Category Archives: Culture

Connection And Identity As American

We are bombarded daily of late with reports of the divisions within our nation.  A real US versus THEM mentality that harbors many alleged dreadful results.  Maybe there is some truth to that and maybe it is another example of historical bias–meaning that each generation thinks that whatever is going on right now is the most important event(s) and most momentous of all time.  Each generation thinks we have never seen or experienced anything like it before.  Let’s think about that and what might be at least one root cause of the current divisions.

The strongest binders of any society are its religion, language and culture.  Culture being the art, literature, social mores and conventions that are mostly accepted by a large majority and a feeling that we are indeed connected in a fundamental way with those we consider our fellow citizens.  No thinking being expects complete agreement on all the issues of the day.  Three Southern Baptist Deacons will reach five different opinions on the policy for tithing collection after all.  In the 1930’s we faced tremendous differences about the direction of the country.  There were many who really disliked Roosevelt and his big government policies and likewise there were legions that thought he was terrific.  His popularity was not nearly as big as you would think reading the paeans to him these days when he is mentioned.  He also could be a very vicious and attacking politician and spewed vitriol on his political opponents constantly.

In the last half of the 20th century we were able to form a consensus on many large issues and when we couldn’t the losing side would begrudgingly accept the democratic outcome.  We had the big matters still in some harmony– language, religion and a loose but still defined “American” culture.  Also we had the unique benefit of so many millions of men having gone through the same experience–WWII.  Veterans of the War played an outsized role in our politics for at least two generations after the War.  No matter their political differences they knew that they people there were negotiating with on the on side of the political spectrum had gone through the same or similar events as they had.  They had all gone to boot camp, lived together, fought and believed they were doing something worthwhile for their country.

I really did not like McGovern’s big government approach and what I considered socialistic tendencies.  But I could never forget that during the War he was a B-17 bomber pilot.   Our boys had a distinct American culture they brought with them around the world on land and sea and the air.   That culture prevailed in the War.  If you don’t think our culture was distinct then ask some of the surviving Brits about out boys over there.  We had the same language and mostly religion but we were definitely American.  The Brits believed we were  “overfed, overpaid and over there”.

I sure ain’t wishing for WWIII but I do  worry about the loss of a commonality as a people.  We have become very segmented over the last 30 years or so. It concerns me that we are losing that cultural glue that binds us as one nation.

Maybe it is just us old guys with too much time on our hands and no audience that will pay attention to us anymore.   Just want my grandkids to have a country that will seek, search, dare, have moral fiber and a very strong sense of right and wrong.  Everything is not morally equivalent.

Time for some more reading and learning.  I have found that even a not so good history book will always have a few nuggets worth knowing.

Someone blow out the candle.

God Bless, olcranky

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Filed under Culture, family, government, Politics, religion

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Supposedly Mark Twain came up with that one.  Just shows that intelligent suspicion of government and the media has been a concern for a long time.  Even farther back than his time.  Daily we get a running score card about the covid-19 and infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.  You ever give any thought as to how exactly those numbers are gathered and reported?  Who died and went to heaven and appointed Johns Hopkins king of the numbers?  If their were divinely appointed I for one would still like to know the details about how exactly they amass their numbers.  What is their source?  You may recall this past week that some outfit in California came up with a new model that evinces that the death rate was over calculated enormously.

When it comes death rates you can see every source of the media completely drooling with anticipation when the alleged deaths will hit 100,000.  I swear some of them will drop confetti and pop champagne.   What a great number for the headline lead whether in print or on a tv screen.

Presumably and I have read a couple of items that verify that one  source of deaths due to the virus is death certificates.  That makes sense.  How to they accumulate that data?  Is the information of the death certificate accurate? Are they making a real hard count or using some kind of “model” to arrive at their totals?  Sadly in my life I have had more experience with death certificates than the average Joe.  I was the “family” lawyer from the mid ’60’s to date.  Also I was the patriarch by circumstances for many decades.  I had to deal with all the “business” of death for many members of my immediate and family by affinity.  I assure you that those certificates are not always accurate regarding the cause of death.  Human emotions come into play.  The reporting physician is human and takes action as such.  That is not a criticism of their work but an honest observation.  Case in point was an uncle of mine.  He died tragically at a very young age–47.  He was an alcoholic.  His death was not nice or clean.  The death certificate listed the cause of death as cirrhosis and some lung thing.  I am sure the physician saw no point in causing any emotional strain on the family by listing the true cause.  Is was the alcohol.  Period.  I really liked my uncle and he had served honorably during the War.  Of course nothing was ever done to correct that death certificate.  My mom’s certificate listed Alzheimer as her cause of death.  Not true.  For one thing there was no autopsy for verification and having lived through her experience for over 7 years with her dementia I assure you it came from anesthesia problems following an operation after a fall.  The day before her fall she was still completely independent: balanced her check book, did her own shopping, was aware of politics, events and knew everyone.  Three days later it was all gone.  That is not Alzheimer’s.

Today if a 50 year old man who is 80 pounds overweight and gets the virus I am quite confident that the death certificate will say the virus killed him.  But from all the info publicly available it has been repeatedly pointed out that those with such an underlying condition are at a much higher risk of dying from the virus.  Was it really the virus that killed that man or was it his obesity?  If his weight had been normal would he have shown any symptoms at all?  Given the current environment the virus will be listed and likely not the weight issue.  This is not a complaint about the competency or integrity of physicians.  Far from it but accounting for their human behavior.

I make no claim that I know the true number of deaths from the virus.  But inaccurate data leads to inaccurate totals and conclusions.  Whatever the real number it is less than reported.  History says this is true with regard to any account of deaths from unusual causes.  The initial battlefield reports from commanders are always too high whether reporting their own casualties or the enemy’s.  Remember the “data” showed we would likely have millions of deaths only two months ago.  No one mentions that anymore.  Sympathy to  anyone who has lost a loved one.  But these remarks are mostly for those merely trying to muddle along with their lives in face of all the normal dangers: diseases other than the virus, car accidents, and that long list of bad things that can happen.  Life can be dangerous. None of us get out alive.  Be grateful and remember the Serenity prayer and Psalms 91.

On that upbeat tone I will say au revoir before I spoil your day.  It is only the ramblings of an old mind and worthy of little note.

Put another log on the fire while I bed down.   God bless,


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Filed under Culture, science

Predictions About The Future

Alright, so I imposed a little on Yogi’s legacy.  He was right then and it still is true.  In our hyperfast info world of today we are literally inundated with predictions of one sort or another.  We don’t probably get that many more than 75 years ago its just that they jump off the website of any news outlet you choose or some talking head is pontificating on your favorite news channel whatever that may be.  To keep this within some boundaries lets focus on three areas–intelligence, financial news and or course today the virus and/or health issues.

Predictions come from the same institutions over and over again.  They are the Government, Academe and the Financial titans or financial analysts. In the last week how many articles or segments on tv have started off–so in so said, opined, believed  ( fill in the blank date) that such and such would happen.  The news media always pick someone who procrastinated correctly or course and someone who fits their particular narrative of the moment–whatever that may be.  Naturally there is always someone who predicted something correctly.  We’ll save for later comment the predictions that were and sometimes disastrously wrong.

We have for good or ill, the FBI, NSA, CIA, DIA and State Department all making their assessments, reports, memos and recommendations regarding military and intelligence matters.  You have any idea how many thousands of people you are talking about doing that work?  Actually it is tens of thousands.  They are not Jack Ryans.  They are mostly little nerds sitting at their desks reading newspapers, magazine, internet sites, debriefs of agents or assets, etc, about their particular area of expertise or geography.  A tiny handful read raw reports from agents on the ground.  They are our experts.  They are also bureaucrats, never forget that, and they do what bureaucrats have done since Egyptian times, they write reports and pass them along to someone up the food chain.   They offer warnings of one type or another and make predictions.

The same thing occurs in academia.  Those PHDs or MDs all work on their specialty.   Doing research which is mostly reading papers written by someone of their ilk at another school, Foundation or Government agency.   We all know that those professors are not spending hours and hours each week in a real classroom or seeing students during so-called office hours.  They study their data and read gobs of research by others doing work in the same area.  Then of course they write papers, essays or assessments.  Like the government groups there are literally tens of thousands of them. They predict future events, in chemistry, medicine, physics, climate warming, engineering or what have you.

Financial analysts and famous financiers make predictions constantly.  You have W. Buffet and Robert Reich and Jim Cramer.   The financial channels are literally overflowing with them.   They make predictions about everything economic or financial virtually every day.  Again there are thousands of these people.  Not as many as they other groups but a boatload for sure.

All those predictions are like the old saw about 1,000,000 monkeys and 1,000,00 typewriters.  Sooner are later you will get Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Make your own guesstament but I think you would ultimately agree that the overwhelming majorities of all these predictions are wrong.  Some got something right.  But just because you had a bad stomach ache and I predicted you had appendicitis I don’t think you would really want this old lawyer performing the operation.  But hey, I was dead right on my prediction.  When you read or hear about some one who “warned” or predicted something would occur and it did.  Please bear in mind all those other smartest guys in the room who didn’t agree with it.  There is always a large number of them.  Many predictions turn true for the most random of reasons and rarely for the same ones highlighted by the predictor.  Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics, Fauci has been wrong on several counts.  That doesn’t diminish the value of their opinions.   The Pentagon Papers were an internal assessment made by some in the military.  Their conclusions fit the narrative liked by the NYT and WP.  Voila, a prediction that was prescient.  Hey, the military was making constant assessments about the Vietnam War.  This was merely one of many.  That war could have been fought differently, like interdicting the supply lines of the north Vietnamese, really interdicting with troops, aircraft or whatever it took,   mining Haiphong harbor, destroying Hanoi, etc.  But the only prediction that mattered was the one promoted and touted.  That prediction for what it is worth was not correct.  We didn’t ultimately lose the war as foretold by them.  We quit.

In the name of God, please put all those articles, whether leaning left or, right, that reveal  someone, somewhere predicted, warned or hell, prophesied some particular event would occur in some kind of context.  There is a really good chance that his prediction was one of hundreds and his just happened to be right.  I am old enough to remember the thousands of predictions from the ’50s about nuclear energy. It was going to eliminate coal and natural gas as energy sources. We would have abundant clean energy forever.   Didn’t quite turn out that way but I bought into it as a teenager.  I thought that was really a cool idea at the time.  So when you read about all the current predictions about life after the pandemic passes, apply a healthy grain of salt to flavor it.  Someone will have it right and those other headline predictions will fade, only  an embarrassment if reminded of them later.  Remember those monkeys and Occam’s razor.  My prediction is that we will land in a boring equilibrium like mankind usually does.

Is my prediction worth a toot?  Probably just that, a toot.  Not Beethoeven’s opening in his Fifth symphony.

God Bless from around the campfire.  Time for the old codger to take his brain enhancing pill.


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Filed under Culture, Economics, history, Politics, science

Viral Pride and Prejudice

Sorry for Austen aficionados but this isn’t about a bodice busting romance during a great plague.  Just goes to show that nothing is more dangerous than 10 year old arranging the bride’s prized family crystal set unless it is an old codger turned loose with a keyboard.  Each generation comes along and has its own unique prejudices and sense of pride in what they think they are. What they think they are  will be viewed quite differently by the following generations who will downplay their accomplishments and gleefully note every shortcoming perceived or real.  Also each generation can’t resist the temptation to assess their group as the most significant, noteworthy, informed, brightest and morally upright there has ever been.  A few take a darker approach and believe their generation will be the last in line due to moral decay.  See Sartre and many of the “Lost Generation” writers of that ilk and going back to Machievelli and Voltaire.

But the overriding theme of each generation is that their “times” are really, really important and mark a great departure in the advancement or decline of Mankind.  Everything they experience is BIG.  Notice our headlines of today?  New normal.  Never be the same.  Never seen anything like this before.  Unprecedented.  Will be fundamental changes.  Remember Hugo summarized it pretty well–the best of times and the worst of times.  Thus is has ever been and will forever be.  We reside in neither a utopia but we also are not standing on the edge of the river Styx awaiting the Grim Reaper.  This is not the most important time in the history of Mankind contrary to today’s headlines.  Each generation seems compelled to believe that those who came before were not as bright and socially aware as they are.  They actually think because they can plug into google or wikipedia that they are smarter than Isaac Newton or Eratosthenes and assuredly more morally upright because neither of them was into social justice.  Our toys and tools have changed dramatically over the eons but the heart and mind of Man is the same as described in the book of Job or by Livy or  Dante.  You, me and our era are not the be all and end all.  We are merely a way station on the journey of Mankind.  There are only a handful of events that truly have eventful impacts for generations.  The Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna did indeed determine the history of the civilized world until WWI–a century.  Then after WWI and the peace treaty along with Wilson’s grandiose mental cobwebs set the course of history that we still mostly endure.  The Middle East difficulties of today have their origin in that process.  As important as those events were they did not fundamentally change who we are or how we go about our daily living.

When CNN or yahoo news proclaims momentous headlines and predicts everything will be different this time please use some discretion.  Nothing serious is every written in the popular press or media.  They after all are seeking clicks, likes, and headlines quoted by others.  Read real history or current essays. Are the editors and producers of our modern media really the smartest people in the room?  God help us if they are.  We have truly sunk to a low estate.  Just use that magnificent brain God gave you.  Don’t be mentally lazy.  Usually behind every great advancement there has been a huge dose of skepticism and curiosity.

The Roman Empire was a big deal.  We still read about it after 2000 years.  I don’t know exactly how the Covid-19 virus will play out except I am extremely confident students will not be studying it 1000 years from now.

Oops, those guys in the white suits are coming after me again.  Better sign off for now.

God Bless, olcranky

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Filed under Culture, government, Mother Nature

Science, probabilities and Virus

If you are merely awake much less alert you have heard by now countless reports in all media of the horrific dangers of Covid-19.  We are being inundated with numbers, stats and models and modeling.  Some are merely anxious others appear to be terrified.  Let’s cut to the chase and talk about what really frightens us–death.  We have all been sick at times during our lives.   We don’t going around every day in numbing fear of getting sick.  It is dying that scares the bejeebers out of us. The story line is that we all need testing and lots of it, into the millions and the tracking of our bodies by government.  Let’s look at some history of science and modeling and probabilities for perspective and a more informed understanding of what we are trying to discern from all that data.

During the War the Eighth air corp was taking tremendous losses from the German defenses and the high command was determined to make ever effort to reduce that loss ratio.  The B-17 was the basic bomber we used and it was rugged and well armed and the squadrons flew in box formations to maximize the firepower of the .50 cal machine guns mounted in each plane.  In spite of that the losses were quite bad.  As only the military can do and especially during the War they mounted an investigation and analysis to determine what could be done to the  planes to increase the odds of survival from missions.  Where should they strengthen the planes or add more armor?  They brought scientists, engineers and folks from the manufacturers and the assembly plants to do a study.  After each mission they would photograph, note, chart and measure each damaged part of the skin or other parts of the plane.  They itemized whether the damage came from flak, cannon or machine gun fire from German fighters.   They accumulated in a short period of time mounds of data.  Regardless of how hard they worked to make the data reveal a coherent pattern that would lead them to conclusions to act on they were baffled.  They could not come up with any effective recommendations.  Finally they brought in another fellow whose name I do not recall nor his background but I think he was a mathematician.

They showed him their reams of data and then let him take a look at what they were doing to inspect planes upon arrival from a mission.  The story is that in less than a day he straighten them out.  He told them they would never find what they were looking for with their current testing and analysis because, wait for it, they were testing and analyzing the wrong thing.  They were looking at and examining the planes that survived the mission.  He told them to find what they wanted they would have to look at the planes that were shot down.  Those were the planes after all that would reveal whatever weaknesses there were in the design.  Not the survivors.  Duh.

Any lessons for us today?  Do we really need to spend such enormous sums of money as some propose testing healthy 30 somethings with no symptoms and destroy the entire economy at the same time?  I do not dismiss the seriousness of Covid-19 but would like to see us focus on the real problem as opposed to ” might be” problems.  Test us old folks and anyone with actual symptoms.  But calls for millions and millions of test–what for?  What new or useful will we actually learn.  The real problem is death due to Covid-19.  Shouldn’t we focus on death rates and the factors causing the death which would include all underlying health concerns and apparently age.  (Disclaimer–me and the child bride are both 77).   How about more autopsies.  All the info I can find indicates that the overwhelming majority of deaths does come from the elderly and those that are already sick with some other serious ailment.  Last I could find researching the matter something like over 90% of deaths were people 80 or more of age!  Here’s a warning for you kids, old people die.  What cogent information will we glean testing tens of millions of perfectly healthy young folks?  I would bet that we would learn that most young people are healthy with or without the Covid-19 infection–tada.   Information about the spread and rate of spread is ok if its done within reason.  It is not the spread or the disease itself remember–we just don’t want to die.   The smartest people in the room may have IQ’s much higher than mine or yours but that  doesn’t mean they can’t also suffer from hysteria.  Recall also the truism that people view any situation through the prism of their profession.  Infectious disease experts would prefer we all live in plastic bubbles then no one would ever get sick.  Of course you might starve to death in the mean time.   We all have our prejudices about society and life and they have theirs.  Listen to them. Evaluate their advice, challenge it and their methods and conclusions.  After all that is the very foundation of science and the scientific method.  It can be kind ugly at times but that is how a free society works.

The hawk and the wren are both birds.  One is a predator and the other a song bird.  The world is better for both of them being here.  Here’s hoping we’ll study the right problem, collect pertinent data  and reach the right conclusions and take sensible action.

Random thoughts around the campfire.  Olcranky

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Filed under Culture, Environment, history, Mother Nature

Quarantine memories

I never remember entire neighborhoods being quarantined as a boy but I do recall a couple of occasions when specific homes were quarantined. When I was a boy during the ’40s and ’50s the big scares were polio and scarlet fever. There were all the other infectious diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and measles. We all assumed we would catch the last three at some point because all our moms told us we would. It was always a bit scary to think about catching something that seemed mysterious to a small child but our moms didn’t act overly concerned about those three.

When learned someone had measles, mumps or chicken pox we would stay away mostly but lots of moms seem to think it was best if we got it over with. They would not do it when we were under about 6. But of course when we started school it was only a matter of time before we contracted all three. They were worried about us catching them when we were too little but my memory is they all thought it more or less better to get them over with during the first two or three years of school. The mom theory was that if you got them when you were past ten it could be more serious. I suppose the pediatricians had passed the along to them. I got all three and so did my child bride. I also through in yellow jaundice about the second grade which I remember as being much worse than the usual three. The other three I just remember being sick but not awful. The chicken pox was a hassle because mom was constantly harping about not scratching those really itchy sores. She said I would be scarred for life.

We were all vaccinated for small pox. That circle scar on our shoulders was a mark of maturity and bravery for all us young folks. But scars from chicken pox just proved you didn’t have the moral courage to resist the temptation to scratch. Yep, that is my memory of my mom’s view of it–if you scratched you were a sissy. The yellow jaundice I had was pretty debilitating, high fever and bad stomach. All I could hold down was jello and that is why to this day I can’t stand the stuff, ever to look at it.

There was a case of scarlet fever in the neighborhood when I was about 9/10. Mom warned us about it and strictly instructed us to not go near the house. It was quarantined. She explained of course that no one could go in or out until the scarlet fever was gone. Naturally being a kid me and my best bud couldn’t wait to see the place and see what a “quarantine” looked like. I distinctly recall riding our bikes around the neighborhood until we find it. Sure enough there was some kind of sign on the front door. We just rode back and forth past it several times but kept our distance. Mom after all had made it sound pretty darn scary.

The real enchilada of disease scares was polio. For some reason our moms believed it was worst in the summer time and when kids were tired. Most of our moms made us come in during the heat of those Texas summers to nap and or rest for a while. I thought that was about the biggest bummer you could imagine. They had all those frightening shorts at the movie houses between films collecting money for the March of Dimes and showing the kids in those iron lungs. It scared me seeing those. Then bam–1954 if memory serves Dr. Salk and the vaccine. We got our vaccine shots at school. I have no idea who paid for those. The State I suppose. They lined us up class by class in the cafeteria for the shots. Of course the challenge was to be brave because it wan in injection with a big needle. The guys couldn’t flinch in front of the girls. That would not do. Some cratered anyway. It wasn’t terrible is my memory, I just looked away and felt that whammo sting.

I firmly believe that we will all get through this too. We might have to be a little braver than we like and there may be some pain but I guarantee there will be a next generation.

God Bless All, olcranky

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Grammar Grossiosities

These are a few handy reminders of how to avoid appearing as though you are from Loma Linda or spend all day watching re-runs of the Khardasians.  These are the words and phrases that should be shunned at all costs and is an easy way to elevate your communication skills and certainly make you seem more erudite.

Totally–What are you a Valley Girl?  Even if you are drop it, totally.  You can always try completely, entirely or how about dropping any adjective altogether.  Next thing you’ll be describing someone as totally dead.

Just–You are almost always better off not using that word.   Simply eliminate it.  It should   only be used when you definitely need to make a point of emphasis.

Really–Really, you are best advised to drop this one also under nearly ever circumstance.  Again, this should be used when making an exclamatory remark and that should be a relatively rare event.  I mean most events and circumstances don’t call for that  “shouting” type lingo.  You can always try truly or even verily if you are of the more formal bent.

So–So what?  Gee whiz where in the world did this usage spring from?  It is completely, totally unnecessary word.   Silence before you begin your sentence if so much more elegant.  So are we totally clear on that?

Hey–the TV reporters seem particularly determined to use this every time they are introduced but it has spread like an unwanted linguistic virus.  It you feel compelled to make a greeting how about hello, how are you or if you wish to raise you level you could even use ahoy.   After all that was the preferred greeting of Bell for the phone but surprise, surprise it never totally caught on with the public.  The best advice is to start speaking without any lead in.

Like–Like, totally this is so juvenile and a waste of verbiage.  Drop it.  It will raise your IQ in the opinion of your listener 10 points automatically.

Lean in–What the devil is this supposed to mean?   Try harder, fight harder?  Don’t give up.  Assert yourself?  Exactly what is it you are leaning over or into?  You can do better than that.

Good or Great question–I am worn out hearing that remark.  Go straight to the response.  If it is actually a great question if will be self-evident without note.  If the questioner is bright enough to ask a good question they will be bright enough to not need needless and pointless praise.  Hopefully they don’t need the “good job” all those helicopter moms give their 7 year olds for merely walking onto the soccer field.

Awesome–How many events or occurrences in life are awesome?   My wedding, my children’s births and a hand full of athletic or business accomplishments fill out the resume for me and probably you.  The word should only be used like a fine family heirloom and worn for special occasions only.   Today suggesting a Big Mac is met with the “awesome” response, how demeaning to fine old word.

Here’s the thing–Oh, is it right there beside you?  I was looking everywhere.  Don’t use this expression.  You’ll like totally appear smarter.  It has the same linguistic value as clearing one’s throat before speaking.

Now for a few goodies for the knuckle -draggers out there that equate the sports pages with Samuel Johnson’s essays.

Physicality–What?  Those sportscasters that use this are falling into the verbal pits.  Are they talking about agility? Speed, Stamina, strength, sense of balance.  We all know they sure are not referencing the IQ of those NFL players they are describing.  I never met a physicality I liked.  But I admire physical attributes.  Oh,,,,,maybe that is what they are talking about.

Mentality–Well, first I need to observe that it is reassuring to know that there is anything mental whatsoever about those defensive ends pounding bodies into dust and start and end every sentence with “you know”.  One can only assume, generously, that it is a reference to mental attitude, one’s mental mien or an attitude of determination and emotional resilience if face of some adversity.  Can we take as a given that they are not referring to those folks as mental cases?  Both of these last two are tragic examples of language being sucked into an abyss of the lowest common denominator of cultural linguistic abuse.

Body of work–How in the world did these sports guys every latch onto this tidbit.  It has historically been used to discuss the career and works of artists.  A cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons now has a body of work.  Really, like I totally thought he was a grown man playing a game that would have no lasting impact on mankind.  But I guess now I should think anew and realize that his play is the equivalent of da Vinci.

So, you can like close your books we have leaned in on proper grammar enough for now and I know, you know, that this was a totally awesome experience for you.

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please”  Mark Twain.




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Filed under Culture, family

Its A Wonderful Life–1948.

This date was picked at random by our staff’s secret algorithm.  Nothing magic about it but it was as good a year as any and at least a year that this feeble brain can still recall with a modicum of clarity.

This was the front of our drought that lasted until 1957.  I can still recall the huge cracks in the ground everywhere.  They were in our yard the playgrounds and parks.  You could also discern the effects in the cotton field right behind our house.  We moved that year to  truly fancy digs on Savoy which was the southernmost street in Oak Cliff, a section of Dallas.  It was brand new and Dad bought it with a V A loan which was a new program started after the War as part of the GI bill.  It was a cookie cutter clapboard house with 2 bedrooms and one bath.  For reasons only known to the developer of that day, there was a fake hearth in the living room with a small mantle.  It was where we placed the gas heater with the false logs.  The whole house probably had at best 1000 square feet but we had an ample backyard.  There was no paved alley and behind the house was a large cotton field that ran all the way to Kiest park.  The crop was skimpy due to the drought and the ground parched.   Within a year the development began with more cookie cutter houses and the streets and side walks being poured.   These homes were a notch above ours because they were all brick and not clapboard.

I was 6 but not yet in school because I had a September birthday and had to wait another year.  Mom worked with me more than I wanted naturally on my colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes and I suppose a little reading.  There were that first Christmas no TV antennae in the neighborhood.  That started changing right away though.  With just three years or so it was unusual to see a house without an antenna but there were still some.  Radio was the major entertainment center of the day.   Saturday mornings in particular were special because they had all the kids shows.  Buster Brown was a favorite along with Archie and his friends.  Mom would let me sit by the radio after breakfast until about noon or close to it for all those programs.  Friday night early was also terrific.  You had the Green Hornet, the Inner Sanctum, when they didn’t think it was too scary for me, the Lone Ranger and all the others.   It required imagination and I suppose that was part of the allure of all of them.  You got to imagine that Western landscape the way that fit your own image of it which in turn was no doubt influenced by the Westerns you had seen at the theatres.There was no multi-screen theatre.  But there were local movie houses in just about ever commercial area of any size.

The nickel values of the time were many.  You could get a Coke for a nickel.  All the filing stations had those big red Coke machines that stood upright and many still had those that open from the top like a large freezer.  There was nothing like that really cold Coke on a hot summer day if you could get your mom to spring for the nickel.  You kids have probably never heard the expression “its your nickel”.  It meant you had paid the nickel for the phone call so start talking and don’t waster the money.  Yep, there were pay phones everywhere.  Sometimes just on a street corner if it was a commercial neighborhood and at churches, schools, parks, and almost every retail store had one.   One advantage of the pay phone was that you weren’t on a party line.   In 1948 we were still gripped with tight regulation of the phone service and getting a phone was a real hassle with the bureaucracy, Federal of course.  But it was allegedly for our own good, like it always is with Federal programs.  Typical wait times were several years to get a private line. I distinctly remember we wanted one in 48 but didn’t finally get one until about 1953 or 1954.  That was tall cotton living I can tell you.

You could ride the bus for a nickel and sometimes for only 2 cents, that was a Saturday only deal if I remember correctly. The adults had to pay 8 cents and a dime on weekdays.   That also included the street car which were still running in 48 on a regular basis.  I always preferred the street car because you could lean out the window a little and that was especially daring when you went over a bridge or viaduct because you couldn’t even see the tracks below and it was like flying through the air and was a big thrill.  Mars, Hersey and Babe Ruths were available for that nickel and these were the full size ones and the popcorn was there for a nickel.

Don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year but I do recall getting out my Lionel train set and playing with that and the awful white flocked Christmas tree mom wanted.  The train set was from a year or maybe two before.  It was really wow.  Must have cost mom and dad 10 bucks and was so heavy. It was made out of that old cast iron but had such great detail on the engine.

It was a hard year and a good year.  The good made it easier to not notice the difficulties especially if you are only 6 and not having to pay the bills.   We could have been rich maybe but it all worked out well with me.  Can’t complain and in fact was so very blessed with my childhood.  My parents were the best, can’t blame my faults and failures on them.  Thanks Lord as I try to attain only a portion of their goodness.

“Ho Ho Ho’,,,Santa Claus, everlasting



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Ghosts Of Elections Past

It is still more than a year to the next Presidential election but the headlines are already there with the latest in this upcoming contest.  Even though the elections are only ever four years if you live long enough you endure or enjoy quite a few of those events.   The memories may be colored in sepia and the sounds more like echos but the recall can still be vivid.

I was too  young to have any memory of Roosevelt’s ’44 election but I do recall later hearing my Dad and his friends who were all in the War talking about the shock of his death because he was the only President they really remembered.  His death was quickly forgotten though in the turmoil of winning the War.  Berlin still had to fall and Iwo Jima and Okinawa were not yet done deals.

I do remember the newsreels at the movies about the ’48 election.  Images of Truman on the back of the train speaking inevitably to the union group and then photos of the suave Dewey.  I just remember thinking even then that Dewey didn’t look manly enough with that sissy skinny mustache.  He was no Clark Gable.  I don’t remember much reaction to the election afterward as all the adults were very much in the getting back to normal life after the War.   Mostly everyone just wanted stability and a chance to resume doing anything routine.

I was young but I definitely liked Ike just as most of the country.  He came across as that firm but fair grandfather and with a touch of the sage to him.  Even as a youngster I found Truman’s screaming and ranting a bit too much.  Besides Ike had led all those millions of men to victory and he knew how to lead.  Those ’50’s were great years.  Adlai Stevenson was the opponent both times.  He was too prissy; supposedly a real intellectual but he also had a very sharp tongue with his opponents.  He was too friendly with the Commies for the country.   You have to take into account the threat of the Commies during those years.  We really did have bomb drills at school regularly and the Commies continued to crush the Hungarians and foment wars and terror around the world.  The Commie threat wasn’t an abstraction, it was palpable.

Those first televised debates in ’60 were interesting and frustrating.  I didn’t like Kennedy from the git go.  He was too cool and cute by half.   Plus I resented him coming from a family with a corrupt history and born with that silver spoon in his mouth and then having the gall to say how the rest of those aspiring to do better for themselves had to pay more in taxes.  (yes, I know it reduced them some later).  I wasn’t  wild about Nixon but he was a Navy man himself and I thought would do a better job of standing up to Khrushchev.   I didn’t mind Jackie much but really got irritated with the liberal media treating her like some celebrity for just standing there and looking chic.  By the way the election was stolen from Nixon by the crooked Democratic machine  in Illinois, the Daleys.  It was that close.  Many wanted Nixon to sue as Gore did later to challenge the fraudulent results from Cook county but he refused saying it would be bad for the country to have the integrity of the election in question for months.  That was the real profile in courage.

Then came the Goldwater/Johnson duel in ’64 with the famous mushroom cloud behind the little girl.   I thought Goldwater was a very bright guy and that it was time for a Jew to come to the fore just as the Catholics had with Kennedy.  Johnson was the epitome of the crooked politician.  I was aware of the venality of the ’48 election were he had the dead vote for him down there in South Texas.   When he and Ralph Yarborough were the Texas senators each of them never met a union boss with a bag of money they didn’t love and would obey.   It was a nasty election with horrendous consequences.  The Great Society has  been a miserable and costly failure and resulted in even more powers being concentrated in Washington just as the Democrats wanted.  For them it was a huge success and their corrupt reach expanded  exponentially.  Of course we got the Viet Nam war out of him after all the fear mongering he did against the alleged war hungry Goldwater.  You have to at least appreciate the irony of it all. 

Next up was Humphrey and the reborn Nixon.  Humphrey definitely talked too much.  You should not that I believe he still holds the Senate record for a filibuster.  He was the guy to continue the Great Society programs and even expand them.   Nixon was for the Silent Majority the did their jobs and wanted a decent society with much less government.  I voted for George Wallace.  Didn’t even like the guy and he was way too populist for me, but, but , but, he was totally anti-establishment man and especially against the Democratic view of running everything and everyone from DC.  His campaign cost Nixon lots of votes and at least it sent a message.   He did as promised and started the draw down in Viet Nam although I wish he had bombed and mined Haiphong harbor right away as long as we had guys on the ground fighting VC and North Vietnamese.  I will discuss Watergate with you only if you have actually read the Watergate Transcripts in their entirety as I did and not just news accounts of those events and if you used you tube to listen to all the Watergate testimony before the Joint Committee and again not news accounts that are consistently skewed and often flat out wrong on the basic facts.

There never was any question about McGovern versus Nixon.  He was too liberal even for a nation at  the height of the Hippie movement.  I always tipped my hat to him for being a bomber pilot during the War but otherwise found him liberal trite, if not lite.

Then we had Ford against Carter.  Ford was a handsome man and a former All-American football player at Michigan.  Carter was a peanut farmer with a hokey approach with pretensions of profound depth.  He was the former but certainly lacked the latter.  He was evil incarnate like Johnson but he was an embarrassment.   He tried a one and done military action to get those hostages out of Iran but then wouldn’t follow through with any other efforts and his economic policies only lead to “stagflation”.   Look it up that was the call sign for an economy during his era, that along with inflation off the charts.  We took a home improvement loan then at 13 and a half percent that was floating in anticipation of it going higher.

Thankfully the good Lord took mercy on us and we got Reagan in the ’80 election.  If you weren’t there you can’t begin to understand the breath of fresh air he was and the new sense of pride he brought it and hope that things would finally get better after two decades of slow but constant decline.  That floating loan I took out for the house  actually dropped under Reagan because inflation was at last tamed under his direction for the economy.  Mondale never had a chance and for good reason in ’84.  The detractors said he was not smart enough, well he won.  Besides we’ll likely never have a President as bright as Jefferson again.  He had a clear vision and direction and got the right people to move us in that way.  The results surely speak for themselves.

Then we had Bush 41 in ’88 against Dukakis.  The country was not in the mood for a return to traditional Democratic theories after seeing the results of trying things a different way and Dukakis was again to prissy and prim.  Bush had been shot down by the Japs during the war and no one could challenge his courage or his devotion to the country.  Dukakis was still singing the Democratic mantra of kissing up to the Commies and criticizing vehemently the whole Star Wars program and military build up under Reagan and  Bush’s pledge to continue it.  Reagan was right and Bush fulfilled the commitment to win the Cold War.  Like Reagan said when asked how the Cold War would play out.  He said–we win.  The wall came down and the Soviets finally got the demise they deserved.  along the way he faced Saddam and was resolute in Desert Storm.  Only wish he hadn’t called of the dogs so soon.

Then there was Clinton who portrayed himself as a new Democrat with  a more centrist approach.  He was a chameleon who would adopt any ideology that got him power.  The millennials and other youngster are ignorant completely about his election.  Virtually none of them recall or know that he won without a majority of the vote.  H. Ross Perot handed the elections to Clinton.  Perot took 19% of the vote; Clinton barely got over 40% to sneak into the White House.  All the shame and ignominy that Clinton brought to the Presidency can be laid at the doorstep of Perot.   It was a time of despair for honorable people and even as the door was hitting his behind he added one last insulf with the Marc Rich pardon on his last day.  Dole was a decent man and admired his tenacity after those awful wounds he survived from the War but he didn’t have the zip or personality to win.

“When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near”  Will Durant, American, philosopher, anthropologist and historian extraordinaire.





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Today’s Worry From Yesterday’s View

We’ve just passed the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with all the usual alarms and horror stories from the many survivors of those events of war.   At least this year I saw one article about one of the few surviving American POW’s who witnessed the Nagasaki bombing from miles away and what his perspective was.  The article did correctly p0int out that the Japs had already issued orders to kill all remaining POW’s once the Allies launched the expected invasion of the Homeland Islands.   The POW’s naturally were unaware of their impending death sentence and most had already reached the near end of their endurance due to the extreme cruelty and brutality of their captors.   They were thrilled to learn within days that the Japs had surrendered and that they had a chance to live.  They literally were given a ladder up at last from the depths of Hell.

I was very small at that time and don’t have a specific memory of the bombings or the end of the war.  I don’t recall my dad or any of the other men coming home in a big parade.   I do remember that dad was there and we moved to a new duplex from the old one and then a new baby brother.   The War and its aftermath was the dominate event and topic of conversation for years.  By the time I started school I knew we had used a really big bomb and that made the Japs surrender.  I recall the adults when I listened to them really didn’t understand exactly how the bomb worked.   It was an “atomic” bomb I knew from hearing them and that an atom was a really tiny thing you couldn’t even see.

It was a wonder to me that anything so small could make such a big bang.  How did those miniscule bits mix around to make such a large whomp?  As a small boy playing soldier I could understand rifles, cannons, hand grenades and regular bombs but the physics of the atomic bomb were beyond me.    You could get a feel for the destruction regular bombs and artillery could do because the newsreels in the ’40’s after the War were often about the occupation of Germany, Austria and Japan and they would always show the unimaginable destruction of whole cities.  Frankly, the newsreels of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t look any different than the cities like Berlin, Munich or Dresden.

When mom and dad had relatives or friends over to visit I was always watching for when the men would gather separate from the women folk and would immeditate ly stop whatever I was doing and slip in there and sit quietly somewhere so I could hear them talk.  Sooner or later they always began swapping stories about the War.  Virtually all of them were in the War.  I guess the had some acquaintances that didn’t serve but I don’t remember a single one.  They were in all services, Army, Navy, Air Corps and Marines.  I wish I had those conversations on tape today.   What a treasure trove that would be.   All except one (with a minor wound) were still in the services in August of 1945.  Without exception they expected to be soon shipped to Japan.   Never heard one word of regret or sorrow for using the atomic bomb from one of them.  They believed the Japs deserved it, earned it with their barbaric behavior and none of them were eager to face the prospects of death after four years of war.   My dad could have been on one of those Navy ships off the coast of Japan facing the 5000 kamikaze planes (yes, 5000) that the Japs still had to deploy and planned to deploy against our invasion.  I am sure glad my dad didn’t have to do that.

“These proceedings are closed” General MacArthur after the last signatures on the Japanese surrender documents.

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