Gadfly: Education vs. Disaster

Ed Raymond

A Race That Really Counts–-Education And Disaster

It’s funny how the mind runs from subject to subject.  I was watching CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield present the news the other day while I was reading the Forum (11/4/11) article about the Whitman Ranch near Robinson, N.D.  I was fascinated by the changes that farm-ranch life and work have gone through in 106 years–and how much our lives have changed in my nearly 80 years.

Fredricka Whitfield is the daughter of Malvin “Mal” Whitfield, a Ohio State track star who was the NCAA 800 meter champion in 1948. Mal Whitfield joined the Tuskegee airmen in 1943, the all-black fighter squadron that gained fame escorting our bombers across the English Channel and over Europe during World War II. They never lost a bomber they were protecting. But the black airmen were segregated until President Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948.  Mal could run races for Ohio State in 1948 much like Jesse Owens could run Olympic races in Berlin in 1936, but they both had to use “colored” fountains, toilets, and walk in the streets in the South until the late 1960's. Now we have a mulatto president and the daughter of a black WW II airmen can now broadcast the news around the world in prime time. My favorite cynic Voltaire said: “History is a race between education and disaster.”  The evidence is clear we are just leaving the starting blocks.

Bonanza And Organic Farms

I was raised on a 180-acre pile of sand and rock near Little Falls. We raised and ate everything: cows, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, apples, plums, squirrels, rabbits and almost every vegetable known to man. I went to District #54 in Morrison County and graduated   with two others from Grade Eight. We played hockey on a little pond with homemade sticks and pucks while “skating” gracefully in  four-buckle overshoes. We could only afford clamp-on skates and they were saved for Sundays.

The history of the Whitman Ranch from 1905 is fascinating for me because of the changes forced by education and experience. Growing a small ranch to 4,000 acres while turning it into an “organic” operation for meat and grains takes grit and hard work. It’s a fairly big operation when you check on your organic cattle with a Cessna 172.  When young I worked organic too. In the spring I would load up the manure spreader from the manure pile back of the barn, hitch a team of one-ton Belgians to the spreader, and spread that aromatic, life-giving fertilizer on the corn, soybean, and barley fields, all while trying to stay upwind.

Being the youngest of five, I got the good jobs. As Dad drove the binder while harvesting barley, a couple of us would shock the bundles so they would dry. Ninety-degree days and barley beards don’t mesh well.

One of our most exciting experiences was driving a bundle wagon pulled by a team of scared horses up to a noisy threshing machine during harvesting. I’m sure the horses believed the machine was going to eat them. Now we have combines with 40-foot headers that can harvest 250 acres in a day

I remember my father telling me that he worked for a big bonanza farm in North Dakota around 1910 that used 900 horses during planting and harvesting time. Now I suppose three 300-hp tractors would be able to handle the jobs. Time marches–and sometimes skips and dashes–along.

Even My Marines Are Changing Because Of Education

The Marine Corps has always had the reputation of having the toughest boot camps of all the services.  I was shocked—I say shocked (!!!)–to learn the other day that my Marines have hired 27 certified athletic trainers, many with experiences with professional and college athletics, to help drill instructors prevent injuries to boots during boot camp. The Marines have finally figured out that injuries cost time and money. In some cases it might mean a costly discharge for medical reasons. As an example, the Marine Corps Boot Camp at San Diego had 688 fractures of lower-leg bones between 2005 and 2010. I guess the trainers are teaching the drill instructors how to avoid such injuries.

When I went to Parris Island Boot Camp back in 1951 I was in such good shape from tossing manure, corn and barley shocks, hoeing a two-acre garden, playing football and baseball, and running three miles to see an interesting girl friend at night, I actually thought boot camp was like a vacation on some island paradise. A 20-mile hike with pack? Just like a stroll for squirrels in the back woods with a .22 over the shoulder. Farm kids had it all over city kids who only lifted pool cues. Maybe deep underneath drill instructors cared about recruits in my day–but they never let on. Too fat? Do pushups and run until you drop. Then run some more.  We had a kid in my platoon the drill instructors named “Chubby Butt.”  He went through 13 weeks of Hell but survived. Now both boot camps have 30,000-square-foot training “facilities” with hot and cold Whirlpool tubs, treadmills, and all that other special equipment in country club training rooms and “fat-city” spas. 

My God! What is this world coming to?

The Bomb Wagon And When Robin Hood Failed

There was that other smart guy who said something about those who didn’t know history were bound to repeat it. The most recent “Occupy Wall Street” protest started on September 17, 2011 when the unemployed and underemployed middle-class saw The American Dream turn into a nightmare for their unemployed sons and daughters living in their basements.

Another type of “Occupy Wall Street” took place exactly 81 years ago on September 17, 1920. A horse-drawn wagon  delivered hundreds of pounds of explosives to 23 Wall St., the headquarters of J.P. Morgan in the middle of the financial district. When all the body parts were finally assembled from the streets and buildings the final death total was 38 with more than 400 injured. Millionaire bankers made sure their gates were locked, and they improved the dire unemployment situation by hiring hundreds of security guards to protect themselves and their vaults from “radical progressives, socialists, communists, anarchists, and anti-capitalists.”  Gee, it sounds as if history is repeating itself.  

Dozens of cities are going through various downtown “occupations now.”  Occupying financial districts in downtown areas is very messy because few toilets are available. The decorative bushes get a lot of use, and even the Wall Street bull seems to have dropped several loads when no one is looking. Protesters have threatened to use the marble floors of Goldman-Sachs offices so that bankers have to step in it. They say it should remind the bankers of their smelly subprime-bundled housing securities they sold as “crap” to investors around the world. Others have suggested wearing Depends and other products and then sending the used ones by registered mail to bankers and stockbrokers.

Symbolic of the obscenities committed on Wall Street is the fine levied on Galleon hedge fund CEO Raj Rajaratnam who was found guilty of making $31 million off insider trading. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, ordered to forfeit $53.8 million in other illegal gains, and fined another $10 million. The judge has now ordered him to pay a civil penalty of $93 million for a fine total of $157 million. He must pay the $93 million by certified check or bank cashier’s check within 14 business days. And this guy is relatively small potatoes on Wall Street!! It’s quite evident it will take a lot of peeing and defecating in the bushes to change attitudes on Wall Street.

“But People Eat In The Short Term, Senator!”

One of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s aides was testifying before a congressional committee about a food aid bill for the unemployed during the Great Depression. A Republican senator kept insisting it was poor public policy to pass such legislation because it would hurt the country in the “long term.”  The aide said: “But people have the bad habit of eating every day, Senator.”

I was reminded of that exchange when reading about the conversations of Republican representatives when locked-out Crystal Sugar employees asked the legislators to pass legislation allowing locked-out North Dakota employees to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Republican Curt Kreun of Grand Forks said: “Lawmakers don’t want to get involved in the negotiations. The issue doesn’t get the vetting it needs in this special session. You don’t want to come up with a knee-jerk reaction. I certainly have empathy for the people involved, but knee-jerk reactions tend not to solve problems.”  Neither do “jerk” reactions, Mr. Kreun. Many states pay unemployment in lock-out situations. And people do eat in the short term. Republican Senator Terry Wanzek of Jamestown added; “It almost feels as if I’m being asked to choose sides, and I don’t want to do that.”  Yes, it certainly would be terrible if you came up on the side of North Dakota people.

Are We Going Backwards? Is Disaster Winning?

Shorter University, a “Christian” college in Georgia, is now requiring all staff to sign an “Ask And Tell” statement swearing they are not gay. Anyone who engages in homosexuality, adultery, or premarital sex will be fired.  There goes  Michelangelo, Ronald Reagan, much of the neighborhood, and Christ’s novel idea about forgiveness of sins.


In order to drive a cab in New York City you must have a taxi medallion. It is a transferable disk first sold in 1937 during the Great Depression for $10.  There are now 13,237 such medallions. Two recently sold for $1,000,000 each.  The medallion has gone up 1,900 percent just in the last 30 years, beating the Dow Jones Industrial Average and any increases in gold and silver, says This Week magazine. Is this capitalism, socialism, or armed anarchy? A million bucks to drive a taxi? Someone please save us from insanity.


A great comment about the effectiveness of National Rifle Association lobbying was illustrated in a simple cartoon in the New Yorker. A gun shop employee is holding up an assault rifle for a customer and uses this sales pitch: “Ok, but let’s say you have up to six hundred intruders per minute......”


Just a week ago an Army Green Beret soldier was killed during his 14th deployment to Afghanistan. He is part of the one percent fighting in a country that the other 99 percent don’t give a damn about anymore. Why does history always repeat itself when it comes to war? What makes us think we can do better than Alexander the Great, the English, and the Russians in turning Afghanistan into an actual country instead of counties of troublesome tribal enclaves? Being there only emphasizes we are totally ignorant of the country.

A Marine who had been the leader of an eight-man sniper team in Afghanistan for several tours was looking for a job in Maryland when he was interviewed by a reporter. He said he was having great difficulty in getting a decent job. He said: “Maybe my skill set keeps me from getting a position.”  This war started as a disaster and is ending as one. We stumbled on the curve and lost the race and the war over eight years ago.


Fascinating that  Ireland, at one time considered to be “the most Catholic of all the countries,”  has just closed its Vatican embassy. Was it really because it offered the least returns for Irish investment? Or was it because of several decades of child abuse?


To summarize, I guess we win some races and we lose some. I hope it’s at least a tie now.