Covert Matters Digest

Attention: Uncle Sam Still Wants You

By Harry M. Covert 

Lots of witticisms, jokes and uncouth remarks can be made about allowing women in combat. Some folks might think it’s another giant step in bringing about equality of the sexes. I’m not so sure.

If the time ever comes when a draft is re-instituted I would hope drafting women into the military services not be included.

Even though thinking of the past includes such statements that women “are the weaker sex.” I’ve never believed that.

Because a woman may not match men’s military standards for push-ups or pull-ups they are known to be to mighty good shots with handguns, automatic rifles and/or knife throwing.

I asked several women what they thought of female soldiers on the battlefield.

“Why not?” one said. “But I wouldn’t want to.” Each asked the difference between guarding prisoners of war or inmates in jail-corrections-penitentiary situations?

We can come up with all sorts of traditional reasons to keep women from the battlefields. But the argument sort of loses traction as military life appeals to more and more girls in these days.

Some of the best women soldiers I’ve known made the best police officers, deputy sheriffs, bail bonds women  bounty hunters and judges. They’re all business, not fearful and not timid when it comes to “grabbing problems by the throat.” They can turn on and turn off emotions quickly. When the male enemy thinks he’s got the upper hand, what a mistake he’s made.

A bonds woman told me this story. Her “bondee” asked what would happen if he ran. The bonds-person then asked if he could run fast.

“I’m fast, real fast,” he said.

Well, Miss Agent replied, “can you outrun a .38-Smith & Wesson.”

Conversation over and no bail jumper.

Women in combat is not new. Americans, British and French took advantage of women in World War II.

Ken Follett’s novel Jackdaws talks about the all-female agents/fighters parachuted into France to help defeat the Nazis. Follett’s book was based on fact.

Within the past few years, numerous British SOE (Special Operations Executive) women, in their late 80s and 90s, broke silence of their efforts and received high medals for their daredevil service. All had kept mum about their activities.

Locally, several women agents of the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) held military ranks assigned to the OSS. They were excellent soldiers and kept their secrets until late in life.

I don’t want anyone to face combat but I’m glad there are men and women, all patriots, who take the calling. It’s no easy life.

Before any young women, and men, too, enlist in either of the military branches, they should watch news films/videos of the atrocities of war. It’s not pretty, it’s not something to boast about and not something men or women should crave.

Yankee general Tecumseh Sherman said “War is hell.”

Confederate General Robert E. Lee said, “It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it.”

General-President Dwight Eisenhower said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

For those enamored by the battlefield another requirement should be a visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Heroes. ©

(This column has appeared in

 Jitneys to Journalism

By Harry M. Covert

Back in the gentle days of my childhood, it was fun riding the city bus, from the stop near my house to the end of the route and back.

Gosh, it was a joy and, no kidding, this five year old wasn’t in danger of being attacked or abused by the friendly driver.

In those formative years the dream was to be a bus driver, wearing the blue-grey uniform and cap and carrying a silver change carrier which I have to this day and transfers. It was pleasant practicing driving using an upside-down piano bench as a steering wheel and blissfully weaving down the route.

Mr. Brackett, the driver, let me ride the last few miles of his course at least once a week; we remained friends through my teen years. The suggestion to use Frederick’s TransIT buses for schools recalled my love for the buses. It also is proof that the way to kill a proposal is to study it to death; and it seems that this style isn’t lost on local officials.

As it was previously mentioned, I was blessed to grow up when students attended their neighborhood schools, walked to schools and weren’t fearful of being assaulted by unkempt, unruly and unschooled brats. I never rode a yellow school bus in my life, and I’m glad.

It’s not unreasonable for either the school board or city and county leaders to think about using public transportation. The local governments have already invested millions in the buses, the routes and the ancillary requisites to operate. Bureaucracy is at its best when it can make fun or criticize suggestions to use existing facilities. Why duplicate services?

The question is why not consolidating similar services? City buses could certainly be utilized for public schools. Bus drivers, if need be, could be sworn as special police officers to maintain discipline on the jitneys, if and when any of the student riders decided to be bullies and pains in the posterior.

I admit that society has changed in these days, and governments must be careful in dealing with social matters. It’s a little late for this idea, but I’ve never thought school boards should be elected. Politicizing education is not good and is harmful. School superintendents and school boards should answer to boards of supervisors, city councils, and, not to the courts.

Taxing powers belong to city and county governments which provide the funds for schools, administrators and teachers; the responsibility for local education should lie with them. I know, I know, a lone voice in the wilderness on this matter.

The old General Motors buses were beautiful vehicles. Nowadays they are built to kneel with all sorts of other modern amenities – air conditioning, wireless availability and cords to buzz when riders arrive at stops. I’ve never cared for the yellow Blue Bird buses probably because I’m a traditionalist.

To help defray the costs of the buses, local businesses could sponsor them. The idea to sell naming rights for the Harry Grove Stadium is reprehensible. Use the same acumen to sell the rights to city and county buses and transport the boys and girls to their schools.

Opportunities to enter the bus driving business sort of faded as the lure of newspapers got stronger. Our city’s bus drivers organized a union after several of them were shot during their working hours. They threatened to strike, an unheard of thing in those days. Finally drivers were given permission to carry side arms and given raises. Our paper was having difficulty getting the “inside” facts on the problem.

Just so happened that Mr. Brackett, my early mentor, remembered me after reading some sports stories carrying my byline (his grandson had done well in a little league baseball game). It was smooth sailing after that, and my hopes for a career jumped from jitneys to journalism.

One day recently I figured it would be fun to do a part-time effort maybe as a tour bus driver. While I may still think I’m a late teenager, the facts are the superannuated stage is not a good time to pretend on city and county streets. © 2012 Harry M. Covert 

(This column has appeared in 

Fun in the Fourth Estate

By Harry M. Covert

On the day I was sworn in as a member of the Fourth Estate, I was told to keep my eyes open, my ears ever on the alert, keep notes and never forget the five “w’s” and an “h.”

My editor emphasized to this 17-year-old rookie facts and facts, contacts and more contacts and short sentences. “There are so many good stories out there you don’t have to manufacture them,” said Gene Markham, my avuncular.

How exciting the news business can be. In moderneze (sic) it’s called journalism; but Edmund Burke, the British politician in the 1700s, said: “there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far more than they all.”

It can be a plodding effort, but the results can be thrilling and those in the “lower” estates will give you more news than you can imagine.

J. Edgar Hoover, the tyrannical director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), must be turning over in his grave. No matter what the progressives like or dislike, Mr. Hoover had his hand on plow and files on everybody. Every agent was held accountable for their work and were terrified to make an error. They could end up in Montana, or Alaska, or some other unpopular outpost.

Anyway, back to the joys of journalism. Lately, the CIA director resigns. A four-star, Ph.D (not the abbreviation for piled higher and deeper), a man headed for bigger and better career moves, falls from grace also because of an extra-marital affair – another flag officer is going to fade into the sunset for the same reason.

Reporters don’t have to make up this stuff. They don’t have to become commentators or editorial writers. Just keep their eyes and ears open and the alleged smart people will give you more wonderful news.

I haven’t heard of anyone in Maryland who wants to secede from the Union. One official is trying to defend himself against library censorship. Another can’t hire a chosen assistant without a knock-down fight. News.

For example, in Texas, 80,000 alleged voters signed petitions for the Lone Star State to secede from the US of A. Yes indeed, sounds silly and it is.

With apologies to Lyle Lovett and his song, “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas,” other states recently have come up with similar petitions. Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee have attracted more than 20,000 supporters. Louisiana’s petition has garnered more than 30,000 signatures. I’m just shaking my head to this idiocy. Does make a good news story, though.

I’ve never put much stock in the polls of the television people. It’s a good money business but fallacies run amok as they race to shape opinions.

Jack Germond, the respected journalist of print and broadcast, gave Hood College students a good lesson this week: “Too many voters are getting their information from people who wouldn’t know a political story if it bit them.”

Mr. Germond was critical of the polls during the presidential race. “They were saying all year that it was a close election.” They were wrong; it was never a close election.”

Journalism is indeed fun. Where else could you find the facts – CIA director quits (and the facts are???), the FBI helps him along, Mr. Hoover is still dead. He would have known all this anyway.

“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation,” Edmund Burke said. © 2012 Harry M. Covert

 (This column has appeared in