Friday, September 30, 2016

Native American Biography: Louis Sockalexis: Book Review: Indian Summer

 Indian Summer: The Forgotten Story of Louis Sockalexis the First Native american in Major League Baseball, by Brian McDonald, Rodale, Emmaus, PA, 2003.
I found this story very fascinating.  I had never heard of Louis Socalexis.  He was Panobscot, and grew up on Indian Island in the Penobscot River.  He took up baseball after watching others play, and used it to get a college education.  He played college ball for Holy Cross.  He was a team star, playing in the outfield and hitting.  He was noted for his speed, his ability to track down a ball, his arm, and his bat.  He was a well rounded player.  When he joined the Cleveland team, the name of the team changed to Indians to reflect their new rookie.  The team was known as Tebeau's tribe (their manager.)  Sockalexis was touted as a future star, and that he was.  He hit home runs, touring home runs.  He through a runner out at the plate, he ran down base balls, and he could steal bases standing up with his speed.  However he had to deal with tremendous pressure.  Wherever he traveled he was taunted with war whoops and people making fun of his name.  The pressure got to him, and he turned to drink.  It was the drink that was his undoing.  While drinking, he umped from a second story window and broke his ankle.  He never took time for the ankle to heal properly, as he had to get back to the bars.  He was kept on the roster, but for many games was inactive.  He didn't play the later part of the season because of his drinking.  The next year, the owner bought a new club, the St. Louis ball team.  He jumped ship because he wan't allowed to play Sunday games in Cleveland.  His second year he was part of the worst team in baseball history.  He didn't make it through the season and was released.  He struggled for a time, but eventually made it home to his people.  There he started to heal.  He was involved in baseball umpiring.  He worked in logging or other jobs.  Both his parents passed away.  Sockalexis died rather young, age 42 form a heart attack.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Barbary War: A Steep Price for Peace

This is a review of a chapter from the book, Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America, by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe and Hannah Beck, Threshold Editions, New York, 2013.
This story explains why the Marine Song includes the line, "To the shores of Tripoli."  When the United States was a new nation the Barbary Coast pirates were notorious, with safe haven in Tripoli and many other North African Ports.  Yussef Qaramanli had taken Hamet Quaramanli's, his brother's throne as Pashta, and supported the pirates, and demanded ransom from countries for safe passage.  He demanded millions of dollars from the United States, which at the time represented over ten percent of the country's budget.  Finally, when Thomas Jefferson was president, war was declared.  The people of Tripoli had overtaken the U.S. consulate.  However, early efforts to fight the pirates failed.  Finally a large ship, the U.S.S. Philadelphia was sent.  They were going to make their first capture, but ran aground and were surrounded and the sailors caught and made slaves.  This would begin a hell that would last a year and a half for these men, including Marines.  Stephen Decatur later lead a force which boarded the Philadelphia, used her cannon to fire upon the city, and then her aflame and she sank when the magazine room was lit.  The men escaped.

William Eaton, the former consul approached Jefferson with a plan to replace Yussef with his brother, the rightful ruler.  He was given men and money to make this happen.  He put together an army which traveled over desert from Alexandria, some 400 miles to reach their first test, Derna.  This was an outlying town loyal to Yussef.  Supported the the Navy, Eaton and his men of Marines, European mercenaries and Muslims loyal to Hamet.  Hamet traveled with them.  They finally stormed the fortified positions at Derna, and won the day.

However reinforcements from Tripoli, loyal to Yussef arrived and pinned them in the city.  However siege was futile as Eaton and his men were well supplied by the U.S. Navy.  A new ship arrived, and with it orders from Jefferson that peace terms had been accepted.  Yussef would retain his crown.  The mercenaries and Hamet would be taken to Italy.  The imprisoned sailors and Marines were freed from their hell.  However Eaton remained bitter as he knew he could have taken Tripoli and effected regime change.
Yussef broke all the agreements of the treaty.  The taking of Tripoli had to be done later.  It wasn't until after the War of 1812, that the U.S. had a Naval force such that they could back up their threats.  They went to Tripoli and forced a final peace.

Chapter Review: Streets of Gold: Charles Ponzi and the American Scheme

I am familiar with the term, Ponzi Scheme, but was not familiar with the man who prompted this term.  That man is Charles Ponzi, was born Carlo Ponzi in Italy.  He flunked out of university, and so set his sights on America as a place to win his fortune.  He had heard the streets in America were made of gold.  He eventually drifted north, where he became involved in  a scheme to pay back loans (self loans made to yourself illegally from people giving you money to wire to relatives).  It eventually tumbled, and Ponzi was jailed for writing a forged check to himself.  He then landed in Federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia for helping people enter the United States illegally.  While there he met Charles Morse, and from him learned more about speculation schemes.   He thought about returning to Europe, to fight for Italy in the war, but changed his mind  He met a woman, fell in love and married Rose Gneccco.  Rose contended they didn't need to be rich to be happy.  However Ponzi had other ideas, and began promising incredible returns to his investors in a scheme to buy International Reply Coupons abroad, and sell them in the United States.  The idea being they were accepted for postage any where in the world, but were sold more cheaply in Europe.  This he used as his draw, but what he was really doing was paying investors back with the money from new investors.  In fact the Post Office had written him a letter saying such a scheme was not allowed.  No matter if he made believe this was his method, and besides, he was paying people back with incredible interest.  We are all gamblers.  We all crave easy money.
Working upon this crave Ponzi kept his scheme going for several years.  He bought a large mansion.  He brought his mother from Italy.  He had made good.  When the paper ran an article about his investment program, he made even more money.  However, eventually in such a scheme, the debts our weigh the assets, and when that happens it comes crashing down.  Thousands of people lost millions of dollars.  When it collapsed, and he was audited, his scheme was up.  After serving five years in prison he was deported.  He died in Brazil a broke man, but he had given the people of America quite a show for a time.

Constitution Day September 17, 1787

Constitution Day commemerates the day the Constitution was signed by those who wrote it at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  It is also observed as citizenship day.  Schools generally provide education about the Constitution on this day.  Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution December 7 that same year.  In 1790 Rhode Island became the last of the original thirteen states to ratify.  George Washington became president in 1789.

Chapter Review: Woodrow Wilson: A Masterful Stroke of Deception

This chapter is from the book: Dreamers and Deceivers by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe.  It is subtitled True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Made America.  Published by Threshold Editions, New York, 2014.
Woodrow Wilson was a progressive educator, President of Princeton.  However when offered the chance to run for governor, as a jumping point to run for president he jumped at the opportunity.  There were concerns about his health, arteriosclerosis, but he did not let that stand in is way.  In fact, during his first term as president, it was not his health, but his wife's that was a concern.  His wife died of liver disease, and her passing devastated him.  However he remarried while in the White House.  He married Edith Bolling Galt, a woman who shared his political views.  Wilson was a racist from the South.  He did not support women's suffrage and felt women were inferior, and should compliment men.  He also allowed segregation to take place int eh federal government, and supported Jim Crow laws.  He also agreed with the movie "Birth of a Nation" which during his presidency, was the first movie screened in the White House, with its reference to the Ku Klux Klan as saviors of the South.  However he won reelection on the theme, "I kept us out of War," referring to WWI.  However it wasn't long into his second term that the United States entered the war.  Woodrow Wilson's biggest push was to negotiate a treaty not too harsh on the Germans, and to establish the League of Nations.  However, in the end of his presidency, Wilson was absent.  He had a stroke, which left his face droopy, and his arm paralyzed.  He was also afflicted by paranoia and anger.  It was his wife, Edith, who in essence ran the country.  She was able to pass him off as running the country to two senators, but still he was ineffective as an actual world leader.  The final treaty at the end of WWI was punitive to the germans, requiring war reparations and taking territory from them.  Resentment over this treaty lead to the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler, and played a real part in continued hostilities.  The League of Nations was only a shell of what Wilson envisioned, as a result of his stroke he could not pursue it vigorously, and only after compromise was it acceptable to the United States.
Of course as it happened, knowledge of WILson's stroke was not common knowledge.  It was only over 40 years later at the death of his doctor, Cary Grayson, and release of his notes, that the serious nature of his health problems was known.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chapter Review: The Constitutional Debate in Virgiania

The constitutional debate pitted Alexander Hamilton arguing against the ratification of the constitution, while James Madison argued for ratification.  The federalist, those for the constitution, had decided that a stronger federal government was needed to ensure the continued existence of our nation.  Those who argued against did not want a more central government which they equated with kings and tyranny.  Edmond randolph spoke for ratification, while George Mason spoke against the document without a Bill of Rights.  James Madison felt his side, the Federalist were winning.  But that was before Patrick Henry stood to talk, and point by point tore the constitution apart.  It was almost to the point of blows between he and Randolph.  However, the next day, Hamilton came back and only spoke of the need for a Bill of Rights, which was put to a vote as an amendment.  The Federalist argued the Bill of Rights could be added after ratification.  However, passing amendments would but all those states who had already ratified the Constitution back in the ratification stage.  The vote for the amendments was close, but did not pass.  With that vote the vote for ratification of the Constitution also passed.  However wise minds prevailed, and a Bill of Rights was added to the constitution.
This is a summary of the chapter in Glenn Beck: Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Victory and Despair

With Russia rescinding in the east, Germany was able to move troops to the west, and with the beginning of 1918 they were able to unleash an offensive that threw the Allies back 30 miles.  This is more territory than had been changed in the past three years.  This was known as the Ludendorff Offensive and brought the Germans to within miles of Paris.  However an allied, tank-lead counterattack put the germans on their heals and pushed them back to the original lines.  At that time the United States now entered the war.  The Allies, following the example of the Australians began to use coordinated air and ground attacks, with troops following tanks.  This allowed the allies a new strategy which was effective.
However they still face the Hindenburg Line, a strong German defensive position with barbed wire and concrete defensive works.  However they were able to make a create a break in the line, and the next day followed up this break.  German morale was greatly influenced, but while they still had some morale, they proposed peace.  However the Germans were able to regain some momentum and talks of peace faded for a time.  It was the blockade that lead to peace.  The Germans were starving.  At this time, the war seemed a wasted effort to the Allies, as the outcome seemed certain.  Casualties remained high.  But everybody knew the end must be close.
The Kaiser sacked his general who did not want to surrender, and himself abdicated, and went into hiding.  An armistice was finally signed 11 November 1918, and the guns went silent.
Armistice of Compiegne

Book Review: September 11: Snapshots in History

September 11: Snapshots in History, by Andrew Langley, Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2006.
Written on the fifth year anniversary of 9/11, or ten years ago, this book tells the story of 9/11.  It does a fairly good job of telling the events of the day, although no book could totally capture the day.  I thin the place the book bogs down is his going back in history to try to explain why the terrorists would do such a thing.  It seems the author is somehow trying to justify the actions of the terrorists, or cast blame where it doesn't belong.  He also talks about three major world religions coming out of the area, but he only talks about the tenants of one.  To be more balanced he should have also mentioned the beliefs of all three religions, or not mentioned them at all.  He tries to explain how the teaches of Islam have become the teachings of Islam, as they protect the world from the influence of evil.  I guess I am saying much of this book is cow pucky.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Mayhem on the Eastern Front

This episode talks a bout the war on the Russian front.  It includes mention of the Armenian holocaust in which the Turkish government killed 1.5 million Armenians.  Turkey was affiliate with Germany and Austria.  Italy entered the war on the Allied side.  In an effort to alleviate some of this suffering, Russia appealed to the other allies.  Germany attempted a Naval campaign in the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey.j  This was under the command of Winston Churchill.  At first the Naval vessels set to open with a bombardment hit enemy mines.  When the British forces landed (New Zealand, English and Australian) the became bogged down in a stalemate.  They were removed some months later with the loss of 250,000 casualties.  Churchill was sacked.
The Russians continued to fight, and defended Warsaw from German invasion.  However eventually their forces wore down, and Warsaw fell.  At the same time Czar Nicholas lost control of his country, and the Communist rose to power.  The Russians then left the war.  Russia suffered about 2 million military deaths during the war and another million civilian deaths.  With them leaving the war, the germans could now focus on their western front, France and England.  The effect of the reinforcement from the east was first felt in Italy, as the Germans brought more divisions into the area.  The war would have gone the way except the entry of the United States into the war at about the same time.

Book review: The Seminole

The Seminole by Liz Sonneborn, Watts Library, A Division of Scholastic, New York, 2001.
The Seminole, in a real way are a combination of many Native Americans, and escaped slaves who fled to Florida.  They had an agricultural life style, living close to their farms to keep them safe.  They were involved in three wars against the U.S. government.  The first took place before Florida was even part of the United States.  Never the less, Andrew Jackson lead a U.S. force into Florida.  This was precipitated by plantation owner claiming the Seminole had stolen their slaves.  Jackson gained a victory, the Seminole headed south, leaving their best farm lands behind them.  Shortly after, Florida became a part of the United States when Spain sold the territory.
When Andrew Jackson became president, his goal was to remove the Seminole from Florida to the Indian territories in Oklahoma.  Many gave way and relocated.  Others refused, and this started the second Seminole War.  Osceola lead the Seminole resistance.  However at a negotiation he was captures and thrown in prison, where he would die from illness.  Cooacoochee then lead the Seminole.  Their defeat only took time, and more Seminole were sent west.  However some still refused, moving deeper into the Everglades.  There economy now became dependent on hunting as it was more difficult to raise crops.  They also ate wild plants.  Here they remained for some time, until surveyors entered the area.  Billy Bowlegs did not trust them, and attacked.  This lead to the third Seminole War, with even more being sent west, Billy Bowlegs among them.  However some stayed.  There are now two Seminole Nations, in the east and in the west.  The western Seminole had further problems.  At first they were not given territory, but later negotiated an area.  However they were torn in the Civil War.  The Seminole officially supported the Confederacy.  Some refused and traveled to Kansas to join the Union soldiers.  
Today both nations have their own governments, and economic bases including gambling.  They also include appeal to the tourist industry with museums, and in the eastern nation, alligator wrestlers.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Killers of the Sea

Killers of the sea of course refers the the German U-Boats.  The struck with deadly effect, however they went too far.  The sunk the cruise ship Lusitania, which was a propaganda victory for the British and eventually lead to the entry of the United States into the war.  For a time Germany agreed to not attack merchant vessels indiscriminately, but when they returned to this policy, the United States entered the war.  However the U-Boats continued to be a problem.  Britain maintained a blockade of Germany, and Germany used the U-boats to destroy supplies headed to England.  Both these strategies proved effective.  In Germany, a population use to eating meat, they many were subsisting on turnips by the end of the war.  Rationing also went into effect in England.
This war produced ever larger naval vessels, dreadnought battleships if you will.  There was only one major naval battle, the Battle of Jutland.  In this battle the the British Grand Fleet faced the German High Seas Fleet.  The first day was a German victory, as two of the British cruisers exploded after their powder kegs were ignited.  However the British retreated to where their larger vessels were waiting, and the second day proved otherwise.  During the two days of fighting fourteen British vessels were sunk, and eleven German.  The battle continued into the night, with the British trying to cut the Germans off from their home base.  However the next morning they had escaped.  Both sides claimed victory, but the Germans new better than to try to engage the British again.  This became the last major naval battle in history involving battleships agains battleships.
The War at sea remained a desperate affair until the British gained ways to slow down the U-boats.  This took place with large air ships-balloon based which could cruise the seas for long periods of time, and then also closing in on the U-boat bases and trying to eliminate their access.  This was done partially by sinking old ships in the mouth of the bay.  Only after the U-boats were somewhat controlled could the U.S. forces travel by sea to join the fighting.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Blood in the Air

The use of aircraft in WWI first revolved around reconnaissance.  Balloons were first used, but they were too vulnerable to attack.  Faster aircraft were needed.  However here again, aircraft were not very well armed.  The problem was shooting through the propeller.  A British pilot reinforced his propellers with steal, and thus every tenth bullet would ricochet but not bring the aircraft down.  It was a Danish scientist working for the Germans who discovered a way to synchronize the machine gun and the airplane propeller.  This technological advance gave the Germans a superiority in the air.  However the intelligence was needed, so still the pilots flew, and many were shot down.  The British planes and later American planes, would have a second man with a machine gun shooting behind, but this was not as effective as being able to fire ahead of you.  The Fokker Scourge as this advantage was called resulted in many being shot out of the sky.  One of those who benefitted was the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen, who was credited with downing 80 planes.  He would eventually be shot down by a machine gun on the ground.
there was a year for the technology of the allies to catch up.
WWI also introduced the idea of launching planes from naval vessels.  This was developed by the British as a way to combat the German U-Boats.  Also bombing was introduced during this time.  Germany introduced bombing of civilian areas, as they bombed London, first from zeppelins and then from bombers called Gotha bombers.  In the end, the air war in WWI was mostly air combats, with one pilot going against another.

Book Review: The Erie Canal

The Erie Canal by Martha E. Kendall, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2008.
I didn't realize the Erie Canal had been built so early in the history of the United States.  It would run from Buffalo to Syracuse and the Hudson River.  The canal was begun in 1817.  It was the dream of DeWitt Clinton, who had become governor of New York.  The building of the canal posed challenges, it included technology that had not been worked out when they began the canal.  They started with the middle more flat section of the canal.  The first section opened for use in 1819.  In 1820 more was added for use.  However the first section of the canal was almost stopped by disease carrying mosquitoes.  There was a swampy area to go through, and workers refused to work this.  Finally, the area was dug during the winter, when the mud and the mosquitoes were not quite such a problem.  The mosquitoes even took the life of DeWitt's wife.
Other areas of concern were those areas requiring locks, and crossing existing waterways.  An aqueduct was built over the Genesee River.  Another marvel was the Lockport Combine, a series of five locks in a row.  Here the cliff face was blasted using black powder, a new invention.
The entire length of the canal was opened in 1825, and just as DeWitt had predicted, was a financial boon to New York, as well as the nation.  It opened up the areas of Ohio to migration.  Communities developed along the canal.  It allowed for the movement of agricultural products to New York City.  During the early days along the canal, vehicles were pulled by horses or mules along the shore.  The foot path was only on one side, so if two boats met there was some difficulty in passing.  On boat would have to stop to allow the tow lines to settle to the bottom, then the other would pass over the top.  Young people called Hoggees would man the mules pulling the boats.  The canal had very low bridges, and consequently it was important to watch yourself as a bridge could push you off the boat.
 The canal has been enlarged a couple of times.  It originally was 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep, then 75 feet wide and now 200 feet wide and 12 feet deep.  Many families lived on the canal, riding up and down transporting goods and people.  Until the advent of the railroad it was the preferred method of travel for many going West.  The St. Lawrence Sea Way now takes most of the commercial travel. The Erie Canal it is most often used for recreational purposes.  Riverboats ply its waters for pleasure cruises.  People in canoes, row boats and other small boats also use the canal for recreation.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Slaughter in the Trenches

For two years the two armies faced each other across the trenches, and although both sides would try, both sides would be fought back.  The machine gun and artillery fire would turn back every attack.  The Allies would advance only 6 miles in this time, and loss 600,000 men.  The winter of 1916 was especially cold; but the cold did not stop the killing.
The mail from home was a joy to the British soldiers.  The mail was able to arrive in just two days, both ways.  Cakes and other goodies would often cheer up the men.  The statement "We go over the top" was dreaded, and filled all the soldiers with fear.  Who knew how many would come back.
Towards the end of 2918, after two years of this trench warfare struggle, both French and British troops had a lack of morale.  At one point, the French soldiers held a sort of mutiny, where they would not go on.  British morale was also low.  However two new introductions started to make a change.  The British introduced un-targeted artillery barrages.  Usually a few shells were fired to home into the target.  Stopped this practice allowed for more surprise in attack.  The second advance was the introduction of the tank.  

Documentary Review: World War I in Colour: Catastrophe

The 28 of June 1914 in Sarajevo a bomb had been thrown at a car, the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the thrown, and his wife escaped harm.  However a few hours later, the car is stopped again, and this time an assassin kills the duke and his wife, Sophie with a pistol.  A terrorist organization back by Serbia is blamed.  Austria decides to punish the Serbs, and the countdown to war has begun.
On July 28 Austria declared war on Serbia.  The alignments of nations then came into play.  This included Great Britain, France and Russia having an alignment, and Russia being the protectorate of Serbia.  On the other side, Hungary Austria had an alignment with Germany.  Russia defending Serbia lead to Germany declaring war on Russia.  Britain followed declaring war on Germany on August 4.  The whole continent was falling into war.
At first  everyone declared that the war would be over by Christmas.  Had it been, it would have meant a German victory.  Germany attacked France through Belgium, and go to within 30 miles of Paris.  However a counterattack by the French forces, and the British Expeditionary Force was able to force the Germans to retreat.  This counterattack was helped by the Paris taxi cabs which transported many French forces to the battle.
On the other side of the war, Russia had successfully invaded Germany, only to see this offensive halted by counterattack with many Russians taken prisoner.
At the end of the first year are the scenes of the temporary Christmas truce between British, French and German forces.  However the war was not over by Christmas.

Documentary Review: Saint of 9/11

This documentary tells the story of Father Mychal Judge, who was a New York Fire Department chaplain, and died on 9/11 when the first tower fell.  His body was carried from the wreckage.  This documentary tells Mychal's story and influence of his life.  He reached out to the poor and destitute of New York.  He had a fire department car, which he would pack with items for the poor and homeless.  His most important work was among those with HIV and AIDS.  He was a mostly closeted gay man himself, and when he heard of the AIDS HIV related disease, he found a new mission in lift, from which he was not dissuaded.  The story is punctuated with a mass given by the father on September 10 to a group of fireman.  The next day the World Trade Center fell.
This documentary is narrated by Ian McKlellan

Book Review: Utah Indian Stories

Utah Indian Stories, by Milton R. Hunter, fourth edition, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Ut, 1960.
This book is an enigma.  It is not really Utah Indian Stories, but Utah pioneer stories about the Indians.  It tells over and over of the bravery of the pioneers in facing the Indians, and how their courage at times influenced the Indians so they would escape with their lives because of their bravery.   As a result most of the book is forgettable, except for the last few chapters.  There is a very good section on  Chief Black Hawk.  We actually see the life of a Native American.  We see him make a commitment to a Mormon Bishop, that none of his family would be touched.  however on of the Bishop's sons was killed.  He was ready to sacrifice his own life in an attempt to make things right.  We also see the conclusion of Black hawk's War.  When he was dying he tried to make amends by coming to peace with the Mormons.  He was dying of tuberculosis.

Documentary Review: Japanese American Incarceration: 1942-1945

This is a documentary about the National Park Service efforts to preserve the stories of the Japanese incarceration during WWII.  The documentary focusing mostly on Manzanar in California east of Kings Canyon, but also presents Tule Lake in Northern California, Minidoka in Idaho and Heart Mountain in Idaho.  Some of the camps preserved are from the efforts of local organizations while others are directed by the national Park service.
WWII was a very difficult time in our history.  The relocation camps were created by executive order from President Roosevelt.  It wasn't until President Reagan that an official apology came from the United States for our having denied these people their civil rights.
This film informed me of a website, which collects stories of those who lived int he relocation camps.  The efforts of this group are not to forget the stories of the people.  It points out that one of the major hurdles was at the end of the war and the people went back to their cities, having lost all, and being given only $25.  The struggle just began for many of these families.
There were a total of 10 relocation camps, where 110,000 Japanese American citizens were interred.  I was disappointed not more was said of Topaz Mountain in Utah.  I have visited this camp.  However it is not very well preserved (or wasn't when I visited.)