Tag Archives: United States

The Bully Pulpit

by Rick Bretz

President Theodore Roosevelt during his presidency  coined the term “Bully Pulpit” to mean a “terrific or advantageous” platform to promote ideas.   The position of President of the United States might be the best place in the world to promote ideas.  Back then, in his day, the word “Bully” meant a good thing, as in “”Bully for You” or “Good For You.”  But somewhere, as in the case of many words, the meaning of the word was hijacked to the more popular definition of the word today, “A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.”  The verb form meaning to force or harass someone using superior strength to do force him or her to do what one wants.

President of the United States Theodore Roosev...
President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Deutsch: Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von 1901 bis 1909, Friedensnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1906. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word bully meant something good in the early 1900s but turned into a word that defines the evil angels of our nature. Interesting to note that the synonyms listed for this word include, Tyrant, Tormentor, Oppressor, Persecutor, Intimidator and Thug.  Today there is a new moniker that defines the Bully.   The technology savvy persecutor, tormentor and thug–The Cyber bully. This bully uses all of the tools available to the persecutor and this tool has the added benefit of making the tormentor anonymous if he or she so desires.   Beside being a jerk, the online tormentor violates a key policy outlined in most organizations’ information technology code of ethics documents. That is: “Do no harm.”

There are many varieties of bully.  Some are less harmful than others but the different speciesalways leave some form of destruction in their wake.  Here are my top eight types of bullies that wreak all kinds of havoc as we all try to live, thrive and survive day-to-day.

1. The Government Bully– Someone who has gained a position of power by military take over, Coup de Tat,  violence against the voting populace, political maneuvering or government appointed position.  This type of bully proves the most dangerous because they can use their position to gain wealth, kill people, keep power and bully other countries into entering into unwise diplomatic agreements as well as any number of wrongs against the people.  They include the likes of Saddam Hussein. Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Chairman Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan and many more.

2. The Office Bully-This person creates the toxic atmosphere at work.  The person everyone knows , whom management lets run rough shod over other co-workers either by using something they know, someone in management they know, or just using an acidic personality to create havoc in the work place or torment the one individual in the office who takes the abuse.  This where other co-workers should step in and take a stand even if the bully sits at a higher level in the organization.

3. The Teleconference and Meeting Bully-That certain someone who raises his or her voice, try to talk over people, cuts off another person talking,  ridicules someone else’s ideas.  You know that someone in the office.  A person  who wants to take over the entire meeting to look fantastic in front of “The Boss.” I dislike these people and managers should call them out and make them stop.

4. The Driving Bully– You know.  We’ve all seen  them on the highway, in the city or even on some rural road. They pass on double lines, bogart their way into a parking spot, merge their vehicle in the wrong place, change lanes from the far left to the exit ramp in less than 20 yards just to prove they can.  I got news for you people: you’re not impressing anyone.  Some advice I know will be ignored but here goes anyway, “Drive like you are supposed to-like the rest of us-obey the traffic laws. Just maybe you won’t be the next person to cause a wreck.”

5. The Internet Bully-These people are the trolls you see at the bottom of a story you have read in the comment list but they are also the same people who use the social media to harass and torment another person. Cyber bullies are the worst because they are going after a person for the whole world to see.  These people are the cause of some teen ager or young person committing suicide because the cyber bully won’t back off on the social media comments and criticism.  Someone who bullies a person through social media has no self esteem and no compassion for other human beings.

6. Corporate Bully-The corporate bully intimidates start-ups, harasses inventors, steals inventions, steals software or worse yet, calls in some government friends for favor so a certain agency can do an audit or create an avalanche of paperwork and lawyers so that a company or individual can go away.  You know who they are: some have been around for a long time.  President Teddy Roosevelt called them monopolies and decided he had enough of them.  He did what good bully fighters do, he made them stop.

7. Gang Bully-Any person using his position as part of a group, gang or union to intimidate, harass, persecute or just plain beat up.  These people get their so-called “courage” because they know their buddies will be standing behind them in case the scene gets a little tough for them to handle. I see no courage in that.  The person who takes on the group alone, now that’s courage.
8. Law Enforcement Bully-A majority of law enforcement officials are superb human being and logical in their approach to handing out citations and tickets. But now and then you get someone who you can just tell hasn’t been in a position of power or leadership and they carry an attitude of, “OK, now I’m in power position and people are going to pay.”  They are few,  but when you come across one, you never forget them.

Ok, now I’m off the bully pulpit about bullies, for now.

 

Notable Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bully_pulpit

http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/Files/Bullying.pdf

http://www.internetsafety101.org/cyberbullyingstatistics.htm

 

My Eight Favorite History Books of All Time

by Rick Bretz

Cover of "Fortunate Son: The Healing of a...
Cover via Amazon

1. Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet

By Lewis B. Puller, Jr.

For autobiographies and a book that makes you empathize with and respect the author, this one is at the top of the list for me.  This book earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and it deserved it.  He was the son of Marine General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a hero to every Marine that ever served.  His son followed in his footsteps and served with distinction as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam.  The Vietnam War handed Puller a challenge he fought his whole life when he lost both his legs, part of his arm, hand and part of his stomach.  The chapter that tells the story of his father visiting him in the hospital is a gut wrenching read.  The rest of his life story is riveting and he fights to come back.  In a sad ending, three years after earning the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, Puller took his own life. The book is inspiring and an example of the fight that most wounded warriors go through when they come back from the fight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Burwell_Puller,_Jr.

2. John Adams

By David McCullough

McCullough has written several books that I have enjoyed throughout the years.  He’s a pleasure to read and always tells me something new about the subject.  He’s tackled subjects as diverse as Harry Truman and the Brooklyn Bridge.  For Adams, McCullough gave us glimpse into the Adams personality and reminded us of how important this founding father was to American history who for a while was lost among the others stellar figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I wasn’t expecting an interesting read but what I got was a page turner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_McCullough

3. TR: The Last Romantic

By H.W. Brands

This epic biography takes you from Teddy Roosevelt’s young days, through college, his heart aches, and his triumphs through to the end of his life.  The book discusses his adventurous travels, his bombastic personality as well as his knack for being in the right place at the right time.  Once he got his opportunities, he makes the most of them.  The book also discusses his mistakes and his relationships with his sons and daughters.  There are several books about this larger than life President but this is one that portrays the era and how a go-getter lives in it.

http://books.google.com/books/about/T_R.html?id=J7jMw0bwRy8C

English: Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
English: Brigadier General Chuck Yeager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Yeager, An Autobiography

By General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janus

A first-hand account of the pilot who was pilot that ushered in the supersonic age.  Yeager is an interesting autobiography of a first pilot to break the sound barrier.  However, it is much more than the story of that feat.  It tells the story of his younger days and his World War II combat dog fights.  He writes about his friends, family and his days as commander of several Air Force units and how he handled some delicate situations as commander and as a top-notch pilot.

http://www.amazon.com/Yeager-An-Autobiography-Chuck/dp/0553256742

5. Unbroken: The World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

By Laura Hillenbrand

The story of Lt. Louis Zamperini who joined the war as an aviator bombardier and was part of crew that ended up in rubber raft trying to survive days and then weeks.  Little does the reader know that this is only the beginning of a story that includes brutality at a POW camp and starvation for him and his crew mates. A few years earlier Zamperini was running in the Olympics and then the War.  This is an all to real story of about what Prisoners of War have had to endure.

http://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-World-Survival-Resilience-Redemption/dp/1400064163

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Zamperini

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

6.  A Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

Today’s politicians could learn a few things concerning how President Lincoln handled his victories and as well as his defeats.  Once he gained the Presidential Office, instead of isolating his rivals, Lincoln invited them into his inner circle.  He did this because he was confident in himself and his abilities.  He knew how to handle difficult personalities.  He wanted the best minds available to weather the coming storm of the Civil War and its complications for the United States economy and standing among other nations.  The Doris Kearns Goodwin book covers this subject expertly.  After finishing the book, you will get a perceptive look into the genius that was President Lincoln.

http://www.amazon.com/Team-Rivals-Political-Abraham-Lincoln/dp/0743270754

Peter I of Russia
Peter I of Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. Great Rivals in History: When Politics Gets Personal

By Joseph Cummins

This is a read that explores why certain people throughout history hated each other.  In fact, some of these people despised each other.  They took it to a point where they ruined their countries and their lives.  It analyzes the relationship among several of history’s colorful and despised personalities such as the rivalry between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky.  Other rivalries include Charles XII of Sweden and Peter the Great of Russia. There are many with many reasons why each were against the other.  It provides an analysis as to why leaders and generals clashed to form historical events.

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Rivals-History-Politics-Personal/dp/1607108658

8. What if? The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

Edited by Robert Cowley

This book poses fascinating questions has to what might have been.  Would history have taken a left turn instead of right if certain meetings had occurred or if wrong decisions hadn’t been made by leaders and generals?  For instance, would Germany have fared better in World War II if Hitler hadn’t invaded the Soviet Union?  Would there have been a better way to handle Cuba and Fidel Castro?   Some of these questions are pondered and answered.  It’s a fascinating travel log through history and what might have been.

http://www.amazon.com/What-If-Foremost-Military-Historians/dp/0425176428

That is my list.  There are several others books I like  but for sheer enjoyment, these are my eight favorites.  Do you have any to add to the list?  Leave me a suggestion.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles And The Sea

by Rick Bretz

A look back at transportation modes throughout history tells us that when using new technology is left to humanity, moving from one place to another can bring joy or pain.  The horse could carry someone coming back to see their family or someone to conquer their homelands.  A plane can bring needed supplies like the Berlin Airlift or drop bombs bringing devastation as the world saw at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Civilization has sought to contract space and time so now a person or country’s military can move across the globe in a few hours or days.

Grand Canyon in Winter
Grand Canyon in Winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Driving across a country also gives the passenger a different perspective than say flying and looking down at the same landmark or land mass.  Driving and stopping makes the experience more personal while flying and looking down presents someone with a spectacular view but distant.

Two perfect examples of two different personal experiences are flying over the Mississippi River or the Grand Canyon before landing at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  The two land marks look awe-inspiring from your window seat in the airplane but seem are breathtaking when driving and seeing them up close, especially when you consider where you cross the Mississippi River. Let’s compare are primary ways to get from point A to Point B.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...
First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automobiles

Trains

Planes

Sea Travel

First True Automobile (Internal Combustion Engine) 1885/1886 (Karl Benz) 1804-First Steam Locomotive for the road hauled freight in Wales 1903-Wright brothers achieve sustained flight flying a properly   engineered aircraft in NC 4000BC-First sailing boats built from reeds in Egypt.
Steam Engine Auto (1769) 1825-The Stockton and Darlington Railroad company hauls freight and   passengers over 9 miles using George Stephenson steam locomotive for tracks 1904 First airplane maneuvers (Turn and Circle) Wright Brothers) 1000BC-Vikings build long ships using oarsmen.
Electric Carriage (1832-1839) 1826-Col John Stevens demonstrates the feasibility of steam   locomotives on experimental track in Hoboken, NJ. 1905 First Airplane Flight over a half hour (33 minutes, 17 seconds) Orville   Wright 1100AD-Chinese build junks with watertight compartments and strong   sails using a rudder to steer.
1886 (First Four Wheeled, four Stroke Engine) Daimler/Maybach 1830-Peter Cooper operates the first American built steam locomotive   on a common carrier railroad. 1908-First Airplane fatality Lt. Thomas Selfridge, US Army Signal   Corps. During evaluation flight propeller hit bracing wire. 1400s-Three and Four Mast ships introduced for cargo transportation,   military power, and passenger travel
1876-1895 George Baldwin Seldon combine internal combustion engine   with carriage 1857-George Pullman invents the Pullman sleeping car. The first   comfortable overnight sleeper. 1910- First licensed woman pilot. Baroness Raymonde de la Roche who   learned to fly in 1909. 1819-First Steam ships used to cross Atlantic using steam and wind   power.
1893-Charles and Frank Duryea set up first Car manufacturing company 1881-Mary Walton receives patent for an elevated train noise   dampening system. 1914-First Aerial combat between German and allied pilots 1845-First ocean-going liner using engine power and propeller driven built
1908-Henry Ford introduces Model-T 1855-First land grant railroad completed, The Illinois Central 1910-First Flight from shipboard 1914-Panama Canal opened
1913-Ford Motor Company perfects moving assembly line 1856-First Railway bridge across the Mississippi completed between   Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa 1927-First solo nonstop transatlantic flight (Charles Lindbergh) 1825-Erie Canal Opens
1921-Italy constructed first limited access road (Auto Strada) 1932-German   Bonn-Cologne Autobahn Constructed, 1922-First Blue Print for US National   Highway System, 1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act allocating funds for   extensive US Highway System. 1862-President Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act authorizing the   construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad 1929-First blind flight using instruments. Took off and landed using   instruments. (James Doolittle) 1811-First steamboat used on Mississippi River.
1938-1940-Merritt Parkway opened as first US fully controlled access   parkway (Barrier Toll Plazas) from Hartford to New York City. 1869-The Central Pacific and Union Pacific meet at Promontory Summit,   Utah for the driving of the Gold Spike. 1932-First woman to fly transatlantic solo. (Amelia Earhart) 1900-First cruise ship, the Prinzessin Victoria Louise, built for the   Hamburg America Line, begins moving passengers using 120 first class cabins.
1899-First Speeding infraction in NYC committed by Cad Driver going   12 MPH in 8 MPH zone. 1872-George Westinghouse patents the first automatic air brake. 1933-First round-the-world solo flight (Wiley Post) April 15, 1912-RMS Titanic Sinks crossing the Atlantic
1868-First Traffic Light used in London operated by Gas Lamps 1970-Congress passes the Rail Passenger Service Act creating Amtrak 1952-First Jet Liner Service between London and Johannesburg, South   Africa. (23 hours, 38 minutes) 2012-Oasis of the Seas, largest cruise ship in the world
1913 photograph Ford company, USA
1913 photograph Ford company, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have a favorite way to get to their destination.  What determines the final decision? A fellow traveler bases where to place his soul thinking about several factors–time, money, convenience and the fear of travelling by certain modes.  Phobias can play an important role when travelling, sometimes more than funding.  Beyond a person’s individual preferences, the comparison chart above shows that each form has benefited from the creativity, intelligence, courage, sacrifice and fortitude of many people to arrive where we are today.

Other Modes: Walk, Jog, Bicycle, Tricycle, Motorcycle, Scooter, roller-skate, inline skate, Skateboard, escalator, surfboard, swimming, snowmobile, four-wheeler, Riding Lawn Mower, Farm Tractor, Public Bus, Horse, Camel, Llama, Oxen, Donkey, Mule, space shuttle, space capsule, hang gliders, trolley cars.

Notable Links:

http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/auto.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dt13as.html

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/05/the-first-speeding-infraction-in-the-u-s-was-committed-by-a-new-york-city-taxi-driver-in-an-electric-car-on-may-20-1899/

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrailroad.htm

http://inventors.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.sdrm.org/history/timeline/

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004537.html

http://www.seahistory.org/

http://sea-transport.wikispaces.com/Sea+travel+timeline

The Generations

by Rick Bretz

Classifying people into generations and marking them with cultural characteristics is an entertaining exercise for sociologists and academics.  However, putting a particular generation into a certain box is only informative when analyzing the different world events that influenced the collective personality characteristics of people growing up in that era. The classification of generations begs the question: Is one generation better than another? Did one generation endure hardships?  Did another have it easier? It’s an intellectual exercise that can generate a discussion. Since Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” was published, most of the reading public have stated that people who grew up to fight WWII and endure the Great Depression were part of the “Greatest Generation.”  Is there such a title-“The Greatest Generation”–One group of people who have shone brighter than any other  in history.

I prefer to think that each generation has had their own challenges and issues with their own solutions.  Can you say that one generation is better than another because they helped achieve a WWII victory while another fought in Vietnam and landed on the moon?  Another way to view the issue is: without one generation developing a particular technology the other wouldn’t have been able to achieve their significant achievements.

Members of the military are attempting to keep...
Members of the military are attempting to keep Vietnam War protesters under control. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scholars possess different views pertaining to the yearly division between generations, usually a few years separate one list from the other. Here is a list generations with significant (but not all) events occurring during their formative years compared across generations.

G.I./GREATEST

BORN:   1901-1928

SILENT

BORN:   1928-1945

BOOMERS

BORN:   1946-1964

GENERATION   X

BORN:   1965-1980

MILLENIALS

BORN:1981-2004

World   War I Stock   Market Crashes Marshall   Plan Vietnam   War Protests Chernobyl   Nuclear Accident
Spanish   Flu Great   Depression Yeager   breaks sound barrier Watergate   Hearings Soviet   Glasnost
Titanic   Sunk FDR   Elected NASA   formed Nixon   Resigns Fall   of Berlin Wall
Silent   Movie Era WWII   Begins Korean   War Vietnam   War Ends Disintegration   of Soviet Union
Roaring   20s WWII   Ends Cold   War Race   Riots Apple   and Microsoft
Ford   Model T and Assembly Line Atomic   Bomb used to defeat Japan JFK   Assassinated Civil   Unrest Hubble   Telescope
Russian   Revolution 1933-First   Concentration Camp McCarthy   hearings RFK   and MLK Assassinated 9/11
Prohibition The   Dust Bowl Cuban   Missile Crisis Armstrong,   Aldrin, Collins land on the moon War   on Terrorism
Lindbergh Flies solo   across Atlantic Japan attack on Pearl   Harbor DNA discovered Palestinian Terrorism Operation   Desert Storm
Penicillin Discovered United Nations Founded Vietnam War Roe vs Wade Internet   and Social Media

 

I

Alternate Listing for Generational Names from the Population Reference Bureau

1983-2001 – New Boomers
1965-1982 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boomers
1929-1945 – Lucky Few
1909-1928 – Good Warriors
1890-1908 – Hard Timers
1871-1889 – New Worlders

 

English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. Th...
English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. The photo shows a part of a public photo documentation wall at Former Check Point Charlie, Berlin. The photo documentation is permanently placed in the public. Türkçe: Berlin Duvarı, 1989 sonbaharı (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The above alternate generations list takes note of two generations that are usually overlooked, the Hard Timers and the New Worlders.  These are the generations that ushered in the industrial revolution, built railroads and began to introduce people to technology that would save their lives such as electricity and the light bulb.

If you look at history’s 20th Century Timeline, there are many events that could be listed that have influenced generations.  These are some of the ones I think are significant. I welcome any other events that you think I have missed or could be included.

Notable Links:

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2011/05/living/infographic.boomer/index.html

http://www.prb.org/Publications/PopulationBulletins/2009/20thcenturyusgenerations.aspx

http://www.pewresearch.org/

http://history1900s.about.com/od/timelines/tp/timeline.htm

Eight People Who Should Have Been President

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain t...
A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Rick Bretz

1. Mark Twain

One of Twain’s best lines states this, ““Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”  When a President recognizes a problem before he begins, then he has solved half the problem before stepping one foot on the oval office carpet.  He also said if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. Honesty and sincerity with intelligence spiced with a sense of humor–imagine the possibilities.  Mark Twain would have been a great president because he would have given entertaining press conferences.  He also would have taken the job seriously enough but also laughed at the absurdity of it all.

2. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was an outstanding writer, diplomat and forward thinker.  He said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” Based on the written material concerning Franklin’s work and exploits in Britain and France during America’s struggle for independence, he would have been effective dealing with world leaders.

3. Abigail Adams

The wife of John Adams was extremely intelligent and more politically savvy than her husband.  In another time and another age, she would have had a chance to show the world what she could achieve.  As it was, her advice to her husband during private conversations likely kept him from alienating even more people.  She said once, “I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.”  I think she was on to something there that applies toward today’s political environment.

4. Alexander Hamilton

He said, “Experience will teach us that no government costs so much as a bad one.” He would have had my vote.

5. Katharine Hepburn

She would have intimidated all of the world leaders.  She would have known exactly what to say and to whom at the right moment. She would have been perfect.

English: Vice President Richard M. Nixon and S...
English: Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Kremlin. NARA. Special Media Archives Services Division (Still Pictures). RG306-RMN-1-21 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Walt Disney

He knew how to run a business and build a world—Disney World.  Where did Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev want to go when visiting Los Angeles in 1959? Disneyland.  He wasn’t able to go due to security concerns which upset him greatly.  As president he could have used the trip to Disneyland or Disney World as his trump card.  I can hear it now, “Agree to this or no trip to the magic kingdom.”

7. Frank Lloyd Wright

English: Fallingwater in West Orange
Fallingwater in West Orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The architect Frank Lloyd Wright built spectacular buildings and houses. If he can build great structures that people admire today, then he could have helped build a great nation also.

8. Orson Welles

English:

His voice was terrific.  He would have delivered speeches that would have had audiences standing in awe.  Convention speeches would have been must see television.

Notable Links:

http://www.adherents.com/people/100_men.html

http://www.thefamouspeople.com/

http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/poor_richard.html

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/abigail_adams.html

http://alexanderhamiltonspeaks.blogspot.com/

http://www.snopes.com/disney/parks/nikita.asp

Top Eight Demonstrations, Protests, Riots, Marches, Sit-ins

by Rick Bretz

If you see a malcontent, discontent, dissident or an activist fighting for a cause on the world stage, you’ll likely see someone or some power base trying to stop it, quell it or ignore it.

Turkish protestors are news today with more clashes with the government. The demonstrations are seen as protests against the conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against secular Turks. Erdogan is being accused of forcing his Islamic views on a segment of the Turkish population. Islamic conservatives and secular politicians have long battled for government control and the best way to run a country with an overwhelming Islamic population. Situated at the edge of the European land mass and the Middle Eastern Territory, the Turkish people have fought for their religious identity while trying to be part of the European Union and culture.

Demonstrations, protests, marches, and riots usually begin with peaceful sit-ins and marches but soon escalate to violence and mayhem. Some of these achieve results while others are just the beginning of a longer struggle. Depending on where you sit at the table, one person’s terrorist, radical, guerilla, and rebel is another’s freedom fighter and force for change. After all, the United States revolution began with a peaceful protest.

Here are the top eight that we noticed.

1. Hungarian Uprising of 1956-The Soviet Union tanks rolled into Budapest after the Hungarian leadership informed Moscow that they were leaving the Warsaw Pact. This act fueled Soviet leaders to send in the tanks. Thousands were killed during the crackdown and its aftermath.

2. UK Miner’s Strike and early US Union Strikes -Worker’s unions in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere fought corporate abuse to increase wages, improve working conditions and work schedules. The passing of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) significantly aided unions to recruit and negotiate with corporate management.

John L. LeFlore and Freedom Riders
John L. LeFlore and Freedom Riders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Freedom Riders-1961-The Freedom Riders climbed in the bus, drove through the South, and more importantly, had the courage to get off the bus when the welcome party was unfriendly.

4. Antiwar Protests-From Vietnam to the Iraq War, when talk fails another tool of diplomacy takes form. An instrument in a country’s diplomatic tool bag is the strength of its military– Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. Whether it be two people or two countries fighting, someone is likely against the idea no matter how noble the cause.

Tiananmen Square Protest (tian_med)
Tiananmen Square Protest (tian_med) (Photo credit: mandiberg)

5. Tiananmen Square-1989-Who can forget the lone protestor standing in front of the tank line, moving left to right as the tank moved. Later, the brutal crackdown at the square displayed government power for all the world to see on news channels across the globe. The final chapter for this hasn’t been written yet.

6. 1968 Democratic Convention-The news networks aired the violence for the world to see. Riots in the Chicago streets served Republican nominee Richard Nixon well. The media savvy Chicago Seven knew cameras would be rolling and the networks broadcasting while the city police forced people into paddy wagons. The whole affair alarmed Middle America and put an exclamation point on the terrible year of 1968 when Senator Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated.

7. Polish Solidarity Movement-1980s-The Solidarity movement forced the communist government to the table to negotiate with the country’s labor force. Another brick was removed from the Berlin Wall.

8. Wounded Knee-1973-The American Indian Movement clashed with the Federal Government and lives were lost.  The past repeats.

Whether the many or the few, failure to compromise with the opposing view will result in the beaten down using the power of numbers and the force of the media.

Others: WWI Veteran Pension Riots, the Suffrage Marches, Russian Revolution, Watts Riots, Prague Spring, Soweto Uprising

Notable Links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/gallery/2010/nov/14/ten-best-protests#/?picture=368602881&index=7

http://protest.net/

http://www.varsity.co.uk/lifestyle/5124

http://www.now.org/history/protests.html

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/hungarian_uprising_1956.htm

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-signs-first-contract-with-autoworkers-union

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Freedom-Riders.html

http://www.npr.org/2006/01/12/5149667/get-on-the-bus-the-freedom-riders-of-1961

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-chicago-seven-go-on-trial

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising

The Panama Canal and Hoover Dam

by Rick Bretz

Many engineering wonders dot the world from the Egyptian Pyramids to China’s long Wall.  The United States has been a part of two major engineering feats that are a testament to man’s apparent mastery over nature.  One was accomplished outside the country in Panama with the plan to bring together two oceans and the other in a desert with the goal of taming the Colorado River. The Panama Canal engineers had to deal deadly Malaria disease transported by mosquitos, making their jobs more difficult. The Boulder Dam project engineers figured out how to divert a river so they could excavate and pour millions of cubic feet of concrete.  Each project had their own challenges and issues but were overcome so that economies and cultures could make a step forward.

English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Ac...
English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Across the Colorado River; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Panama Canal     (Boulder) renamed Hoover   Dam in 1947
Construction:  1881-1889 (French Period) 1903-1914 (US Construction Period) Construction: 1931-35 (2 years ahead of schedule)
Reason for Construction:  Shortcut through Isthmus Reason for Construction: Prevent Flooding, provide   hydro-electric power, and irrigation
Cost:    US Dollars   $375,000,000 Cost: $50, 000,000 (1931 US dollar value)
Number of workers: More than 56,000 Number of workers: 5,000
Control: The United States until the 1977 Panama Canal   Treaty that ceded control to Panama. Today the Panama Canal Authority. Control: US Department of Interior, Bureau of   Reclamation,
Casualties: Estimated at 22,000 mostly from disease during   the French construction period (1881-1889).   For the American construction period,   Officially 5609.  Also, several   thousand undocumented West Indian workmen who died from explosions,   mudslides, railcar accidents and disease) Casualties: 112 construction related deaths.  42 died from Pneumonia (Controversial-some   research suggests it was carbon-monoxide poisoning working in the diversion   tunnels)
Major Obstacles: Tropical disease, mudslides,   Engineering issues such as terrain, worker safety, poor reputation resulting   in issues recruiting qualified people. Major Obstacles: Engineering, worker safety, high   temperatures
Benefit to US: National Security, Shipping Lanes Benefit to US: Hydro-power to several arid states in   the region.
Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Steam shovels, wagons,   locomotives, unloaders Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Diversion tunnels, “Jumbo”   trucks, “High Scalers”
Physical Characteristics: 50 miles in length, 8-10   hours to transit from ocean to ocean, each lock is 110 feet wide, 8 minutes   to fill lock with water Physical Characteristics: 726 high, 230 blocks of   concrete

 

 

The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam’s main controversy was the name itself.  As usual, politics entered into the equation when at the dedication speaker Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spoke the name “Boulder Dam” five times in a span of 30 seconds to force home the moniker.  Former President Hoover who helped marshal the construction plans through the political process wasn’t invited to the ceremony.  Later, after Hoover had completed many important projects after his Presidency thereby rehabilitating himself and his name, both houses in Congress passed a bill unanimously that officially renamed the dam, “Hoover Dam”.

Other than the naming controversy, the engineering plans and worker skill served the day to the project completed ahead of schedule.  Workers had a competition for what shift could excavate the most dirt and rock.  This friendly competition moved the project along.

English: High scalers drilling into canyon wal...
English: High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoover Dam has provided much-needed power and irrigation to the southwest region of the United States.  In recent years, traffic has been rerouted to the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. With this development, officials have stopped vehicle traffic  from crossing the top of the dam.

English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 19...
English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 1915 at the Culebra Cut while transiting the Panama Canal. Kroonland was the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built by American engineers and workers travelling to Panama to participate in the construction. The French gave up the project in 1889 after several issues hindered their progress towards completion of the canal.  The United States bought the rights to the project and equipment to finish the canal for 30 million dollars.  A high price for early 20th century dollar values.  Challenges still faced the United States effort.  Medical officers had to eradicate the mosquito population that transferred malaria and other tropical diseases. In addition, engineers developed the lock system to get ships from the one ocean over a land crest and down the other side to the other ocean.

The United States succeeded in completing the canal and was given control by Panama to run the canal for many years because the United States supported their independence efforts from Columbia.  However, the political winds changed and Panamanian support to retake control of the canal began to grow in the 70s.  This resulted in President Jimmy Carter negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty that gradually gave control to the host country Panama. Today the Panama Canal provides millions of dollars to the Panamanian National Treasury.

Two engineering monuments to human kinds ability to manipulate nature to achieve the desired result.  They are also existing structures that remind people that human sacrifice takes many forms. Although cultures and educated engineers are lauded for their towering accomplishments, it is also wise and appropriate to pause and remember the worker who braved daily dangers so that a family could be fed or one’s survival could be maintained. Some lived to tell their story, others didn’t.

 

Notable Links

http://www.history.com/topics/hoover-dam

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/140HooverDam/140Hoover_Dam.htm

http://www.canalmuseum.com/

http://www.history.com/videos/panama-canal-locks#panama-canal-locks

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/panama/

http://www.ushistory.org/us/44g.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Panama_Canal

http://thesilverpeopleheritage.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-panama-canal-death-tolls/

http://www.usbr.gov/projects/Project.jsp?proj_Name=Boulder+Canyon+Project+-+Hoover+Dam

http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/PanamaCanal

Leaders are Like a Box of Chocolates. You Never Know…

English: Newspaper cartoon from 1912 about the...
English: Newspaper cartoon from 1912 about the Monroe Doctrine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Rick Bretz

Former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez died from a long battle with cancer on March 5, 2013.  He was a long line of authoritarians, dictators, and oppressors who annoyed the United States’ politicians and presidents throughout the last 100 years or so. This brings to mind the role of the government in bringing about change for better or worse in other countries.  Yes, Monday morning play calling is always perfect and much clearer.

On the other hand, the United States had to make decisions based on the best interests of their country just like Chavez supposedly did for Venezuela.  Yes, for those who are sanctimonious when it comes to America’s history in determining leadership disputes, the President and Congress make decisions based on the best results for the United States at that moment with a collective eye toward the future. Many dictators were supported because it was thought that the United States would have more influence over that person than a Communist government.  Stopping the spread of Communism was a major issue when deciding who to support. Once in power some of these dictators, like the Shah of Iran, abused their authority.  At the beginning, contrary to the present, the United States was interested in nation building only for itself.

The Monroe Doctrine resulted in the United States intervening in many disputes in South America during its infancy and after 1900 to the present day.  The Founding Father James Monroe knew the kind of price many people paid to secure liberty.  He refused to let instability within other countries disturb his country’s quest toward economic and cultural stability.  He simply said that the United States has a say in what happens in their hemisphere, be it South, Central or North America.

Thomas Jefferson made the determination that the United States has a right to defend itself anywhere in the world when he sent the Navy and Marines to the Barbary States to defend our right to sail through their shipping lanes without paying a tribute for protection against the pirates in 1801.  For the most part, throughout our history the United States remained a regional power and stayed out of European affairs until World War I.  Afterward when President Woodrow Wilson tried to organize the League of Nations, he was stopped by his own Congress and the resolve of European victors for revenge toward Germany and its allies.

This is not a love-fest from sea to shining sea. The United States is not perfect considering our history of slavery and the treatment of Indians almost from Jump Street and the encampment of Asians in World War II.   However, America has gone through a self-analysis and made an effort to refrain from past mistakes.  Many other countries have their own questionable events and downright sordid history with despicable actions. The United States seems to get the most flak because it has jumped into the fray and tried to at least solve problems, even working with NATO despite that organization’s inaction toward preventing many genocidal horrors. There are many cases where the United States has done some good and helped a country and even solved major issues resulting in lives being saved.  Here are some examples:

Construction work on the Gaillard Cut is shown...
Construction work on the Gaillard Cut is shown in this photograph from 1907 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Completed the Panama Canal in 1914 and gave it back to the country in 1999.  The canal is one of the chief revenue resources for the country today.
  2. The Marshall Plan, providing reconstruction funds for European Nations after World War II.
  3. The driving force for the establishment of the United Nations.
  4. World leader in space exploration and research.
  5. World leader in humanitarian aid.
  6. Forced the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait after Iraq invaded in 1991.
  7. Gave aid to the Kurdish people after the war ended.
  8. The thawing of relations between China and the United States.
  9. Making an effort to reduce weapons of mass destruction.
  10. We usually enter wars to defend ourselves, to right a wrong,  or when asked for support (Pearl Harbor, Kuwait, ethnic cleansing, 9/11)

Having stated this case, there are some who see the issue differently.  Below are links that may have an opposite view.

Notable Links:

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/05/07/%EF%BB%BFu-s-support-for-brutal-dictators-is-a-source-of-frustration-in-the-middle-east-anthony-dimaggio/

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/US_ThirdWorld/dictators.html

http://www.bluebloggin.com/2008/01/11/history-of-us-backed-dictators-redux/

http://www.4thmedia.org/2012/08/18/us-supported-dictatorships-around-the-whole-globe-the-essential-facts-not-in-dispute-by-anyone-even-with-us-state-dept/

http://123pab.com/blog/2011/01/Is-USA-support-for-dictatorships-paternalism-democracy-or-corruption.php

http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interventions.html

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/jefferson_papers/mtjprece.html

The Top Eight Government Putschs, Coups, Overthrows, or Coup D’états

Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in Germany...
Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in Germany: Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry S. Truman and Generalissimo Josef Stalin, seated in garden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Rick Bretz
Not having power for some people is too much to bare. So they go after it even if it means they have to take it away forcefully. There are not many bloodless coups. Power is too much of a drug for people to stand by without a fight. Even if taken peacefully, the people who had the power will pay some kind of price, either with their lives or with humiliation by the conquerors. No one can forget the sight of Mikhail Gorbachev being ordered around by Boris Yeltsin at the podium after he was forced to step down in the early 90s.

With the arrival of March, a couple of events come to mind. One is St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration of St. Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland. The other being the Ides of March, March 15th. Besides being an old world celebration day it also known as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated at the base of the Statue of Pompey in 44 BC. This thought brought up the idea of other overthrows that have occurred in history and how important they were to the rest of world order.

The United States federal government has been stable  since George Washington took office (arguably since the Articles of Confederation) because we have a somewhat organized election that begins a disciplined series of events culminating in the inauguration of the next President of the United States. Some countries never achieve this process resulting in violence and destruction.
Here are eight coups that have, in my view, significantly reverberated across the globe.

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...
Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. 1959: Fidel Castro overthrows Batista.
This one is number one on the list because it almost caused two countries to launch missiles at each other a couple of years later. The  Cuban Missile Crisis might be one cause that began the whole 1960s free love, live and let live, drugs are fantastic thing in the sixties.  They probably figured, “Well, if the governments are going to send missiles at one another at any second, and we don’t have a say in it, we’ll have fun while we can.”  In addition, the United States is still dealing with the consequences of Fidel Castro ruling Cuba more than 50 years later with the trade embargo, travel restrictions and a Cuban constituency in Florida that can influence elections.  Besides that, there’s the Cuban cigar thing.

2. 1804: Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor of France by a coup d’état.
Once Bonaparte came to power, he waged war all across Europe and with Britain. This is high up on the list due to Bonaparte inflicting war and destruction across Europe until the Russian winter stopped him along with his own ego.  Russian winters taught Bonaparte a lesson that Hitler forgot or refused to take into account more than a century later.

Royal Russian family (LOC)
Royal Russian family (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

3. 1917–March: abdication of Nicholas II of Russia in favor of the Russian Provisional Government.
Call it an abdication, but Nicholas II didn’t give up the Czar title willingly and would have kept it if he had had an avenue to remain on the throne.  Arguably his track record as a ruler wasn’t the best.  He oversaw the economic and military collapse of his country as well as executed his political opponents. He persecuted the Jewish people inside Russia and generally made poor decisions domestically and on foreign policy.  So, Vladimir Lenin had his chance but didn’t survive long enough to keep Josef Stalin out of the dictator seat.  Instead, the over throw eventually led to a corrupted, paranoid communist government, Josef Stalin, bad decisions during World War II, an arms race, an Iron Curtain, a Berlin Wall, missile launch sites in Cuba, the edge of total annihilation from nuclear weapons, and several billions and trillions of dollars on both sides used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

4. 1792- by the National Convention against King Louis XVI of France, the French Revolution.
The difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is that those in power after the US revolution didn’t go around with a guillotine lopping the heads off the aristocracy, creating domestic terror throughout the land.

5. 1969–Sep 1st: Muammar al-Gaddafi overthrows King Idris I of Libya.
A country gets the wrong guy in; it could take more than 40 years to get rid of him. This dictator is on here due to his sanctioning, supporting, and harboring terrorists who executed one horrible event, the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. This Libyan dictator was a thorn in many government’s sides, including several Middle Eastern countries.

6. 1936- by Francisco Franco against Manuel Azaña.
Generalissimo Franco was the picture of opportunism. He helped put down an earlier coup when it didn’t benefit him. Became a leader for the 1936 coup that led to a civil war. He assumed power and remained there for almost 40 years. As I stated earlier, once you get some of these guys in, it is difficult to get them out. He died in 1975. He had economic successes, but it doesn’t make up for the torture and human rights abuses.  He kept power through censorship, imprisonment, forced labor camps, death sentences, and other political means. When it was beneficial to him, he moved his foreign policy towards the Italian and German fascist leaders prior to, and during, World War II. After the war, he maneuvered his political diplomacy toward the United States and NATO because he knew NATO wanted to stop the spread of communism.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. 1909-The Young Turk Revolution breaks out in the Ottoman Empire against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
This is one coup that actually meant a great leap forward for a country. This coup led to an eventual Turkish revolution led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turks.  The father of modern Turkey is revered in his country. If it is possible to take a country and drag it into the modern world, that is what Ataturk did. He pushed through economic, social, and cultural reforms while creating a secular government. He was instrumental in separating Islamic Law from government. He mandated that Islamic Law be limited to the practice of religion while the government would use secular law.

8. 1971-Military in Uganda led by Idi Amin overthrows government.
This dictator’s regime was characterized by ethnic killings, corruption, nepotism, and according to most human rights groups, between 100 and 500 thousand people killed. Besides being arrogant and astonishingly brutal to his enemies, he started a war with Tanzania in 1978, the Uganda-Tanzania War. This war led to his fleeing the country and eventually landing in Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003.

The State of the Union Address

This is the beginning of a new category that will be part of my blog menu, “I’ll Take Potpourri, Alex.” This section of the URL universe is a place where I can write about anything I want with a slant towards history. This section will concentrate on recent, current and possibly future events. Today’s topic is the State of the Union speech with a nod to President Barack Obama’s address February 12.

English: President Barack Obama delivers the 2...

It’s a task every United States President accomplishes every year since George Washington presented his to congress in January 1790.  Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered their state of union speeches in person to Congress.  President Thomas Jefferson disliked public speaking and thought giving a speech to congress came a little too close to the way British Monarch’s addressed the Parliament each year.  Jefferson didn’t want to do anything that smacked of British ways plus he had a high-pitched speaking voice and a lisp that didn’t serve him well communicating before large audiences.  He decided to give his state of the union address to congress in writing and have it read to congress by a clerk.

This practice was kept until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his state of the union speech in 1913.  The practice of presenting the speech in written form through the years had the result of reducing the president’s influence in legislative matters.  With radio, and later television, giving the President a new avenue for a bully pulpit reaching millions, delivering the speech in person made sense so that more influence could be exerted directly and indirectly through constituents. President Calvin Coolidge’s State of the Union address was the first to be broadcast by radio in 1923.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s address was the first to be aired on television in 1953. By the 1960s, the address was moved to prime time television.

President Ronald Reagan with Vice President Ge...
President Ronald Reagan with Vice President George H.W. Bush and House Speaker Jim Wright during the 1988 State of the Union address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two recent presidents come to mind I believe thoroughly enjoyed giving the state of the union speech. They are Presidents Ronald Wilson Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton.  They just seem to relish the whole spectacle and ritual of being announced, walking down the aisle, shaking hands, and standing before the whole Congressional branch, with representatives from the Judicial Branch and the Pentagon, and constituents in the balcony,  knowing that they were the big dogs in that neighborhood.  You could see it in their eyes—they loved it! Besides the election, it’s the Super Bowl and World Series all wrapped up in one event for the President.  The address is his chance to be and look Presidential. The speech is his chance to form a consensus while outlining his legislative priorities he believes will make the United States a better nation.

English: Al Gore and Newt Gingrich applaud to ...
English: Al Gore and Newt Gingrich applaud to US president Clinton waves during the State of the Union address in 1997. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)e

I get a laugh out of the congressional audience camera close up, television cut-away reaction shot depending on which party is in power.  Once the President presents an idea, one side might stand and applaud while the other sits stone-faced, looking like they  heard a joke from a comedian that fell flat.  It’s half of the drama of watching.  Who will the TV cameras focus on while sitting there obstinate?  I almost want to see the President act like a college professor or teacher and ask the person not applauding, “Hey there, yes Senator, why aren’t you getting with the program, join the team and come in for the big win.”

The sitting on the hands routine is what makes America unique. We can disagree impolitely, as in a bar fight, or politely, as in sitting and staring, refusing to acknowledge the brilliance of a statement when others around you are cheering wildly.