Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Day Before: The Battle of Gettysburg

Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Ironically, the Confederates moved in from the north and the Union marched from the south...not exactly sure where each other was.  South of Gettysburg on a ridge was a quiet 29 acre rural cemetery called Evergreen Cemetery.  This cemetery would become headquarters for the Union Army and the namesake for Cemetery Ridge where the Battle of Gettysburg thundered and roared over the next 3 days.

General Hancock at Evergreen Cemetery

 A sign posted near the arched gateway to the graveyard read:


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Civil War Memorial: Devils Lake, North Dakota

This week I visited my 96 year old grandmother (suffering from severe Alzheimer's Disease) in North Dakota...her memory may be gone (she didn't know who I was) but ironically several times she asked, "do you remember me?" and "will you remember me?"  A poignant reminder to take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us...

Devils Lake, ND
One-hundred and fifty years ago, North Dakota was still a territory and the United States was embroiled in the middle of the Civil War.  After the war, hundreds of Civil War veterans settled in North Dakota to start a new life on the plains.  Some of these veterans decided to build monuments as visible reminders of the loyalty, sacrifice, courage, fraternity, and legacy of the Civil War soldiers.  One of these statues is located in Devils Lake, North Dakota and was dedicated in 1907.  The 18 foot tall monument guards the G.A.R. Cemetery where many Civil War veterans have taken their final rest.

One of the most interesting features of this statue is a large Grand Army of the Republic emblem.  This is a replica of a badge that was distributed to all Civil War veterans after the war.  The badge was originally designed in 1866.  

The emblem on this monument was made of bronze from Confederate cannons that were captured during the war.  

Top: An eagle with cannons and ammunition clasping a drawn sword and mounted over the American flag ready to protect from attack, insult, or dishonor.

The Badge: A 5 pointed star with several symbolic figures...

In each point of the star is the insignia for the various branches of service (starting at upper right): 
Crossed Muskets = Marines
Crossed Cannons = Artillery
Bugle = Infantry
Anchor = Sailors
Crossed Sabers = Cavalry

Center of the star:
Lady Liberty:  wearing a Phrygian Cap to symbolize Liberty and the emancipation of slaves.
A soldier and a sailor: shaking hands to symbolize Unity, Fraternity, and Resolve.
2 African-American children: receiving the assurance of protection from The Union to symbolize Charity.
American Flag and an eagle: to represent a commitment to Freedom.
American Flag and an ax: to represent the power to execute Justice.

Bottom Words: " 1861 - VETERAN - 1866"

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Top 5: Modern Government Whistleblowers


Whistleblowers are people who expose dishonest or illegal activities in the government or private organizations. 

Thomas Jefferson (a morally conflicted man of paradox) once said,

"A nation as a society forms a moral person,
and every member of it is personally responsible for his society." 

With the recent Edward Snowden/ NSA surveillance whistleblower controversy many commentators have been asking the Edward Snowden a hero or traitor?  I guess I would say neither.  Theoretically, he is just an American citizen doing what he believes is the morally responsible action to protect his society.  Historically, I believe we have had thousands of citizens (aka social activists, reformers, muckrakers, etc.) who took great risk to expose immoral, illegal, or dishonest activities.  Some of my favorite "historical whistleblowers"...Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Wendell Phillips, Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell,  Helen Hunt Jackson, Ida B. Wells, Eugene Debs, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. name a few.

Fog's Top 5 Modern Government Whistleblowers

5. Gary Webb (1996) - He reported that Nicaraguan drug traffickers were allowed to sell cocaine (1980's crack epidemic) in the United States because they were using profits to support CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras.
4. Peter Buxton (1972) - He exposed the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the public...a 40 year "public health study" in Tuskegee, Alabama to discover the effects of untreated syphilis.
3. Mark Felt (1972) - aka "Deep Throat" he secretly disclosed Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate Scandal.
2. Julian Assange (2006) - He founded WikiLeaks which publishes secret/ classified information from anonymous sources and whistleblowers.
1. Daniel Ellsberg (1971) - He and his colleague Anthony Russo from RAND Corporation photocopied classified documents that would later become known as the Pentagon Papers. The documents revealed that the government felt that the war in Vietnam could not be won and would lead to thousands of casualties.  They showed that JFK, LBJ, and Richard Nixon had lied to the American people and Congress in regard to "our success" in Vietnam.

Friday, June 14, 2013

J. Edgar Hoover: Alive and well?

"Big Brothers Are Watching"

Edward Snowden revealed what most already suspected...The National Security Agency has been collecting billions of records (phone, internet, etc.) on American citizens regardless of suspected terrorist activity.  POTUS Obama (much like GWB and others before him), leading members of Congress, and the intelligence community insist that such tactics are crucial to our nation’s antiterrorism efforts.  Interestingly, recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are supportive of this type of surveillance activity because of its ability to thwart terrorist attacks.       
"Enemy Combatant?"
The issue is not whether the government should fight terrorism...they should! 

The issues are...

1. Where is the balance between national security, democratic freedoms, and individual rights?
2.  Is the NSA surveillance program constitutional based on protections in the First (free speech and association) and Fourth (protection against indiscriminate searches) Amendments?
3. Do I really want Big Brother to monitor my religious beliefs, medical issues, sexual orientation, how I spend my money, when I drive to a football game, or know that I really like Dr. Pepper?
4. Are American citizens entitled to know about government surveillance techniques, how the records are stored, how long records are held, who has access to the data?
5. What safeguards are in place to prevent abuse?
6. Is this really about terrorism or power?

"Justice is incidental to Law and Order."

The government’s ability to gather information on its citizens has grown since the days when J. Edgar Hoover abused his power to collect files on political and civil rights leaders to strengthen his own power and reinforce his vision for America.  So, even if we trust our Big Brothers with our information today...can we trust him tomorrow?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

WWI Post Card

Recently, a former student of mine found a WWI post card in a pile of thrift store papers.  The letter was written from Pvt. Elsworth Sterling to his father (William Sterling) of Smithfield, West Virginia.  It is a poignant reminder of the humanity of war, the love of a son toward his father, and the reality that Elsworth and thousands of others like him made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during WWI...
Through some research, I found that Pvt. Sterling belonged to Company A of the 145th Infantry.  He died of wounds suffered on October 4, 1918 (most likely during the Battle of the Argonne Forrest) five weeks after he wrote this short (and probably last) note to his father. 


 Here is my best attempt at transcribing this post card...
Aug. 25th, 1918
Dear Father,
I'll drop you a card to let you know I am well and getting along fine.  Received your letter a few days ago and was very glad to hear from you and to know you are as well.  And hope this finds you as it finds me.

Argonne Forest, Argonne Forest,
Soon thou wilt be a quiet cemetery.
In thy cool earth rests —
So much gallant soldiers' blood.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jellyfish Interpretations

Jellyfish (ISMS) can "look pretty" but they have a terrible sting

Today...several of my (superstar) students turned in their artistic interpretations of  "The Jellyfish Theory"!  I enjoy their work and hope they continue to dream of a brighter future.  If you want to know more about "Killing Jellyfish" click on Patrick & Sponge Bob.

Bad Squishy!

Clearly, the following student really wants to "Kill the Jellyfish" or has been playing too many violent video games!

Killing ISMS one jellyfish at a time.
"You can kill the dreamer...but you cannot kill the dream"
                                              - Rev. Samuel Kyles


Thursday, June 6, 2013


Can a corporation be evil?  Only if you count decades of blatently lying to the public, lobbying/ bribing government officials, intimidating the media with lawsuits, controlling "our food" products, bullying small farmers, putting profit/ greed ahead of what is morally/ ethically responsible, producing products that lead to cancer, birth defects, etc.  Or is the real problem the people (Congress & The POTUS) who accept these bribes and allow themselves to be controlled and manipulated? 

Watch "Monsanto Cancer Milk" Clip (10:21)
I introduce you to the "future of phood"...Monsanta is a multi-billion dollar multinational agricultural corporation. Their corporate slogan is "A Sustainable Agriculture Company" whose goal is to feed the world (aren't they wonderful)! Founded in 1901, Monsanto is famous for some very dubious "contributions" to society.
Here is a list of some of Monsanto's "accomplishments"...
Saccharin- an artifical sweetener found in products like Sweet n' Low. Scientists have warned that it poses potential health risks.
DDT- a lethal insecticide (now banned worldwide) that has many environmental & health risks.
PCB- Polychlorinated Biphenyl (now banned) was a highly toxic material mainly used as a fluid in coolants.
Polystyrene- aka styrofoam is an oil based plastic that is non- biodegradable and will be with us for generations!
Dioxin- aka Agent Orange (WMD) is a toxic herbicide used by the United States to destroy and kill during the Vietnam War.  It is still killing today.
Roundup- a legal herbicide used by millions. Scientists warn that we don't know the long range effect on the environment and human health.
Genetically Modified Organisms- sterile genetically modified seed (banned in Canada and parts of Europe/ Asia) will feed the United States and help destroy the small family farmer.
rBGH/ rBST- aka cow steriods used by farmers to create more (possibly cancer causing) milk and no one asked the cows if they wanted to hit more home runs!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Agent Orange: America's WMD

"The most effective weapon of the war."
Agent Orange was the code name for a powerful herbicde used by the United States during the Vietnam War from 1961-1971.  It was produced by Monsanto Corporation (more about Monsanto in my next post) and DOW Chemical - it contained a toxic chemical known as dioxin.  The goal of using Agent Orange was to defoliate heavily forested areas of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (to better see the NV/ VC and enemy supply lines) and to destroy the food supply.
Human and Ecological Genocide
Agent Orange caused a human and ecological disaster that has now spanned over 5 decades.  During the war, over 20 million gallons of dioxin was sprayed on over 25 million acres effecting millions of Vietnamese citizens and U.S. military personnel.  Nearly 5 million Vietnamese people and American soldiers have been exposed to and affected by Agent Orange, including high rates of cancer in soldiers/ Vietnamese citizens, children born with serious birth defects, women with higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirths, and livestock with unusually high stillborn rates and birth defects.  The contaminated soil and waterways continue to affect the citizens of Vietnam...and yet no one has accepted the moral responsibility to do justice in Vietnam!
Watch "The Leaves Keep Falling" Agent Orange Clip (12:09)
The United State government has consistently claimed innocence for the damages done by Agent Orange and blames the chemical companies for not informing them of the potential health risks of dioxin.  Conversely, Monsanto says they should not be liable at all for injuries or deaths caused by Agent Orange, stating:
"We are sympathetic with people who believe they have been injured
 and understand their concern to find the cause,
but reliable scientific evidence indicates that
Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects."

"Government Modified Oligarchy?!?"