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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore



Archive for the ‘History’ Category

 

Wrong Way Corrigan

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Nancy.

***

Some of you may know that certain creatures are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field. Migratory birds, for example, seem to use it to find their way back and forth from where they spend the winter and summer.

I read that some scientists think they may have discovered the molecule that is responsible for the ability to sense magnetic fields. That started me wondering what will happen when, one day, the Earth’s magnetic field flips again? You didn’t know it moves? Well, it does. Or appears to.

Douglas Corrigan

What will happen to all those migratory birds? Will they one day be lounging around picking bugs and seeds from your lawn when the magnetic field flips and they suddenly feel like they’re in the wrong place? Will they take off and head in the wrong direction, smack into a blizzard? Are all these migratory birds destined for extinction due to confusion?

Then I started wondering what will happen when scientists learn how to manipulate the molecule and whatever else is necessary for the magnetic location ability. Will they one day be inserting it into the human genome? Think of the benefits!

Guys, never again will you have to listen to your wife or girlfriend nagging for you to stop and ask directions. You’ll just know where to go! And ladies, you, too, will never again get lost on the way to an important engagement or a big sale.

Pilots and boaters and Boy Scouts will throw away their compasses.

And never again will anyone ever be compared to the infamous “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

By the way, today is the 74th anniversary of Corrigan’s “mistaken” flight across the Atlantic to Ireland.

You can read about it here. It’s an interesting story.

 

A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll in 100 Guitar Riffs

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

If you ever listened to Rock n’ Roll, you might enjoy this twelve-minute performance by Alex from the Chicago Music Exchange.

He plays 100 well-known  guitar riffs and does it all in one take. The names of the songs from whence the riffs came are displayed at the bottom right.

First off, the guys is pretty darn good to do it all in one take. Second, he necessarily had to leave out riffs from many more songs than he included.

He doesn’t say what his criteria was for selecting the riffs, but I can think of some that should have been there, including almost anything from The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper album, Springsteen’s Born to Run, something from The Who’s Tommy, and riffs to represent rock musicals like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Have a listen and then leave a comment with some songs you think should be included if he ever does a remake with 200 guitar riffs.

A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll in 100 Guitar Riffs

 

Could the signals from the Obama campaign be any more clear?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Barack Hussein Obama and his campaign advisers clearly thought long and hard about a slogan for the 2012 re-election campaign. What could they possibly come up with to replace the “Hope and Change” that was so effective in blinding so many Americans to his true nature back in 2008?

Apparently unable to come up with something new, they decided to go with a classic, one people like them used before, but it was such a long time ago, maybe they Hoped Americans really have Changed and wouldn’t notice where they got it from.

 

Now, check out this seventy-four second video, with a catchy tune from the middle of the last century, and pay attention to the translation. Vorwärts!

 

How fitting, how telling, that these modern-day socialists should decide on a single word, one with a clear, long-time association to their true political views.

They are so clearly announcing exactly who and what they are, what they believe, and what they intend for America should we give them the chance in November.

Or they’re really, really, REALLY stupid.

Which do you think it is?

And what do you think of Our Dear Leader’s new slogan?

 

Could you homestead in the Hi-Line? I couldn’t. But these folks did, and do.

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Establishing a homestead under good conditions is a difficult proposition. Even with all the technological help modern times make available, the life is often a daily struggle filled with hard work.

Now imagine trying to homestead in much-less-than good conditions, with no modern technology.

That’s what this story, from the current issue of National Geographic magazine, is about.

Northern Montana’s Hi-Line
Harsh isolation didn’t deter homesteaders from making a life along northern Montana’s Hi-Line. Their tight-knit descendants show no less resolve.

The earnest saga of farming and ranching in northern Montana began with a misconception that verged on a lie: free land, enough to feed your family! But the land wasn’t quite free, and it was far from enough.

Two sorrels belonging to Buster and Helen Brown have gone AWOL in the snow. ©William Albert Allard/National Geographic

A law had been passed by Congress back in 1862, codifying the misconception as a national promise. In exchange for building a house on a chosen site, planting a crop, and maintaining five years of residence, you could “prove up” on 160 acres. That is, you would be granted a title. The offer applied to all unclaimed federal land, much of it west of the Mississippi River, including what we now call Montana. The northern third of the eventual state, stretching roughly a hundred miles down from the Canadian border and westward as far as the front of the Rockies, comprised about 26 million acres of landscape, mostly semiarid plains upholstered with shortgrass prairie and sagebrush. The government wanted those acres occupied by white settlers whose presence would gradually erase the thought of land claims by Blackfeet, Gros Ventre, Sioux, Crow, and other native peoples. James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railway, wanted those acres occupied by customers whose material needs (farm implements, horse tack, household goods, seed grain) and whose produce (mainly wheat) would fill his boxcars outbound and back. People came from Minnesota, from Illinois, from Scotland, from Norway, and from points in between to accept the dare, tossing down their labor, their youth, and their hopes onto a craps table with long, empty horizons that were green in springtime, brown in summer, brown in autumn, and then implacably white. This was called homesteading.

Settlers arrived late to northern Montana, after the more easily farmable places had already been claimed. They followed the railroad, which Jim Hill’s crews had completed in 1893. That rail line, in turn, had traced an old wagon trail across Indian lands. Congress updated the original Homestead Act in 1909, 1912, and 1916, shortening the residence requirement to three years and raising the allotted acreage to 320, or 640 for a cattle operation. Those changes, plus advertising hype from the railroad and misleading encouragement from the crackpot mavens of something called dry farming, brought plenty of aspirants into the region, though time would show that the acreages were still far too small. Between 1909 and 1923, settlers filed 114,620 homestead claims in Montana, many of those within a day’s wagon ride of the Great Northern line, which crossed the state at about 48 degrees north latitude. Population and service busi­nesses, if not rain, followed the plow.

And so towns grew along that line, some named for faraway places and things: Glasgow, Malta, Harlem, Havre, Inverness, Dunkirk, Kremlin. Some were named for people, such as Culbertson (a fur trader) and Shelby (a minion of Jim Hill). A few were more locally evocative: Cut Bank, Chinook, Poplar, Wolf Point. Eventually pavement as well as rails linked those communities, forming a portion of U.S. Highway 2, America’s northernmost cross-country ribbon of blacktop. Within Montana, this stretch of road and railway and towns and surrounding landscape became known as the Hi-Line.

It’s a part of the state that never appears in the Marlboro ads or the ski brochures. Its beauties are severe and subtle and horizontal, rather than soaring and picturesque. It’s not for everybody. But the Hi-Line contains scenes, lives, and voices with dramatic force all their own. One of those voices belongs to Lloyd Kanning, a sturdy 76-year-old with a full head of white hair and pale blue eyes, who has been driving a tractor since the age of ten. “Farming,” Kanning told me, as we sat in his living room in Shelby, “is like fighting a war.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’m a city boy, born and raised. Though I dreamed of moving to the country one day, the “country” I envisioned was the New England kind, with plenty of  fertile land and water to keep things growing. The Montana Hi-Line? No thanks. Short of a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I just don’t want to work that hard to survive.

What about you?

Do you homestead? If so, in good, moderate, or difficult conditions?

And would you consider homesteading the Montana Hi-Line?

 

 

Has the American dream died as more of us slip further into poverty?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The headlines are legion. A sample:

Census Bureau measures more Americans living in poverty

Poverty rates rise locally and across U.S.

Rochester, suburbs witness painful increase in number of poor

Extreme poverty on the rise in Tulsa County

Where is the U.S. headed if 16% of Americans are living in poverty?

Poverty worsening in Hub, study says

The last one appeared this morning in my local paper, The Boston Globe, and it made me pause and think about how we’ve managed to reach this point in America, a land that once had a dream attached to it, a dream that inspired millions of folks from all over the world to wait patiently until it was their turn to come and try their hand at making a better life for themselves and their children.

Truthfully, it didn’t take too much effort. I simply looked for the sea change, the one big thing that was different now than it was when my father’s parents took him on a boat to a new land.

Had he lived, my dad would have been 100 years old last Saturday. He understood the dream. His father and he, as he left childhood behind, both used the dream to better themselves far beyond anything they could have hoped for had they remained in the mountains of Italy. Not that either of them ever grew rich. Far from it. But through hard work, my father was able to start his own plastering business, buy a two-family home in the suburbs, and feed, clothe, and otherwise provide his wife and five children with a comfortable middle-class life. More important, he provided his children the opportunity to do better than he did.

In the Globe story, Tiziana Dearing, executive director of the antipoverty organization Boston Rising says, “We no longer have conditions for the American dream; that actually does not exist anymore. It is, in fact, harder now than it used to be.”

The reasons for that are myriad, but I believe they can all be traced back to one root — liberal-socialism coupled with economic fascism.

Socialism is the egalitarian fantasy that all people really are equal and so are all entitled. To what they are entitled varies with the advocate for the fantasy, but the reality is that regardless of what is promised, in the end, everyone except the very rich and the political elite ends up equally poor and miserable. Fascism is the insane idea that government can run anything better than individual citizens.

Anti-capitalists decry the inequality of a system where some can profit while others do not, ignoring the fact that it is the only system that permits anyone, regardless of their current position in life, to not only better themselves, but to prosper beyond their dreams. For an ever-increasing number of people, the American Dream has been reduced to hoping their food lasts until the next welfare check arrives.

Indicative of the city's poverty, a man sleeps in the rain outside the Open Door Mission downtown. In the suburbs, the number of poor people increased from 24,500 in 2000 to 34,500 in 2009 — a rise of 40 percent. Max Schulte/file photo 2011

America once traveled a road that lead to prosperity for all who were willing to work for it. Not wild riches, mind you, but the same comfortable life my father built for his family. That road also led to more, often much more for those smart enough, talented enough, and lucky enough. But today, America is being driven down a path that leads to ever increasing misery.

For generations, we’ve  allowed political pimps and prostitutes to rig the system for their own benefit even as they buy our votes with whatever words we want to hear. Three years ago, the self-proclaimed messiah offered Hope and promised Change. Well, we got it. Life has Changed for the worse for many, perhaps most of us, even as we continue to Hope someone will come along to save us.

The only real Hope I see for Change, and even then it’s a long shot, lay in something I wrote back in 2002 that BHM publisher liked enough to use as the editorial for the July/August issue that year. Just Say NO! to the Federal Government speaks to resisting the Feds, but the ability to do that as individuals has now all but vanished. If it can be done at all, it has to happen at the local level first, in the cities and towns, then in the States.

Imagine the impact of secession legislation not just in one or two states, but in thirty or forty all at the same time. What will the Feds do if states directed their citizens to send all income tax money to the state which will then decide how much to send to the Feds. what if all local law enforcement refused to cooperate with any Federal agency and booted them from their jurisdictions? Those are just three ideas. I’m sure there are lots more some of you would like to share.

The American people can still bring their government to its knees if enough people will get involved. But therein lay the real problem, for I fear it will be near impossible to get the attention of folks who can’t possibly miss an episode of anything for some boring town meeting.

What do you folks think of all this?

Do you see any way out of the mess we’ve voted ourselves into?

 

Dumbing down America

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Yesterday, I read an excellent opinion piece by Natasha Mayer. Today, I’d like you to take a few minutes to read it, too.

There is nothing I can think of to add to what she says.

When you’re done reading, please let me know if you share my admiration for her and her column.

And if you think she’s wrong, please, take a moment to tell me why.

Dumbing down America

In a recent article, I mourned the loss of America’s spirit, that “can do” attitude that we all feel draining away. As an immigrant to this country, a citizen by choice, I believe this loss is the result of an effort to disfigure our national identity. One of the examples I cited was the tapering expectations placed on students by teachers who are all too often willing to help their students cheat on tests in order to further their own careers.

In looking over the comments from that article, I realize I’ve somehow managed to both touch a nerve and be slightly misunderstood. As the proud daughter and sister of college professors, my intent was not to bash all educators but instead to wonder aloud whether we, as a country and a society, are doing a disservice to our children by holding them to a lower standard than we used to while lamenting the fall of the American empire.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American students rank 25th in math and 14th in reading out of a group of 34 developed countries. Outperforming us and everybody else? China. Seniors at U.C. Berkeley lack basic knowledge of American history. And once we enter the workforce, we self-described workaholics rank just ninth in hours worked. All of these numbers are evidence of a real decline that is weighing down our students, our country and our global credibility.

I don’t care whose fault it is, I just want us to reverse course. We need to raise outward-looking optimists who adapt to the world around them instead of inward-gazing little narcissists, inform students of the nuances of history so that they can better understand a complicated world, remind them that there’s an actual point to core school curricula, hold students accountable for their academic performance and, maybe most importantly, measure successes and failures as we go, not decades down the road.

Click Here to read the rest of the column.

 

 

1957 vs. 2011: A Comparison – Fact or Fiction?

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Honestly, I couldn’t find anything in the news today I wanted to write about. Or maybe I  just didn’t look hard enough. Either way, this arrived in my email box yesterday. I’ve seen it before, but it certainly gets one thinking, especially if you were alive in 1957 as I was. Younger readers may think this an idealization of that period. Whether it is or is not, I can attest that the 1957 versions are true and were true well into the 1960s.

Read them over an tell us what you think. Fact or fiction? And which set of values do you think leads to a better future for the nation?

***

HIGH SCHOOL — 1957 vs. 2011

Scenario 1: Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck’s gun rack.

1957 -  Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2011 -  School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2:Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

Then

1957 -  Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2011 -  Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark.  They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it .

Scenario 3: Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1957 -  Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal.  He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2011 -  Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin.  He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The family gets extra money (SSI) from the government because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 -  Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2011 -  Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse,  Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

Now

1957 -  Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock .

2011 -  The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6: Pedro fails high school English.

1957 -  Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2011 -  Pedro’s cause is taken up by state.  Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a  requirement for graduation is racist.  ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro’s English teacher.  English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a    living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant  bed.

1957 -  Ants die.

2011   -  ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism.  The FBI investigates his parents – and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated.  Johnny’s dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee.   He is found crying by his teacher, Mary.  Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1957  –   In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2011 -  Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

 

What was your first job? And what did you learn from it?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

My first job was working on a fruit truck. The owner’s name was Benny. I never knew his last name. I not sure any of his customers did. Everyone I knew, kid and adult alike always just called him “Benny the fruit man.”

It was the summer of 1963, I was twelve, and I made ten cents an hour, plus tips, and all the fruit I could eat. On a good week, I’d make five or six dollars, big money for a kid in my neighborhood back then.

I learned a lot from that job. The first thing I learned was if you want something, ask for it. I wanted the job, asked for it, and got it.

The second thing I learned was about moderation, and that you spend a lot of time in the bathroom when you eat too much fruit in one day.

Part of my job was to carry the bags of stuff that older ladies purchased to their front door and sometimes, if they lived on the second or third floor, up to their apartments. That part of the job taught me that if you’re nice to people and talk to them as you’re helping them, they’re much more likely to give you a dime instead of a nickel for a tip.

And watching and listening to Benny as he talked to customers, and often sold them more than they’d intended to buy, taught me some valuable sales techniques I’d not use until well over a decade later when I started selling real estate.

To this day, I’m not sure why Benny hired me that summer. He didn’t need help. All I can think of is that he decided to do a good deed and help a kid learn the value of work.

I don’t recall if I ever really thanked him when the summer was over, but I’ve never forgotten him, his old green truck with the roll-up sides and back, and the way he’d call out, “Whoa, peaches, bananas, nice, fresh corn” or something similar at every stop.

So…what was your first job, how old were you, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?

 

Is this a proper way to spend public school money?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

OPS buys 8,000 diversity manuals

The Omaha Public Schools used more than $130,000 in federal stimulus dollars to buy each teacher, administrator and staff member a manual on how to become more culturally sensitive.

The book by Virginia education consultants could raise some eyebrows with its viewpoints.

The authors assert that American government and institutions create advantages that “channel wealth and power to white people,” that color-blindness will not end racism and that educators should “take action for social justice.”

The book says that teachers should acknowledge historical systemic oppression in schools, including racism, sexism, homophobia and “ableism,” defined by the authors as discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.

The authors argue that public school teachers must raise their cultural awareness to better serve minority students and improve academic achievement.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Here’s what I don’t understand.

Back in the days before political correctness, before we celebrated diversity, and before we were told that all belief systems are equally good (except those with actual standards, of course), folks came to America because they wanted a better life than they could achieve where they were currently living. They came here knowing that if they worked hard, they could provide a comfortable life for themselves and their families. And if they were really talented, persistent and lucky, they might even make it big, really big, something that would be  virtually impossible had they remained where they were born. In short, they came here to join the American culture.

That simple system worked amazingly well for the better part of two centuries. Yes, there were injustices, and inequalities, and problems. But despite all that, millions of the world’s poor were able to lift themselves from poverty and, somehow, they managed to do it without any assistance from anyone except, perhaps, family and friends.

Compare that with what we have today. Yes, some groups are less oppressed than they were in the past. That’s a good thing.  But in the process of lifting burdens from some folks, we’ve managed to impose more burdens on others. We’ve allowed ourselves to be stripped of one right after another, to the point were what freedom we retain is no longer a matter of right, but a matter of indulgence of our out-of-control government.

We don’t need teachers who are culturally sensitive to every idiosyncrasy of every racial, ethnic, and social group. We need teachers who understand the values and customs that turned a continent from a revolutionary backwater to the land of opportunity for millions. And we need them to teach that to the young minds we entrust to them.

Anyone who wants to celebrate their heritage has always been able to do so within their family and social group. But in public school classrooms, there is only one heritage that needs to be taught, the American heritage, in all it’s glory, and with all it’s warts. And then they can spend the rest of the day leaning how to read and write and do math and science.

What do you think?

Did the Omaha schools do good? Waste money?

And what about my little rant?  Good? Bad? What would you add?

 

Americans getting angry. Are you one of them?

Monday, June 6th, 2011

I found this as I was surfing this morning.

I’ve been wondering for a long time why we no longer have protests in the streets as occurred in the 60s and 70s. Some chalked it up to complacency, to generations so transfixed by their electronic toys they had no idea what what really happening in the world around them.

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote “…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable…” That certainly seems to have been the case here in the land of the (no longer so)free. But maybe those in Washington have finally crossed the line. Maybe their hubris made them believe Americans would, forever, just bend over and take it.

Maybe, just maybe, America is starting to wake up.

***

America the Angry
by Douglas Schoen

Gas and grocery prices are soaring, the housing market is crashing to new lows, and yet another dismal jobs report has confirmed a stubbornly high unemployment rate. Could the anger fueling the Arab Spring soon bring club-wielding protesters to America?

According to an exclusive poll by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, reality is beginning to break down Americans’ normally optimistic attitude. Three-quarters of our respondents think the country is on the wrong track. A majority say the anxiety wrought by this recession has caused relationship problems and sleep deficiency. Two-thirds even report being angry at God. See the results of [the] poll below.

By almost four to one, Americans say our economy is not delivering the jobs we need, 81 percent to 12 percent.

And Obama isn’t helping. 50 percent of respondents think the president has no real plan to balance the budget; 40 percent say he does.

Republicans aren’t getting any love, either. Our poll respondents say the GOP is just laying the blame on Obama rather than making their own positive proposals, 58 percent to 29 percent.

Over half (52 percent) say their personal economic situation makes them nervous. Forty eight  percent say it makes them anxious, 44 percent say it makes them upset, and 30 percent say it makes them angry.

Americans are even losing sleep over this: 56 percent are so angry about their personal economic situation that they have lost sleep.

Thirteen percent say their anger has affected their sex life. Of those, 63 percent say they experienced a lower sex drive at least some of the time.

Listen up, Republicans: Our respondents overwhelmingly say they support increasing taxes on the wealthiest as a means of balancing the budget, 68 percent to 27 percent.

Seventy percent of Americans are nervous about their retirement because of their personal economic situation; 45 percent are nervous about being able to put their children through college; 31 percent are nervous about starting a family; and 29 percent are nervous about being able to afford to buy a home.

Twenty seven percent say their family’s economic situation has affected their health, and 26 percent of those married say it has affected their marriage.

Of those who say their family’s economic situation has affected their marriage, 57 percent say their relationship with their spouse has become worse, while 34 percent say it has become stronger.

Douglas Schoen is a political strategist.  Scott W. Rasmussen and he authored the  upcoming book Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System to be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins on September 14. Schoen has worked on numerous campaigns, including those of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Evan Bayh, Tony Blair, and Ed Koch.

***

Are you one of the angry Americans? I sure am.

What are the three to five things you’re angry about?

And what can we do about them as a nation?

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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