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Spell check. Someone run a spell check.

George Cooper

So I was looking for some information on Keeler, Saskatchewan, where my family is from and I came across this family history of my family.  My grandfather and I weren’t that close after my dad left in 1982 but I couldn’t help but notice he spelled my name wrong in the family history.  And if this is accurate, my father is now 62 years old.  I had no idea.

In case you are interested, this is his old house (and post office), this is the bar I hung out in when I was six and this is his old garage.  Also when I was six, I may or may not have held up the general store.

Lucky Dollar General Store

I had my trusty dog Tip, a pop gun, a cowboy hat and what I thought was a reasonable demand that she gave me some ice cream.  I would have gotten all of the ice cream if I hadn’t fired my toy gun (she thought it was real).  When nothing appeared to have been shot, she told my grandmother.  Crime never pays kids.  Crime never pays.

Interesting trivia note is that I have the till from that General Store in my house today.  It weighs a ton and everywhere you can grab it has very sharp edges.  I also think that the book is incorrect as I have memories of Mrs. Garry running the store when I was older than three.  

Of course as I am reading, it just clicked in that these must be my great grandparents.

Christopher Cooper

Totally unrelated note: A well known lawyer in town has told me that he think the reason that he is in Canada is because his great great grandfather possibly killed one of my ancestors in a drunken fight back in the U.K.  Even weirder is that we have known each other for years before and he found this out while researching his own family’s genealogy.  Its stuff like that gets left out of small town history books.

I guess I am glad that we don’t come from an honour based society where I would have to kill one of his family and so on and so on.  If I remember correctly, he did buy dinner the night that he told us this so we could be even.

Not only did RFK think the Warren Commission had flaws but Warren had doubts as well

From Politiico

What else did Bobby Kennedy know? Last year, the son and namesake of the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy revealed publicly that his father had considered the Warren Commission’s final report, which largely ruled out the possibility of a conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to be a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” Robert Jr. said his father suspected that the president had been killed in a conspiracy involving Cuba, the Mafia or even rogue agents of the CIA. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a close friend of the Kennedy family, would disclose years later that he was told by Robert Kennedy in December 1963, a month after the president’s murder, that the former attorney general worried that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was “part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or by gangsters.” Schlesinger said that in 1966, two years after the Warren Commission report, Kennedy was still so suspicious about a conspiracy that he wondered aloud “how long he could continue to avoid comment on the report—it is evident that he believes it is was poor job.”

Newly disclosed documents from the commission, made public on the 50th anniversary of its final report, suggest that the panel missed a chance to get Robert Kennedy to acknowledge publicly what he would later confess to his closest family and friends: that he believed the commission had overlooked evidence that might have pointed to a conspiracy.

The documents show the commission was prepared to press Kennedy to offer his views, under oath, about the possibility that Oswald had not acted alone. An affidavit, in which Kennedy would have been required to raise his right hand and deny knowledge of a conspiracy under penalty of perjury, was prepared for his signature by the commission’s staff but was never used. Instead, the attorney general became the highest ranking government official, apart from President Lyndon Johnson, who was excused from giving sworn testimony or offering a sworn written statement to the commission.

The decision to scrap the affidavit is another example of the extraordinary deference paid to the attorney general and his family by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission’s chairman. In an unsworn August 1964 letter to Warren—already public and long seen by historians as evasive, if not as an effort to mislead the commission outright about what he really knew and suspected—Kennedy said he was aware of “no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy.” Kennedy’s private papers, however, suggest he struggled over signing even the unsworn letter to Warren.

There you go, some JFK conspiracy content for you on an early Tuesday morning.

Back in the day

Saskatoon Municipal Railway

At one time, Saskatoon had a pretty incredible public transit.

Our Family Adventure with the 2014 Ford Escape

It’s been a long summer but one of the highlights was spending some time with the 2014 Ford Escape.  I reviewed in 2013 and the SUV is essentially the same.  Instead of just driving it around Saskatoon (done that before), I decided to take it on the road.  This is after all where a crossover is supposed to come in useful isn’t it (that and as a hockey kid taxi).  So the four of us got up really early one Sunday and took a long one day drive from Saskatoon to Drumheller and back.   It’s around 1000km in a day if you are keeping track.  At the end of the trip we were going to either love or hate the 2014 Ford Escape.

2014 Ford Escape Titanium Edition

We packed relatively light.  Even though it was a brand new vehicle we tossed our emergency kit in the back, three camera bags, a cooler, and some extra jackets in case the weather forecast was horribly wrong.  That took up about 5% of the rear cargo space.

After hitting Rosetown for breakfast where we met this old-timer, we made a brief stop at Alsask to show the kids the old NORAD radar dome  

Alsask Radar Dome

Alsask Radar Dome

Ford Escape meets giant dinosaur in Drumheller

We got into Drumheller at about noon where the Ford Escape met this guy.   I know I signed something that stopped people from smoking in the Ford Escape, I couldn’t remember if I was covered by stampeding dinosaurs.  So I sent Mark and Oliver up to deal with the T-Rex.

Mark and Oliver with the T-Rex

After an epic struggle, they subdued the beat and saved the Escape.

I have driven from Saskatoon to Calgary many times and each time (generally at Hanna), I would get out and feel the pain in my back after four long hours of driving.  This time it was completely different and here is why  With the Escape, there was none of that.  The air conditioner kept the kids cool while the heated seats kept Wendy and I feeling a lot more comfortable.  If only they had a back massage feature.

After lunch we checked the GPS for directions to the Atlas Coal Mine.  It couldn’t find it.  It found every other little attraction in Drumheller but missed this one.  Obviously Ford downloads these attractions from a database but I was surprised a National Historic Site was not on it.  Ironically enough Siri with it’s much despised Apple Maps found us a way and we arrived after our failed conversation with Ford Sync.  Apple 1 – Ford Sync 0.

Arriving at Atlas Coal Mine

Once at the Atlas Coal Mine, I discovered the true value of the Ford Escape.  We explored an abandoned wooden bridge (which was home to rattlesnakes) and was almost completely rotten.

Wooden Bridge at Atlas Coal Mine

Explored the mine site

Rusty and abandoned trucks

Wendy stumbled onto a model shoot

Photo shoot at Atlas Coal Mine

 

We took a mine tour

Oliver chimping on his camera

Mark and Oliver at the Atlas Coal Mine

Climbed the “walk from hell” (this is important)

Atlas Coal Mine

Where I tore my right quad and put myself in incredible pain (not all Ford reviews have happy endings).  After heading back down the “walk from hell” (it’s what the miners called it), I limped back to the waiting Ford Escape while the family kept exploring (thanks guys!)

Guide at the Atlas Coal Mine

The pain was incredible, my leg was almost useless and I limped back to the vehicle in incredible pain.  I got in and actually had to lift my leg inside, turned on the Escape, turned on the a/c and turned on the heated seat.  It didn’t take away the pain but facing a five hour trip back to Saskatoon and realizing how much better it made my leg feel, it was amazing. (and made me add a tensor bandage and A535 to my emergency kit) when I got back into Drumheller.

I felt good enough to limp out and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale.  While I never recommend walking on a moving suspension bridge with a torn quad, the heat kept it from getting really bad.

Star Mine Suspension Bridge

18 hours after, one rattlesnake sighting, two provinces, one radar dome, one torn quad, 1000 kms, three McDonald’s and one A&W run later, we rolled back into Saskatoon.  Instead of whining and complaining despite being well past their bedtimes, the boys hopped out the car and Oliver said that was fun.  He then hugged the Ford Escape goodnight.  Yeah you read that right, after an 18 hour day, my six year old hugged the Escape.  

It was then I realized why you want a 2014 Ford Escape.  It is a lot of fun to drive in the city and the highway.  It’s safe and like I wrote about the 2013 Ford Escape, it saved my families life when a guy lost control on icy roads.  It looks great.  Sirius XM radio is a lot of fun.

All of that is amazing but you buy one because the Escape facilitates fun times together with others.  Whether that is an epic road trip with family or a weekend getaway with friends, it made a great trip better.  It made a long day seem shorter.  It made an improbable one day trip possible.  It is small enough to be fun to drive but large enough that you can bring people along.  It is everything a SUV should be.  Since the first time I drove the Ford Escape, I fell in love with it and said that it was my favourite vehicle to drive.  Since then it has become my families favourite vehicle as well.  It facilitates fun.

You can read all about the technical specs here but in the end, they add up to one thing; great times spent together.

Some observations

  • I have been reviewing Ford cars for three years.  Oliver is now six and since her first saw the Ford Sync GPS display, he has been fascinated.  He sits in the back seat on a painful angle the entire time so he can see the display.  That hasn’t changed.  I hope to review a Ford car in 2015 just to see how long this continues.  It’s weird.  Of course the one advantage of Ford Sync GPS screens is not navigation but the fact that you never hear, “Are we there yet?”
  • The bad thing about turn by turn instructions is that if you deviate off your course to take the scenic route (which I did), everyone panics and start back seat driving.  Wendy is chirping at me, the boys are chirping at me.  Sync is telling to “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  I’m like, I just want see some scenery!  EVERYONE CALM DOWN and Sync is still going, “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  Why does no one trust me?!
  • The Escape is fast.  Shockingly fast for a SUV.  Very comfortable to drive on a two lane highway.  When I wanted to pass, I could.
  • The Sync still crashes.  Every Ford vehicle I have reviewed has had something go wrong with the Sync.  The last time it wasn’t that bad but it asked me to go to a dealer.  Turning the Escape off and on rebooted it (it is from Microsoft after all).  Instead of asking me to go to a dealer, it should just say, restart your car.  It’s not a big thing but I can’t believe it still does this.  Then again, Microsoft.  I should be used to it by now.
  • Speaking of taking the scenic route, you will take more of them.  The handling of the Escape is great and it kind of calls out for winding roads and rolling hills.  A lot of fun.
  • Even though the body design is older, it still turns heads.  As I was limping towards the Star Mine Suspension Bridge someone turned and said, “that is a nice looking SUV”.  

If you want more information about a Ford Escape, check out Ford’s website or stop by any Ford dealer (like Jubilee Ford or Merlin Ford Lincoln in Saskatoon)

Also thanks to Wendy for taking some of the better photos from this trip.  She posted some of her favourites to her weblog.

A new report shows nuclear weapons almost detonated in North Carolina in 1961

Eric Schlosser has a new book out about how close the U.S. came to blowing off it’s own eastern seaboard during the Cold War

At the height of the Cold War, the Air Force feared that the Soviet Union could launch a surprise attack on the United States and destroy all of our air bases, and we’d have no way to retaliate against the Soviets. So the Air Force came up with this idea of having about a dozen B-52 bombers airborne 24 hours a day, with nuclear weapons on board. That way, if we were attacked, those dozen planes might escape the destruction on the ground, head to the Soviet Union, and blast the Soviets with hydrogen bombs.

The planes were sort of an insurance policy. They were meant to deter the Soviets from trying a surprise attack. But this Air Force program, called the “airborne alert,” also posed some serious risks for the United States. The B-52 was designed in the late 1940s–and it wasn’t designed to be flying 24 hours a day. So the airborne alerts put enormous stress on these aircraft. It really wore out the planes and made them more likely to crash.

Nobody realized, at the time, that some design flaws in our nuclear weapons made them vulnerable to detonating in an accident. There was an illusion of safety. In the book, I explore the safety problems with our nuclear arsenal. We were putting planes that were at risk of crashing into the air over the United States with nuclear weapons that were at risk of accidentally detonating. The airborne alert was finally ended in 1968, after a B-52 crashed in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs and contaminated a stretch of the Arctic Ice with plutonium.

How close was this to detonating?

Well, for most of the Cold War, there was no code or anything that you needed to enter. All you needed to do was turn a switch or two in the cockpit to arm the bomb, and then release it. There were mechanisms on the weapon to prevent it from detonating prematurely and destroying our own planes. There were barometric switches that would operate when they sensed a change in altitude. There were timers that delayed the explosion until our planes had enough time to get away. The Goldsboro bomb that almost detonated was known as Weapon No. 1. As the plane was spinning and breaking apart, the centrifugal forces pulled a lanyard in the cockpit–and that lanyard was what a crew member would manually pull during wartime to release the bomb. This hydrogen bomb was a machine, a dumb object. It had no idea whether the lanyard was being pulled by a person or by a centrifugal force. Once the lanyard was pulled, the weapon just behaved like it was designed to.

The bomb went through all of its arming steps except for one, and a single switch prevented a full-scale nuclear detonation. That type of switch was later found to be defective. It had failed in dozens of other cases, allowing weapons to be inadvertently armed. And that safety switch could have very easily been circumvented by stray electricity in the B-52 as it was breaking apart. As Secretary of Defense McNamara said, “By the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.” That’s literally correct, a short circuit could’ve fully armed the bomb.

I interviewed McNamara before he passed away. The Goldsboro accident occurred just a few days after he took office. He wasn’t an expert in nuclear weapons; he’d been head of the Ford Motor Company. And this accident scared the hell out of him. It would have spread lethal radioactive fallout up the Eastern Seaboard–and put a real damper on all the optimism of the Kennedy administration’s New Frontier. And this wasn’t the only really serious nuclear weapons accident that the United States had. There were others that were dangerous and yet kept from view.

So yeah, try not to think about this thought by Schlosser before you go to bed.

Any country that wants nuclear weapons has to keep in mind that these weapons may pose a greater threat to yourself than to your enemies. These weapons are complicated things to possess and maintain, especially if you keep them fully assembled and ready to use. If you’re only going to put them together when you’re about to go to war, then there’s a higher level of safety. But if you keep them fully assembled, and mated to a weapons system, and ready to go, then there are limitless ways that something could go wrong.

The Near-Death of Grand Central Terminal

It’s amazing how close New York came to losing Grand Central Station

Many consider the destruction of New York’s original Pennsylvania Station in 1963 to have been the architectural crime of the twentieth century. But few know how close we came to also losing its counterpart, Grand Central Terminal, a hub every bit as irreplaceable. Grand Central’s salvation has generally been told as a tale of aroused civic virtue, which it was. Yet it was, as well, an affirming episode for those of us convinced that our political culture has become an endless clown-car act with the same fools always leaping out.

“In New York then, I learn to appreciate the Italian Renaissance,” said Le Corbusier of Grand Central. “It is so well done that you could believe it to be genuine. It even has a strange, new firmness which is not Italian, but American.” It was not seen as such by its owner, New York Central Railroad, which viewed it mostly as a cash cow. As early as 1954, the Central proposed replacing the terminal with something called The Hyberboloid — an I. M. Pei monstrosity that, at 108 stories and 1,600 feet, would have become the world’s tallest building at the time. There was enough public outcry that a scaled-down Hyberboloid was built instead just north of Grand Central, where it was retitled the Pan Am (later the Met Life) Building. Even at a lesser height, it proved every bit as grotesque as promised.

Still unsatisfied, New York Central proposed in 1961 to build a three-level bowling alley over Grand Central’s Main Concourse, which would have required lowering the ceiling from sixty feet to fifteen and cutting off from view its glorious blue mural of the zodiac. This, too, was stopped. Foiled again, New York Central resorted to plastering the terminal with ads and bombarding travelers with canned Muzak, complete with commercials, over the public address system.

Meanwhile, in the angry atmosphere that followed the demolition of Penn Station, New York City finally got a Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated Grand Central a landmark in 1967. But the terminal still wasn’t safe. Now hemorrhaging money as Americans turned away from trains and the passenger rail system began to collapse, the New York Central merged with its old rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad. The chairman and CEO of the new “Penn Central” was one Stuart Saunders, former CEO of the Pennsy, and the man who had torn down Penn Station to build the latest Madison Square Garden.

Bear with us here, as we trace how the troubled new railroad nearly succeeded in tearing down Grand Central — for it says much about how we conduct business and politics in America today.

The Vast Right Wing Media Conspiracy

The story of the vast right wing media conspiracy is worth a read.

At the time, my then colleague (and current business partner) Mark Fabiani and I were working at the White House as lawyers in the counsel’s office and began to receive calls from mainstream media outlets asking us to respond to various bizarre items related to the late Vince Foster, a fellow White House lawyer who had tragically taken his own life in the summer of 1993. At first, we ignored the calls, as there was nothing to the story beyond the terrible loss of one of the president and first lady’s friends. However, as the calls continued without letup, and the nature of the questions became even more bizarre—to the point where we were asked to comment on alleged eyewitness sightings of Foster—we knew we had to get to the heart of the matter and began asking the reporters the basis for their questions.

All roads led to a mysterious source—the newly exploding Internet.

One Saturday morning in the midst of an oppressively hot D.C. summer weekend, Mark and I found ourselves squirreled away in a stuffy room on the fourth floor of the Old Executive Office Building, where there was a bank of computers from which you could access the “World Wide Web.” Remember—this was the pre-Blackberry, pre-Google, dial-up world of 1995, when only around 10 percent of the public had Internet access and the White House had just barely launched its own web page.

Eight hours later, we emerged from our warren of cubicles having seemingly been transported to a parallel universe. Online we found early versions of chat rooms, postings and other information showing there was an entire cottage industry devoted to discussing conspiracy theories relating to Foster’s death, including numerous online reports of people claiming to have seen him. Those reports would be picked up by so-called news sources that most Americans at the time had never heard of—conservative outlets such as Eagle Publishing’s Human Events or Richard Mellon Scaife’s the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. From there, the story would migrate to right-leaning outlets we were familiar with, such as the New York Post, the Washington Times and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal—all before eventually ending up in the mainstream press.

What we learned in those eight hours became the basis for our 332-page report, written so that those of us in Clinton White House responsible for fielding questions about these bizarre rumors could apprise mainstream reporters of what we called the “media food chain”—basically, so that we could show them how such a wacky conspiracy theory like the supposed murder of Vince Foster had even become a news “story” at all. We would simply hand the memo to the reporter asking questions, tell him to review it and to come back to us with any remaining questions. Few did.

But we also realized that this was just the beginning. Like the scene in Bugsy where Warren Beatty, playing the mobster Bugsy Siegel, arrives in the Nevada desert and the sees the future of gambling (modern Las Vegas), those eight hours in the White House computer room were our eureka moment about the future of media and politics. We saw the transition from an electorate that passively consumed the information put before it (a joke at the time was that a political rally was a family watching a political commercial on television) to an electorate that could use technology to actively engage in the creation, distribution and self-selection of information.

(Of course, had we been just a little more business-savvy, we would have immediately relocated to Silicon Valley instead of writing that report.)

Germany 1945

I am reading Germany 1945: From War to Peace right now.  Here is a quick review from the New York Times

We have rarely felt sorry for what the Germans suffered at the end of World War II, in part because the Germans have done a superb job of feeling sorry for themselves. Most Germans in 1945 (and long afterward) believed that their own suffering freed them from any obligation to ponder what Germans had done unto others. Historians, therefore, have hesitated to exploit this material, for fear of seeming to endorse the repellent spectacle of German self-pity. The distinguished British historian Richard Bessel, however, understands the difference between suffering and atonement, and with “Germany 1945” he has produced a sober yet powerful account of the terrible year he calls the “hinge” of the 20th century in Europe.

The decisive blow came in January, when a Red Army invasion force, nearly four million strong, poured into eastern provinces that would soon cease forever to be German. (The Anglo-American invasion from the west paled by comparison.) They killed with dreadful efficiency. German military deaths that month exceeded the total wartime losses of either the United States or Britain. Millions of civilians fled in terror from what they had long been told were savage Slavic hordes. Hitler’s government, deep in denial, did little to ease the refugees’ distress. Nor did it permit the orderly surrender of lost territories. While some soldiers and civilians enthusiastically embraced orders to fight to the death, the rest were kept in line by roving SS death squads that hanged deserters from lampposts. But the formidable Wehrmacht was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned.

Bessel leaves no doubt about who was to blame for the suffering: Hitler, who chose to destroy his country rather than surrender and face defeat. For the German people — many bombed or chased out of their homes, all at the mercy of the occupying armies — this was the legacy of the Third Reich: not conquest and glory, nor genocide and guilt, but betrayal and ruin, rubble and grief.

Although the Allies faced a tough job in imposing order, one thing they needlessly feared, as it turned out, was resistance from dead-enders. Rumors of a “Werewolf” underground proved groundless (contrary to the claims of those who argued a few years ago that postwar Germany was just as bad as postwar Iraq). The occupiers were surprised to find a docile people, preoccupied with finding shelter, food and missing family members.

With death all around, the invaders sought vengeance. Soviet soldiers pillaged and raped the most, but the French were not much better. The British and Americans, with fewer grievances, committed fewer atrocities. While Germans resented the inevitable injustices of Allied denazification programs, when the most prominent surviving Nazis went on trial in Nuremberg in November 1945, few could summon any sympathy for these pathetic men who had led their nation into the abyss.

If you have a chance and an inclination to look at a rarely looked at part of World War II, the book is worth reading.  If you don’t want to read the book, you may want to check out these photos posted to The Atlantic’s In Focus blog.

Using Hitler to prove a point

From Joe Posnanski

Rule 1: It is never a good idea to invoke the name of Hitler to make an unrelated sports-related point — or any unrelated point.
Rule 2: However, if you plan going to bring up Hitler in historical context, see Rule 1.
Rule 3: In certain rare cases, when you are interested in using Hitler to prove a larger truth, see Rule 1.
Rule 4: The one exception to this is … See Rule 1.
Rule 5: Yeah. Rule 1. Always.

Life inside a German POW camp

French POW’s filmed their time in the camp with camera parts smuggled in sausage.

The Austrian camp, close to the border with Czechoslovakia, was originally built for troops taking part in military exercises.

There were 40 barracks, 20 each side of a central aisle. The land was bound by two lines of barbed wire, the perimeter illuminated by floodlights.

Escape seemed almost impossible. Almost…. and it is remarkable that we can see it.

Through some extraordinary ingenuity – and cunning – the men filmed their efforts.

Their rarely seen footage is called Sous Le Manteau (Clandestinely). So professional is it that on first viewing you would be forgiven for thinking it is a post-war reconstruction.

It is in fact a 30-minute documentary, shot in secret by the prisoners themselves. Risking death, they recorded it on a secret camera built from parts that were smuggled into the camp in sausages.

The prisoners had discovered that German soldiers would only check food sent in by cutting it down the middle. The parts were hidden in the ends.

The camera they built was concealed in a hollowed-out dictionary from the camp library. The spine of the book opened like a shutter. The 8mm reels on which the film was stored were then nailed into the heels of their makeshift shoes.

It gives an incredible insight into living conditions within the camp. The scant food they were given, the searches conducted without warning by the German soldiers. They filmed it all, even the searches, right under the noses of their guards.

 

Detroit – City On The Move

Detroit at its peak in the late 1960s before the decline started in the early 70s.

The Greatest Heists in History

Greatest heists in history

The Original Cast of Sesame Street

Original sesame street cast

Oscar the Grouch is orange!  He became green in season 2.

1943 Battle of Kursk video footage

The Battle of Kursk was a World War II engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near the city of Kursk, (450 kilometers or 280 miles southwest of Moscow) in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. The German offensive was code named Operation Citadel (German: Unternehmen Zitadelle) and would lead to both one of the largest armored clashes, which is the battle of Prokhorovka, and the costliest single day of aerial warfare in history. The German offensive eventually provoked two soviet counteroffensives code named Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev (Russian: Полководец Румянцев) and Operation Kutuzov (Russian: Куту́зов). The battle saw the final strategic offensive the Germans were able to mount in the east, and the decisive Soviet victory gave the Red Army the strategic initiative for the rest of the war.

Video of the Pearl Harbour attack from the Japanese perspective

As a long time student of history, I have never seen any of this footage before.  I assume not all of this is Japanese footage (some are taken from the ground) but some amazing stuff here.