Classic Car Show Coming To State Street For Saturday’s Farmers Market

Cars On State is just plain fun.  You do not need to be a ‘car buff’ to enjoy this free event.  Over 100 classic cars will be lined up and down State Street.  Last year was the first time that we took time to look at the show, and talk with a few of the proud owners.  It was fantastic! 

This years event will run from 10:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M., and I am sure the splash of colors and old styles will make you yearn for these models to again be for sale at the local dealerships.  So get your donuts from the market, a cup of java, and meander down State Street.

Bring your camera to share some pics with an older person that may not be able to attend, but who will still enjoy seeing a classic car from the past.  If your dad is like mine he can recite every car he owned, where he bought it, what he paid for it, and if it used a lot of oil or not, and what trips he took with it.  These types of shows bring back fond memories for many.

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Zimbabwe: “Prepare To Be A War Correspondent”

The sentence jumped off the newspaper page at me today.  “Prepare To Be A War Correspondent.”

It was a brutal reminder that the situation in Zimbabwe is a tinderbox following the elections where President Robert Mugabe was defeated.  His attempts, however,  to hold onto power, and even drag the nation into chaos and bloodshed is not a shocker for anyone who has followed his chaotic and wretched time as leader.

The party of Mugabe is threatening the nation into supporting him in a runoff election.  Many however do not see as necessary another election, given the fraud that took place a month ago when voters cast their ballots to end the monstrous regime of Mugabe.

If voters fail to return Mr. Mugabe to office, the Politburo member told a Zimbabwean journalist working with The New York Times, “Prepare to be a war correspondent.”

The political impasse seems likely to persist for months. ZANU-PF and the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, have challenged the election results in more than 50 parliamentary districts, the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, reported Wednesday. Those challenges, which are supposed to be resolved in six months, could overturn the opposition’s newly won control of the lower house of Parliament.

The ruling party, the military and their irregular forces — youth militias and veterans of the liberation struggle against white rule — have for weeks been threatening, arresting and beating those they see as threats, including journalists, election monitors and even people who had simply voted for the opposition.

But the widening net of intimidation now appears to be taking a toll on children too, further fraying a society enduring a precipitous economic collapse.

Services that would normally help tens of thousands of orphans each month — including health care, clean water, sports and social clubs — are now being restricted because of the political violence in large areas of the country.

“Zimbabwe’s children are already suffering on multiple fronts,” said James Elder, a spokesman for Unicef. “To see their situation further deteriorate through violence or intimidation that prevents people reaching them is unacceptable.”

Other aid workers say they have been warned by government officials to suspend their operations, lest they be seen as meddling in the nation’s affairs. Teachers, who served as nonpartisan supervisors at polling stations, have been systematically singled out, with 496 questioned by the police, 133 assaulted by thugs and 123 charged with election fraud, according to the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. Teachers who worked for the opposition also said they had been attacked.

An unsigned editorial in Saturday’s issue of The Herald singled out teachers as part of an elaborate British- and American-financed plot to rig the election and get rid of Mr. Mugabe.

The editorial described the teachers as having been trained in South Africa and by the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit group based in Washington whose chairman is Madeleine K. Albright, the former American secretary of state. It said the teachers were fleeing “to avoid the long arm of the law.”


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What Is A “Cable-News Lobster Shift”?

I think I know a fair amount about lobsters given that James grew up in Maine.  I know that the only real way to eat them is steamed with tons of butter.  And I know the best napkin for such occasions is a dish towel, and at times a hammer might even be required for the dinner table. 

But when I read today in a column concerning the pundits and reporters covering the Democratic presidential nomination, which included a phrase about the “cable-news lobster shift ” of late night election coverage, I was perplexed.  Even James was unsure what the writer meant.

The tone of finality could be heard on the cable-news lobster shift that is now a regular feature of late election nights. “I think there’s an increasing presumption tonight that Obama’s going to be the nominee,” Chris Wallace, the Fox News host, said to Karl Rove, President Bush’s longtime political guru, who is now a Fox analyst. David Gergen, an adviser to several presidents, including Bill Clinton, said on CNN after 1 a.m., “I think the Clinton people know the game is almost up.”

So I toss this question out to my growing readership, who I view as savvy and smart.  What is a  lobster shift?  And why is it so named?

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“Hetty” Finally Lands On My Reading Pile

As the severe weather season is upon us again I was smiling over the days as a child when the dark storm clouds would gather and we all headed to the basement for protection.  My mom would grab the small file of tax and insurance papers and off we would go, hoping as we always did that the large, and in our minds most vulnerable oak tree, would not blow over from the storm winds.  Decades later that tree is still standing and home from time to time to a raccoon.  The reason all this came to mind was the thought recently of what I would take with me to the basement should I not have the desire to see the storms up close.  This of course is all a moot point since I love thunderstorms, and would now never head to the basement and miss one. But if I had to choose what to take, given that copies of every important document, and all the pictures are on CD-ROMs and kept in a safe deposit box at a bank, I would take my overstuffed zippered binder. 

The binder has long held interesting articles from newspapers that I have clipped from over the years.  As I waded into the binder during a recent rainy day I ran across a book review for “Hetty: The Genius And Madness Of America’s First Female Tycoon”.  The great write-up in the USA Today article from 2005 made me save it, and want to read the book.  As with most book lovers there are more great reads than time, so I never ordered it, until now.  (I suspect some will wonder why I still clip articles if I can just save them online……just the way I grew up I guess.)

In the 1890s, she was the richest woman in America, though she made her fortune in the shadow of Carnegie, Morgan and the Rockefellers. But she and her two children wore ragged clothes, sought health treatment at free clinics and lived in one run-down hotel after another (no permanent address — no property tax). Newspapers wrote editorials against her. She was blamed for a bank failure and was ridiculed for her skinflint ways.

She died in 1916 at age 81 with a net worth conservatively valued at $100 million ($1.6 billion today) — and left not a penny to charity.

Biographer Charles Slack takes on the considerable task of humanizing this caricature of greed and obsession, introducing us to her family and friend (yes, just one) and putting Hetty into the context of the male-dominated Gilded Age. Slack tries to show another side of Hetty Green. He nearly succeeds. But the fault lies with the subject, not the biographer.

If she had built libraries or opened steel mills like Andrew Carnegie or built railroads or collected and donated art like J.P. Morgan, it might have been an easier job. Hetty Green could have founded a bank or a railroad or a foundation for that matter. All she did was make money.

Slack writes: “Unlike Carnegie, Morgan and Vanderbilt, who transformed their spotty reputations through philanthropy, Hetty Green left no monuments to herself. She therefore left it up to others to determine her legacy — and this process has not been kind to her. … In the century after her death, as the immediacy of her financial prowess receded, she slipped into obscurity, remembered (when remembered at all) as a mean old woman with too much money and too little heart.”

Hetty Green was born into money. Her family was one of the founders of New Bedford, Mass., and had built a whaling business there. Slack’s description of whaling ships and the whaling business are well told. When the business started to wane with the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania, Hetty’s father wisely moved the money out of whaling and into new investments.

At her father’s death in 1865, 30-year-old Hetty, an only child, inherited $5.7 million. During her childhood she had learned business from her grandfather, with whom she lived from the time she was a toddler. She followed her father as he did business around the docks. (From that she also learned to swear like a whaler.)

Slack makes clear that if she had been a man, she would have been groomed to take over the business. Women were not considered wise enough to manage their own money. Her father left her $900,000 in cash and put the rest in a trust, run by men. For the rest of her life, Hetty would burn at this slight and over and over she would sue and be sued to get or keep control of her money.

Court records and newspaper coverage gave Charles Slack the best stories in the book. Hetty’s trials are remarkable: Hetty trying to bribe one judge, interrupting another, having her own lawyer object to HER line of questioning. Quite probably she forged a mysterious extra page of her Aunt Sylvia’s will. In her most famous trial, Oliver Wendell Holmes testified against her as an expert on the use of the microscope to detect forgery. She spent thousands of dollars on lawyers, sometimes in losing causes, just to take revenge on old enemies.

Slack makes clear that in nearly every case there was a reason for Hetty to feel she had been cheated, and if she hadn’t been worth millions, that could make a reader feel sorry for her. Our sympathy goes to Hetty’s husband, Edward Green, by all accounts a likable fellow, wealthy when he married. But Hetty did not share her funds with her husband, and his speculating in railroads wiped him out. When she learned that he had $700,000 in debt at the New York bank where she kept millions in securities, she pulled her securities (the bank folded) and until the end of his life, severed her relationship with her husband.

The most appealing character in the book is Hetty and Edward’s son, Ned, who was trained in business by his parents and sent to Texas to make his mark. There Ned made his fortune in railroads, became active in politics, and was given the title “Colonel.” He also led a fast life, taking on a prostitute as his lover and, after Hetty’s death, as his wife — with a prenuptial agreement cutting her out of the family money.

Hetty was a pioneer investment banker. She lent money to New York City several times. She bought the bonds for the water and sewer system in Tucson. In the Panic of ’07 when banks all but stopped making loans, Hetty lent millions to what she considered well-run companies and made more millions afterward. She gave low-interest loans to churches. Newspapers covered the ups and downs of her interest rates the way the media covers the Fed today. Hetty looked long term. She took property as collateral and if the loans weren’t paid, Hetty added to her empire. She owned whole blocks of Chicago, but she never invested to improve her properties

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Spring Blooms Dazzle

I am not sure why the spring blooms in Wisconsin seem to look so exceptional this year.  More so than other years they seem to demand we look at them, and marvel at their colors.  Walking around Madison the flowers seem to be brighter and healthier looking than past years.  Perhaps it is due to the very long and snowy winter that we experienced, and therefore the blooms are more welcome.  Whatever the reason they seem more glorious, and I thought a few more shots of spring were called for here on the blog.

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