Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Recent Musings: Florence and Ben

I know that I have been slow in posting lately.  Sometimes life is so draining that it's hard to find inspiration.  COVID numbers have been dying down.  I'm still waiting for the County Health Rankings numbers.  I did show this video from Drunk History about Florence Nightingale to my classes. Many of my students were nursing majors and they got a kick out of this.  I'll show it to you too.

I'm also a Ben Franklin afficionado.  Here is the first episode of Ken Burns recent documentary on him.  You can watch it while available.  When it's gone below there is a 2002 documentary on him.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Russia and Dependency Theory

The unthinkable has happened.  Russia has invaded Ukraine.  I was clinging to the hope that their actions would not go beyond saber rattling.  Unlike they were in Iraq, U.S. leaders were right in warning about the threat posed by an outsider nation this time.

Dependency theory (DT) is a sociological theory that was formulated in response to modernization theory for how to advance the poorer countries inn the world.  Modernization theory states that countries need to be modernized in order to enable them to feed their populations.  Dependency theory states that poorer nations need to be self sufficient and not dependent on organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dependecy theory classifies nations as undeveloped, underdeveloped, and developed.  Undeveloped refers to areas with primitive tribal economies that are self sufficient.  These nations are views as being on the periphery.  Underdeveloped refers toto countries indebted to organizations like the World Bank and the IMF in an effort to modernize.  These nations are categorized as being on the semi-periphery.  Fully developed countries are in the core and exploit the periphery and semi periphery for resources.

Wars can be explained by dependency theory.  Germany fought World Wars I and II because, in spite of their achievements in art and science, they were not given core status.  They were punished severely after WWI which created resentment that Hitler could exploit.  

After their defeat Germany was finally given core status by the U.S. in the west and the Soviets in the east.  In return for allowing Germany to reunify in 1990, Gorbachev was promised by George H.W. Bush that NATO would not expand eastward.  This promise was broken by later Presidents.  NATO expanded into the former Soviet bloc states like Poland and Slovakia and their former republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Russia was sanctioned by the west and excluded from the G-8 summit after they annexed the Crimean peninsula.  They commenced the invasion after western countries refused to promise that Ukraine would not be added to NATO.  Further sanctions are unlikely to stop the current Russian aggression.  Further expansion of NATO is totally unacceptable for them.

Of course none of this justifies Russian aggression just as it did not justify German aggression in the last century.  Dependency theory does help explain their actions.  Russia's status is semi-periphery.  There is still time to avert a third world war.  It was averted in the Cuban Missile Crisis when the U.S. agreed to withdraw nuclear missiles from Turkey in return for the U.S.S.R.s withdrawal from Cuba.  

We've already used the stick with Russia, it's now time to try the carrot.  I did suggest in previous posts that inclusion of Russia into NATO might give them the status that they seek.  I know such an action is unlikely.  Inclusion might corral them.  Greece and Turkey almost went to war over Cyprus in 1974 and were prevented from doing so as they were both members of NATO.

**Related posts**

Russian Saber Rattling over NATO?

A Proposal to Fix Relations with Russia: Russia in NATO

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Paul Brown, the Father of Most NFL Head Coaches: Including the Rams and Bengals

As Tom Brady retires, many people talk about GOATs (the Greatest of All Time). As for coaches many, will mention the name of Vince Lombardi as the GOAT for coaches.  While that may be true for winning championships (3 NFL titles plus 2 Super Bowls), there is another coach who I would argue is the greatest at mentoring other coaches.

Paul Brown was the founder of the Cleveland Browns who entered the NFL in 1950 when the league merged with All American Football Conference (AAFC). The Browns won four straight AAFC titles and, when they entered the NFL, they went to six straight NFL championship games winning 3.  Eventually, Brown lost his job in Cleveland in 1963 in a power struggle with new owner Art Modell.  He only faced Lombardi on the field once losing 49-17 to the Packers.  Brown went on to found the Cincinnati Bengals in 1966 in the AFL who will be playing in Super Bowl LVI.  

Just as we can trace our family genealogies, we can trace our professional genealogies based on who our mentors are.  Don Shula and Chuck Noll both played for Brown.  They went on to win six super bowls 
and another 500 plus games between them.  Bill Walsh was his assistant coach in Cincinnati and went on to win another 3 Super Bowls with the 49ers.  Two  of Walsh's three wins were against Brown's Bengals after Brown retired as head coach but still owned the team.  

Walsh went on to mentor Mike Holmgren who went on to mentor Jon Gruden who likewise mentored Sean Payton, the coach of the Rams.  Current Bengals Coach, Zac Taylor was mentored by Sean Payton and was hired by Brown's son in Cincinnati.  Subsequent generations of coaches mentored by Brown's descendants include Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, Andy Reid, and Mike Tomlin.  If you would like to add the total number of Super Bowls won by Brown's mentees it would come to 27.  This includes coaches that Bill Walsh has mentored that are not included in the image below.   Since both coaches for the Rams and Bengals are descendants of Brown, There is guaranteed to be a total of 28 Super Bowls won by his descendants which is exactly half of all Super Bowls played.

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Does playing in the NFL help a head coach? Not in the Playoffs

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Maus Censorship, JAHA, My Book and Me


Maus by Art Spiegelman was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer prize.  It tells the story of the Holocaust with the Jews depicted as mice and the Nazis depicted as cats.  The news that a school board in Tennessee has banned the book  (summarized by David Corn in MotherJones) has made me think of my own book, Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers, being excluded from being sold in the bookstores of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) for similar reasons.

The reasons that the school board gave for banning Maus was that there is nudity and that there are the swear words "bitch" and "god damn" in the book.  They said that that was inappropriate for kids.  I was told that because I wrote in my book about the numbers surrounding the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and the crime statistics (including rape) was inappropriate for them because they had a children's museum.  

Ironically, JAHA had an exhibit on the holocaust three years ago with a survivor of these terrible events as a speaker.  Apparently, they thought that that was appropriate for children as well as a book about the mafia in Johnstown.  JAHA director Richard Burkert can be seen discussing the holocaust exhibit below.

Of course, JAHA is not a government entity whereas the school board in Tennessee is.  They are not accountable to voters but are to their stake holders.  According to Guidestar, JAHA has $7,603,010 in assets and $636,908 in gross receipts.  My book could have increased their gross receipts.

Sales of Maus have increased since the ban.  My book has sold around 118 copies without my raising a stink about JAHA's rejection.  There is no nudity in my book.  I did say in the book about how the area voting overwhelmingly for Trump, after it was reliably Democratic, was the equivalent of the area giving the rest of the world the middle finger.  

Censorship can work in many ways.  A business may have the right to sell or not sell anything that they want.  JAHA claims to represent the history of the area.  The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and crime in the area are just as real as the holocaust.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Ida, Nellie and Ida: Trailblazing Women Journalists in the Victorian Age

I thought I would take a break from the coronavirus pandemic and politics to take a look at the history of the craft we call journalism.  The late 1800s were a period of yellow journalism led by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst where sensational headlines were what sold newspapers.  There were trailblazing male and female journalists who worked on hard news stories that mattered to people's lives.


Ida B. Wells (profiled in the above video) was born into slavery in 1862.  She never forgot her background and she wrote extensively on the horrors of lynching and discrimination in post reconstruction south.  She died in 1931.  There is now the Ida B. Wells society to support investigative African American Journalism.  She also received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2020.

Nellie Bly (a.k.a. Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) was another female trailblazer who was born near Pittsburgh.  She went undercover in a mental institution to expose the abuse that women received there.  She then went on an journey to simulate Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days.  She managed to complete the journey in 72 days and had many great stories to tell.  She died in 1922 only 2 years after women got the right to vote.

The last trailblazer in this post is Ida Tarbell who wrote the seminal book (The History of Standard Oil) that brought down John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly.  Like Nellie Bly, she was from the Western Pennsylvania.  Unlike Wells and Bly, she was born before the Civil War and lived until 1944.  The journalist and whistleblower Wendell Potter has created a news organization named after Tarbell.

I don't know if Ida, Nellie and Ida ever met.  They must have known about each other.  It  would make for an interesting play with the three of them discussing their work and comparing notes and the struggles they faced.  There were other significant male journalists at this time such as Upton Sinclair.  Did he have advantages that the other three ladies didn't?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

PBS Program on Data and Pandemics

PBS has a good series on how medicine has learned to fight pandemics.  This particular episode focuses on how data is used to understand and limit pandemics.  It starts with how William Farr used data to track a cholera outbreak.  I've embedded this episode here for your enjoyment and information.

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Income and Life Expectancy. What does it Tell Us About US?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Protests and Pandemics: Lessons from History

Watching the developments of the past week were surprising even to me. Were the up swelling of protests over the death of George Floyd and the corona virus pandemic totally unrelated?  Is Trump's generally incompetent leadership a factor?  The mostly peaceful demonstrations have been occurring just as the turbulent restriction from the pandemic are being lifted.  Do people just have more time now to pay attention to the news surrounding Floyd's death?  History may provide some clues.

The late 1910s were a largely forgotten turbulent time in our nation's history.  We had just entered World War I, the battle over women's right to vote was reaching a critical stage, the brutal race riots in Tulsa, OK were happening just as the Ku Klux Klan was becoming a national force, and of course the Spanish Flu epidemic was rampaging globally,  None of these things occurred in a vacuum.  

The Spanish Flu may not have originated in Spain but it was the first country to report on it as the news was censored in the neighboring countries fighting in World War I.  It unknown where the pandemic started but it was first observed in Europe just as U.S. soldiers arrived there in 1918.  Returning soldiers brought it back home with them and it spread quickly.  Worldwide it killed approximately 50 million and in the U.S. the death toll was around 675,000.

While this was going on the suffragettes led by Alice Paul were getting close to the Seneca Falls convention of 1848's goal of achieving votes for women.  Woodrow Wilson eventually was convinced to support the amendment along with the proposed 18th amendment to usher in prohibition.  The suffragettes hoped that prohibiting drinking would curb domestic violence against women. 

Maurice Decaul: Commentary on "Close Ranks" and "Returning Soldiers" by W.E.B. Du Bois from The Gilder Lehrman Institute on Vimeo.

African American's fought in World War I hoping that it would improve their standing in society, it did not.  They came home to the same racism that they had experiences before.  W.E.B. DuBois had supported Wilson but was disappointed when they returned home.  Two years later things exploded when lynchings occurred and the KKK began a resurgence.  Things came to a boiling point when a race riot occurred in 1919 in Chicago and the  deadliest race massacre in U.S. history in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.  In Johnstown, PA, another racial incident occurred in the Rosedale section when African American and Mexicans were driven out of the city in response to the shooting of police officers.

In addition to these other issues the government was involved in the Palmer raids which were conducted against suspected communists who had just come to power in Russia.  This was a precursor to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's.  The socialist Presidential candidate Eugene Debs and Alice Paul were briefly imprisoned as a result.

These problems were exacerbated by small economic depression which followed the war.  In response to all of this, Warren G. Harding ran for president where he promised a "return to normalcy" from the turbulence of the last years of Wilson's Presidency.  He won in a landslide with the votes of women who could vote for the first time.  The roaring 20's and the corruption and hypocrisy of prohibition followed.

History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme sometimes.  Many of the same forces at work then are at work now.  Mostly peaceful protests occurred in response to the death of George Floyd as in the video above.  Joe Biden may be successful running as a normalcy president but will he be able to address all of these forces in a way that Trump is unwilling to?

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Ayn Rand

Steve Ditko is Johnstown, PAs most famous author and illustrator.  He co-created Spider Man with Stan Lee in the 1950s.  I admit I had never heard of him until I started my book.  According to his Wikipedia page he was born here in 1927 and died in 2018 in New York City at age 90 which was a few months before Stan Lee passed away.

His page says that he split with Lee in the 1960s and did not speak to him for years.  Ditko seldom did interviews but his page says he was influenced by Ayn Rand's objectivist ideas which he expressed in his comic Dr. A.  She was interviewed by Phil Donahue in 1979.

It seems to me that Spiderman is at odds with Ayn Rand's objectivism.  I confess I'm not an avid reader of Spider-Man but in the movie with Tobey Maguire, Peter Parker (Spider-Man's alter ego) is told that "with great power comes great responsibility" by his uncle.  Spider-man becomes very altruistic leaving a note after his escapades saying "from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."  

I don't know Stan Lee's philosophy but many of his other comic book heroes could be thought of as altruistic.  I never read Mr. A but Ditko's page says he embodies Rand's philosophy.  Is Ayn Rand the reason Ditko and Lee parted ways?  Neither of them really ever said or ever will.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Documentary on African Americans in Johnstown

The late Dr. Bruce Williams, professor of Anthropology at the Pitt Johnstown campus or UPJ as we call it, produced a documentary called We'll Make the Journey on the history of African Americans in Johnstown in 1992.  Seventeen older African Americans in the city were interviewed.

The documentary states that there were two big African American migrations to the city: one in WWI and one in the 1920s.  It also states that there were African Americans here as early as 1870.  According to the US Census they were here as early as 1850.  The video is available above for you to see.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Job Mobility for Slavic and Hungarian Steelworkers from 1900-1950

Below is another excerpt from my upcoming book on Johnstown by the numbers.  It is a discussion of the job mobility of East central European immigrants in the steel mills in Johnstown, PA from 1900-1950.  
 Ewa Morawska (1985) in For Bread with Butter: Life-Worlds of East Central Europeans in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940 thoroughly chronicles the struggles of East Central European Immigrants namely Slavic, Hungarian, and Austrian immigrants in the city in the early part of the 20th century.
Morawska (1985, p. 100) found that in the steel industry approximately 7% of East Central European immigrants who remained in the city moved up from unskilled or unspecified semiskilled laborers in the mills to semiskilled or skilled workers from 1900 to 1920.  She also looked at first generation immigrants who remained from 1915 to 1930 and for 2nd generation immigrants from 1920 to 1949/50.  These numbers are summarized in the tables below.  There were not enough first generation immigrants to follow from 1900 to 1930.  First generation immigrants tended to move from city to city, especially in the early days that they are in the US.
Table 1a shows how job mobility was for first generation immigrants from 1900 to 1920 and from 1915 to 1930 and for second generation from 1920 to 1949/50.  These were immigrants who remained in the city during the periods in which they were tracked in the Census and the city directories.  The numbers on the observed side of the table are the actual shifts of immigrants from unskilled or unspecified semiskilled to semiskilled or skilled, vice versa, and immobile (no change in employment status in the mill over the period).  The Expected with no Discrimination side of the table shows what the numbers that would be if the overall mobility rates were the same as they were for western European immigrants or native workers (no discrimination).
Table 1a
Job mobility from unskilled or unspecified semiskilled to skilled or semiskilled steelworkers for 1st & 2nd generation East Central European Immigrants (Morawska, 1985, pp. 100, 164, 166)
Observed %
Expected % with no Discrimination
upward mobility
downward mobility
upward mobility
downward mobility
1900-1920 1st gen
1915-1930 1st  gen
1920-1949/50 2nd gen

            The upward mobility rates for both first generation periods were considerably lower than they were for the second generation and for the numbers we would expect if there were no discrimination.  The downward mobility numbers were higher for second generation mill workers than for first generation workers and for what would be expected if there were no discrimination.  The downward mobility numbers were identical for the 1900-1920 and the 1915-1930 periods for the first generation were both nearly identical to what would be expected if there were no discrimination.
Morawska, E. (1985).  For Bread with Butter:  Worlds of East Central Europeans in

Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940.  Cambridge: New York.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Johnstown (PA) Books

It has been harder to find time to write on this blog between work, working on my book, and life in general.  Tonight I did have time to write about some of the books that have been helpful to me in writing my book.    

The first series of books I would like to discuss is Randy Whittle's two part series on Johnstown's History.  The first part covers the aftermath of the 1889 flood starting in 1895 up to the period right after the 1936 flood.  The second begins with the Johnstown steel strike in 1937 up to the aftermath of the 1977 flood.  Published in 2005 and 2007, both volumes are meticulously researched and engaging reading.

The second book I would like to discuss is For Bread with Butter: The Life-Worlds of East Central Europeans in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940 by Ewa Morawska.  The book chronicles the experiences and struggles of East Central Europeans in Johnstown.  It covers the conditions of Balkan Slavs, Austrians, Hungarians, Polish, Romanians, Russians, and Czechoslovakians in their home countries and here in Johnstown.  It is meticulously researched and very enlightening but it is very academic.

Johnstown: The Story of a Unique Valley is an edited book with different chapters written by different authors in their own specialties.  This book has been very helpful in researching Johnstown's past, its flora and fauna, and other issues relevant to the area.  It was written in 1985 along with Morawska's book.  

Of course no listing of books about Johnstown would be complete without David McCullogh's book about the Johnstown Flood.  There have been many other books on the topic including a recent one by Al Roker but his was the one that was able to interview some of the last survivors of the tragedy.  You can vote for this version or any other nonfiction book you want on my list of the greatest nonfiction books of all time.

Another book I found useful was Johnstown's Nineteenth Century African American History Primer by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.  It chronicles how the city was one of the stops on the underground railroad, how this group was settled by African Americans before 1850, and how it was changed by the Civil War and the great flood of 1889.  It is not available on

The last book I would like to discuss is not really a book.  It is a Master's Thesis titled A History of Homelessness- A Geography of Control: The Production of Order and Marginality in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Donald M. Mitchell.  It was written in 1989 and chronicles the housing issues in the city.  It is available in the Pennsylvania Room of the Cambria County Library in Johnstown.

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