Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dewey beats Truman

One of the most famous newspaper headlines in history was the one that was printed by the Chicago Daily Tribune on the morning of November 3, 1948, the day after the election. It boldly declared that Thomas Dewey had beaten Harry Truman in the 1948 Presidential election, and it reaffirmed the fact that every poll had confidently predicted that Dewey would win. Just before the election, Life magazine had even released a cover with a photo of Dewey and the caption, “The Next President of the United States”.

Truman was not a glad hander, and the Daily Tribune had a low opinion of him. At one point, they actually called him a nincompoop on their editorial page.

At the time of the election, the Daily Tribune was struggling with a printer’s strike, which forced it to go to press hours before it normally would have. As the deadline for the first headline approached, managing editor Pat Maloney had to make a deadline call, even though results were still coming in from the East Coast. Due to the fact that the paper’s Washington correspondent, Arthur Sears Henning had predicted that Dewey would win, (and he was rarely wrong), Maloney decided to publish the opinion that Dewey had won.

The Tribune had already printed 150,000 copies before radio bulletins reported that the race was surprisingly close. Although the paper ultimately tried to destroy as many of the first edition as it could, one copy managed to get to St. Louis, and was shown to Harry Truman, who proudly held it up for the photographers.

A limited number of papers somehow managed to survive the purge by the Tribune, and a few of them turned up years later. On the day that a Texas couple found one in an abandoned storage facility in 2012, there were six of them listed for sale on eBay. The most expensive one was listed at $2495, but pristine copies of the same edition have sold for as much as $4000, a pretty hefty price for a newspaper that originally sold for 4 cents.

All of us make mistakes at some point in our lives, usually more frequently than we might care to admit. Nevertheless, most of us manage to accomplish enough positive things that we redeem ourselves.

Arguably, the most famous mistake in history was the printing of a postage stamp called “the inverted Jenny”, which was first issued on May 10, 1918. It shows a picture of a Curtis JN-4 airplane flying upside down. Only one pane of 100 inverted stamps was ever found,, which made them prized collector’s items. On May 31, 2016, a perfect copy of an “inverted Jenny” stamp was sold at auction. The final selling price, including the buyer’s premium, was $1,175,000.

The 1948 Presidential election is considered by most historians to be one of the greatest election upsets in American history. Ultimately, Harry Truman captured 28 states and 303 electoral ballots, considerably more than the 266 electoral votes that were required at the time. He got 24,179,347 votes, a little more than 2,000,000 more votes than his rival, Thomas Dewey.

The Truman administration achieved some notable accomplishments, but the start of the Korean War, and his dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur caused his approval rating to plummet to 22% by 1952, which helped Dwight Eisenhower achieve a landslide victory in the 1952 election. After his defeat, Thomas Dewey resumed his role of governor of New York, a role that he held until 1954. At that point, he returned to his private law practice, which made him a very wealthy man.

Thomas Dewey is a good example of handling defeat with honor, and his modern day counterpart is Al Gore, who was defeated by George W. Bush in 2000, even though he had actually captured 500,000 MORE votes than George Bush. The election was finally determined by the fact that Bush captured 271 electoral votes (ONE more that was needed) and Gore captured 266.

I am not a crook.

Eventually, it was determined that Bush actually LOST the election, but by that time, Gore had conceded defeat without whining that the election was “rigged”. As a result, he was able to spend more time discussing climate change, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.

The botched headline in 1948 did not do any lasting damage to the Chicago Tribune. Over the years, the paper has earned 25 Pulitzer prizes, a respectable number in view of the fact that owner Robert McCormick refused to participate in the awards for a number of years.

The moral of this story is that if you make a mistake, don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over it. Admit your mistake and move on. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, October 14, 2016

take me out to the ball game, part 2

By now, most of us are VERY TIRED of politics, so it’s fortunate that all the madness will finally come to fruition in a little more than 3 weeks. The majority of the voting population made their decision a long time ago, which means that Trump supporters are unmoved by the “locker room talk” video that turned up last week, and Clinton supporters really don’t care about the Clinton emails that just got released by Wiki Leaks. However, there ARE a lot of people who are undecided because they don’t trust either side.

There WAS a time that the most trusted person in America was Walter Cronkite, but the highest ranked news person today, Diane Sawyer of ABC World News, weighs in at the #25 slot. The top 4 slots are held by actors, and the highest rated politician is First Lady Michelle Obama, who is slotted #19:

Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us can’t help but feel compelled to devour everything that we can about politics, and easy access to numerous publications and websites helps the feeding frenzy.

As a result, it’s important to step back a minute, and consider the fact that there ARE other things in life besides politics.

Like baseball, for instance.

When I was a kid, the most important sport in America was baseball, but it now ranks 2nd (to football) in popularity. As a result, most of us have forgotten that the World Series will start on October 25, and there is a very good chance that the Chicago Cubs could win, due to the fact that they have the best record in baseball, with 103 wins and 58 losses. In contrast, my “old home team”, the Minnesota Twins, have the WORST record in baseball, with 103 LOSSES.

I rarely watch sports on television, and I haven’t been to a professional ball game for a lot years, but I have met a few people who are avid baseball fans, and wrote about one of them last spring.

The best place in the world to watch professional baseball is at Wrigley Field, which I have done on numerous occasions. There's nothing that can compare to having a cold beer in your hand while watching a baseball game being played outdoors in a stadium that has real ivy growing up its walls.

The pre-eminent Cubs fan is the late Steve Goodman. Although he is better known for “The City of New Orleans”, he also wrote a song titled “a dying Cubs fan last request”.

Fittingly, 4 days after his death, on September 24, 1984, the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title of the National League for the first time in their history, giving them their first post season berth since the 1945 World Series (the first year of the billy goat curse.).

His last song, “a dying Cubs’ fan last request” is worth listening to again:

Steve Goodmans’s last song

Do yourself a favor, and forget politics for a while.

Let’s all go watch a ball game !

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The furnace is beeping.

Nearly 40 years ago, we lived in a split level house in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the town where Jesse Ventura was mayor from 1991 to 1995.

When we moved into our home on Yellowstone Trail in the summer of 1978, my favorite wife was a stay at home mom. At the time, our son was less than 2 years old, and his sister joined the family a little more than a year later.

While at work one day, I got a call from my panic stricken wife, who breathlessly told me that the furnace was beeping. You and I both know that furnaces don’t beep, but I decided that the best way to resolve the problem was to leave work early and sort out the issue. When I got home, I immediately went to the basement, and patiently waited for the furnace to beep again. In a minute or so, I heard a beep, but quickly discovered that the sound was coming from the BATTERY OPERATED smoke detector mounted on the ceiling. As you know, they beep when the batteries are running low.

Although today is our 44th anniversary, I decided to go into work today, since it was an easy $45 for only half a day of work. At about 9:30, my phone rang. On the other end was my panic stricken wife, who breathlessly told me that the refrigerator in the garage (which was LOADED with a lot of frozen food that we had recently purchased) was not working.

Now for a little background. ….

When we moved into our current home in Tucson, we brought along the beer refrigerator that I had received from Sharon when I turned 60, and plugged it into the outlet in the garage. A few months later, we acquired a full size refrigerator from some friends who lived in Rincon West, a retirement community on the west side of town. Since they simply wanted to scale down a bit, they gave us the refrigerator for free. We plugged the new refrigerator into the same outlet that the beer refrigerator was plugged into, and placed them side by side in the garage.

A few months later, we came back from a trip to Mesa, and discovered that neither refrigerator was working. I quickly discovered that the ground fault circuit breaker in the outlet on the side of the garage had tripped, shutting down the power on that circuit. Naturally, all the food in the freezer was no longer frozen, and had to be tossed out.

To minimize the possibility of having the power go out without warning, I installed a night light in the outlet on that side of the garage so that we could tell at a glance if the power had gone out again. Thinking that it was possible that both refrigerators had kicked in at the same time and overloaded the circuit, I moved the beer refrigerator to the back porch. A few months after that, the beer refrigerator shut down, and I discovered that it had an electrical short. At that point, we got rid of it.

When I got home this morning, the night light on the side of the garage was on, and the refrigerator light was also working when you opened the door – and that’s when I heard “the rest of the story”.

As it turns out, Sharon discovered (upon further investigation) that the night light had burned out. When she had investigated the refrigerator before, she had opened the freezer door rather than the refrigerator. When she didn’t hear anything running, she naturally assumed that the refrigerator had stopped working, even though (as you know) the compressor does not run constantly. Had she opened the refrigerator door, she would have noticed that the light was on, but that would have made for a far less entertaining story.

Needless to say, all is well, and we didn’t need to call an electrician or buy a new refrigerator. I DID chuckle a bit, and gave her a couple of quick hugs to let her know that I appreciate her, even though we occasionally drive each other crazy.

Happy anniversary, Sharon.

I love you.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

I am the greatest

When he was known as Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali would frequently boast “I am the greatest”. Initially, his braggadocio was dismissed by many critics, who considered him to be a loud mouth black kid from Louisville. Eventually, of course, he proved all of them wrong, when he won the Kentucky Golden Glover championship 6 times, then went on to win an Olympic boxing medal in 1960, followed by 4 heavy weight champion awards, as well as numerous other awards.

He came under particularly harsh criticism when he converted to Islam in the early 1960’s, and even more criticism when he refused induction into the Army, His three year suspension from boxing him kept him out of the ring during what would have been his peak boxing years, and by the time his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, he had not fought for nearly 4 years. He subsequently captured the heavy weight boxing title two more times, in 1974 and 1978, before retiring from boxing in 1981. Most of us would agree that it’s good to have self-confidence, but megalomania is a bad thing. Officially, it’s defined as having an inflated sense of self-importance, and no one exhibits this behavior more clearly than Donald Trump, who is far less successful than he thinks he is. Megalomania is also known as a narcisstic personality disorder, and it can’t be cured.

Megalomania can also apply to countries as well. The Nazi belief in Aryan supremacy eventually resulted in the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews, as well as a smaller number of Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals, and others considered not fit.

Quite a few countries have adopted the same attitude over the course of history, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks, and probably even further than that. Closer to home, the attitude is known as “American exceptionalism”, which led to the emergence of the phrase “Make America Great Again”. As actor Jeff Daniels mentioned on an episode of “The Newsroom”, we are NOT the greatest country in the world. As I mentioned in my article of January 25, 2015, our country is ranked #17 when it comes to our public education system (Finland is ranked #1), even though there ARE a number of areas where we are ranked the best in the world.

According to the article listed below, we are ranked #28 in the world when it comes to overall quality of living. As is often the case, the Scandinavian countries usually do pretty well in these types of surveys, but that doesn’t mean that we should all make plans to move to Sweden of Finland.

Lancet study

Before moving to China in 2003, I read a book titled, “Chinese Business Etiquette”, written by Scott Seligman. In the book, Mr. Seligman discusses the concept of guanxi (pronounce gwan she) , which literally means “relationships”. As Hillary Clinton pointed out in her book, “Hard Choices”, it’s critical to maintain respectful relationships with other countries as often as possible, since that is the best possible way to maintain peace in the world. The opposite approach, of course, is the “Bush doctrine”, which caused our relationships with many of our allies to sour. It also cost us over 4000 American lives in needless wars, and will eventually cost us over 6 trillion dollars in direct and indirect expenses.

At the Democratic convention, Michelle Obama said that “America is already great”, and she is absolutely correct. However, it’s also true that we aren’t perfect, and it’s our responsibility to continue to improve our country as well as we can, in spite of the obstacles thrown in our path (some of whom are our elected officials). If we can do that, the next Lancet survey that comes out will place us a lot higher than #28.