Prime Minister deals with an opposition politician who's been giving him grief about some extremely important programs.

          February 8, 2021
          The Duma of the Russian Empire

          Oleg Ivanovich Voronov, head of the minority center-left Russian Social Democratic Party Duma delegation, was making a speech in the Duma chamber once again lambasting Prime Minister Frenkel’s spending on what we know as Programs A (directed-energy weapons) and B (kinetic-energy penetrators, or ‘rods from God’).

          “All we hear is “Oh, the program is needed for security!” and “Things are going well, but we need more money for cost overruns!”. Well, where does it stop? Why doesn’t the Prime Minister tell us what he does with our constituents’ hard-earned rubles?”

          Prime Minister Naftaly Frenkel wasn’t present, but was monitoring Deputy Voronov’s speech on the Russian version of C-Span, streaming on his desk computer. While Prime Minister Frenkel’s center-right Dynamic Russia Party held a comfortable majority in the Duma, the Prime Minister was tired of hearing such blather. He decided to meet with Mr. Voronov to set him as straight as he could regarding Programs A and B, and hopefully make the minority leader a supporter.

          That evening, Prime Minister Frenkel called Deputy Voronov at home.

          “Hello, Oleg Ivanovich!”

          “Hello, Naftaly Aronovich!”

          “I heard your speech in the Duma today.”

          “Well, I’m glad of that. Does this call mean you’re willing to tell us what that money goes for?”

          “What does your schedule look like for Wednesday afternoon, say, 3:00 p.m.?”

          “Just a minute, Naftaly…nothing big going on. Want to meet?”

          “Yes. How about coming over to my office then, and let’s talk, just you and me. I can’t say much more on this line.”

          “Okay. Sounds good. I’ll be looking forward to meeting.”

          “Oh, there will be security precautions in effect – no cell phones, recorders, etc. No notes. Just want you to know in advance so you aren’t surprised.”

          “I don’t like it but I understand.”

          “Thanks. See you Wednesday.”

          February 10, 2021, 3:00 P.M.
          Prime Minister Frenkel’s office
          The Kremlin

          After leaving his cell phone with the Prime Minister’s secretary and being scanned with an electronic wand by an agent of the Federal Protective Service, Deputy Voronov was ushered into Prime Minister Frenkel’s office.

          “Thank you for coming, Oleg Ivanovich.”

          “Thank you for inviting me, Naftaly Aronovich. I must say, though, that the security procedures seem a bit much. Is the FPS agent going to stay here while we meet?” Deputy Voronov indicated the FPS agent standing in a distant corner of the Prime Minister Frenkel’s office.

          “Yes. Matter of fact, let’s get through some security procedures. I mean no offense, but these must be done. First, what we will discuss is classified Top Secret-Plus. I know you are cleared for Top Secret information and upon my authority you are now cleared for Top Secret-Plus information.” Deputy Voronov nodded.

          The Prime Minister continued. “Before we start our discussion I will need you to sign a non-disclosure agreement like the one you signed upon clearance for Top Secret information.”

          “What happens if I don’t sign?”

          “Oleg Ivanovich, I then wish you a good day. Speaking bluntly, I have a majority in the Duma and can get a budget through, but I’d very much like your support. If you know why these programs are so important you may well support them. Also, with the clearance you would be privy to detailed status reports on these programs.”

          “You get right down to it, don’t you.”

          “Yes. We don’t agree on everything, but this transcends politics. And it could mean national survival under certain circumstances.”

          Deputy Voronov’s eyes widened and met Prime Minister Frenkel’s eyes. The Prime Minister’s eyes were those of an utterly serious man. “Let me have the agreement so I can read it first.” The Prime Minister handed the deputy the agreement.

          Oleg Voronov read the proffered agreement. “Much like the other one, but the penalties for unauthorized disclosure are much more severe.” “Yes, Oleg Ivanovich. Anyone who leaks this material will be investigated and prosecuted. If found guilty, there’s a cell very, very deep in Siberia waiting for them.” Deputy Voronov signed the agreement.

          “Thanks, Oleg Ivanovich. Let’s adjourn to the conference table. Things to look at and to see.”

          The two men sat side-by-side at the Prime Minister’s conference table. “I’ll keep this fairly top-level for now. If you have questions, jot them down on this pad, which stays here. Anything I can’t answer will be passed on to get an answer, then you’d get it from me here.” The deputy nodded.

          “Program A is a directed-energy weapon, fired from satellites. We, meaning the Americans and ourselves, now have these satellites in positions to cover the entire world. The biggest outlays were for the initial research and development of the system, consisting of the weapon, the satellite carrying the weapon, communications links, control equipment, and all the software needed to run the system. Then we needed money to build and test everything. To use money wisely, we didn’t build all the satellites until we had thoroughly tested the pilot system.” And there have been a number of spinoffs from all the research, so there are additional benefits in many areas for the resources expended.”

          “Naftaly Aronovich, what is this weapon intended to be used against?”

          “At first, we planned to use this against any future nuclear-tipped missiles the Red Chinese may develop and fire at us. Now, ‘us’ means ourselves, the Americans, the Japanese, the British, and the Germans. Everyone is contributing money and is involved with the program, to varying extents.”

          “I suspected at least the Americans were involved. The other countries are a bit of a surprise.”

          “Well, Japan isn’t far away, and the British have Hong Kong. But should the Reds ever develop an ICBM system, and put those missiles on submarines, Britain proper and Germany could be targets.”

          "Makes sense. Can you tell me how much money the other countries are putting up?"

          “We pay 30%, the Americans pay 30%, Japan pays 20%. Britain and Germany puts up 10% each.”

          “That’s pretty reasonable, Naftaly Aronovich. Shows me the load is being shared.”

          “It’s only fair.”

          “Now how have the various contracts been awarded?”

          “Good question, Oleg Ivanovich. We worried less about which company and which country would get the contract and more about just who would meet the contractual specifications best for the money. These acquisitions, as you can now imagine, were done very quietly. In some cases, competitions were possible. In other cases, it was a sole-source selection.”

          “In other words, a black program.”

          “The blackest of the black, my friend. Having said that, Russian companies have gotten about 35% of the contracts so far, the Americans another 35%, Japan 15%, and Britain and Germany got the rest. Star Computer’s headquartered in your district, right?”

          “Yes, it is.”

          “Then a bunch of your constituents have been making their living from Star’s contract. Visit their Defense Division. Now you’re cleared, they can brief you.”

          Deputy Voronov smiled. “Always good to hear of my constituents having good jobs. Who’s handling integration of the system?”

          “You ask good questions. A company called Union Dynamics is the integration contractor. Union Dynamics was put together for this project and Program B. It’s a joint venture among Star, Microsoft, Boeing, and Tupolev, plus our and the American air forces. Don’t bother looking for Union Dynamics in the news. Again, this is black-world.”

          “So, all this applies to both Program A and Program B.”


          “Naftaly Aronovich, who’s in charge of the program?”

          “Not trying to be sarcastic, but that’s another good question. At the very top, it is I, President Needleman, Prime Minister Ojima, Prime Minister Thatcher, and Chancellor Bouhler. For day-to-day operations, there’s a joint staff, primarily US and Russian, with some representation from the other countries. One thing we do – if a Russian officer is in charge of a directorate, a US officer is deputy, and vice versa. Our program headquarters is here in Moscow, at the Ministry of Defense, with detachments around the country. The American program headquarters is at the Pentagon, and they also have detachments around the country. The other nations’ headquarters are rather smaller and are located at their respective Ministries of Defense.”

          “When and where are program status reviews held?”

          “At my level, the programs are covered in the annual fall summits. The next one is in Sochi, in November. At the joint staff level, they are held twice a year at the Ministry of Defense or the Pentagon, on a rotating basis. Working-level meetings are held more often, at various sites.”

          “Could I attend a program review when there is one at the Ministry of Defense?

          “Yes, as an observer. I will let you know when the next one will happen at the MoD. I’ll throw in something else, Oleg Ivanovich. This is also classified Top Secret-Plus. President Needleman and I are meeting at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at the end of May. Vandenberg is a major American operational base for Programs A and B. We have a large detachment there, too. The President and I will be touring the facility, meeting with people there, and observing some system tests. I invite you to come with us, with the condition that when I ask you not to attend certain meetings you not attend them. I mean no disrespect but there are some things that are only discussed and handled at the highest levels.”

          “Fair enough.”

          “You’ll still get to see a lot, and meet a lot of people. Have you ever been to California?”


          “I think you’ll like it. Vandenberg is right on the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara, which is much like Sochi, is about a hundred kilometers down the road. Plan for an arrival on a Thursday evening, activities Friday, a free weekend Saturday and Sunday, and departure on Monday. There will be two planes due to the size of the traveling party and varying schedules. I’ll depart on Tuesday but there may be other stops on the way home for me.”

          “Can I bring my wife?”

          “Yes, but she cannot see any of the operational facilities. She could accompany my wife and Mrs. Needleman on their tour of Vandenberg. I’ll talk to President Needleman but there should be no problem.”

          “Okay. Thanks, Naftaly Aronovich.”

          “You’re welcome, Oleg Ivanovich. I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the trip. Now let me show you these systems in action.”

          The Prime Minister picked up a remote control and pressed a button. “Let me remind you, everything you see is Top Secret-Plus.”

          The Program A test from 2017 came on the screen. Deputy Voronov watched the test. “Shit! Right on target!”

          Next, another test played. “Oleg Ivanovich, this is from three months ago. The missile was launched from one of our missile submarines in the Pacific Ocean. We coordinated the launch with the Americans and the Japanese. Now watch this.” The Prime Minister smiled.

          Ten seconds after breaking the surface of the Pacific, the Russian ICBM exploded, hit by a directed-energy bolt. “Jesus Christ, Naftaly!” “You know what that means, don’t you.” “Yeah, you can now knock out a missile at any stage of its’ journey.” “And not just an ICBM, but an IRBM, and other things.”

          “This one is from last summer.” A drone four-engined Russian bomber flew over a test range deep in the Russian Far East. Oleg saw a red dot come into view on the bomber. Five seconds later a directed-energy bolt blew the bomber out of the sky. “Oh, my God! Can you do this to fighters, too?” “We’re getting there. Eventually we’ll be able to knock out planes, tanks, ships, missiles, maneuvering or not, and certain ground installations, anywhere on Earth, any time. Mind you, the system isn’t 100% perfect, but when you combine this with our present defenses the picture is very bright. We’ll keep working on improvements, which will take money. But you see what we have now.”

          “Now I understand, Naftaly Aronovich. You have my support. All I ask is to be kept apprised on how things are going.”

          “Sounds good to me. Now let me show you some demonstrations of Program B, otherwise known as “Rods from God.” I’ll cut to the chase – rods are of varying sizes, up to 1000 kilograms. They are on satellites and also carried on space shuttles. Program-wise we handle it as we do Program A. No need for two separate staffs, two separate acquisition efforts – saves money and time.” “A wise use of resources.” “Funding sources are the same, same proportions, amounts will vary for program-specific requirements.” “Makes sense.”

          Prime Minister Frenkel pushed the button on the remote control. A test of a 100-kilogram kinetic weapon at the Australia test range came on the screen, from multiple angles. Deputy Voronov saw the streak of light in the air, heard the blast, saw the dust cloud, then examined the crater from a helicopter’s view. “Oh, my God!” “Wait until you see the rest.”

          The deputy then viewed a 500-kilogram impact. “JESUS CHRIST! Nothing could live through that!” “That’s the idea, my friend. Now…the piece de resistance, as the French would say.”

          Deputy Voronov watched three consecutive 1000-kilogram impacts. Each time, the hole got wider and deeper, since each rod was targeted on the impact point of the previous rod. “HOLY SHIT!” Keep that up and you’d punch a hole clean through the Earth, Naftaly!” “In this case, three’s enough. I can’t think of anything buried deep enough to be able to handle three or four big ones in a row.”

          Oleg Voronov, a little shaken, asked, “What would you target with these?” “Missile silos, buried leadership, command, and control facilities, ports, all sorts of fixed-position things. We can maneuver rods some but they were never intended for use against a maneuvering target. But should the Red Chinese ever attack, you can bet we’ll start by turning their leadership bunker, any missile silos, and a bunch of other targets into smoking holes in the ground REALLY quick!” “Naftaly Aronovich, is there any defense against either of these weapons?” “Oleg Ivanovich, right now the only defense I could think of would be to be somewhere else when either of these things hit.”

          The deputy then asked, “Mr. Prime Minister, who decides what is hit and when?” The Prime Minister replied, “In the case of Red China, use of these weapons is spelled out in a US/Russian-only annex to a Joint Operational Plan in case of an attack. Should these weapons be needed for any other reason, from our end the military would provide me options for offensive use, and there are already procedures for defensive use. I cannot speak for the Americans, though. I’m sure they have procedures in place.”

          Prime Minister Frenkel concluded, “Any other questions, Oleg Ivanovich? “No, not right now. If I do I’ll come see you. Right now, I’m going home and digest all of this.” “Do you understand why we have done all of this, spent all this money, worked so hard? To make sure no Russian child, no American child, no child in the Free World ever need go to sleep worrying about a Red Chinese missile or atomic bomb coming down on their heads. We do this because we love our children.

          Deputy Voronov stood up and extended a hand. “Thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister. We will differ in some areas, and I’ll speak out about them, but here we do see eye-to-eye.” “Thanks again for coming. Let’s stay in touch. As we get closer to the California trip we’ll talk more. Please let your staff and your wife know about the trip, general purpose being to visit Russian military stationed in the USA, but nothing else. But bring the credit card – some good shopping in Santa Barbara.” Prime Minister Frenkel smiled as the two men shook hands. The FPB agent showed Deputy Voronov out of the office.

          Naftaly Frenkel sat back in his chair and smiled to himself. We have an ally on this one, thank God. We’ll also take our party’s head in the Duma, too, even things out. Better give Otis a heads-up. He picked up the red phone and pushed the “Washington” button.

          11:30 a.m.
          The White House
          The Oval Office

          President Needleman was working through a stack of paperwork when the phone rang.

          “Hi, Naftaly!”

          “Hello, Otis!

          “How’s it going? What’s new?”

          “Things are going well. I just spent a couple of hours talking with the main opposition leader in the Duma. He’s been giving us hell recently about the money going to Programs A and B.”

          “Sounds like your meeting went well.”

          “It did. I gave him some limited background on the programs, showed him some videos of tests. I’ve invited him and his wife along for our May visit to Vandenberg, with the provision that he will only see certain parts of the operation, and his wife won’t see anything. She could tag along with Yuliya and Vicki.”

          “Sounds good to me. Just include their particulars in the list of who’s coming.”

          “I didn’t say anything about them visiting the Santa Barbara White House. I told him their weekend was free, and the shopping was good.”

          “No sweat. But they could attend the promotion ceremony and the party afterward.”

          “Yes. Maybe one of his constituents will be promoted that day.”

          “That’ll get him some votes, for sure,” Otis laughed.

          “I tell you, nothing like removing a thorn in your side, at least on one issue.”

          “Yeah. Anything else going on?”

          “That’s plenty for today. I’m going home. I’ve had enough.”

          “Okay, have a great evening, Naftaly, talk to you later.”

          “And I wish you a great day, Otis.”

          A few minutes later
          Prime Minister and Mrs. Frenkel’s apartment

          The Prime Minister smiled as he removed his suit coat.

          “How was your day, Naftaly?”

          Naftaly Frenkel smiled again. “It was really good. Nothing better than removing a thorn from your side.”

          Yuliya Frenkel smiled at her husband. “Care to talk about it?”

          Naftaly replied, “About all I can really say is that I was able to show someone why they should support a couple of our projects, after they’d been complaining about them in the Duma forever.”

          “Sounds like you succeeded.”

          “Yes. I’m glad. We’ll differ on other things, but this was a big one, honey.”


          • La Rouge Beret
            La Rouge Beret commented
            Editing a comment
            Far better to bring them inside the tent, then to have them outside of it.

            Great work Otis, and the more I read of TTL, the greater my disappointment that this is not the world I live in.

          • Otis R. Needleman
            Otis R. Needleman commented
            Editing a comment
            Thank you kindly.

            Yeah, whenever possible you try to get all the allies you can. Getting their buy-in can be a huge help.

        • President Needleman takes Vice-President Solmonson on his first late-night expedition.

          Monday, March 15, 2021
          The White House
          The Oval Office

          President Needleman and Vice-President Solmonson were talking.

          “Ron, doing anything special this Friday night?”

          “No. Do you have something in mind?”

          “Yup. As mentioned before you came into office, periodically Ken Doo and I would go out on a Friday night to check out libraries, hospitals, stores, and end up with a donut. Now you’ve had a chance to settle in, how about it?”

          “Sounds good to me, Otis. What time do you want to leave, and what’s the attire?”

          “Attire is very casual – blue jeans are fine. We low-key this as much as possible. We’ll leave here at 10 p.m., pick you up right after that. We usually get back by 3 a.m., but what the heck, the next day is Saturday and we can sleep in some. Bring cash if you want to buy anything at the store. Donuts are my treat.”, the President grinned.

          “I’ll be ready.”, the Vice-President smiled.

          That Friday night, three black Chevrolet Suburbans pulled away from the White House. A few minutes later, the mini-motorcade stopped at the Vice-Presidential Residence, where Vice-President Solmonson joined President Needleman.

          “Where are we headed, Mr. President?”

          “Tonight, we’re going to Waldorf, Maryland, about fifteen miles east of here. I try to stay within twenty miles of Washington, but that still leaves plenty of places we can visit.”

          “Do we look for anything in particular at the places we visit?”

          “Good question. At a library, I look at the overall condition of the place, how well it’s stocked with books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, and computers for patrons’ use. I also look at evidence of programs for children to encourage reading, as well of things of local interest. At stores, I look at how well the place is stocked, variety of goods available, and prices. I’ll buy a few things, often flowers for Vicki. We have a cooler if you wanted to buy anything perishable. At hospitals, I take a general look at the layout from a map or plans, maybe go by certain facilities, and always spend time observing in the emergency room. I don’t visit patients’ rooms due to the hour. At the donut shop, I look around, get a couple of donuts, as well as some milk. I usually pick up some donuts to take home. Nothing earthshaking, just time out of the “bubble”.”

          “I think it’s a great idea. Yeah, it’s all too easy to stay in the “bubble", even though I’ve only been on the job a couple of months.”

          First stop was at the Waldorf Public Library. The two leaders alighted from the Suburban and were met at the entrance by Mrs. Evelyn Farsheh, library director. Mrs. Farsheh gave the President and Vice-President a tour of the library. President Needleman, a big user of libraries, noticed a good quantity and selection of books, magazines, newspapers, and media available. Mrs. Farsheh pointed out a “homework room”, where students could work on homework, either singly or with tutors, either volunteers or members of the Civil Defense and Service Corps. Vice-President Solmonson indicated a large number of computers available for public use. The facility was clean and well-kept. To minimize the chance of seeing a “Potemkin Village”, places to be visited received only 24 to 48 hours’ notice beforehand.

          After about forty minutes, the President and Vice-President completed their visit, commended and thanked Mrs. Farsheh, gave her a thank-you gift from the White House, and departed. Ten minutes’ drive through the end-of-winter night took the two men to a Giant supermarket, open 24 hours.

          The President and Vice-President were greeted at the entrance of the supermarket by Mr. Jim Smith, store manager. Mr. Smith gave President Needleman and Vice-President Solmonson a short briefing about the store and the store’s layout. Thanking Mr. Smith, the President took a shopping cart and he and the Vice-President moved through the store like any two shoppers.

          “I always enjoy going to grocery stores, Ron. Heck, I’ve often done the family grocery shopping. Before I started this job, I went to the commissary every Saturday. We try to get over to the commissary at Andrews maybe once a month. We don’t like having staffers buying our toothpaste, shampoo, and other personal items, honestly. And I like buying my own snacks instead of depending on the White House kitchen.”

          “Good way to get out of the house, and you never know what you’ll find.”

          The store was, of course, clean and well stocked. Otis opined, “Always plenty here, anywhere you go in our country, thank God. I think a lot about South China, though.” “We’re doing all we can right now.” “Yes, one way or another they’ll get through it.”

          The prices seemed reasonable. Certain fruit and vegetables were somewhat expensive due to the season; those prices would go down as spring arrived.

          Otis and Ron each bought a nice bunch of flowers for their wives. Ron bought a couple of bags of cheese popcorn and some chewing gum. Otis bought cheese popcorn, some Nestle milk chocolate bars, and some snack cakes. Ron noticed Otis never took the products at the front of a display, always at the back of a display. The President and Vice-President paid for their purchases and thanked Mr. Smith, giving him a small gift from the White House. In the Suburban, Agent Mark Grechniw checked all the food with a hand-held scanner for safety. Everything passed.

          The clock in the Suburban read 12:15 a.m. as the mini-caravan approached Waldorf General Hospital. The President and Vice-President were met by Dr. Alvin Jelks, hospital director. Dr. Jelks gave the two men an overview of the hospital, which had 150 beds. He showed the President and Vice-President the imaging department, laboratory, birthing center, pharmacy, and one of the operating rooms, before leading them to the hospital’s emergency room.

          The emergency room was active this very early Saturday morning, but happily not too busy. “The bars will close in a couple of hours, then we could see some accident victims.” With the patient’s permission, Dr. Jelks introduced President Needleman and Vice-President Solmonson to Miss Mary Stringford, who had fallen leaving a movie theater and injured her ankle. She was being treated by Dr. Stella Denise Lee. The President and Vice-President stood carefully to the side as Dr. Lee examined Miss Stringford’s ankle and looked at X-rays.

          Mary Stringford said, “Mr. President, what are you and the Vice-President doing here at this time of night?” The President replied, “Ma’am, we do this once a quarter. We visit a library, a store, and a hospital in different areas around here to see for ourselves how things are for everyone. Gotta get out of the White House sometimes.” Mary smiled, through her pain. “Not a bad idea. Do you do this when you go to other parts of the country?” “Sometimes, depending on what else is going on.”

          Dr. Lee finished her examination. “Miss Stringford, your ankle is sprained but not broken. We’ll wrap your ankle, give you some crutches to use for the next week, and give you some painkillers. If things get worse come back here.”

          Under this USA’s national health insurance, Mary Stringford’s total co-payment for her emergency room visit was $10.

          The President and Vice-President spent a little more time in Waldorf’s emergency room, then departed, after thanking Dr. Jelks and giving him a small thank-you gift from the White House.

          It was 1:15 a.m., and the caravan stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts about five miles outside Washington. Otis noticed several Maryland State Police cars outside, grinned, and remarked to Ron, “You’ll just happen to see Maryland or Virginia State Police having a donut when we go by.”

          The men and their Secret Service details filed into the donut shop and ordered their food. Otis had two glazed donuts and milk. Ron had donuts and decaffeinated coffee. Before the President and Vice-President received their food, Agent Lorraine Wagner checked everything with a scanner. Everything passed. She did the same for the Secret Service agents’ donuts and beverages. President Needleman paid for everything, as his treat.

          Ron and Otis took a small booth with Maryland State Police officers in one adjoining booth and Secret Service agents in the other adjoining booth. Otis and Ron shook hands with the police officers and thanked them for being there.

          Ron said, “Nothing like Dunkin’ Donuts.” “No, always good and consistent. There are a lot of good local shops but not always everywhere, like these guys.”

          The President and Vice-President enjoyed their donuts and discussed what they’d seen. “I was glad to see that lady in the emergency room wasn’t badly hurt.”, Ron said. “Yeah, hope this is a quiet Friday night, nobody gets killed or hurt in a car wreck.” “Some people never learn, and they pay the price.” “Bad thing is, they make innocent people pay, too.”

          On the way out, Ron and Otis got some donuts to take home, after Agent Wagner scanned the food for safety. The President and Vice-President thanked the donut shop workers and waved goodbye to everyone, then headed home.

          It was about 2:15 a.m. in the nation’s capital. The Suburbans glided through quiet streets. Vice-President Solmonson debarked at his residence, then President Needleman returned home. The President, as always, thanked his Secret Service detail and entered the family quarters. We’ll do this again in a few months.

          Otis put Vicki’s flowers into a vase, put the snacks away, then got ready to go to sleep. His wife was already asleep. Otis got into the bed next to his wife, as he’d been doing for many years. In a few minutes the President was asleep.
          Last edited by Otis R. Needleman; 05-03-2017, 04:29 AM.


          • I'm taking a different approach to writing the story of Donna Needleman's promotion. Instead of one long story, am chopping it up into several shorter stories. For some reason, this makes me feel more like writing, and you, the reader, reap the benefits.

            January 2021
            The White House
            President and Mrs. Otis Needleman’s private quarters

            Otis was talking with his daughter, Donna.

            “Dad, I’ll put on first lieutenant on June 1st!”

            “Neat! Your mom and I will be there to pin it on, but don’t broadcast it. For now, just let your boss know, and tell him I’ll be working it from this end.”

            “Okay. That’s Memorial Day weekend. Going to spend it in Santa Barbara?”

            “That we are, honey. Don’t be surprised if we have some guests.”

            “Who do you plan to invite?”

            “Hiroko’s mom and dad. And probably friends from way out of town, if you catch my drift.”

            “Okay. Should I let my boss know?”

            “No, let me handle that.”

            “Can my friend Ashley Morgan join us?”

            “Why not? I’m thinking the pin-on ceremony Friday afternoon, then a party at the Officers’ Club. Your mom and I will leave after a while so people can feel more comfortable. You two come down after the party, whatever time. Then you, Ashley, your mom and probably some other ladies could go shopping Saturday, do whatever.”


            “I think the Wakayamas will come Sunday morning, then we could spend the rest of the day on a boat, do some fishing, catch some rays.”


            “Monday, you and Ashley can head back. The Wakayamas would also leave Monday morning. I plan to spend some time with those friends from way out of town.”

            “Sounds good to me. I can get back and get ready for work Tuesday.”

            “That’s when your mom and I would go home. No need to see us off.”

            “Okay. Can I talk to Mom now?”

            The next day
            Vandenberg Air Force Base
            Captain Russ Gorrell’s office

            Donna knocked on the door.

            “Come on in, Donna. Have a seat. What’s up?”

            “Russ, I’ll be putting on first lieutenant on the first of June.”

            “Sure will, two years.”

            “Please keep this close-hold, let the colonel know, but my dad says he’s coming out to pin it on.”

            “Okay, thanks. Does he know when?”

            “June 1st is right after Memorial Day weekend, so he’s thinking that Friday afternoon.”

            “That makes sense because the 31st is a holiday. I’m glad to get plenty of heads-up. I would imagine the President will be touring the base.”

            “He didn’t say but I believe he and my mom would be doing a tour. Knowing them, something low-key. They don’t like to take away from the mission.”

            “Yeah, they are very good about that. Anything else?”

            “No, my dad said he’d be working things from his end.”

            “Do you expect any guests?”

            Donna smiled a knowing smile. “I’m not at liberty to say.”

            Russ smiled back. “Got it. Hey, thanks for the heads-up. I’ll let the colonel know.”

            “Thanks, Russ.”

            Lieutenant Needleman left Captain Gorrell’s office. Captain Gorrell picked up the phone and dialed his boss.

            “Lieutenant Colonel Judisch.”

            “Boss, Russ.”

            “What’s up?”

            “Donna Needleman came by. She’s losing that butter-bar on the first of June.”

            “Yes, she is, and well-deserved.”

            “Her parents are coming out to pin her on, just a heads-up, sir.”

            “Thanks. Do you know if any other high-rollers will be coming?”

            “Lieutenant Needleman said she wasn’t at liberty to say, and smiled.”

            “I got the message. I’d bet friends from across the pond.”

            “Me, too, sir. Donna said she thought things would be pretty low-key.”

            “Yeah, this President is not big at all on pomp and circumstance.”

            “Saves us and our people some work, sir.”

            “Thanks for the heads-up. Russ.”

            “You’re welcome, sir. Donna said her dad would also be working things from his end.”

            “Got it. I’ll give the wing commander a heads-up.”

            “Yes, sir.”


            Lieutenant Colonel Judisch hung up the phone, then picked it up again and dialed.

            “Colonel Mach.”

            “Colonel, Bruce.”

            “What’s new?”

            “A heads-up, ma’am. Lieutenant Needleman is putting on first lieutenant on June 1st. Her parents are coming out to pin it on, and I’d also expect some friends of theirs to show up.”

            “Thanks, Bruce. Memorial Day weekend, bet they will do it that Friday afternoon.”

            “I’d say you’re right.”

            “Anything else?”

            “No, ma’am. Lieutenant Needleman said her dad would be working things from his end.”

            “Got it. Things will definitely get worked, then.”

            “Yes, ma’am.”

            “Anything else?”

            “That’s it, colonel.”

            “Okay. Thanks, Bruce.”

            A few days later
            The White House
            The Oval Office

            The President picked up his red phone and pushed the “Moscow” button.

            “Hi, Otis!”

            “Hello, Naftaly!”

            “What’s new?”

            “My daughter’s being promoted to first lieutenant on June 1st. We’re going out there at the end of May to pin on the new rank. How about you and Yuliya coming to Santa Barbara that weekend?”

            “What dates are you looking at?”

            “For planning purposes, arrive at Vandenberg on the afternoon of the 27th, do a tour the next day, promotion ceremony late that afternoon, party, then down to Santa Barbara Saturday, Sunday, Monday, leave Tuesday.”

            “We could get updates on Programs A and B, maybe some demonstrations.”

            “My thinking exactly. That weekend is our Memorial Day weekend, so we could make a joint statement, maybe give a joint speech Monday.”

            “Yeah, sounds good.”

            “You have a pretty big detachment at Vandenberg. Maybe you’ll have some people being promoted. The more, the merrier. I’ll check if there are any other American officers being promoted. More fun to pin on a bunch of people, anyway.”

            “Let’s do that, then. I’d think there would be some of our people being promoted. This is plenty of time to plan and schedule ahead. Anyway, we’ll need a few days there to thaw out after this winter.”

            “That bad already?”

            “Worse. Even for Moscow this winter’s been harsh, and I almost never go outside. I’m here at work, or at home, or traveling around the country.”

            “Well, we’ll go to the beach, go out on a boat.”

            “And the wives will go shopping.”

            “Together with my daughter and her friend.”

            “Our wallets continue to stay empty, Otis. Oh, speaking of money, do you need anything for the promotion party?”

            “Nah, I’ll take care of it.”

            “Okay, we’ll bring Donna a nice gift. I’m sure you’ll see something from the Tsar, too.”

            “That’s fine, Naftaly. I’ll keep you informed as we get closer to the trip.”

            ‘Thanks, Otis.”

            “Thank you for coming, Naftaly.”

            “You’re welcome.”




            • President Needleman also starts moving on the last part of his great China gambit. This will also be in parts.

              Late February 2021
              The White House
              The Oval Office

              President Needleman and Vice-President Solmonson were talking late on a Friday afternoon.

              “Ron, I’ve been thinking about the next steps with the People’s Republic of China.”

              “What’s the plan, Otis?”

              “Well, it’s in three steps, Ron. First, we expand our agricultural assistance to the PRC. More agricultural attaches, from the USA and the Allies. More and better equipment, seeds, and chemicals, but nothing above their ability to use successfully. Second, I want a guarantee from Chairman Han that the PRC will not attack North China, Russia, or Hong Kong. Lastly, I want to get a peace conference started, for a peace treaty between the People’s Republic and the Russians, North Chinese, and ourselves.”

              “Pretty ambitious, but I think the first two at least shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.”

              The President nodded. “So far during this term we, meaning us and the Allies, and the PRC, have gotten a lot done, more than many expected. I have found Chairman to be a straight shooter and a man who lives up to his agreements. We can always talk, happily. But yes, I see the first two as pretty doable. The PRC gets more people and stuff to help feed themselves, on their terms. The non-aggression guarantee merely verbally formalizes today’s reality. The peace conference will be more problematical but we have to start somewhere, sometime.”

              “I’d say the peace conference could last some time.”

              “Frankly, I don’t see a peace treaty during my term, but rather during the next President’s term. Ron, you’d be the linchpin in this office for this effort between me and the next guy or gal.”

              The Vice-President nodded. “When do you plan to bring in Ken Doo?”

              Otis smiled. “Real soon. I’m going to call him in a few minutes. I think Ken’s already tired of walking the beach in Carmel and playing golf at Pebble Beach. The three of us will get together for lunch one day next week. Then we meet with the Secretaries of Defense, State, and Agriculture. Then we meet with Marilyn Bustamante and Joe Frazier. While all this is going on I’ll be talking with the Allies and the North Chinese.”

              “Any idea how the Allies and the North Chinese will react?”

              “Frenkel will go along with us, no sweat. We’ve already been talking some about it. I think Ed and Yuriko will also go along, especially if Ed knows Hong Kong is safe and Yuriko won’t need to worry about blowback from a war. Phil Bouhler really hasn’t a dog in the fight, but he’ll go along. Peace means more trade for everyone, including Germany. I hope President Yeh will go along. We’ll continue to guarantee North China’s security. Matter of fact, should the PRC ever attack, we and the Russians will give them a nice taste of just what Program B can do.”

              “Oh, yeah. Maybe you should show Yeh one of those demonstration videos.”

              “Not a bad idea. If I need to do so, I shall. Naftaly and I have not only already agreed about what to do should the PRC attack, but we already have such a response, with options, in our joint operational plans for such a war.” Otis paused. “But I also expect a new President in Beijing this time next year – and that’s just between you and me.” Ron nodded. “I expect the next President to be more flexible on all this, not that Yeh’s been that bad, but he doesn’t see the big picture as well.”

              Late afternoon
              Carmel, California
              Vice-President-Emeritus Ken Doo’s house

              Ken Doo was sitting in the living room, in front of a blazing fireplace, as the winter afternoon turned into evening. He heard the secure phone ring in the study, and got up to answer it. The display read “White House”. Must be Otis.

              “Vice-President-Emeritus Doo, secure.”

              “Needleman, secure.”

              “What’s up, Otis?”

              “Are you tired of being retired yet?”

              “Yeah, I could use some action.”

              “Okay, that envoy thing is still yours, if you want it.”

              “Can I still work some from home?”

              “If at all possible, but the job’s changed somewhat.”


              “Can you come here Thursday for meetings Friday, stay maybe a week for discussions? I’ll send a plane for you, you can stay here, bring Maureen if she’d like to come.”

              “Can do. I’ll ask Maureen and call you back.”

              “Cool. You’re back on the payroll as of now. Since the year’s already started, the half a million is pro-rated but you haven’t lost much.”

              “That’s fine, Otis.”

              “I’ll make sure all your clearances and accesses are reinstated. No big deal since you’ve only been out just over a month.”

              “Sounds good. Anything I need to read beforehand?”

              “Nah, since you just left you’re still current. I’m moving ahead with all the stuff we talked about just before you departed.”


              “Tell you what, I’ll call you Monday afternoon, let you know when the plane will leave out of Monterey Thursday. Then you can let me know if Maureen is coming.”

              “Can do, Otis.”

              “Thanks, Ken. I wish you a great weekend, and it’s good to have you back.”

              “Glad to be back, pal.”