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Halloween During the Great Depression

By: Crane-Station Saturday October 25, 2014 3:10 pm

Letty and Ray Owings, ages 89 and 91 recall Halloween and also describe some of the superstitions and customs of years past.

Halloween During the Great Depression

Halloween was a legitimate holiday and a big day for us in the country. Kids planned and planned, months in advance, and you would have been considered out of it, if you didn’t participate. Farm kids had to do something to lighten the load, and Halloween was an opportunity to be someone else. Everybody got dressed up, usually in an old shirt from a trunk of old clothes, and everyone got a mask. Witches were popular, and masks cost a nickel, unless you were rich, and could spend a dime.

We got our masks at Wolfcammer’s, the general store and meeting place in town. Freda, who ran the store, knew everything. Without radio, if you wanted to know anything, you went to the store- that’s what you went there for- that, and a few other things. Men most often shopped at the general store, and someone might say, “Oh, he’s been to town,” or “Oh, you’ve been to town. What’d you find out?” It was Freda who first informed me that my grandmother had died. Freda sold masks for a nickel, as well as salt pork, molasses, pickles in a barrel, dried and smoked meats, and other necessities like flour and sugar.

Lord help us, there was a lot of crap happened, and it’s a wonder nobody was killed, looking back. Pranks were more popular than any trick-or-treating, and there was all manner of soaping windows, or jumping onto porches, knocking on doors or ringing doorbells and running away. In an effort to see whoever could think of the most fantastic stuff, a bunch of us grade schoolers once sneaked into a farmer’s barn and climbed into a his hayloft, accompanied by the grade school teacher, who hadn’t gotten over the Halloween fits even as an adult. When the farmer came out with his shotgun, the kids took off and left the teacher in the hayloft, where he got caught up there somehow. They said later that he jumped out and walked somewhere, into the night.

Parents and teachers were very cooperative. Grade school kids dressed up to go to school, and the teachers were generous about letting us get away with doing next to nothing on Halloween. We also loaded hay into a wagon, hooked up the horses, and everybody got on the wagon and rode. Hay rides were popular, but not necessarily connected to Halloween.

We also had some superstitions that likely nobody took seriously, but we did know of them then:

-If you laughed very much in your home, sadness would replace it.

-Thirteen was an unlucky number.

-If a black cat ran across the road, or black cats in general around Halloween carried a connotation of ‘bad luck,’ but no one took it seriously.

-Wishbones could bring good luck (your wish would come true) if you got the longer part of the wishbone, when you pulled it apart.

-Stepping on a crack was bad luck.

We had other customs that we did take seriously. Some are related to death and others are not:

-You could not leave a dead body until it was buried. The sitting practice was done in shifts, and the query was, “Who’s settin’ tonight?”

-The windows were opened as someone was dying, even in the middle of winter.

-If you committed suicide, you could not be buried facing East, because that is the direction of the rising sun. One man who did commit suicide was buried backwards, to face the setting sun, because suicide was considered to be a form of murder.

-Pregnant women did not attend funerals.

-The eyes of a dead person were closed, never left open.

-When a person died, there were six rings on the party line, to inform everyone. Then, the church bell rang one time for each year of the person’s life. The tolling of the bells was repeated when the coffin was carried, at the funeral. This practice (also called the death knell) is mentioned in metaphysical poet John Donne’s meditation:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

-Although we did not do the candle tradition during the Great Depression, during WWII, a candle was placed in the window for a soldier who was missing. If the soldier did not return, the candle flame was not allowed to go out- ie, the “eternal flame.”

-When you butchered a pig, you gave the best part, usually the heart, to someone else as a gift. Not to do so was considered selfish.

During Halloween in particular, the elders told stories, the more exaggerated the better. They were not so much scary stories as they were tall tales of their own Halloween adventures, embellished to make it sound like they had way more fun than we were having.

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Please, We Need Your Support

By: BevW Saturday October 25, 2014 9:46 am

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Because ‘riots’ must be what the PTB and most media want

By: wendydavis Saturday October 25, 2014 9:44 am
!cid_4395E41E-2206-4CE2-8767-F781A4B82C50 nice doggie

(‘Nice doggie’ by Anthony Freda)

Ferguson

Yes, we were given a heads-up earlier this month when the AP published the ‘leaked’ information that the Ferguson PD, state cops, and indeed the DHS (assumedly) nation-wide fusion centers were planning for ‘riots’ if the sham grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for some degree of murder.  The police have pushed and prodded and provoked the good citizens there over a course of 77 days to no avail, but gee, that hasn’t kept the MSM speaking of the Ferguson ‘riots’, has it?

As recently as the last several nights, the Twittersphere has been noting that there were plenty of ‘strangers’ throwing water bottles and such at cops, trying to elicit even stronger police tactics that would rile legitimate peaceful protestors.

From yesterday:  ‘Missouri Police Stocking Up on Riot Gear Ahead of Grand Jury’s Decision’, (AP) October 24, 2014, (stlouis.cbslocal)

‘FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri police have been brushing up on constitutional rights and stocking up on riot gear to prepare for a grand jury’s decision about whether to charge a white police officer who fatally shot a black 18-year-old in suburban St. Louis.

The preparations are aimed at avoiding a renewed outbreak of violence during the potentially large demonstrations that could follow an announcement of whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will face a criminal trial for the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown.  [snip]

Police are attempting to better document events and handle widespread arrests more efficiently. To ensure it’s at full strength, the state Highway Patrol is limiting trooper vacations around the time of a potential decision, and local police may be put on longer shifts.

After the initial clashes with protesters, the state Highway Patrol purchased more shields and equipment for its officers. St. Louis city police recently spent $325,000 upgrading helmets, sticks and other “civil disobedience equipment,” said Police Chief Sam Dotson.

More than 350 St. Louis officers now have been trained in civil disobedience tactics. St. Louis County police and state troopers also have undergone training, focused largely on ensuring they understand protesters’ constitutional rights.’

Propaganda Alert: Chemical Weapons Again Being Used as Excuse for Imperial War in the Middle East

By: Ohio Barbarian Saturday October 25, 2014 9:31 am

Remember Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” during the Bush II Administration?  Remember the Assad regime in Syria being accused of using chemical weapons by Obama as justification for American military intervention in Syria not so long ago? Remember first Prime Minister Cameron and then President Obama failing to get the votes in Parliament and Congress shortly thereafter?

Well, our ruling class hasn’t given up in its quest for a new and improved imperial war. The Washington Post is once again accusing the Assad regime of using chemical weapons, this time against unnamed villages, and accusing President Obama of giving ol’ Assad a “free pass” to do so. Ironically, it also notes that the Islamic State(ISIS) is also accused of using chlorine gas against Iraqi government troops. It then blurs the line and quotes a State Department official of saying that the “evidence strongly suggests the Assad regime is the culprit” behind the attacks in Syria, but its links provide no concrete evidence whatsoever that this is in fact what is happening.

Basically, the Washington Post is saying, “We know that ISIS is using chlorine gas, and we really really want to believe that Assad is using chemical weapons, so You The People should just assume that he is, too, and break out the American flags and cheer on the next shiny new war.” In short, it’s a propaganda ploy that Goebbels or Stalin would recognize instantly, though they might critique it for being too weak.

Anyway, the implication of the article is clear: Obama must stop being a wimp and send in American troops to combat this menace to civilization as we know it.

Don’t be surprised if senior administration officials such as John Kerry or even President Obama himself once again trot out the old chemical weapons argument as a reason why America simply has no other choice but to invade Syria and reoccupy parts of Iraq(undoubtedly the oil-producing parts, but they will never admit that) for purely upstanding moral and humanitarian reasons.

Of course, there never actually has been clear and convincing evidence that Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime ever really did use chemical weapons against anybody, as this World Socialist Website article argues.  It points out that chlorine gas is relatively easy to make, simply by taking over chlorination facilities that are used to decontaminate drinking water in that part of the world. ISIS undoubtedly has some of these facilities in its possession, and might well have captured some Syrian military stockpiles of chlorine, mustard and perhaps nerve gas as well. It also notes that it is clear that Syrian rebels of one persuasion or the other definitely did use sarin nerve gas against Syrian soldiers and civilians, which was then erroneously reported in the corporate media and by Obama himself that Assad was using it.

It never made any sense to me why the Assad regime would gas its own troops and give Obama and the West a casus belli against him altogether simultaneously at the same time. I don’t think a stupid man could have stayed in power in Damascus that long, and it would take a stupid man to order such a thing.

So here we go again. The only question is when Obama will make his move and how, and whether Congress will be even consulted. Will he simply send in the troops or will he try to drum up public support first? I don’t know, but the American people will have to shout “Hell, NO!” really loudly again in order to stop this latest wave of imperial madness. Probably the British, French, and German people as well.

It’s way past time for America and Europe to stop intervening in the Middle East and let the people there sort out their own destiny themselves. Curiously, I find myself in agreement with both Rand Paul and the Iranian government on this one. Strange bedfellows indeed, but this is a strange world we live in. C’est la vie.

Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform – Book Salon Preview

By: Elliott Saturday October 25, 2014 8:48 am

Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform

Chat with Robert E. Mutch about his new book. Hosted by investigative reporter Greg Palast. Today at 5pm ET, 2pm PT.

Are corporations citizens? Is political inequality a necessary aspect of a democracy or something that must be stamped out? These are the questions that have been at the heart of the debate surrounding campaign finance reform for nearly half a century. But as Robert E. Mutch demonstrates in this fascinating book, these were not always controversial matters.

The tenets that corporations do not count as citizens, and that self-government functions best by reducing political inequality, were commonly heldup until the early years of the twentieth century, when Congress recognized the strength of these principles by prohibiting corporations from making campaign contributions, passing a disclosure law, and setting limits on campaign expenditures. But conservative opposition began to appear in the 1970s. Well represented on the Supreme Court, opponents of campaign finance reform won decisions granting First Amendment rights to corporations, and declaring the goal of reducing political inequality to be unconstitutional.

Buying the Vote analyzes the rise and decline of campaign finance reform by tracking the evolution of both the ways in which presidential campaigns have been funded since the late nineteenth century. Through close examinations of major Supreme Court decisions, Mutch shows how the Court has fashioned a new and profoundly inegalitarian definition of American democracy. Drawing on rarely studied archival materials on presidential campaign finance funds, Buying the Vote is an illuminating look at politics, money, and power in America.

Robert E. Mutch is an independent scholar who specializes in the history of campaign finance. (Oxford University Press)

Gary Webb and the 2014 Sandinistas

By: danps Saturday October 25, 2014 5:04 am

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

The new movie “Kill the Messenger,” about journalist Gary Webb’s investigation into the connection between Contra drug running and the CIA in the 80s, is not exactly watercooler material at the moment. As of this writing Box Office Mojo has its widest release as 427 theaters (compare to 3,173 for the current box office champ), and it doesn’t seem to have much of a marketing push behind it (your mileage may vary). But what it lacks in mainstream buzz it’s making up for in political controversy. Washington Post assistant managing editor Jeff Leen published a piece last Friday decrying Webb’s “canonization” on film, and in doing so invited a new round of scrutiny of the Contra/CIA connection.

The best place to start reviewing the story is the 1989 report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee titled Drugs, Law Enforcement And Foreign Policy (I’ve scanned it with optical character recognition at the original post if you’d like to copy and paste as well as read). It covers a lot of territory, but the sections on Nicaragua are especially interesting when considering Webb’s reporting seven years later.

What did the Committee have to say? First, on page 6 (page 16 of the PDF – add ten pages to the PDF to get to the corresponding Committee pagination) it acknowledges one of the difficulties with investigating a criminal enterprise: “A number of witnesses and prospective witnesses were convicted felons, having been imprisoned for narcotics-related offenses. The Subcommittee made use of these witnesses in Accordance with the practice of Federal and State prosecutors, who routinely rely on convicts as witnesses in criminal trials because they are the ones with the most intimate knowledge of the criminal activity.” When wading into a cesspool of corruption it is often difficult to figure out which scumbag to believe. Relying on things like statements against interest can help sort things out, but it’s obviously going to be an inexact science.

That acknowledged, here’s what they found. The Contras were involved in drug running and US agencies knew it (p. 36):

While the contra/drug question was not the primary focus of the investigation, the Subcommittee uncovered considerable evidence relating to the Contra network which substantiated many of the initial allegations laid out before the Committee in the Spring of 1986. On the basis of this evidence, it is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the Contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter.

The entire gun/drug scene was mercenary (pp. 36-7):

The Subcommittee found that the links that were forged between the Contras and the drug traffickers were primarily pragmatic, rather than ideological. The drug traffickers, who had significant financial and material resources, needed the cover of legitimate activity for their criminal enterprises. A trafficker like George Morales hoped to have his drug indictment dropped in return for his financial and material support of the Contras. Others, in the words of Marcos Aguado, Eden Pastora’s air force chief:
…took advantage Of the anti-communist sentiment which existed in Central America … and they undoubtedly used it for drug trafficking.

While for some Contras, it was a matter of survival, for the traffickers it was just another business deal to promote and protect their own operations.

They apparently were graduates not of the School of the Americas but the Milo Minderbinder Institute for Profiteering (p. 40):

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: John Jakes

By: dakine01 Saturday October 25, 2014 4:05 am
brak the barbarian

Brak the Barbarian

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

It has been a while since I last read some of John Jakes’ works but there was a time in the ’70s and ’80s when I read just about everything as soon as it was published. I was still in college when I first started seeing a book titled The Bastard on the book racks around town. This book was shortly followed by The Rebels and The Seekers. I did not actually read them though until I was living in New Hampshire in late ’75 with my sister and her then husband. Over the next few years as I moved on into the USAF, I would pick up the new books of the Kent Family Chronicles as they were published. It was simply amazing how the members of the “Kent Family” always managed to be on the periphery of so many historical events and friends with so many historical figures. Why, you’d have thought they were named Forrest Gump or something!

Jakes’ wiki intro is only one sentence:

John William Jakes (born March 31, 1932)[1] is an American writer, best known for American historical fiction. He has used the pen name Jay Scotland.

One interesting fact I discovered about Jakes from his wiki is this:

During this time, he was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America (SAGA), a loose-knit group of heroic fantasy authors founded in the 1960s and led by Lin Carter. The eight original members were self-selected by fantasy credentials alone. They sought to promote the popularity and respectability of the “Sword and Sorcery” subgenre (such as Brak the Barbarian stories by Jakes).

I had not been aware of Jakes early membership in SAGA although once I started reading The Kent Family Chronicles and saw his list of books, I realized that I had read Brak the Barbarian and a couple of its sequels when I was in college.

Jakes has a second book series that is well known, North and South. From wiki on the trilogy:

North and South is a 1980s trilogy of bestselling novels by John Jakes which take place before, during, and after the American Civil War.[1] The saga tells the story of the enduring friendship between Orry Main of South Carolina and George Hazard of Pennsylvania, who become best friends while attending the United States Military Academy at West Point but later find themselves and their families on opposite sides of the war.[1] The slave-owning Mains are rural gentleman planters while the big-city Hazards live by manufacturing and industry, their differences reflecting the divisions between North and South that eventually led to the Civil War.

The North and South trilogy also became a trilogy of TV mini-series (North and South, North and South, Book II (the second book in the trilogy is titled Love and War), and Heaven and Hell) starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.

The Bastard, The Rebels and The Seekers were all made into TV movies in 1978 and 1979. I have no recollection of even hearing about these movies before but looking through the cast list, there are some quite interesting names.

Looking through the list of Jakes’ books there are some other titles beyond those I have mentioned that I have read and enjoyed – I, Barbarian about a romance in the time of Genghis Kahn, King’s Crusader set during the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart, When the Star Kings Die, and Veils of Salome.

JohnJakes.com gives Jakes’ full bio as well as some discussion on his various series and standard author web site fare.

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Pull Up a Chair — and putting your feet up

By: Elliott Saturday October 25, 2014 12:32 am

What do you do when you need to turn down life’s volume for a brief respite?

I find it difficult to turn off the newsfeeds, yet in a week like this one the news from around the world, and here at home, is overwhelming; seems like it’s getting worse, and worser. So stepping back for a couple hours will do me a world of good.

I like to watch nature documentaries (I miss George Page’s narration, but we still have David Attenborough!). Or maybe a symphony. Books. Movies.

I should make more time to read a good book, I don’t do that enough. I enjoy good mysteries, classics and the like. And I’m always open for suggestions (with regular thanks to dakine for posting books each weekend). Any reading suggestions?

What do you do when you turn off the outside world?

Right now, as soon as I schedule this post, I’m going to spend an hour going down the Shannon River, you can join me (also Netflix).

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