Halloween 2011: More Trick Than Treat

Some spooky things have been happening to Halloween in recent years.  But this year seems to be a seminal year for taking the “treat” out of trick or treating.

First, there are the politically-correct school districts that have banned school Halloween parties because Halloween is based on a  Christian holiday (which is based on a pagan holiday, but never mind about that – it’s a Christian holiday now).  Not that the fundamentalist Christians have ever been particularly fond of Halloween with its ghost, ghouls, and devils.

Other progressive schools, knowing how popular Halloween is with the kids, have taken another tack – the all-inclusive Halloween.  Boys in traditional girls’ costumes.  Girls in traditional boys’ costumes.  Oh look:  here’s Michael Smith in his pink ballerina costume.  Girls more easily can get away with boys’ costumes; it’s easier for Mary Smith to dress up as a football player than it is for Michael to dress up in a cheerleaders’ costume – a girl’s costume.  Although college boys have been known to do dress in drag for Halloween, and to very funny effect (think South Pacific, the musical). 

I defy any parent to wrestle their 8 year old son into a Dorothy costume, though.  Small children shouldn’t be thinking seriously about cross-gender dressing.   They shouldn’t be thinking sexually at all at that age.  If they are, they’ve got a problem and so do their parents. 

Which brings us to another aberrant trend – the “sexy” Halloween costume.  While it’s okay for adults to want to dress up for Halloween parties, the holiday is still meant primarily for children.  The supplier catalogs have been advertising ever-more risqué costumes for adults and inappropriate costumes for children, particularly teens.  If the costumes are any more revealing, they’ll have to come in brown paper wrappers.

Then there’s the problem of real-life Halloween horrors – that is to say, perverts and contaminated candy.  The public has never recovered from the Halloween scare of the early Seventies when parents were said to have found tainted candy in the goody bags, razor blades in apples and such.   Most of the reports turned out to be false.  In any case, candy today comes well-wrapped and protective.  Candy also comes with a high price tag.  What’s more, there are fewer trick or treaters running about in the neighborhood than in the old days, and they’re more likely to visit only homes they know, or go straight to parties. 

We haven’t seen Halloweeners in years.  If any kids do come to the door, they’re going to get Piggy Bucks and Bailout Coins rather than candy.  Every year, I buy the candy and it sits in the bag unopened and uneaten.  No one’s going to play that trick on me again.  The Piggy Bucks will last from year to year to year and never lose their value (unlike the U.S. dollar).

Mother Nature has played those of us in the Northeast one last trick.  She dumped anywhere from six inches to two feet of snow from Pennsylvania to Maine.  Power is still out in many towns, meaning no streetlights tonight.  The roads and sidewalks are still icy because the temperature is so cold, so towns are postponing Halloween until Saturday, by which time the weather will have warmed up a little and the snow will have melted.

It’ll be a great night to stay indoors and watch one of the classic horror movies.  The Wizard of Oz is a great, classic Halloween movie, as is the Lord of the Rings, and the series about that other wizard, Harry Potter.  There is also Glenn Beck on his GBTV network, who can’t be recommended enough.  For those of you have cable, it’s out here in northern N.J. and you’ll be out of luck watching anything except DVDs.  For those of you with a Wifi receiver, or better yet, Roku or Boxee, you can tune in to Glenn’s 5 p.m. Halloween broadcast.

For a few years now, Glenn has done a radio version of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart.” Glenn is a sensational storyteller.  His version of Telltale Heart is just spine-tingling.  He’s a truly gifted, artistic storyteller.  How this man could say he doesn’t know anything making speeches and public-speaking can only be attributed to misplaced modesty.   Don’t take this as cheerleading but as the literal truth.  No one tells a story, particularly TTH, quite like Glenn Beck.  If you’ve never heard it, download it and listen to it sometime today.  He’s making it available today on his website.  Whatever the fee is, just pay it; it’s well worth it, especially since he’s not available in the metro New York area anymore, except through his website.

For those of us with access to GBTV, his televised take on Halloween will probably become a classic, just like his Telltale Heart and all the other favorites we’ve come to love on Halloween, like “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” and The Wizard of Oz.  I make it my business to listen to his annual Halloween Broadcast for Telltale Heart.  It’s that good.


Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mother Nature’s Goosey Nite Trick

Mother Nature, in a Goosey Nite Eve rampage (that’s Mischief or Devil’s Nite for those of you who don’t live in northern New Jersey), played a mean trick on the East Coast Saturday, dumping snow on trees that, in some places, are still green.

There’s never been an October snowfall in the history of the Garden State.  Because the trees still have all their leaves in lower-lying areas, large branches and whole trees were knocked down all over the state.  The nor’easter came in a little sooner and a little faster than expected.  Within an hour, the temperatures dropped from autumn to winter, making it cold it enough for the snow to fall and to stick.

Shoppers, out early because they expected the storm to come later in the afternoon, found themselves skidding over slick roads.  Whole neighborhoods are blanketed in snow, fallen trees, and green leaves.  Many residents are still without power.  Mom was thinking about going out Saturday afternoon – before the trees started falling – and I told her not to.

A couple of big branches came crashing down into our parking lot, right into the much-debated visitor parking space.  When the weather is bad, like it was on Saturday, I always warn my visitors not to park there because of the trees.  The visitor parking spaces are first-come, first-serve.  My next-door neighbor’s son insists on parking there, even though his mother’s resident space out front is free because she doesn’t drive and she also has a designated visitor’s space.

My car was safe because it was just out of reach of the branches.  I also tarp my car during winter storms.  I highly recommend tarps to anyone with a high-profile vehicle.  The snow will freeze to the metal on the car; but it slides right off the tarp.  I still have to shovel it out of the way in front.  But it’s a lot faster than trying to scrape the ice and snow off the roof.  Once the snow is off, I pull the tarp down, roll it up (rolling is better than folding it flat; makes it easier to put it on the car again and isn’t as heavy) and store it away until the next storm.

Still, even though the branches impeded the space and the plow could only push the snow up to the branch, leaving only half a space, this stubborn moron insisted on parking there, clambering over snow banks and tree limbs to get to his mother’s door, and leaving his car sticking out in the roadway.  The association printed out the rules, but this woman still doesn’t have a license,  collar or leash on her dog,  lets the dog run loose, lets it wee-wee on the grass, and keeps garbage cans at her back door, even though the garbage bins are a short walk away.

Clearly, they didn’t get Mother Nature’s message.  Next time (and there will be a next time), she’ll have to drop a branch right on this moron’s car (it has so many dents already, that you wouldn’t notice) before they finally get it – park out front where they belong.  Why is it such a problem?  Because they’re going to kill the grass.  I can step from my stoop to the parking lot without ever touching dirt.  We’re right beside a stream on a downslope.  Without the grass, the soil will wash away and in time, we’ll find our back doors on a precipice.  It’s one thing for the residents to sit on their back porches, and maybe wander over to the stream to see how high it is.  It’s another thing to treat the back green like the New Jersey Turnpike.


Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  

The Execution Committee

Yesterday, our team members got “The Call.” Some of the writers, apparently, got some sort of reasonable job offer – at least those in the preferred location, although not all. One writer, who has an MBA, reportedly got a job offer in a company office in Florida. The status of the rest of the writers is unknown. They’re not talking, but one can make a pretty good guess.

The web designers, on the other hand, were totally out of luck. However, they still got job offers for the Atlanta and Dallas office which, at least yesterday, were considered “unreasonable.” What do the web designers, especially the designers housed in New Jersey, think of the offer now? Our supervisor said they had a few days to change their minds.

I received no job offers. Our Corporate office took me at my word, at least, when I said wasn’t mobile, and didn’t call me with an offer for a job in some other location. My poor supervisor, SD, was so upset that I was the only team member who wasn’t notified one way or the other. I tried to reassure her that I hadn’t been expecting any call, given that I’m not mobile. Those who did get “The Call” got it in the privacy of their home.

So that is that. As of March 30, 2012, I will be officially unemployed, with several months’ severance pay to take me through the summer and unemployment thereafter. I feel that I did get a “Call”; just a different type of “Call” for another task, which I’ve been chafing at my constraints to do. All this transition means is that now I’ll be free to do it.

How often do we shudder at the notion of taking a risk, taking that leap of faith to do something different with our lives? How many of us remain chained to jobs that we may or may not enjoy because of family and financial obligations? We work because we must. I enjoyed my 14 years (as of next month) as a writer and photographer with this company. While I could and did write business stories, my first love was interviews and department events. Our building was a happy place in its salad days. Who could forget the International Food Fest, when every floor of our building represented one (or two) of the inhabited continents?

Or the annual Halloween costume and cube designing contests? The Spring Walk Around the Pond? My personal favorite – Company Spirit Day? The Holiday Lunch and Founders Day (the company founder, not the Founding Fathers). The Summer Interns. The head scarf gathering for an employee who was suffering (and died from) cancer? In earlier times, the countless birthday, anniversary and retirement parties. The baby showers.

Then there were the road trips. From Pittsburgh to Boston to Long Island. I specifically asked for Long Island because the people there were a species unto themselves. One subject, upset at having their photo take (within a group) raised up their middle finger when they heard the camera click. Long Islanders.

There were also the inevitable executive visits. BC was my favorite. This man was a dynamo. He could light up a room just by walking into it. At first, he was miffed at having a photographer around all the time. But he soon got used to it and eventually welcomed it when he realized how much it meant to the employees to have their picture taken with him. Wish more execs were like him (he retired a few years ago).

But the company says, no more regional photographers. That only left writing and only writing for executives. Speeches, memos, e-mails. Bah. Might as well be taking dictation again as a secretary. Still, it would be a job and I guess even now I wouldn’t turn down an offer if they made one. One must be responsible.

They ought to reconsider making me an offer. This past week, I covered a meeting of leaders-in-training. One of the panelists revered to their membership as being part of “The Execution Committee.” I had to quickly stifle a serious giggle at that one. What were they thinking when they came up with that title? Of course, they meant “Implementation Committee.” They just didn’t stop to consider the other connation of “Execution.”

The Execution Committee is an apt name for whoever is behind Occupy Wall Street, though. Time Magazine crowed that the OWSers are more popular than the Tea Partiers. Popular with whom? Young, pot-smoking basement boys and grunge girls? The Media? Certainly, it’s no surprising that the Progressive Propaganda Promoters polish up the image of the OWSers, whitewashing their violence, their arrests, their lies, and their filth.

The Execution Committee is responsible for the San Francisco mayor (?) apologizing for the police officers who used rubber bullets and other non-lethal devices to control the OWSer mobs. The whole world must be turned upside down when police officers are reprimanded for doing their jobs: maintaining law and order. What kind of insanity are we practicing when a border agent is arrested for arresting an illegal immigrant?

Even the anchor on the televised Blaze Newscast caught the fever, seeming to cheer that a “transgender” boy is being allowed to join the Girl Scouts. I was made an “honorary” Boy Scout; but it was only an honorary honor. No matter how you sliced it, I was still a girl, even if I did hate the Girls Scouts and their demeaning door-to-door cookie sales.

Anything goes, it seems. Some pundits are saying, in response to the OWSer students’ complaint about the cost of a college education and their student loans, that college degrees aren’t necessary. They might want to tell that to my company, which placed a premium on education. In that company, if you a) aren’t willing to move and b) don’t have a college degree or aren’t willing to study for one, you won’t get far. They also expect you to take industry education.

Personally, I wanted to go down a different path. If I’m going to spend that much time (and money) studying a subject, I have to have a passion for it. That’s just the way I roll. The company I’m leaving is a fine company. This has been the happiest job I’ve ever had. But that job is going away and so will I.  The world is going to heck and I believe I have a job to perform to save it.  I can’t do that if I’m writing memos.

I have one last request of the Execution Committee before they fire away: let me use the time left to prepare for my future. Unlike the OWSer students, I’ve barely asked for a cent for education. One speechwriting course and two books on economics. That was it. My success at what I intend depends on a great deal of reading.

This is seriously scary business, being laid off.  I’m concerned about finances.  But I spent yesterday afternoon cancelling the last of my more extravagant expenses.  I traded in my Cablevision DVR for a regular set box.  My savings have dwindled a bit in order to refurbish my study and stock up on the most important of the books and study guides I’ll need.  My mortgage is now less than the cost of new, economy car.  I’ll be calling my insurance agent to find ways to save on my car insurance (which is already quite low).  I believe in being prepared, and I’ve been preparing steadily since last December (and really, even before that).  

So, when the time comes, The Execution Committee won’t need to blindfold me. I’m not afraid.






Published in: on October 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Abraham Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty

Tell people that the iconic Statue of Liberty was inspired by Abraham Lincoln and people will look at you like you’re a statue with two heads.  What it was not about, exactly, was immigration, despite Emma Lazarus’s famous poem.

In 1985, a book was published about the Statue of Liberty to commemorate her 100th anniversary.  Written by Leslie Allen, it’s title is, “Liberty:  The Statue and the Dream.”  Beautifully illustrated with incredible photographs, the book tells the entire story of the Statue of Liberty.

On the third page of the first chapter (p. 17), Allen writes:

Officially, the statue came as a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States.  It commemorated, according to a plaque on the pedestal, “the alliance of the two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America” and attested “their abiding friendship.”  The date ofJuly 4, 1776, inscribed in Roman numerals on the tablet in the statue’s left arm, emphasized the theme.  In reality, more recent events in the nation of her origin had brought her into being.

The idea for the monument was already twenty years old.  In 1865, as the Civil War ended and Americans approached their centennial, Frenchmen chafed under the regime of Napoleon III, who, like his legendary uncle, had appointed himself Emperor of the French.  Among theSecond Empire’s most vocal critics were the “liberals,” or “republicans,” who revered the American model of government.

Their leader was Edouard Rene Lefebre de Laboulaye – jurist, professor of comparative law, and devoted friend of America.  He never visited the United States, but he published a three-volume work on it history and a biographical study of Benjamin Franklin.  His antislavery tracts, widely read during the Civil War years, put him further at odds with Napoleon, who favored the Confederacy.  Seven decades after the French Revolution, its ideal of liberte was a dangerous topic, closely watched by the police and the censors of the press.

Writing about America gave Laboulaye an indirect way of referring to political realities in France.  Thus the notion of a sweeping symbolic gesture, to strengthen the liberals’ association with America– and to remind the French of liberty – came naturally to him one evening in 1865 at a dinner party at his home nearVersailles.

Laboulaye’s guests, like himself, were eminent liberals.  They had seen in Abraham Lincoln what they admired in theUnited States, and the assassination of the President had prompted an outpouring of grief in France.  Laboulaye may well have thought of the words inscribed on a gold medal sent in the name of the French people to Mrs. Lincoln:  “Lincoln, man of honor, abolished slavery, restored theUnion, and saved the Republic, without veiling the statue of Liberty.”

As the guests discussed gratitude among nations, Laboulaye invoked the American Revolution and the Frenchmen who died in its service “for the principles that they hoped to see prevail in France and in the world.”  He said that if a monument were built in America to honor independence, it ought to be the work of both nations.

This account of the evening was penned years later by [Frederic-Auguste] Bartholdi, who had been one of the guests.  The conversation, he wrote, “interested me so deeply that it remained fixed in my memory” – and not surprisingly.  The world “monument” was music to the sculptor’s ears, and Bartholdi had the energy to turn ambitious ideas into reality.

[The] collapse of Napoleon’s Empire in 1870 and the founding of theThirdRepublicgave Laboulaye the chance to develop his plans.  [By] 1869, Bartholdi had [already] begun his first sketches for his heroic “Liberty.”

Socialists have spent years whitewashing this notion that the Statue of Liberty had anything to do with republicanism (perish the thought!), classic liberalism (a word they would hijack) and sentiments of anti-slavery.  They’ve taken every opportunity to beat conservatism over the head with the Statue of Liberty, claiming the statue herself is a symbol of hypocrisy, even though she was only conceived of at the very end of the war by a French abolitionist, and built over 20 years after the war had ended. 

Bartholdi’s great personal friend was an American industrialist by the name of Richard Butler, who owned a rubber factor in the hills of northernNew Jersey.  The town would eventually be named after him (after a terrific feud with its sister town of Bloomingdale; West Bloomingdale, as Butler was then known, seceded from its union with Bloomingdale, even dividing the town’s musicians into the Butler Cornet Band (which played aboard a boat at the statue’s unveiling) and the Bloomingdale Cornet Band (which did not play at the unveiling).  The Butler Silver Cornet Band disbanded; the Bloomingdale is still in existence, being only two years older than the statue herself).

The town of Butler, to honor the famous sculptor, named the street on which most of its schools are located, including the high school,Bartholdi Avenue.  Strike up another success for capitalism; Butler joined with other industrialists, investors, and capitalists to raise money for the statue’s pedestal.  The New York World sponsored a contest, inviting schoolchildren to donate their pennies to the foundation.

So, on the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, it is interesting to note that she stands on the foundations of charity, capitalism, industry, liberty, and equality, all due to the inspiration of President Abraham Lincoln.  Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty!



Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Crosses Ire Muslims at Catholic University

Sooner or later, Americans will have to cross that threshold when they say, “Enough is enough!” to political correctness.  The latest PC absurdity involves Muslim students at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  They insist on being allowed to perform their Islamic rites in rooms devoid of Christian symbols.

The case was referred to the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights, which is seriously investigating charges that Catholic University has violated the Muslim students’ human rights by not allowing them to form an Islamic student group and not providing them a Christian-free room for their daily prayers.

This ranks right up there with legally-mandated warnings that McDonald’s coffee is hot, Spanish-signs warning that you can get killed by a train walking on the train tracks, and cautionary signs that you shouldn’t go into the lion’s den.

The 60-page complaint alleges that Muslim students “must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”

According to Fox News:  “The complaint was filed by John Banzhaf, an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.  Banzhaf has been involved in previous litigation against the school involving the same-sex residence halls. He also alleged in his complaint involving Muslim students that women at the university were being discriminated against.

“Banzhaf said some Muslim students were particularly offended because they had to meditate in the school’s chapels “and at the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.”

“It shouldn’t be too difficult somewhere on the campus for the university to set aside a small room where Muslims can pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus,” he told Fox News.

In a 2010 interview with National Public Radio, university president John Garvey acknowledged that they don’t set aside prayer rooms for Muslim students.

“We make classrooms available, or our chapels are places where they can pray,” he told NPR. “We don’t offer Halal meat, although there are always meals that conform to Halal regulations, that allow students to do what they want.”

Banzhaf admits that it is technically not illegal for Catholic University to refuse to provide rooms devoid of religious icons.  But he suggests the school is “acting improperly and probably with malice,” he said. “The students do have to pray five times a day, they have to look around for empty classrooms and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down or a picture of Jesus or a picture of the Pope  is not very conductive to their religion.”

As for the creation of a Muslim student group, Banzhaf said the university has an association of Jewish students – so why not a Muslim group?

“I think they are entitled as a matter of law to be able to form a Muslim student association and to have the same privileges as other associations,” he said. “I think most of them would much prefer to have a place to pray – that they are not surrounded by various Catholic symbols – a place that is more conductive to their religious beliefs than being surrounded by pictures of Popes.”

Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that promotes Catholic identity among Catholic schools, seemed stunned by the complaint.

“’I don’t know what the attorney wants them to do – if he wants them to actually move the Basilica or if the Muslim students can find someplace where they don’t have to look at it,” he told Fox News.  Catholic University, he said, is a Catholic institution.

“’One wouldn’t expect a Jewish institution to be responsible for providing liturgical opportunities for other faiths and I wouldn’t expect a Catholic institution to do that,’ he said.

“’This attorney is really turning civil rights on its head,” he said. “He’s using the law for his own discrimination against the Catholic institution and essentially saying Catholic University cannot operate according to Catholic principles.’”

Theological students studying at another faith’s educational institutions is not unheard of.  They must, however, respect that religion’s dictates, or at least not be offended by their icons or theology; that tolerance is part of the educational experience.  The Muslim students are old enough to know they were attending a Christian – a Catholic – school, and should be given no brook for their frivolous, and probably pernicious, charge.  If they’re offended by the sight of Jesus on the cross, then they should leave.  Catholic University should not be help culpable for their intolerance or lack of judgment in selection a college nor should the university be expected to accommodate the Muslim students to such an extent that they betray their own faith.

The attorney admits the school has done nothing illegal.  He is testing the school’s walls for weakness and the government’s willingness to subject a private, religious institution to its invasive minority mandates.  The Muslim students are trying to create a legal hole in Catholic University in which they can propagate their own religion and undermine the tenets of the Catholic religion and Constitutional law.

Catholic University should not remove a single cross or papal picture.  Their first obligation is to Jesus Christ, not the U.S. government. 

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

OAS – The Obama Alert System

Hard on the heels of Obama’s announcement that he will seek other ways to implement his Jobs Bill, other than through Congress, that is to say, by fiat, and that he’s essentially forgiving all student loans, is the announcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that there will be a national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Normally, the test is required of stations on a weekly basis, once in the morning and once at night.  All television, radio, satellite, wireless and other networks must perform the test.  The EAS replaces the old Emergency Broadcast System, which was instituted in 1963, after the Russian missile crisis.

That the government wants to test this system is, perhaps, understandable.  After all, it was only implemented 14 years ago.  They finally decided we needed to hear what it sounded like.  The test comes just in time, as Iran is placing nuclear warheads in Venezuela, while Obama himself has drastically reduced and undermined our nuclear capability.  Despite common belief, nuclear warheads don’t last forever.  Like batteries, they can degrade and lose their oomph.

The FCC, in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS), implements the EAS at the federal level. The President has sole responsibility for determining when the EAS will be activated at the national level, and has delegated this authority to the director of FEMA.  FEMA is responsible for implementation of the national-level activation of the EAS, tests, and exercises. The NWS develops emergency weather information to alert the public about imminent dangerous weather conditions.

The FCC’s role includes prescribing rules that establish technical standards for the EAS, procedures for EAS participants to follow in the event The EAS is activated, and EAS testing protocols. Additionally, the FCC ensures that the EAS state and local plans developed by industry conform to FCC EAS rules and regulations.

The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) was an emergency warning system in the United States, used from 1963 to 1997, when it was replaced by the Emergency Alert System.

The Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis.  It replaced CONELRAD on August 5, 1963.   In later years, it was expanded for use during peacetime emergencies at the state and local levels.

Although the system was never used for a national emergency, it was activated more than 20,000 times between 1976 and 1996 to broadcast civil emergency messages and warnings of severe weather hazards.  Some dramatic works depicting nuclear warfare (most notably the 1983 made-for-TV film The Day After) included fictionalized scenes of EBS activations. Occasionally the EBS would be shown in fictionalized use for events other than nuclear warfare, such as the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead.

An order to activate the EBS at the national level would have originated with the President and been relayed via the White House Communications Agency duty officer to one of two origination points: either the Aerospace Defense Command or the Federal Preparedness Agency—as the system stood in 1978. Participating telecommunications common carriers, radio and television networks, the Associated Press and United Press International would receive and authenticate (by means of code words) an Emergency Action Notification via an EAN teletypewriter network designed specifically for this purpose. These recipients would relay the EAN to their subscribers and affiliates.

The release of the EAN by the ADC or FPA would initiate a process by which the common carriers would link otherwise independent networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC into a single national network that even independent stations could receive programming from.  Broadcast stations would have used the two-tone Attention Signal on their assigned broadcast frequency to alert other broadcast stations to stand by for a message from the President.   Note that the transmission of programming on a broadcast station’s assigned frequency, and the fact that television networks/stations could participate, distinguished EBS from CONELRAD.   EBS radio stations would not transmit on 640 or 1240 AM, and television stations would carry the same audio program as AM radio stations.

Actual activations originated with a primary station, which would transmit the  Attention Signal (help·info). The Attention Signal most commonly associated with the EBS was a combination of the sine waves of 853 and 960 Hz, an interval suited to getting the audience’s collective attention. Decoders at relay stations would sound an alarm, alerting the station operator to the incoming message. Then each relay station would broadcast the alert tone and rebroadcast the emergency message from the primary station.

A nationwide activation of the EBS was called an Emergency Action Notification (EAN). This was the only type of activation which broadcast stations were not allowed to ignore; the FCC made local civil emergencies and weather advisories optional (except for stations that had agreed to be the “primary” source of such messages).

To activate the EAN protocol, the AP and UPIwire services would notify stations with a special message. It began with a full line of X’s, and a bell inside the Teletype machine would sound ten times. To avoid abuse and mistakes, the message included a confirmation password which changed daily.  Stations that subscribed to one of the wire services were not required to activate the EBS if the activation message did not have proper confirmation.

Until the system was superseded, radio and television stations were required to perform a Weekly Transmission Test Of The Attention Signal and Test Script on random days and times between 8:30 A.M and local sunset.  Stations were required to perform the test at least once a week and were only exempt from performing the test if they had activated the EBS for a state or local emergency or participated in a coordinated state or local EBS test during the past week.

Additionally, stations were required to log tests they received from each station they monitored for EBS messages. This served as an additional check, as they could expect to hear a weekly test from each source. Failure to receive a signal at least once a week meant that either the monitored station was having a problem transmitting the alert signal, or the monitoring station was having a problem receiving it.

Early in the history of the EBS, tests and activations were initiated in a similar way to CONELRAD tests.  Primary stations would turn their transmitters off for five seconds, back on for five seconds, off for five seconds more, then would go back on air and transmit a 1000 Hz tone for 15 seconds to alert secondary stations. This quick off-and-on became known to broadcast engineers as the “EBS Stress Test”, as older transmitters would sometimes fail after the quick cycling on and off.   This became unnecessary as broadcast technology advanced and the two-tone alarm was developed.

In 1976, the old Conelrad signaling method (the “EBS Stress Test”) was scrapped in favor of the following procedure:

1) Normal programming was suspended. Television stations would transmit a video slide such as the one illustrated at the beginning of the article. One of the following announcements written below was transmitted:

“This is a test. For the next sixty (or thirty) seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.”

“(name of host station in a particular market) is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.” (Mainly radio stations used this particular announcement)

“This is a test.  This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.”

“The following is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”

2) The Attention Signal was transmitted from the EBS encoder for 20 to 25 seconds. At the special request of the FCC, however, this step was occasionally (though rarely) skipped.

3) The announcement written below (depending on the variation) was transmitted. The first part read:

“This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and other authorities (or, in later years, ‘federal, state and local authorities’) have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency.”

There were a number of variations for the second half of the statement. During the early days of the system, stations other than the designated primary station for an operational area were required to shut down in the event of an emergency (reminiscent of the CONELRAD days), and the message was a variation of:

“If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to tune to one of the broadcast stations in your area.”

“If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.”

By the early 1980s, as it became easier for stations to record and relay messages from a primary station, and the risk of hostile bombers using broadcast signals to navigate lessened due to the development of ICBMs, the requirement to shut down in the event of an activation of the system was dropped, and the message became:

“If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions.”

As the EBS was about to be replaced by its successor, the aforementioned Emergency Alert System, some stations used the following variant:

“This station is testing its Emergency Broadcast System equipment. The EBS will soon be replaced by the Emergency Alert System; the EAS will provide timely emergency warnings.”

The test concluded with one of the following phrases:

“(sponsoring station in a particular market) serves the (name of operational area). This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”

“This station serves the (name of operational area). This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”

These variations were heard in different parts of the country throughout the years depending on FCC regulations at the time, local preferences, and whether the specific station performing the test was a primary EBS station or not. At least one version made explicit reference to an attack on the United States as being a possible scenario for EBS activation. The announcement text was mandated by the FCC.

Stations had the option of either reading the test script live, or using recorded versions. WHEN radio in Syracuse, New York had a sung version of the most common script.  The FCC declared it illegal to sing the test message, or read it as a joke. However, it was acceptable to read it in another language (for example, French or Spanish), if a station broadcast in it. Copies of the warning message script had a note saying that it was acceptable to broadcast in any other language, so long as it was broadcast in English as well.

The purpose of the test was to allow the FCC and broadcasters to verify that EBS tone transmitters and decoders were functioning properly. In addition to the weekly test, test activations of the entire system were conducted periodically for many years. These tests showed that about 80 percent of broadcast outlets nationwide would carry emergency programming within a period of five minutes when the system was activated. The weekly broadcasts of the EBS attention signal and test script made it a significant part of American Cultural fabric of its time, and became the subject of a great number of jokes and skits, e.g. the sung versions of the test script in the late 70’s.

Several people have testified about being frightened by the test patterns as children, and actual emergencies scared them even more. 

The Blaze recently reported that at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 9th, The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission will conduct the first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System, where radio and televised broadcasts across the country will be disrupted for roughly…three-and-half minutes:

During the upcoming test, an audio message will likely recite, “this is a test” while text at the top of the screen might read that an “Emergency Alert Notification has been issued.”  While emergency broadcast tests are typically used by state and local governments to issue severe weather alerts and other emergency information, there has never been a nationwide activation of the system before. Federal agencies cite the reasons for the national test are to ensure emergency preparedness and to pinpoint flaws in the new EAS system.”

The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas.

EAS instructions vary for each particular designation. Broadcast stations are designated as either participating or non-participating stations. Most broadcast stations have elected to participate in EAS and are designated as Participating National (PN) stations. A small number of broadcast stations, however, have elected not to participate in the national level EAS and hold an FCC authorization letter to that effect. Non-participating stations are designated as Non-Participating National (NN) stations.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system in the United States put into place on January 1, 1997, when it superseded the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), which itself had superseded the CONELRAD System. In addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes, but the nationwide federal EAS has never been activated.  The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC.  Each state and several territories have their own EAS plan.  EAS has become part of IPAWS – the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a program of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  EAS is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS).

The EAS is used on AM, FM and Land Mobile Radio Service, as well as VHF, UHF and cabletelevision including low-power stations. Digital television and cable providers, along with SiriusXM satellite radio, IBOC, DAB and digital radio broadcasters have been required to participate in the EAS since December 31, 2006.  DirecTV, Dish Network and all other DBS providers have been required to participate since May 31, 2007.

The EAS is audio-only; no visual.  Some critics say that news stations are much better equipped to deliver news of emergencies than EAS.  Many broadcasters and First Amendment defenders worry, particularly with this president, whether the power to take over the airways will be abused.  What constitutes an “emergency” in this president’s mind, who has stripped us of our nuclear defenses, supervised the tanking and subsequent take-over of our banks and economy, champions the redistribution of wealth, publicly declared that he would completely dispense with the U.S. Constitution, and created a fiat army of bureaucrats to implement his orders and policies, like an emperor of ancient Rome.

Rioters are openly and brazenly “occupying” our public streets and parks, with the understanding that while they’re there, no one else can assume the public podium, or do so only at risk of physical harm from OWS’ union thugs.  Zoocotti Park essentially belongs to the Occupiers.  If violence breaks out, as has happened in Europe, if someone like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Fox News tries to report on the mania, will the president simply override them?  He’s already bypassed Congress on a number of issues.  If our country is attacked by, say Iran, instead of ordering a counterstrike, will he simply stand back and allow it to happen, and commandeer the airwaves until it’s all over (which wouldn’t take long) and no one can do anything about it?

Remember Nancy Pelosi telling us we wouldn’t find out what was in the 2,000-plus page Healthcare Bill until it was passed?  In making the announcement, Glenn and other broadcasters sounded rather alarmist in light of the fact that we’ve been accustomed to the Emergency Broadcast System for years without it ever having been used.  Wouldn’t a test, at some point, make sense?

Still the timing is odd, after 14 years.  Yet, that always seems to be when you should be most alarmed; when something bad and dangerous makes sense and warnings against it sound shrill.  That’s when the alarm bells in our heads should go off.

Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

800,000 Subscribers Can Be Wrong

The latest news from the financial and entertainment world is the DVD shipper NetFlix is on the rocks.  Since they announced the division between their shipping and livestream services, over 800,000 subscribers have dropped the service.  According to Fox News, experts are raising questions about Netflix’s long-term viability and the the soundness of its business model

We should be questioning the people who are dropping NetFlix.  Do they have rocks in their heads?  While depending on a completely electronic service – of DVDs or anything else – is unwise, in this case, switching over to their live streaming service is the smarter thing to do.  Now, NetFlix does need to update the movies on its livestream if it expects to retrieve those 800,000 subscribers.  Watching older movies and documentaries doesn’t bother some of us, but those 800,000 want to see current films, or as current as you can get without going to the theater.

Otherwise, why in the world would you want to go to all the trouble of ordering and mailing back a DVD – and most of the 800,000 subscribers would tell you the reason they order the DVD is because they really only want to see the movie once – when all you have to do is call up the movie on your television with a click of your remote? 

Meanwhile, these same people are paying $50 a month and more for mostly garbage on cable television.  Many of them – those who have the big bucks – also subscribe to premium channels like HBO.  Are they out of their minds?  Do the Conservative HBO subscribers know they’re contributing to Obama’s campaign?!

Send back the cable box and trade it in for one of the many wireless devices that are now on the market.  They’re a one-time purchase and amazingly easy to use.  After a year or two, you’ll have made up the price you pay for renting the cable box.  If you have an x-box, you don’t even need to buy one.  The x-box is wireless and you can use its code to subscribe to whatever you want:  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon.  You’ll still be tied to cable for the basic news channels.  Eventually, the technology is going to catch up to the wireless boxes and you’ll be able to livestream the network news.  Maybe even Fox News someday.  Presently, you can see Fox from 9 to 3 during the day.

No one needs to throw away their DVD/Blu Ray player just yet, either.  With more people going for Blu-Ray or going to the livestream route, DVDs are becoming quite inexpensive.  Buy the movies you would watch more than once and livestream the rest.  Do you people have something against saving money?  Do you enjoy squandering your life’s savings on channels you never watch, making millionaires out of socialist con-artists who produce, write, and act in what passes for entertainment on television.  If you’re really that attached to Dancing with the Stars, you can still keep your basic cable for about $12 per month.

If you’d hooked up sooner and not been so stubborn, you could be watching Glenn Beck for $5 a month.  Now it’s $10, although some days, he even offers his programming for free, as a trial.  Would you really rather be watching whoever that buffoon is that Fox has on at 5 p.m. now?  Glenn Beck and his news organization, The Blaze, are the only ones telling the real story on television.

Some interesting things would happen if you sent back the box and did some austerity viewing.  You’d find yourself watching less television, but enjoying what you see more.  You’d find you have a life.   You’d find you have a spouse and kids.  You’d read more.  You’d more to your kids.  You’d help them with their homework and find out what those communist teachers of theirs are indoctrinating them with.  You might just decide to do something about and go to a school board meeting.  Not exactly high drama; if you parents bothered to show up, it might just turn into high drama.

I’ve been without cable for a couple of months now.  Except for Fox News, I hardly miss it – and the only time I watch Fox is at 6 p.m.  Between my own considerable DVD collection and NetFlix, I hardly miss cable.  I still get the local news on basic, which is enough, and whatever else I want to know, I can find out on my computer or my tablet – and much faster.

Wake up, you silly, couch potato Luddites.  Livestream is the new cable; it delivers successfully what cable failed to deliver – what you want to see, when you want to see it, at a reasonable price.  NetFlix not only deserves to survive, but we need it – and the other livestream services – to survive.  It’s time to break the cable habit and cable television’s financial and cultural stranglehold over us.


Published in: on October 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Police-Bashing Day

Every day seems more and more like The Sixties with the Occupy Wall Street Repeaters.  Today is Police Bashing Day.  What’s next?  Throwing bags of excrement at returning veterans?  In the end, that didn’t work out so well for the Hippies.  No one said anything right away (as they ought to have).  At least no one would record it because we only has the major networks covering the news and you can guess what they thought.

However, Conservatives soon found their voice, thanks to President Ronald Reagan, and every decent citizen was at last able to vent about how badly our Vietnam Veterans were treated.  Right across a very small section of Lower Manhattan is Ground Zero, where police officers (and of course firefighters and emergency personnel) perished trying to save people’s lives. 

No low is low enough for the OWSers to stoop.  Anyone who’s had an accident, a heart attack, been robbed, beaten, stabbed, shot or worse knows the inestimable value of our police force.  They’re the reason people like the Owsers don’t run riot in every neighborhood across the land.  A good friend’s husband is, or was a cop.  I’ve written about a police officer who was murdered in the line of duty.

Cops are the good guys, the heroes.  They’re the ones busloads of tourists should be clicking photos of and asking for autographs, not those miscreants in what New York Post columnist dubbed “The Zuccotti Zoo.”  The Owsers are a disgrace.  The Media has blatantly lied about their peaceful nature, whitewashed their violence, and only after a month, mentioned how they’ve befouled Zuccotti Park.

“Free Speech” means writing letters to the editor, to representatives, to the president.  It permits public gatherings, up to the point that it interferes with the community’s operation.  The Morristown Tea Party was given, and only wanted, three hours on a Saturday.  We respected the requests of the local police department.  We didn’t defy them and we certainly didn’t defile them, even though it was generally known that they weren’t happy about our rally.  Still, they protected us and kept order on the Morristown Green.

Let the NYPD know that you appreciate them, even if you aren’t a resident.  In fact, wherever these awful Owsers are, show your appreciation to your local police department for doing their duty and doing their best to keep these anarchists under control so we may safely walk the streets and go about our business.  Take time today to thank a cop!

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy 80th, George Washington Bridge

I like to think of the George Washington Bridge as “my” bridge.  I remember crossing it countless times when my mother would bring us into New York to visit friends, the museums, and the  dentist in Queens (!).  I remember crossing it on a classtrip in the 7th or 8th grade to visit the World Trade Center.

I’ve used it as a backdrop countless times for photos of our sales representatives for our company’s regional magazine.  But we became best friends when we noticed some unusual activity while taking one set of photos.  Nothing ever came of it, thank God.  But the GW knows I’ve got its back.

The governors of New York and New Jersey proposed, as early as 1906, a bridge over the Hudson River between 179th Street in Manhattan and Fort Lee.  The governors appointed an Interstate Bridge Commission for the purpose of constructing one or more trans-Hudson bridges.

The Commission reported that the 179th Street crossing was the most economical, being the narrowest part of the river, with comparatively little land damage on either side.  The approaches overland are short.  The foundations, boring into the rock of the Palisades, was considered to be sound.  Furthermore, the channel span need not, in the engineer’s opinion, be over 1,400 feet, allowing enough passage for all river traffic, the north limit anchorage for large vessels being below this crossing. From the geological condition, the engineer estimated the projected the cost would be about $10 million dollars, one-third the cost of a bridge lower down the river.

One of the great bridge builders of the early 20th century, Gustav Lindenthal, dreamt of constructing a Hudson River bridge from midtown Manhattan to New Jersey. Lindenthal’s Hudson River Bridge was designed to connect rail lines in New Jersey with those in New York City and New England.  Part of this rail link was completed in 1916, when his Hell Gate Bridge opened over the East River.

A protege to Lindenthal, Othmar Ammann, who would become synonymous with mid-20th century bridge design, opposed his superior’s idea. Ammann argued that the Lindenthal plan would require expensive approaches in already congested midtown Manhattan, which would be politically controversial.

Instead, Ammann pushed for a Hudson River Bridge between 179th Street in upper Manhattan and Fort Lee, which would accommodate both motor vehicles and light rail.  The bridge’s location would be at high points in Manhattan and New Jersey, allowing enough clearance for tall ships without extensive approaches.  Furthermore, the location was at a relatively narrow point on the Hudson River, simplifying construction.  Ammann believed that the crossing would be an easier political sell, since it would require neither the approval of influential business leaders in midtown Manhattan nor the necessity of persuading railroads to use the bridge.

Facing internal opposition, Ammann struck out on his own, joining forces with newly-elected Governor George Silzer of New Jersey. The new bi-state Port Authority had given lukewarm reception to motor vehicle projects, but thanks to the persuasion of Ammann and Silzer, there was enough support on both sides of the Hudson to construct the proposed bridge.  In 1925, the Port Authority agreed to take responsibility for constructing the bridge, and employed Ammann as master bridge designer and chief engineer.  Cass Gilbert, the designer of the landmark Woolworth Building, provided architectural assistance to Ammann at the new agency.

Soon after the Port Authority announced the Hudson River bridge project in 1925, Ammann commissioned consultants for various designs.  Initial plans devised by the Port Authority and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) called for a suspension bridge with a 2,700-foot-long main span, with piers approximately 400 feet beyond the pierhead lines.

The final design of the proposed bridge posed an engineering challenge for Ammann. Its 3,500-foot-long main span would be twice that found on any existing suspension bridge.  However, considering the length of the main span, the side spans between the anchorages and towers are relatively short. The side spans were of differing length: 650 feet on the New York shore and 610 feet on the New Jersey shore.

In a revolutionary shift from prevailing suspension bridge design convention, Ammann proposed eliminating the stiffening trusses that had been essential for suspension bridges in an earlier age, when they were designed for heavy rail traffic. Instead of using trusses, Ammann theorized that as the weight per linear foot of long-span bridges increased, the deadweight of the bridge deck and the four cables would be sufficient to resist heavy wind, thereby eliminating the need for trusses. Each of the 106-foot-long floor beams weighed 66 tons. Even with a single deck only 10 feet deep, and a depth-to-span ratio of 1:120, neither heavy traffic nor high winds caused the bridge to sway. However, the bridge was designed to accommodate a second, truss-stiffened deck that could be added later.

Two suspension systems were considered for the span. One suspension system, known as an eyebar network, employed hundreds of thin metal bars that are connected at the cables and deck by eyelets. (This suspension system is employed at the Manhattan Bridge.) Another suspension system, known as the spun-cable system, employed tens (and even hundreds) of thousands of spun wires spun from anchorage to anchorage over the towers.  Because Ammann viewed both systems as equally effective, he contracted out the suspension system for competitive bid.  It was John A. Roebling and Sons, the firm founded by the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, which won the contract for its cable-spun suspension design.  Each of the four cables was made with 61 large strands, and each strand was spun from 434 wires wound together across the river. Four 180-ton saddles atop each of the towers hold the main suspension cables in place.

A number of tower designs that borrowed from Gothic, Baroque and Art Deco conventions were submitted.  One design featured monumental granite-clad, Gothic-style towers, similar to those found on the Brooklyn Bridge, which would house restaurants and observation decks. Economic pressures and public opinion, however, prompted Ammann to use exposed latticework on the 604-foot-high, 20,000-ton steel towers. Indeed, given the advances in steel construction at that time, it was determined that the steel frame alone would be sufficiently strong to carry both the towers’ dead and live loads, while the frame’s flexibility reduced the weight – and cost (the Port Authority saved approximately $1 million on the new design) – of the steelwork.

The New Jersey tower was located 76 feet into the Hudson River, while the New York tower was built on land to avoid the steep drop from the Manhattan shoreline.  Both towers were comprised of twelve 50-foot-long sections; each tower section was floated one-by-one to the piers.  Each leg of the towers houses an elevator.

The 110,000-cubic-yard concrete masonry forming the anchorage for the cables on the New York side weighs 350,000 tons. On the New York side of the bridge, the tower foundation and anchorage were both constructed in Fort Washington Park. On the New Jersey side of the bridge, the anchorage lies in the solid rock of the Palisades. For the tower foundation, the largest cofferdam ever constructed was sunk into the Hudson River.

For the first time in New York, an entirely professional bridge crew was employed to build a major bridge. Like the engineers who designed the structure, the professional bridge workers had a great competitive spirit. They were divided into separate teams, one for each of the towers, one for spinning the cables and one for installing the roadway. A friendly rivalry even ensued between the New York and New Jersey tower teams, with each side racing to finish their tower first. The cables were spun in 209 working days with a work force of 300 men.

The “Hudson River Bridge,” as the George Washington Bridge was called in the early days, was twice the length of any existing span, and it required an intricate system of access roads to handle large volumes of traffic.  The bridge’s two steel towers, embedded deep in rock and concrete, soar 604 feet into the sky, each as tall as some of Manhattan’s great skyscrapers. They contain more than 43,000 tons of steel.  Rope cables were strung from anchorages on each shore and draped in an arc between towers, like a giant silver braid. When 36 of them had been placed, catwalks were erected to provide walking platforms.

Cable spinning required two spinning wheels on each side of the river that traveled back and forth to create strands about the diameter of a pencil. The strands were spun into four great cables, each a yard in diameter. Steel suspender ropes were then hung from the cables, each containing some 107,000 miles of wire.  Within this silver web, steel sections were put in place to form the roadway, which progressed from each shore until the last section joined the other in the middle. Finally, the concrete was poured, the lanes were laid down, and the bridge was painted.

The Port Authority did its part to publicize the unprecedented project. In addition to print, the agency employed filmmakers and still photographers to chronicle construction highlights.  My mother and my uncle were some of the first pedestrians to cross the bridge on opening day.  Mom said it was pretty windy up there above the Hudson.  While the GW was, in its earliest days, the longest suspension bridge in the world, it has not been surpassed in busy-ness.  More traffic passes over this span than any other bridge in the world.  There may be other bridges that are longer or more famous, like its older brother, the Brooklyn Bridge.  But there is no link that’s more vital, particularly to New York City and the areas it links – Long Island, New England, and New Jersey.  When something happens on the bridge, or its approaches, the metro New York area turns itself into traffic knots.

The bridge almost didn’t make it to its 62nd birthday, and eight years later, might not have celebrated its 70th.    However, the bridge is still here to celebrate its 80th birthday, outlasting its brother to the north, the Tappan Zee. 

Many happy returns, old friend.  Not only are you a symbol of real progress, but of economy in bad times (1931), coming in under budget, strength, beauty, and endurance. 



Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

How the World Will End

On his radio program this morning, Glenn Beck wondered why the Fascist dictator Mussolini would have reverted to the ancient Roman model of patronage instead of the Nazi’s scorched-Earth policy to conquer Libya.  Of course, Hitler also had plenty of volunteers from the occupied countries, as well, with the same notion of ruling absolutely.  Personal ambition on the part of the occupied is one reason; Mussolini sought their buy-in.  You would think, though, that someone from Italy would have been better versed in Roman history and how the Roman empire, which he sought to inherit by force, ended.

For that matter, you would think America would be better versed.  Military supporters keep decrying the poor pay the military receives, not to mention inserting fifth columns of homosexuals into their ranks and barracks.  Yet no one heeds the call or remembers, or even knows the lessons of the decline and fall of the ancient Roman empire.

Here’s what Edward Gibbon tells us about the declining Roman Empire and its military, after the division of the Roman Empire into East and West, with two capitals:  Rome (West) and Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul (East):


The memory of Constantine has been deservedly censured for another innovation which corrupted military discipline and prepared the ruin of the empire.  The nineteen years which preceded his final victory of Licinius had been a period of licence and intestine war.  The rivals who contended for the possession of the Roman world had withdrawn the greatest part of their forces from the guard of the general frontier, and the principal cities which formed the boundary of their respective dominions were filled with soldiers who considered their countrymen as their most implacable enemies.  After the use of these internal garrisons had ceased with the civil war, the conqueror wanted either wisdom or firmness to revive the severe discipline of Diocletian and to suppress a fatal indulgence which habit had endeared and almost confirmed to the military order.  From the reign of Constantine a popular and even legal distinction was admitted between the Palatines and the Borderers – the troops of the court, as they were improperly styled, and the troops of the frontier.  The former, elevated by the superiority of their pay and privileges, were permitted, except in the extraordinary emergencies of war, to occupy their tranquil stations in the heart of the provinces.  The most flourishing cities were oppressed by the intolerable weight of quarters.

The soldiers insensibly forgot the virtues of their profession and contracted only the vices of civil life.  They were either degraded by the industry of mechanic trades or enervated by the luxury of baths and theaters.  They soon became careless of their martial exercises, curious in their diet and apparel, and, while they inspired terror to the subjects of the empire, they trembled at the hostile approach of the barbarians.  The chain of fortifications which Diocletian and his colleagues had extended along the banks of the great rivers was no longer maintained with the same care or defended with the same vigilance.  The numbers which still remained under the name of the troops of the frontier might be sufficient for ordinary defence; but their spirit was degraded by the humiliating reflection that they, who were exposed to the hardships and dangers of a perpetual warfare, were rewarded only with about two-thirds of the pay and emoluments which were lavished on the troops of the courts… [An historian of the times, Ammianus observes that they loved downy beds and houses of marble and that their cups were heavier than their swords].

The same timid policy of dividing whatever is united, of reducing whatever is eminent, of dreading every active power, and of expecting that the most feeble will prove the most obedient seems to pervade the institutions of several princes, and particularly those of Constantine.

By the way, if anyone has ever wondered where the root of the word fascist comes from, it is from the Latin, fasces.  The traditional Romance fasces consisted of a bundle of birch rods, tied together with a red leather ribbon into a cylinder, and often including a bronze axe (or sometimes two) amongst the rods, with the blade(s) on the side, projecting from the bundle. They were carried by the lictors (bodyguards) who accompanied the magistrates. The axe often represents the power over life or death through the death penalty, although after the laws of the twelve tables, no Roman magistrate could summarily execute a Roman citizen. It was used as a symbol of the Roman Republic in many circumstances, including being carried in processions, much the way a flag might be carried today.

The term is related to the modern Italian word fascio, used in the 20th century to designate peasant cooperatives and industrial workers’ unions.  Numerous governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces for a symbol of power since the end of the Roman Empire. It has also been used to hearken back to the Roman republic, particularly by those who see themselves as modern-day successors to the old republic and/or its ideals.

Italian Fascism, which derives its name from the fasces, arguably used this symbolism the most in the 20th century. The British Union of Fascists also used it in the 1930s. However, unlike (for example) the swastika, the fasces, as a widespread and long-established symbol in the West, has avoided the stigma associated with much of fascist symbolism, and many authorities continue to display them, including the federal government of the United States.  In symbols in the Roman Republic, the blade was always removed from the bundle whenever the fasces were carried inside the city, in order to symbolize the rights of citizens against arbitrary state power.


  • The official seal of the U.S. Senate has as one component a pair of crossed fasces.
  • Fasces ring the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol building.
  • A frieze on the facade of the U.S. Supreme Court building depicts the figure of a Roman centurion holding a fasces, to represent order.
  • The main entrance hallways in the Wisconsin State Capitol have lamps which are decorated with stone fasces motifs.
  • At the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln’s seat of state bears the fasces—without axes—on the fronts of its arms. (Fasces also appear on the pylons flanking the main staircase leading into the memorial.)

 So how exactly did fascism (not to defend it in any way) go from representing the pre-Caesarian republic of Rome (symbolizing the rights of citizens against arbitrary power), with its early democratic ideals, to being the symbol of oppressive national governments and dictators?  How did it become such a heinous idea?  Why would Socialists, to whom the modern term seems to apply most aptly, hiss and spit at the notion of fascism (which they seem to be practicing), even and up to breaking the lamps in the Wisconsin State Capitol (at least now we know why) and why would America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, use the ancient fasces in so many of its national symbols?

I hope some history professor can explain this discrepancy.  A mere student would hazard a guess that it began with Julius Caesar and his quest for world power.  That people have confused the Roman Republic with the Roman Empire. 

Further research shows that traditionally fasces carried within the Pomerium—the sacred inner city of Rome—had their axe blades removed.  This signified that under normal political circumstances, the magistrates did not have the judicial power of life and death; within the city, that power rested with the people through the assemblies. However, during times of emergencies when the Roman Republic declared a dictatorship (dictatura), the lictors attending to the dictator kept the axe-blades even inside the Pomerium—a sign that the dictator had the ultimate power in his own hands.

This paragraph points to where our modern problem lies.  In the ancient Roman republic, “the power rested with the people through the assemblies.”  The fasces originally were reserved for times of political unrest and mass violence.  However, once Caesar seized power, the lower Assembly was abolished and the Senate was gradually stripped of all its power and influence.  By the time of Constantine, the military ruled and even they gradually lost power and influence until the Roman Empire completely disintegrated.

Someone in our times is seeking power.  Corruption has gripped our Congress, our legislature.  Our economy is struggling, and the present administration is weakening and demoralizing our military, until they’ll no longer have the means or the will to defend our country.  A symbol that preceded the depradations of Julius Caesar, in the wrong hands, in the hands of a Caesar, is a fearful power; robbed of that power to defend itself, on the other hand, freedom will just as likely fail. 

The power of the people is in a representative assembly, not an armed mob.  Certainly, anyone who wants to overthrow the United States by violent means and replace freedom with communism would feel “oppressed”, would find the fasces a hateful symbol, and would hurl accusations of “fascism” at those who would display the fasces in its original usage, as a defense of freedom.

Are we starting to get it?  We shouldn’t feel bad; the Progressives are just as offended by the sign of the Cross, as offended as many of the early Romans, prior to Constantine, were.  The Cross took the people away from their pagan religions and temples, starving the temples of their revenue.  Many Progressives are teaching young people to return to those pagan roots.

We live in strange times, where anarchistic crowds complain of fascism, even as they practice it, seeking to give power completely to our chief executive, making of him a dictator.  They would tear down those “fascist” symbols (such as the lamps in the Wisconsin State Capitol) that actually represent the protection, not the destruction, of the people’s rights.  In other words, the people’s rights are being torn down – by the people.

In their scheme of things, the OWS “people” would completely dispense with the military.  Since the “people” would rule, they would argue, there would be no need of a military.  They promise us there would be no dictators.  What a bunch of malarkey.  To be sure, they would soon prop up some benevolent dictator (like Obama).  They would have to, because he and his minions would certainly incite disorder, violence and unrest in order to necessitate his seizure of power.

It’s just another example, since ancient times, of how power corrupts and turns the world upside down.  That is how the Roman Republic/Empire ended, and that is how the world will end.

Published in: on October 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment