We get what we deserve


This is not a Republican or Democrat thing….it is about all of us.

I had alluded to this topic in an earlier post, but I think it is clarified in my mind.

It seems like most of us just accept the fact we are in America and don’t think about how lucky we are to be here, and there is no way we should pay or sacrifice for the privilege.

It goes back to the 2nd World War when the government made us aware that we had to contribute to be part of the effort to save America and the free world.  If you were the right age and physical condition you were either drafted or volunteered for the service.  You joined organizations that helped the war effort from neighborhood air wardens to the USO.  And all essential items were rationed, from gasoline to food to clothing to cars (no new ones for 4 years), and taxes ran as high as 90%, and everyone saved stamps in savings bond books until we got enough to get bonds.  And bond drives were constant, to get as much money as possible out of circulation.

The draft was in effect through the Vietnamese War, then it was stopped.  These police actions, ranging from Korea to Vietnam to Granada to Serbia to Iraq and Afghanistan were so frequent, and the government went under the policy of we could have guns AND butter, that wars could go on at huge costs but we could keep on shopping.

Of course our dollar has devalued, our kids grow up thinking that the desert wars are great inspiration for video games, and we can ignore when 30 of our finest are killed in one day and concentrate on meaningless celebrity foibles, etc.

So  no wonder so few volunteer for services that would help America or feel the need to contribute more or to help get our service people out of harms’ way or do anything for anyone else , as all the spending and wasting and wars don’t affect us personally unless we are related to some tragedy that occurs.

Will someone have the guts to make us the America I knew growing up?

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The best of times


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My teenage years were during what many feel were the best times, the late 40’s and early 50’s.  The war had ended and after years of food, gas and clothing rationing, our economy burst at the seams.  Clothes were funny (not to us then), with lots of material, huge shoulders, long skirts for women;  and the cars:  so long and so wide, huge fins, terrible gas mileage (gas was 25 cents a gallon), and the future looked so great.

GI’s had the right to go to college, guaranteed loans to buy houses (new houses were from $10,000 up, cars around $2500) and we felt that when we got married, our kids would have a brighter future than we did.

OK, so today we have the web, electronic marvels abound, and a pretty lousy world for many.  If you have a degree you no longer have a guarantee of a job, and the so-called middle class is heading south; and money is definitely not trickling down.

This is not a Republican or Democratic thing;  for whatever reason this is where we ended up.

Every one talks about whether or not you are patriotic;  that does not mean waving a flag or just supporting our troops.  Either the Americans of my generation were gullible or far more patriotic;  when we were told to conserve and ration, we did.   Everyone made sacrifices to support the war effort.  Prices were controlled (by the government).

When the Vietnam war came about, those in charge (again Dems and Repubs) wanted people to not be affected, so we were not told to choose between “butter and guns”.  No restrictions were imposed, we did not sacrifice in any way, and our debt grew and inflation came about.  And future wars came without sufficient reason and we just accepted it.

From that point on we have never been asked to save, buy bonds, hold back and look where we are.  And when things turned into an almost-depression (or maybe a real one), the solution given was to go out and shop.

So  now all of us are no better off (except for a select few) and the pols are all afraid to cut any of the real cuts that are needed (and not just ones that affect the already distressed middle and poor classes).  We shouldn’t just blame them, we all went along with it.

God Bless America.

 

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In Defense of My Country or why I can celebrate Memorial and Vet’s day


Image from VroomBroom at stock.xchng.com.

Image from VroomBroom at stock.xchng.com.

In my last year at Northwestern I really screwed up…….I was partying, failed a course, got mononucleosis (no sleep, etc) and had to drop out a quarter.  I was three hours short of graduation so instead of having a Toga party ala Belushi, I decided to volunteer for the draft, since I would have to go in eventually.

Photo by Stephen Davies from stock.xchng.com

So I went to the army recruiting office in Evanston and someone had told me that you want to try for military intelligence – of course that was a typical army misnomer; it meant you are at the front lines, you phone back to the gunners and say “the enemy is 100 yards in front of me, start sending those shells”.  Well luckily, I couldn’t qualify.  It was the McCarthy era.  The sergeant asked me where I was born – Portland, Oregon.  my father, Helena, Montana. my mother, somewhere on the Russian-Polish border (actually Stepan, Poland) and was three when she came to the US.  Oh Oh, that made me a security risk.

So, I just volunteered for the draft and took my chances.  I took my physical.  Height 5 foot 8, weight 110 pounds (!), eyesight, 20/500 (I could see at 20 feet what most people saw at 500 feet), jaundiced from the mononucleosis.  Passed, classified 1-A.   I still don’t believe it.

So on 4 March 1954 I packed a small bag, got on a train from LA to Salinas CA, and we all bused over to Fort Ord, by Monterey, CA.  Now this is one of the most beautiful areas in the Golden State.  However, the foggy and cold mornings and the warm days made for rampant sickness and I was stricken with acute Pharyngitis during the very difficult basic training.  They gave me a shot of penicillin, told me to report to the hospital which I didn’t because if you stayed away for more than a few days, you had to start basic all over again, a fate worse than Pharyngitis.

After basic we received our next assignment:  mine was 8 weeks of clerk typist school at Fort Ord.  That was a snap.  You could leave the base on the weekend and I generally drove down to LA with three people (that’s how I made more than the very few dollars I was getting from Uncle Sam every month).  We would leave at Saturday noon, come back Sunday to check in by 6 PM.

I was third in my clerk typist class and was surprised because the two ahead of me didn’t seem to pay much attention to anything.  It turned out, they were given the test results from someone and someone else turned them in, so I was the valedictorian of  my class.  what an honor.  So I was assigned to court reporter training (16 weeks) at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana.  I did well there, and as a result got to choose whether I went to Korea, Germany or Austria.  Salzburg, here I come.

After 13 days on a flat-bottomed Army ship from Brooklyn to Livorno, Italy, sleeping on hammocks 4 high, I met with my assignment sergeant.  I had been told that my MOS was critical, and to insist on being a court reporter.  I was asked where I was born, my father, my mother and asked one additional question:  did I have any other relatives in Eastern Europe.  I answered honestly that they had all been killed in the Holocaust.  Then because Sen. McCarthy didn’t have as much influence in Italy, I was assigned to administration in the counter intelligence corps in Salzburg and given a top-secret clearance.  Strange are the ways of the military.

It is early 1955 and I am on a train to Salzburg along with the others assigned there.  When we arrived, we were taken to our lodgings, not an army barrack, but a former sanitarium that had been taken over by the Nazi officers in an area called Parsch.  All single private rooms, and we received a food allowance to eat in our dining room (order from the menu!) because of the super secret nature of the work at the 430th CIC unit.  Our cover name was Headquarters, USFA (US Forces Austria), and I bought a used Opel convertible (no top down until May), and lived the glorious life in Salzburg:  The Mozarteum, the castle, the bakery (founded 1329).

Our physical training consisted of weekly skiing at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Eagle nest home.  Our work, mainly screening prostitutes that soldiers were marrying and intending to take home to the US, and making certain they were not Russian spies.  However, I was not involved in the very secret work of spies going into Eastern Europe and the listening posts in Salzburg and Vienna.  I worked in a great office environment with good people (actually the officer I worked for was Major Major).

Austria at the time was a four-power country, with control each month passing from Russia to the US to France to Britain.  We drove to Vienna one month to see the passing of power from the Soviets to our government.  A very impressive ceremony with the Russian soldiers, bayonets on the end of the rifles goose stepping in perfect step and the US soldiers, chrome helmets glistening in the sun marching to “The St. Louis Blues”.

I did get to go to Munich and drink beer in the Hofbrau beer hall with my buddies.  I took a trip through Europe and visited my cousin Sherman and his family in Bamberg, Germany, where he was stationed prior to going back to school and designing much of our guidance systems for our space program (see blog on Sherman, an American hero.

All good things come to an end.  The four powers signed a treaty to turn the government over to Austria and the command was closed.  A small group of us stayed behind until the very last day to clean things up, and left after a short 10 months in this military paradise to be given my discharge at the Presidio, San Francisco, three months early to I could go back to school and get my degree.

Photo by foxumon from stock.xchng.com

It was two years out of my life, but it sure could have been worse.  I still hated the non-coms who controlled my life while in (don’t obey, go to jail) and I always cheer for Navy in the Army-Navy game, and the VFW won’t let me join because I was not in during a war and even though I sent in my money, I don’t get the cap and can’t go to the VFW lodge, but what the hell.

And when my children and grandchildren asked me what I did in the war, I tell them a fought the battle of the Vienna Woods.

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The Second Front


I am just learning how to do this……like most things I do, I refuse to read any instructions so I am just letting wordpress guide me.

By the way, my name is Jerry Seltzer;  I don’t think I mentioned it before and I don’t want to be rude.  I was born in Portland Oregon and remember clearly the day I heard a newsboy yelling “Pearl Harbor attacked”.   Of course no television in 1941, no iphones etc and the radio was not on all the time, so the newspaper was how we found out about things

My life really changed shortly afterwards:  my mother died of breast cancer in March of 1942 (I had never heard the disease mentioned), and my sister and I had to leave Portland to move to Chicago where my father (yes, he invented Roller Derby) spent most of his time.  We only saw him 3 or 4 times a year in Portland.

The country was united against the axis (Japan, Germany and Italy for those who don’t know who our enemies were in WW2) and we were all asked to sacrifice and contribute to the war effort.  Rationing of food and clothing followed shortly and families had to learn to live with limited amounts of meat and other foodstuffs and women became very creative in feeding their families.  Strange new meat products appeared that were made from parts of animals that were previously thrown away as unsuitable for the marketplace (can you say Spam). Most families had an A Sticker to put on their cars which entitled them to 6 gallons of gas per week.

Very few people complained as our soldiers were doing the fighting and we were to help in any way we could.  There were savings bond drives and stars and other personalities would show up and everyone would buy;  of course the main purpose was to take money out of circulation and avoid inflation.  Price controls were established, as well as limits in salaries (90% tax brackets!  And what are you complaining about?).  Since the country had been in such a severe depression it didn’t seem such a hardship and now war jobs were helping families.

I divert, as I often will, and wonder that in all the wars or “police actions” we have been in since then, if the government had asked us to sacrifice we might be in better shape now to really get off of oil dependence and really move to a “clean” economy.  But Johnson and the others decided we could have butter and guns and America could just go on.  (I understand in Iraq in one barrack there is a sign on the wall “We go to war, Americans go to the mall”) And this would have been a killer today:  no cars were produced for civilians from 1942 until 1946.

So now in 1944 I was 12 years old and living in Glenview, a suburb of Chicago.  It sounds terrible but the war was very exciting:  we never heard about our terrible losses in the Pacific or elsewhere until much later, but just how well our boys were doing…there was constant talk of when the real “Second Front” was going to happen.  The Russians, who were now our great friends and allies were pressuring the British and the Americans to attack Europe to take the pressure off of the Eastern Front, but of course we were arguing with each other.  The Brits convinced us to invade Italy in 1943 but we all knew that was not the real invasion.

On June 6th,  just 3 days after my 12th birthday I was at home and suddenly a bulletin came on the radio (I was probably listening to a daily serial:  Superman, etc) that our forces had landed at Normandy in France.   I am certain now that it was hours after it happened as our news was really screened.  My dad was not home, he was at the Coliseum as there was a Roller Derby game that night.   I immediately called the night number of the switchboard (“for emergencies only” he had told me), and they brought him to the phone.”We have invaded Europe at Normandy”…..he was happy for the information and when he came home I asked him how the crowd had responded when the announcer told them what had happened.  “They clapped and cheered”

I was happy…..that was my first successful promotion.