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Ron, The Mayor, and Me

Slow day so I thought I'd share a picture for you taken by NT photographer Colby Katz. It's Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini at a recent city hall meeting. The gentleman in the blue shirt with outstetched hand at right is your peaceable Pulp host. I wonder why Cap doesn't seem happy to see me. It may have something to do with the line of questioning.

To be fair, the mayor was very gracious about it. Must have been the setting. Probably would have been a whole lot different if I'd met him in a back room with his buds at Club Cinema.

Well hell, since I'm already doing a little belly button balleyhooing, I might as well share with you a note and photo (at right) I received from Ron Gunzburger, the Politics1 honcho, right-hand man of Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, and son of county commish Sue. If you don't know about Gunzburger, he's a veritable workaholic -- and needs to be since he's full timing it for Parrish and running his gigantic Web site. And yet he still manages to be a voracious reader, chewing up political tracts and histories of all kinds.

And it seems my name popped up in one of the books he was reading. Only it wasn't me. "Bob Norman" was a code name used in a Soviet espionage deal about 70 years ago (you can barely make it out on the page there). Let Gunzburger tell it to you:

This comes from the book The Haunted Wood (Weinstein & Vassiliev, Random House, 1999). It's the history of Soviet espionage in the US during the Stalin era. "Bob Norman" was not a Soviet agent, but was used as part of a password phrase so that Soviet secret agent Martha Dodd (daughter of the US Ambassador to Germany) would be able to recognize her new handler in the US. The info in this passage comes from formerly classified NKVD/KGB files made available to Western scholars during the Yeltsin era (i.e., before Putin started reimposing an authoritarian rule in Russia). A double agent exposed Dodd in the mid-1950s, she fled to sanctuary behind the Iron Curtain in the mid-1950s, was convicted in absentia in the US of espionage in 1957, and died in exile in Prague in 1990. Nearly everything I read is non-fiction -- and these days I'm alternating on any given day between The Haunted Wood (Soviet espionage); 1491: New Revelations of America Before Columbus (did you know the largest city in the world, population-wise, around 500 AD was Calakmul in Mexico? It's right near the Guatemalan border -- I visited it two years ago, still around 90% unexcavated, very few tourists, just fascinating. See: ); Mao: The Unknown Story (a great new biography by Chang & Halliday); and Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values (interested book by Canadian pollster Michael Adams). I haven't come across any mentions of Bob Norman in the other ones, but I'll let you know if I see it.

Back to The Haunted Wood ... Did you know a US Congressman in the 1930s was a paid Soviet spy (but the Soviets still thought of him as so greedy his spy codename in reports was the Russian word for CROOK)? It's like a LeCarre novel only better -- because these stories are all true. Being a student of Soviet history is entirely irrelevant these days (just look at Sovietologist historian Condi Rice and see how well it served to guide her) -- but makes for interesting reading (particularly the Stalin, Khrushchev and Gorbachev/Yeltsin era).

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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