“You cannot expect to have good press if you’re not doing good things”

Filed under: White House

When Paul McCartney sang, “You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead,” he might have been describing my 35+ year friendship Davida Sherman Dinerman. An accomplished marketing pro with a tennis serve that would make Serena Williams jealous, Davida specializes in tech, cyber security and health IT. Based in Connecticut, she and her teams have earned multiple prestigious marketing and communications awards.

Recently, Davida and her wonderful colleague at Look Left Marketing John Moran invited me to appear on their company’s podcast.

It was a fun time that combined PR insights, great memories of my time at the White House and a few laughs. Hope you enjoy it while keeping in mind the sage advice from President Obama’s campaign guru David Axelrod: If you build a temple without Jesus, you get a warehouse.

To listen, click below:

Politicians can be funny. No, really

Since 2020 has been such a train wreck, Landon asked me for a post-election essay on political humor. If you want a smile, click here for some of my favorite anecdotes about George & Barbara Bush, Dana Carvey, Raisa Gorbachev and Al Gore. Yes, Al Gore.

Here’s an excerpt:

“President Frank Underwood was right when he said about Washington, ‘Nobody’s a Boy Scout. Not even Boy Scouts.’ [But] if today’s political divisions are deeper than 30 years ago, it’s only by degree.

“That said, this will not be a diatribe on politics. Interested readers can find plenty of political commentary on blogs and cable networks, argued by advocates demonstrating their months of experience. But though much of modern politics evokes dystopian scenes from Hunger Games, I’ve been lucky enough to see just enough humor to keep politics tolerable.”

“Network, network and network”

Filed under: Dartmouth College

A great satisfaction of personal life these days involves serving on the Board of The Dartmouth Club of Washington. With so many current undergraduates losing promised internships due to Covid-19, the Club’s Board has been successfully matching students with Dartmouth alumni offering replacement opportunities. So far, we’ve done pretty well:

Peter Arnold ’86, the vice president of the Dartmouth Club of Washington D.C., said that the club’s alumni board has launched an initiative to encourage alumni to create internship opportunities for Dartmouth students.

When asked what advice he would give to the ’20s, Arnold said, “Three words: network, network and network. In 35 years in D.C., I’ve never seen an example where a recent graduate was penalized for being too aggressive in pursuing a job.”

For The Daily Dartmouth’s full article, click here.

And a shout-out to reporter Allison Wachen ’22. Oh, the places she’ll go.

Farewell, Mr. Jacoby

Filed under: Landon School

“His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man.’”
                     — Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

This month, Maclear “Mac” Jacoby, longtime Middle School Headmaster at my alma mater Landon School in Bethesda, passed away from Covid-19. He was also Landon’s longtime tennis coach and a terrific geometry and algebra teacher.

On Monday, The Washington Post ran an appreciation of Mr. Jacoby’s life and I’m quoted a few times:

“Mac’s classes were unique,” said Peter Arnold, who graduated in 1982 from Bethesda’s Landon School, the all-boys prep school in suburban Maryland where Jacoby taught math for more than two decades. “You couldn’t wait to see how he’d use a little craziness to teach the finer points of algebra and geometry.”

Jacoby beguiled rowdy seventh- and eighth-grade boys with tales of his “dear Aunt Sally” — a mnemonic device the teacher used to remind his students to “divide, add and subtract” only after they multiplied the numbers in an equation. It’s been 45 years since Arnold sat in Jacoby’s chalk-covered classroom, but he still remembers the tricks his teacher taught him, including a shortcut for squaring two-digit numbers in a matter of seconds.

Incidentally, as a tribute to Mr. Jacoby (yes, even 38 years after graduation, he’s still “Mr. Jacoby”), here’s the explanation referenced in the 4th paragraph about squaring numbers ending in “5″: When squaring a number ending in 5, write the number “25” on the right of the answer space. The number(s) on the left are the product of the original number’s other digit(s) multiplied by 1 more than that number.

Therefore, to square 65, you’d write “25” on the right side of the answer space and then “42″ (i.e, 6×7) to the left. Viola! 65 squared is 4,225.

UPDATE: I shared this solution this week with my longtime Dawson & Associates colleague Gen. (ret) Rick Stevens. Not surprisingly for a West Point grad who became Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rick provided an explanation, courtesy of  http://homeschoolmath.blogspot.com:

Any whole number that ends in 5 is of the form A + 5, and A is a multiple of 10. Since A is a multiple of 10, we can write A = 10b, where b is now some whole number. So, our number is of the form 10b + 5. Now, let’s square it.

(10b + 5)(10b + 5) and we use the distributive property to multiply this out.

(10b + 5)(10b + 5) = 100b2 + 50b + 50b + 25 = 100b2 + 100b + 25

Now, notice those 100b’s there? We can gather that as a common factor for the first two terms:

= 100 b (b + 1) + 25

This is now essentially in the form that the trick is using. The trick says to take b, or the number formed by the digits in front of the 5. So we take b, multiply it by (b + 1) which is the next number, and also by 100, and lastly add 25.

Now, b × (b+1) is the part of the trick where you multiply the digits in front of the 5 by the next number. To “tag” 25 to those digits means you add 25 only after having multiplied the number by 100 so that it would end in “00”. Once it ends in “00” you can add 25 (or any two-digit number) and it is the same as “tagging” 25 to the digits without the “00”.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Jacoby. I hope someday we’ll see each other again.

UPDATE: Rick just shared that he used http://homeschoolmath.blogspot.com (including a cut/paste of elements of the proof) to refresh his memory on why Mr. Jacoby’s trick works.

Why low interest rates aren’t killing structured settlements

Attorney Dennis Beaver’s syndicated “You & The Law” column is more than an engaging and enjoyable read. It is, to paraphrase George Will, an ongoing testimonial challenging the law’s unsleeping solicitousness for the strong.

This morning, Kiplinger posted Beaver’s latest column, “Low Interest Rates Don’t Make Structured Settlements a Bad Deal” in which he quotes an insightful structured settlement commentator:

I ran Theo’s question by Peter Arnold, who has been in the structured settlement field for more than 20 years and was formerly deputy director of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association.

“The federal tax code gives two important benefits to accident survivors who agree to have some or all of their settlement placed into a structured settlement annuity,” Arnold explains. “First, 100% of that income is tax free. You won’t pay any federal, state or local income taxes, no interest or dividend taxes, and no alternative minimum tax.”

“Second, you get guaranteed payments to match future needs — things like wheelchair replacement, therapy or future surgery. That relieves accident survivors from the stress of making appropriate investments with settlement funds.”

Financial strategies for accident victims with ongoing medical and rehabilitative expenses are fundamentally different from strategies for those without these needs. People with medical and rehabilitative needs typically have expenses relating to their accident that cannot be delayed. Money must be available at precise times, come Hell or high water. That’s where a structured settlement can have a crucial role as part of an overall post-accident financial strategy.

For Dennis’ full column on structured settlements, click here.

“New York Life will fight this hard but…”

The need for Congress to update and improve Federal rules governing structured settlement transfers is beyond question. Too many cases involve tragic situations such as what has befallen Terrence Taylor, who sold rights to receive approximately $11 million in future payments from his structured settlement for a princely $1.4 million.

Editor Warren Hersch at Life Annuity Specialist, who has followed the structured settlement industry for decades, recently called to discuss the Taylor case and a recent lawsuit that attorney Edward Stone filed against New York Life on behalf of Terrence Taylor. Hersch was also interested in whether Congress should improve Section 5891 of the Federal tax code.

Happy to see that I’m quoted here in Life Annuity Specialist but it would be far better if the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Commmittees updated Federal rules to stop this obvious chicanery against accident survivors who have suffered so much.

“That’s a big problem if Elizabeth Warren starts poking around….”

It’s always a pleasure to be quoted in the media, especially when the author is Warren Hersch, the well-regarded insurance industry investigator. Hersch has an article on the structured settlement industry in today’s Life Annuity Specialist. His focus is on the industry’s changing leadership which includes an insurance executive, Michelle Caine of Prudential Financial, taking over as President of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association (NSSTA).

An excerpt:

Training aside, advisors and consultants in the industry need to be better regulated, according Peter Arnold, a consultant who from 1995 to 2014 managed public affairs for the National Structured Settlements Trade Association.

Personal injury claimants may be getting less than an optimal deal on the annuity because of conflicts of interest arising from carriers or wholesalers offering exotic trips or other financial incentives to consultants who sell their products, he said. “That’s a big problem if Elizabeth Warren or someone like her starts poking around,” says Arnold of the U.S. senator and presidential candidate. In 2017, Warren issued a report charging that 24 companies paid kick-backs and awards to annuity sales agents, creating conflicts of interest that “can result in devastating consequences for retirees.”

“The optics are even worse,” adds Arnold. “Having an insurance company offer five-star resorts to brokers whose sole business involves financial assistance for accident victims undercuts the goodwill the industry’s going to need for future legislative efforts.”

For years, the NSSTA shied away from having an insurance executive as its president. The reason was easy to discern. Insurance executives were (and are) ill-suited to mediate policy disputes among structured settlement consultants since those consultants are the insurers’ customers. Regardless, here’s hoping Michelle has a good tenure.

Remembering 41: “If his glare had been a knife, it would have sliced through the USS Missouri”

Filed under: George Bush,White House

The outpouring of kind words after President Bush’s passing is a deserved tribute to his leadership as President and his public service. For two exceptionally good testimonials, click here and here.

But no tribute to Mr. Bush would be complete without mentioning his zeal to win – especially on the softball field. This man did not like to lose even if it was “just a friendly game” of softball with his staff. And woe to any staff member who didn’t appreciate this!

Mr. Bush’s passion to win and a young staffer’s naiveté were both on splendid display at a 1987 staff softball game at the Vice President’s residence on Observatory Hill. I was playing shortstop when Mr. Bush came to bat. He hit a one-hop and sprinted to first. I moved toward second base, grabbed the ball and then realized I had two options:

#1: Throw it hard to first, likely throwing him out though risking “beaning” the nation’s second most powerful elected official.

This would not have been a good career move.

#2: Deliberately overthrow the first baseman, my fellow speechwriter Joe Casper.

After a nanosecond of introspection, I made the throw. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the height of his career couldn’t have grabbed the ball I tossed over Joe’s head.

More than 30 years later, I still vividly recall that look Vice President Bush gave me while standing on first base. He knew I’d deliberately overthrown and he didn’t like it one bit.

If his glare had been a knife, it would have sliced through the USS Missouri.

George Bush was a tough and demanding boss but never unfair. If a speech text wasn’t to his liking, he would stress firmly what needed to be improved. But he was always respectful to his staff. In turn, this fostered the intense loyalty that so many of us have felt toward him for these past decades.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. Thank you for everything.

Al Gore, humorist

Filed under: White House

With the election season over, a bit of humor might be an appropriate balm to all the acrimony from the past several weeks.

Thirty years ago today was Election Day and I was on a flight from Washington to Houston as part of a White House staff migration to watch returns with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. I was a White House speechwriter for Mr. Bush and Election Day 1988 was the culmination of months of late nights and weekends in the office.

Mr. Bush’s staff had gathered in the Old Executive Office Building that morning for breakfast and Bloody Marys. Although alcohol was strictly prohibited during White House work hours, it’s possible that vodka was an ingredient.

The group took cabs to National Airport where we boarded a flight to Houston that had a stopover in Nashville. I was one of two staffers at the plane’s entrance who offered Bush/Quayle buttons to interested passengers. The rest of our team (perhaps 50) were in coach wearing elephant hats and holding Bush/Quayle signs.

More important, the vodka had kicked in.

Sure enough, the final two passengers in the plane were Al and Tipper Gore. I didn’t offer them buttons but said something along the lines of, “Senator, welcome aboard and you’re in for a surprise when you get to your seat.”

When the Gores entered the coach area, a loud roar went up from our group. To his credit, while surveying all the elephant hats and signs, he replied without missing a beat, “I’ve heard that Republicans are moving south but this is ridiculous.”

He then turned to Tipper and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Honey, as soon as we get to Nashville, I’m firing our travel agent.”

For a public servant oftentimes criticized for being excessively serious, these were pretty good one-liners.

Remembering Barbara Bush

Filed under: George Bush,White House

With former First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing, the nation mourns a wonderful, remarkable First Lady whose signature issue was a lifelong campaign for literacy. Those who knew her have posted well-deserved tributes to her and her exemplary life (click here and here, for example).

No tribute to Mrs. Bush would be complete without a reference to her sense of humor. She was a funny person but not in a comedic way. Rather, her humor was purposeful and sharp – often very sharp.

I was a speechwriter for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush from June 1986 to January 1989. The Bushes were exceptionally kind about inviting staff to their home for softball, drinks and jokes. Mrs. Bush would always come out for those events and more than a few times, when she offered an especially barbed or bluff bit of humor, those of us in the conversation would shoot each other a look that asked, “Did she really say THAT?!”

My favorite Barbara Bush story took place in early December 1987. That month, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev came to DC for a summit with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. Shortly after he left, the Bushes invited staff members, including me, to their home for drinks and jokes. (See photo)1988 Bush holiday party

Midway through, Mrs. Bush turned to the Vice President and said, “Tell them what Raisa [Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet Premier] said to you at the concert.” “No,” replied Mr. Bush, waving her off. “Oh go on!” she prodded and once more, he said no, shaking hs head.

At that point, she told us what happened: Gorbachev had hosted a dinner at the Soviet Embassy for the Reagans, Bushes, and other U.S. officials. The post-dinner entertainment was a Russian opera singer. Vice President Bush seated next to Raisa Gorbachev and as the singer reached for the high notes with visible passion, Mr. Bush said through the interpreter, “I think I’m falling in love.”

“Be careful,” Mrs. Gorbachev replied, “Remember what happened to Gary Hart.”

I don’t recall the look on Vice President Bush’s face when Mrs. Bush told this story but something tells me that he probably wasn’t entirely pleased. Then again, it was so typical of Mrs. Bush to dispense with formalities and share something she thought was funny.

Mrs. Bush, we will miss you. R.I.P.