All American Barbecue

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The Smell of Democracy in the Air

Every July 4th our split level development would be shrouded by the smoke of burning charcoal, the sizzling smell of democracy was in the air.

Besides a parade, nothing was more quintessentially American than a July 4th back yard barbecue. Like some sacred Old Testament tradition of sacrificing an animal to please the Lord, every Independence Day a burnt offering of seared flesh was offered up in homage to Uncle Sam.

And in that confident mid-century soaring bull market, Democracy was as vital to our health as a Delmonico steak.

Dad knew tossing a hunk of meat on a sizzling grill, the ubiquitous package of Kingsford briquettes at the ready, proclaimed to the world “I’m proud to be an American.”

The Smell of Capitalism In The Air

Wealth from Waste

In fact nothing was more American than those Kingsford briquettes. Invented by the quintessential American capitalist Henry Ford as a way of further lining his own pockets, Ford had a better idea. By charring the wood scraps left over from his Model T’s and mixing them with starch fillers and just the right amount of chemicals, industrious Mr. Ford created briquettes.

Ford Briquettes

The smell of democracy was indeed in the air – nothing reeked of capitalism more than turning industrial waste into profit.

Excerpt from Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear Family Copyright (©) 2014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

 

Can We Keep the Internet Free?

Is it just not that important to Americans? The Pew Research Center reports, “net neutrality is not likely to be the topic of dinner conversations. Outside of the many blogs and trade media that have covered the issue, two-thirds of the mainstream coverage has been made by just 6 newspapers, not counting the Wall Street Journal. TV coverage has been even more limited.”

Article by Candace Clements @candacejeanne

The Internet is no longer just a “virtual” public square—it’s the actual one. We debate critical issues online. We launch social movements with tweets. Independent media sites and citizen journalists have outposts in every part of the Web. Stories break all the time, from a range of sources. Advocacy groups collect data and blast information to their activists. Social media provides news scoops ahead of press releases.

World Future Internet

And right now there’s a war on over the future of the Internet.

On one side are the Internet service providers (ISPs)—the AT&Ts, Comcasts, and Verizons of the world. They’ve got millions of dollars to spend on lobbying. And they have direct lines into our homes and businesses.

On the other side is everyone else—Internet users like you and me, content companies, and online platforms like Netflix and reddit. To put it simply: If you’re not an ISP, you should be standing on this side of the line.

Right now, the question is: On which side of the line will the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) make its stand? Because this agency will determine the fate of the greatest communications network ever created.

FCC

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has a big task. In January, a federal court ruled the FCC could not enforce its Net neutrality rules as written (more on that below). Those rules required ISPs to treat all content and applications equally—if things were running slowly, they ran slowly for everyone.

Now Wheeler and his fellow commissioners have to make a choice. Protect the Internet we know and love—or surrender it to the ISPs.

In late April, Wheeler made his first move, releasing a proposed rewrite of the rules the court tossed out. According to early reports from FCC sources speaking to the press, these rules would give ISPs the ability to pick winners and losers and to discriminate online. ISPs would be permitted to slow down traffic from companies that don’t pay special fees. Put another way, if you can afford to pay up, you can be assured that your content is delivered the way Internet users are accustomed to getting it. If you can’t pay, welcome to the slow lane.

These rules would also give ISPs the freedom to favor their own offerings over those of their competitors. That would be a financial boon if, for example, you happen to be an ISP like Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal and its many content providers.

If you can’t pay, welcome to the slow lane.

“This is what one might call a net-discrimination rule, and, if enacted, it will profoundly change the Internet as a platform for free speech and small-scale innovation,” writes Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, who coined the term “Net neutrality.” “It threatens to make the Internet just like everything else in American society: unequal in a way that deeply threatens our long-term prosperity.”

A (very) brief history of the internet.Internet BeginningThe two-way, networked communication style fostered by the World Wide Web has begun supplanting the old, one-way mediums—broadcasting, print, and cable. It’s not about one company or one wire or one tower sending us information. It’s about all of us communicating directly with each other.

What has made the Internet so powerful—and so unlike its predecessors—is its very architecture. The Internet originally used telephone lines—a “common carrier” network. The concept of common carriage applies to many industries, but particularly transportation systems such as railroads, highways, and airlines—as well as our long-distance telephone and cellular networks.

In the early days of the Internet, owners of the physical infrastructure could not discriminate based on content. The government’s role was to ensure that anyone who wanted to access the networks could use them, without a gatekeeper in the way.

So for startups, independent media, and corporations alike, network owners were not allowed to speed up or slow down access to websites and applications. This is what allowed for so much innovation and competition online.

Time Magazine Cover

But the phone and cable companies were looking for a cut of all the economic activity on their networks. They flooded the FCC’s offices with pricey lobbyists—and the strategy worked.

The FCC began dismantling the regulatory structure that protected common carriage on these networks. In 2002, the agency caved to the cable industry’s bizarre argument: that if you were accessing the Internet over a cable line, instead of a phone line, it was somehow different and shouldn’t be subject to common-carrier protections. In 2005, the FCC decided this same approach should apply to all other platforms (including the phone lines) used to access the Internet. When the public revolted at the loss of all common-carrier protections, the agency adopted a new set of openness principles.

But principles aren’t the same as enforceable rules, so in 2010 the FCC said it would codify the idea of Net neutrality into law by passing the Open Internet Order. This watered-down version of Net neutrality failed even to cover wireless networks, but Verizon, a major wireless network, sued anyway, claiming the agency lacked the authority to create and enforce its rules. In January 2014, a federal court agreed with Verizon and overturned the FCC order.

But the court didn’t comment on the merits of Net neutrality. Instead, it simply said if the FCC wanted to write rules that would pass legal scrutiny, it would first need to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. This would allow the FCC to once again treat network owners as common carriers.

All Eyes On Wheeler

Enter Chairman Wheeler, center stage.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Credit: Pando.com January’s court decision opened the door for the FCC to right the wrongs of previous administrations. If the FCC wants Net neutrality, it must reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would restore common-carrier protections. All signs, unfortunately, suggest Wheeler plans to weaken, or even eliminate, Net neutrality.

January’s court decision opened the door for the FCC to right the wrongs of previous administrations. If the FCC wants Net neutrality, it must reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would restore common-carrier protections. All signs, unfortunately, suggest Wheeler plans to weaken, or even eliminate, Net neutrality.

Reports of the FCC’s newest proposal on Net neutrality confirm that the agency is leaning toward a weak approach that stands little chance of holding up in court. The plan doesn’t actually address the problem—and many say it’s just a clever means of legal deferment. By proposing convoluted rules that don’t stand a chance of survival, Wheeler is attempting to get the best of both worlds: He’s paying lip service to the concept of Net neutrality while doing nothing to enforce it.

The uproar from those of us standing across the dividing line started as soon as the proposal leaked. The day after the FCC’s plan was reported in the press, The New York Times editorialized:

In this new world, smaller content providers and startups that could not pay for preferential treatment might not be able to compete because their delivery speeds would be much slower. And consumers would have to pay more because any company that agrees to strike deals with phone and cable companies would undoubtedly pass on those costs to their users.

Yet this isn’t just about the big video and content companies. As Stanford Law School professor Barbara van Schewick explains, the FCC’s proposal would seriously disadvantage those lacking the resources of an already established corporate entity.

Photo:Daniel Wolf/ flckr

Photo:Daniel Wolf/ Flickr

“Today, individuals and nonprofits can put their content online at low cost, and when it travels across the network, that content receives the same service from the network as commercial content,” writes van Schewick. “By contrast, access fees would create two classes of speakers—those who can pay to receive better treatment (e.g., large, established companies or wealthy individuals) and those who cannot afford to do so—often individuals and groups with unpopular or new viewpoints, like activists and artists.”

Net neutrality activists expected the FCC to release full details of its proposal at its May 15 meeting and began mobilizing in April, calling on the FCC and Congress to fully ensure a free Internet. Once the FCC releases its official proposal, the floodgates will open for public comment. If the initial reaction is any indicator, millions of people will weigh in.

The five FCC commissioners have the power to protect or destroy the Internet as we know it. Unless everyone on this side of the line speaks up, Comcast and Verizon will get the last word. To save the Internet, Americans have to speak up now.

Candace Clement wrote this article for The Power of Story, the Summer 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. Candace is Field Director for Free Press, a national, nonpartisan organization fighting for your right to connect and communicate.

 

 

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest

Suburban Growth

By David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

PA state archives - Harrisburgh

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

LIS counts after-tax cash income from salaries, interest and stock dividends, among other sources, as well as direct government benefits such as tax credits.

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

“The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”

That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added. Continue reading

An Uncomplicated Christmas

Seatrs Christmas CatalogIt was the year 1961 and we were planning our Christmas shopping.

There weren’t many choices for us living in a small town in the Pocono Mountains of

Pennsylvania. In those early years much of our shopping was done through catalogs. We would get the big catalogs and also the Christmas issues from Sears Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward.

We would spend hours looking through those catalogs and try to decide what to get other family members. I had received many presents in my younger years from one of those catalogs. The presents were always delivered by mail. No UPS back in those days.

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When Flying Was Fun for Thanksgiving

As millions crowd our airports for the traditional Thanksgiving trek home over the river and through the woods, the tension mounts at the thought of long lines, insufferable crowds, and the dreaded delays that inevitably await the weary and wary traveler.

Gloom is cast before the holiday even begins.

But for the Post-War population, the new air travel was a breeze.

For the modern mid-century family, the notion of flying home for the holidays was a novelty and a grand experience at that.

“Over the River and Over the woods. To grandmothers house we go,” this 1951 TWA ad announces gaily.

The gleeful modern family fairly bursting with pep and anticipation couldn’t wait to board their flight to visit Grandma. Why let old-fashioned distance keep a family apart?

“There’s a new road now to an old tradition. It’s the TWA high way home for Thanksgiving. And what a blessing it is to families separated by too many rivers and too many woods….and so many years!”“If you’ve let distance and lack of time keep you away too long, try traveling this high way. Find out how TWA can make it very near to someone dear- for even an ocean apart is only hours apart…by skyliner!”

TWA went out of their way to make flying a family affair! Flying was no longer just for Dad and his business trips. Once the airline, started their Family Budget Plan, “…parents have had cause to cheer'” boasts TWA in this 1949 ad. “for now they can take the whole family by air at down to earth prices.”

By traveling on a Monday Tuesday or Wednesday, they could save substantially. “As head of the family,” they explain “Dad pays full fare. Mother and the children under 22 go for only half fare each”…and best of all crying infants and toddlers under 2 could fly free of charge!

Tempting you further, TWA promises, “The flight is a delight, the service supreme, with delicious hot meals served free. Best of all…and oh how mother loves this!…you’re there long before the kids start to fuss or fidget!”

“Snowtime’s no time to give up flying! Vintage American Airlines Ad 1950

Compare the cheery disposition of Mr. and Mrs. Modern who have chosen the up -to-date way to travel to visit Grandmother with their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Outdated who chose the more antiquated mode of travel- their automobile.

Hampered by a snow storm they are unable to dig out in time for the turkey. Mrs. Outdated, with visions of stuffing and cranberries dancing in her head, looks longingly at the speeding plane in the sky, carrying the wise Moderns to the destination.

Vintage ad American Airlines 1949

 

“Don’t Give Up- Go Up,” declared American Airlines in this 1949 advertisement , touting the benefits and wonders of the new air travel that most post-war families had yet to experience.

“Air Travel- and only air travel can often make the difference between the accessible and the impossible. This is especially true during the holidays when the earthbound are frequently snowbound. Hence, wise travelers plan to go by air.”

“Also, air travel is little affected by the challenge of distance and time. The miles on the map lose their menace- the hands of the clock become friend instead of foe when you use this modern means of transportation.”

“So when holiday travel plans seem likely to get ‘bogged down’ don’t give up- go up.”

Step Right Up, Amigos – Have a Coke!

Drinking Coke was synonymous with fighting the enemies of freedom and democracy. Vintage WWII Coca Cola Ad 1945

Drinking Coke was synonymous with fighting the enemies of freedom and democracy. Vintage WWII Coca Cola Ad 1945

The heartbreaking tragedy on the Leyte Island of the Philippines which bore the brunt of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan has a special relevance today when we honor our veterans. Thoughts go back to another fall day, October 1944 when General Douglas MacArthur landed on that very same island keeping his promise “to return” and liberate the Philippines.

Wherever the American army went so did Coca cola.

Coke went to remarkable lengths to make sure their soft drink was never far from the front lines, wasting no time in running an ad celebrating our shared victory in the Philippines.

“Naturally Filipinos thrilled when their Yankee comrade-in-arms came back to the Philippines,” the copy for this 1945 Coke ad declares.

“Freedom came with them.”

“Fair play took the place of fear. But also they brought back the old sense of friendliness that America stands for.”

Now the Filipinos need us again

Let us not forget that Filipinos bravely helped our American soldiers, let us not forget them now. We shall return…with help.

 

 

 

Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day: Nov. 24

Camille Farrell, Hoop Artist

For many adults, the sight of a hula-hoop brings back childhood memories of carefree days of rotating a round plastic tube around their hips. Gyrating a hula-hoop can be how many have learned the physics of force, propulsion, speed, and that irreducible buzz-kill known as gravity. Since its introduction by WHAM-O as a children’s toy in the late 1950’s, the hula-hoop has been instrumental in teaching persistence, patience, and the exhilaration of accomplishing a goal.

One of the goals of Hoop Tribe of Salem is to inspire a sense of unity within the community, one hoop at a time. Like many flow artists, their aim is to bring people together, making a positive difference by promoting a healthy, fun, and positive lifestyle. Camille Farrell, founder of Hoop Tribe, has been actively involved in producing hoops and performing at local venues since 2008. With their hoops as dance partners, the hoopers perform at various music festivals, public events, art shows, and also hold workshops at BushPark, Minto Brown Island Park, and at the Waterfront in Salem. The positive feedback from the community has been encouraging and rewarding for the group, spurring their desire to pay it forward.

Hoop Yoga

Flow arts are something that Farrell has been interested in since she first saw a young woman dancing with a hula-hoop. “Shortly after my father passed away, I discovered hooping as a way to channel my negative energy into something positive and creative,” Farrell said. “I’ll never forget the first time I saw someone dancing with a hula hoop – it was in 2008 at the NW String Summit festival at Horning’s Hideout, a wild peacock farm right outside of Hillsboro. I went home and made a hoop of my own (and one for my best friend). Here I am five years later still passionate about hooping. It’s a creative outlet to raise money for charities, encourage a healthy positive lifestyle, create a sense of community among local artists, spread love, and inspire others the way I was inspired that day at NW String Summit.”

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Siri – The Voice with a Smile?

Welcome home Mac! The first Mac Pro to be Made in America will be unleashed in December. This news got us to thinking about all things Mac and we zoomed in on Siri because the real voice of Siri was recently uncovered.

Siri Speaks!

Exactly two years after Siri made her auspicious debut on October 4, 2011, the mystery woman’s identity can now be revealed. Apple’s voice activated virtual assistant never quite took off in popularity the way Apple envisioned her, but the closely guarded identity of the oft time snarky Siri has been widely speculated.

According to CNN, she is an Atlanta based voice over actress named Susan Bennett.

Though Apple is being cagey and won’t confirm it, the sleuths at CNN found audio forensic experts to back up the actresses claim.

Would You Repeat That Again?

Staying connected with the assistance of a disconnected female voice is nothing new.

Once upon a time, the alert, courteous voice of the telephone operator was known to everyone who used the telephone. Siris’ snippy voice and quirky personality stands in contrast to the golden age of telephone operators who possessed the “voice with a smile.”

The Voice With a Smile

Bell Telephone Ad 1940

Vintage Bell Telephone Ad 1940s The familiar "Voice With a Smile' operator

Telephone operators were known for their courtesy. “It’s nice to pick up the telephone,” ads would point out, “and hear an alert friendly voice come over the wire.”

“The voice with a smile” was the familiar AT&T slogan used from the 1930’s through the 1950’s . The ads visualized the cheerful sound of the company’s female operators painting a pretty face on the happy voice of the phone worker.

The speech of operators was firmly regulated through strict codes of appropriate responses enforced by supervisors listening unannounced on operators line.

“Operator ~ May I Help You?

"The Bell system appreciates your patronage, and tries to deserve it"

From the beginning, the occupation of switchboard operators was almost exclusively female. Women were valued not only because of their gentle voice, and nimble fingers , but as an added bonus, they worked for lower wages.

According to Lana Rakow in “Women and the Telephone.” an article in The American Telephone Journal of 1902 explained why female operators were desirable: “The dulcet tones of the feminine voice seem to exercise a soothing and calming effect upon the masculine mind, subduing irritation and suggesting gentleness of speech and demeanor, thereby avoiding unnecessary friction”

What Number Did You Want?

Vintage Bell Telephone Ads

From the 1930’s through the 1950’s AT&T recruited female employees through popular women’s magazines such as American Girl, Senior Prom and True Story, appearing next to ads for weight loss, feminine itch relief and bust creams.

Ads emphasized how important women were to the telephone industry. “170,000 women are employed by the Bell system,” one ad stated. “More than half of the 315,000 employees of the Bell System are women. They are your friends and neighbors- living in the same section of the country. They average length of service is about ten years.”

Perhaps courtesy and manners have gone the way of the telephone, which itself is beginning to feel rather antiquated.

 

Do Family Farms Still Matter?

Gaining Ground This article first came to our attention from our friends at I Support Farmers Markets, but originally published in Parade. We wanted to share this remarkable journey taken by author/farmer Forrest Pritchard.

As my friends headed off to graduate school, I pointed my dusty pickup toward the farm. My college advisors shook their heads with well-meaning disapproval. “Go ahead,” they admonished. “Get your hands dirty for a few months. But when you’re ready to decide on a career, the real world will be waiting for you.

But this is the real world, I insisted. It’s a world of sunshine and rain. It’s a world of physical work and sweat, and the sweet satisfaction of nurturing life from the earth. A few weeks back on the farm, I was sunburned and filthy and utterly blissful. Most importantly, I was certain that I had made the right decision.

I projected our bills for the coming winter, and knew that we needed ten thousand dollars to carry us into spring. That summer, we planted the farm with corn and soybeans, abandoning our traditional cow pastures for the quicker financial return of grain. The meadows were killed off with herbicide, and the rolling hills cultivated.

In October, trucks whisked away our glittering corn and soy. I was so proud of what we had accomplished: We had saved our family farm. Later that week, I received our paycheck and tore open the envelope.

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A Rhapsody in Blue, Red, Orange & Yellow

Central Park in Autumn

I don’t know why, but George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue has always reminded me of Fall. Watching the season’s colors burst forth in a dazzling array, while the temperature drops and the sky exhibits a dichotomy of gloom and brilliance all at the same time. The Fall season is a time for fresh starts, almost similar to New Year, with much less pressure; and also a time for the beginning of hibernation and introspection.

I love Fall. I love the clothing of Fall, the warm snugly sweaters, the scarfs, the jackets. It all seems so much more stylish than shorts and tank tops and flip flops.  I love the routine of Fall, no one is going on vacation – they are concentrating on work, school, business (or so it seems). I love the crisp air in the morning and evening, the shuffling sound of the leaves underfoot, and the cacophony of the geese above, flying south. I love the crackling sound and smell of fireplaces, oh how I love wood-burning fireplaces!

If only Fall could last forever! Enjoy this video by Gilda Tabarez with music from the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, directed by Leonard Bernstein. It is amazing!