Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Hawk And The Streamliner

Earlier this month, General Motors informed more than 1000 of its dealers that their services would no longer be needed as the company tries to stay alive in the 21st century. I've written before about owning some of GM's best products many years ago. I've not owned a GM product for more than forty years; it's been all Toyota for a long time, except for a few flings with Volkswagens.

My love affair with cars - there's a male gene for it - began when I was about ten. The object of my affection was a Studebaker. After studying photographs, I determined it was most likely a burgundy and white Silver Hawk from 1957 or 1958. The production runs for both vehicles were quite small, numbering in the low thousands. Studebaker would survive only a few more years before leaving the car business in the early 1960s.

Studebaker always sought to be advanced in design and performance. The stunning design for this vehicle came from the imagination of Raymond Loewy, long associated with the company, and perhaps the leading industrial designer in 20th century America. Softened edges and sweeping streamlining were Loewy's hallmarks. Most everything he toughed had about it the feeling of movement. The Silver Hawk was no exception. It never looked at rest; it was made to run. Indeed, when it was in motion, it could fly off the line as fast as a Corvette. When I rode in the Hawk, I was usually stuffed in the rear seat between two adults. Being up front was a thrill because the aerodynamic look and feel surrounded the driver and passenger. You weren't in the front seat, you were in the cockpit. Small-town boys from Appalachia remember such experiences and eventually tell their sons.

The man who owned the Hawk was ambitious, successful, and hard-working. He owned an auto parts store in the small town my family left in 1956. He loved doing anything mechanical. His appreciation of innovation and performance made him a Studebaker owner long before the Hawk entered his life. Eventually, he too would move his family from Appalachia in search of better opportunities. I saw the car less and less, and after a few years it was replaced with something other than a Studebaker. To this day, I can picture the Hawk sitting on the grass, glittering in the sun as if it were posing for a photo session.

Perhaps I had been primed to appreciate the Hawk through an unusual coincidence. As an only child and one of the youngest cousins of my generation, I tended to inherit the hand-me-downs, the clothes, the books, and occasionally the toys. The electric trains, two Lionel "O" gauge sets and a complete layout, captured me instantly. One of the steam locomotives was a beauty: gray, bullet-shaped, with sweeping lines and ornamentation. It was the Pennsylvania Railroad's S1, also known as the Streamliner. Many years later, I was to find that the locomotive that captured my attention and became a treasured possession was designed by Raymond Loewy.

I no longer have the train sets or the S1. Years ago, the aunt who gave them to me asked if they could be returned so that her family could enjoy them once more. It saddened me to see them go, but at the same time, I was happy to think that they could be enjoyed by a third generation. Quality is like that. It persists. A century from now I can imagine the Hawk and the Streamliner catching a boys attention, influencing a career, and leading to a new future of design and innovation. I expect Loewy's ideals will be very much alive in that century. Sadly, I cannot say the same for General Motors.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: North Dakota

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Clarinetists: Goodman's Day

Last Saturday, we commemorated the birthday of Artie Shaw. Today marks the birthday of another world-class jazz clarinetist, the "King of Swing," Benny Goodman. He was born in 1909 and grew up poor in Chicago, but received quality musical instruction. Before long, he was playing "professionally" with many bands. The Chicago music scene also gave him an affinity for New Orleans style jazz. At 20, he left for New York and world fame.

Mention "Palomar Ballroom" and "Carnegie Hall" in the same breath and any popular music historian will follow with "Benny Goodman." Both performances are landmarks in the history of swing and jazz.

In 1935, his orchestra performed regularly on an NBC Radio program entitled, "Let's Dance." It was broadcast live across the country. Young people in the East were fast asleep when his orchestra hit the airways, but it was perfect timing for the West Coast. A strike ended the broadcasts after a few months and the band decided on a coast to coast tour. In the interior states, the tour was a disaster because people didn't care for "upbeat" jazz arranged for orchestra. The band was looking forward to the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles as the last stop and an end to the pain. When they arrived, thousands of young fans who had heard them on the radio were waiting to hear them in person. What was to be a welcome end turned into the beginning of the Swing Era.

Eighteen months later, the now famous Goodman Orchestra was invited to present a jazz review in Carnegie Hall, a venue historically reserved for "high brow" music. Several members of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras and others joined on stage to perform a concert ranging from traditional to unconventional. Music historians generally regard this legendary performance as the most important in the history of jazz. After January 16, 1938, jazz became mainstream American music. This video says it all:

Bet you tapped your feet.

The audience really got into it on this number:

And here is Sing, Sing Sing - Gene Krupa on drums and Harry James on trumpet - coming at the end of the concert. Unfortunately this post is missing about 90 seconds of Jess Stacy's piano solo at the end, but I think you'll get the picture:

Goodman would go on performing jazz, classical, and popular music for another fifty years, literally to the day he died in 1986. Check out the "King of Swing's" official site for more information.

Arbuckle Trading Coffee Card: North Carolina

Friday, May 29, 2009

Easterly Wave

The first easterly wave of the tropical weather season moved over Florida recently bringing three glorious days of coastal air to Atlanta. Brisk east winds carried low, ragged cumulus clouds set against a turquoise sky. The light on-again off-again showers reminded me of those glorious summer evenings at Tybee. The wave set off almost two weeks of unsettled weather more characteristic of a September in Key West than a May in Atlanta. The only significant difference was the cooler temperatures.

Now the year's first tropical depression is drifting east off Cape Hatteras. Could waves and depressions this early be a sign that we're about to have an exciting hurricane season? Can't say. If anything, this season seems to be more normal. For the first time in several years, the lakes are full, and late Spring seems green and leafy. May this trend continue.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: New York

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: New Mexico

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The New New Left

Shrinkwrapped has an incisive analysis of the New Left as a marriage of Post-Modernism and narcissism. Check it out.

Politics Infiltrating Chrysler Decisions?

The blogosphere is stirring with lots of analysis regarding the correlation between political donations, congressional districts that voted McCain over Obama, and the Chrysler dealerships that were closed. Too early to draw statistically valid conclusions, but it appears there may be a significant story unfolding. Gateway Pundit has some comment and links here and here.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: New Jersey

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maryland's Missing Millionaires

I've posted about this issue more than once. Sadly, nobody in Annapolis reads my blog.

One thing I've learned over the past forty years of adulthood is that real money has legs. Wealth travels frequently, often maintains more than one house, and provides far more life choice flexibility. I know about this through countless associations with others who happen to be wealthy. Although my career was in the public sector where one might expect an open-ended budget, the products and services my agency rendered were often funded through the generosity of wealthy individuals and the non-profit organizations they supported. These people were smart, productive, practical, and probably lucky. They learned how to make money, grow wealth and preserve it legally according to state and federal codes.

The nanny state of Maryland appears to be learning some hard lessons about its millionaire tax payers this year. When I left my home state in 1976, it had a rich, long-standing tradition of low grade political corruption, but it managed to pay its bills. Today, the odor wafting off the corruption is richer, but the state isn't. In fact, Maryland is several billion dollars "in the hole." To make up for spending money the state didn't have, a liberal legislature, at the behest of a liberal governor (O'Malley), passed a special tax on millionaires last year. This example of wealth envy and an attempt to "spread the wealth around" has resulted in unintended consequences for all Maryland taxpayers, especially those who are NOT wealthy.

Read the details here in the original - brief and to the point - Wall Street Journal article. Thanks to Gateway Pundit for the link.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: New Hampshire

Monday, May 25, 2009

Syracuse Wins Lacrosse Championship

Congratulations to Syracuse on there thrilling 9-8 overtime win over Cornell today in the 2009 Division 1 men's lacrosse championship. The Orange Men roared back from a three goal deficit with four minutes to play to tie the game, then scored the winning goal 80 seconds into sudden death overtime. The action just doesn't get any better.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Nevada

Memorial Day 2009

Today we honor men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in service to their country. They have given their lives that we might live out our own in an experiment of community called the United States. Take some moments today and reflect on what they have given you and your family.

There are hundreds of postcards in my family archives. This is the only one commemorating Decoration or Memorial Day. The text reads:

From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day.
Under the roses the Blue,
Under the lilies the Gray

The card dates from around 1900-05 and reflects the sentiment of the aging Billy Yanks of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) seeking reconciliation with the Johnny Rebs of the Confederate States of America. The GAR set the groundwork for the national celebration of Decoration Day, later known as Memorial Day, in 1868. Read more about it here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Nebraska

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Montana

Two Clarinetists: Arshawsky's Day

Today is the birthday of Arthur Arshawsky, the clarinetist, composer, band leader, and author better known as Artie Shaw. To say that Shaw was complex and difficult would be an understatement. He was married eight times, greatly disliked fame, and resented the conflict between creativity and the music industry so much that he virtually abandoned music in the early 1950s. Perhaps his life illustrated a never ending search for perfection by a man who could have approached it in any number of fields. When he died in December 2004 at the age of 94, he was recognized as one of the century's finest jazz clarinetists and a principal force in the development of the fusion of jazz and classical music that would become known as "Third Stream Music." Technically, I think he was at the top. This 1936 recording of him performing his composition, Interlude in B Flat, provides the evidence:

Fed up with music he turned to writing an autobiography, several novels and short stories, and an unfinished historical fiction trilogy on the jazz era. For a more thorough examination of even more facets in the life of this restless musical genius, visit this link at Swing Music Net for his obituary and this entry for his Wikipedia biography. There is also a 1982 film biography featuring Shaw available on You Tube. It's in ten parts, beginning with Part Two, and is accessible here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bush III Bashes Bush

Two items caught my attention today during the daily review of about seventy sources. The first deals with how completely Barack Obama has adopted his predecessor's defense and security policies. After opposing Bush and his administration as a bunch of autocratic knuckle draggers, Obama has miraculously discovered their host of redeeming values. The libertarians and centrists who supported Obama's campaign seem to be discovering that their hope and change idealist is a rather old-school machine politician. How will the lefties and unhinged fringe take it? Not well, I suspect, and that leads to the second item.

Today, the president addressed the graduating class at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. The speech contained the rhetoric most Americans would expect at a military academy in addition to some remarks that could only be characterized as campaign statements. According to Obama, we must "uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are." And in addition, he pledged that soldiers would be sent "into harm's way only when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and well-defined goals, the equipment and support that you need to get the job done." I interpret both of these quotes as slaps at George Bush. They're necessary because Obama has to satisfy the pathological partners in his coalition party.

So, how long can Bush III bash Bush before even the deranged catch on? I hope not long. This charade does the country no good.

Is Memorial Day A Time To Apologize?

Speculation is rife on the contents of President Obama's remarks to be delivered in Dresden, Germany in a week or so. Babalu's George Maneo has some revealing links in this post. If you don't want to read it, just study the photographs of the more than 104,000 American burials that have occurred in our effort to liberate European nations.

I doubt our president will ever find himself near George Patton's grave in Luxembourg. The vibrations would strangle him. If you have doubts, read a few of Patton's poems.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Missouri

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blog To Resume Tomorrow

My trip to the eye doctor today has made seeing uncomfortable and blogging impossible. I'll return tomorrow.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Mississippi

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 An Amazing Resource

In the past few days, I've had two reminders from friends and family about, a site dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading." If you're unfamiliar with TED, the video below gives you a sample of what you're missing. This video shows how linking design to data can reshape our perceptions of the world around us. Don't you wish every 20 minutes of your life in the classroom had been or could be as fascinating?

Republican Party ID Slide Continues - Or Not

Fewer people are identifying themselves with the Republican Party these days. The mid-term elections in Congress is only nineteen months. Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, attempted did some cheer leading for the party this week. LGF has the story, and associated links. On the other hand, this Moonbattery post indicates that not all polls have such bad news for the Grand Old Party.

Tax Revolt In California: Coming To A State Near You?

For decades, California has been a trend setter for the rest of the United States. If yesterday's resounding defeat for taxation as a solution to California's multi-billion dollar budget deficit is the beginning of a new trend, an era of hard choices is descending upon the land. We are a society that has come to rely on debt as a means of acquiring our wants at any cost. That strategy appears to have run its course in many households. If voters have any say, that strategy is about to end in state houses as well. The time to face the hard decisions of where and how much to reduce expenditures is upon us. I think most states are like the federal government in that they have sizable entitlements that cannot be cut easily. That leaves them with a small bag of discretionary funds for chopping, dicing and splicing. I can hear the special interests protesting already, but what's a legislature to do?

The Internet is full of details of the California vote. I'll leave it to you to search them. No doubt we'll be hearing more from the voters who can no longer tolerate spending beyond taxation. We'll also learn how well they can adjust to living within their new means, and that's where I think the real story lies.

Emerging Centrist Coalition

This trend has been developing for a while and seems to have reached a tipping point.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Minnesota

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Subsidizing The Careless

Congress passed legislation this week to make it more challenging for banks to "collect money from distressed or incompetent" credit card customers. Those who pay their bills on time will ultimately make up any losses. There's really nothing different in this scenario except for the scale and that could be large to say the least. John Hinderaker, blogging at Power Line, has more comment on the implications of this new direction in policy.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Michigan

Monday, May 18, 2009

Money Really Does Move Away From Taxes

If you had any doubt about this post's title, here's a report by Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore in today's Wall Street Journal that will answer the question. Mobility is a powerful component of freedom . Until the nanny state politicians control mobility, they really can't depend on taxing wealth to satisfy their appetite for spending money they don't have. Thanks to George Moneo at Babalu for the link.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Massachusetts

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lacrosse Finals Reminder - Mark Your Calendar

Next weekend, you can watch the fastest game on two feet as four teams compete in the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship in Foxborough, Massachusetts. On Saturday, May 23, it's Duke vs. Syracuse at noon and Virginia vs. Cornell at 2:00. You can watch both games on ESPN2HD or On Monday, May 25, the winners of each game will face off for the championship at 1:00 pm on ESPNHD or
All times as EDST.

Personally, I'm hoping for an Atlantic Coast Conference sweep in the final game: Virginia vs. Duke. As is said in these parts, I don't have a dog in this fight, but my wife has deep roots in Virginia so I'd best root for the Cavs.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Maryland

Saturday, May 16, 2009

White House Friday Afternoon News Dump

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama called Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) and "suggested" he not oppose Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D- New York) in the upcoming Democratic primary. This is an unprecedented move by the occupant of the Oval Office and one that has created some unhappiness among influential Democrats on the Hill and stateside. I'd love to know why Obama made that call. Maybe he'll have more to say next Friday afternoon. Stay tuned.

More Hatred At UC-Irvine

The following video is of Cynthia McKinney speaking at the University of California-Irvine. McKinney is a full-on, Jew hating moonbat. This lunatic was my representative in Congress for two long years, from 2004 to 2006. Essentially, I had no representation, but I still paid my taxes. If you can stand to watch the full seven minutes and thirty-two seconds, you'll know why I value rational thinking.

A Pro-Fascist Dynamic

My freshman year in college, 1964-65, coincided with the birth of the Free Speech Movement at UC-Berkeley. It took a while for that movement to cross the continent and take root in greater Washington where it would merge, in short order, with the anti-war forces. In four decades, the term "free speech" has undergone an Orwellian transformation. Some - the learned Marxists - would say it was on schedule. To practice "free speech" on many campuses today means that what you say must conform with the wishes of the mob or you can't speak at all. This is why it is acceptable for an Ahmadinejad to be heard and a Netanyahu to be silenced. Edward Olshaker, writing at American Thinker, provides us with some background on this turn of events.

Again, I must return to a frequent theme I have addresses since beginning this blog in October 2008. That theme is the struggle between classical reason and revolutionary emotion on the national stage. That struggle has led some nations into serious pathology. It is a journey my county must avoid if we are to fulfill the intents of the Founding Fathers.

For a look at the Free Speech Movement today, go here. To read more about Mario Savio, the modern-day Rousseau who led the movement then, go here.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Maine

Friday, May 15, 2009

Smoke And Mirrors

Health care in the U.S. is a big issue that may have been deflated today according to this post at Power Line. I'll bet it takes the dinosaur media more than a few days to pick up the story.

Power Play

A week or so ago, I mentioned the increasing chatter on the Internet and elsewhere about the potential for a Congressional power play against the Obama presidency coming from his own party in 2012. That scenario was clearly audible today with the release of a statement from CIA Director, Leon Panetta. Blue Crab Boulevard has the story here.

If we see more sharp attacks coming from the executive, we can be sure the Obama team is putting the Speaker of the House in her place. I still believe they would like to see this controversy end without removing her. A little damage goes a long way when your party is a coalition of oppressed interests groups.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Louisiana

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pelosi Steps Into Delusion

There is a good reason why the Congress of the United States is earning an approval rating hovering around 15%. We saw a perfect example today when Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker of the House, issued a statement claiming the Central Intelligence Agency was "misleading" her on the issue of interrogation techniques. When asked if she was saying the CIA lied to her, she said yes. Her response came after several permutations of the briefing or briefings had been issued by her office over the past two weeks. Pelosi is spinning this story at her best because she has been caught. Sadly, she has spent much of her time as speaker in a state of denial acting at the fringe of the Democratic Party. By accusing the CIA of lying she has pushed herself from denial into delusion and thereby jeopardizing her role as a effective leader of her own party as well as the House.

Chances are she's going to survive this storm because derangement syndrome - Bush and otherwise - is a strong influence within her party. Dysfunction followed by derangement in the House isn't a positive sign for either party or for approval ratings or cooperation from heretofore trusted agencies of government. Stay close to this monster; it's alive!

Another Take On John Ford, Westerns, and Republicans

Michael Barone takes his turn at this issue. Barone brings Tocqueville, another remarkable observer of the American scene, into the "picture." Thanks to PowerLine for the link.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

John Ford According To Victor Davis Hanson

Leave it to classicist Victor Davis Hanson to put John Ford, the master of the Western in cinema, in proper perspective. I think it's an admirable perspective and one that Ford would quietly admire. This is Hanson at his best writing in National Review Online.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Kansas

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Playing The West Like A Violin

Tyrannical regimes have a distinct advantage over free nations in their ability to orchestrate what I call a "closed loop" foreign policy. Those regimes know outcomes early on as well as the tactics necessary to achieve them. The Roxana Saberi case in Iran is a perfect example of the closed loop at work. The mullahs know the Obama administration will portray Saberi's release as a policy victory. They also know Iran will be portrayed as a kinder, gentler nation. William Katz (Urgent Agenda) provides us with an analysis of what's happening with this event and shows how the leftist state press, The New York Times, is spreading the good news for the Obama administration.

UPDATE: Katz follows up on his earlier post with a link to Michael Ledeen's remarks at NRO. Brief and to the point, I'd say.

A Housing Crusade Leads to Disaster

The economist, Thomas Sowell, has one of the finest analytical minds in the nation. He's at his best in this NRO article on the housing meltdown and the "affordable housing" crusade that created it. America seems to do well when decisions flow out of reason and experience. I suspect we'll hear much more from Sowell in the years ahead as we seem to be drifting further from past processes and guidelines that have served us well.

More On Migration To The Free States

In several posts I've mentioned economic issues as a factor motivating migration away from the nanny states. Here's a post from Moonbattery that addresses personal freedom and its impact on migration. The statistics are good news for those states where collectivist thinking has yet to take root. On the other hand, those who migrate to the free states always have the potential of bringing the nanny mentality with them. The classic example today is the "californication" of Nevada.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Illinois

Monday, May 11, 2009

Republican Screening

Imagine the Republican Party riding off into the sunset. The late film director, John Ford, would not be happy at that prospect. This article, from Powerline via Todd Zywicki, describes the parallels between Ford's films and Republican orthodoxy and why neither is likely to disappear from the American scene anytime soon. Articles like this one reinforce the significance of popular culture to historians and demonstrate how more traditional subjects can be enlivened for the non-historians among us. Good work.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Idaho


The rise of anti-Semitism in the developed world in the last decade is one of the most disturbing events on the planet. Here are some observations:

Israel must surely lie at the heart of the West [Western civilization] itself;

It may be some consolation to an ever-lonelier Israel that . . . in the coming Europe the Europeans will be the new Jews;

[There are] vastly different reactions to Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza and the far higher number of Pakistani civilian casualties of the American drone war;

Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews [for the financial crisis]. This is somewhat surprising given . . . the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party's electoral coalition;

Anti-Semitism is an irrational disorder, supported by a large segment of our most capable rationalizers (academics, the Media), and not amenable to interpretation.

In this post, Shrinkwrapped uses these observations and their sources to weave some very useful thoughts on anti-Semitism. Be sure to read the links and the comments. This assignment is a tad long, but well-worth the effort.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Anti-Vaccination Movement As A Major Risk To Public Health

Little Green Footballs links to another article about this frightening issue and why it persists.

Arbuckle Coffee Trading Card: Georgia

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Afghanistan Report - Being Grateful

My son's observations from Afghanistan are beginning to trickle in. Unfortunately, they're not going to come as often or be as long as I had hoped. Here is his first report:

The roads of Afghanistan are in total disrepair. A common job - in fact, something you will see everywhere - is filling in the horrible potholes with dirt and standing by or in the road waiting for donations from passers-by for your efforts. The tragic thing is that most of the people who do this are children between the ages of five and ten. I saw a six or seven year-old child today holding a shovel twice his height, covered in dust from the road, and inhaling fumes from unchecked vehicles next to his refugee camp built from trash and mud. He was standing by the road making the motion for "water," implying he didn't want money. He wanted potable water for his family. We were unable to stop and give him anything due to security protocol.

I feel disgusted and enraged as I write this, thinking of that boy. He has nothing and, most days, will receive nothing, much less be able to go to school and learn to read. The only thing his family probably owns is a Koran which, if I visited with them, they would insist I take as a gift. The United States is such a privileged country . Most of us don't know it. So many complain about all our problems and how hard life is. When we, as social scientists, speak of the dregs of the world, the unwanted, the impoverished, the forgotten, the ones without hope for advancement, that boy is the one we speak of. Yet, he was smiling.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Florida

Friday, May 8, 2009

White House Friday News Dump Lives Up to Expectations

Louis Caldera, the White House aide who arranged the infamous Manhattan terror fly-over last week has resigned. The accompanying photo is one product of that almost $400,000 trip. Caldera chose resignation over burrowing into the bureaucracy. He is an attorney and probably figured he could make a much better living on the outside. I agree with him.

As expected this bad news was released about an hour ago as part of what is becoming a regular late Friday afternoon event from the Obama administration. These dumps are becoming so frequent that Fox News will likely make a regular feature out of them.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Delaware

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Where Has Reason Gone?

You have to read this to believe it.

Obama The Historian

William Katz (Urgent Agenda) weighs in here on Barack Obama and the subject of history that we addressed earlier this week. This recurring weakness in historical knowledge must run rather deep among the excepted service - political appointees - folks roaming the halls of the White House.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Connecticut

Johnny U

When you live in the Appalachian Mountains in a deep valley at the edge of the Allegany Front, television signals simply go far overhead. That problem was rectified when citizens in our small town organized one of the earliest cable television systems in the United States. My dad subscribed to their service in 1953. It was the same year the Colts reorganized in Baltimore. We watched plenty of football and baseball games over the next three years, but I don't recall watching the Colts, only the Washington Redskins, and the World Series where the Yankees always won.

Things began to change in 1956. First, we moved to Maryland's Eastern Shore, a region anchored to the Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore. And second, Johnny Unitas joined the Baltimore Colts. He was a scrawny kid from Pittsburgh who played quarterback at the University of Louisville. He was a ninth-round draft pick by the Steelers who ended up releasing him before the season began. The Colts coach, Weeb Ewbank, saw him as a promising walk-on. When the Colts's starting quarterback broke his leg early in the season, Unitas made a disappointing debut that he would soon overcome. In fact, late in the season he threw the first touchdown pass in his 47 game streak. It's a record nearing fifty years old. Many of his other records have been beaten, but keep in mind that teams played fewer games per season in those days. The simple conclusion is that Unitas's passing records will be around for a long, long time.

I'll let you read more about him and those passing records at the links. I will say that Johnny U and the Colts gave my dad and me, and our friends and family, some exciting entertainment between 1956 and 1973. At first, the old black and white television was small, but it turned to color in 1962 and got bigger. The game was always big. Of course, the highlight of those years was the 23-17 National Football League Championship win over the New Yorks Giants in sudden death overtime in 1958. I turned twelve that year and I doubt I'll ever see anything to beat "the greatest game ever played."

Unitas retired from the field in 1974 almost crippled from years of play in the days before adequate protective gear. He remained active in the professional football family and firmly loyal to Baltimore and the fans when the Colt franchise rolled out of town in the middle of the night on its way to Indianapolis in 1984. He lived almost twenty years beyond that sad day quietly enjoying his family, friends and fame.

I don't think the kid from Pittsburgh changed much over all of his years. He became famous, but he did it the hard way, starting out when you needed an off-season job to make ends meet. Things are different these days. Today's players are instant stars earning mega-millions before they play their first professional game. Johnny U's magic arm helped make it happen for them.

Today is his birthday. The year was 1933, the place was Pittsburgh. Gritty origins for a star. It didn't matter to him in the end because he got to play the game. And what a game.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Colorado

Why Do Black Socialists in Congress Love Castro's Cuba?

Alberto de la Cruz, blogging at Babalu, posts a letter today from Iris and Jorge Antunez questioning why the Congressional Black Caucus ignores political oppression in totalitarian Cuba.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Control At The White House

Many observers in my circle are saying that they see President Obama being set up for an overthrow by fellow Democrats in Congress who will install a more centrist candidate - Hillary - in the White House in 2012. In several earlier posts , OTR has mentioned the issue of the balance of power between an Obama White House and a Democratic Congress. As long as the White House keeps sending weak or negative messages with obscure specifics, the Democratic Congress will be happy to jerk the leash they have around the president's neck. After all, everybody in the House and one third of the Senate has to face the electorate in about eighteen months. And I suspect the electorate in 2010 will be restless, making Democrats in marginal districts very careful how they align themselves with the new administration. Urgent Agenda has more on the the political environment and the 2010 election here.

Dom DeLuise

He died last night in Los Angeles. Dom was one funny guy. Here he is at his unbridled best as the director, Buddy Bizarre, in a clip from Blazing Saddles.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: California

Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama's Ignorance Of Basic History

To historians of western civilization, it's readily apparent that Barack Obama either doesn't know much modern history or has a profoundly distorted view of historical facts. How anyone could receive an international relations degree from Columbia University and a law degree from Harvard and be so clueless in history is a testament to the poor state of liberal education in the United States. Power Line's Scott Johnson has two posts, here and here, addressing the latest examples of this scary situation, including some reliable evidence that the White House is reading Andrew Sullivan for some of the "facts." Sullivan is an interesting writer, a pioneer political blogger, a controversial, notably inconsistent free thinker. I'd say he's a philosopher, but a rather "edgy" choice as a beacon for objective history.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Arkansas

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Here's a short note this evening on Bing Crosby, born on this day in 1903 in Spokane, Washington. His death in 1977 ended a remarkable entertainment career covering more than fifty years. I remember him for four reasons. First is his recording of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. As long as people think about the security and warmth of home and family - and when will that stop - they will appreciate Crosby's recording. His version has sold the most copies - over 100,000,000 - of any song ever recorded (Guinness World Records). Second is the series of "Road picture" comedies he made with co-stars Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour between 1940 and 1962. Third is his role in two films, Holiday Inn (1942) and its remake, White Christmas (1954). Crosby premiered the song, White Christmas, in 1942 to a receptive public already weary from the early months of World War II. [Holiday Inn is a better film than its lavish, colorful, but still enjoyable remake.] Fourth is his series of Christmas specials for television.

Crosby's career peaked about 50 years ago, but his impact on the entertainment industry, as both a star and entrepreneur, is still with us. For the full story, I suggest readers visit his official site after reading the Wikipedia link above.

I can't end this article without one link or two to Bing in song. Here he is at the Coconut Grove Nightclub in Los Angeles in 1934 crooning at his best.

And here's Bing singing upbeat, comedic and conversational with Jane Wyman in the 1951 film, Here Comes the Groom. The song, In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening (Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer) won the Oscar that year for best music, original song.

Kyle Wingfield At The New Atlanta Journal-Constitution

William Katz writes some very kind words about the conservative voice of Kyle Wingfield, now writing on the opinion page of the newly revised Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). Wingfield comes to his new assignment from the Wall Street Journal. This news should be fresh air for those who appreciate first-class writers.

The AJC reported a 20% drop in first quarter circulation, a decline it must stop if the print edition is to survive. Wingfield's byline should attract more readers, but the paper's long-term success will require more aggressive changes. This is a challenging time for newspapers everywhere. I hope they can find a profitable niche in the new information world.

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Arizona

Obama's Friday Afternoon News Dump

As good politicians know, any embarrassing news is best released late on Friday afternoon. Why? The common folk have just finished another week of hard word. They're looking for a few beers at the local tavern or thinking about the weekend. On Saturday, the newspaper is more likely to go straight to the bird cage rather than be read at leisure over a cup of morning coffee. By Monday morning, Friday's news turns into a focus on the coming week's events. People who study the Friday dump can learn a lot. It's akin to rummaging through a trash can: messy, but revealing.

The Obama administration has made wise use of the Friday news dump in its first hundred days. Here are four examples of the following announcements came on trash day:

1. President Obama lifted the federal funding ban on foreign family planning organizations that promoted or provided information on abortion;

2. The administration issued an encouraging study on the positive effects of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program allowed students to escape the wasteland known as District of Columbia Public Schools. Democrats - teacher's unions - opposed this program and funding was eliminated. This is an example where good news had to be ignored.

3. Several financial disclosure reports were released, including one on Larry Summers, Director of the President's National Economic Council. One of those disclosures showed that Summers earned $7.7 million by working at a hedge fund and speaking to bank executives. The hedge fund and many of the banks were bailed out by taxpayers.

4. The administration announced they may return to the Bush policy of using military commissions to prosecute those held at Guantanamo. During the campaign, the Bush policy was viciously attacked for its civil rights "violations" and "political expediency."

Every administration has its own personality, and these four pieces of information tell us much about what information is perceived as a source of embarrassment, fear, controversy, and danger. I think most readers would agree that, so far, this White House has maintained a tight grip on information. The transparency promised in the campaign has yet to appear. Until there is more openness, the Friday afternoon news dump will be a critical instrument for assessing the overall health of the Obama White House. Long after the new crew settles in, the dump will still be interesting, if not valuable. Even when the pickings are slim, you never know what you may find in the trash. Especially when it's generated by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Arbuckle Coffee Trade Card: Alaska

Ohio Exodus

Earlier this week, OTR posted a few articles on urban decline. Courtesy of Instapundit, here is one about the situation in Ohio. In the '50s, one of my uncles moved his family to Ohio, following one of his sons-in-law out of the Appalachians. More of my cousins followed them and did well, finding good industrial jobs that lasted into the '70s. By the time their children - my second cousins - began their careers, the economy in the Cleveland-Akron-Youngstown triangle was in decline. Did they stay? Did they move on after a long struggle like their grandfather? I can't say as I lost touch with them years ago. Mobility and time have a way of eroding families in much the same way that policy and environment can erode a community.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Popular Culture Series: Arbuckle Coffee Trade Cards: Alabama

My daughter keeps telling me that we live in a museum that begs to be shared. We already have a family tradition of displaying old postcards around the house during holidays that, on her suggestion, OTR has extended to readers. She was looking through a box of Arbuckle Coffee trade cards last month and suggested I do a series with them. The first day of the month is an ideal starting date.

Advertising and trade cards became became very popular in the second half of the 19th century. They have been used to promote just about every product since and remain a popular pastime across the generations. As a form of advertising and promotion, the Arbuckle Coffee Company began producing cards in a series to encourage the collection of sets of cards. Their original State and Territory Map Series issue began in 1889 and ran until 1916. Each card had an attractive map and illustration on one side with an advertisement and series description on the reverse. Today, the cards are a colorful window into our past.

In 1959, I found many of these cards impaled on a long, thin nail on the wall next to an ancient kitchen range in my great aunt's home. No doubt they had been there for half a century or more. Imagine that.