Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tea Party Tries to Tamper with Tennessee Text Books: Wants to Erase Slavery from History

A cartoon threatening that the KKK would lynch...Image via WikipediaAmericaImage by acb via Flickr
Winners write history; losers sometimes try to rewrite it.  Just when you probably thought you’d seen the craziest thing a partisan group could do, along comes the Tea Party and surprises you.  In early 2011, the Texas Board of Education bowed to pressure from Tea Party activists in that state and approved revisions to the social studies curriculum, putting a conservative twist on history with revised textbooks and teaching standards, putting a positive spin on slavery in America, elevating Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president to an equal status with Abraham Lincoln, and downgrading the teaching of the value of separation of church and state.


English: Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was the p...Image via Wikipedia


This not subtle racist move by conservative Texas politicians has caused a number of groups, in particular those supporting minorities, to push back at efforts to ‘whitewash’ the nation’s history.  They now have new reason to worry.  Tea Party activists in the state of Tennessee are pushing to have history textbooks in that state edited to remove references to the Founding Fathers being slaveholders, as well as references to the mass killing of Native American populations.  This group of misguided citizens would have future generations of students in their state; and one can surmise they also wish the rest of the country would follow; grow up thinking that our past history contained no negative acts committed by their white forefathers.  That last phrase must be stressed, because, as in Texas, they don’t wish to delete from history books any negative things done by minorities.  For instance, in Texas, while lawmakers voted down a requirement that students be taught about the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, they’re allowed to be taught about violent acts perpetrated by the Black Panther Party.


The Tennessee group’s spokesperson, Hal Rounds, in describing the motivation behind the effort, reportedly told a news conference “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.  The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody – not all equally instantly - and it was their progress that we need to look at.”  One has to wonder where Mr. Rounds, an attorney no less, got his ‘facts’ to support his contention that statements that European settlers intruded on Native American land, or held slaves, is ‘made up.’  Nowhere in his statement does one hear the need for history to be an accurate recount of events, negative as well as positive, so that students have a fuller understanding and appreciation of how much progress has been made.  No, in Tennessee, the Tea Party is calling for textbooks to include selection criteria such that “No portray of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or accomplishments of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of authority.”

If this alone is not enough to frighten you, during a news conference the group handed out written material that said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States.  We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”  Further, they want teaching that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”


It doesn’t take much reflection to see shades of Nazi Germany here.  The group that perceives itself to be the dominant group with society takes steps to rewrite history to reinforce that dominance and superiority.  Further, it ensures that those it deems ‘inferior’ are put in their proper place; at the bottom if not completely written out of the history.  Like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, they want the ‘truth to mean what they say it means.’  Even more frightening is the prospect that these moves by the Tea Party, coming one year apart, but being eerily similar, are not part of a coordinated assault on the U.S. education system to move us back to the Nineteenth Century, or even earlier, when black people were considered by the Constitution to be ‘three-fifths’ a person and Native Americans weren’t even considered; back to the days of ‘separate but equal,’ a concept that was blatantly hypocritical even at its inception.

Do they really think that Thomas Jefferson’s ownership of slaves; or his fathering of children by his slave mistress, detracts from his authorship of the Declaration of Independence?  Do they have so little faith in the ability of people to process the fullness of information about our history that certain parts have to be excised, and the Founding Fathers be thus raised to the status of saints who ‘did no wrong?”  Or, could there be a hidden, more insidious motive behind these efforts?  One can only wonder.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hyperinflation and Misinformation: Two Debilitating Diseases

Hyperinflation sounds like some serious medical condition, and, in fact, it does describe a particular illness.  But, it is also an economic condition, and that’s what I want to discuss here.

Hyperinflation, or very high inflation when prices increase rapidly while currency declines in value, is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon.  The threshold for determining when hyperinflation exists is somewhat arbitrary, but economists generally use it when the inflation rate exceeds fifty percent. 
The most widely studied case hyperinflation is that which occurred in Germany after World War I.  The inflation rate in November 1923 was 322 percent.  While historically this is perhaps the best known case of hyperinflation, in Hungary, after World War II, prices rose more than 19,000 percent per month, or 19 percent in a single day.  In October 1923, German prices rose at a rate of 41 percent per day.  In July 1946, prices in Hungary rose more than 300 percent per day.

What are the causes of hyperinflation?  There is, unfortunately, no single factor, no matter how severe, that can explain sustained, continuously rapid growth in prices; not war, not destruction of resources, not the actions of external actors.  It does, however, occur when the monetary and fiscal authorities of a country issue on a regular basis large quantities of money to pay for government expenditures.  This extremely rapid growth of paper money, when not backed with increased industrial output, is a pernicious form of taxation, with the government benefiting at the expense of those who are forced to hold currency that has no value.

Hyperinflation tends to be a self-perpetuating condition.  When a government decides to fund its expenditures by issuing money and the rate of inflation increases, it will soon discover that it can no longer buy as much, and if it responds by printing more money, it begins the cycle – or, perhaps a better description is ‘decline’ into spiraling hyperinflation.  How, one might ask, does a government end hyperinflation?  Economists are divided on the answer to this.  Some believe that it takes a credible commitment on the part of government to stop the proliferation of paper money, while others believe that it is also necessary to take steps to balance the government’s budget.  Whichever side of the argument you support, what is clear is that the responsibility to end hyperinflation falls squarely in the lap of the government.

A firm commitment by government to restore public confidence in its monetary and fiscal policies, and an adoption of policies that drive people toward monetary rather than barter transactions, is absolutely essential.  People have to have their faith in money restored to the point where they are willing to hold money rather than spending it as quickly as possible.  Sometimes, as in the case of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, the cure hurts in the early phase of application almost as much as the disease, but if the policies are held to firmly, the situation can be reversed.

Inflation in Zimbabwe at independence in 1980 was 7%, and until 1999 fluctuated, rising to nearly 50% on several occasions, but never qualifying as hyperinflation.  In 1999, the rate was 59.9%, jumping to over 100% in 2001, and finally surpassing 11 million percent until the local currency was abandoned in favor of a multi-currency regime in 2009 (primarily the US Dollar and the South African Rand).  Some of the measures the government took included declaring inflation illegal, with CEOs subject to arrest for changing prices.  Needless to say, price freezes and arrests did nothing to halt hyperinflation; instead, goods disappeared from the shelves of stores, and many people were forced to illegally use foreign currency.

One often hears that it was U.S. and European sanctions that caused, or at least aggravated hyperinflation.  There is, however, never any data presented to support such a claim, and only those uninitiated in economic matters actually subscribe to such a claim.  Sanctions, or other external policies of other governments, did not control government expenditures or determine the volume of currency being printed, nor did they have a role in government actions that dismantled the economy’s productive agricultural sector or cause declines in mining and manufacturing.  What doesn’t get mentioned when this claim is proffered is that, instead of facing its responsibility and adopting rational monetary and fiscal policies, the government continued to spend and print money.

Hyperinflation is a disease that sometimes can’t be prevented, but failure to accept responsibility can certainly aggravate it.  There are no simple answers to such phenomena, and efforts to shift the blame externally do nothing to correct the deficiency.  When hyperinflation is compounded by misinformation, though, one thing is sure; the people of a country are the ones who suffer.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hurl Insults With Class - Read the Bard

On my Facebook page, where I have a large number of Zimbabwean followers, I often have a problem with people who find it difficult to disagree without using profanity or name-calling; in other words, they haven’t learned to disagree without being disagreeable.  I have, unfortunately, had to block a few who simply refuse to abide by my rules of the house on such behavior, something I’d really like not to have to do.
Recently, I came across an interesting article on the use of Shakespeare to insult people – a humorous little piece that suggests combining words and phrases from the Bard, preceded by ‘Thou,’ as a way of insulting people in a way that leaves them stunned and impressed with your erudition, and pierced with your sharp wit.  I recommend it if you simply can’t resist verbal barbs from time to time. 
Here’s how it works; you combine phrases like, ‘drooling,’ ‘beef-witted,’ and ‘laggard,’ preceded by ‘thou’ and followed by what bothers you.  For instance, “Thou drooling, beef-witted laggard, how cans’t thou hold such views?”  See how witty that makes you sound?  How about this one, “Thou artless, motley minded codpiece, thou knowest nothing whereof thou speaketh.”  Now, that’s classic.  If you want to be thought of as sharp-tongued, but classy, you can’t beat Shakespeare for combinations of words that fairly sing with rebuke and disdain, but from a decidedly upper (class) berth.
So, while I strongly recommend that you foreswear verbal outbursts and ad hominem attacks, if you simply must, do it with a bit of taste and class.  For writers this can come in really handy if the review of your last book left a lot to be desired; you put the dastardly varlet in his place, and demonstrate at the same time that you are in fact one hell of a great writer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

AFRICA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2012 CONGRESS

Zimbabwe to Host ATA’s 37th Annual World Congress in May 2012

NEW YORK, NY, January 18, 2012 – The Honorable Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Engineer Walter Mzembi, and Executive Director of the Africa Travel Association (ATA), Edward Bergman, announced today that Zimbabwe will host ATA’s 37th Annual World Congress in the resort town of Victoria Falls in May 2012.

“It is indeed an honor to be the proud host of the ATA’s 2012 World Congress. The 37th annual Congress in Zimbabwe will afford the delegates an opportunity to experience our many attractions.” said Honorable Minister Mzembi. “We look forward to telling our story about Zimbabwe, A World of Wonders.”

The five-day congress will kick off in the world’s adventure capital, Victoria Falls, on Friday, May 18. Among the expected 300 participants are tourism ministers, tourism board heads, private sector leaders, travel industry professionals, including product buyers and sellers, travel trade media, scholars and African Diaspora leaders.

“ATA was last in Zimbabwe in 1988, when the congress was held in Harare and, after 23 years, we’re proud to be heading back,” said Bergman. “We are positive that the 2012 congress will attract leading tourism experts from across the globe.  It will surpass all expectations and is an event not to be missed.”

Zimbabwe, also known as “a world of wonders,” boasts a wide array of attractions, including its own seven wonders: (1) People and culture; (2) History and heritage; (3) Great Zimbabwe (grand medieval palace); (4) Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya); (5) Wildlife and nature; (6) Eastern Highlands; and (7) Lake Kariba. Delegates will sample some of these wonders during the Host Country Day and by participating in pre and post congress tours.

This announcement follows a recent ATA trip to Zimbabwe hosted by the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, as well as the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, K. Kaseke, and where the delegation met with representatives from the tourism sector and the media.   

The ATA delegation also met with Ambassador Charles Ray, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe who expressed his support with the following statement: “Zimbabwe offers a ‘World of Wonders’ to tickle the fancy and sense of adventure of the full array of international travelers…Your visit to Zimbabwe will bring a smile to your face for a lifetime.  I applaud ATA’s vision in hosting its 37th Annual Congress in Victoria Falls and opening the world’s eyes to what Zimbabwe has to offer.  I look forward to seeing you by the Falls in May.”

The 2012 Congress will address timely industry topics such as web-based PR and on-line communications tourism promotion, and the latest travel trends in Africa. The Congress also offers a wide range of networking events, including receptions and gala dinners. ATA’s Young Professionals Program, representing travel, tourism and hospitality students and young professionals from North America and Africa, will also participate in the event.

ATA’s 36th Annual World Congress in Senegal was held in Dakar, Senegal in May 2011 under the banner “Destination Senegal: A Tourism Gateway Inspired by Culture, Heritage and Arts.”

About the Congress
World Congress details will be posted at http://africatravelassociation.org/events/ac.html.

Companies interested in sponsorship and/or promotional opportunities should contact ATA at +1.212.447.1357 or info@AfricaTravelAssociation.org.

About Zimbabwe
For more information on Zimbabwe, visit http://www.zimbabwetourism.net/

About the Africa Travel Association (ATA)
The Africa Travel Association (ATA) is the leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships. Established in 1975, ATA serves both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry. ATA membership comprises African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries. ATA partners with the African Union Commission (AU) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa. ATA’s annual events bring together industry leaders to shape Africa’s tourism agenda. For more information about ATA, visit http://www.africatravelassociation.org/

Ambassador Ray on U.S.- Zimbabwe Relations

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Buffalo Soldier: Trial by Fire" Available in Paperback

The promotion for a free e-Book copy of "Buffalo Soldier:  Trial by Fire" is still on, but readers who prefer paperback can now purchase a copy for $5.95 at Amazon.com at the following link:

https://www.createspace.com/3776888


Boss or Leader: Which Do You Want to be?

Boss or Leader: Which Do You Want to be?

"Buffalo Soldier: Trial by Fire"

Now that you've had a chance to read the first chapter, I have an offer that you can't refuse - sorry, I stole that line from "The Godfather." - to the first ten people who can provide correct answers to the question below, I will send a free copy of the electronic version of the book.

Question:  What were the units for black soldiers in the U.S. Army, and when were the established.  I need unit designations and date of establishment.

Send your responses to rayca7@yahoo.com, and the first ten correct answers will get "Buffalo Soldier:  Trial by Fire" before it comes out in paperback or e-Book version.  In addition to getting a first look at a great story, you'll also learn something about America's colorful (no pun intended) military history.

Buffalo Soldier: Trial by Fire - First Chapter

Following is chapter one of "Buffalo Soldier:  Trial by Fire," a fictional account of the exploits of the U.S. 9th Cavalry, "Buffalo Soldiers," which will soon be available in paperback at Amazon.com and when I can get the software to work as a NOOK book on Barnes and Noble.




     Sergeant Benjamin Franklin Carter rode hunched in the saddle.

     He’d been on the trail for two days, riding from sunup, stopping when the sun was at its highest to eat a sparse meal of beef jerky, hardtack biscuit, and tepid coffee brewed over a small fire, until the sun was perched on the horizon.  He would then find a bit of relatively soft ground, where he’d lay out his blanket and, using his saddle for a pillow, get a few hours sleep until the first light of the morning sun awakened him.

     It was still getting on to about an hour before noon, and he reckoned he was no more than an hour’s ride from his destination.

     He’d been sent from Fort Davis to take charge of a detachment of soldiers from the 9th Calvary Regiment’s F Troop, who’d been stationed in a valley not far from the Mexican border to guard the scattered ranches in the area from marauding Comanche warriors who occasionally crossed the border to attack.  The former sergeant in charge, Staff Sergeant Willie Jenkins, had been stung by a scorpion and was still laid up in the Fort Davis infirmary, his leg swollen to nearly twice its size.

     Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt, the officer commanding C, D, F, G, H, and I Troops, had called Ben into his office after Jenkins had been brought back, and the trooper who’d escorted him back had ridden off to rejoin his comrades.

     Ben walked in, positioned himself three feet from the colonel’s desk, and saluted smartly.  His mahogany face was impassive as he stared at a point an inch above the portly white officer’s head.

     “Sergeant Benjamin Carter reporting as ordered, sir,” he said.

     Merritt returned the salute with a wave of his hand.

     “At ease, sergeant,” he said.

     Ben snapped his feet shoulder width apart and put his hands in the small of his back, his elbows making perfect forty-five degree angles.  He continued to look at the space above the colonel’s head.

     A patient man, especially where his enlisted troopers were concerned, Merritt simply looked at the paper on his desk for a few minutes to let the man standing stiffly in front of his desk relax; as far as he knew this particular soldier could ever relax.  Finally, he looked up at Ben.

     “Sergeant Carter, do you know why I called you here?” he asked.

     “No, sir,” Ben replied.  “The captain just told me to report to you.”

     “I’ve been studying your record, Carter,” the colonel said, tapping the paper on the desk.  “Says here you’ve been a pretty good soldier in the field since you signed up four years ago down in New Orleans, but you’ve been promoted to sergeant three times.  You seem to have a problem with garrison duty.”

     A brief frown creased Ben’s brown face, and then he quickly went back to his normal blank gaze.

     “Colonel, sir,” he said.  “I don’t have no problem with authority. I follow whatever orders my officer gives me, sir.”

     “That’s true, son; as far as it goes.  All the officers you’ve served under give you high marks,” Merritt said. “I guess I should have said, you seem to have problem with civilian authority.”

     “Sir, I don’t have a problem with people who don’t try pushing me around,” Ben said.  “It’s just some of these people seem to forget sometime that us black folk been freed; we ain’t no slaves no more, so they can’t just be ordering us around like we was.”

     “I sympathize with how you feel, sergeant; but, you have to remember that many of the white people here never had to deal with your people as equals before,” the colonel said.  “A lot of these Texans fought for the confederacy, and they’ve yet to come to terms with having lost the war.  Seeing a colored man walking around in a federal uniform just doesn’t set right with them.  You have to take that into account.  Now, you have a right to defend yourself, but this last incident down at Fort Clark was a bit excessive.  You beat a man half to death, and when the sheriff tried to pull you off him, you broke his jaw.”

     Ben winced.  He had to admit that maybe he’d gone too far in that incident.  He was surprised that they hadn’t cashiered him for it.  But, he still felt justified in beating the dumb hick.

     “Yes, sir,” he said. “I know I done wrong hitting that sheriff, and I apologized to him for that.  As for that cowboy; he was kicking on that poor old Indian something fierce, and nobody would do anything to stop him.  I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing.  When I told him to stop, he turned around and took a poke at me.”

     “You know, you could have been court-martialed and kicked out of the army for that, son.  If it wasn’t for you being such a good soldier in the field, and all the officers sticking up for you, you would have been.”

     “I know that, colonel; and, I do surely appreciate it,” Ben said.  “I ain’t had any problems since they sent me up here from Fort Clark, and I ain’t gonna have any, I swear on my mother’s grave.”

     “I hope you’re right about that, Carter,” the colonel said.  “You’re on probation here.  Of course, you’ve only been here a week, and you haven’t left the fort since you arrived, but, you can’t stay cooped up here forever.  One of these days, you’ll want to go into town, and the folk here aren’t much different than the ones down in Fort Clark.”

     “Ain’t got any need to go into town, sir.  I’m happy just staying here and reading.”

     “You haven’t made one friend among the other men since you arrived.  I don’t think that’s a situation that’s good for your morale or the morale of the unit.”

      “Most of them are from Louisiana, down around New Orleans,” Ben said.  “We don’t have much to talk to each other about.”

       “It shouldn’t matter where you come from, son.  Here, we’re all in the same army.  So, Carter, here’s what I’m going to do; you seem to be at your best out in the field, and we have need for a good sergeant with one of F Troop’s detachments over in the Sandy Gulch area.”

     “You mean the guys out there protecting the ranchers from Comanche raids, sir?”

     “The very one,” the colonel said.  “They don’t have much contact with the ranchers, and they get lots of action against the hostiles.  Old Scarred Nose and his warriors have been coming up from Mexico and steeling cattle on a fairly regular basis.”

     Ben smiled.  That was why he’d made his way from the little hard scrabble farm his father had worked hard to eke a living from for the two of them since his mother died, and walked all the way to New Orleans to enlist.

     “When do I leave, sir?”

     “Soon as you can get your horse and gear ready,” the colonel said.  “There’s just one thing more; the lieutenant in charge of the detachment came down with some kind of illness and we had to pull him back here, and Staff Sergeant Jenkins forgot to check his boots before putting them on and stepped on a scorpion.  He’s not going to be fit for duty for several weeks.  So, I’m sending you out to take command of the detachment.”

     Ben’s eyes narrowed.  This wasn’t what he was expecting.

     “But, colonel, I ain’t never been in charge of men before, and I don’t know if these geechies from Louisiana gonna want to take orders from me.”

      “Carter, you’re a sergeant of cavalry, and an experienced field trooper.  I expect you to take charge and fulfill the mission assigned to you.  Are, would you prefer having mess duty for the rest of your time at Fort Davis?”

     Ben snapped to attention and saluted smartly.

     “I’ll be on the trail in an hour, sir.”

     He wheeled around and marched out.  As he closed the door, he could hear Colonel Merritt chuckling.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ambassador Ray on U.S.- Zimbabwe Relations

Red Tails - A Movie About the Tuskegee Airmen

The following item was sent to me by a friend.  I'm reprinting it here for the information of my readers.  I tried to contact Bonnie Williamson, the originator, for permission to reprint it, but couldn't at her blog site, so if she reads this, please forgive me in advance.  This, however, is just too important not to share widely.

The Movie Red Tails that depicts the challenges and heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen
during WWII will be in movie theaters January 20th. This movie is produced
by George Lucas (Yes, the Star Wars and Indiana Jones George Lucas). George
Lucas was on the Tom Joyner Morning show today and he discussed 
the challenges he had getting this movie into the theaters because he could not
find anyone in Hollywood that would invest the marketing dollars to get it in
theaters. The Hollywood investors said that they just didn't know how well
an "all black action movie" would play to the movie going audience. As a result,
Lucas, Oprah and Tyler Perry put up the remaining $35 million to get the film to the
theaters. The total cost of the film is $100 million. 

My challenge to all of us is to prove Hollywood wrong and let's get the word
out to see a movie that shows the accurate history and determination of
"real" American Heroes. Now, we will spend the money to see fictitious characters
like Laura Craft, Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Jason Bourne, James Bond  
and the likes. Let's go out and spend $300 million to see real American 
Heroes depicted in the movies! Vote with your dollars!

Thanks for reading this and please pass it on! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dedicated to a Dream: A Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968)

Seventy-three years ago, on January 15, 1939, a child was born who changed the world.  Thirty-nine years and just under four months later, an assassin’s bullet, fired from hiding in the city of Memphis, Tennessee one fateful evening, took him away.

Martin Luther King, Jr., only lived thirty-nine years, but during that time, often in the face of staunch opposition from even his supporters, he charted a course through life, a course he followed unwaveringly, that was devoted to making the world a better place for all of its people.

A lot can be accomplished in thirty-nine years; King was proof of that.  In 1957, when he was just 36, and a young pastor, King was chosen to be president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and he devoted his energy to ensuring that SCLC was focused on improving the lives of black people in America who had lived for a hundred years under the yoke of Jim Crow Laws and discrimination, denied the rights that had been guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution.  At 35, King became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  From 1957, until his death in 1968, King traveled six million miles and made over 2,500 public appearances in his pursuit for civil rights for all Americans.  He wrote five books, many articles, and spent more than one night in jail for peacefully protesting the rigid segregation of cities such as Birmingham, Alabama.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, King made the speech for which he is most well-known, the “I Have a Dream” speech.  King said, “I have a dream that one day, in America, little black boys and little black girls will be able to stand with little white boys and little white girls and sing the songs of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God almighty, Free at Last.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., died before realizing his dream. On this day, as we mark his birthday, each and everyone us, in America and around the world, should renew our commitment to that dream.  We should vow to let ‘freedom ring,’ from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the craggy valleys of Afghanistan; let ‘freedom ring’ from Stone Mountain in Georgia to the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe.  We should, like King, not rest until every man and woman, every boy and girl, every Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, and Hindu, and other religion on this earth, everyone regardless of politics or ideology, can sit down together around the table of freedom and democracy in fellowship and recognition of the essential humanity of us all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Friday the 13th and Other Superstitions

Friday the 13th just passed, and as far as I can tell, except for the unfortunate cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy, there was no more than the normal quota of bad luck and misfortune.  Just as a joke, I posted a comment about this on my Facebook page.  As usual, my post provoked a number of comments from some of the people who follow them; many apparently didn’t get the humor and quoted religion at me – I’m getting used to that – but, it got me to thinking.  Where did the fear of Friday the 13th come from in the first place?

The sixth day of the week, at least, the sixth based on Western calendars, and the number 13 have bad reputations that some say date from ancient times.  In my travels, though, I’ve found that this is mainly in Western or Christian countries; in many parts of Asia it’s the number 4 that people are queasy about because in Mandarin Chinese the pronunciation of ‘four’ is very close to the pronunciation of the word ‘death’ or ‘die.’

According to some sources, though, the superstition about Friday the 13th is the most widespread superstition in the United States, with people refusing to go to work or eat out, or schedule important events on that day.  There’s even a term for this phobia; paraskevideatriaphobia, coined by Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist who specializes in treatment of phobias.

But, I digress; the objective here is to try and determine where this superstition came from.  That’s always difficult, though, given that such things are usually passed along by word of mouth, and if you’ve ever experienced how messages get garbled this way, you can understand that the stories you hear have to be taken with a shaker of salt.  One theory has it that the ancient Egyptians considered the number 13 auspicious, representing the eternal afterlife.  After the civilization of the pharaohs disappeared, the symbolism of 13, and its association with death, persisted, thus associating the number with the fear of death rather than reverence for afterlife.

Another theory comes from the Hindus of India, who believed for unknown reasons that it was unlucky for 13 people to gather for dinner.  One has to wonder if this was just an aversion to the lack of symmetry caused by having an odd number at the table.  There’s even an explanation from ancient Norse mythology about 13.  Supposedly, twelve gods were invited to a dinner at Valhalla. Loki, the god of mischief, had been left off the guest list, but crashed the party, and true to his nature, raised hell, causing Hod to kill Balder with a spear made of mistletoe. 

There’s even a biblical association with the unlucky nature of 13.  According to the Bible, there were 13 present at the Last Supper, and one of the guests betrayed Jesus Christ, who was later crucified – and on Friday by the way.  In ancient Rome, Friday was execution day; and I’ll leave it to some reader who’s interested to research that one. 

I’ve read a lot more about this superstition, and, while I don’t personally subscribe to it, I can understand why otherwise rational people might believe in it.  People in general are good at finding excuses for why things don’t work the way they’re supposed to, or explanations for the unexplainable.  Many people engage in superstitious behavior without even being aware of it.  When, for instance, was the last time you opened an umbrella inside, or walked under a ladder?  Superstition is a belief in some supernatural cause of events; in other words, one event leads to another without any link in the physical world.  Many people consider religious beliefs and practices different from pagan superstition, and that’s an argument best left to theologians, I suppose. 

If you thought that by now you’d have a definitive answer to why people consider Friday the 13th unlucky, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you.  The fact is, I just don’t know.  With science advancing by leaps and bounds it’s hard to imagine that in the 21st Century we’d still have people believing in such things.  But, there you have it.  If you’re one of the superstitious, I have some more bad news – there will be three more Friday the 13ths this year.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"She's No Angel" - Chapter Four

Here's chapter four of "She's No Angel," my planned submission to the 2012 ABNA.  Comments are welcomed.




     Megan didn’t get better right away; in fact, she got considerably worse as her pregnancy progressed.  The morning sickness didn’t go away until she was four months along, but, by then, she’d started expanding around the middle and was extremely self conscious about her appearance; telling Winston that she looked like a brown duck with her short legs and large middle, as she was waddling through a shopping center one day, dragging Winston along on one of the rare occasions he’d agreed to go shopping with her.  Next to being touched, Winston hated shopping; too many people in close proximity to each other, squabbling over things on the shelves.  It was so untidy and disorganized.  He especially hated how shoppers, Megan included, peered over items, having difficulty making their minds up about what to buy.  When you went into a store, he reasoned, you should already know what you want to buy, find it, and buy it, and then leave.  Looking at and pawing over an item you had no wish to buy struck him as an awful waste of time.

     They never did try the seaweed soup Park recommended.  Granny would have none of it.

     “Child, you can’t be eatin’ some Chinee food,” she said, stamping her tiny foot.  “Lord knows what they put in it.  I hear them people eat dogs and stuff.”

     Megan nodded, looking a bit green around the gills at the mention of food.

     “Granny,” Winston said.  “It’s Chinese, not Chinee, and Mr. Park’s Korean, not Chinese.”

     “Don’t make a difference, they all look the same to me,” Granny said.  “And, they eat all kinds of strange stuff that no decent person ought to be puttin’ in their stomach.”

     “Could we talk about something else,” Megan said, and groaned.  “All this talk of food is making me queasy.”

    “You just rest easy, child,” Granny said.  “If you rub a little pig fat on your stomach it’ll ease the cramps, and it’ll keep you from gettin’ stretch marks.”

     Megan clamped her hands over her mouth, making gurgling sounds, and as fast as she could manage in her condition, got up from the couch and ran for the bathroom.  Through the closed door, Winston heard the sounds of her retching.

     “Thanks, Granny,” he said.  “You just made her sicker.  Pig fat?  You’ve got to be kidding.”

     “I definitely am not kidding,” she said.  “All the old folks down home know pig fat’s good for easing stiff muscles and it’ll make her skin soft an ‘lastic-like, for sure.  Girl’s tough, but she never been pregnant before, so she’s gonna need lots of fortifying.”

     “Yeah, but our doctor said nothing about pig fat,” Winston said.  “Frankly, I think that falls in the same category as seaweed; nothing but old wives’ tales.”

     “You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’, boy.  Them old wives’ tales kept a lot of wives alive and healthy ‘fore these high falutin’ doctors was even out of diapers.  These modern doctors don’t know everything; hell fire, they don’t know nothin’; they just use a bunch of big, fancy soundin’ words to fool innocent folk like you.  You just better listen to your old granny now if you want that baby girl to be healthy.”

     “Megan’s healthy,” he said.  “She’s just having a little trouble adjusting to all the changes taking place in her body.”

     “Wasn’t talking ‘bout her.  I mean your baby daughter, you ninny.”

     “We haven’t even had a sonogram yet, granny,” Winston said.  “What makes you think it’s a girl?  It could be a boy, you know.”

     “Ain’t no way that baby’s a boy,” Granny said.  “Ridin’ too high up for that.  Boys get down low in the womb; like they can’t wait to get out and conquer the world.  Now, girls, they’re smart early, smarter than boys.  They know they gonna get here sooner or later, so ain’t no need to rush.  That’s why they stay up high where it’s comfortable.  You just wait and see, it’s gonna be a girl.”

     “Is this another one of your old wives’ tales?” Winston asked.

      “Yeah, Winston Lee, it is,” she said, stamping her feet again.  “And, it ain’t never been wrong.  You just mark my words.  Another thing; that baby is gonna be special; a real hand full for the two of you.”

     “What old wives’ tale tells you that?”

     “No wives’ tale, boy,” she said.  “My spirit ability tells me that.  That baby’s already communicatin’ with me.  She ain’t got words yet, but even the little nubbin she is now is reachin’ out, tryin’ to get a fix on what’s outside ‘fore she comes out.”

     Winston shook his head and rolled his eyes.

     “I know you have special abilities, granny,” he said.  “But, this is a bit too much.  Now you’re telling me you can communicate with my unborn child?”

     “Didn’t say I was communicatin’ with her; said she was communicatin’ with me.  There’s a difference.  I can’t tell what she’s tryin’ to say, but she’s definitely reachin’ out.  I can’t make her understand me yet, but I reckon, fast as her brain’s developin’, won’t be long ‘fore she can understand me, and make me understand her.”

     “Great,” Winston said. “So, we’re going to have a child with ESP?”

     “Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no ESP,” Granny said.  “But, she’s gonna be special, you mark my words.”

They're Stalking You: Email Hackers Still Mounting Backdoor Assault

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Altus Arkansas: A Touch of Switzerland in the Ozarks

Alittle known town in Arkansas with an interesting history.  http://voices.yahoo.com/altus-arkansas-touch-switzerland-ozarks-10830159.html

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Challenges of 21st Century Leadership

In his autobiography, My American Journey, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell defined leadership as the “art of doing what the science of management says is impossible.

     If managing people is like herding cats, then leading them is like herding butterflies.  At least with cats, if you have enough catnip, milk, or other delicacies that they like, they will follow you.  You might not get them to do much else, but they will follow as long as the lure is there.  With butterflies, on the other hand, even the most colorful and fragrant flower does not guarantee they will circle in your orbit.  Read more . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Visit Namibia for a Different Experience

Mountain, desert, beaches, and wildlife in profusion - if this is the kind of vacation you'd like to take, you might want to look at visiting the southern African country of Namibia.  Read more . . .http://voices.yahoo.com/namibia-deserts-wildlife-headless-ghost-10816019.html?cat=16

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Overcoming That Dreaded Disease - Writer's Block

Overcoming That Dreaded Disease - Writer's Block

Foot in Mouth Disease: Republican Verbal Missteps Continue Unabated

Now that Iowa is out of the way, and New Hampshire's almost done as well, the Republican presidential primary more and more resembles a horse race - one being run on a muddy track. Going into New Hampshire after a squeaker win in Iowa's caucuses, Mitt Romney should have known that he would be target number one for his rivals, determined to erase his apparent lead.   Read more . . .

Monday, January 9, 2012

Exercise Programs for Beginers

Thinking about exercising to tone up that old – well, maybe not so old, but out of shape – body, and haven’t worked up a sweat for a while?  Well, before you don the spandex and start bending, stretching, and contorting your body, think.  The old saying ‘no pain, no gain,’ is a bit of urban legend that can have you in stitches; literally in stitches if you’re not careful.  Read more . . .

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"She's No Angel" - Chapter Three

Here's the third chapter of my work in progress, "She's No Angel."  Need I say, comments are most welcome.  Enjoy!


     The next day, having decided the thrill of Jamaica had worn off, they decided to go back home.  The news of the death of the young woman they’d only just met, but had come to like, had put a chill on things, and Megan’s stomach kept bothering her.

     She got better after they returned home and back to work, but two months later, began throwing up in the mornings, and feeling moody and out of sorts throughout the day.  A visit to the doctor explained why.

     She was pregnant.

     Their fooling around had struck pay dirt the first time; Winston walked around for days with his chest puffed out and a foolish look on his face.  Megan alternated between looking proud and being green around the gills.  She started every morning on her knees over the commode getting rid of the previous evening’s supper; bugged Winston constantly to stop at the market and buy the strangest things, and rubbed her tummy constantly, even though she hadn’t started showing.

     Winston’s boss, Leland Carter, a pasty-faced blond with a forehead that soared up to the middle of his pate, and who was an inch shorter than Winston’s five-eleven, had taken to punching Winston playfully in the chest whenever he saw him. 

    “Way to go, Win,” he’d say and then smile with a leer that made Winston uncomfortable.

     Carter, until Granny had given him a lesson in spiritual humility, had tormented Winston endlessly; picking on him for any reason, or no reason at all.  After a private session with Granny, a session he still had trouble believing; not being a person who believed in ghosts or spirits, he’d changed, actually being nice to Winston to the point of giving him a raise in pay and promoting him to senior analyst.  Ever since Megan had told her female coworkers that she was pregnant, Carter had been treating Winston like an old school chum.  Sometimes, Winston missed the old days when Carter picked on him; at least that was in character.  Besides, Winston didn’t really like being touched by other men; or, except for Megan, by women either.

     “Morning, Mister Carter,” he said.  “I have that Amalgamated Study ready for you to review.  When would you like me to drop it off?”

     “Hey, Win,” Carter said. “Stop calling me Mister Carter.  It’s just Lee to you, my man.  You can drop the report off any time you like.  In fact, why don’t you go ahead and send it to the clients.  I trust your judgment.”

     He then wheeled around and strutted off to his office, patting the little paunch that pushed his jacket out, and whistling some unidentifiable tune; and off key at that.

     Of course, Mister Carter, Winston thought. 

     As Winston made his way to his office; they’d even given him a tiny space with a door instead of the cubicle he’d once occupied; Archibald DeMille, the CEO of Advantage Consulting, a rotund black man who always wore three-piece suits, stuck his head out of his corner office.

     “Morning, Winston,” he said.  At least he didn’t call him Win, Winston thought.  He hated it when Carter called him that.  “How’s the little woman this morning?”

     “Still a little queasy, Mister DeMille,” Winston said.  “She’ll be coming in late.”

     “Not a problem, not a problem at all.  Maybe she should take some leave; paid of course; until her body stabilizes.”

     Granny, who Winston had called Gran Gran until she threatened to put a hex on him if he didn’t stop, had worked miracles on Advantage’s top executives.  All of them, DeMille included, had used Winston for a verbal punching bag until she dealt with them.  Now, there didn’t seem to be anything they weren’t willing to do for him.

     “I’ll tell her when she comes in,” Winston said.  “And, thank you, sir.  She’ll appreciate it, I’m sure.”

     “No need to thank me, son; it’s the least we can do for two of our best employees.”

     DeMille smiled broadly and ducked back into his office.  The door to the next office opened, and John Park’s broad sallow face poked around the corner.

     “Good morning, Mr. Nesbitt,” he said.  He was the exception among the executives; Park, a second generation Korean, never addressed anyone by their first name.  “How is the Mrs. Nesbitt this morning?”

     “Good morning, Mr. Park,” Winston said. “She’s doing okay, I guess.  Still getting a little sick in the mornings, but otherwise, the doctor says she’s normal.”

     “Ah, yes; you should give her seaweed soup,” Park said.  “My sister eat when she pregnant.  She said it help stop sickness.”

    Winston, who wasn’t exactly an adventurous eater, and had no idea where he was supposed to get soup made of all things, seaweed, nodded and smiled.

     “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll try that when we get home tonight.”

     Park smiled, sucked a hissed breath across his uneven teeth, and went back into his office, to do whatever it was he did for the company. Winston had never figured out what that was, and was reluctant to ask, even with the newfound friendship that seemed to have developed.

     Winston went into his own office, a closet-sized room near the storage closet, which he thought might at one time have been used as a storage closet, closed the door, sat down behind his desk, and turned on his computer.

     While he waited for the computer screen to quite blinking on and off and settle down, he pulled the Amalgamated Report from his desk drawer.  The report represented one of his best efforts to date, and he was sure the client would be pleased.  He was tempted to take Carter up on his suggestion to just send it directly, but prudence was one of Winston’s strong points.  That, and despite his newfound confidence, he was still not one to take too much initiative.  He decided to send it to Carter for review anyway.