Following the Same Old Timetables

by J.F. McKenna

The other day I mentioned to my father-in-law that the general advancements in advertising—the speed of delivery in particular—haven’t done much to improve advertising in general, much to my regret and others. I myself have engaged in advertising at times, and I figured I’d find a sympathetic ear with dear old dad. I did. He chimed in with, “Yeah, Joe, advertising is instantly worldwide now, but it doesn’t sell any better than it did 40, 50, or 60 years ago.”

That got me to thinking about Daniel Joseph Boorstin and some of his historical scholarship from 40-plus years past. In 1975 I was a newly minted Kent State graduate, with a newspaper job in Cleveland to go along with my journalism major and a history minor. Boorstin himself was a well-established historian and a 1974 Pulitzer winner for his latest book. Moreover, Boorstin was a grand critic of advertising from as early as 17th century England: “Never was there a more outrageous or more unscrupulous or more ill-informed advertising campaign than that by which the promoters for the American colonies brought settlers here.”

With a distinguished pedigree that included Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, Boorstin was named the 12th Librarian of Congress in 1975 and served in that role until 1987; he died in 2004 but lives on in his books and other writing—not just about advertising but about history, canned food, and air conditioning.

As newsman Wayne Green wrote almost three years ago, “Boorstin came to believe that the central features of American history were to be found in what the nation agreed on, not what was fought over. There were disagreements in American history, as Boorstin saw it, but they were within a narrower range than we see in Europe (no royalists, no real socialists) because there is a greater reserve of mutual assumptions in the American experience. This made him a leading light in the so-called Consensus School of history writing and put him in contrast to the Progressives of an earlier era–Fredrick Jackson Turner, Charles Beard, and Vernon Parrington.”

Green also noted: “Rather than looking for revolutionary changes, Boorstin emphasized the continuities of American history. Boorstin was distrustful of doctrinaire thinking. As an undergraduate he toyed with Communism and eventually rejected it soundly. In his histories, he minimalized the role of thinkers, and emphasized the role of problem-solvers. Boorstin was conservative in his politics and his approach to culture. He had disdain for canon-bursting ideas, such as minority study programs. He was a capitalist. He was repulsed by the vulgarities of American life and advertising.”

In his Timetables of History, published in 1975, Boorstin wrote about how the “historian’s neat categories parse experience in ways never found among living people. For people in the past, just as for us, experience has had no academic neatness.” For instance, the Declaration of Independence was issued in the same year as Gibbon’sDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. And to facts like that, Boorstin warns, “We must therefore be wary of assuming that because different events occurred in the same year they were known to contemporaries at the same time.”

The flood—a deluge today, actually—“of confused contemporaneity has itself become a dominant and bewildering feature of life in our time,” adds Boorstin.

If you don’t believe him, just watch five minutes of advertising on TV or the Web.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their Papillions, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

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With Legitimacy Come Facts

 

By J.F. McKenna

Rep. John Lewis has been leading Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1968. He has also been called “the conscience of the Congress.” But the long-time civil rights veteran has allowed his past victories and experiences to cloud his judgment about Donald Trump and constitutional genius.

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Rep. Lewis said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

I’m sure Lewis, the son of sharecroppers, heard demeaning comments about legitimacy during his days when Freedom Riders challenged the segregated facilities they encountered at interstate bus terminals in the South. As noted, Lewis has seen a lot in his 77 years.

Pressed on why he believes Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, Lewis told NBC: “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

As The Hill reported, “Trump acknowledged this week that Russia was responsible for some hacking during the campaign, though the president-elect and many on his team assert that it had no affect on election results.”

Those results get confirmed Friday when Trump becomes the 45th President.

Which speak to the genius of our nation, as James Madison notes in Federalist 39: “The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

 

J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

 

Vanity in History

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.  Abraham Lincoln

By Doug Magill

 

I recently watched the movie Lincoln, and was impressed at its historical accuracy, as well as the incredible talent of the actors involved, particularly of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln.  I was also struck by the gritty portrayals of the members of the House of Representatives: venal, vain, sometimes obtuse but very human.  Certainly not unlike today.  And, I suspect the movie got the backroom dealing and compromising right.  Democracy isn’t pretty, and passing legislation is a complex process done by fallible people.

I thought of this in light of the recent media explosion over a tape of Donald Trump expressing some rather vulgar and demeaning thoughts about women.  I don’t recall as much crocodile-tear outrage over a man’s words since the early days of the “feminist revolution” and the lame attempts and angst by the nerdy guys trying to get laid with their militant girlfriends.  Usually it was about something the athletes or fraternity guys did or said.

That said, Trump certainly didn’t add anything dignified to the presidential contest, did he?  One has to suspect that as marriage historically has been the method for gentling and dealing with the baser instincts of men, that his wife and daughters will clarify for him what is acceptable to say in public about women.

Knowing the media, it is not surprising that they will try to make as much out of this as they can.  Long ago having lost credibility and any pretense to integrity, it is their secret-society sworn duty to bring Trump down.  Our narcissistic millennials are easily influenced by this goal, thinking that this is something new and are eager to impress their self-absorbed peer group of their compassion and concern.  Most people who dislike Trump will be reinforced, but those who support him will be unfazed.  Alas, for those who truly wish to get perspective, the road ahead is difficult.

Ah history, thy appeal is difficult to discern.

We have certainly had large egos in the Presidency, and the quality of presidential language has not always been Catholic-school approved – along with their less-than-saintly actions.  Kennedy turned the White House into the Play House for his frequent frolics, as did one William Jefferson Clinton.   President  Johnson was more than well known for his earthy expressions as is Senator McCain.  Who can forget the disgusting and x-rated antics of Senator Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd – the least desired guests in a jaded Washington?

One of the most foul-mouthed offenders, according to those who know her well, is Hillary Clinton.

One has to remind our younger and uninformed progeny about the impeachment of then-President Clinton.  Eleven counts, including lying to a grand jury.  Disbarment and fines.  All because of romping with an intern – an intern! – in the White House.  Yet at that time the media described it all as just sex, personal and not relevant.  The special prosecutor was viciously attacked as being a pervert for even investigating.  How far we have come.

Still, the question to be asked is, which will harm America more, Trump’s stream-of-consciousness invective in the past, or the actions of a ruthless and avaricious Hillary Clinton whose stated objectives are to overturn the Bill of Rights and cause enormous damage to the American experiment?

One has to be shocked, saddened and dismayed at the would-be president’s capacity for mendacity, even under trivial circumstances.  The most chilling  is where her actions have directly lead to personal destruction and even to the deaths of others.  The mother of Sean Smith plaintively asks what happened to her son, while Democrats cavalierly walk out of the Congressional hearing where she was testifying:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cYHs8tVb-U

Hillary abandoned him to die at Benghazi and lied about it to his mother’s face, and later tried to call her a liar.  Patricia Smith is still waiting for an answer.

This is Hillary’s character, and her history.  At 27 years old and as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee she was fired by lifelong Democrat Jerry Zeifman.  When queried as to why, he stated “Because she was a liar.  She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer.  She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the Committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

Throughout her career there are innumerable examples of her dishonesty.  From Whitewater to her role in enabling her husband’s transgressions to Travelgate and the destruction of Billy Dale and his staff (see Peggy Noonan’s reminder of Hillary’s responsibility, lying, and evasion: http://www.wsj.com/articles/travel-back-to-an-early-clinton-scandal-1473982077) to Benghazi to her server to her compromising national security with her emails and the corruption of the Clinton Foundation the constant is her complete and absolute willful perversion of the truth for her own benefit.

Recently, Secret Service Officer Gerry Byrne called her a “complete pathological liar”: http://www.breitbart.com/radio/2016/10/11/secret-service-officer-gary-j-byrne-hillary-clinton-i-know-complete-pathological-liar/

Beyond that there is the enormous disconnect between her words, her actions and her desires should she obtain office.  Her empire games in Libya have resulted in countless deaths, her complicity in the withdrawal from Iraq has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands and her disdain for Africa has resulted in multiple atrocities.  To say nothing of what the rise of radical Islam has meant to women.

Her lack of support for DC vouchers, her unholy ties to teachers’ unions and the resulting condemnation of poor minorities to third-world schools, her alliance with anti-police  forces leading to rising crime rates in already desperate inner-city communities all lead to a destructive and anti-human set of policy prescriptions that would be disastrous for our country.  Her desire to treat abortion as an unalloyed social good will lead to the death of millions of more babies, and ultimately to further erosion in human dignity as we creep ever-closer to euthanasia and the forced termination of services under government-controlled health care.

It is understandable that there is hesitation to support Trump because of his free-form verbal onslaughts.  Yet, to an America sick of mendacity and corruption one is reminded of Abraham Lincoln, in responding to criticisms of General U.S. Grant and his occasional forays into excess alcohol, “I can’t spare this man – he fights.”

People back Trump because he fights.

Doug Magill is the Communications Director for the Cuyahoga County Republican Party.  He is also a councilman for the city of Solon, a communications consultant, voice-over talent and freelance writer.

 

In These Soul-Trying Times America Wants Paine Relief

By J.F. McKenna
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” — Thomas Paine, The Crisis
Pamphleteer Tom Paine was a master of the opening line. Likewise, he was a craftsman of the lines that followed—well considered, well fashioned, and always timely, even to our 21st century world of instant communication, tactics to hack into that messaging, and the effective countermeasures that address such hacking. Paine, who started life in England as a corset maker apprentice to his father, understood the value of the foundation, be it in ladies’ garments or a nation desirous of freedom. Is it any surprise that General George Washington had the Paine essay—from which the above lines are taken—read to his revolutionary troops at Christmas, on the eve of their victory at Trenton.
Historian and author Gordon S. Wood declared the amazing polymath “America’s first public intellectual.” In his 2006 book, Revolutionary Characters, Wood added in his chapter on Paine:
“After Common Sense had established his reputation, Paine came to know nearly all the political leaders of the United States, including Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, and he continued to write on behalf of the American cause. The most important of these writings was his American Crisis series, essays that appeared throughout the war with Britain….
“If these important contributions were not sufficient to immortalize Paine as one of the founders of the United States, then we have his extraordinary book Rights of Man (1791-92), which became one of the most important works of political thought in the history of the Western world. Although the book was written after Paine had left the United States in 1787 and was intended as a refutation of [Edmund] Burke’s Reflection on the Revolution in France (1790), it actually sums up what he had learned about constitutionalism and political theory during his years in America. In fact The Rights of Man is the best and most succinct expression of American revolutionary political thinking ever written.”
Despite Paine’s exceptional efforts, writes the professor from Brown University, the revolutionary “never quite has had what it takes to get admitted to the sacred temple of American founders.” The good professor, who himself has won an enviable Pulitzer Prize, called the early Republic’s biographies “muckraking diatribes that pictured Paine as an arrogant, drunken atheist.” Actually, many decades after Paine died in 1809, Teddy Roosevelt said much the same thing about Paine.
In our century, Thomas Paine has yet to receive “his due measure of homage from the people and nations of the world whose aspirations he expressed with such force and clarity,” according to the late philosopher Sidney Hook. “His passion for human freedom shines through everything he wrote.”
Again to quote Professor Wood, Paine’s writing was very different, noting that the revolutionary champion “looked for readers everywhere, but especially in the tavern- and artisan-centered world of the cities.” (He understood foundational marketing, eh?) Thomas Paine, continued Dr.Wood, “spoke out of a tradition of radical republicanism that ran deeper and was more bitter yet more modern than the balanced and reasonable classical republicanism of most of the founders.”
In Rights of Man, Dr. Hook writes, Paine proposes that the government undertake “the amelioration of distress which entitles to be considered almost despite himself a forerunner of the Welfare State.” Ever so gently Dr. Hook, a 1985 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, excuses Paine’s inconsistency as “a tribute to his sense of compassion for human suffering.”
Even in this election year, when the delivery of the varied political messages is more than shopworn, Thomas Paine’s core message still is not given its due: the passion for freedom.
Maybe in time that will change, for as Paine wrote in 1776, “Time makes more converts than reason.”
CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. While at IndustryWeek magazine in the early ‘90s, he wrote a series on Total Quality Government and chaired TQG conferences across the country. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com

A Man of Words, a Man of Law

By J.F. McKenna

By both his life and his death, Antonin Scalia reaffirmed the genius of the American culture, best exemplified by the generations-tested document securing “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The 79-year-old Associate Supreme Court Justice took his role as arbiter seriously, but understood that his role was but one part of the fabric of the Republic, whose solid basis was the consent of the people.

Justice Scalia, who died on a Texas hunting trip this weekend, was widely known as the model of conservative thought on the high court for 30 years. The first Italian-American to sit on the Supreme Court, Antonin Gregory Scalia embraced an originalist, or textualist, approach to his decision-making: “The Constitution,” he said, “is not an organism. It means today what it meant when it was adopted.”

From there, the Justice took this approach when he wrote the Heller v. District of Columbia decision, which declared the Second Amendment as upholding individual gun rights. In similar fashion, in a 1992 dissent, Justice Scalia charged his colleagues with “personal predilection” in reaffirming the constitutional right to abortion. “It is difficult to maintain the illusion,” he said, “that we are interpreting a Constitution, rather than inventing one, when we amend its provisions so breezily.”

And only last year, he injected expressions such as “pure applesauce” and “interpretive jiggery-pokery” into his dissent on Obamacare and tax subsidies.

Of course, what should one expect from the son of a professor of languages who had taught at Brooklyn College?

“The two most important things to remember about Scalia — apart from the fact that he was a family man and a faithful Catholic — are the following: He was a heck of a writer, and he was a defender of one of the most important institutions our civilization is based on,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote online yesterday. “I think there’s a good chance Scalia might have wanted to be remembered as a writer first, and as a jurist second. Most non-lawyers don’t associate the law and legal documents with great reading, and I don’t blame them. But the legal profession really is all about words, and the best legal minds are by necessity minds that love words and, at least sometimes, know how to use them.”

The good Justice was just such a legal mind, as is detailed in a 2012 New Yorker piece titled “Writing With Antonin Scalia, Grammar Nerd.” Written By Alex Karp, the article follows the relationship between Scalia and lawyer-writer Bryan A. Garner. Here’s a bit of Karp’s account:

Justice Scalia had initially proposed the breakfast after declining to sit for a more formal interview on writing and legal advocacy. By the end of their meal, Scalia had changed his mind, and the two have gone on to form a productive and collegial, if unusual, working relationship. The interview, Garner’s first with a sitting Justice, took place the following October, and he has completed others with almost two hundred state and federal judges, and nine of the eleven Justices who have sat on the Court since. “You’re something of a SNOOT yourself,” Scalia told Garner as they ended their interview, invoking Wallace’s pet phrase for a grammar and usage fanatic, “and that makes me happy.” (Other SNOOTs, according to Scalia, include former Justices Harry Blackmun and David Souter. Ruth Bader Ginsburg shares their zealousness, but, Scalia said, she’s “too polite.”)

Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges,” the first book co-authored by the pair, appeared in 2008. Their second book, “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” was published by Thomson/West last month. The nearly six-hundred-page tome details Scalia’s judicial philosophy, which they call “textualism.”

“My calculation is we spent about eighty-five to one hundred hours side by side for ‘Making Your Case,’” Garner said. “Probably sixty of those hours, once we had a draft, we actually went through sentence by sentence, together, reading it aloud. We ended up really co-authoring every single sentence of the first book.

Justice Scalia’s words, both his legal reasoning and his linguistic crochets, will be with us for some time, as shall (pray God) The Constitution. In fact, I think it’s fair to suggest that the Justice himself would probably agree that President Obama engage his lawful right to seek a successor for Justice Scalia.

At the same time, I can’t help but think that Justice Scalia—from his new vantage point in a much higher court—is whispering in the President’s ear to choose wisely, with the People in mind.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

A Page Borrowed from Twain

By J.F. McKenna

Mike Pitts is a South Carolina legislator whose sense of constitutionally telling mischief reaches across the nation. Interestingly enough, he reminds me of an old mischief-maker named Sam Clemens, who made it a professional practice to gore oxen with reckless abandon.

The Republican Pitts, with prepared legislation reportedly in hand Tuesday, proposed a mandatory journalist registry and potential jail sentences for violators. The legislation itself even carried a fancy name for censorship—the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry.”

As U.S. News and World Report explained this week—with complete freedom, I should add—“If it became law, people working as journalists without registering would face $25 fines. Second offenses would be misdemeanors punishable by a $100 fine and 15 days in jail, and repeat offenders would face $500 fines and 30 days in jail.

“Media outlets,” the magazine continued, “would have to conduct criminal record background checks on prospective hires and journalists would be ineligible for registry if they had ‘demonstrated a reckless disregard of the basic codes and canons of professional journalism associations, including a disregard of truth, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.’”

No surprise to this long-unlicensed member of the press, the uproar was quick and certain. Many network television and print journos found their Brooks Brothers’ knickers in a bunch, and they rushed on camera to discuss the imminent fall of the Republic.

The hour’s top story: Woe to We the People. Right after this message.

Being a semi-reformed troublemaker myself, I suspect Mike Pitts of the S.C. legislature was having a good laugh. The day after unloading his constitutionally errant measure, he wrote this on Facebook:

“I filed this legislation as an experiment to make a point about the media and how they only care about the Constitution when it comes their portion of the 1st Amendment. In doing so, I put the media under the microscope, and they did not like it.

“They constantly attack people who follow their Christian beliefs and attempt to portray them as bigots, and they certainly do not like the fact that normal everyday Americans gather to petition the government and air grievances. Look no further than how they have demonized the Tea Party. Furthermore, they love to trample on our 2nd Amendment rights to ‘Keep and Bear Arms.’ If they had their way, there would be no 2nd Amendment.”

As various gored oxen wailed in the background, Pitt had made his point: The U.S. Constitution is not a legislative buffet for those who think they can simply opt for a figurative salad and cottage cheese and deny another patron his ground steak and french fries. Take it the way it has been served since 1787.

That sly Rep. Pitts would certainly win plaudits from old Sam Clemens, who said that “There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.”

At his 1873 talk at the Hartford, Conn., Monday Evening Club, Clemens continued with this critique: “[The press] has scoffed at religion till it has made scoffing popular. It has defended official criminals, on party pretexts, until it has created a United States Senate whose members are incapable of determining what crime against law and the dignity of their own body is, they are so morally blind, and it has made light of dishonesty till we have as a result a Congress which contracts to work for a certain sum and then deliberately steals additional wages out of the public pocket and is pained and surprised that anybody should worry about a little thing like that.

“I am putting all this odious state of things upon the newspaper, and I believe it belongs there — chiefly, at any rate. It is a free press — a press that is more than free — a press which is licensed to say any infamous thing it chooses about a private or a public man, or advocate any outrageous doctrine it pleases. It is tied in no way. The public opinion which should hold it in bounds it has itself degraded to its own level.”

“Though his admonitions target the newspaper as the archetypal press, it’s remarkable to consider how prescient his remarks are in the context of today’s online media,” noted Maria Popova in her wonderful website, Brain Pickings—brainpickings.org .  Do check it out.

Applying so-called “fixes” to any part of the Bill of Rights is tampering with all constitutional security. To quote the Hudson Institute scholar Christopher DeMuth Sr., “Our Constitution is treated as a reliquary, worthy of reverence but no longer of much practical use. Yet the Constitution reflects, in many deep and subtle ways, the character of the people who established it and have lived and prospered under it for centuries.”

People like Mike Pitts and Sam Clemens, that cagey book author who observed that “in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.”

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor and marketing-communications consultant. He also attends all meetings of the Mark Twain Society of Penn Hills, a small and informal literary gathering near Pittsburgh. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

Deja Vu Jerry

By Doug Magill

Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same timeSteven Wright

With apologies to Santayana, nothing is ever really new – except to liberals.  Since intellectual curiosity and an understanding of history seems to be foreign to them, the continuing fallacies of human nature always continue to surprise.

The latest example, of course, being the moral indignation directed toward those who realize the climate-change imbroglio is just the latest in a series of apocalyptic scientific scandals which – as soon as it subsides – will be superseded by an even scarier one.  What is fun about this one is that California Governor Jerry Brown seems to be a recurring figure in climate-related ones associated with droughts in a state that has a penchant for not managing its water resources well.

I confess to being embarrassed to admit this, but I remember the last doomsday scenario in which our ever-loony Jerry was notable.  During Gov. Brown’s first term in 1976, California was suffering from another significant drought, except the cause was trumpeted as global cooling.  Similar scenarios of distress were being played out – including fires, extreme dryness and water rationing.

The word consensus wasn’t being thrown around in those days to silence debate, but the prevailing attitude was that most scientists were considered to believe in a global cooling period.  And that would lead to – wait for it – erratic weather patterns that could have devastating effects on the world’s population.  The ultimate concern was that the earth was entering another ice age, and even our earnest Earth Day organizers predicted disaster due to global cooling.

Scientific forecasting told us that the world would be several degrees colder by the 1990s, and by the turn of the century we would be well beyond the stage in which another ice age was a certainty.

These days we get the usual wailing about human-caused changes to the climate, which now is warming and, by the way, must be causing the California drought today.  As noted, liberals hate to have history explained to them, but California is known to be subject to regular periods of drought; and even our let’s-hide-the changes-we’ve-made-to-the-climate-data-NOAA admits that California’s current difficulties are due to recurring weather patterns that have nothing to do with any supposed climate change, man-induced or otherwise.

Back in the 1970s, when faced with the same situation, Brown talked about difficult choices and sacrifices required of California’s long-suffering citizens.  He could have at least reused portions of those speeches in the last couple of years, but environmental politics preclude remembering the wasted rallying cries of yesteryear.

Another thing that liberals hate to admit to is the cronyism and mismanagement of California’s water infrastructure due to decades of one-party rule.  Money that should have been spent on needed improvements has gone to paying off the normal cast of characters locked in the monetary embrace of unions, special interests and rich donors that control California politics.   The drought is driven by nature, but the issues associated with it are exacerbated by weak policies.

The political exigencies of rich environmentalists override the needs of the majority of the population as over 50% of the state’s water is flushed to the ocean, since reservoirs are emptied to enable assisted river flows for small numbers of fish.  Desalinization plants, which have provided sufficient drinking water for the desert lands of Israel, are not being built for political reasons.

Extreme left-wing anti-humanity groups continue to work, funded by government grants, to destroy development while fighting viciously against new water storage capability which is necessary for a growing population.  And what of the future?  It has been known for decades that without new storage there will be no ability to manage through those times when nature doesn’t bless the Golden State.

Who knows – maybe in another 30 years Jerry Brown’s preserved brain will be giving speeches about drought conditions caused by excessive cosmic rays from Van Allen Belt depletion triggered by asteroid mining at the lunar LaGrange points?

Or maybe we can just recycle his speeches from the 1970s.

 

Doug Magill is a consultant and freelance writer.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net

 

Holiday Slices of Days Gone By

By J.F. McKenna

Thanksgiving Day. Let all give humble, hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys.

 – “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar”

My first brush with entrepreneurship, once commonly known as small business, came complete with turkey, duck and chicken feathers as well as the gentle aromas of cow stalls.  My father’s bachelor brothers owned a 35-acre farm off Sprague Road in Columbia Station from the late 1940s until 1966; all the McKenna boys, their spouses (those that had such), and my cousins and my sister participated each in his or her own way to this business affair over time.  Being the youngest of the next generation, I typically contributed the least during my weekend trips to the farm family.

Were they still with us, Uncle Leo and Uncle Don would most certainly agree with that assessment.

By the time Ike was settling into the White House, I was settling into life on Cleveland’s West Side—a mere ten houses from the home in which my father was reared—along with settling into weekly visits to the farm. By then, all family adults stressed to me the importance of careful listening and strict observance to adult commands: “Do not…do not…touch the fence at the front of the barn, Joey.” No comprehensive explanation was ever included with this caution, or any other commands, for that matter: just stern tones laced with references to Michael the Archangel and the constant temperature of Hades.

As I reached age four, my curiosity went into an early stage of overdrive—I touched the fence in front of the barn, I wasn’t killed instantly, and I confidently, if erroneously, assessed that adults were often wrong in their warnings. I carried that notion as an iron chain around my neck for many decades.

But in youth I took time out from resentment at family to enjoy the pleasures that came from being part of a clan that owned a farm. Uncle Leo brought me a puppy to our West 100th Street home; it was back at the farm by the end of the weekend.

Never easily deterred, UL decided a pair of rabbits would be perfect companions for me; he should have checked with Mom. Back went the hoppers.

The uncles finally compromised with Mom: I could keep a duck at the farm. The duck was christened Joey Jr., and he proved to be the most disagreeable creature in Ohio, reestablishing his reputation every day by chasing customers around the front of the property and biting their legs.

Of course, even the youngest of our brood got a victory to savor every so often. One day while Mary Ann and was doing a chore or two, Uncle Leo came through the backdoor of the house and announced he would be “doing an egg run.”

“Can I go with you, Uncle Leo?” asked Mary Ann, applying a pleading voice that she would later hear come from the mouths of her own children.

“No,” said Uncle Leo. “Look you have cow crap on the front of your coat. I’ll take your brother, instead.”

That day I went on the egg delivery with Uncle Leo, who started our journey with a stop to the corner market for a box of Dutch Masters and a box of Tootsie-Rolls. Sometimes it pays to be five and quiet. And to be wearing a clean jacket.

The fact of the matter is that my older male cousins—Tom, Dick, Jerry, and Michael—were pulled out of school before Thanksgivings to help with dressing turkeys. As they related their tales at family gatherings much later, the hard work of the latter cancels out the pleasure of the former. And as a frequent ringside observer of fowl preparation myself, I can attest that Uncle Don was a master of the game but he never raised poultry prep to the level of a sweet science. Frankly, it’s just messy.

Of course, cousin Jerry told the tale best at one family gathering: “I hated helping prep turkeys—hated it. You know, I haven’t tasted turkey in years.”

When I got a little bigger, Uncle Don entrusted me with candling eggs for customers. I quickly proved so inept that my good uncle pulled me off that duty posthaste. Many an egg was saved because of that fine business decision.

Bachelors running a farm do not a particularly good business plan make, especially when strapping nephews show more interest in other working pursuits. But all of us McKenna kids learned how to present ourselves to customers and how to be as helpful as possible. Uncle Leo often headed up our customer-relations classes.

“Uncle Leo, babshi walked over from her farm to get some duck blood,” Mary Ann said. “Do we have some fresh?”

“No,” said our uncle. “But there is some chicken blood. Give that to her.”

 

 

In 2011 John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley was the inspiration for a magazine article about Lady Carol and my regular turnpike shuttles between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The hook of this human-interest feature was our loud and loveable Beagle, Holly, aka The Duchess of Hollingsworth. As four-legged companions go, Holly was the best. (See: http://www.steinbecknow.com/2014/07/19/travels-with-charley-portable-steinbeck/ ) After more than two months suffering with an intestinal blockage, our sweetheart died on November 10. Carol, Max and I miss her terribly. Reach me at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

 

A Vision Not Up For Debate

By J.F. McKenna

When that rabble of Republican presidential hopefuls arrives in Cleveland this August, the hotel managers will cheer. Calculating the profit from the pols, their minions and the media visiting C-town, the inn keepers are guaranteed an actual payoff connected to the 2016 election—even if other Clevelanders, along with the rest of the nation, can’t be equally certain. As of right now, even the most delusional political Pollyannas expect little more than an evening of confusing crosstalk among the top-10 GOP candidates for the White House.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be as bleak as just described. And given the national and international challenges that post-Obama America will face in January 2017—it shouldn’t be.

As management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, creating a customer—or, in this case, a voter—demands mastery of marketing and innovation. The aim of marketing, Drucker explained, is “to make marketing superfluous,” which means “knowing and understanding the customer so well that the product and service fits him and sells itself.” Drucker also insisted that the second function of a business—or, in this case, the federal government—is innovation, which the father of modern management defined as “the provision of different economic satisfactions.”

“It is not enough for the business to provide just any economic goods and services; it must provide better and more economic ones,” Drucker preached in his 1974 classic, Management, Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “It is not necessary for a business to grow bigger; but it is necessary that it constantly grows better.”

Which brings me to the upcoming hot August night in my hometown. What if the candidates were to junk their debate notes, jettison their over-rehearsed ripostes and pass on the empty if telegenic posturing? What if these Grand Old Partiers simply gather and present the American voter with their united vision of what the nation needs, must have and can be in the 21st century?

Kind of a revolutionary idea, in that truly American sense, no?

Without question, the framers of the Constitution didn’t agree with one another on every detail of what ensures national greatness; nonetheless, they worked out a common vision “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosperity….”

Surely 10 folks scoring rhetorical points against one another can’t compare with the preceding eloquence—even if the stage is in good old Cleveland. But a common vision delivered from that stage is a worthy restart toward national recovery.

And there can be plenty of vision to share with that “customer” who has his hard-earned vote to invest. Take the economy, just for starts. Or as the classic comedian Henny Youngman might quip, “Take my economy—please!”

“Take the case of Barack Obama,” Forbes columnist and eminent historian Paul Johnson wrote earlier this year. “By any standards he’s been a bad President—idle, muddled, contradictory and weak. His one major achievement, ObamaCare, is likely to prove costly and inefficient….Obama’s Administration is crowded with enemies of business. If it has an ideology, it’s watered-down socialism. Obama has done nothing positive for the economy, and many of his decisions have been discouraging and obstructive to private enterprise.”

Johnson’s lyrics may sound a bit rough to the untrained ear, but his notes ring true. In this exclusive appearance near the shores of Lake Erie, the Cleveland Ten can assemble quite a common song book from which to sing this summer. And the candidates will find a receptive audience on opening night. Moreover, a tune never sticks better in the listener’s mind as when each singer is harmonizing with the others. Time enough for solo performances.

Certainly the encore that evening should focus on national security, and the candidates can start by jointly recommitting to the words of one of the country’s three basic documents: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

You bet the devil’s in the details of that oath. I’m too experienced a business writer to believe otherwise. But the rest of America and I want to hear these job candidates, in their own words, convince us that any of one of them is up to the task of fulfilling that oath to our expectations. In a world threatened by ISIS and its thug-brethren, each voter especially wants to hear a pledge to principles, not reheated platitudes.

Overall, as my hero Drucker also wrote, “What distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals. Whether the compromise he makes with the constraints of reality—which may involve political, economic, financial or interpersonal problems—are compatible with his mission and goals or lead away from them determines whether he is an effective leader.”

For starters agree on that, candidates. And enjoy your visit to Cleveland.

We citizens can figure out the rest on our own.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in neighboring Steeler Country with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

Duty and the Well of Fortitude

by Doug Magill

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.  Winston Churchill

On a moonless Pacific night during World War II, the pilot of a Hellcat fighter returning from a routine patrol desperately searched for the comfort of an aircraft carrier he would never find. My father, directing fighter operations on the ship that was the home of the lost plane, listened in horror to the static-roughened panic in the young man’s voice. His radio direction-finding equipment had failed and fleet orders prevented the carrier crew from illuminating the ship due to nearby Japanese submarines.

Disappearing into the blackness of the sea, terrified and alone, the pilot was not considered a coward by his shipmates. My father first told me this story when I was young, and I asked him how a brave military pilot could panic. With a soft and faraway look in his eyes, he replied, “It’s just that his well of fortitude ran dry. We all never knew how deep it really was for any of us.”

Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I combat pilot once said, “There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” He understood that there is a well of fortitude within that can be drawn upon time and again, under even the most terrifying circumstances.  And yet, military men know that there are occasions when even that is not enough, when fear can overcome even the hardiest soul, when there is no more bravery, no more strength, no more belief. Still they are drawn beyond what can be humanly expected by their sense of duty – to themselves, to their comrades, to their country.

During the war my father was aboard a jeep carrier, the USS Cowpens, which was attacked by kamikaze aircraft, and barely survived the monstrous waves of Halsey’s typhoon (Typhoon Cobra), a ferocious cyclone in the Pacific Ocean that struck the Pacific Fleet with one-hundred twenty mph winds and sank three ships.

Cowpens

USS Cowpens (CVL-25) during Typhoon Cobra
18 December 1944

The Cowpens was also sent as a decoy into the Sea of Japan without escorts.  When I asked Dad if he was scared, he would only say that he was able to draw from his well of fortitude during those times, and hang on. At times he was so frightened that he couldn’t move, but when he saw his shipmates doing their duty he felt he had to do his job and not let them down. He never boasted or showed pride, only relief that he had performed his duty and not failed his shipmates.

Landing on the beaches of Okinawa with the 1st Marine Division, my uncle Tom suffered from migraine headaches which prevented him from seeing. All he could do was hang onto the web belt of the man in front of him. His comrades would tell him where to aim so that he could shoot. Though he didn’t share many details of that bloody island, he told me of times when he was so afraid he couldn’t move, or shoot, and that the chaos of war gave countless opportunities for heroism and panic, often to the same person in the space of moments. He described the jungle and the insects, the heat, and the constant fear. He told me, “I was afraid all the time, and felt suffocated because there was nowhere to hide. It was a relief sometimes to dig leeches out of my legs with my combat knife. The pain was real, and distracted me from the fear.” He drew deeply from his well of fortitude, time and again shaking and panicked. Wanting to do his duty for the men around him he would take that next, halting step which kept him going for one more minute, one more agonizing hour, one more terrifying day.

Proud of their service, both my father and my uncle never described themselves as heroic or deserving of special consideration. They knew that brave men could panic, and cowards could become unexpected heroes. Incredible feats of courage were often not recognized and medals were awarded for trivial things, or for momentary political purposes.

To most veterans, medals and awards are not indicative of the value of one’s service, and do not imply a hierarchy of bravery. They do not judge the value of one’s duty, as they know that even clerks in Washington are important, as are the bases and supply ships manned by tired and overworked soldiers, sailors and airmen – who will never be recognized. They, too, perform their duty and may have had to draw upon their wells of fortitude due to accidents, weather, or other events that required bravery unrelated to combat.

A childhood friend of mine declined a Bronze Star during his service in Vietnam because his sense of honor caused him to feel that others deserved it more. Dan felt it would have been false pride to accept a decoration that he didn’t feel he deserved, though he knew he had performed his duty and saw combat that tested him.

Most veterans understand that medals aren’t scorecards for manliness. Performing their duty was all that mattered. The rest was randomness and fate.  A man performed his duty when required, regardless of acknowledgement or reward, and without complaint. The concept of duty is something that these warriors passed on to their children.  I have many childhood memories of completing required tasks, hoping in vain for recognition from my father. Acting responsibly was not worthy of note.

Most military men would react with disdain to a leader who attempted to take credit for the actions of men at arms when all he did was to make a politically-calculated decision to send them in harm’s way.  Particularly after requiring the overall commander of the operation to sign a document that would place blame on him should the operation fail.

A leader takes responsibility first, and credit last.

Military men know that courage is what is shown, not claimed.  And, that duty is what takes them beyond courage.

To shiver for days on end while being underfed and improperly clothed, waiting as your comrades slink away, knowing that you will soon be asked again to fight a professional enemy vastly better equipped and trained than you are.

To walk in ramrod-straight pride up a hill in sweltering July heat knowing that those you are attacking are entrenched and will soon devastate your comrades in a hail of grapeshot and gunfire.

To endure endless days and nights of rain and snow while your ship becomes coated with ice and knowing that a relentless foe is marshalling submarines and aircraft to send the ships you are bound to protect to searing moments of hell followed by the iciness of the depths.

To be starving and shivering in the relentless snow, surrounded by arrogant troops believing they will crush your dwindling forces as you run out of ammunition, and finding those last moments of pride when your leader responded to a request for your surrender with a single word, “Nuts!”

To be asked that one last measure of energy and strength to defend a wind-blasted hilltop in cold so deep your weapons have frozen and your arms are so heavy it is a burden to place your bayonet on your rifle to repulse one more charge of a fanatical foe.

To find the heat of the jungle dissipate and the sweat on your body chill as you crawl into a tunnel pursuing a mind-numbed enemy who plants traps to maim you and hides behind children and executes women as an example and who will never stand and fight directly.

To step carefully through the blasted remains of buildings knowing that a relentless foe wishes to take your legs or arms without ever having to fight you as you search through the stench and the garbage in deadening heat for men for whom cowardice is a moral code.

And yes, to feel the vibrations of the helicopter engine in your back as you prepare to leap into the night of a foreign country where you don’t know the strength of your enemy and the deviousness of his waiting traps.

Because your country needs you to.

Because you have been ordered to.

Because your comrades depend on you.

Because in all, it needs to be done.

These are the men who have found the meaning of courage, and duty.  Not those who issue commands and boast in comfort and security behind the protection that they and their comrades provide every day.

These are the men we remember today.

As the young Hellcat pilot found in his last moments before entering the silent embrace of the sea, duty doesn’t always involve the risks of combat. His service and death were nonetheless noble and honorable. Military men will forever salute him because of that. Today, it would be fitting for those who profess to lead us, and for those who evaluate them, to humbly remember all of those who have died nobly, regardless of circumstances. They owe the opportunity to do such things in a democracy to those who performed their duty for all of us, even if their well of fortitude ran dry in darkness and solitude, far from home.

Doug Magill is a communications consultant, freelance writer and voice-over talent.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net