Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Lincoln Highway Turns 100

Lincoln Highway Marker (photo from Wikipedia)
Today is the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Lincoln Highway, which runs from New York City to San Francisco and was the first significant cross-country road in America. 

From Wikipedia (link):  “The Lincoln Highway was America's first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln....  As the first automobile road across America, the Lincoln Highway brought great prosperity to the hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the way.  The Lincoln Highway became affectionately known as ‘The Main Street Across America.’  The Lincoln Highway was inspired by the Good Roads Movement.  In turn, the success of the Lincoln Highway and the resulting economic boost to the governments, businesses and citizens along its route inspired the creation of many other named long-distance roads (known as National Auto Trails), such as the Yellowstone Trail, ...  [and] Dixie Highway [link].  Most of the 1928 Lincoln Highway route became US Route 30 [when the US highway numbering system was instituted].”

The Lincoln Highway route is peppered with memorials and related place names.  Among them are the four Lincoln-Way High Schools in south suburban Chicago through whose district area runs Route 30.   The popularity of the Lincoln Highway led to the development of other long-distance named-roads, such as the Dixie Highway from Chicago to Miami.  A later arrival was Route 66, from Chicago’s Loop to Los Angeles, whose fame through song, television, and movies has probably eclipsed that of all other roads.  Now if only I was a song writer ....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obama Pulls Out the Big Lie Tactic on Obamacare

Just when it seemed Obama and his lying couldn’t get any worse, Obama has just blamed the health insurance companies for complying with Obamacare.  Really.  Really.  His lying has come to this.

Using the “Big Lie” (link) tactic made famous by such authoritarian luminaries as National Socialist mass murder Goebbels and Soviet Communist mass murder Stalin, Obama today in a speech blamed “bad apple” health insurance companies for all the policy cancellations flooding the news reports.  Everyone knows that insurance companies are cancelling policies because they are required to under the Obamacare law.  It would be illegal for them to continue to offer those policies. 

Not only is the lying by Obama and his minions continuing, but this one today from Obama is a whopper.  Obama clearly believes in the Big Lie principle – that the bigger the lie the more people will believe it.  

As I recently wrote (link), “All the promises about Obamacare have vaporized, promises like ‘if you like your health benefit plan and your doctor you will be able to keep them’ ....  All lies known to be lies by those who uttered them.” 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Want Medical Privacy with Obamacare? Fuggedaboutit

Compared to the Obama worshipers' image of Himself as the hippest thing in the universe, Mark Steyn writes (link) that “Obamacare wound up somewhat less hipper and, in fact, not even HIPAA [pronounced "hip'-uh"] — the unpersuasively groovy acronym for federally mandated medical privacy in America. Appearing before Congress ... the magicians of Obamacare eventually conceded that ... “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication of any data transmitted or stored on this [Obamacare] information system.”

Really, why would Obama and his followers, who have turned the IRS and the Justice Department into personal, partisan tools for use against their political adversaries, and who, since the day they took over the federal government have been illegally and immorally spying not only on Americans but even on foreign leaders – why would they care about the privacy of us plebs or have the slightest hesitation in using whatever information they can to control us while helping their friends and hurting their opponents? 

But that’s really nothing to worry about.  Once Obamacare is fully up and running and the medical care Rationing Board gets to rationing, in your suffering and anxiety while you’re waiting years for your knee arthroscopy or your heart valve repair privacy of your medical and financial records will be the last thing on your mind. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Laura Nyro In My Head

Laura Nyro
There’s music for every mood, and this week Laura Nyro has been the soundtrack of my days with her beautiful, clear voice wafting through in her unique bluesy, jazzy style.    

Born Laura Nigro in 1947 in the Bronx to an Italian musician father and a Jewish social progressive mother, she was still a teenager when she sold her first song And When I Die, which later was a big hit for Blood Sweat & Tears.  Stone Soul Picnic and Eli’s Comin’ are other well-known works of hers.  Personally, I enjoy rather many of her slower-tempo, less-well-known compositions like Emmie and Billie’s Blues.

I hold a special place for her sparkling, soulful covers of 50-60s era pop songs such as Spanish Harlem, Up on the Roof, It’s Gonna Take a Miracle, Dedicated To the One I Love, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Let It Be Me, La La Means I Love You, and Desiree, many of which were recorded with Patti Labelle and her vocal group.  It doesn’t get any better than their lilting harmonizing on The Bells.

Sadly, Laura Nyro died all too young, as did her mother, both at age 49 from ovarian cancer.  Tomorrow would have been her 66th birthday.  She left behind a treasure trove of material, to be discovered and enjoyed all over again by those yet to come. 

R Balsamo

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Let's Not Upset the Germans About That, You Know, War

Proposed 2016 British Bank Note
More evidence of a world turned upside down:

As I have written, though the British were once described as lions led by donkeys, today a more apt description would be sheep led by asses.

One of the first things Obama did walking into the White House was to throw out a bust of Churchill that had been a gift to the American people; not to Obama himself, but to the American people.  Now it has come to this – Bank of England officials are embarrassed that Britain won WWII (link):
“Bank of England officials reportedly came close to banning Sir Winston Churchill from the face of a new 5-pound note they plan to issue in 2016 because they didn't want to upset the Germans....  They warn that the ‘recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent,’ and note that Churchill's wartime record could make him a highly controversial choice for the bill.”  [Emphases added]
Keeping Britain alive and defeating the murderous threat from Nazi Germany, which, supported by a few other countries, started a war that killed scores of millions, including perhaps 10 million in concentration camps and countless more as slave laborers worked to death.  Yes, that “controversial wartime record”.    

As it has been said – decline is a choice.

R. Balsamo

Monday, October 14, 2013

On This Date

Every once in a while, not nearly often enough, I look over a list of past events that occurred on that particular day.  October 14 has been a particularly eventful one down the years. 

Pope Callistus I
In 222, Pope Callistus I (link) was killed by a mob in Rome and was later recognized as a saint.  Years ago on Chicago's near west side I often parked near St Callistus Church when I worked at the University of Illinois and Westside VA hospitals, and I fondly remember returning to my car on Bowler Street in the early evenings surrounded by the wonderful smells of fresh Italian cooking.  My father grew up nearby on Polk Street and had been an altar boy at St. Callistus many years before, although he attended the public school because his family could not afford the tuition at the Church school.  St Callistus Church and School eventually closed and the buildings are now the home of the private Chicago Hope Academy (link).

In 1066 on the coast of southern England there was a rather small military engagement near the slumbering village of Hastings.  That fight turned out to be one of the critical inflection points in Western history, and because of that 1066 was one of just a handful of dates (476, 732, and 1453 were some others) I was required to memorize in my high school Western civilization class by the remarkable Mr. Thallemer.

In 1322 the forces of Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeated the English and forced the king to accept Scotland's independence.  I think we saw this scene at the very end of the Mel Gibson movie about William Wallace.  While on the subject of Scotland, a few years later in 1586 just down the road, relatively speaking, Mary, Queen of Scots, finally went on trial for alleged conspiracy against her cousin The Virgin Queen; Mary had already been imprisoned for almost 19 years, and it all did not end well. 

In 1582 there was no October the 14th at all, as one of many dates skipped over that year in the switch over from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar so as to better align the calendar with the actual seasons.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was born on this day in 1644.  His collection of accumulated wisdom, Fruits of Solitude (link), was republished in 1906 as the fourth volume, and has become the rarest, of the still-running Lakeside Classics series of American narratives published by the Lakeside Press as its private series of Christmas gifts to friends of the RR Donnelley Company.  One Lakeside Classics volume has been published in December of every year since 1903, and I have copies of most of them. 

In 1912, while campaigning in Milwaukee, former president Theodore Roosevelt was shot and wounded by a mentally disturbed saloon keeper.  With the fresh wound and the bullet still in him, Roosevelt finished his scheduled speech.  He was later transported to Chicago and came to be cared for by the renowned physician Dr. John B. Murphy at Mercy Hospital, the first one in the city of Chicago, and one with which I was associated for many years.  There was a small display case there with some memorabilia from that most famous patient.
Three famous movie stars passed away on October 14.  Errol Flynn, a favorite of mine and the subject of a prior post (link), died on this day in 1959 from a sudden heart attack at the young age of 50 while traveling in Vancouver, away from his home in Jamaica.  Also on this day in 1977 Bing Crosby passed away from the same cause; the circumstances of his death and the story of his remarkable life were so widely recounted in the ensuing days that among other things I still remember to this day that he was stricken while golfing in Spain, of all places.  And in 1986 Keenan Wynn passed away, having previously uttered in Dr Strangelove one of movies' most memorable lines of social commentary:  "you’ll have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company."

In 1962 on this date began the Cuban missile crisis, during which I often found myself as a young student in grammar school safety drills either huddled under my classroom desk or sitting on the school basement floor with my head resting on my knees with the rest of the kids all squeezed together like sardines.  As if any of that would have done a whit of good if a nuclear bomb had landed on Chicago.

And last but perhaps not least, this day looms large in Chicago Cubs history.  In 1908, 105 years ago this very day, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers to win their last World Series to date.  And perhaps just coincidentally, also on October 14, ten years ago today in game six of the 2003 playoff series to determine the winner of the National League pennant, the Cubs were within 5 outs of going to the World Series when the now infamous Bartman ball incident occurred.  The Cubs were leading 3-0 at that point but went on to lose the game and the playoff series to the Florida Marlins.  A World Series appearance that year was not to be. 
R. Balsamo

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Obamacare – A Blank Check For the Democrat Bosses

I see that the subtitle to Peggy Noonan’s latest essay (link) about Obamacare is “It's not what Americans were promised—or even what Congress enacted.”  True, true, but that was the plan all along.  Democrats always hoped and planned that this so-called “Affordable Care Act” would be just a stepping stone towards a full government-run health care system.  They achieved their goal of passing into law a plan so large, so detailed, so complex, so full of contradictions and conflicts, that no one knew what was really in it (as then-Speaker Pelosi infamously remarked at the time), requiring lots of interpretation and reconciliation of conflicting requirements that basically would allow those in charge to do whatever they wanted. 

Yes, that was the plan that has all come to pass.  One case in point – Obama abruptly, and without any legal authority, decreed a one-year delay to the employer mandate clearly etched in black and white in the law; since when can the president abrogate laws by decree?  Since now.

I know the thinking of the elites, who want people just like themselves to be bosses over all the rest of us misguided rubes and dictate their wise decisions across the land:  the end justifies the means.
All the promises about Obamacare have vaporized, promises like “if you like your health benefit plan and your doctor you will be able to keep them” and “health care coverage will be cheaper for everyone” (remember all the hype about "bending the cost curve"?) and "it won't add to the deficit".  All lies known to be lies by those who uttered them.  The subterfuge, the debasement of our polity -- it doesn’t matter to them, the Democrat bosses – the goal was a law so complex that they could do anything to us while hiding behind it, and that they have accomplished.      

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Last Battle by Stephen Harding -- When American & German Soldiers Together Fought German SS Troops in the Last Days of WII

In The Last Battle (Da Capo, 173 pages), author Stephen Harding tells the fascinating, little-known story of the firefight for an Austrian mountain-top castle called Schloss Itter in northern Austria in the closing days of WWII in Europe May 4th and 5th, almost a week after Hitler had committed suicide.  American units were advancing into northern Austria, confronting roving and scattered bands of German troops, many of which were eager to surrender but some of which were fighting on, the latter mostly fanatical SS units that even terrorized and killed German soldiers and civilians trying to surrender.

The castle housed a German army prisoner of war facility whose inmates included 10 or so high ranking French VIPs, including two former premiers (Daladier and Reynaud) and two former top generals (Gamelin and Weygand).  The small regular German army prison garrison, interested in staying alive until they could surrender, came to learn that fanatical Waffen SS troops in the area were preparing an attack in order to kill the French VIPs.  In order to improve their post-war position with the near-by advancing Americans, the Germans in charge allowed two prisoners to leave to try to reach the advancing Americans for help in defending the castle.  The two went in different directions, and each was successful in reaching American lines.  Not wanting to fall into a trap, each American unit sent only a small detachment on a rescue mission. 

The small force destined to reach the castle in time fought off minor German army resistance on the way, reluctantly left most men and equipment behind when a bridge threatened collapse, linked up with a friendly group of German soldiers wanting to join in the rescue, and left some men and a tank to guard an avenue of retreat.   The tank and crew left to guard the escape bridge hid between buildings in a small town, joined by 10 or so Austrian partisans, and stayed silent as many still-fighting German troops moved through the town during the night.  Finally arriving at the castle were 7 Americans with just one tank, all from the spearhead of the advancing 12th Armored Division and led by a burly tank commander named Captain Jack Lee, along with about 10 German army soldiers (some of them conscripted Poles).  The Americans’ radio was broke and so they had no communication with their lines.  The assaulting Germans had a small cannon, a lethal 88mm gun, and between 100-150 men.  A battle ensued.

In light of the pre-war and early-war utter incompetence and malfeasance of the imprisoned senior French officials that directly led to the overrun of their country by the Germans, whether any American lives should have been risked rescuing and defending them is an intriguing and unaddressed question.  The book is an easy read, though perhaps too detailed early on in providing background on some German jailers who weren’t even around by the time of the assault.  Overall it’s an engrossing story of heroism and tactics under fire, and great movie material.

R. Balsamo