Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: The Deal: Churchill, Truman and Stalin Remake the World by Charles L. Mee, Jr.

An interesting look at the beginnings of the Cold War. Strangely enough, Truman and Churchill come off as archvillains and Stalin as the good guy.

Could it be true?

"Churchill was to say, 'It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell....' The United States Strategic Bombing Survey said after the war, 'Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.' 
It was no longer necessary to drop either the bomb-as-weapon or the bomb-as-doomsday-machine on Japan. However, if the weapon were not dropped on Japan, the doomsday machine could have no psychological effect on Russia. 
The bomb was therefore dropped on Japan for the effect it had on Russia—just as Jimmy Byrnes had said. The psychological effect on Stalin was twofold: the Americans had not only used a doomsday machine; they had used it when, as Stalin knew, it was not militarily necessary. It was this last chilling fact that doubtless made the greatest impression on the Russians."

Friday, July 15, 2016

Abraham Lincoln As a Storyteller

From a cartoon (originally published in Harper’s Weekly Magazine, 
September 17th, 1864)
Abraham Lincoln is idealized as this tall, stoic, bearded giant who wore a black stove pipe hat and never smiled. The real Abraham Lincoln was nothing like that. He was a jokester. He enjoyed entertaining people with his stories and making them laugh. William Howard Russell noted in his diary, “Mr. Lincoln raises a laugh by some bold west-country anecdote, and moves off in the cloud of merriment produced by his joke.”

His friend, Joshua Speed said, “humor was an integral part of the way in which Mr. Lincoln created and cemented friendships.”

From all accounts, Lincoln was folksy in the way he talked. His law partner in Springfield, William Herndon, described his voice as somewhat squeaky, maybe even high-pitched and shrill. It may have even occasionally cracked as he was speaking.

George Alfred Townsend in his book, The Real Life of Abraham Lincoln, says:

“No man ever told so many stories, and he was seldom known either to repeat one twice or tell one that was hackneyed. His long, variable and extensive experience with common native people made him acquainted with a thousand oddities, and he had a familiar way of relating them that was as piquant as his application of them. It is also true that some of these stories were more cogent than delicate.”

Lamon confirms this, saying “His humor was not of a delicate quality, it was chiefly exercised in hearing and telling stories of the grosser sort.” Lamon says “telling and hearing ridiculous stories was one of his[Lincoln’s] ruling passions…The most trifling incident reminded him of a story, and that reminded him of another until everybody marveled that one small head could carry all he knew.”

Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War

Chief Black Hawk by George Catlin
(from Letters and Notes on North American Indians
by George Catlin, 1913)
Abraham Lincoln’s real story begins about the time he was chosen as a Captain in the Black Hawk War.

Before I tell you about Lincoln, I should tell you about the Black Hawk War. It wasn’t really much of a war. It was more like a slaughter of the Sac and Fox Indians. From the years 1827 to 1831 squatters crossed over into Indian Territory in Iowa and Illinois. They destroyed the Indian’s homes and planted crops while they were away on their winter hunt. Each time Black Hawk complained to the authorities, they told him to let it be.

In 1831 authorities warned Black Hawk, if he crossed the Mississippi and returned to his village in Illinois it would be considered an act of aggression. In 1832 he crossed the Mississippi, intending to meet up with a band of Winnebago’s who offered his people shelter at the Prophet’s Town.

What followed was a mix-up of frontier madness, mayhem, and murder. Illinois Governor John Reynolds called out the militia and raised thousands of volunteers. General Winfield Scott marched his regulars to Fort Armstrong. Zachary Taylor led a group of dragoons in the fighting.

Needless to say most of the Indians were slaughtered despite making numerous attempts to surrender.

Lincoln’s role in the war was minimal. He was elected captain of a regiment in New Salem. Later he became a ranger in Captain Elijah Iles’s company of Independent Rangers. After Iles’s company of rangers was mustered out of service in mid-June, he joined a group of scouts led by Captain Jacob M. Early.

The Last Raid of the Dalton Gang as Told By John J. Kloehr - The Man Who Killed Two of the Daltons

John J. Kloehr
(from The Dalton Brothers:
And Their Astounding
Career of Crime, 1893)
A Topeka correspondent writes to The Inter-Ocean that in the annals of the southwest there is no Incident so stirring, so full of bloody and dramatic feature, as the story of the last raid of the Dalton gang at Coffeyville, Wednesday, October 5, 1892, when that town was changed in an hour from a peaceful scene of commerce and pleasure, to bloodshed. The tale has been told many times, it has been made the subject of epic verse, it has furnished material for the author of the "penny dreadful," it has been told in many languages, but the author of the heroic deed that rid the world of the murdering band of criminals has never before told the story himself. This man is John J. Kloehr, Mr. Kloehr has now given his version of it, and says:

I don't like to tell this story. I have never told It before, that is, with anything like completeness.

Just a word or two about the Daltons before beginning the story of
their final raid. They were Kentuckians born and bred. They were cousins by marriage of the notorious Younger and Jameses. In them the lust of slaughter was inborn. In 1889 the Dalton family, father and mother and 18 children, among them the three who met their death here - Bob, Emmet and Grattan - came to Kansas. They settled on a farm in Montgomery county, where they remained until the opening of the territory. Then began the life of adventure that proved their undoing. First, United States deputy marshals, then train robbers, whiskey peddlers and bandits in the mountain passes of California; then, the final act, bank robbers.

On October 4, 1892, five men, Tim Evans, or Powers, Grant Dalton, Bob
Dalton, Emmett Dalton and Dick Broadwell, the last having been enlisted in the scheme a day or two before, rode up from the Indian Territory from that part known as the Cherokee nation.

They passed the night hiding in the wooded fastnesses along the banks of the Verdigris river on which this town stands. Early on the morning of the 6th they took up their Journey again, their blooded horses refreshed by rest and food.

For miles they followed one of the main roads into Coffeyville, the road
that becomes Eighth street when it enters the town.

As they neared the town they were noticed by many people riding to and
from the city. The Daltons, who were of course, well known in Coffeyville, were disguised by false beards and other means. Long cloaks concealed their weapons - Winchester rifles and heavy Colt's revolvers. They looked as they Intended, like a party of United States deputy marshals riding into the state on official business. This was an occurrence too common to excite wonderment or remark.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: The Promise of a Pencil, How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

Andrew Braun's life story reads like the Hero's Journey as portrayed by Joseph Campbell.

At age seventeen, he set sail with the (SAS) Semester at Sea program, headed towards India, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. Rough seas tossed the MV Explorer cruise ship to and fro, almost swamping the ship full of kids. For Andrew, the cruise was a game changer.

"I'm going to die today," he thought. "I'm going to drown in freezing waters within the next two hours. I was in a free fall. How was this possible?"

Knowing he was going to die, somehow brought out the hero in young Andrew. He found a new determination, a will to live. Surprisingly, the experience brought him closer to his fellow travelers.

On the ground again, he decided to ask one kid in every country he visited, what one thing they wanted most. The answers were crazy. They were totally unexpected. A girl in Hawaii wanted to dance. A girl in Beijing wanted a book. A boy in Hong Kong wanted magic. And, a boy begging outside the Taj Mahal wanted a pencil.

His face lit up like he was given a million dollars when Braun gave him a Number 2 pencil.

Who's to say who's life was changed more that day, the boy who could finally write, or the young man who discovered his life was changed by the power of a pencil?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Pat Paulsen The Last Honest Presidential Candidate

Pat Paulsen had a dream.

It was the same dream every kid growing up in the 1930s had, that maybe someday, if he applied himself, and tried really hard, he might become president. The presidential bug first bit Paulsen when he was attending elementary school in South Bend, Washington.

 From that day on, Paulsen knew he had a special purpose in life.

But, similar to other young adults in his situation, life got in the way. Swept up in the patriotic fury of the day, he enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. He was shipped overseas, but escaped combat duty because the war had ended. Instead, he spent his days babysitting Japanese prisoners of war.

Marijuana The Other Rocky Mountain High, How Legalizing Weed Has Affected One State

Rumor has it a prominent fast food chain is developing a new product for the Colorado market – code name McBuzz. It’s a hybrid mixture combining the best properties of “a certain mint flavored shake” with a sprinkling of buds. Beta testers are calling it the real Rocky Mountain High.
It comes as no surprise that Colorado is the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. A recent survey noted that 27.26 percent of Colorado adults ages 18 to 25 admit to smoking marijuana. Nationwide marijuana use for that age group is 18.7 percent. Must be something in the mountain air that makes people there want to go green.

Marijuana use drops significantly after people reach the age of twenty-five. Only 8.19 percent of Coloradans over age twenty-six regularly dally with the weed, compared to 4.8 percent nationwide for that same age range.

Can Cartoons Predict the Winner of a Presidential Election - Cartoon Trump, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Candidate Donald Trump - Part 1

The creators of Family Guy got Donald Trump's
 dander up when they released this image in an
attempt to win the Emmy Award.
Are cartoons a good predictor of real life?

A 2000 episode of The Simpson’s foretold the election of Donald Trump, and the eventual bankruptcy of the country due to Trump’s spendthrift policies.

How’d it all happen?

During a drug-induced (?) hallucination Bart catches a glimpse of a weird alternate future, where he is a loser, musician wannabe, and Lisa is president.  Our first view of Lisa shows her decked out in her best purple outfit, as she gets ready to address the nation. Right off the bat, she clears the air, and lets everyone know she is the “first straight female president.” Then she gets down to business.

Secretary Millhouse stands on the stage next to Lisa. He displays a chart that shows the economy’s downward spiral, while he relates the bad news. 

Apparently, the Donald’s decision to invest in our children’s future was a humongous mistake.

In disbelief, Lisa exclaims, “The Country’s broke! How can that be?”

Sunday, July 3, 2016

John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, and a Few of Those Conspiracy Theories

Currier and Ives lithograph of Booth Assassinating Lincoln
John Wilkes Booth’s world was crumbling all around him. The Confederate government abandoned the city of Richmond, Virginia on April 3rd, 1865. Six days later General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

To the twenty-six-year-old Booth it appeared as if everything was lost. In his mind, the only hope left for the South was for someone to make a strike so bold, so daring, and so outrageous, it could turn the tide of defeat into victory.

What made it worse was the impromptu speech Lincoln gave at the White House on the night of April 11th, 1865. It confirmed Booth’s greatest fear—Lincoln was a crazed “nigger” lover. Why else would he advocate giving former slaves the vote?

After listening to the President’s talk, Booth edged closer to David Herold, and snarled, “That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll run him through.”

It was unacceptable. It ran against every belief Booth held. Someone had to stop Lincoln before he made a total mockery of the country.

The only questions left to decide were—when, and where?

There has been a lot of misinformation published about John Wilkes Booth, and about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fifty years after the fact, there was a rush of “so-called” eye-witness survivors, putting pen to paper to tell their stories of what they remembered of that night. Many of their accounts, no matter how stilted, have come to be accepted as gospel.

For example, Oliver C. Gatch, asserted he and his brother, rushed into Lincoln’s box shortly after the shot often. He said they laid the President on the floor so Dr. Leale could cut open his shirt, and then they helped carry the dying Lincoln across the street to Petersen House. He also claimed it was his brother who discovered the bullet wound on Lincoln’s head, not Dr. Leale. The only problem is, the original testimony documents only three surgeons on the scene that night, and Gatch was not one of them.

Creating a Nation of Addicts, The Strange History of Patent Medicines, Marijuana, Morphine, and Heroine in America

True, or false?

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, you could walk into the corner drug store and buy a do it yourself druggie, kit complete with a hypodermic needle, and vials of opium and morphine? The original formula for Coca-Cola™ contained real cocaine? Bayer Pharmaceuticals aggressively marketed heroin beginning in 1899, touting it as a cure for headaches, tuberculosis, menstrual cramps, and more?

True, true, and true again.

Let’s try another one.

Drugs weren’t a real problem in America until the 1960’s. It was that damned Rock ‘N Roll music that spawned the Hippie movement, marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and heroin addiction. Before the 1960’s Americans didn’t do drugs, right?

Wrong again!

Here’s the real scoop on addiction in America.

Historians can trace the use of marijuana as far back as the writings of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung somewhere around 2700 BC.  According to the Emperor, marijuana was used as a cure for rheumatism, gout, malaria, and even absent mindedness.

The Spanish conquistadores brought cannabis to America with them in the early 1500’s, and records from the Jamestown Colony in 1611 show cannabis was the second largest crop grown there next to tobacco. Hemp was one of George Washington’s largest cash crops at his Mount Vernon plantation. But, he grew it to make rope, not for its medicinal uses—right?

For nearly 150 years, patent medicines were used, and abused, by a large portion of the American public. One of the most popular of these medications was laudanum. Laudanum was a potent mixture of 90% alcohol and 10% opiates. Famous laudanum abusers include Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Todd Lincoln.

Remember When: John Lennon Proclaimed the Beatles Were More Popular Than Jesus

March 4th, 1966 started out like any other day for John Lennon. He did an interview with his journalist friend Maureen Cleave. It was one of many they would do for a series of articles published in the London Evening Star, titled "How Does a Beatle Live?"

One section of the interview covered Lennon's take on religion. In it, Lennon said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right, and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now: I don't know which will go first - rock 'n roll or Christianity."

In England, the quote went pretty much unnoticed. But in the United States, DATEbook, a teen fan magazine, got a hold of the quote, and printed it out of context, making Lennon, and the Beatles, appear to be a group of godless huns.

The front page of that magazine featured a picture of Paul McCartney, and a  series of pull quotes from Lennon, McCartney, and Timothy Leary, among others.

The cover quote from Lennon was, "I don't know which will go first - rock 'n roll or Christianity."