Friday, December 07, 2007

General Who?

If I asked most people who General John Hunt Morgan was, they would say, “General who?”

But there are a few others who would say, “What have you found out about him?”

I found out quite a bit about the General, during the period when he escaped from an Ohio Union prison in 1863 and fled to Kentucky with his assistant, Captain Thomas Hines. They were searching for my great-grandfather Pryor. They figured he would help the pair get back into the fighting between the Confederate Army and the Union Army.

And they were right. Pryor managed to get them through Union Army lines and back to the South. But Pryor had to flee to Canada, where he waited out the Civil War.

I always wanted to know why my great-grandfather went to Canada. With the help of family papers, papers from the family of the author/poet Wendell Berry (his great-grandfather Pollard worked with Pryor to help Morgan escape) and memoirs of Thomas Hines about written 1893, I managed to put the full story together. It is in a book due to come out soon called General Morgan’s Legacy—a Modern Civil War Story.

I called the book by that title because Pryor and Hines owed partially their political and judicial careers to their part in the escape of Morgan. It is a novel about a modern industrialist who dug into his past and found the story. His story is a novel, but Morgan’s story is about as true as I could make it.

I believe I have added new information to the existing body of Civil War lore.


Jenna Six Debacle

I was watching a baseball game on TV recently when I saw a wonderful sight. People streamed into the stands and sat down to watch. They were people of all kinds and nobody cared who sat where as long as he or she had the correct ticket number. They watched the game and ate their hot dogs and went home in peace.

Remarkable!

Such a sight would mean nothing to young people, but to those of us who have been around a few years, it is little more than a miracle. Many of us dreamed that it could someday happen, but we didn’t know it could come to pass with out deadly struggles.

Thanks to cool heads, people of all races can go and do what they want and nobody cares! I saw it in my lifetime and I am grateful to have seen it.

And then there was the ugly scene in a town called Jena, where some ass decided a tree would look good if it had nooses on it. Then kids of one race ganged up on a kid from another race and a minor war began.

I have been a teacher in public schools and I have looked out at a classroom of faces of Palestinian kids, Caucasian kids, Chinese kids, Black kids and Hispanic kids and thought to myself, “this is where tolerance begins.”

There are two places where race has no meaning. One is in church and the other is in school (a kind of secular church). A teacher teaches all who enter the room. He or she doesn’t have the time or inclination to favor one group or the other.

One time I taught in a middle school. And it had a tree on the campus that provided a very pleasant shade on sunny days. It was also the site of segregation. Yep! Only eighth graders were allowed to sit under that tree. They were the seniors of the school, and it was their privilege, their earned right, to relax under its branches during lunch.

Teachers in that school were mostly white but there were some black and Asian teachers also, and perhaps a Hispanic teacher from time to time. The majority of students were Asian. There was no hint of racial intolerance at the school. The subject didn’t come up because it didn’t have to. It was unthinkable. Parents and teachers just did not contemplate any differences based on the color of someone’s skin.

And then there is the Jena school blow-up. How could such a thing happen in the year 2007? I do not live there and cannot speculate, except to think that perhaps the teachers decided that the “modern” thing to do was let the inmates run the asylum.

Yes, modernity happens. In 1972 when my son was in a large high school, the principal was trying to find a room where students could smoke cigarettes because, “they were going to do it, anyway.” Now, most campuses are “smoke free” and even teachers do not smoke on them.

I like what the radio host Dennis Prager once said: “There are only two races—the decent and the indecent.” He is a wise man.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our Man in the Baikonur Cosmodrome

Almost no one knows today that during the space race with the USSR during Cold War conditions was not much of a race, after all. NASA had a man stationed in the Soviet Baikonur Cosmodrome from about 1963 through 1971.

NASA’s man was a space medicine scientist whom Premier Khrushchev allowed to enter the USSR to consult with his Soviet counterparts. He was a very good scientist who was aware of much that went on around him. And he made strong friends with several Soviet scientists and cosmonauts. Colonel Yuriy Gagarin, the world’s first cosmonaut, was one of the American scientist’s friends.

The American NASA scientist made frequent trips to the USSR for at least eight years. In October of 1964 when Khruschev was deposed the American scientist kept going back to the USSR, not really sure that the next Premier, Brezhnev, was going to be as friendly as Khrushchev had been. NASA’s man was a hero.

Now, fifty years after Sputnik, and a great deal of cooperation with the USSR, the American scientist’s brave efforts are still being kept quiet. I wrote to Sergei Khrushchev, son of Premier Khrushchev, and asked him if anyone in Russia today would care if they found out about the US-USSR cooperation in space medicine. Mr. Khruschev was very courteous but his response was not reassuring.

So for a while, NASA’s American Scientist in the USSR will have to remain anonymous.

Fears that Never Go Away

It was in the 1959-1960 period that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for president. He was handsome, charming, humorous, and well-spoken. Yet, some folks were deeply concerned about JFK. What was their concern? Well, he has a Catholic, and a Catholic had never been in the Oval Office before. Didn’t it stand to reason that the Pope was going to move into the White House and run the United States of America?

Now Mitt Romney is running for president. He is handsome, charming, humorous and well-spoken. But he is a Mormon. If Romney wins the election, it stands to reason that the Mormons about to take over the White House and the country. Or does it?

What people didn’t seem to know about John Fitzgerald Kennedy was that his religion was politics. It appears that Mitt Romney’s religion is politics, too.

Therefore, if Romney wins the election, a politician will be in the White House. Nothing will change very much and life will go on.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick and His Dogs

Long in the minority, I am a white guy who likes Michael Vick and hates what happened to him. What he did was unkind to dumb animals. I want animals treated better than that.

The real problem is that Michael should have kept up with social mores. They changed years ago to the point where staging dog fights is no longer acceptable. In his area of the country, dog fighting probably had no change in standards. So Michael Vick continued to promote them and got caught. It just shows the value of keeping up with changing standards. “Everybody does it” is an excuse that only politicians can use successfully.

If Michael were in Vermont and had raped a girl, he might have gotten only 90 days in the slammer. But he treated dogs badly and will probably get a year. Afterwards he may be facing a career of football in Canada or Germany at much lower hourly rates that he is used to getting.

You gotta watch those mores.


Alberto Gonzales Bites the Political Dust

In an amazing “mine is bigger than yours” battle, the Bush administration lost its Justice Department’s leader, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He seemed like a decent man if a bit confused. I would prefer him to Janet Reno. But he had two problems.

One of Alberto’s problems was that he was Hispanic. Hispanics in prominent positions must be Liberals or they must disappear. Conservative Hispanics must not be seen as successful. If Liberal Hispanics saw successful Hispanics who owed nothing to the “minority establishment,” they might begin to question the “minority establishment.”

The second of Alberto’s problems is that he seems na├»ve. He seems to think that if he treats people fairly, they will treat him fairly. Harry Truman said something like, “In Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog.”

Thirdly and least important, Alberto seems confused and unable to stand up to the windbags in the Senate. Normally, confusion is no hindrance to keeping a high level position in Government. Nor is incompetence. But when combined with situations one and two (above), one can easily lose his job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Loyalty or Daintiness in Time of War?

At the time of our Revolutionary War, historians say, there was a sizeable segment of the American population that was loyal to King George, III. That is, they did not want to separate themselves from England, and didn’t care that England was dealing harshly with its American colonies. Liberty was not for them.

No doubt some folks were loyal to the Crown. But if today is any index, many of the “loyalists” were just too dainty for war. Liberty was not all that important—certainly not worth dying for. Of course, they found that they had chosen the wrong side and faced hanging or imprisonment under the new American government.

My wife’s ancestors were in that group who were on the losing side. They were given land in Ontario, Canada that was due west of Rhode Island, their former home. I prefer to think they were loyalists and not faint-hearted. Over the next 100 years they worked themselves down the north side of Lake Ontario and crossed over the US boundary near Chicago (best guess) and wound up in Iowa, no doubt semi-illegal aliens. Others stayed in Ontario and are Canadians to this day. They are still subjects of the Crown.

The moral of the story is that one should choose the right side before refusing to fight for one’s liberty. The wrong side will not take their decision lightly.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Congress at 2.9% Favorable?

Is it true that the latest Zogby poll shows the Congress has a 2.9% approval rating on the Iraq War? With a + or – 1.1 % margin of error that suggest a broad number of respondents, the actual approval rating on Congress could be 1.8% favorable on Iraq. Too bad that Zogby is a Democrat pollster.

To my way of thinking Congress polled a bit high on this poll. Not many Americans are ready to surrender to the fanatical Arabs, yet. But a lot of Congressmen and women are ready to throw in the towel (or begin wearing one on their heads).

No wonder Will Rogers said something like, “It’s easy being a comedian when the entire U. S. Congress is supplying material for you.”

Friday, July 20, 2007

Secret Scientist

What’s amazing to me is that even today no one knows. NASA actually had a scientist in and out of Russia from 1962 to 1971 during the space race and the Cold War. Yes, Mr. Krushchev actually allowed a space medical scientist from the US to help keep alive the Russian cosmonauts.

My research on the subject showed that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev softened his stand against America. But I had no idea that he was so soft he would allow an American scientist to observe the take-offs and landings of Yuriy Gagarin.

Yet, the scientist and Yuriy were pals. In fact most people on the Russian space team from Chief Manager Korolev to the first woman cosmonaut, knew this man and liked him.

He was a big friendly Irishman, but he was also a consummate professional and what he said, you could make book on. Not long after the scientist’s first trip to Baikonur, the secret launch site (that wasn’t a secret after all), a US government memo went to NASA, saying in effect, “I want you to make plans to cooperate with the USSR on outer space projects.” It seems like the result of personal diplomacy to me, from the scientist who was fast becoming a fixture in Russia.

Does the CIA have a thick file on the scientist? They sure do but will not give it up. So does another intelligence agency. So does NASA, of course.

Why is it such a big secret about our space medicine scientist who helped the Russians? I don’t know. But it does appear that those clever Russian engineers who beat us in the early stages of the space race were weak in knowledge about keeping their cosmonauts alive. Maybe the bosses in Russia just do not want to let the Russian people know that they needed help. Maybe there was a quid pro quo I haven’t found yet.

But one thing I do know is that the scientist was a good friend. Also he was an American hero for taking the chances he did by flying secretly into the far reaches behind the Iron Curtain. I am writing about him now and hope to have a book about him finished this year.

I only wish I could use his name.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Politics and Religion

It is only human. Whenever a religious person gets mixed up in politics, his religion goes out the window. He soon warps his religious ideas so that they support his politics. It never seems to work the other way, that a man’s politics change to accommodate his religion. I can imagine that is why our Constitution separates one from the other—so that there is no state supported religion.

It is a bad combination, politics and religion. When I taught school and the subject was pertinent, I always told the kids that when they grew up to vote or to run cities, states or even the country (we had that quality of kids), they must keep their religious leaders from being their political leaders. “Or else,” I told them, “you will have politicians who would try to convince them that if they would give up their lives for one political cause or another, they would win a place in heaven.” I told them that political leaders are usually the last to know about heaven.

Don’t tell me it can’t happen. It happens all the time. What about Japanese Kamikaze pilots in WWII and Suicide Murderers (bombers) in the Middle East? And then there is always Jim Jones and his Kool Aid fan club.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Great Time to Be Alive

A friend called me today and asked if I wanted to go for a cup of coffee. I did, because I have been researching the Soviet space program all day for the Cold War period. It is background for a book I am writing.

Always unpredictable, I had an iced tea instead of coffee. While we were consuming our beverages, we got to talking about modern technology. I recalled the rapid changes we humans have been going through.

In our ancient human history, mankind was said to have doubled its knowledge every thousand years. That knowledge was stored in people’s heads, for the most part. Some was on the walls of caves. Then books were invented and mankind’s knowledge doubled every hundred years. That knowledge, good and bad, was stored in libraries. The computer was invented and soon mankind’s knowledge doubled every ten years. That knowledge was stored in libraries and on tapes and CDs. Next, the Internet was created and mankind’s knowledge is said to double every year. That knowledge is stored on CDs, DVDs and on hard drives all over the world. No libraries or collection of libraries could hold it all, if it were written in books.

Then we talked about the future. I think that the really big events of the future will concern themselves with health and energy. I wrote about these things in book about time travel called Time Out of Joint. In it I emphasized the role of energy. I have the notion that when energy is more equally distributed, international tensions will ease. No, religious differences will still be important. But many “religious” differences are spurred on by economics, the battle between the haves and the have nots.

Whatever the case, some ass will first have to write a book about how awful everything is—stagflation and the disappearance of the quality of life as we know it. Several books of this type were published around 1970, just as the computer age appeared. I am waiting for the next such book, because the timing of the doom-sayers is almost universally 180 degrees out of phase.

And I will have an iced tea in the writer’s honor because something good is about to happen.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Jefferson and Adams Day

Sacred to both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, July 4th is also special to many Americans. Both former presidents stretched out their lives so that they would die on this day in 1826. When Jefferson woke for the last time in 1826, he asked if it were the fourth yet. When told that it was, he allowed himself to die. Former presidents Jefferson and Adams had faith in men’s ability to rule themselves and knew of the importance of the date.

Alexander Hamilton did not have the confidence in man’s ability to rule his own life. While still a great man and an important contributor to the founding of this country, Hamilton looked toward Europe and a king to rule America.

Even today we have a few Hamiltons in government who look toward Europe’s form of government and whatever else of Europe they can adopt in order to “reform” Americans and put us on the right track. They are the elites who have little faith in our ability to rule ourselves.

Does anyone remember a day sacred to Alexander Hamilton?


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Death of a Senate Bill and the Ruling Class

Now that the Illegal Emigration bill has died a second natural death, a second post mortem would be in order.

First, it should be noted that the American People did not want the bill to be passed. They spoke in new ways, through emails and other electronic devices and made their wishes known. The ruling class heard the American People and enough of that class decided not to risk the inevitable result of defying the People. But, some of the ruling class still thinks, in its elitist way, that it knows what is best for us. They may flunk out of the ruling class, soon.

Second, it should be observed that American Unions did not want the bill to be passed. Thus, there were Democrat leaders who worked for the bill as they worked against it. This way they could be seen as pro-illegal emigrant and anti-cheap labor at the same time. Union bosses speak loudly.

Third, those of us who are against the bill will be called all sorts of names. We will be reviled as many kinds of –phobes. Tough! It is hard to get into a struggle without being called names. That is the way of Washington, DC. They will say that radio talk shows were responsible for the failure of the bill. Nevertheless, it was the People who made the decision based on the information they had. It has been a long time since we have had two sides presented on any issue. It was a refreshing experience.

Fourth, Washington Insiders are already saying that we can’t control the problem because the new law wasn’t passed. But we have plenty immigration laws on the books right now that we are not enforcing. Why not try them? It would be a novel adventure. After all, we were told some 21 years ago by Senator Teddy Kennedy what a good law the last one was. Let us try it out and see if it needs improving. So far no one has tried it.

What really bothers the Ruling Class is that the People may decide to stop some other legislation, such as raises for the inept in their class. I, for one, can hardly wait.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Illegal Immigration & the Next Prez

What concerns me about the proposed Illegal Alien situation has nothing to do with President Bush. He is totally unimportant in the entire equation, because he will not be president for very long. What he says or does cannot tie the hands of another president. If Mr. Bush’s successor chooses not to enforce part or all of the proposed law, all that Mr. Bush and the Congress says is pure baloney. American citizens need to focus on the next president, not the present one. What will he or she actually do? If the next president wants to pander to people who came into this country illegally, just to buy votes, we citizens are royally screwed!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Adding Something New

The best way to get over the agony of writing a book is to begin anther book. I just sent to a publisher my book General Morgan’s Legacy. It is a novel about a modern man who stumbled across information about the Confederate General John Hunt Morgan as he escaped from a Yankee prison in 1863. The book consists of two stories intertwined, but separated by about 140 years.

What sparked the book is information about General Morgan that suddenly emerged from an exchange of letters between me and a well-known poet/novelist. It seems this writer’s great-grandfather and my great-grandfather worked together to help Morgan get back to Tennessee so he could once more attack the Union Army.

With this book I will be presenting new information about the Civil War and one of its Generals in the South. Adding to the existing literature on a topic is always fun. Every book I have written (except the one on time travel—Time Out of Joint) has done just that.

I interrupted the writing of another book to finish the Morgan book. I was getting bogged down into too much detail in my newest book, Ploughshares into Swords. That book tells what civilians did to assist the WWII war effort, and in particular what the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) did both with artillery rockets and the atom bomb. In that book I will be adding to the literature about the Bomb and about rocketry. Perhaps Caltech as well.

In between chapters of Ploughshares I am writing about a curious turn of events that occurred during the Cold War. Armed with grudging information obtained from US intelligence agencies under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), I will be able to put together a story that will upset several writers of CIA expose’ books of the past decades. What they said in part was not true, either because they did not know, or because they did know but were not allowed to tell.

It is always fun to add new facts to old, established history.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Moral Superiority

When I was a boy I was brought up in an Episcopal church in the South. I loved that church, its members and the priest. Many years later I still think of him. He was a successful minister of a rapidly growing church. He was rewarded by being made the evangelistic bishop of Wyoming—a place where there were few people and where he could do no damage, preaching to sheep and cattle. One thing about him—he was not political. Neither were the cattle he was left to minister to.

Now look at the Episcopal Church in America. Highly political, very politically correct, full of leaders with huge egos, and congregations that are diminishing in size. It seems its impending failure is unimportant as long as the egos get all the attention they need and as long as politics are the Church’s message to the world. I feel like weeping for the Episcopal Church which has become a testimony to the things that are temporal.

Episcopal leaders aren’t the only ones to seek what they understand—the political—and avoid the religious, which remains a mystery. I suspect the ministers of such churches are not confident in their calling or they wouldn’t have scrambled after each popular cause that came down the pike.

I recall the story of the leader of a Methodist church who was given a Viet Cong flag in the early 1970’s and conducted a march through the streets of his conservative town bravely flying the flag of Communists. A large portion of his membership fled to other churches in the area and never returned. So the minister wrecked his own church and no doubt feels morally superior to those who left, even thirty years later. After all, the “right thinking” people stayed, didn’t they? That feeling of moral superiority must be important to some.

One thing the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches us about moral superiority is that no one has a monopoly on it. The insignificant widow in the Bible who gave two small coins, gave all she had, which was far more than the significant wealthy people gave. And the widow wasn’t giving out of a desire moral superiority, she was giving out of a sense of love. I, for one, am not sure how love fits into the moral superiority scheme of things.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bishops Lobby for Illegals

There is an interesting article in my local newspaper today by Norberto Santana, Jr. It is an opinion piece presented as news that tells how Catholic bishops are lobbying to keep families together. That is, to force the U.S. Government to keep Catholic kids with their parents in the U.S. In other words, to open the borders. It is the Moral thing to do.

Even though I have tremendous respect for the Catholic Church, I can see two things are wrong with this approach. One is the bishops’ moral high ground. They forget it is immoral to invade the borders of another country, break its laws, steal people’s identities and divide one’s own family. The bishops need to be talking to citizens of other countries in those countries, not in the U.S. Americans are hard-working, law-abiding, egalitarian and respectful, and they do not invade the borders of Latin-American countries.

The second thing I see wrong with this approach by bishops is that it focuses on Catholic families. There are other families that become divided. What happens to the families of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants? Don’t they also leave families behind? Surely those families need to be kept together as well. Their Moral issues are just as strong.

Perhaps the morality of keeping families together is the wrong method of attack. It is highly emotional but can’t stand scrutiny.

Having been a factory manager in North Hollywood, CA, Toronto, Canada and Albany, New York, I have some experience. All these sites had their share of Hispanic workers. Hispanic people were terrific but they had no monopoly on working hard or of leaving families behind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Illegals and all that Jazz

Some people in the media are trying to make me apologize to the illegals who broke our laws and sneaked across the border. I am sorry, I just don’t feel guilty about their lawlessness.

And now President Bush has decided I am un-American if I question the Senate bill on immigration. I am getting it from all sides and still I am not feeling guilty. I know I should look ashamed, but I just cannot bring myself to that point.

I have read the arguments in favor of the Senate bill and do not understand what is going on. Every point in the argument that assures me about how great the future will be with the new law, is invalid because we already have laws about the same topics that we do not enforce. And now I am expected to believe Big Brother will enforce a new set of laws?

I am especially concerned when I see laws that say illegals will not be hounded by the IRS for back taxes, but I, a law-abiding citizen of many years will be hounded day in and day out by the tax collectors.

President Bush may suddenly be very concerned about the illegal immigrant question, but he does not tie the hands of future presidents. If the next president belongs to a political party that is soft on crime and coddles criminals in order to get votes, we will be far worse off with the proposed Senate bill.

There are people who believe a new law, some act by a bunch of loud, opinionated fat people in Washington, DC, will fix what a previous law, enacted by a bunch of loud, opinionated fat people in Washington, DC, failed to fix. Laws don’t cut it—actions cut it. We have enough laws and not enough enforcers.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Congress Shall Make No Law

The First amendment to the Constitution is a beautiful thing. It says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Nothing wrong with the First Amendment, except that it does not go far enough. The Founding Fathers did not seem to think the Judicial Branch would make laws, but it does. So the First Amendment should read: Congress and the Supreme Court shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Surely this small change could easily get enough states to ratify it so that it would become the law of the land. And not a minute too soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back to School

A few days ago I was invited to the retirement party of a principal of a highly successful middle school. I had not seen him for three years, or the school or the teachers. But there was a time when I knew them all quite well, because I had worked at the school as a substitute teacher.

Substitute teaching was a fluke for me, a time filler after I retired from industry as a manager of people who ran factories. Teaching is quite a different undertaking, but my wife was a very good teacher in public schools and I felt I learned enough from her to try it, myself. I’ve always had a very high opinion of teachers, and of my wife’s professionalism, so I could not think of any calling more useful.

It took a while to learn how to deal with kids in the school environment. I found it was an honor to work with most of the students. And it was a privilege to work with the other teachers. The school district was one of the best in California and the school one of the best in its district. But I didn’t know it when I was so busy figuring out math and science lessons on the spur of the moment.

When I was invited to the retirement party, I went, honored to be remembered. It was a big party with officials and teachers from all over. I knew many of them somewhat and a few of them very well. I had forgotten how well. There were hugs and handshakes all around. Some tears on my part, too.

That chapter in my life was finally over last Friday afternoon. I had spent most of my life in industry, but the last eight years I spent in the classroom have a special glory. As a teacher, I learned that there is hope for tomorrow because of the bright, idealistic boys and girls we are training today. I wish more retired people would make the effort to see what really goes on in our public school classrooms, and who the heroes in our cities really are.

Congratulations, Dr. Joe Fox of Dana Middle School in Arcadia, California.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

FDR Lied and People Died!

While doing research for my new book, Swords into Ploughshares (which is about the contribution of Caltech during WWII), I came across the history of the beginnings of WWII. Isolationists tried very hard to keep us out of the war. So did some Communists, for their own reasons. But then Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor and other places, and then Germany also declared war, so we had no choice but to stand and fight. Very few isolationists in Congress held out for peace.

We had not been in the war very long before unhappy people began circulating rumors that Franklin D. Roosevelt knew the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor, and just let it happen so he could get us into the war. They dreamed up worse theories that that, but the one that stuck was the one about knowing what the Japanese were up to. As soon as the war was over and Roosevelt was dead, the rumors arose again.

Books were published about Roosevelt’s supposed evil plan. Those were the days when, if something were put into print, it was supposed to be true, so many people believed it. Nowadays, we are used to seeing all kind of junk in print and on the Internet, but in 1946, such books had more credence.

I was young at the beginning of WWII and not a Roosevelt fan, but intuitively I knew the rumors were baseless. They proved to be so; or at least no one was able, in the past sixty years, to prove the rumors were true. Roosevelt had plenty of enemies in his Democrat party and in the Republican party, so there was no end to the efforts of many people to try to convict Roosevelt of some kind of perfidy.

If all this sounds familiar, so be it. You can hardly find a period in which the same rumors have not been resurrected and applied. Tongues will always wag, and some people will believe anything.

But if you have lived a while, such accusations become tiresome.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

We Are Still Guilty

Over the years, I have come to expect one or more people to say after a huge tragedy, “In a sense we are all guilty.” It never fails that some ass decides to try this banal tack and in so doing, attempt to sound wise.

Recently, in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings of thirty-two students, I believe it was Barack Hussein Obama, the presidential candidate, who was the first to make such a pronouncement. It was indirect, but it was really what he said.

I have never connected the “In a sense” words to any political group. There are plenty of asses to go around in most political parties. But this morning I saw in a column by Dr. Thomas Sowell a statement that made me wonder. He wrote, “A reader writes: ‘Liberals hold us individually responsible for nothing but collectively responsible for everything.’”

Now I am beginning to wonder . . . “Collectively responsible for everything?” Could it be that Liberals have been leaders in the large field of saying, “In a sense we are all guilty”?

A Liberal gentleman once told me very affirmatively about his theology as he stated “We are all God.” I took that to be a collective personal conclusion and told him not to hang that awesome responsibility on me.

But I wonder. It has been so many years since I was a Liberal that I have forgotten all the tenets of Liberalism.

In a sense, we are all guilty of forgetting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

AAUW Strikes Again

There was a Reuters story in my local newspaper recently entitled “Pay Gap Between Sexes Proves Persistent”. It was amusing because it was researched by the AAUW, the American Association of University Women. What would you expect them to find? That women had made progress? No, and I seem to recall that the NAACP found that there are not enough Black men in baseball, too (since black Hispanic men were considered Hispanic and not black).

In my experience with several accomplished AAUW women, I have noted one important thing: they were highly political--Liberal Left Wingers, and their local AAUW chapter appeared to be a wing of the Liberal Democrat Party. Liberals love to find victims and they have attempted to portray women as victims in this story.

The implied political moral of this AAUW study is, “Under the present administration, women have suffered. Vote the straight Democrat ticket.” In other words, this carefully constructed study is a political statement.

Having spent a career in various industries including three years on General Electric’s corporate staff, I can say that many companies are dedicated to hiring and promoting women and to making very sure that women get paid just as much as men for the same or similar types of work. There are governmental penalties for doing otherwise, but there are benefits also. Women have proven to be valuable, committed, achieving employees.


There are other studies showing women have made great progress in the past thirty years. I would hope to see an article about one of these by Reuters, but I will not hold my breath.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sobering Wisdom about Don Imus

Every once in a while I learn something good about good people. While listening to a talk radio show yesterday, I heard a black woman talk to the host about the ugly thing Don Imus said about most likely fine, achieving young women Imus did not even know. It was demeaning both to the women and their race. Imus was no doubt quoting rappers he had heard many times, but there is no useful purpose in repeating such talk, no matter who says it.

The mother who called, said that Imus' remarks did not affect her one way or the other, except to show that Imus may be an idiot. In other words, Imus’ words reflected on him, not anyone else.

When asked how the woman’s daughter might feel, she said something the wisdom of which struck me like a hammer. She said, and I wrote it down, “Imus does not carry her joy in his mouth.” She said more in a few words than all the “tut-tutters” put together in the days following.

I am sorry that in 2007 people are still saying the things that Imus repeated. But I am glad that it brings out the innate wisdom of people and that they can share it with a large audience.

Don Imus can be fired, but he will only go to another network and re-establish himself. He is that popular. But maybe some people will wake up and decide that derogatory talk diminishes those who say it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

John Hunt Morgan and Two Mothers-in-Law

There is a reason for my absence from this blog. I have been finishing a book. It is about the clandestine affair of the escape of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan from a Yankee prison in 1863, among other things and is called General Morgan’s Legacy.

While I have been writing I have not been keeping up with the news. But when I came up to the surface of current events, I was amazed at the escapade of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her trip to the Middle East seems fraught with concerns for the President and the State Department. And for the future.

Suppose in 2008 Mrs. Clinton wins the election and Mrs. Pelosi is still Speaker of the House. Mrs. Pelosi decides that Mrs. Clinton is not handling foreign affairs to her (Pelosi’s) satisfaction and Mrs. P. decides to talk directly with Middle Easterners about it. Would we soon find that there is room in Washington for only one mother-in-law? I suspect we would.

And there would be a great fall-out that would go far beyond any mere Conservative-Liberal disagreement so far.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Doing Good Deeds

Cryptograms fascinate. While I am told that poets make very good writers of prose, I am no good at poetry. But I find that cryptograms help me visualize words.

You know what cryptograms are, a statement by someone in which the letters of the words are all substituted by other letters. I began decoding one recently that went this way:

DY DH BLY IBLVXF. . .

I saw right away that DY DH is probably IT IS, and the BLY could be NOT. I went on in this vein and decoded the statement this way:

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO DO A GOOD DEED. ONE MUST BE INVOLVED IN IT WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. EACH ACTION SHOULD BE PERFORMED WITH LIFE AND SOUL, WITH EVERY LIMB, WITH ALL ONE’S VITALITY. (ABRAHAM HESCHEL)

I found that Rabbi Heschel was considered a very profound thinker of the twentieth century, but I am thinking he must have been difficult to live with.

“What is wrong,” I thought to my self, “With just quietly slipping a hungry man five bucks for a burger?”

Truly, different strokes for different folks. Maybe I should do more crossword puzzles.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Write Fast

The humorist Calvin Trillin was quoted as saying, “In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not come to pass while his article is still on the presses.”

Calvin was not especially interested in science. But if he were he could say the same thing about this field. I wrote a story that had a lot to do with time travel and other scientific feats. Between the time I began the story, Time out of Joint, and the time I ended the story, some 350 pages later, there were important developments in science that made part of my story obsolete. So now I am doing a sequel.

Time was when we kids would have done almost anything to own a two-way radio that was ten times as large as a cell phone and full of delicate vacuum tubes, but such a thing was impossible with the current technology. Within forty years many people had tiny, rugged two-way radios in the form of cell phones that worked almost every time they were tried.

When I taught in middle schools maybe three years ago, I told students many times, “This is a great time to be alive!” The technology available to everyone, including kids, would have stunned the average person in the 1950’s.

From a technological standpoint, it is a great time to be alive.

But you have to write fast.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Haters

Vice President Cheney escaped an attempt on his life today in Afghanistan. I read it and was glad that he was not injured or killed, the same as I would be glad that any other vice president escaped danger. Then I began to hear about the ugly things that were being said on the Internet, about how sorry people were that the enemy missed Mr. Cheney. These bloggers and writers expressed hatred for a man they did not even know.

I remember hearing about children stamping their feet and saying, “I hate you1” to their mothers or fathers. But we expect children to grow out of those attitudes. Apparently some adults did not. When adults express such hatred for each other, serious fireworks can often follow. That is why it is important to learn to control ourselves at an early age.

If I were a psychologist or other practitioner of the dark arts, I might wonder about the relationship between these writers of hatred and their parents. But I am not. All I know is that hatred is unhealthy.

One other thing: a person who hates his country is very likely to hate its leaders.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Challenge to Daylight Saving Time

This very day I was asked a very important question by a fan who loves my blog (yes, there is one). She thought I was wise enough to know all kinds of things and asked,

“What is the purpose of Daylight Savings Time?” It is a timely question because sooner that usual we are going to have to make an adjustment. March 11, I believe.

My correspondent, who is old enough to enjoy telling her age, has the initials MM. I refer to her as MM and imagine that she is really Marilyn Monroe because I have seen pictures of her as a young lady.

Here is the wisdom I laid on her about the purpose of Daylight Savings Time:

Dear MM,

The sole purpose of Daylight Savings Time is to refresh one's memory about the location of each clock and timer in his or her abode. I seem to have 43 of the things. Twice a year I am forced to reacquaint myself with all the devices as I reset them. They lurk in strange, hard to-get-to places in dark corners, such as on top of the water conditioner on which dwells black spiders that have red symbols of death on their shiny bodies.

It takes me about a week to change every timing device during which period many things go bump in the night and angry mail delivery people get wet in the day when the sprinklers go off inappropriately. It is always a race to see if I can find them before there is a lawsuit filed against me.

If you need any more help on this or any other topic, please let me know.




Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Old War Story

Pryor House, ca 1859

In a January 13 post to this blog I wrote “Homage to Writers” in which I said that the poet/novelist Wendell Berry and I were researching a project. His great-grandfather Frank Pollard and my great-grandfather Will Pryor both helped Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan escape from the Yankees in December of 1863. Pollard and Pryor may not have known each other; they lived several miles apart.



Pollard helped first. Morgan and his aide Captain Hines then went to Pryor’s house. Hines knew Pryor before the War, and after it they served together on the Kentucky Supreme Court. The two Confederate warriors went back to Tennessee where a new army was formed and they continued to torment Yankee forces until Morgan was killed. Hines became a sort of “super-spy” for the CSA.

In the course of investigation, I came across records of Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio. It was a prison for captured Confederate soldiers and political prisoners. Camp Chase was the prison where Will Pryor was sent in 1862. He was a prominent lawyer in central Kentucky and a political prisoner. (My November 28, 2006 post dealt with the letter President Lincoln wrote about paroling Will Pryor.) Camp Chase was also the prison from which General Morgan and some of his officers escaped on November 27, 1863.

The records of Camp Chase were revealing. They included self-congratulatory documents about what a fine Christian prison it was, as well as letters from prisoners who told what a hell-hole it was. There were also official records each month telling how many and what kinds of prisoners were kept there, and how many escapes occur ed. But I am not sure how accurate the records were. During the month of November, 1863 when Gen. Morgan and five others escaped, the official count of escapes was zero.

There were side issues as well. Columbus was near the Congressional district (if not in it) where Clement Laird Vallandigham (the Copperhead) was elected to the House. Thus there was in the prison record a compilation of election results and some comments. The recorder was against the election of Vallandigham, so the comments were not favorable. Since President Lincoln brought about the destruction of some 200 printing presses of newspapers in the North with whom he disagreed, very few favorable comments about Vallandigham are still in the records. Because I am a first cousin, several times removed, of Vallandigham, I take notice of these comments.

This search into history has been rewarding as it has been fun. It has reinforced the lore handed down by both Wendell’s and my families. When Kentucky Justice Thomas H. Hines wrote about his adventure in 1891, he included the names of those who had helped him and Morgan escape. Pollard and Pryor were both included. Few seem to have known about Pollard’s assistance but Pryor had to flee to Canada until after the war was over. Pryor took the rap.

Far from over, the research will no doubt lead to some kind of article or book. At the moment I do not know which of us will write it. And I do not care as long as the story is told.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Global Cooling Off Period Needed

It is amusing to watch and read the Media reporting on Global Warming. The latest position is that we should all believe in “Warming Caused by Humans” because of scientific consensus. That is, a number of scientists have agreed that the earth is warming, that the warming is caused by human activity and that the warming is bad.

They are laboring under the notion that consensus = fact. Some of us think, no, we know, that consensus = groupthink. Groupthink is seldom a good substitute for fact. Groupthink is not even scientific.

Can 50,000 Frenchmen be wrong? Of course they can be wrong. The history of Science is full of episodes about the lone individual who recognized truth when he saw it, and paid the price when he faced the wrath of groupthinkers. James Clerk Maxwell, for instance, was almost universally sneered at by scientists when he connected light with electromagnetism.

No doubt some scientists are convinced that global warming is caused by humans and that it is bad. One can rightfully ask, “How many of these scientists are meteorologists?” And the answer is not many. Few real meteorologists are so dogmatic as to make such dire predictions that show up in the Media. In fact, some meteorologists have dared to question groupthink.

So there are two sides to this question, after all. One is groupthink and the other is heresy. There are always more groupthinkers than heretics, so consensus is always going to be powerful.

What is the answer? Will groupthink finally be found to be correct?

Clearly the average man is due a cooling-off period while each side searches for very hard to obtain facts. It is too early to conclude anything.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hillary Clinton & Hugo Chavez

Hillary and Hugo have more in common than their initials and choice of careers. They both want to steal the profits of successful companies. Hillary said recently that she would take Exxon’s profits and use them for programs of her own devising. This is very hard to find on the Internet news sources because the Left finds her statement embarrassing. But she said it, and she meant it. Hugo the dictator just does it.


It is important to remember a few things about profits:

Profits are not Hillary’s to take. Income does not belong to the government.

Hillary’s proposed theft (a wrong) is not justified by the use she would put the funds (ends do not justify means).

Exxon’s profits occurred in spite of falling oil prices, indicating an adept management, not dishonesty of some kind.

Profit is not a dirty word in a capitalistic society—only to the Left.

Many “little guys” depend on the profits of Exxon and other companies for their incomes.

Profits of successful companies are already taxed twice.

If the price of success is governmental seizure, then expect a slower economy and less tax revenues. People react to governmental pressure.

Hillary’s reactionary purpose runs counter to a free society; it tells us a great deal about the real character of the woman and her Socialistic biases.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Washington Comedian

It was Will Rogers who said, “It’s easy to be a comedian. You have the entire Government working for you.”

How can I say that? Well, the Senate just gave a vote of confidence to the new four star general David H. Petraeus, and wished him “God Speed,” and other things that would sound good in the Media, then set to work trying to cut his support out from under him while encouraging the enemy.

Of course, this betrayal was called “patriotic.”

Will Rogers was right.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nagging the Buggers

One of the more interesting parts of writing something original is doing the research. Yesterday I got a call from the NSA, a super-secret intelligence agency. They wanted to tell me about the work they had done in response to a request I made.

I have been writing about someone who was involved in the space program for two governments in the 1960’s. He died a couple of years ago and on his way out, he told me lots of things he had done. He was a very modest man whose life included huge achievements. I have come to realize that he wanted me to write about them, but he didn’t want to ask.

Before I write about anyone of the Cold War era , I consider whether his or her life involved secrets. Then I try to determine which agency might have information about him. I make my requests to the agencies first, because they take the longest. Usually, it is the FBI or the CIA. But I knew my subject reported to two intelligence agencies and that he was not allowed to tell one what he had told the other. I bet that one of them was NSA. And I bet right.

An acquaintance in a chat room had once worked with the NSA. He advised me not to “ping” the NSA. It was too late. I had already sent them a request fax. After all, they have a web site saying they have a Freedom of Information Office. So I requested information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). And several weeks later they called me.

A very nice lady told me that the person I was searching for had indeed been a contractor and told me which years. She added that they had destroyed his file twenty years ago and had nothing left but an indoctrination form with his signature on it. I was floored! I was sure the NSA would never admit to hearing his name uttered in their offices or even in the environment of Washington, DC. I thanked the lady and hung up the phone.

Then I thought about it for a moment. The word “contractor” almost sounded like my friend was hired by the agency for pay. He was an ex-army officer, a well-established professional man who didn’t need the money, and I knew he would never accept pay for assisting his government. So I called back.

This time, I startled the lady who had talked to me a few minutes before. I asked what a “contractor” was to them in the 1960’s. She stammered a bit but finally responded that he was not an employee, but was a person who was lent to them by another, er company.

I am working on the other, er, company for more information as this is being written. I hope they are just as helpful.

By the way—the Federal Government does not all throw away all copies of anything. It was only a few years ago that I wrote a book based on the files of the Secret Service from 1873. They were in a dusty corner of the National Archives. Maybe my great granddaughter will dig something out about this friend before she dies. She is two years old as I write this.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Homage to Writers

I can guess how they felt, the two teenagers who wrote me thank-you notes because I gave them copies of two of my books at Christmas time. The kids probably felt embarrassed at having to submit their writing skills to a man who writes books. But they did a good job.

The reason I know how they could have felt is that today I sent a letter to one of America’s finest writers, and I was very careful to be on my best writing behavior as I did it.

The author was Wendell Berry, and when he writes a book, it is immediately reviewed by the N.Y. Times and the L. A. Times. Wendell’s great-grandfather and my great-grandfather lived in the same town at the same time, and both seemed to have helped Gen. John Hunt Morgan (CSA) escape from the Yankees in 1863. We have been comparing notes for some time. (A bit of the story about my ancestor and President Lincoln’s dealings with him can be found on this web site in my Nov. 28 Post to this Blog.)

So, I was nervous about writing to Wendell. And I can say it here because I know he will never see this Blog; he is famous for avoiding computers. Well, maybe there is a crack in his armor. Most of his notes to me have been hand-written. But I noticed his last letter had been composed on a computer.

Maybe someday Wendell will become sloppy with the rest of us keyboard bangers.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Screwing the Stockholder/Citizen

It was about 1955 that a wonderful British movie was released in America. It was called, I’m All Right, Jack and its star was an unknown actor named Peter Sellers. He went on to great fame from this first movie.

The story was about a factory in England that was not doing well. Its owner had given up. He was retiring and moving to a nudist colony on the beaches, somewhere. As he left, he had his nephew, a bright and enterprising industrial engineer, try to modernize the business.

It turned out that everyone in the business had his fingers in the revenue stream—that is what the “I’m all right, Jack” expression means (I’ve been taken care of). So from the humblest hourly employee to the union steward to the managers, everyone was quite comfortable. And they all fought the young man as he tried to make the business profitable. No one would admit what he was doing, though.

By the end of the movie, the enterprising young industrial engineer had given up and also retired to the nudist colony to join his uncle. The corrupt business was a metaphor for British industry and its moribund economy of the times.

As a long-time employee of General Electric with three years on its corporate staff, I have seen the same “I’m all right Jack” attitude in various G.E. operations. And in quiet moments spent alone with people in other companies I have found the story to be similar in their experiences.

Why isn’t it all right to be “All Right, Jack”? It is because there is a group left out of each population of comfortable people—the stockholders. The people who are “All Right” are systematically screwing the stockholders! There is no one in the business who is looking out for its owner.

Extreme examples are General Motors and Ford, whose management slowly gave away their business to labor unions. Employee benefits are so huge that these companies cannot compete with manufacturers from outside the U.S.

Screwing the stockholder has become a standard practice in America. And the practice did not stop with industry. It went on to Congress, where the American public has become the stockholders with Congress as managers and professional bureaucrats as hourly workers. Slowly but steadily Congress and its helpers are screwing us stockholders (citizens). And there is no one who is looking out for us. Certainly it is not the media. The media “is all right, Jack.”

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Show-Biz Congress and Wages

Congresspeople seem overly worried about the “little man” these days. They want him to have a raise in wages. But they don’t want to pay for the raise. They want you and me to pay for the raise, as usual. So Congressmen will soon vote to raise the federal minimum wage. It is a perfect solution to a non-problem. It will not cost them anything, it will attract votes because of their compassion, and the raise will do no good at all. In fact, it may harm some of the “little people,” but it will look good and that is all that counts. It is simply a matter of putting on a good show; after all Congresspeople are in show-biz of a sort all the time.

Economics is a study of supply and demand. Economists know that when the price of something rises, people will use less of it. Raise the price of labor and fewer laborers will be employed. But more people will leave school to fill those higher-priced jobs.

The real reason for raising the federal minimum wage is that it pleases labor unions. And labor unions provide a great deal of money and other support for politicians in whom they are well pleased. Labor unions use the minimum wage to boost their demands for more money for the people they represent.

In the United States for the past 200 years there has been a steady increase in wages. Was this increase due to pressure from labor unions or people in Congress establishing minimum wages? Certainly not. The increase in wages has been due to a shortage in laborers in this country. That is why the United States is a country of immigrants!

There has been a steady pressure to bring in people from other countries to fill the demand for workers, because private individuals have created millions of jobs. Government wastes, private individuals create.

It is simple economics again—if the demand for something grows, the price you pay for it will rise. Labor is no exception.

Some say people in Congress are aware of the demand curve. I say they are too busy putting on a good act and too ignorant of economics to be aware of the most simple economic facts. They are better at dropping their pants than they are at dropping the price of something. They are better at posing and being “shocked and surprised” than they are at actually doing something useful.

Congress will no doubt pass an increase in the federal minimum wage very soon. And they will feel good, despite the damage they will have caused. But Congresspeople won’t know the difference and they will congratulate each other as if they did.

And we pay these people, the ruling class, huge sums of money to wander around blindly and do really dumb things!