Ken Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl and Timothy Egan’s book “The Worst Hard Time” reminded me that my parents were part of that generation … growing up during the Great Depression and then winning World War Two.
My mother grew up in western Kansas and remembers the big dust storms of the 1930s. My dad grew up in southeast Kansas … son of a minister … and served in the Army Air Corps during the war. Both parents’ families were large … and neither had any money. My mom and dad met in the Wichita Beech plant in the early 40s.
I wonder if we realize how tough that generation was? Not many Americans in those days escaped the economic struggles, followed by the sacrifices of World War Two. Most Americans shared those dark times … and the triumphs that followed.
Was there ever a finer generation of Americans?
I wish we had about a tenth of their citizenship … and courage … today.
Our thought for today is from Robert Louis Stevenson:
“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
I watched most of Ken Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl recently on P-B-S and Channel 8. Much of that film is based on an excellent book by Timothy Egan published in 2006, “The Worst Hard Time”. I consider it a must-read for anyone interested in American history.
Taking advantage of high wheat prices during the first part of the 20th century, our government and the prospect of wealth sent people flooding onto the plains of western Kansas, eastern Colorado, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. They plowed up the natural prairie grass and planted wheat. All went well until nature struck back with a decade-long drought. Meanwhile, the stock market crashed and Americans lost jobs by the millions.
The story of how those people survived … and many did not … is both heart-breaking and inspiring. During the Dust Bowl there were no jobs and on the farms, no food. Many say those people were “saved” by World War Two.
Our thought for today is from Franklin D. Roosevelt:
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
The other morning I got out of bed and for the first time in maybe 30 years I did NOT feed a dog or cat. Over the years our family has adopted three dogs and so many cats I’ve lost count. Feeding them and taking them to the vet became my job.
Last week our last pet died. Popcorn was a small white cat, adopted by my daughter. Poppie was very shy and always stayed indoors. The vet’s records say Poppie was born in January of 1994. She was nearly 19 years old!
She was a nice quiet cat, but stroking her fur caused my wife’s and my eyes to become itchy and turn red. I guess we were allergic to our own cat.
We’ve been talking about some day getting another rat terrier. We’ve had two and we really like the breed. I’m in no hurry. Pets can be a great source of joy, but somebody’s got to make sure they’re properly cared for. I think I’ll take a little break from that responsibility.
Our thought for today is from Sir Winston Churchill:
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Flying out of Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport is still a very expensive proposition … at least for my destinations.
My wife and I wanted to see our new granddaughter before my son and his family moved to Germany for three years. Scott lives in Montgomery, Alabama. Shelley found the best air fare with Southwest. She planned a journey that involved an early-Saturday drive to Kansas City’s airport … leaving the car in a covered parking lot … and flying to Chicago and then Birmingham. My son drove 80 miles to Birmingham to pick us up at the airport there.
Three days later we reversed the sequence to get home.
It was a little inconvenient, but we made the trip for half what we would have spent on a flight out of Wichita.
Frankly, we’ve never found very good air fares for traveling to the destinations we choose. That’s why I’m hopeful that Southwest Airlines’ arrival in Wichita may ease some of the pain.
Our thought for today is from Robert Louis Stevenson:
“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”
Our first grandchild celebrated his birthday last week. Nolan Mark Thummel is 13 years old. He was born just a few days after my father died. His middle name was my dad’s first name.
On the day Nolan was born my wife Shelley was so excited that while running up the basement stairs she stumbled … breaking two toes. And of course, that’s a story Nolan gets to hear every year on his birthday.
He is now taller than his grandmothers, thin like I was as a boy, really good at baseball and basketball and chess. And yes, he enjoys video games far too much to please his parents.
At the same time, Nolan is a reader. He can often be seen with his nose buried in a book … oblivious to the world around him. I like that.
He’s not a perfect kid. In fact, none of my seven grandchildren is perfect. But they’re all good kids … respectful and kind to others.
Thanks, Nolan … for making it easy and joyful to be a grandfather.
Our thought for today is from Abraham Lincoln:
“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I’m much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”
Thanksgiving is a holiday originally meant to recognize the bountiful harvest when we were a young, agrarian nation. We don’t celebrate the crops like we once did, but there is an abundance to be thankful for every year at this time.
This may be the only time you have to think about it for a moment … with all the feasting and football and leftovers. So let me offer a few things to ponder. How’s your health? How’s your health care?
Do you have a good marriage … a good family? If you’re in a car or truck right now, is it reliable transportation … is it fun to drive?
How’s work going? Are those paychecks regular? Is the 4-0-1(k) doing well?
I know our nation faces some really big problems, and maybe your candidate was not elected. But are you proud to be an American?
Is the military doing a good job in protecting your freedoms?
Just a few thankful thoughts…
Our thought for today is from an unknown author:
“On Thanksgiving Day all over America, families sit down to dinner at the same moment … halftime.”
Personally, I think Mitt Romney has the potential be a capable-or-better president. Why didn’t he win? Let me take a shot at that.
Exit polling indicated that a good many Americans believe our economic system favors the rich, and Romney is a rich guy. Americans may think the economy stinks, but there are indications that it’s getting better … and many realize Barack Obama inherited a huge mess the day he stepped into the Oval Office.
I think change may be coming. Americans are fed up with mindless, ideological stubbornness on the part of our elected officials. It’s long past time for Congress and the President to agree on the need to do what’s best for the country rather than what’s best for re-election. This is where I’ve seen no leadership from the president or the Congressional big shots.
The storm clouds of financial disaster are on our radar screen, and our elected officials don’t see the need for shelter … or even an umbrella.
Our thought for today is from Mario Puzo in ‘The Godfather’:
“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.”
A recent Wall Street Journal report says studies have shown political uncertainty may have dragged G-D-P down by three percentage points.
Eighty chief executives from major companies … including General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, Aetna, and Goldman Sachs … are urging Congress to get its act together and find a bipartisan solution to the coming fiscal cliff.
The C-E-Os are talking about “significant spending restraint” … including limiting healthcare spending, making Social Security solvent, and “comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues, and reduces the deficit”.
The C-E-Os say raising taxes is unavoidable, but it must come with real spending restraint … and they are not embracing President Obama’s higher-taxes-for-the-wealthy approach.
These hard-nosed business people know what Simpson and Bowles know ... (remember them?) … that Americans must sacrifice a bit to avoid financial collapse.
I’ve been ready to do my part for several years, but no one’s had the political courage to ask.
Our thought for today is from Albert Einstein:
“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights may soon approve a new contract with U-S-D 259 … submitted more than four years ago … to officially end busing for racial integration in Wichita’s public schools. Busing effectively ended in 2008/2009 with a plan for an extensive network of magnet schools and special programs.
Busing began in Wichita in 1971. My son was bused to Mueller to begin the second grade. We liked the school. Scott was transferred to the Gifted, Talented, and Creative program at McLean … closer to home … at mid school year. He and his sister rode buses to McLean through their elementary years. Then they attended Marshall and North in our neighborhood.
Riding buses to school didn’t seem to harm my kids. They also socialized with many other students of other races … with no problems at all.
I think children and parents can adjust to transportation and geographic challenges, if they’re certain they’re receiving a good education.
Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
The past couple days I’ve been sharing thoughts about write-in political campaigns. Successful write-in campaigns seem viable to me, given the power of traditional and social media to motivate people in new and powerful ways.
A candidate with a little cash, some good ideas, and effective media presentation could – I believe – upset the apple cart of the two-party system. This could be a candidate who has never attended a Republican or Democratic Party meeting, who may not even have a party affiliation.
In fact, a write-in candidate could be a complete buffoon … even though his or her web page might look legitimate. That’s a down side.
A theoretic successful campaign would set the two parties howling and they would immediately move to change the write-in rules to protect their monopoly.
A write-in campaign may not seem practical, but I enjoy mulling the concept.
Maybe we need some new faces with new ideas.
Our thought for today is from H. L. Mencken:
“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.”
Could a write-in campaign work? Listen to this fake campaign ad for radio and T-V:
“Hello, I’m Steve McIntosh … a retired broadcaster and independent-thinking Wichitan for more than five decades. I’m seeking the office of mayor as an independent, write-in candidate. To learn more about my political philosophy and/or make a campaign contribution, go to my web site … steve for mayor dot com. Then simply write in my name for mayor … spelling s-t-e-v-e m-c-i-n-t-o-s-h. As mayor I will be independent of any stringent political organization or philosophy … always acting in what I perceive as the best interests of our community. Look at my platform. If you like it, share it with friends on social media, contribute a few dollars to my campaign, and write in my name on election day”.
Back to reality. The first person who does this will enjoy the novelty of free media coverage because it is new and different.
Could a write-in campaign work? There is only one way to fund out.
Our thought for today is from Albert Einstein:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
During an American presidential campaign the rhetoric can become a bit heated. One side warns voters that if they don’t vote for the right candidate it will be a disaster. A huge disaster!
Heck … the nation may not survive if the other guy wins!
But the country always seems to keep going, no matter who we put in the White House.
The great thing about our system is that even a powerful mandate will not guarantee a president a free pass on every program he wants to advance. We have Congress and the Supreme Court to guarantee that no president gets too big for his britches.
So when the votes are all counted, if your favorites didn’t win, be of good cheer; the system works. Surveys indicate many Americans think the country’s on the wrong track, but we seem to have a never-ending stream of citizens who want to try their hand at making government work.
Our thought for today is from George Bernard Shaw:
“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
Did mega storm Sandy help or harm either candidate in the presidential campaign?
Neither man wants to admit to gaining political advantage from a devastating storm, but the incumbent has a genuine role in dealing with such disasters. He may not ride with first responders into dangerous situations, but he should be near the scene … surveying damage and offering federal assistance and reassuring words.
It’s best for the challenger to pitch in where ever possible and offer his own sensitive comments.
Sandy was unique. It was a combination of two storms at the same time, in the most densely-populated area in the United States … and the center of our nation’s commerce, media, and government.
Beyond first-responders, government at all levels is expected to help Americans deal with the loss and the aftermath of any natural disaster.
But if you’re at ground zero when Mother Nature turns violent, you’re on your own … and you’d better have a plan … and a prayer.
Our thought for today is from Willa Cather:
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
A recent U-S-A Today story quoting Energy Department figures and forecasts, said the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer.
The story says “Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7% this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels a day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.”
Citibank forecasts U.S. oil production could reach as high as 15 million barrels a day by 2020, “helping to make North America ‘the new Middle East’” … easily topping Saudi and Russian output.
Remember that Americans consume nearly 19 million barrels a day. But growth in domestic production and improved fuel efficiency in cars and trucks could make imports fall by the end of the decade.
Our thought for today is from George F. Will:
“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being proven right or pleasantly surprised.”
Selling Hawker Beechcraft to a Chinese company could have been a disaster … according to Peter Navarro, public policy professor at the University of California-Irvine.
He directed the film “Death by China”.
In a recent op-ed piece, Navarro writes “The typical Chinese modus operandi is to strip purchased American companies of their designs, processes, technologies and trade secrets, and then quickly move manufacturing operations over to China”. Navarro says the company that negotiated with Hawker Beechcraft partnered with a Texas helicopter company in 2007, and the company’s manufacturing jobs were exported to China.
Were Wichita’s civic and business leaders aware of the company’s record when they visited China prior to the end of negotiations?
Navarro writes “… the nearly 5,000 workers at Beechcraft in Wichita dodged a big bullet when the Beechcraft deal collapsed”.
We buy China’s goods, we borrow their money, but allowing the Chinese to buy U-S companies and ship American jobs overseas is definitely a bad idea.