August 30, 2014

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Hispanics in the Civil War: Part 2

Sailors: North and South
Hispanics fought with valor in the navies of both sides as some of the most dramatic fighting of the Civil War occurred on the high seas. Dozens of Hispanic sailors served on Confederate ships attempting to “run” the Union blockade of southern ports. Capt. Michael Usina was one of the of the most daring Confederate Navy officers. Born to Spanish parents in St. Augustine, Florida, Usina began the war as a private in the 8th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. He joined the Confederate Navy after suffering serious wounds in the war’s first battle at Manassas. As “captain of a blockade runner, Usina made several harrowing escapes, always managing to avoid capture on his many successful missions” to supply the southern cause with food and war material.

Hispanics in the Civil War: Part 1

“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” So the Civil War’s most famous Hispanic, Rear Admiral and fleet commander David Farragut, shouted through a trumpet from his flagship after one of his ships struck a tethered naval mine, known as torpedoes, and sank during his greatest victory – the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. The son of a Spanish father, a Minorcan immigrant from the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, and an American mother, Farragut, raised in Tennessee and New Orleans, began his naval career at the age of nine. He served in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and was 60 when the Civil War erupted in April 1861. Though he lived in Virginia at the time, he remained loyal to the Union. Farragut won fame for commanding the successful naval expedition against New Orleans, which reestablished Union access to the Mississippi River Valley. The U.S. Navy rewarded Farragut with the newly established rank of vice admiral. His success in taking Mobile Bay, the Confederacy’s last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico, led to his being promoted to full admiral on July 25, 1866, a rank the Navy again created especially for this national hero.

A 144-year railroad story

By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
A steam locomotive decorated with willow boughs pulled three flatcars fitted with chairs for dignitaries across the new Illinois River bridge on March 1, 1870. The first official train had arrived in Beardstown on the Rockford, Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad.

Obamacare as a political tool

On May 9, I wrote that President Obama showed more interest in domestic policy than foreign affairs. That his hallmark and legacy depended upon “his domestic revolution to create a permanent progressive majority based on an entitlement based economy beholden to him and his successors. He has placed all his eggs in the basket of the Democratic Party becoming the perpetual landing site for immigrants, minorities, women, young people, and older Americans dependent on Social Security and Medicare. I waver about including Medicaid recipients in the permanent Democratic majority stew – hesitant because statistics show they are less likely to trudge to the polls and vote.” I no longer waver. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, is a not so subtle attempt to add this increased constituency to the pot.

In search of a Columbia scapegoat

When a disaster occurs, there seems to be an irresistible urge to lay blame at someone’s door, and so it was with the sinking of the steamboat Columbia that claimed 87 lives.

Is Obamacare the Answer?

As of October 12, the Republican-controlled House has voted 46 times to repeal, defund or dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), which President Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010. Since that date, the House has spent 15 percent of its time on the floor waging war against it. Supporters call it a good start that can be amended later as necessary. Republicans in both houses of Congress continue their unrelenting opposition through legislative tactics aimed to delay or prevent the ACA from being applied, funded, or even revised. However, according to Arnold Relman, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, President Obama may have fatally compromised his so-called legacy legislation by the deals he cut with the “private insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical industries to get their support, particularly the sacrifice of a ‘public option’ – insurance the government would sell if private companies refused or their plans were seen as excessively expensive. They (liberal critics of ACA) believe it will ultimately fail because it does not basically change our dysfunctional system. It expands and improves private insurance coverage, but provides no effective controls of rising costs and no significant change in the way medical care is delivered. Many of the critics think we need major reform that replaces private insurance and employment-based coverage with a publicly funded single-payer system.”

Steamboat Columbia begins a deadly trip

With her brother John in tow, 18-year-old Lucille Bruder ran through the streets of Pekin to catch the steamboat Columbia.
Friday, July 5, 1918, had been a perfect summer day and for a few hundred folks from Kingston Mines and Pekin, the evening promised to be even better. An excursion aboard the Columbia would be the big event of the year for the South Side Social Club of Pekin.

“Making a Home in a Company Town”

At MacMurray College on October 2, Dr. Faranak Miraftab, professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discussed her new book, to be published next year, about Cargill’s impact on Beardstown. She talked about the economic impact of the company, employing approximately 2,500 workers, via wages, property taxes, new and sustained businesses and increased real estate sales and values. But her central focus concerned the labor force: How “a multinational corporation recruited Hispanic and African workers to a Midwestern rural town that was previously all-white. How do local and global, transnational and trans-local practices and processes shape the global mobility of a migrant labor force?”

Historical myth-busting

Over the decades, H.J. Heinz boasted of its “57 Varieties,” and everyone assumed they offered all 57.
In fact, in 1896, company founder H.J. Heinz spotted a shoe store advertisement that declared it offered “21 Styles.” As it happened, Heinz was looking for a slogan and that shoe store ad was all the inspiration he needed. Though his company had more than 60 varieties at that time, Heinz decided to use “57 Varieties” for one simple reason – he liked the way it looked in print. In case you are wondering, Heinz now has more than 3,000 varieties.

When a historical fact isn’t

Everyone knows that Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin stove, and everyone is wrong.
This is just one example of the many things we accept as historical truths, but are in fact, erroneous.
Many a young student will tell you that Marco Polo was the first European to visit China. This mistaken notion springs from Polo’s popular book, “Description of the World” (now called “The Travels of Marco Polo”).