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James Buchanan: A Rock Between Two Hard Places

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Usually when historians are asked to rate the U.S. Presidents, they put James Buchanan at the bottom.  I think this is very unfair.  He was a very good President, who just happened to be elected at the very worst time in U.S. history.

The country was on the verge of Civil War when he was elected in 1856.  Abolitionists in the North desperately wanted to crush slavery and the South along with it.  Secessionists in the South were afraid of the dire consequences they would have to face if slavery, which had legally existed in America for 200 years, was outlawed and 4 million negroes were suddenly free to take merciless revenge on their masters.  Buchanan had to use everything he learned during his forty plus years of public service to keep the powder keg from exploding, and he managed to do so.  Then the election of Abraham Lincoln lit the fuse, and all Hell broke loose.

Rather than acknowledging Buchanan’s peace keeping efforts, both sides immediately blamed him for the war.  Though Buchanan had strong sympathies for the South, he was also a strong Unionist and, for the sake of the preservation of the Union, he had to endure the lies that were spread about him by both sides.  He didn’t want to further incite the South, so he couldn’t level blame on them for seceding, and he didn’t want to cast aspersions on the new President during wartime by blaming Republicans and Abolitionists for driving the South to secede.  He was literally a rock between two hard places, and for the sake of the Union had to take the abuse that was heaped on him without defending himself.  His silence only caused both sides to increase their level of abuse until his reputation was utterly destroyed.

He did not wish to stand idly by, though, and he wrote his memoirs to correct all the lies that were being spoken and printed about him.  He loved his country so much, though, that he refused to publish his defense until the War was over.  Then the Civil War dragged on and on for years and by the time he published his memoirs in 1866 it was already too late to save his reputation.  History had already painted him as the villain, and he knew that a century would have to go by before his name could ever hope to be cleared.  Unfortunately, a century and a half has gone by, and historians still fail to give him a fair trial.  I’m sure they feel that removing blame for the Civil War from Buchanan would force them to place some of the blame on Abolitionists and Lincoln, and that just ain’t gonna happen.  Lincoln had already been made into a god.  After all, Lincoln freed the slaves, and he was the victim of an assassination.  He’s one of the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore.  His place in history was literally and perpetually carved in stone.  So, Buchanan has to continue suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”  Maybe, it will be another century before James Buchanan can get a fair hearing with historians and escape the bottom ranking…unless, of course, if Donald Trump continues the way he’s going.

Our representatives are chosen in free elections.  The best way to get good representatives in government is for the people to study the issues, study the candidates, and be sure to vote.  Tomorrow is Election Day.  Vote wisely.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

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HAPpy Birthday

Before the Army -Bottom Row, 2nd from right;  Lieutenant Paulson

My Dad, Harold A. “HAP” Paulson, was born on November 4th 1918, a hundred years ago, one week before World War I ended.  So, HAP missed that war, but he wound up spending 6 years in the Army when World War II came around.  He was a tank commander, and managed to get all his men home alive, except for one, Earl R. McCleary.  Their unit was under attack and Earl made his way to a foxhole, but a ricocheted bullet ended his life.  When I was born years later, Dad gave me the middle name Earl in honor of his fallen comrade.

Dad maintained close contact with his fellow members of the 3rd Armored (Spearhead) Division for the rest of his life.  He dragged my Mom to the reunions every year, and after she passed away, I went with him to a couple.  Finally, when he was in his 90’s, he no longer had the strength to handle the travelling, but he used the Internet to keep in touch.  His eyesight was going so he had to use a magnifying glass to read their emails, but he read each one faithfully.  I put together a collection of the poems he wrote while in the service and he gave it the name Dogface Doggerel.  I submitted it to the 3rd Armored Division and they named him their Poet Laureate and published all his service-related poems.  HAP’s been dead for six years now, but his poems are still proudly displayed on their website.

http://search.freefind.com/find.html?id=68806174&pageid=r&mode=ALL&n=0&query=paulson

One of my favorite stories was about when his family came to visit him the day before he graduated from Officers Candidate School.  They drove around the base looking for him, to no avail.  So, my grandmother hailed a passing soldier, “Yoohoo, soldier boy.  Oh, soldier boy.  Can you help us?”  It turns out that the soldier they stopped was none other than the base commander, General Scott.  Not only did he help them find their son, but he gave HAP a two-hour pass to spend time with his family.

Another story I enjoy was about the time when his tank crew was out on maneuvers during training.  After a few days they were all worn out.  When they brought the tank back to the base the exhausted driver fell asleep at the wheel and clipped an officer’s jeep.  Since my Dad was responsible for the tank, they were going to Court Martial him.  Fortunately for him, though, HAP was a damn good right fielder and he played for the army team.  They had a big game coming up, and they couldn’t afford to lose him in their lineup.  Strings were pulled and all charges were dropped.  They won the big game.

After the fighting was over in Germany, Dad came home, met my mother, and they had three boys.  I’m sure that for the next 64 years of his life, we gave him more trouble than the Nazis ever did.

Happy 100th Birthday, Dad.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Monster Mashup

 

“They did the Mash…They did the Monster Mash.”

-Bobby “Boris” Pickett

Last Saturday night The Dutchland Rollers defeated Keystone Roller Derby in Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby action. The highlight of the evening for me, though, was the bonus game, a mixer called Monster Mashup. It has become an October Halloween treat for the local players and fans.

Two teams were chosen from the 30 ladies who paid the entry fee to participate in the exciting event. Most of them skate regularly with the Dutchland Rollers, but there were some players from other area teams. Condolezza Slice from Keystone skated for the Purple Team, and Russian Bayou from Philadelphia skated for the Green team. Some of my favorites were on both teams, but I decided to root for the Green team, because my friend Mama Moscato was on that team, and because Russian Bayou had the best Halloween make-up of all the skaters. The picture of her above was taken after the game, after one hour of skating, sweating, and being pummeled by the Purple team. I saw her before the game and her make-up job would have impressed Boris Karloff.

The two teams were fairly evenly matched and that made for a great seesaw battle, with the Purple team taking a slight advantage into the locker room at half time. The Green team came out ready in the 2nd half and in one of the jams, Mama Moscato, who is normally a blocker, put on the jamming helmet and scored an incredible 34 points during her 2-minute jam. Somehow she passed every one of her opponents on the track an amazing 7 times within two minutes! That’s some speedy skating, and the most points I’ve ever seen in one jam.  That put the Green team way in the lead, but the Purple team battled back until they were trailing by only 1 point going into the last jam.

Russian Bayou put on the jammer’s helmet for the Green team. Everyone in the stands stood up and cheered as the two jammers took their places at the rear of the pack. With only one point separating the two teams, it was very important to become the lead jammer, the first one to get by all the blockers and break from the pack. The starter’s whistle blew and the last jam was on. Then, almost immediately, the ref’s whistle blew and Russian Bayou was called for a penalty and sent to the “Dutch Oven” for 30 seconds. Her team now had to kill the penalty, and try to prevent the Purple jammer from lapping 2 Green Blockers and winning the game. They held and Russian Bayou burst out of the penalty box. She caught the Purple jammer who was now the lead jammer, the only one allowed to “cut off the jam.” If the Purple jammer scored two points before Bayou was able to score, she could touch both hands to her hips and end the jam and the game. But Bayou scored first giving the Green team a two-point lead, but even though time ran out, the jam would have to go the full 2 minutes. She had to keep Team Green in the lead.

She did, and even scored 10 points in the process. The final score was Green Team 197 and Purple team 194. At the After Party, I asked her what she was thinking while she sat in the penalty box on that last jam. She said that she was confident that she would be able to get back on the track and win the game. She wasn’t nervous, because “it wasn’t a playoff game. It was just a bunch of girls out having a good time.” Maybe, instead of Monster Mash, the theme should have been the Cyndi Lauper song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” They did have fun, and after competitively bumping, bashing, mashing, and shoving each other for a grueling hour, when it was all over they went right back to just being friends. They had a lot of fun, and so did their fans. I can’t wait until November 3rd when they play the Susquehanna Valley Derby Vixens in the last League Game of the season.

Roll on Rollers.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

 

Pretty Soon We’ll All Be Considered Idiots

Henry David Thoreau

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Nowadays most of us consider ourselves to be of average intelligence or better, even those of us who aren’t.  It won’t be long, though, before future generations look back, shake their heads, and say to themselves, “what a bunch of idiots they were.”

We do that to previous generations, and future generations will do it to us. We laugh at those primitive people who thought the Earth was flat or that the Earth was the center of the Universe and everything else spun around it. Ha ha. What a bunch of idiots they were.

Many ancient people believed that the stars were gods, especially the sun. Nobody really knows what Gods might exist, so I won’t make fun of the dozens of Norse, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman gods that people worshipped in days of old. However, when I think about the people who thought that human sacrifices to these gods would bring about a good harvest, I have to think, “What a bunch of idiots they were.”

Most of the Native Americans who died after the European colonization of America died as a result of diseases brought here from Europe for which they had no immunity. That was tragic, but when our ancestors purposely gave them smallpox infected blankets to the Native Americans, that was genocide. We can’t deny it. We can’t look back favorably on those actions.

The microscope wasn’t invented until the 16th century, so I won’t make fun of the early surgeons who had no concept of germ theory and didn’t wash their hands before operating. However, when I think about the practice of bloodletting, I can’t help but think, “What a bunch of idiots they were.”

George Washington, the first President of the United States, woke up at 2 a.m. on Dec. 14, 1799, with a sore throat. After a series of medical procedures, including the draining of nearly 40 percent of his blood, he died. According to Wikipedia, bloodletting is claimed to have been the most common medical practice performed by surgeons from antiquity until the late 19th century, a span of almost 2,000 years. By today’s standards, those doctors were absolute idiots.

Thomas Jefferson penned the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” He campaigned against the evils of slavery, yet, he was the second-largest slave holder in the State of Virginia. He was considered one of the most enlightened men of his generation, but as the years roll by we look back and wonder how a man of his awesome intellect could have possibly missed the terrible irony of his inaction to free his own slaves.

Many people are outraged today when Football players take a knee during the playing of the National anthem. The really outrageous thing, though, is that back when Francis Scott Key wrote his glorious praise for “the land of the free” 20 percent of the population consisted of slaves. Incredibly, 200 years later people are still discriminated against and even killed just because of the color of their skin.

The Englishman Alan Turing, who said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine” broke the German Enigma code. He was very instrumental in beating the Nazis in World War II. It is estimated that his efforts shortened the war by two years and that his code-breaking machine may have saved 12 million lives. The machine he created was also the forerunner of today’s computers. Instead of being heaped with praise by his government, he was threatened with imprisonment when they found out that he was a homosexual. Imagine that. What a bunch of idiots they were.

How many innocent people were executed as witches in Europe and in Salem, Massachusetts? Speaking of witch hunts, we Americans pride ourselves for our Freedom of Speech, yet we allowed McCarthyism to ruin the lives of many Americans who exercised that right. What a bunch of idiots.

Cigarettes! Remember when they were really cool? Just watch any old movie and you’ll see everyone lighting up and enjoying those cancer sticks. What a bunch of idiots.

Remember when the government thought Prohibition was the answer to alcohol problems. Gangsters like Al Capone loved that solution. And how many kids went to prison for simply smoking a marijuana joint? Reefer Madness! The madness was the law that criminalized something that today is prescribed as a medical treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Arthritis, Epilepsy, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Insomnia, and End of Life Care. What bunch of idiots classified it as a narcotic?

Yes, looking back we can see many examples of how our ancestors appeared to be total idiots. But wipe that smug grin off your faces. It won’t be long before future generations look back at us with the same amazement.

The cruelty of the Inquisition was a long time ago, and we no longer believe in human sacrifice to appease the gods, but we do have religious leaders who preach that the killing of infidels will guarantee 71 virgins in heaven. Others preach that the earth is 6000 years old and that dinosaurs co-existed with early man. Mormons preach that Jesus lived for a while in North America, and the Catholic Church has protected many pedophile priests. We talk of religious freedom, but if you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” some supposed Christians will get extremely irate.

We also have the issue of gun violence in schools. Someday people will look back on that and wonder what a bunch of idiots we were. The families of police and firefighters live with the constant worry that their loved ones will be injured or killed while performing their duty. That is extremely unfortunate, but it is a total abomination that parents of young school children must live with those very same worries.

The Cold War concept of Mutually Assured Destruction with the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is another head scratcher. We only hope that people will be around to look back at that and wonder how stupid we were to build enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet multiple times over. Now we have tons of unused weapons that we don’t know how to safely destroy, yet, the leaders in North Korea and Iran want to build more.

Global Climate Change is another big problem that we refuse to face. Someday, people living inland will probably wonder why we didn’t take steps to avoid that. I think our blindness to the problem is some kind of reaction to the Y2K problem, which was successfully averted by governments and private industry spending billions to prevent it. When planes didn’t fall out of the sky, banks didn’t crash, and government services didn’t collapse on January 1, 2000, many people thought the whole thing was a hoax. They didn’t understand the massive effort that was made to prevent the disaster. So now they look at the impending climate disaster as just another hoax. Hopefully, we will snap out of it before it is too late to do something about the problem.

On top of all that, we also made Donald Trump the leader of the free world. How crazy is that? What will future generations think of that bonehead maneuver?

We are the best educated generation in the history of the world. Through libraries and the Internet, we have access to the greatest thinkers of our time, and the wisdom of the ages. We have replaced widespread illiteracy with almost universal literacy, and yet, when future generations look back upon us they will wonder how we could have been such incredible jerks.

Let’s all try to be just a little smarter and make future generations proud to call us their ancestors.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

 

The Dream is Over

The dream is over, but fond memories remain. The Lancaster Barnstormers made it to the fifth and final game of the Atlantic League Freedom Division playoffs before succumbing to the Sugarland Skeeters. On the same day, the Long Island Ducks defeated the Somerset Patriots to win the Liberty Division playoffs. So, the Sugarland Skeeters will play the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League Championship series and the Barnstormer players will try to sign on with minor league teams in the Mexican or Latin American leagues that play during the winter. Anything is better than a 9-5 job for somebody who loves to play baseball.

The baseball season is over, but, fortunately, there are still plenty of things to do here in Lancaster. There will be movie nights at the stadium while the weather is still warm. The Disney movie Finding Dory will play on the big outfield screen this weekend.   The Dutchland Rollers Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby team still has one home game left in their season. I’ll be there on October 13 when my favorite skaters go on the track. I can still listen to the Eagles games on 97.1 Sox radio. I’m also planning to go to a few college football games during baseball’s off season. Franklin & Marshall College is just a few blocks from my apartment. I will, of course, follow Harness Racing, but only on the Internet, as the nearest Harness track is an hour away in Philadelphia.  There is still a buggy that goes right past my apartment around 1 a.m. every Sunday evening.  I look forward to hearing that clip-clop every week.

I will be part of the hot stove circuit and sit around talking about the baseball season that just ended and eagerly await the new season to come. There are plenty of memories to get me through the winter. I’ll remember the annual pre-season game against the Lancaster Bible College. I loved shouting out “Thou shalt not steal” every time one of the Bible College kids reached first base.

I’ll remember opening day with my friends Crazy Debbie, Mike, and Denise. I’ll remember the games I went to with Brother X and my friend John. They still tease me about the time I threw out the first pitch and bounced the ball a few feet in front of home plate. I’ll remember the last game of the regular season when I caught a foul ball. I didn’t really catch it. I was sitting behind the netting behind home plate and a foul ball went straight back over the net and bounced off the 2nd deck. It bounced a few times and settled a few feet from where I was sitting. I got up and grabbed the ball. I heard a young kid screech to a halt and give out a big sigh of disappointment as I picked up the baseball before he could get there. I tossed the ball to him and the smile on his face was worth a dozen baseballs. He came over after the game to thank me, and I knew I had helped to make him a fan for life.

Last week, my Aunt Jane and Cousin Debbie came to town from Johnstown Pennsylvania and we went to a playoff game. I brought my “Skeeter Beater” and we watched the Stormers win as Nate Reed pitched a no hitter for 6 & 1/3 innings. Blake Galen hit two homeruns right where I told my relatives he liked to hit. I felt like when Babe Ruth called his homerun to centerfield.

All the action wasn’t just on the field, though. My favorite attraction was the all-you-can-eat chicken and ribs nights on Tuesday and the Wing Wednesdays. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. So, I’ll just let these fond memories roll around my head for a few months and be ready to do it all again next year.

In the meantime, thank you 2018 Stormers for all the memories. Now, Let’s go Ducks. They’re currently trailing two games to nothing in the Championship Series.  Come on, Ducks.  Beat them Skeeters.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

The Extended Pre-Game Show

Eagle Fans

Sunday, February 4, 2018, the underdog Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. Thursday, September 6, 2018, the Super Bowl Champion Eagles have the honor of playing the first football game of the 2018-2019 season. They are at home versus the Falcons. The game, as always, is being broadcast on the oldies station, 96.1 Sox FM. It’s my favorite radio station here in Lancaster. They play the best songs of the 60s, 70s, 80’s, and all the Eagle games. Merrill Reese, the voice of the Eagles, is the announcer for the games. I like listening to the games, instead of watching them on TV. It reminds me of when I was a kid with my transistor radio listening to Yankee games broadcast by Mel Allen, Red Barber, and Phil Rizzuto. Holy cow, the memories.

The pre-game show for the season opener came on an hour before the scheduled kickoff time. It reminded me of one of those broadcasts at a big horse race. A bunch of so-called experts give their reasons why the horse they like cannot lose. Naturally, they are usually wrong. Now, I’m listening to the invisible talking head analysts on the playing field make their predictions for the game and the entire season ahead. They all interrupt each other to embellish their viewpoint. They don’t shut up until somebody someone notices “dangerous weather” heading their way. They read an announcement that lightning storms will be passing over the stadium and the kickoff will be delayed 15 minutes. You can hear the stadium speakers urging the fans to move to safe ground. The talking heads read a note from The Eagles. Please continue the pre-game show until the game starts.

The analysts on the field see a flash of lightning. One of them says, “I’m not staying out here in a lightning storm. I’ve said everything I wanted to say. I’m outta here.”

“Me, too.”

“Me, three.”

“Me, four. Let’s send this broadcast back to the radio studio.”

There is a brief moment of dead air. Then, “Uhh. Hello. This is Helen. I’m here in the studio with Joe. We usually do the weather reports, and speaking of weather, there seems to be a lightning delay in the start of the football game. So, Joe and I are going to bring you an extended pre-game show. Joe, do you know anything about football?”

“Hi, I’m Joe. I like the Eagles. I think that the analysts have pretty much covered all the topics, though. Why don’t we open the phone lines and see how Eagles fans feel about this lightning delay.”

“Great idea, Joe. Our number is 717-555-1212.”

“Okay, Helen and I are waiting for your calls. 717-555-1212.”

Ring. Ring.

“Hello, you’re on the air.”

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes, you’re on the air.”

“Am I on the air?”

“Yes. What do you want to say?”

“I’d like you to play Fly Like and Eagle.”

“We can’t do that.”

“How about We Are the Champions by Queen.”

“We can’t do that, either.”

“How about anything by the Eagles?”

“Sir, this is a broadcast studio, not a record studio. We don’t have any records here.”

“Oh, you suck.”

“Next Caller. What do you want to say about the Eagles?”

“Hi this is Billy from Philly. My girlfriend left me because she said I cared more about the Eagles than her.”

“So you want us to help you get her back.”

“No, screw the bitch. I want to meet girls who are true Eagles fans, not posers.”

“Okay, thank you. Next caller.”

“This is Fran. I’m a true Eagles fan. I’d do Billy from Philly.”

“Next caller.”

“Joe, this is your mother. Don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home.”

“Hi Mom.”

“We’ll be right back to the extended pre-game show right after these commercial messages.”

They weren’t. Apparently, the NFL felt safer with the lightning than the extended pre-game show. They rushed Boyz 2 Men out on the field to sing the National Anthem, and with occasional flashes of lightning illuminating the field, the game began.

The Eagles won the game thanks to several incredible goal-line stands by their defense, and they are on their way to another great season. The rest of the teams played last night and the new football season has begun. Good luck to your team, and Fly Eagles, Fly.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

70 is the New LXX

This past Sunday my second “Summer of 69” ended. August 19 was my 70th birthday. I celebrated with a big party, not my party, but a party for my new great nephew Cooper, who was getting baptized on that same day. How convenient was that for me! I had a party, and I didn’t have to do anything ahead of time, during the party, or after the party, and, best of all, there was food and beer. Cooper’s parents did all the work. All I had to do was give baby Cooper a present, and just for a laugh I thought about making out the check to him, to see how many years it takes until he learns how to endorse it.

There are no special benefits for turning 70. At 62 I became eligible for Social Security. At 65, I got Medicare, and free rides on Pennsylvania buses. Not only do you not get anything new for turning 70, but you’re no longer allowed to say you’re “getting old.” You’re already there. That ship has sailed. The only possible benefit is that now when you have a “senior moment” everybody understands it and actually almost expects it.

Age is just a number they say. They, of course, are in their 20’s, or 30’s, or 40’s. They are not in their 70’s. Age may be just a number, but 70 is still a mighty big number. To me, 70 sounds like you’re on the wrong side of the life cycle, rolling downhill, picking up speed rapidly, and headed for a dirt nap. I feel much younger than that, so, I’m not going to accept that I’m turning 70. I’m just gonna switch to Roman numbers. I’ll be LXX. That sounds a lot better and it has the added benefit of being my size, backwards. How’s that for cool (and easy to remember)? Roman numbers worked well for Super Bowls and made getting older just sound more classic. Maybe it can work for me, too. Maybe I’ll even change my name to something Roman like Earlus Pearlus and start wearing sandals and a toga. If I switched to togas, I wouldn’t have to worry about my weight anymore, either. It worked for Marlon Brando (sort of).

Maybe, if I go into a complete Roman phase, I could finally get some use out of the Latin I learned in High School and never used. The only trouble is that the only phrase I still remember is “Gaudiamus igitur juvenes dum sumus.” It means, “Let us be merry, while we are young.” What the hell? 70 may not be young, but it is the youngest I’ll ever be ever again. So, I might as well embrace it.

So, party on friends, Romans, countrymen, and family. Happy LXX Birthday to me, and thanks for the party, Cooper.

Toga. Toga. Toga.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl