Monday, February 28, 2011

Eric Foner, Noted Columbia University History Professor, discusses Lincoln's early views on slavery to a packed audience at UConn Stamford

Eric Foner, Columbia University Historian

Eric Foner noted author of many books on Abraham Lincoln spoke at UConn Stamford last Wednesday evening on the President's early views on slavery.

Though Lincoln was never an abolitionist, Lincoln always envisioned slavery as unjust. In this early period, he did not envision that all slaves should be freed or be granted citizenship. The sheer reality was that he was living in a bi-racial society and he thought that slaves should leave America for a colony.

If slavery is unjust, then what should we do? Foner asserts it took Lincoln a long time to figure out what steps to take.

Just how strong were Lincoln's feelings were demonstrated in a three hour speech delivered in Peoria in 1854. His rival Stephen A. Douglas fathered the Kansas-Nebraska bill which when passed by Congress opened up great portions of the area to the west of the Mississippi River to expansion of slavery.

This outraged Lincoln and as the leading opponent to this expansion, he spoke about the evils of slavery in and of itself. He terms the institution a "monstrous injustice" the perpetuation of which would make the United States ridiculous in the eyes of the world. After all, our enemies would call the country- which espouses democracy and equality for all, indeed, hypoctical.

In another paragraph, he says that he would solve the slavery problem by sending the slaves back to Liberia, South America and the Caribbean.

The views expressed in this speech remains his opinions until the Civil War. In summary, Lincoln realizes that we cannot make the slaves equals. He is pro abolition, but doesn't know how to execute this plan. He is not judging the Southerners who will not take any action to liberate the slaves. His first reaction is to send them to Liberia. The slaves are seen as an alien group, unjustly uprooted from their land of origin; they are not an intrinsic part of American society.

End of Part I: To be continued

Celebrating Black History Month: Matthew A Henson, Explorer

Matthew A. Henson (August 8, 1866 - March 9, 1955) accompanied Commander Robert Peary to the North Pole.

In 1909, at the North Pole, he is reported to have said, "I think I'm the first man to sit on top of the world."( In fact, on this 8th attempt to reach the Pole, Peary, probably too fatigued to walk sent Henson ahead to scout and the latter reached the Pole first.)

Orphaned at age 11, he learned to read and write working as a cabin boy on a merchant ship.

Awarded the silver medal by Congress in 1944, Henson was also honored by Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Madoff says he has had not communication with his wife since their son's suicide in December

U.S. Department of Justice Photograph, 2008

A Madoff interview in the current New York Magazine reports that the convicted ponzi scheme creator called reforms of the financial situation a joke. He blames the big banks, hedge funds and even his clients for failing to question his bogus investment returns.

He claims that keeping the multi-billion dollar scheme a secret was a nightmare! (can we really believe him when he has repeated that his family was not aware of the ponzi scheme?)

Most important to me is that his wife has not spoken to him since his eldest son Mark committed suicide on December 11, 2010. His wife Ruth, Madoff avers, blames him for destroying the family.

Madoff is currently serving a 150 year sentence in a North Carolina prison for fraud charges leveled against him 2009.

The blogger thanks CBS Early Morning News for their coverage of this story.

The World Pays Tribute to Frank Buckles, the last surviving doughboy of WW I: 110 Ten Years Old

Frank Buckles at age 16 (1917)

Frank Buckles (1901-2011), the last surviving World War I US soldier passed away on Sunday.

In 1917, not yet 17 years of age, he lied to enter the army. He served in both England and France.

In 2007, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

During his civilian years in the Phillipines during World War II, he was captured and spent years as a POW in a Japanese prison camp.

God bless your soul and your outstanding life, Frank!

Endgame for Libya? Baksheesh is the word in Tripoli as Libyans line up for last minute $400

Is the forty-one year tyranny personified by Muammar Khaddafi {Gadaffi} of Libya finally ending?

Reports coming out of the country this morning indicate that he has lost control over the more sparsely populated Eastern part of the country; tribal councils are already being established to bring order to these areas.

In the capital Tripoli, forces loyal to the dictator have established calm in most areas.One reporter characterized the eerie calm as the "eye of the storm": at the very center (of the city) there is peace, but all around there are pockets of fulminating and exploding resistance sure to reach out to the center.

Khadaffi has allowed Western journalists back in to cover this 'non-story'; citizens are lined up in front of banks early this AM to receive $400 handouts from the government.

"Baksheesh, baksheesh" cried out one of those awaiting the handout.

You may be interested in noting that this Arabic word has many connotations; chief amongst them are two radical different meanings: bribe and charitable donation. Any which way you wish to interpret baksheesh, Khadaffi who has not hesitated to order his military to shoot anybody at any time to 'bully' those opposed to his regime, seems to be buying time.

Just how much time does he have before he's out-- like the Tunisian and Egyptian rulers recently ousted-- is anybody's guess.

Meanwhile, NPR reported this morning that the European Union meeting in Geneva (where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now positioned) has voted unilaterally to enforce economic sanctions against Khaddafi.

Tune in for the outcome in this too too unfortunate bloody scenario where loyalists have been out in the streets and hospitals scurrying about carrying the wounded and hundred and hundred of those fatally gunned down, to undisclosed locations.

One hopes Khadaffi is outed sooner than later.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Patchwork America: The Changing Face of American Newspapers

As we all know, the once near domination of the dissemination of printed news by a handful of daily newspapers is nearing an end.

We read sadly that circulation is falling annually for printed editions at The New York Times,USA Today, The Daily News and The Los Angeles Times, etc. This is because the American consumer is getting more of his news from free online sources transmitted to him via his computer or mobile device.

We read sadly about the concommitant layoff of thousands of writers, editors and other pressroom employees.

We are now seeing a proliferation of online newspapers such as the Huffington Post and News Corporations new national daily aptly called The Daily.

The Patch is a startup national venture funded by AOL. Their goal right now is to establish 100 online dailies in selected communities across the country, each with its own editor and staff of a few writers. For instance in lower Fairfield County and adjacent Westchester there is a patch for Stamford and others for Greenwich, Darien and Norwalk.

My impression is that America is turning into a patchwork of online dailies with the traditional print papers offering a free online version in competition with all these start ups.

Who knows what the future of print will be under all this online medial proliferation.

Where will you get your news from?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ansel Adams, photographer and naturalist, was a powerful force for conservation

Today we celebrate the birthday of a great photographer of the West--and conservationist-- Ansel Adams (February 20, 1902-April 22, 1984).

Back in the 1970's, I was a law clerk for a trust and estates law firm in San Francisco,O'Gara and O'Gara. They were located in the Mills Tower at 220 Montogomery Street. Down the hall from our offices, the Sierra Club had its central headquarters. On occasion, I would wander into their offices to peruse books in their library and admire their photo gallery.

I was particularly struck by the large Ansel Adams photographs that lined their walls. It was due to the overpowering stark beauty of his black and white photographs of Tuolomne Meadows and Yosemite Park that I started joining day hikes with the club around the Bay Area. Next, I embarked on three day backpacking tours into the wilderness led by pioneering members of the club and developed a natural camaraderie with other outdoorsmen and fell in love with the scenic wonders of the Bay Area, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diabolo, Stinson Beach, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Pebble Beach, etc.

My appreciation of the natural wonders of Northern California deepened. After living in the Bay Area for 5 years, I settled in Butte County not far from the Feather River, in a small mountain community surrounded by mesas, canyons, and rugged peaks, aptly named Paradise.

Yosemite Valley, Monolith Face Half Dome
by Ansel Adams

Although I never had the privilege of meeting Adams, David Brower, who was named first executive director of the club in 1952 describes his first encounter with the eminent photographer in an article published by the University of Chicago Press:

In the summer of 1933, David Brower, who had recently withdrawn from the University of California at Berkeley, backpacked through the Sierra Nevadan Mountains. One morning on the trail, he recalled seeing 'this bearded type, camera and tripod over his shoulder coming up through the timberline forest.' You must be Ansel Adams, Brower said to him. They exchanged a few words; Brower told the photographer how much he admired his work, while Adams complained that the cumulus clouds were still too fuzzy to photograph.
Image source (1)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today is the Birthday of Wallace Stegner: Conservationist and Writer

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Wallace E. Stegner (February 18, 1909-April 13, 1993) one of the masters of prose (written with the sensitivity of the poet), conservationist, novelist, short story writer and professor of English.

He has been given the epithet "The Dean of Western Writers.

To his credit, I identify with his love of the west, unspoiled by human greed and rapaciousness--a west that is as large, pristine and unspoiled in its grandeur as the Sierra Nevada range in which I had the good fortune of living for nearly 10 years.

Here are some representative quotes:

"One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."
Wallace Stegner (The Sound of Mountain Water)

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed....We simple need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. "

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Mule Train can barely see its shadow in three feet of snow

With three feet of snow around him, this little mule is trying to clear a path in front of my residence here in Stamford.

Until this past weekend only his ears were visible. Now that we know that the ground hog has not seen his shadow, an early spring thaw forecast for later this week will undoubtedly make his journey much easier.

In the meantime, enjoy this next photo where our little patriotic trekker is urged on by an American flag.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hitting One's Stride: Transformative Event Number 9

Dear reader:

In the case you are just now joining my journey towards the eleventh transformative event, I offer you a brief recap of the nine previous stops along the way.

The last decade began with sudden loss of life during 9/11. First, I witnessed the destruction from afar and next I experienced the personal losses of two families living in suburban New Jersey.

What followed in October 2001 was a trip to the Holy Land where I experienced the hatred that pre-teen Palestinians harbor against the US as well as the severe economic downturn to the Israeli economy.

After years of spiritual searching in California, Mexico and Oregon, I rediscovered my Hebraic roots and celebrate the 50th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah.

Next stop along my journey involved payback : teaching ESL, journalism and sophomore English at Jamaica High School--one of the most rewarding times of my life.

Next, I dealt successfully with my fourth divorce, leaving my adopted Chinese orphan daughter in good hands so she is now attending college and has a full time job. (The secrets of maintaining harmony with exes will be explored in a forthcoming book.)

Hurricane Katrina provided me with opportunity to perform small acts of kindness during my two trips to the South. The event(s) are covered in four parts.

Finding mentors and then adopting their mores and advice is next explored; I travel to California to hook up with a dynamic mentor who first influenced me forty years ago and continues to do so as he embarks on a new venture. My dad and Levi Woodbury are also
applauded as outstanding role models whose actions expressing their commitments to strong ideals, likewise spur me to action.

This leads me to event number 9. In 2009, RJ Schwartz and Associates came into being.

To be continued.

Tahrir Square Live, Friday Evening in Cairo

Mubarak steps down and the crowds are jubilant.

It's like a fourth of July in Egypt.

The streets are filled with exited young and old citizens. Traffic has ground to a halt as drivers have stopped and are dancing around their cares

As I write it's 8:17PM in Cairo and the firework are going off around Tahrir as well as in Lebanon when VP Suleiman announced the resignation.

It appears the Egyptian military is in full control.

President Obama will make an announcement in 10 minutes, at 1:30 PM EST.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Great Role Model: Levi Woodbury, A Man for All Seasons

I have vacationed several times in the Southern New Hampshire's Manadnock mountains Within walking distance of my summer residence is a state marker dedicated to a man of notable achievments and public service. (see above)

Levi Woodbury
(1789-1851) was born in Francestown, attended Dartmouth College and then Law School, the first Supreme Court Justice to do so. He served New Hampshire first as legislator, then Governor and U.S. Senator; he held cabinet posts under three different presidents ( Jackson, Van Buren and Polk) and then served as Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Great News for our Northeast: The Groundhog did not see his shadow

Stamford, Connecticut after a major storm
dumps 21 inches of snow

It was announced on February 2nd in the AM that the famous groundhog of Punxutawney, Pennsylvania did not see his shadow.

This is great news for us beleaguered Northeasterners; we have been hit by winter storm after storm with the last major one dumping about 21 inches in about 7 hours.

There is no place to put the snow

Neighbors are complaining there is no place to move the snow

Neighbors and friends have been saying enough is enough.

Then just last week, an ice storm blanketed the country from Texas all the up to New England. And it was hazardouns to even walk outside, let alone drive (slide) a car????

So, folks, we can't wait for that early spring. And, mind you, temps have been up in the 40's for two days running just enough to melt some snow.

Hang in there people; we only have 6 more weeks until spring!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jack Sanoff, A Mentor for all Ages: The Ninth Transformative Event, Part III

Inspirational role model and mentor Jack Sanoff
and I reconnect in November 2010 in San Ramon, CA, celebrating
a 40 year plus relationship

In essence, Jack taught me several arts simultaneously: cold calling, selling and renewing. There was 'me'-- the product of an Ivy League education with three degrees under my belt and my mentor a product of the great depression, a native son of Newark, New Jersey whose real-life education began at age 17.

He had an easy way of 'schmoozing' the client catching them off-guard with a joke or two and before I knew it, he pulled out a renewal agreement and signed them up for another year. He made the sale look so easy... and what really impressed was his massive portfolio of ads in a huge leather- bound three ring binder organized by category beginning with the letter 'A' for Air Conditioning specialists and Auto Dealers with dozens of ads pasted up on black paper with a cellophane cover around each page. The book must have weighed 15-20 pounds.

After a month of training with Jack in the Bay Area, serving accounts in Emeryville, San Francisco and Berkeley, I heard that there was an available sales territory north of Sacramento; so with my few belongings packed into a U-Haul securely fastened to my vintage Mercedes, I headed north and took up digs first in Old Shasta, California; in short order, I became Jack's man covering the North Valley selling ad space in Redding, Yreka, Red Bluff, Weaverville, Eureka, Arcata, Crescent City, Susanville, Chico, Quincy, Placerville, Sacramento, Nevada City, Auburn, South Lake Tahoe, Reno and Gardnerville (Nevada).

In no time, I was able to save enough to buy a Sierra foothill home in scenic Paradise (CA), replete with outdoor swimming pool, two car garage, three bedrooms, two fireplaces and, of course the towering pine trees. It became the perfect weekend retreat for me.

Jack continued to be there for me via the 1-800 phone number directly to the office in Hayward. And we spoke daily, sometimes twice. He was always ready with a list of new business from the McCords weekly of new businesses registrations.

We were Jack's men, the Magnifiecent Seven, who covered Northern California from Fresno north to the Oregon border: Derek S. , Kenny U. , Howard G, Hal S., Elton S., Harry L .and yours truly. We would meet twice a year at Hayward when the big brass would come up from LA to hold a sales/awards meeting. Our residences were far flung from Fresno, to Monterey/Carmel to Novato to Mount Diablo, to Sacramento.

(It was thrilling to attend these meetings flying from Oroville to Hayward airport in my Cherokee Archer II-- earning my wings and time machine by being one of Jack's guys!)

Jack would send out monthly sales blasts often pitting one salesman against the other for top performance. After a hard month of turning 6-8 deals (with his help) it was great to have my performance heralded in the bulletin (with a courtier character blowing his trumpet at the top).

And there was always a $250-$500 bonus, to boot.

Did Jack ever learn to pit me against his other hot-shot salesman!?!

When I left Jack to open up the Dallas/Fort Worth office in the mid-80's, I knew that I owed so much of my success to him and because of him.

Thank you Jack, you are a man for all seasons in my book!

Good luck on your new business ventures.

Transform Yourself into the Person You are Meant to be: pick your role models carefully. Part II

Jack Sanoff (left) and I Celebrate Our 40 Year
Relationship in November 2010 in California

My association with Jack Sanoff began five decades ago--it's hard to believe it has been that long! Tempis fugit.

Jack's start had been as a minor league pitcher for Cleveland Indians farm teams in Bakersfield, El Centro, (California) Fargo/Moorehead (Minnesota), Spartanburg, El Paso, Reading and Topeka. He had every kid's dream of becoming the next Bob Feller, the blazing fast ball pitcher of the Cleveland Indians.

On a recent trip to California, I reconnected with him-- he who has become and continues to be one of the strongest mentors, the strongest pitchman, I've had the privilege to serve under. On a beautiful warm November day, we spent an afternoon together at his new office in the East Bay San Ramon community. It had been 25+ years since we had last worked together.

Here's a man, pictured above with me, who -at 79- is vigorous, active and still a strong leader; he is going into partnership with the another 'Jack', a cool 85-year young businessman to market their program across the United States.

For seven years beginning in 1976, Jack (as General Manager of Mark-it List Publications, a Bay Area advertising group) taught me the art of direct sales. The product was the TV Movie News and my job was selling ad space to local merchants. Jack spent a few days with me out in the 'field' introducing me to his accounts, who now became my accounts.

To be continued!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Number 9: Transform yourself by lining up a role model(s): Part I of 3

It is vital to have a number of role models in your life whose words mirror their actions and and whose actions mirror their words.

I say 'vital' because without a series of guidelines to conduct the business of your life, your life is like a raft at sea without an anchor, without a port. The often corrupt mores of the marketplace will determine every decision, guide your every action.

It is imperative that we choose actions that will be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Before looking back at the decade that was and those individuals who have been guideposts for me, I must commend my dad who passed on at the end of the last decade. He was a doer, a man of few words and much action. He influenced thousands of lives through his medical practice of nearly 70 years and his teaching medical ethics in the community and the principles of differential diagnosis to hundreds of medical students for six decades.

He was a relentless pursuer of truth through his rigorous scientific research, published in many medical journals, and through his listening very carefully and attentively to the intimate details of the private lives of his patients. His character is explored in Remembering Dad's Passion for Sports.

To be Continued