Wednesday, August 23, 2017

History by Sir Winston

I’m re-reading Winston Churchill’s “A History of the English Speaking Peoples”. I’m halfway through volume 4 at the moment. The series begins in 55BC with the Roman invasion of the England and covers the highlights up to the beginning of WWI.

Sir Winston was not a professional historian, he was a true student of history. Churchill like all great, thoughtful and astute leaders understood, maybe more than most, the lessons of history and the guidance history can provide for future generations.

When you read Churchill’s work, you get an English-centric view of history. It is good to get a view from the other side of the Atlantic of the emergence of our country during the revolution and the events leading up to our civil war. All of it grounded in real, unvarnished historical fact. Good reading for any American.

As I re-read the books I was again astonished at the bloodshed, carnage and chaos created by religion in England, France, Spain and other countries and regions all over the world for centuries. It is no wonder our Founding fathers wrote “freedom of religion” into our constitution, I only wish they would have written “freedom from religion”.

Churchill had a great interest in military history. His telling of how we won our revolution by winning so few battles against the English is refreshing.

Churchill lays out why the North won the civil war, not only because the North was on the right side of history, but because of the geographical and industrial advantages that doomed the Confederacy from the opening days of the conflict.

Churchill writes the South had arrogantly expected Britain and Europe to come to their aid and he reminds us that no foreign power recognized the Confederacy during the conflict.

Churchill’s thoughts on Robert E. Lee point out that Lee was conflicted at the beginning of succession and even after a long consultation with President Lincoln where he was offered command of the Union Army, Lee made his choice to resign and go home to Virginia to become a traitor to his nation and his entire, illustrious career as a soldier for the United States of America. Churchill felt Lee lost his chance at greatness the day he rode across the Potomac.

In earlier volumes Churchill writes of feudalism’s roots in the Roman system of government in every part of the Roman Empire.

He writes of religion’s caustic effects on civil society across the world.

He writes of  beginning and growth of the rights of average citizens to have a say in the way they are governed in English Common Law and how the American and French Revolutions spurred that thinking world-wide.

“A History of the English Speaking Peoples” is well worth reading. If for no other reason than it reinforces :

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My father fought the Nazis

Toward the end of World War II, my Dad flew the 2nd Glider across the Rhine during opening moments of Operation Varsity. (Varsity was and is the largest airborne operation in history.) Operation Varsity was the first phase of the invasion of Germany early in 1945.

The Army Air Corps learned from airborne operations earlier in the war to form up the glider pilots and glider crews into infantry units and put them in the fight after they were on the ground. My father fought in a battle that was pivotal during Operation Varsity. It was called “Burp Gun Corner.” The pilots were ordered to hold a critical crossroad near Wesel. My Dad’s company of glider pilots accomplished their mission by blowing up a Panzer tank on a narrow city street and that disabled tank stalled a Nazi counter attack allowing the Allie’s offensive to continue.

Here is what General Bereton, Commander of the 1st Airborne Army had to say:

“The conduct of glider pilots, in general, is beyond written words of commendation. Not only did they deliver a magnificent and well-coordinated landing which in many cases was in the midst of hostile positions, but were immediately engaged with the Airborne associates in the hottest kind of hand-to-hand fighting. In one instance, a glider pilot serial immediately organized for all-around defense and withstood heavy counter-attacks with the weapons at their disposal, putting one enemy tank out of action in this engagement. The discipline and combat efficiency of these glider pilots has called forth the highest praise of Division and Regimental officers."

When Dad came home from the war, he had his B-4 bag of uniforms, a duffel bag of flight suits and other pilot gear and 2 two foot lockers. In one of the foot lockers he carried home some Nazi memorabilia, two large Nazi flags, a small flag from the disabled tank, signed by his fellow pilots turned infantry men. A Nazi officer’s cap and dress belt and dagger and a Nazi army steel helmet.

No matter how many times my friends and I played “Army” none of us would ever use any of dad’s “Nazi stuff” to enhance our war play along the banks of the Red River. I remember putting on the Nazi helmet once and getting a strange feeling as I looked at my child face in the mirror.

I can’t recall my Dad ever looking at his little collection. Like every combat vet, he didn’t talk about actual fighting. He did tell plenty of great stories about London and Paris though. The best was his co-pilot getting a bloody nose when he walked into the glass door of a small Paris bistro or getting blown out of his bed in a London hotel during a Luftwaffe bombing raid on the city or listening to a speech on a French airstrip given by General Eisenhower after the Nazi surrender.

This past week I’ve often thought what my Dad would think of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, Nazis marching and chanting by torchlight or the president’s defense of white supremacy. Dad hated everything the Nazi regime stood for. He knew and loved his fellow pilots who died or were wounded during his time in the Army Air Corps. He felt he was fortunate to come home alive to Mom and his family and to me. He went into battle knowing mom was pregnant with me, I’ve often wondered how that weighed on his mind. His letters to mom were upbeat and positive. He never sounded tense or afraid. I know he was from my conversations later in life with his friend Bob Anton, who spent his time at war as an Army tanker. Anton and Dad would sit and talk over Seagram’s VO from time to time, if I’d show up the conversation would stop. They were talking about the war, their war.

The only time I remember dad saying anything about Nazis was when George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi party was scheduled to speak at the University back in the 60’s. All Dad said was “he’s a Nazi son of a bitch.”

I think he’d feel the same today, I know I do.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memo to Mom

To: Mom (Mother, Ma, Maw, etc)
From: Oldest Son
Re: Mother’s Day
5/11/2014 (still works)
I’m sure you enjoy being a spark in the Universe, you always liked to travel. Have you caught up with the old man yet? I’d have liked to have witnessed that first meeting because you had a lot to say to him, I’d also like have seen you two hug, kiss and make up and have some fun again.
Things are interesting here, Cakes (I know you hated me calling her that) has a new job and is kicking ass. I’m sitting around trying to figure out what to do. Don’t worry I’ll get it figured out sooner or later. I always have.
The kids are fine, Stephanie is in Costa Rica, I can hear you right now, “What the hell is she doing down there!” relax Mom, she’s in love and sounds happy as a lark. Kristen’s business is taking wing after a lot of hard work and lessons learned. You’d be proud of her. Your great grandchildren are spectacular, the girls have finished college. The boys are a couple of little shit heels just like I was. (pause)I know, I know, I was just kidding. They’re doing fine and they even enjoy brief visits from me. Bruce, Kathy and Margo are fine, so are all the kids. You’d be pleased to know that your name comes up all the time. So your memory lives on and will. Liz is still a pain in the ass and is a great grandmother, but I’m sure you know that story
I’ve read some great books lately. I miss our “Book Club”. You’d love “Game of Thrones”. BTW, I’ve read 7 Vonnegut’s over the past two weeks, I know you thought he was nuts and we argued about him for years. I still think you’re nuts to think he was nuts, so don’t even talk to me about it anymore, god dammit! Hope you run into him, tell him just how nuts you think he is and he tells you are just another deranged, misguided lunatic from his generation carrying around a bucket full of loose screws, who wouldn’t know a screwdriver from a thermonuclear device. Serves you both right.
Hey Ma thanks for visiting me in a dream the other night and reminding me to pay my American Express bill, you were always good about stuff like that.
Cakes (I know you hate that) is still sleeping, otherwise I’d put her on. I noticed the other day she picked up your picture and her mother’s picture from the English desk and stood there looking at the both of you. I didn’t ask what she was doing. I knew.
It’s a nice day Mom, wish you were here. We could sit in the sand at the beach, eat some seafood at Neptune’s Net, come home, take a nap. Have a nice light dinner and watch Game of Thrones together. You can have the new chair, it’s a wingback and you always loved those.
Love, hugs and kisses,
Your first kid.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bill O'Rieilly is a Dick

Bill O’ was up for spending a few days in the Florida sunshine. Our AM in South Florida carried his radio show from Westwood One. Bill needed a place to do his daily show live, we provided him a studio, we provided him a hotel and a limo. He owned a condo in Fort Lauderdale, but he needed a hotel suite, more on that in a minute.

A couple of hours before O’Reilly’s appearance, his producer showed up at the station, nice young guy, easy to work with. He and our producer, the highly competent Lupe Soto worked everything out. Then O’Reilly showed up 10 minutes before the first show and pretty much threw a grenade in the room, slammed the door, waited a minute or two and then proceeded to scream at his producer and our staff. No one could figure what he was pissed off about. He was just pissed. He was angry. He was a dick. According to Bill O, nothing was right, nothing worked to his satisfaction. Somehow our station, a radio station that operated like a fine watch 24/7 was a smoking, steaming pile of shit.

After the show got under way, I left for lunch, I walked out in the parking lot, noticed a black town car idling in the hot Florida sunshine. Sitting in the back seat was a young woman filing her nails. I realized at that moment why Bill needed that suite at the hotel and wasn’t using his family condo.

We did a meet and greet with a few clients and listeners after his show the next day. Bill O was a dick to them too. He was short, ill-tempered and treated them with contempt.

As he closed his last show he told his loyal audience that he was meeting his family for the weekend at their Florida condo as he closed the “Factor”. Never mentioned the station, never mentioned our staff. As he walked out the door, he didn’t shake a hand or bother to say goodbye.

Bill O’Reilly is and was a massive dick. Worse than Michael (Wiener) Savage, who spent his time in South Florida wearing a heavy coat and a long scarf, at least Savage didn’t shit all over our staff.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

No Trumpets before 9 AM


On a warm and sunny day in Southern California, a man is sitting at a table, across from him is an earnest young woman with a tape recorder. It begins

“I have no idea why anyone would be interested in any of this or what I think about what’s happened to the radio business.”

“You spent most of your life in it, your opinions and thoughts matter. They’re a part of the history of the business. You were there at the beginning, as a participant.” She said.

“I wasn’t there at the beginning, when I showed up and got involved it was a few years after it began, So I wasn't a pioneer, that’s for damn sure." The man lighted a cigarette, an American Spirit Yellow.
"The opportunity for change was there, the big guys, the smart money, just couldn’t see it. Think of it this way, the fire was ready to burn and a few of us showed up with the matches, all you had to do was strike one and light the kindling. The smart guys didn’t even think the stack of wood would burn, to the point of denying that it was even burning, after it started. Some couldn't even feel the heat.”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“It was obvious at the time FM would work, there were beautiful music stations on FM all over the country generating huge listening audiences, some of the money men and the smart guys, the big companies, owned the damn things, who knows what they were thinking? A company has a facility. Let’s say in San Francisco, the fucking thing is number one or two in the market. At that point in time, almost nobody owns an FM receiver, but somehow the station is generating a huge audience. I used to wonder what the hell went on in the board meetings. I had dinner one night with the father of beautiful music, the guy they were paying to create the programming. I asked him, you know what he said?”

“I haven’t a clue.” She said.

“He said nothing, he just shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know either."

“So what happened?”

“The music changed for one thing, that was the catalyst. The music needed an outlet. It sure as hell wasn’t going to get it on sixties era Top 40. Stations at the time tried to play an edited version of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. The listeners revolted and forced them to play the song unedited, all 5 minutes and 56 seconds of it. That happened in the mid 60’s and it was a big deal in an era of record companies editing songs down just for radio, shit they used to cut old Beach Boys songs to under 2 minutes. I can’t remember which of the Beach Boys songs it was, whatever it was, I think the original was 2 minutes 36 seconds long. They cut it to 1:56." The man took a long drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke up in the warm air. 

"Capitol actually put out radio only albums called “short cuts”. Really, really stupid and the listeners wouldn’t put up with it anymore. The people running the radio stations at that time couldn’t understand what was happening. Actually, the silly bastards didn’t want to understand, they couldn’t get their heads around the fact things were changing, that they could no longer dictate musical tastes or control it anymore. Neither did the record companies."

"Our generation certainly wasn’t having or taking it anymore. There had to be a medium where what the listener could hear what they wanted to hear, demanded to hear. The un-loved, underutilized step child FM signals were the solution. Somebody once called them, the funny little stations down the hall.”

“Only took about 5 years for them to stop laughing. A few of them never got it.”

“Want another cup of coffee?” The man asked.

The woman nodded, yes.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Our family's unknown man is my Great, Grandfather Harris, he was killed in a coal mining accident in Illinois. He left a young wife and two little girls. Why was he in Illinois? He immigrated because the Welsh village he grew up was devastated by a mine explosion and collapse. Devastated to the point that the village ceased to exist. They called it a disaster and it was. Young Harris moved from one disaster zone to another. He survived the first, not the second.

Coal mining has always been a dirty, nasty job. If you weren't killed underground you died later of the effects of black lung or of the injuries connected to your job.

Our republican President has promised that coal is coning back, it isn't and now this has happened:

Almost 23,000 retired coal miners and their dependents on Wednesday received official notification that they could lose their health care benefits by April 30.
“This is causing tremendous mental and in some cases physical trauma to these senior citizens,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said Wednesday. “They will now have to begin contemplating whether to continue to get medicines and treatments they need to live or to buy groceries. They will now have to wonder if they can go see a doctor for chronic conditions like black lung or cancer or pay the mortgage.”
For the last year, U.S. senators representing Ohio and West Virginia have worked to preserve health care coverage and pensions for retired coal miners. Roberts and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the health care coverage was originally slated to expire at the end of 2016, but Congress passed a four-month extension at that time.

Then the turd in the punch bowl floated to the surface...

When KY Sen. Mitch McConnell strode into the Capitol for last month’s State of the Union speech, he took with him a guest whose presence was sure to be seen as a slap against the Obama administration and its policies on coal.

“I brought along this unemployed coal miner here,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said, gesturing to fourth-generation mineworker Howard Abshire, “to see the person who put him out of work.”
The Senate majority leader said he wanted to call attention to President Obama’s “heartless” regulations that he argues have devastated communities in Abshire’s native eastern Kentucky. Yet just weeks earlier, McConnell’s office had delivered its own blow to Appalachian coal towns: It blocked efforts to rescue health and pension funds on which thousands of retired and disabled miners rely.

A plan that would ensure the solvency of the funds nearly made it through Congress in December as part of the bipartisan budget deal that cleared both chambers. But the bailout attempt — backed by key lawmakers from both political parties — was excluded from the deal at McConnell’s request, according to four Senate officials directly familiar with the events.
McConnell’s spokesman does not dispute that telling of events. And McConnell has not publicly explained his opposition to the measure.

Add to that, deregulation of existing mines, (read that as lax safety standards) lowering of water standards and increased mountain top removal operations and you get not only a perfect recipe for disaster you get zero no jobs because there is NO MARKET for COAL.

I wish some country singer would pen a song about "Coal aunt Comin' Back" or "Piss off Mitch" rather than more nonsensical bullshit about pickup trucks, beer and country girls in Daisy Dukes.

Patti Loveless wrote one...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Thoughts and insight from the “New Career” files…

I have a friend who built a formidable fortune in the car business. He is still involved in selling cars via his auto auctions.

Here are some insights he gave me about the business.

“The biggest problem in the car business is poor management.”

“Dealers hate the manufacturers and the manufacturers hate the dealers.”

“Some dealers are afraid of the internet and some embrace it. If a customer shows up with a print out from a website, they’ve already bought the car, show it to them, test drive them and write the deal up.”

After 7 months selling cars (or as my sister says, “trying to prove something to Dad”) I have some thoughts as well.

Customers need to do the math. You can’t buy a $50,000 car for $400 a month unless you have a superb, paid for trade-in or are ready to put 30k down on the new car. The rough rule of thumb is $22. a thousand financed over 60 months or 220 a month for every ten thousand financed.

You won’t get a discount for cash. Paying cash for a car makes no difference. Yes, the dealer makes money on the financing from the bank, not a lot, but some.

Leasing makes sense if you drive 15k a year or less. You always have a fresh, up to date car and you only pay for your use of it. Research the residual value of cars you are interested in. For instance a Jeep Wrangler Sport has an extremely high residual and that has a huge effect on the lease payments.

If you finance a new car, know you are going to be “upside down” for a long time. Remember the bank always gets paid first. Essentially you are “buried” for the first 3 or 4 years in a long term auto loan.

Nobody is trying to “screw” you at a legitimate car store. It’s illegal and if a dealer does it, they get huge fines and can lose the right to business.

Buying a car is generally the 2nd largest purchase you’ll make, there are a lot of details to take care of, a lot of papers to sign and it takes time to do it right, Don’t rush it and ask questions if you don’t understand something. If there is something that needs attention, get it in writing and get it confirmed by management, before you sign off on the car.

The credit application has to be filled out correctly, no fudging on income, nothing can be crossed out and leave nothing essential blank. Never let the salesperson or manager fill anything in for you. Never! The credit application generates your car’s registration so it is doubly important.

You’ll never know what your payment is going to be until your credit is run. Payments are determined by the car you’re buying and your credit history. I will get you a ball park number if you know your credit score, not exact but close. Be aware the management hates it when I come in and ask them to run a number without a credit app. However, if you hand me a recent copy of your credit report it’s less of a hassle. Don’t ever go from dealer to dealer and let them run your credit. It’s dumb and it drives your score down.

I sell a lot of trucks. My clients buy trucks for many difference reasons. Here are a few truck tips, unless you drive over 17,000 miles a year don’t opt for the diesel engine, the fuel savings don’t add up. The more miles you drive the quicker the diesel pays off. The Cummins diesel option on the Ram 2500 costs almost 10k more than the V8, think about it. The diesel gets better mileage and has more power, but unless you drive a lot or tow heavy things around on a regular basis you are be spending money you don’t need to spend.

If you buy a truck to tow a boat or a trailer calculate the towing capability this way, use 70% of the towing capacity as the holy grail of towing. Here’s why, add up all the things you are going to be carrying in your trailer, fresh water, black water, food, ice, clothing, etc, etc. Now your 6,000 lb trailer weighs 7,000. Then add people to your truck, 4 people at 150 each. Now add coolers, luggage, bikes, tools, lawn chairs and your dog. Now you’ve added another 700 lbs to the load. If your truck is rated at 8500 lbs towing capacity you are pushing it. Be like a pilot and leave a large margin of error.

One last thing…

Buying a car is the balance between need and desire. That said, there is nothing like owning a car (or truck) that puts a smile on your face every time you start the engine.