Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day169/365 A Chance to Shine

Ninety years ago today the ultimate in Halloween horror, the biggest trick without a treat, the Volstead Act was passed by Congress.

You may know it as Prohibition.

Thanks to the Anti-Saloon League, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the axe-wielding Carrie Nation, a majority of states ratified the proposal to ban the sales of alcohol nationwide, and it became law on October 28, 1919.

Legislating morality works right?

They couldn't get away with this under our modern day haz mat laws....

By all means, let's keep children out of bars. And the guy in the strange blue suit too....

Prohibition was the best thing that ever happened to Franklin County. Most of the population here was (and still is) Scots-Irish, and the Scots have been famous for their distilling skills for a thousand years. The streams ran clear and cold here, the hollows were numerous, and the distilling began.

Finally all those descendants of Scots had a product the country wanted. It raised the standard of living for everyone in Franklin County - families were clothed, children fed, houses built, cars bought, in short, life was good. A trifle violent at times, but good.

At one point in time, it was said that every family in Franklin County benefited directly from the moonshine trade, and when the Feds came in the 1930s, it became apparent the judges, lawyers, commonwealth attorneys, and the police force had also benefited.

Alas, all good things must end. After thirteen years of the good life, Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and life in Franklin County more or less went back to normal. (For the most part, although there are still streams running fast and cold, and numerous mountain hollows, and still kids needing to be fed.....)

Turns out you can't legislate morality. People do what they do, whether other people approve or not.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 168/365 Napoleon Holds A Bake Sale

In 1803, Napoleon, the Emperor of France, found himself short of pocket money. Some blame it on the love-of-his-life Empress Josephine, but in truth it was Napoleon's dream of establishing an empire in the New World and the threat of a war with Great Britain. Totally drained the coffers.

So, in a moment of clarity, Napoleon realized he'd never be King of Louisiana, and offered it to Tom Jefferson (then President of the upstart American colonies) for $15 million.

Two hundred and six years ago today, October 20,1803, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million. It was a steal of a deal, since the emissaries to France had only been authorized by Jefferson to buy New Orleans and West Florida - for $10 million.

Confronted with Napoleon and his fire sale offer of $15 million for everything west of the Mississippi, they made a management decision, and went for it. Fortunately the U.S. Senate also knew a deal when they saw it, and didn't make them come up with the extra $5 mill out of their govt paychecks.

And that's how New Orleans came to be part of the great state of Louisiana, located in the United States of America. And why my grade school was bilingual in 1960, and why the city is one big melting pot of French-American culture (along with a few other influences).

Of course, since the Mississippi River was the dividing line, and the easternmost border of the Louisiana Purchase, it's only fair to mention the other end of the river.

St. Paul, Minnesota and Fort Snelling sat at the northern end, almost at the beginning of the great river itself (where it's still so tiny you can step across it). French folks abound there too, but as traders and guides, rather than fancy Creole society folks.

Shortly after the sale, Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark off to explore the newest American addition, from the Mississippi to the Pacific, and all the wide spots in the road in between.

All because an Emperor couldn't come up with pocket change for his dreams.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 167/365 Finally, Snowe on San Juan Hill

One of my favorite 20th century presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Teddy to the public.

In addition to being the youngest president ever elected, and trying throughout his presidency to have "In God We Trust" removed from various pieces of our currency, he also campaigned vigorously for universal health care, which he regarded as a moral right for every human being, while insisting it be one of the major planks of the Progressive Party platform.

That was in 1912. Even though a national health insurance program was proposed again in 1943, and endorsed by Harry Truman,getting access to health care was harder than following Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders up San Juan Hill - the AMA threw a fit and started chanting it's mantra of "socialized medicine".

In the early 1960's under John F. Kennedy, elder health care in the form of the Medicare program was proposed. The AMA jumped up to chant again, however the sight of 14,000 seniors marching down the boardwalk to the 1964 Democratic Convention, passing out "facts" literature, trumped "socialized medicine", and Medicare was passed into law. Never mess with Grandma.

In 1974, even President He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, the so-called Quaker and lover of all things wiretapped, the famous utterer of those words: "I am not a crook" - even *he* proposed national health care. Alas, even the Evil One was no match for the testy AMA, joined this time with the corporate health insurance companies.

And we all know the witchhunt that drowned out Hillary Clinton's attempt to bring health care to the masses in 1992.

So, today, October 13, 2009, with a huge THANK YOU to Senator Olympia Snowe, of The Great State of Maine, there was a vote on a health care reform bill that propelled it out of committee. It's not the last vote, or the final bill, and it's not all I wanted, but it's the closest we've ever been to any sort of health care reform since 1912.

What are those insurance companies so scared of, that they blocked discussion of health care reform for 97 years?

How many people died in those 97 years due to lack of access to health care?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 166/365 Birthday Missed

Missed an important birthday on October 2nd. So - Happy Birthday, Dear Ghandi, Happy Birthday To You.....

And to top it off I am shamelessly borrowing some Ghandi tidbits from a friend's blog (and I am fairly sure she borrowed them from someone else's blog) but truthfully, I'd be delighted if *every* blog borrowed these thoughts and reprinted them until everyone has the chance to read and ponder their meaning:

"Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi, one of the most influential figures in modern social and political activism, considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity:

Wealth without Work
Pleasure without Conscience
Science without Humanity
Knowledge without Character
Politics without Principle
Commerce without Morality
Worship without Sacrifice"

What better way to sum up the worse of America at this point in history?

Wall Street bankers making millions with Naked Short Selling

College students buying term papers off the net, and presenting the work as their own

The ever-increasing number of politicians of both parties who are caught "hiking the Appalachian Trail", with children and mistresses and under-the-table payments to both or either.

Increasing claims between religious denominations as to which is the Truth or which is more spiritually correct than the other, while at the same time so obviously none are the truth nor spiritual

"Spiritually perilous to humanity".

As America goes, so goes the world.