Sunday, December 16, 2012


Sarasota is a Circus Town. In 1927, John Ringling made Sarasota the winter headquarters for his Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. John Ringling was an exemplary successful businessman starting in 19th century and extending into the first three decades of the 20th. 

He and his brothers were the sons of poor immigrants who began their own traveling circus in the early 1870’s in Baraboo, in southern Wisconsin, going 10 to 15 miles a day, from town to town in the spring, summer, and early fall months.  Their circus had the wonderful name of "The Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals" soon to be contracted to "The Ringling Brothers Classic and Comic Concert Company"—still a mouthful. 

Taking advantage of the newly developed mode of travel and transport, the railroad, they purchased rail cars and placed their circus paraphernalia on flatbeds, baggage cars etc.  Soon they had their own trains and moved thousands of people from city to city, often for one night stands. Like a military operation, they loaded and unloaded, set up and took down the tents, the trapeze, the side shows, and returned tigers, elephants, lions to their cages.  As Ringling purchased other circuses, he began to consolidate them into his own show which became known as “The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus— The Greatest Show on Earth.”  He offered the high point of American entertainment in those years – when there was no radio, no TV, no DVD, no CD, no nothing!  So the circus was a big force in America’s social history.  And John Ringling made his fortune with it, starting with a penny entry fee in the 1870’s and then going up from there.  He employed thousands, gave pleasure to millions, and made millions for himself.    

Alfred, Albert, John, Otto, Charles, & Guess Who?

The Bandwagon

Circus Parade - letting everyone know the circus was in town

Do you remember the Flying Wallendas?
After moving to Sarasota with his wife, Mable, he built a grand home and created a museum for his fine collection of international art.  However, Ringling was undone by the great Depression and died bankrupt with a mere $311 in the bank.  

Today, his legacy continues in Sarasota’s wonderful Ringling Art Museum, his art-deco Italianate home as a fully restored public historic site, and in his vision of a grand community in Sarasota extending to the long barrier islands off shore. 

And of course, even though his circus went out of business in 1964, a dated relic from America’s brassy past, we have modern versions—Cirque de Soleil and The Big Apple Circus—but none to match John Ringling’s grandness of vision in the scope of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

PRESERVES - Restoring Natural Habitats Along the Gulf of Mexico


Waterway, boardwalk, and bridges protect natural habitat


Durante Park, a 32 acre site along Sarasota Bay was donated by a local physician in memory of his wife. To restore the natural habitat, structures in the area were removed, invasive species cleaned out, and additional native plant species were planted to supplement those already present.  This wetland treasure provides many looped walking trails among the mangroves and small coastal hammocks.  From the observation boardwalks extending into the bay we saw the forest succession of red, black, and white mangroves and then many birds, including herons, ospreys, pelicans and even an eagle.  Fish swam in the shallow tidal streams which laced their way through the mangroves.

The approximate 400 acre Robinson Preserve in Bradenton just north of Longboat Key and Sarasota had miles of trails covering similar habitat as Durante Park.  While Tampa Bay has lost about 90% of its shoreline to development, the remaining 10% of the shoreline provides the wetlands necessary for the local fishes, birds and water plant life.  For example, the mangroves are critical for the filtration of the bay waters while at the same time providing protected breeding grounds for birds and fish. 

And so we have found that the west coast of Florida is more than long beautiful beaches extending north and south as far as the eye can see.  It is also more than rows of condominiums for Snow-Birds who come during the winter months.  It is an ecological resource for all to enjoy and treasure.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Republican Convention - The Final Night

The Balloon Drop

In the evenings, we were part of the excitement of the Republican Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Our days were filled with events sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition for a small audience of RJC leadership members.

These included receptions ---  
            for Senators and members of the House who were strong supporters of Israel – Lindsay Graham, Michelle Bachman, Allen West, and many others
            for many Republican governors, many of whom represent the young, new face of the GOP – Nikki Haley (SC), Susanna Martinez (NM), Scott Walker (WI), Brian Sandoval (NV), et al

A PANEL OF LEADERS OF THE AMERICAN BUSINESS COMMUNITY -- chaired by Steve Hayes -- with Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and two business leaders from Wall Street. 

Portman, who is close to Romney, anticipated immediate action on tax reform, deregulation, free trade and budget deficit and debt issues.  The business representatives felt that Romney could generate growth readily by “taking the (Obama) knee off the neck of the economy” through a stable tax structure, reduced regulations, reform of the NLRB, revisions of Dodd Frank and repeal and replacement of Obamacare with market based reforms.

The panel members were optimistic that America had lots of growth ahead if the atmosphere for business activity was welcoming and bright.  Romney would bring a new framework to reward success in the marketplace.

            A PANEL OF WELL KNOWN POLITICAL PUNDITS  -- chaired by Ari Fleischer with Ambassador John Bolton, Senator Jim Talent, and Brent McGoldrick, a senior Romney campaign strategist and advisor.  From our notes from the panel:
            Romney “has a passion to take over messed-up projects and failing organizations.”  He demonstrated these qualities many times at Bain Capital; he turned around the failing Olympics in Salt Lake City, a task any politician with a hope for his own future would have declined; he worked effectively as governor of Massachusetts turning a budget deficit into a surplus all the time working with a legislature controlled 85% by Democrats. 
Fleischer, Bolton, McGoldrick, Talent

RJC sign in table
            Romney is absolutely sincere in his commitment to restore America’s greatness by getting people working again in a growing, free market economy.

The climax of the week was Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech – where he identified with the mainstream patriotic dream – the belief in America as a land of opportunity, where we celebrate success. Ann Romney, in what was a great moment earlier in the convention, had said: “No one will work harder…. no one will care more. And no one else will move heaven and earth to make this country a better place to live.” And then, she proclaimed “This man will not fail.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Medved, Murphy, Barbour

RJC PANEL DISCUSSION at the Centre Club in Tampa with former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and radio pundits Michael Medved and Michael Murphy.  

Below are some of their ideas…….

Haley Barbour -- prospects are better for the Republicans than in 1980 with Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter.  At this time in his campaign, Reagan was trailing Carter by 14%, today Romney is virtually in a dead-heat with Obama.

Michael Medved -- Obama’s approval ratings in Israel recently have “soared to 6%.”  This factoid stands in stark contrast to 2008 when Obama received 78% of the Jewish vote, though that number is lower now. Perhaps part of the reason for declining support is explained in the RJC’s  website
Haley Barbour --- warned about Romney’s seeming success in the money race.  He stated that labor union money is not included in these sums since unions commonly do not raise political money from membership, they simply dip into their own tills which are filled to overflowing with dues from their members and then give to the Democrats.

2016: OBAMA’S AMERICA by Dinesh S’Souza

Today's Washington Post online article  --  Documentary film 2016: Obama's America
came out of nowhere to burn up the box office

Since the convention events were canceled on Monday night, we went to a nearby AMC megatheater to see “2016: Obama’s America.” Using Obama’s voice, the film quoted directly from Obama’s book, “Dreams From My Father,”
The movie then reflected on many of the president’s actions while in the Oval Office -----

            returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the English upon taking office           
            supporting Argentina against England in the Falkland Islands dispute
            reducing America’s footprint in the world
            making UN approval necessary for international intervention
            undertaking unilateral arms reduction
            general distributionist attitude to wealth
            giving Brazil money to drill oil off their shore (as in reparations)
            supporting the Palestinians and while alienating Israel

All these actions can be understood to fall within the category of ANTI-COLONIALISM.  Obama’s father’s dreams, which emerge from his personal life history were ant-colonialist in the extreme.  To this base, D’Souza adds Ann Dunham’s worldview, and the politics of Frank Davis, Bill Ayres, Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, and Reverend Wright. Then, the positions of the President gain consistency and we gain understanding. The film concludes with the impact to the US of another four years of these policy pursuits, unchecked by the need for reelection.  Could America recover?   

See this important movie – and decide for yourself!

Monday, July 16, 2012

GRANT'S COTTAGE near Saratoga Springs, NY

Grant's Cottage

General Ulysses S. Grant brought overwhelming force to defeat the Confederacy and to preserve the Union. From May 4 to May 7, 1864, General Grant led the Union forces in the Wilderness Campaign.  Although he did not win the battle, he also did not retreat, thereby winning a strategic victory.  He then led his troops on to Spotsylvania Courthouse where the next battle of the overland campaign against the Confederacy took place. 
 With grit, determination and mental focus he fought almost continuously until Lee’s final surrender on April 12, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse where the Confederacy’s struggle to secede from the Union ended.  There Grant displayed his magnanimity, allowing Robert E. Lee, a fellow West Pointer, to walk away defeated but a free man. To allow the healing process to begin, Grant told Confederate officers they were free to go home along with their horses and mules. "The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we do not want to exult over their downfall."
Death Bed
Clock stopped at moment of death
 Note  found in Grant's pocket

Grant’s character on the battlefield was mirrored in the last two weeks of his life. A New York financier friend invited Grant, accompanied by his family, servants and physician, to use his comfortable cottage high on Mount McGregor, near the resort of Saratoga Springs. In dreadful pain and dying from a large cancer in his jaw and throat, in precise penmanship, Grant hand wrote the last three chapters of his autobiography.  The writing was a task he had taken on at the behest of his friend and admirer, Mark Twain, in order to restore his family’s lost fortune.  He wanted both to tell the story of the War and also give his wife financial security — admirably accomplishing both goals with the same grit, determination and absolute mental focus he had shown in battle during the Civil War. Grant completed his autobiography in the few days remaining to him, from his arrival on June 16, 1885 to just before his death on July 20,1885.       

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


On a warm sunny day on the front lawn of the brick town hall, formerly the high school, 400-500 citizens gathered with an especially large number of veterans from WW II through the War in Afghanistan.  All had come together to honor the memory of those who had fought in the nation’s battles including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WW I, WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Iraq War, the Second Iraq War, and finally the War in Afghanistan. This long list reflects the great sacrifices.  Clearly, the price of liberty is dear. 

In a broad semi-circle in front of the town hall stood five flagpoles -- with the Stars and Stripes placed highest in the center. Around this same semi-circle were four pairs of granite slabs engraved with the names of the men and women from the towns of Chester and Pottersville who had served in the military during America’s wars beginning with the Revolution.  A very long list of local men served in the War of 1812, whose battles were centered in Northern New York, up and down Lake Champlain.  One resident served in the Mexican War. The greatest number fought the totalitarian threat in World War II.  The Afghan War struck our area hard with a recent death, designated on the granite with the simple letters - KIA, killed in action.

Coming to honor their comrades from the past and the present were groups from local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.  They stood as tall and as straight as their ages would allow, many holding flagpoles, with the red, white and blue unfurled.  Only a few remain from the Greatest Generation that fought in WW II -- one neighbor and hero had landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy and fought his way inland to liberate one of the concentration camps; present were many who had fought in Vietnam.   

Tears flowed as the bagpipers piped, as the bugler blew Taps, and as the vocalists sang our National Anthem, America the Beautiful, God Bless the USA, and Let Freedom Ring.  Finally, we had a flyover:  a military bi-plane from the 20’s and a P-34 from the 30’s, both with bright white stars on the underside of their wings. 

Although the speakers spoke, it was not their words that moved us most; it was the presence of the friends and neighbors brought together with one purpose —to honor our past and present heroes, some of whom gave their lives but all of whom were WILLING to give their lives for our nation, so that we could live in liberty and our nation could continue as the “last best hope of earth.” *

·      President Abraham Lincoln, Annual Address to the U.S. Congress, 1 December 1862.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Having reached our destination, we spent some time with Ben, looking at his work place at Hood Technology. Hood Tech focuses on vibration analysis for turbines, jet engines etc. and on building cameras, camera gimbals, launch and retrieval systems, for an unmanned air vehicle, the Scan Eagle.

Ben concentrates on the development and installation of spin sensors as part of the vibration analysis team serving clients in India, Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, etc. On his desk, he has a computer with a double screen monitor and a complex keyboard; what looks like a safe is a vacuum chamber; what looks like a top-loading washing machine is vacuum spin pit; what looks like a hand sized set of connected bright metal pieces is a spin sensor. So I have been told.

All things spin smoothly thanks to Hood Tech.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Ashland is a small town, nestled in a valley surrounded by mountain ridges, in southwest Oregon. You can hardly find it on the map unless you know where to look, but Ashland is a phenomenon all by itself. It is the site of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival begun in the pre-WW II years and expanded in the late 20th century until today the town has four theaters with over 100 actors in repertory, performing for 150,000 persons from February to November each year. And what do all these people see -- everything from Hamlet to The Seagull to Animal Crackers. What a treasure!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012


Giant redwood trees grow only in a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of California and Oregon. Their full size is hard to envision and is hard to capture by camera. State and national parks now protect many from destruction by man and preserve them for future generations.

A few FACTS about these remarkable trees:
Height: As much as 380 feet
Age: As old as 2000 years
Bark: 12 inches thick
Base: Up to 22 feet in diameter

A MYSTERY: how this giant conifer evolved and survived to the modern day from when it dominated the landscape in the age of the dinosaurs.

In her poem, Trees, which we learned in grade school, Joyce Kilmer may have been reflecting on an eastern deciduous tree, such as an oak or elm. However, her classic lines came to mind in this majestic redwood forest.

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Fort Ross (an Americanization of Rosiya, the Russia of Tsarist days) is situated north of San Francisco on a flat tableland projecting out on the Pacific coast. It marks the furthest south that Russians ever settled in America. Russia founded Fort Ross in 1812 as an agricultural base to supply food to their trading posts in Alaska. In 1836, 260 people lived on the grounds of the fort – including Russians, Aleuts, Indians, etc. The Spanish and later the Mexican settlers in California were too few and too weak to evict the Russians. However, the Russians were not successful in their effort to provision their Alaskan workers from California, so they abandoned Fort Ross. Instead, in 1839, they contracted with England's Hudson Bay Company to send the needed supplies from the fields of Washington and Oregon to their trading posts in Alaska.

In 1841, John Sutter, the American of 1848 Gold Rush fame, bought the abandoned fort along with its extensive lands and contents. He transferred to Sacramento anything of value that could be moved.

Then, after victory in the Mexican War, the U.S. won all of California. America solidified its dominance with settlers and more settlers who became attached to the land. The war only codified what had already taken place—gone were the Russians, gone were the Spanish and Mexicans, and finally, in 1848, gone also were the English from Oregon and Washington --- all falling to the commitment of individual Americans – shopkeepers, farmers, and ordinary citizens who settled the land and made it theirs.

Last photo shows junior high students from Berkeley who come annually for an overnight - reenacting the experience at the Russian fort.

SOLYNDRA – A FAILED INVESTMENT (your tax dollars and mine)

FOR OUR LIBERAL-LEANING READERS: Along the highway in Fremont, CA is the abandoned Solyndra campus. We thought Solyndra's bankruptcy to be a tragedy of lost opportunity towards achieving a green energy future. Perhaps failure was caused by mismanagement, miscalculation of real demand or too much price competition. In any event, the time for viable solar energy lies in the future. The valiant effort by our government to support a budding industry unfortunately failed.

FOR OUR CONSERVATIVE-LEANING READERS: Along the highway in Fremont, CA is the abandoned Solyndra campus. We thought this bankrupt enterprise could become a National Historic Site dedicated to lost hope and failed change. It would be run by Park Rangers with audio tour guides prepared by free market economists. The building is beautiful; the parking lot is empty with weeds already growing in the cracking pavement; and no one is present.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


What can one say about Elephant Seals along the California coast? Big and blubbery, fat and lazy on land, basking in the sun, but great swimmers in the sea.

Driving the several hundred miles along the cliffs of the harborless coast, one can imagine the relief felt by the early 17th century Spanish captain SebastiƔn Vizcaƭnothe when he sighted the haven of Monterey Bay. This explorer sailed up California's coastline as far north as Monterey, where he put ashore and gave glowing reports of the area as an anchorage and as land suitable for settlement. His detailed charts of the coastal waters were used for nearly 200 years.


William Randolph Hearst’s home at San Simeon is now called the Hearst Castle, which it certainly is. A collector of art, he loved the Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo periods. Hearst bought whatever he liked without focusing on any special needs for a collection or worrying about provenance --- as long as it appealed to him, he purchased it. Over a 28 year period, he worked with Julia Morgan, an accomplished architect trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Artes, to build his American version of a castle. She designed living spaces in which to set his church ceilings, marble sculptures, massive paintings, tapestries, refectory table, book collection and more. All this was a backdrop for his large house parties and designed for living the good life on a lavish scale. Guests included notables of the early 20th century -- Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, et al. In the midst of Prohibition, he stocked a complete wine cellar. However, Hearst strictly controlled the amount of alcohol consumed by his guests.

Like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Hearst was a Harvard dropout with great ambitions. Although his father George had made a fortune in mining (see our blog entry -- May 2011, the Gold Rush), the son added to that fortune by building a publishing, radio, and movie empire of his own and on his own. They called William Randolph “The Chief,” and perhaps he may be considered the first media mogul. Like many driven and successful persons, he was able to get along on four hours of sleep. Clearly, this gave Hearst more time to think, plan, work and party.