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Friday, October 29, 2010

The election of Nov. 2, 2010 vs. the election of Nov. 2, 1920

Frank Conrad and his crew reporting the election returns on November 2, 1920.
You can tell we are getting down to business relating to the upcoming elections. Just watch the campaign ads on television and you will think that everyone you support and their opponents are a bunch of crooks that should be on their way to Palookaville, the state penitentiary, or some other dastardly place.

Locally in Arizona, the House seat pitting incumbent Harry Mitchell against Republican David Schweikert is a good example of mudslinging on both sides. I love the one with ‘ol Harry dancing around to the tune of Pelosi and Reid.

Nationally, the Delaware race is interesting. The Republicans dropped the ball on this one. Although Castle was a RINO he would have given the R’s a continuing seat in the Senate and with him running against a twerp like Democrat Coons, he would have won easily. Now, that seat is gone and a guy who once referred to himself as a “bearded Marxist” will get the nod.

Close Senate races: West Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, and maybe California. Republicans need the majority of those seats to take the Senate. As far as the House, Republicans should win it.

Election Day this year is on November 2 and the broadcast media crush is quite a contrast to the November 2, 1920 Election Day, exactly 90 years ago. Unlike this year, that was a presidential election and unlike now there was no television flowing into the nation’s homes to influence voters. Radio was even in its infancy so the main form of campaigning was through the “whistle stop” which took candidates across country campaigning in every significant town via trains.

James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt were the ticket for the Dems. Their opposition for the Republicans was Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Cox and FDR did whistle stops from August until Election Day but it didn’t help as the Republicans won.

That election was the beginning of media coverage for election returns. A guy named Frank Conrad, who worked for Westinghouse, was desperately, along with his crew, completing a radio transmitting station on the roof of the tallest building on the Westinghouse campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their goal was to be ready on election night to broadcast the returns to the few folks who had radios.

On October 27, the facility was complete and given the call letters KDKA. On November 2, four men recorded the election numbers that were received from the Pittsburgh Post via telephone and a gentleman named Leo Rosenberg read them over the air through a clumsy array of wires used as a microphone.

On that night broadcasting was born. The next day, the Westinghouse switchboard was flooded with calls from people wanting to know how they could get a radio. Today, we have several TV networks on election night feverishly reporting every trend and vote throughout the night and into the early morning.

Frank Conrad died in 1941 at 67 but he got to see radio flourish from the humble beginnings at KDKA to the number one form of entertainment at the time of his death.

To leave a comment or to reply to the 22 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic Newspaper.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The cost of college

The Campus at Soutern Cal. Beautiful and expensive.

Froma Harrop writes for the Providence Journal. The Republic usually picks up her column to give us the East Coast liberal point of view. I guess the idea is to offset some of the more conservative guys they carry like Charles Krauthammer and George Will.

Anyway, although I usually disagree with her pandering to Obama, I do agree with her column from 9-27 where she talks about the insane cost of going to college these days. On my August 4, 2009 blog, I talked about the high cost of education but mentioned I thought it was worth it even though it means debt for a lot of people for a long time.

Even with the bad job market, one is better off with at least a bachelor’s degree. It puts them to the front of the line over those without a degree in case jobs are ever available again. However, a college degree is not always the answer to good employment since many are not suited for the classroom and can do better in some sort of trade work. It’s an honorable alternative and plenty of skilled trade workers earn a very comfortable income. A good example is a quote from Herman Melville made 150 years ago: “A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.” I would assume he cashed in pretty good from Moby Dick. I wonder what he would have received for the movie rights.

Harrop mentions some interesting numbers for college costs: In the last 40 years, American median income has grown 6.5 times while the cost of attending a state college has risen 15 times.

Tuition at the privately owned U. of Southern California has risen 360% since 1980 to $41,434 a year. At the U. of Illinois, a state school, the tuition is $13,658, six times the cost of 1980. This does not include room and board.

Maybe universities need to tone down their expenses a bit. Harrop mentions that the president of Vanderbilt makes $1.2 million a year. Also, highly acclaimed Duke University spends over $20,000 per year on each varsity golf team member. There is no way the golf teams can cover that expense with the small following they have. What about the beautiful campuses and amenities for students? Is all of that necessary? Do the schools need fancy student unions?

I’m sure there are many who simply can’t afford to go to college. Bill Gates has said that “Five years from now on the Web, you’ll be able to find for free the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.” Gates also mentioned that a year at a university costs an average $50,000 but you can get the same quality education on the Web for $2,000.

Gates is a Harvard dropout but seems to have done pretty well for himself so maybe he is right. Of course, if you follow his advice you may miss some traditional college life. With the cost of college, you may not have a choice.

To leave a comment or to read 24 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic newspaper.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is the "Smart Car" smart?

Below: The Smart Car for $17,600. Top: The Nissan Versa for $12,000. Which would you want?

A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad in the Republic for the “Smart Car”. It’s made by Daimler and has been around in Europe for a while before making its way to us.

This is one tiny little car that seats two. When I saw the thing my first thought was “So, THAT is what a pregnant roller skate looks like!” I figured you could probably pick one up for about $5,000 which may not be a bad deal for something to just run around in locally. To my surprise, they start at $13,640 for the standard two door and go to $17,690 for the cabriolet convertible. That’s a bit expensive for a “car” that small that only gets 41 miles per gallon EPA estimate.

I’m sure there are people where I live who will “absolutely have to have one.” That’s fine with me, they have my permission to be trendy, but I think if I was looking for a new small car I would pass on the Smart Car and look at something that gets almost as good gas mileage and cost thousands less like the Toyota Yaris or the Nissan Versa.

The Yaris gets 36 mpg highway and has a backseat. One reviewer says it also “has the ability to do distance driving without terrifying driver and passenger.” The Versa is even less expensive, has a back seat, and gets 35 mpg.

In the 1950s, there was a postwar car from Italy called the Isetta. I remember seeing a few of them around when I was a kid. It had a door on the front that swung open to allow passengers to enter. Like the Smart Car, it was designed for two people who prayed they would not have a head on collision.

I think they sold well in Europe but we didn’t see many in the states. That was the era of big clunkers and cheap gas here and not many were worrying about fuel economy.

I could be wrong but I don’t see people flocking to the Smart Car showrooms. It’s probably a tree hugger’s dream but I don’t think the average American will go for it. I’m glad I don’t want one; I doubt that at my height I would be able to squeeze into the driver’s seat.

If you would like to leave a comment or read 41 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Obama vs. Fox News

How do you expect me to look? I just saw my poll numbers and the ratings for Fox News at the same time! (StarPlus)

Obama obviously has never heard the old saying that “every knock is a boost” and that when you are being criticized by someone, you should ignore them. Otherwise, you show they are getting to you which is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Maybe BO cut class too many times in a public relations class at Harvard.

Now, the prez is claiming in a Rolling Stone interview that “Fox News is destructive to [America’s] long term growth.” He also states that Fox News pushes "a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world."

OK, he is the President of the United States so he, like all of us, has a right to his opinion. But, this is where that “every knock is a boost thing” rears its head. He is showing weakness by letting Fox get under his skin and I’m sure more than a few people are scratching their heads about him when they read his statements. Meanwhile, the Fox News ratings continue to climb as the networks that grovel at the president’s feet, like MSNBC and CNN, see their ratings dwindle.

I agree with the prez on one thing, "But as an economic enterprise, it's (Fox) been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. (Rupert) Murdoch what his number one concern is, it's that Fox is very successful."

I wonder why Fox is so successful. I watch the news with Shepard Smith and I see him offering no opinions; he gives a professional report of what is happening around the world. He is simply better than anyone the other networks have to offer.

As far as guys like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, they have a point of view which usually differs from that of the White House although I think O’Reilly is very fair to the prez. Those are the guys Obama is after. But, does he really think that one cable news network can be responsible for his large descent in the polls since his election? It sounds like more whining from another member of the “It’s not my fault” generation.

I have a suggestion for the president. Keep watching MSNBC, NBC, and CNN. For every criticism O’Reilly and Hannity throw your way, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow will be there to drop roses in your path. Although no one watches them, it may make you feel better.

To leave a comment or to read any of the 77 comments posted, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic newspaper.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Where were you?

It took the U. S. Army to safely escort "The Little Rock Nine" into Central High School in 1957 after Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to abide by a Supreme Court decision on integration that allowed black kids to attend the school. Faubus closed high schools in Little Rock for the 1958-59 school year in protest. That was known as "The Lost Year." (UPI) I was a junior in high school in Ohio and wondered what the fuss was about. I had gone to school with black kids all my life. But, I wasn't living in Arkansas.
Regardless of our ages, we have memories of important events that have happened during our lifetimes. I’m not talking about personal items as much as events that affected the nation and/or the world. How many times have you heard someone say, “I remember where I was when I heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.” Personally, I was crossing the street at Whiteman AFB in Missouri going back to work after lunch when it happened. Where were you?

Since I can only vouch for events in my lifetime, probably the first one would be the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I was alive at that time but at eight months of age, I can’t say that I remember the event. I would bet that guys like Bob Amento, Dr. Don, and Fancy remember it well though.

I do remember when President Roosevelt died in April of 1945. I had just turned four and was standing by the side of our house in Cincinnati watching my dad paint. Our neighbor came rushing into the yard shouting the news of FDR’s demise.

I remember when Truman beat Dewey in November, 1948 for the presidency. I was seven as my dad and I listened to the election returns well into the night and since he was a big fan of Dewey, he became glummer as the night went on. Television was still in its infancy and was very expensive so we listened to the results on our big Stromberg-Carlson radio. Only bars had TVs in those days.

In November, 1952, General Eisenhower easily won the presidency over Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson had no chance; he was a dry, no personality guy from Illinois going against a war hero. It was the same result when Stevenson ran against Ike in 1956. I watched returns of both elections on our black and white 16” “National” TV set. The ’52 returns pre-empted Milton Berle’s show on NBC, not a happy night for Uncle Miltie watchers.

I was a Nixon fan in 1960 when he ran against Kennedy. Tricky Dick had no chance after the TV debates. He looked tired, had a five o’clock shadow beard, and was upstaged by the vibrant JFK. The election results in November were no surprise. I was 18, had just registered for the draft, and was disappointed in the results.

I’ll always remember where I was in October, 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in the Air Force stationed in Missouri when Kennedy and Khrushchev had a stare down over Russian built missiles being installed in Cuba. Our B-47 Bombers had left our base and were poised on the East Coast ready to go to war. Finally, after a few tense weeks, Khrushchev blinked first and the missiles were dismantled. You could hear a collective exhale of breath on our base when it was settled.

Do you remember the above events happening? How about Beatlemania in ’64? We all know where we were on 9-11-2001 but how about Little Rock and Governor Faubus in 1957? When was the first time you saw a color TV? What about Elvis’s first hit?

Where were you?

To leave a comment or read the other 27 comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic.