The fish that ate Chicago. A true story of the invasive carp that won’t quit.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This is a fish story… a big fish story… the story of two different Asian carp species who have already wiped out the competition down river from the Windy City and now mean to seize Chicago and swim north to capture the Great Lakes. It’s the story of what happens when man changes his environment without understanding the consequences (or, worse, knowing the consequences but going ahead anyway). And it is a story of our sneaking admiration for the… fish… who can outsmart us, the great poobahs of the planet.

For this story, then, I selected the song called “High Hopes”, recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1959. With music written by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, it was introduced in the 1959 film “A Hole in the Head”. It was nominated for a Grammy and won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards.

It’s a tune about tenacity, persistence, grit and unbeatability… all things the carp have got to spare…. but which we humans often lack, too often taking the easy path… dozing through the crises around us. You can find this number in any search engine. Go now, listen up and get in the “can do” mood. And if you find the version Sinatra recorded for John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960, give a listen. It’s a classic piece of Americana.

How the carp got here.

The first thing you need to know about this story is that we did it to ourselves. Yep. Imagine you are a friendly, law-abiding carp. You’re living somewhere in Asia and life is good. You’ve got all the plankton you want… and you’ve got the respect of all the other denizens in the water ways you have populated and control. You’re the boss.

Then one day in the 1980s you find yourself captured by some hoodlum who’s sold you and your captured buddies to a bunch of Southern U.S. municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Your job: to control algae growth in aquaculture. Disgusting. You’re forced to do this job, this really dirty job, and you do… biding your time until you can escape to freedom and cleaner water. Then one day when the humans who are supposed to keep you in captivity aren’t looking you… break out… and start swimming north! And along the way you reproduce like crazy. By the time the schleppers at the wastewater plant have figured out what you’re doing, you are already a significant river presence, a fact to be reckoned with… and you’re having the time of your life, reproducing faster than ever.

Facts about silver carp.

The silver carp is a species of freshwater cyprinid fish, a variety of Asian carp native to north and northeast Asia. It is cultivated in China. Pound for pound, more silver carp are produced worldwide in aquaculture than any other species. It has been introduced to, or spread into via connected waterways, at least 88 countries worldwide. The most common reason for importation was for use in aquaculture, but enhancement of wild fisheries and water quality control were also important reasons for importation.

These facts are important, of course, but what’s really important is this:

1) These carp are BIG, whoppers. Their average weight is 30-40 pounds, but it is not uncommon to find some weighing up to 110 pounds.

2) They can leap 10 feet in the air, thereby presenting substantial hazards for people fishing from boats. And you must never water ski in areas known to be inhabited by silver carp and bighead carp. That would be most foolhardy.

3) These carp are voracious eaters and in short order deprive native fishes of the nutrients they require while eating up to 20% of their body weight each day.

4) They are difficult to catch. Silver carp are filter feeders; this is what makes them difficult to catch on a typical hook and line gear. Special methods have been developed to catch these fish, the most important being the “suspension method” usually consisting of a large dough ball that disintegrates slowly, surrounded by a nest of tiny hooks that are embedded in the bait.

5) Silver carp feeding on certain species of blue-green algae, notably the often toxic Microcystis, can pass through the gut of silver carp unharmed, and pick up nutrients while in the gut. Thus, in some cases blue-green algae blooms have been exacerbated by silver carp… and the carp are therefore hazardous to eat.

Now this resourceful adversary, so far successful in all its endeavors, wants to seize Chicago and move into the greatest hunting area on earth, the Great Lakes, where, by the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

Thus did America’s great Victorian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “The Song of Hiawatha” (1855) write of Lake Superior, now a target for the silver carp and a prime reason why at this very moment in August 2011 deeply concerned humans are racing to raise defences which must hold, or the fish will triumph.

The carp must take the Chicago Waterway System to reach their goal… and we must make sure they cannot seize it.

The manmade Chicago Waterway System connects the Great Lakes to the Illinois River, which then connects to the Mississippi River. Both sides know the pivotal battle will be fought here. Each side controls a major part of the puzzle. The silver and bighead carp have overwhelmed the Mississippi River network; humans still own the Great Lakes.

The carp have numbers and time on their side. They also know that they can sacrifice as many of their species as necessary to win; they will produce as many as required. Above all, they know this: that their human adversaries must keep EVERY invasive carp out of the Great Lakes… while the carp have only to get ONE carp into the Great Lakes to seize the first lake, then all the lakes, and change the environment forever, turning it to their exclusive advantage and wrecking havoc on the ecology existing now. The stakes could hardly be higher.

That is why today, on a perfect summer’s day for fishing, crews will instead be straining muscle and mind to stop these brazen invaders, already too close for comfort. They will be using electric jolts to stun fish, sweeping the waterway with half-mile-long nets, and sampling and resampling Lake Calumet and the Calumet River.

What the folks at the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Council (which keeps a detailed daily blog on the subject) find so troubling is this: DNA from silver carp has already been found in 11 samples in the lake and river in July. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced July 22 that it had found additional samples containing DNA from silver carp. Experts cannot say from the sampling whether live fish are already in the lake or if genetic material came from dead fish or was carried into the lake from bilge water. The sampling, of course, continues… and chary professionals remind us no final verdict on the matter is yet possible.

But for me, my money’s on the fish. They have outsmarted us at every turn, with every current in the great river system they now control. They have destroyed an immemorial eco-system, snuffing out every native variety of fish, destroying, too, boating, fishing, and travel businesses along the way, replacing lucrative native fisheries with their own flesh, worth so much less on the open market.

They insist that nothing, absolutely nothing, will pause their onrushing vehemence. Against such a determined adversary, have we the grit and commitment necessary to win… or are we just going through the paces, already defeated? These dog days of August will determine all. Like I said, I’m betting on the fish. They’ve got the high hopes.

What’s wrong with America? Get mad along with me and sound off!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Before you read this article, go to any search engine and find Peter Finch’s celebrated “Mad as Hell” speech from the 1976 film “Network.” I know exactly how Howard Beale, the character he plays, felt. Disgusted! Infuriated! Past mere anger! A nuclear melt-down gone beyond all these… His was pure rage… out of control rage… volcanic, explosive, searing. It ignited a profound response in the national psyche. And though his words date from 1976, they are as apt today, as perfect a fit today, as unadulterated truth today.

See for yourself…

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!”

And so with this (here abbreviated) speech he got the apathetic up, the procrastinating, the nay-sayers and every Chicken Little in the land. He got the fearful to get up, the people who just wouldn’t say what they saw. He got the politically alienated to get up, the people who never voted and always complained, doing nothing. He got them and all their listless friends and neighbors up, too.

He told them to throw up the windows, stick their heads out and scream their heads off: “I’M MAD AS HELL… AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!”

And in a minute or less, people, enraged people, angry people, chagrined and shame- faced people were doing just that. And, friend, when you finish this article I want you to do the same thing, for it’s way past time for such a profound tribal, deeply primitive outburst from us the good people who built this nation and who keep it going. We are the tax-paying, America loving, thoroughly responsible, helping others citizens of the Great Republic, the people devalued, diminished, demoted and still asked for more as we seethe while watching others do less, scoffing at us, the heart of the nation.

Open that window!

Throw up the sash!

And SCREAM…. for you and I have taken it all far too long and there is vengeance in our heart…

I’m mad about the fact that we can find billions of dollars to blow up Iraq and Afghanistan but not a penny for our decaying infrastructure. Where’s the logic in this?

I’m profoundly angry about the fact that for each dollar we spend on homeland “security” we feel less and less secure. Taking off our belts, shoes, pants, shirts and everything else has just made us ridiculous, without improving our security one iota.

I’ve had it with both political parties, who think their work consists of charging each other with obstructing the business of the nation when we all know they are both the culprits.

I’ve had it with candidates like Michele Bachmann whose every utterance is another embarrassment. It’s time to call it not just the way we see it, but the way it is. Michele’s an uneducated bigot with sex, particularly gay sex, on the brain. Let’s just say everything about the lady makes me mad and should make you mad, too.

As for Mitt Romney, he’s a pompous twit; after spending millions of the dollars he made by reorganizing companies and putting people out of work, he’s less liked now than when he started. The plain fact is, no one likes him or wants him in the Oval Office.

As for Rick Perry… tell the unvarnished truth. If he created a single job in Texas it was a minimum wage position in the service sector flipping burgers. What he likes doing is signing executive orders executing felons under 18 and the mentally ill. I’m enraged that no one bothers to say that Perry alone executed more criminals in his 11 years as governor; more than all the other governors of the nation combined.

I’m enraged about the “birthers” the people who still waste their time and money with their “proof” Barack Obama is an alien, disqualified to be president. And I’m mad at Obama too, for not fighting for jobs and what must be done to lift the economy and cut the unemployment rate. He’s been advised over and over again what to do; he lacks the grit and fortitude to make it happen and that makes me mad all over again.

I’m mad at the “leaders” who lie to us and pander by suggesting easy choices will solve the nation’s financial problems. Tell us how bad things must get before they get better. Stop lying to get re-elected when your policy back in office is to lie some more to get re-elected all over again.

Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what has to happen with Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and every single entitlement that exists. Don’t sugar coat the pill… tell the people the God’s honest truth.

And while you’re at it…

Clean up the Internet, too.

I’m mad as hell about

* the jerks who send those millions of emails lying about some bogus legacy and what I have to pay to get it. Use our sophisticated technology. Go get ’em; clear ’em out. Put ’em in jail, or worse.

* the guys who launch viruses, clog the system, bringing down the unwary. It’s time to find them (easily done) and put them away for a significant stretch for crimes against humanity.

I’m mad as hell about our educational “system”

* teachers who cannot teach but can erase and alter standard test results, each one more adamantly opposed to educational reform than the last.

* principals who have none, their only concern to keep the financial tap open whether or not anyone is learning anything.

* students who wear their trousers at the ankle, every inch of exposed flesh cocking a snook at the system and outraging any opportunity to learn.

And there’s more, much, much more to get mad about, to get up and scream about, but let this suffice for now. What we must do is clear… but I wonder if any of us has the guts to do it…. I wonder if I’ve got them myself…. or whether we’ll stay mad as hell while saying nothing, absolutely nothing, which is how we got in this mess in the first place.

* * * * *

Two women, vastly different choices. Coco Chanel, Nancy Wake. What would you have done if you lived in France during the occupation?

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. In dealing with the events following the fall of France June 22, 1940 you must always ask yourself, “What would I have done to keep living?” Then remember that every single Frenchman and Frenchwoman had to ask this question…. and answer it, often paying with their lives if they made the wrong decision at the wrong time.

This is the story of two women, one internationally renowned, the most famous name in fashion, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel….. and Nancy Wake. One you have heard of for years, may even have one of her creations near at hand… the other you may be hearing about for the very first time, for all that she was one of the great heroes of the French Resistance.

This is their story… and I suggest that before you dig in you search any search engine for Edith Piaf’s signature tune, “Non, Je ne regrette rien,” released in 1960. Then return to meet today’s protagonists, both of whom made decisions which could easily have cost their very lives and undoubtedly cost one her reputation.

Two events have inspired this article at this time.

First, an important new book on Chanel has just been released, “Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War”, author Hal Vaughan. Second, Nancy Wake died, at 98, August 7, 2011.

Chanel.

Born August 19, 1883 Chanel came into the world with nothing. Her childhood was chaotic; in 1895 her mother died of tuberculosis and her father left the family. Chanel spent 6 years in an orphanage. There she learned the trade of seamstress. She wanted to be a singer… but she didn’t have the talent. What she had was not mere talent, but genius. She had the skill, greater than any other couturier, to make a woman look chic, elegant, well (never over) dressed.

Chanel became a licensed modiste (hat maker) in 1910 and opened her first Paris boutique. The business took off when theatre actress Gabrielle Dorziat modelled her hats in the play “Bel Ami” by F. Noziere.

It was not only the clothes Chanel created which were impressive. All her life she managed to impress the right people; people who saw that she was going places. In 1920, for instance, she was introduced to ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev; she liked him and his family so much, she invited them to live with her. They were Russian emigres, broke, yet each of these titans recognized genius in the other. It is a very useful skill to possess, and Chanel had it in spades.

In 1924, Chanel made an agreement with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, directors of the eminent perfume house Bourgeois since 1917, creating a corporate entity “Parfums Chanel.” Chanel got 10 percent of the stock. Here was the root of her later problems. Almost immediately she regretted the deal she’d made and spent the next 20 years (including the years she spent in Nazi occupied France) to gain full control, denouncing Pierre Wertheimer as the “bandit who screwed me.”

Loyal, but to whom?

For years there have been doubts about just whom Chanel was loyal to during the occupation and Vichy regime. Now 84-year-old World War II veteran Hal Vaughan presents detailed documentation that is sure to make customers and fans squirm.

His first find was an accident; while working on another project in the French national police archives. It was a “smoking gun” making it crystal clear that Chanel was a Nazi agent. (Her code name was Westminster, which seems like an inside joke given the fact that the Duke of Westminster, the wealthiest peer of the British realm, refused to marry her. A gentleman, Westminster allowed her to claim it was he who had been rejected. She did so in this memorable line, “There have been several duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.”

Chanel’s objective, like that of so many other French citizens, was to get through the war as comfortably and profitably as possible. This wasn’t necessarily bad; it all depended on the choices you made. And here is where Chanel went seriously wrong. First, she grew careless about her anti-Semite opinions. They were bigoted, lurid, and, importantly, unwise. Chanel had never been stifled; she was not going to be stifled now,, although every word she uttered on the subject was ill-advised.

She erred again by commencing an affaire with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a professional Abwehr spy 12 years her junior. They lived in the famous Rtz Hotel, which was under Nazi control.

Vaughan’s book now takes the matter further. His book alleges that in 1940, Chanel was recruited into the Abwehr; a year later she traveled to Spain on a spy mission and later still went to Berlin on the orders of a top SS general. And now the facts so painful to read. Vaughan reports that Chanel’s anti-Semitism pushed her to try to capitalize on laws allowed for the expropriation of Jewish property to wrest control of the Chanel perfume lines from the Wertheimer brothers, who were Jewish. One is relieved to learn that Chanel and the Wertheimers continued to negotiate after the liberation. In May, 1947 the parties came to a mutual accommodation. Chanel in future would receive two percent of all Chanel No.5 sales worldwide, an agreement which guaranteed her about twenty five million dollars a year, some of which she could use to rehabilitate a reputation which embarrassed Chanel and her enterprises.

Nancy Wake.

While Chanel was attempting to rewrite history and buff her image, Nancy Wake was accepting one high-level decoration after another for the brave, dangerous, and constantly successful deeds she’d done and which turned her into one of the signature heroes of the Resistance.

A statement released by Australian prime minister Julia Gillard upon Wake’s death, said, “Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end.”

How did this happen?

Born in New Zealand she grew up in Australia after the family moved. She became a nurse, but her heart wasn’t in it. And when she got an inheritance from a New Zealand aunt she went out to see the world; in due course she became Paris correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw her in Marseille. It was there her notable career began, as she helped British servicemen and Jews escape the German occupying forces. She was never caught, but her husband, captured and tortured by the Gestapo, was not so lucky. She avenged him by participating in the heroic 1944 attack on the local Gestapo headquarters.

The Gestapo also bestowed her famous name, “The White Mouse,” because every time she was cornered, like a tiny mouse she managed to escape… to another daring deed and the highest decorations of France, the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. In due course, Wake helped to arm and lead 7,000 resistance fighters, perhaps her finest moment being the weakening of German defences before the D-Day invasion.

Two women, two choices.

It is easy to judge these women now, to laud Wake and condemn Coco Chanel. But that begs the essential question. If you had been in occupied France what would you have done? It’s not easy to say when the query is real, not academic… which is why in the teaching of history, it is essential to be scrupulously fair to the deceased… and never allow snap judgements and easy moralizing for matters as serious and perilous as this.

* * * * *
About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates

* * * * *

‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.’ The watery end of bright-smiled Marie Joseph and her unsettling fate.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It is high summer in Fall River, Massachusetts, once a focal point of American commerce and the most elegant of sailing ships, now a city defined by its gnawing problems and of people who arrive only to count the days until they leave this way station to something better.

Many of these new arrivals are Hispanic and the place where the most adamant of New Englanders flourished is now a place where often the language is Spanish and the orientation Latin. How surprised the mariners of Massachusetts would have been… but even they, unhappily seeing the transformation of their works, would have looked twice at the radiant smile of Marie Joseph, the kind of smile that lightens loads, brings people together, and holds them together when it’s needed, as it always is.

Marie Joseph graced lives, she did not impose upon them. Such people are too rare… always valued…. the sinews on which all communities rely, especially the ones which seem to have more than their share of problems.

The new arrivals, not yet ascending to country club status, rely on the plethora of municipal services which, in this year 2011, are stressed, pressured, threatened, deteriorating. But more needed than ever… especially if that service is the state-run swimming pools that provide relief on the so-hot summer days you always forget are a sweltering feature of summer hereabouts.

The thought of the beckoning pool, aqua marine, cool, refreshing, a blessing to folks without air conditioning is just what Marie Joseph wanted… and so, arrayed in that smile that wouldn’t quit, she made her way to the modern city’s version of the old swimming hole. In the last picture of Marie Joseph, taken the day before she died (June 26, 2011) her smile is incandescent, radiant, cast on the child in her arms with plenty left over for the rest of the world.

That image should have defined the event and the day, a happy memory in a life of challenges and tribulations… Instead, that image stands as irony, proof (if it were ever needed) that life is short, can never be taken for granted, and can end in ways inexplicable and horrifying… as it was about to do for Marie Joseph.

The water slide took her down indeed, to the conclusion of a brief life, just 36 years.

She saw the water slide. It looked fun… especially as she watched a nine-year-old neighbor go down the slide accompanied by the full panoply of quips, expressions, and ear-shattering squeals all kids horde for just such events. She was game. You had to take your fun when and where you could.

As she slid down the water slide into death and eternity, no one (except the nine-year-old) paid any attention. No need. That water slide was popular and no one gave it a second thought. But this day something went terribly wrong… while people who should have seen saw nothing… or at least they say so now…

The first horror: death by drowning, surrounded by people.

Marie Joseph may have known how to swim; her friends and family are not sure. She didn’t ask. Why should she; she had watched her young friend use the slide joyously; she probably didn’t know the water was 12 feet deep. Once in the water, Marie was in trouble… and must have made a fearful racket as anyone would as they faced the reality of their situation and fought for life. How could this death struggle happen before so many… with only one person, her young neighbor doing anything to assist?

He at least knew something was wrong and tried to pull Marie up, to safety; and when he failed, he called upon the lifeguard for assistance. But demi-god in his Ray Bans, he had better things to do than his job; ignoring kids’ babble was part of what made him so cool and exalted.

Here the story goes from tragedy to the macabre, from one family’s grief to an enduring symbol of ineptitude, scandal, and staggering incompetence.

Marie Joseph was now dead… but no one knew it…

The friends she came with wondered where she had gone; something no doubt had come up; she’d tell them later. And so the sunburnt children wanting more… and their mothers who had had enough, all went home…

… leaving the body of Marie Joseph entombed in water, her raven tresses in constant movement under the water under the summer’s night. And so on this cheerful day did Marie Joseph pass a night peaceful perhaps for her, but of mounting worry and concern for her family and friends. Where had she and her radiant smile gone?

Business as usual.

The next day was business as usual… the kids came to swim and scream, the mothers to watch and gossip, complaining about the temperature and how hot it was; the lifeguard, high above, looked down on the scene and wondered if his girl was cheating on him, of all people.

And throughout this day, mere feet below the teaming activity, the lifeless body of Marie Joseph moved to the water’s beat, its whereabouts known only to God. Yes, on this evening, too, and throughout the stages of the night, did her unseeing eyes abide in their incomprehensible resting place.

And, though its staggers belief, it went on for another day… another day with the corpse swimming with youngsters… and where chary mothers saw nothing… and lifeguards with plum summer jobs, envied, yet saw absolutely nothing.

And still the story worsens, morphing from the shocking to the incredible.

Now officials, making a periodic visit, appeared. Despite the inexplicable disappearance of Marie Joseph, now common gossip, these officials made only the most cursory of inspections… not one suspecting that the pool itself and its cloudy waters held the body. Like everyone else but one small boy they looked… and saw nothing, though the corpse of a beautiful woman was dissolving into debris….

… which teams of lifeguards missed and even the people charged daily with inspecting the pool, cleaning it, keeping the waters fresh and clear. Add these, too, to the staggering number who should have seen… but say they did not.

Now, of course, alarm bells ringing in the face of widespread condemnation, officials great and small come slowly forward, mutter platitudes, and run for cover. A tiny fraction of this energy would easily have saved the life of Marie Joseph or at least given her honorable burial, sparing her from becoming a thing of horror and nightmare. For such she has become, no longer the beloved person she was but a fearful presence for the children who now see a place of sun, light, air and shimmering water as a place of dread and abhorrence, wondering what else they may find there.

Marie Joseph did not deserve her fate. Let some poignant lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, provide her one better:

“Who is this? and what is here? And in the lighted palace near Died the sound of royal cheer; And they cross’d themselves for fear, All the knights at Camelot: But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, “She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott.” (1842).

What we have lost along the way: the great Republican festivals and why America needs them now.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Did you have a nice day yesterday? It was the 4th of July hereabouts, a day sacred to beach going, music in the park and, of course, fireworks, Boston’s being always notable.

It is also a day celebrating the nation, my nation, the United States of America. Yet the vast majority of my fellow citizens will have enjoyed the day without stopping, even for an instant, to consider what the day is truly about… and why we forget it at our peril.

Dudes with powdered hair.

On this date (July 5) back in 1776, the great document called the Declaration of Independence was riding in the saddlebags of people anxious to spread its momentous news to all the people of what was fast changing from a gaggle of squabbling colonies to a nation of revolutionaries.

First of all, you must realize that the events of those heady days were dangerous, extremely dangerous.

The great problem of history is that we know how things turned out. Thus we have the tendency to treat events that were by no means inevitable as if they were. Nowhere is this more true than with the days when our ancestors forged a great nation. Because they won we think their winning had to occur; that it was inevitable, certain, a piece of cake.

In fact it was anything but.

Let us be very plain with each other: conceiving, writing, printing, posting, disseminating the Declaration of Independence, all these were deeds of treachery. Each of these activities was designed to diminish, denigrate and degrade the crown of England, to which each one singly and all collectively had sworn an oath of loyalty, fidelity and commitment.

His Most Gracious Majesty King George III and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men took a very dim view of what the colonists across the pond were up to and about. And on July 4th these self-same colonists took the ultimate step… for they passed from being protestors within the system… to be declared traitors without. In so doing they put their heads into the noose. Had the British caught these fellows they would lose their property, their freedom, and their lives.

Revolutions, you see, are a very serious business…. and no one knew this better than the royal Hanoverian dynasty of George III; he got the crown, after all, as a result of the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. He knew what revolutions could deliver… but also how nervous and undependable they made people who could so easily become gallows fodder. Oh, yes, revolutions were a very dicey business indeed.

Thus did the gentlemen in Congress assembled tread warily up to moment they signed, with whatever secret misgivings. As they put quill pen to paper, they were signing what could be their own death warrant… and at such a moment of moments may a man wonder… and the spouse of his body sit up and cry aloud in the dark hours of the night, praying to God Almighty for succor, guidance, and mercy.

The revolutionary landscape was confusing. There were Loyalists; there were Revolutionaries. Then there were the people who did the best they could as events broke around them. Winning over these people, the great majority of the people, was always a major objective of both sides. Bit by bit, this great majority became committed to the goals of the Revolution, clearly outlined in the ringing prose of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The British lost the Revolutionary War because they could not match what the Revolution offered, much less better it. And so, mind by mind and heart by heart the Revolution from being unthinkable became unstoppable.

The Revolution, the great religion of America.

As the Revolution developed, grew strong, and gathered momentum, the realization became overwhelming that these one-time colonials, now citizens, had succeeded in doing something no other people or nation had ever done: they had won complete political freedom. They owned themselves, the most precious and important gift of all. This was an event so significant, so earth-shattering, so gratifying and so thrilling that the people of America longed to gather at periodic intervals to remind each other about what had happened, why it happened, what each had done… and what all would do again, should it ever be necessary to put down the plough and take up the gun.

July 4th became sanctified as the great day of freedom! Liberty! Revolution! And the people demanded it be celebrated in high style to match the importance of the event, the goals of the Founding Fathers, and the soaring rhetoric they all knew. Each prophet of this Revolution all knew, too, and wished to honor again; special reverence was always paid to Jefferson, who gave the Revolutionaries the golden gift of heart-touching words… and to Washington, the man who had turned down the crown of America for the surer crown of his countryman’s respect, love and undying admiration.

Each place in America, no matter how small, competed to remember and to honor and so did the festivals of the Great Republic commence and grow… for the people, having wrenched America from the hands of tyrants, were determined to celebrate their great achievement and remind the entire world what it meant… and invite them to join the future.

Days before these festivals took place preparations would begin. A Liberty Tree would be festooned with the robust and venerated slogans of the Revolution. Old Continental Army uniforms would be taken from chests, to be tried on (and let out) . Larders were raided for ample picnics and still rooms for a variety of distillations and brews, essential for toasts. Wagons were packed; a few extra comforts added for Grandpapa who got his honored wound at Cowpens (1781)… and his wife whose prayers for his safe return had been answered. They were all going and joyfully.

And the same scene played all over America, for the 4th was the quintessential American festival… an event of the people,by the people, for the people, long before Lincoln used these immemorial words.

Whether the festivities were small or grand; whether addressed by a well regarded student with a future… or by one of the great orators of the day… didn’t matter. The republican verities were the stars of the event, stated, restated, the principles for which they had fought and which so much had been sacrificed.

And if, at the larger gatherings so many could not hear, even those practised orators with the greatest reach, that did not matter. For the people knew in their bones what was said, its impact, and importance. And they were satisfied to be there at all, each one so necessary for the whole.

Now all this is gone… remembered by few, practised by fewer. Who, then, can wonder at the state of America, when we ourselves have removed the means for understanding, celebrating and reverencing her? She needs these now more than ever.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Boneheads: when smart people do (really) dumb things.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It seems my father is right again. Ever since I can remember he has said, “People with Ph.D.s can do some of the dumbest things”… Then he’d reel off a list of his latest discoveries, always ending up with two or three of the waiters at a local restaurant who were, despite their advanced degrees, slinging hash. I always reminded him that those folks only had Master’s Degrees… but he’d snort “Same difference” and that was that.

When I saw this story on the wire services recently, I knew I’d have to tell you about it… and grab it before my father, a news fanatic, brought it to my attention with what comments I already knew so well.

Picture the scene…

It is 2005 and professor emeritus of political science F. Chris Garcia is moving towards the conclusion of a distinguished academic career at the University of New Mexico, including a stint as President of the university. You mull over your options…

You could write another book. You’ve already got 11 under your belt. They include “Hispanics and the U.S. Political System” and “Moving into the Mainstream”. You are a recognized expert on one of the most important subjects in American politics; how to organize Hispanics and reap major advantages.

You could get another top academic position. Your resume is stellar. You’ve done what was necessary steadily to move up the ladder: you’ve been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1980-86); vice president of academic affairs (1987-1990); you know, few better, the arcane ins and outs of the Academy.

You could call in some of the favors you’ve laboriously acquired over the years; you think… a cushy job in Washington… well-paid lobbyist… maybe Ambassador to one of the South American countries you know so well… His Excellency the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia… maybe even Chile. Cool

There’s no rush; you’re 71 now (2011) but that, as you keep telling yourself, is the new 60… you’ve got lots of time… and lots of options. In due course, after a lot of deep and serious thought, you decide to do something you’ve always been interested in…something that will give you all you desire… something that’ll both make you a lot of money and fulfill your fastidious personal wants. The solution is obvious.

You decide to get involved in the new and exciting world of Internet prostitution a growth field if ever there was one.

Here’s how it happened:

“Burque Pops” (Garcia’s online handle) comes to know fellow academic, Fairleigh Dickinson University professor of physics Dr. David Flory. These guys hit it off right away, kindred spirits speaking the same language. They’re both about the same age (Flory’s 68), both respected in their academic fields, both restless as all get out. Time’s unceasing chariot is moving, moving, moving; if they were going to make a change, experience “real” life and have fun, they knew they needed to take fast action NOW!

And, of course, there was the thrill of Les Girls to consider, something you could never get on campus and retain your tenure. Wow! It was all good… all they had to do was come and get it.

The company that these hot-blooded academics decided to get involved with was called Southwest Companions. The idea was simple: people of influence, people of education, people of standing had human needs like hoi polloi; but they needed a level of sophistication and discretion that Joe Sixpack didn’t require. In short, they needed a gentlemen’s retreat, flattering lighting optional.

Southwest Companions was founded in 2005 by Cara Garrett. Her mug shot makes her look like what she was: a tough customer, decades younger than Garcia and Flory but with a lifetime of street smarts and survival skills these aging lotharios could only imagine. They were putty in her pudgy palms. Our hapless professors might have suspected as much, but they were not experts in the films of the Weimar Republic, most particularly the 1930s masterpiece by Josef von Sternberg, “Der Blaue Engel”. Here Marlene Dietricht takes her professor on a roller coaster ride from respectability to something way over his head. Cara Garrett knew these tricks, too…

Southwest Companions was sold by Garrett in 2007 to another suspect in the case, Mike Dorsey. He in turn sold the site in 2009 to Flory, who had homes in both Manhattan and Santa Fe.

Things prospered and the two most important aspects of the business waxed: there were more of Les Girls, lots more, and lots and lots more of the discretion-seeking daddio’s from all walks of life. In due course the ring had some 1,400 members, including 200 prostitutes.

The money was good, too… and tax-free. Members of the site paid anywhere from $200 for a sex act to $1,000 for a full hour of time. The prostitutes were paid in cash by the clients, not through the site.

Garcia and Flory took to the game with enthusiasm and the organizational skills they both had in abundance. They rose to the heady heights of being a “hunter”, the guys empowered to recruit new girls, for new girls were always in demand; fresh faces, firm bodies were what it was all about… and the academic gentlemen knew how to find and recruit them. They also advised on the creation of a handy list of police undercover agents to help members recognize them and avoid arrest. Like all good entrepreneurs, they found a need and filled it.

It was all up, up and away… but there was a weak link and its name was Cara Garrett. He life was a mess as quickly came out when she was arrested (December 2010) on drug, child abuse and prostitution charges; she was arrested again in June, 2010, this time for threatening another informant in the case. .The canaries were singing… and a lot of gentlemen — including academics Flory and Garcia — got nervous, real nervous. Cara knew all… and Cara was going to tell as much of it as necessary to save her skin. It’s a very old story indeed…

Flory, Garcia and three other “hunters” were arrested, the details ending up in papers coast to coast (June 24, 2011). The good burghers of the nation saw it, read it, read it again, then munching toast, said “Look at this, Martha. Did you ever hear of such a thing?” There was more than a little satisfaction and smug superiority in these remarks. People with advanced degrees want and get a level of respect and deference which can irritate those without. Comeuppance is sweet.

And comeuppance, lots of it, there would be. Because as Flory and Garcia now know, once a thing is on the Internet it is forever on the Internet. At the time of his arrest F. Chris Garcia, now a long way from the regalities of the Academy, was found trying to purge files and tamper with the evidence. He hadn’t a clue…

… my father could have told him: “Most Ph.D.s can’t do squat. Look at these clowns from New Jersey and New Mexico. One was even president of a university”….

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is  at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

The long life and turbulent times of Otto von Habsburg, one of history’s greatest ‘what ifs’, dead at 98.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

History is littered with ‘what ifs’ that make us wonder about the history we got, rather than the history which we so nearly got… and would have changed so much.

What if Lincoln had completed his second term?

What if “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne had crushed the Continental Army at Saratoga in 1777, thereby ensuring British victory?

What if Jesus had not been crucified?

And, today’s particular query, “What if the Austro-Hungarian empire had survived World War I, the succession descending in the usual order from Emperor Charles I to, in due course, his first-born son, Otto von Habsburg? This is one of the most important “what ifs” ever… and one that determined the fate of most of Europe… and the United States.

The Habsburg dynasty ruled the ever changing territories of what was not so much a nation as a consortium of real estate. Over time, the Habsburgs moved ahead, more successful at marriage for bountiful acquisitions than war.

Many nations coveted various pieces of the empire… but all recognized the significance of Austria, first as a bulwark against the Turks whose breathtaking advances were stopped once and for all at the walls of Vienna (1683)… later as a wall stopping the Russians from further advances, each of which made the other great monarchies of Europe profoundly nervous.

There was more, much more of equally immense significance… Austria lead the coalition that ultimately defeated and exiled Napoleon, despite the fact that its Chancellor (Prince Klemens von Metternich) had with consummate gall and cynicism married an Austrian princess to Bonaparte, to delude him into thinking they had an alliance. They didn’t… and in 1815 Vienna was the center of Europe, to the complete irritation of la belle France and its second-rate dynasties.

But the great empire, pieces constantly added, pieces constantly ceded, pieces constantly rearranged, had a multiplicity of the most severe problems, not the least of which was their long-term alliance with the new German Empire (1879). This alliance, devolved into the wrong hands, and when it did the fate of Otto von Habsburg, the last crown prince of the empire, was sealed

The imperial succession after Emperor Francis Joseph took the throne (1848) was a nightmare, puzzling to every Austrian child, murky and incomprehensible to the few in Europe who take pains to sort it out. Francis Joseph’s brother was killed (June, 1867) per order Benito Juarez after an ill-advised attempt to become Emperor of Mexico. His son Rudolph, crown prince; committed suicide (1889). The next in order, Franz Ferdinand, was killed at Sarajevo in 1914, launching was became the holocaust of the First World War.

That holocaust need never have happened… and wouldn’t had Prince Otto von Bismarck remained German Chancellor… but the young Kaiser Wilhelm II dropped the pilot and commenced the process that resulted in Europe in ruins and millions of people dead.

All unnecessary…. the combined fault of Austria and the German Empire. The last of the great powers to need a war in 1914 was Austria. An ill-assorted hodge-podge with ramshackle systems, Austria needed peace… and could have had it even after the next heir, Franz Ferdinand, was killed by anti-Austrian terrorists.

But the Austrian military wanted war… and the German Empire backed her to the hilt, causing Bismarck to spin in his grave… and millions of others to go prematurely to theirs.

Into this world Otto von Habsburg, crown prince of the empire after his father succeeded in 1916, was born. Imperial to his fingertips, he was one of the most important children in the world, a prince descended from 650 years of princes, certain (so he believed) of his future and place in the world.

Unlike many imperial heirs before him, Otto grew up in a devoted family. He knew his parents, the last Emperor Charles and the Empress Zita, well; his was a truly loving and affectionate family, a fact that helped the displaced Family von Habsburg get through the difficult days ahead, when they lost an empire, but not each other.

From the moment in 1914 when Franz Ferdinand was killed, he became the heir presumptive to an aged monarchy with an aging monarch, the good Emperor Charles wanted peace… he knew that Austria desperately needed it… and its people were clamoring for it without surcease.

But just how he could get peace eluded him. The Germans, his allies, let it be known that any attempt by Austria to end the alliance and conclude a separate peace with the Western allies would result in an immediate German invasion of Austria. Since Germany remained in a position to do this right through the fateful summer of 1918, Charles and Zita, and Otto with them, was stymied, unable to break free of their always more powerful partner, until death do them part.

President Woodrow Wilson made the problem more difficult for the old monarchy and its brand-new monarchs, in his famous Fourteen Points, supporting as they did the cause of nationality as the basis of nations. It was to provide the death knell of the empire… and to many decades as a stateless imperial heir for Otto von Habsburg who continued to claim his royal and imperial thrones until 1961.

His father, the Emperor Charles I died young and exhausted in 1922; the 9 year-old Otto succeeded to the imperial crown dignities… and entirely new political realities… the first being that no one wanted Habsburgs in their territories. And so Otto became a nomad, often a person of political consequence, but not enough to retrieve any of his titles and high standing.

However this one-time crown prince of a famous empire, wanted to be of use. And so he began to champion the cause of a united Europe, a subject on which any Habsburg, and particularly this Habsburg, would be expected to expatiate at length and with intelligence. His ex-imperial and apostolic majesty did so, becoming the most useful, practical and educated of all the Habsburgs. At various times he served the interests of Germany, the United States, Spain, always Austria and Hungary… but most importantly of Europe, which he saw as a development from the multi-national empire he would have ruled and which he wanted to see strong, prosperous, a force for civilized values worldwide.

Now this man born a great imperialist, who became a great European, is dead. And an era truly ends. Given their unending suspicions about what this entirely intellectual, scholarly man might do, therefor delivering a multitude of irritations, the Republic of Austria might have been expected to make difficulties about the burial. But apparently on the proposition that the only good Habsburg is a dead Habsburg, they allowed Dr. Otto von Habsburg to be buried among all the generations of his ancestors, in the Vienna Capuchin Church, a curiosity in life, a curiosity in death.

But remember this…

Had he ruled, millions might have stayed alive and prospered. And that is why he will always be one of the great “what ifs” of history. It is more than a pity that he never had the chance to reign… for the ones who took his place made such a dog’s dinner of it all, starting with Woodrow Wilson.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is . at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

‘I don’t want her, you can have her; she’s too fat for me!’ (So is he!)

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This article will have more impact if you listen first to Arthur Godfrey’s “Too fat polka”. Godfrey, one of the nation’s first television talk masters (d. 1983), was assuredly not a nice guy. But he could both get to the point.and had at the ready the cutting line that leaves the victim breathless… and an audience laughing at the shear audacity of the words. These talents were showcased in his very catchy “Too fat polka” with its signature line, “You can have her, I don’t want her, she’s too fat for me”. An unlikely hit in 1947, it was written by Ross MacLean and Arthur Richardson. Listen to it a time or two before you read this article. You can easily find it in any search engine. Then get prepared to polka… while I roll out a barrel of fat.

Have you looked at yourself lately, I mean really put yourself under a microscope and scrutinized what was before you? If you’re seeing oleaginous rolls where you should be showcasing lean meat, you are part of the problem… and today must make the decision to become part of the solution.

Let me share just three things with you about fat…

1) It’s disgusting. I don’t care what your (terminally obese) friend Trudy says about your embonpoint.The extra flesh that you’re packing is disgusting. You know it (even though you keep managing to delude yourself)… and every single person who looks at you knows it, too… and they don’t delude themselves about what they’re seeing, the way you do.

… they just utter the devastating, involuntary, withering observation “Wow, that mamma is FAT!” That hurts when you know that mamma (or daddy) is… you.

2) It’s not a problem caused by the prevalence of food… it’s a problem caused by you, the person shoveling the calories down your throat. Last time I checked, we each had the ability to close mouth and stop problem. If you’re fat, if you’re obese, you’re the lad or lassie who did the damage, destroying yourself and your lithesome lines, one bite at a time.

3) You are killing yourself. Fat… like sugar… like salt… is not a little problem; a trifling matter; something that gets a little slap on the wrist. Let’s be candid with each other, or we’re never going to start solving this endemic problem. Fat kills. And, as you shovel those calories into an already overburdened body, you are acting as your own torturer and executioner.

Another study shows…

Before I tell you the results of the latest, really alarming study on this matter, I have this to say about studies: “Enough already!” Since as long as I can remember (and for the record I’m the same age as Godfrey’s hit tune) the nation’s highest health authorities have been studying this problem to death. The studies all say the same thing: problem bad, problem worse than the last time we reported, more people slipping into obesity and all the problems that brings. I feel like Jackie DeShannon in her 1965 hit “What the World Needs Now.” “Lord we don’t need another mountain. There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb…”

We don’t need another study either… We need — action… and we need it yesterday. But since the study authors no doubt worked hard to produce the latest tome on this subject, I’ll share the results with you.

According to a report released July 7, 2010 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates climbed at least 90 percent in 17 states from 1995 until 2010. Here are their chief findings:

Item: nine of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South, led by Mississippi at 34.4 percent. That means that a little more than 1 in 3 Mississippians is obese. On this basis, the state should be designated a disaster area… and the National Guard positioned to get citizens out of their refrigerators as the #1 priority.

Item: Alabama and West Virginia followed Mississippi in the “worst” states category. These three states also lead the nation in diabetes and high blood pressure. Michigan was listed 10th at 30.5 percent.

Item: Medicare and Medicaid, the nation’s public health plans, each spend more than 20 percent of their budget to treat illnesses which are avoidable medical risks. Let’s rewrite this in laymen’s language Joe Sixpack can understand: you and the rest of Obese America are eating more, eating less wisely, less nutritiously… as a result you’re transcending fat, achieving obesity in record numbers at record speed, and then expecting the government to save you from the mess you’ve made of your body and your life.

Friend: when you see the facts well and truly, you’ve got to wonder why the remainder of the citizens doesn’t march on Washington and demand that those pandering congressmen stop subsidizing these self-destructive people, taking our money to correct their problem. Outrageous!

More study facts.

The survey’s authors dubbed a swath of 644 counties in 15 mostly southern states the “diabetes belt,” as reported in the Journal of Preventive Diseases. Colorado is the nation’s slimmest state but still has a 19.8 percent obesity rate. Here’s the rub: Colorado had the second-smallest rise since 1995 BUT that rate is still higher than Mississippi’s was in 1995. This should concern the denizens of Vail, but probably won’t.

So, what’s the definition of obesity anyway?

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index about 30. Thus, a 6 foot-tall adult male weighing 221 pounds or more is considered obese, as is an adult woman standing 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 186 pounds or more, according to the National Institutes of Health. Such people — and here’s the kicker — are at a higher risk for diabetes and hypertension, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

False culprits…

Concerned Americans have drawn up a rapidly expanding list of the culprits. These include bigger servings and food consumed on the go. Such rapid consumption is bad for the body… and constitutes the largest single change in the nation’s food habits and ingestion over the last 20 years.

Lawmakers have chimed in with their best ideas: how about using taxes to influence eating habits? Maybe a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (though this didn’t make it into the 2010 health care law)?

But these are mere palliatives, not solutions. And every honest person engaged in the fight against obesity knows it. What they also know is that personal responsibility and ownership of the problem are the keys, not least because America’s financial condition is such that we cannot ask the well people of the nation to subsidize those who chose rotten nutritional habits over common sense and the benefits deriving from getting and maintaining ideal weight. If you’re not doing this, YOU are the culprit… and your first day of responsibility is today.

Chances are you, who know personally and so well the drawbacks of obesity, will yet do nothing to correct them. That’s why, a year or two from now, we’ll be back at you with another report, a more worrisome report… a report you’ll ignore, just like you’ll probably ignore this one. That’s why “You can have him, I don’t want him, he’s too fat for me”. (So is she.)

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is at  http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

An appreciation of the life of former U.S. First Lady Betty Ford, dead at 93, a woman we respected, admired, and loved.

y Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Think for a minute of all the First Ladies we have had since the time of Franklin Roosevelt. Each found a way of serving the nation in her often difficult and always demanding position. Each First Lady invents her job, for it is a station mentioned nowhere in the Constitution but with high expectations, under the constant gaze of her often nit-picking countrymen… who expect a model wife to the president, mother to their children, and a great lady for a great nation. Difficult though these tasks must be, we expect absolutely nothing less.

Eleanor Roosevelt, much more than wife and mother.

The modern First Ladyship started with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. Born and bred a lady, she was never anything else, but she, like her relative Theodore Roosevelt, came to know how to use the “bully pulpit” of the White House to superb effect. She was there not to serve tea, but instead to advocate for a host of social issues. Men who preferred wives pouring tea were appalled… but, year by year, Mrs. Roosevelt grew in stature as a policy maven… creating a towering model for her successors.

Bess Truman was uncomfortable with Washington, and her mother made things even more difficult by often reminding Harry that he wasn’t good enough for Bess, for all that he was Leader of the Free World. She couldn’t wait to return to Independence… and the nation saw her leave without regret.

Mamie Eisenhower ran the White House like an army post, her white-glove inspections ensuring fastidious order and efficiency. Her relations with Ike were problematic; after all, he had wanted to divorce her and marry Kay Summersby probably the love of his life. Not a good model for future First Couples.

Jackie Kennedy brought a style elegant, alluring, a princess of Camelot. Unfortunately she well knew of her husband’s humiliating infidelities; she was often wary, suspicious and frosty. She’d be First Lady, but on her terms. One looked in vain to Mrs. Kennedy for the kind of joy and the ability to connect which America wanted and deserved.

Lady Bird Johnson, who became First Lady at a period of intense mourning and soul-searching for America was someone liked. But like other presidents before him, husband LBJ found marital fidelity, even in the White House, onerous; he had the perfect political wife, but the nation wondered if he really loved her. He bellowed “Move over, this your president” when sowing wild oats; she sowed millions of wild flowers, which cheered her and the rest of us.

Mrs. Pat Nixon “got” her job in the White House. Even before becoming First Lady, she was a frequent guest in the Executive Mansion. She had sage advice for herself, self-talk of value to any First Lady: this may be the only time in their lives the guest may visit the White House; remember that and greet him accordingly. Mrs. Nixon lived up to her part of the bargain, but she always seemed unhappy. She clenched back her tears rather than show weakness. America would have understood and loved this too little loved woman had she been more open and honest…

… like her unexpected successor Mrs. Gerald Ford, universally known as Betty.

Elizabeth Ann Bloomer was born in Chicago April 18, 1918. She entered the world along with her nation. In 1918 the United States was the only major combatant to emerge from World War I unscathed. America was now the ascendant power, and Chicago, with its access to the greatest granaries on earth, its sophisticated transportation network, and all the beef America and all the world could eat, was its second city, an empire on Lake Michigan.

When she was 2, her well-heeled family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was something of a ham and the theater ran in her veins. She loved an audience even then. At 8 she began taking dance lessons, finding a lifelong passion. At the Bennington School of Dance, at Bennington College, she studied with such titans of Terpsichore as Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, and Doris Humphrey. She moved to New York in 1939 to dance with Graham’s troupe and always retained close, affectionate relations with her mentor, recommending her (successfully) for the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, bestowed by her husband the president.

While in New York, she supported herself with modeling assignments. She was definitely a “looker” and she knew the art of moving so the world looked at her. It was to prove a very useful skill, when millions wanted to see her up close and personal.

The Bloomer’s were a tight knit family and they missed their Betty. They persuaded her to return to Grand Rapids where she got a job in a department store where she worked with the advertising department, modeled and put on fashion shows.

A year later, in 1942, she married the man who was definitely not of her dreams, William C. Warren. In 1947 they divorced. It turned out Betty had bigger fish to fry. It came in the person of Gerald Ford, a college football star and well-known lawyer. It proved to be a match made in heaven.

One thing America liked about the Fords was that they genuinely liked each other — and showed it. This was a real difference from the arrangements, heart breaks and bitterness of too many presidents and their ladies. You could try to fake it and, maybe for a while you could fool some of the country… but not for long. Body language doesn’t lie.

They married on October 15, 1948 and started (it’s not overstated) their lifelong honeymoon, based on true affection and empathy. It made the Fords look old- fashioned, but America cheered and always wished them well.

Ford got himself elected to Congress. Betty proved a virtually ideal political wife. For one thing she was not just wife, but partner. It was the secret of their success. In 1965 he was elected Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives; he wanted to be GOP Speaker of the House, his highest aspiration. But then came Watergate and all its attendant troubles…

After Vice President Agnew resigned in disgrace… President Nixon and the nation both needed a man of integrity as Vice President. And so destiny knocked on Gerald Ford’s door and transformed one of the most decent men in politics into the vehicle to help the troubled nation weather the storm. The Fords had ended America’s nightmare and began a regime of decency, honesty, and sincerely, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Now First Lady Betty Ford, Midwest born, knew her mind and spoke it… about abortion, marriage, drugs… and, in due course, her own addictive demons. The nation applauded her openness and candor. She had the problems millions of her countrymen shared… and, as she openly got help, she helped them ask for it ourselves.

Now Betty Ford is dead, at 93. She excelled at the great game of life… and helped others, now down and out, get up, try again and excel, too. We saw ourselves in her, good and bad… thus her passing diminishes us… But she is with her Jerry now which is where she always wanted to be for all of time to come, together.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of at  http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Atlanta, Georgia school cheating scandal. How a pencil eraser and mendacious educators shamed a great city and robbed its students.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The great city of Atlanta and many other Georgia towns are, at this very moment, in the throws of the latest installment of their ongoing school cheating scandal. It’s a scandal that could take place in most any school district, but which is worst in Atlanta, a city that has well and truly lost its moral compass . Here no one, whatever their high titles and educational degrees and licenses, is responsible for anything.

And so I have selected for the music to accompany this article, Chaka Khan’s tune “Ain’t Nobody” (released 1983)… because in Atlanta ain’t nobody educatin’, ain’t nobody learnin’, ain’t nobody leadin’, ain’t nobody truth tellin’… and ain’t nobody cleanin’ up the mess and galvanizing the folks so that Atlanta can hold up its head again… proud of its achievements, not abashed by its lies, deceptions and deceits. You can find Chaka Khan’s tune in any search engine. Get it now… and let its pulse get you in the mood not just for disgust, outrage and indignation but for the hard work of school and municipal reform which must start at once, this very day… And don’t read this article with any smugness at all… for you cannot be sure the “educators” in your town aren’t doing the same things but just haven’t been caught yet.

Who’s bright idea was this anyway?

Investigators and the public may never know the name of the first educator who erased the wrong test answer and entered the correct one, and if there were only one such infraction, or even just a few more, we could simply say, “There are always some bad apples in any barrel.” But this is not what happened in Atlanta… where, at least 178 Public School employees in 44 schools, including 38 principals, all decided, some independently, some working together, to alter standardized test results.

Now think about this for a moment.

Each of these educators has gone through years of (we hope) rigorous training, with degrees and licenses to prove their hard work and diligence.

Each will swear on a stack of Bibles that they believe in education and that they are well and truly dedicated to helping students achieve success through the application of high standards of learning and instruction.

Each would take the most sacred oath that cheating, altering test results, passing off another’s work as your own, and all the other egregious forms of educational mendacity are wrong… and can never be tolerated at any time…. and that educators who perform these deeds should and must be punished and driven out of the Academy forthwith fueled by the indignation of the worthy.

Every teacher, every administrator would, I know, signify in any way requested their adamant belief in these propositions… and yet an astounding, astonishing number of these same teachers and administrators altered test results with their own hands… risking their careers and sacrificing their self-respect and honor to do deeds which all knew were wrong and which each abominates and deplores.

How had so many gone so wrong?

While there is finger-pointing all around, the most digits are pointed at former Superintendent Beverly Hall (1999-2011). Her mantra was “performance, performance, performance” which was what the people wanted…. but which morphed over time to “performance at any cost” with the emphasis on the “any”. In the Hall Administration you got the Superintendent’s eye (and extra bennies and emoluments) by demonstrating improved, increasing, dazzling performance. She, once so voluble, now has “no comment”.

The problem is, education doesn’t work like a machine process, a conveyor belt delivering better product for less. Oh, no, education is not remotely like that. Education is a slow, incremental process, where results today, with today’s students, are determined by what each previous teacher in each grade was able to achieve with each student. There is no activity slower than education… nor one in which so many each have a part to play.

Each and every teacher and administrator knows this… but each one decided that pleasing the powers that be was more important than doing the hard work of focusing on each student, with painstaking dedication, effort, and patience. And thus with a simple pencil eraser did each erase everything each knew to be true, good and necessary about their vocation… thereby shaming themselves, their city, their honorable colleagues, and, of course, the students who were, with each erasure and substitution, bereft of what they needed so desperately, a real education, an education of merit, of high standards set and high standards achieved, and above all of honest endeavor and honest testing and review.

As I said, finger pointing is rampant as everyone scurries to save themselves in an environment where there is now intense scrutiny and a desire to see heads roll and so demonstrate that there is a new broom sweeping clean. Interim Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr. says that the prevailing “culture of fear and intimidation” in his predecessor Hall’s regime must be changed. “People,” he says, “felt that it was easier to cheat than to miss their goals and objectives.”

Not just one incident, but a series of incidents.

Americans, of course, want fast answers to endemic problems. And here is no exception. The people don’t want to believe they were thoroughly betrayed by the very people they must rely upon the most: the teachers, educators, and administrators charged with the sacred objective of lifting their children, one step at a time,to a higher, better place.

But the current scandal is just that — “current”, for the good citizens of Atlanta have been cheated by the cheaters since 2001 at least, and quite possibly longer.

Over the course of the last decade, one cheating scandal after another has punctuated the Atlanta school calendar. All bear a dreary resemblance to each other. High standards are set which cannot be met, though those setting them reap a torrent of praise for such daring and boldness.

In due course, though, the high standards are shown to be too high, unrealistic, overly ambitious. Cheaters enter to bridge the difference between what is… and what could never be. And, in due course, these cheaters, or at least some of them, are caught… to the outrage of citizens and short-changed students.

And so new leaders are brought in, who set unrealistic goals and tell you they have the necessary skills, you betcha, to achieve the objective and make Atlanta proud… yet in due course they, too, fail — but only after reaping educational awards and honors for proclaiming goals too steep to achieve. Thus they, too, are discarded and villified.

And all the while the students of Atlanta are bereft of the education they must have and have every right to expect. They do not get it because their parents, their teachers, their elected officials and bureaucrats at every level will pontificate about education… but will not engage in the slow painstaking business of educating one student at a time… for they want an education to be what no education has ever been: a machine process, an assembly-line activity… and until the citizens of Atlanta know this and demand this these humiliating, demeaning, abashing scandals must and will continue.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.