Father of the Cell Phone

“An inventor is one who can see the applicability
of means to supply demand five years before it is
obvious to those skilled in the art.”
Reginald Fessenden

Our cell phones have the capability of a supercomputer. They can perform as a cell phone and instantly they are a computer, television, music playing device, camera, video camera, library, GPS, and a gaming system.

What I find interesting is that I use it less and less as a phone. My monthly cell phone bill shows zero actual phone minutes used and thousands of kilobytes used for data.

For example, at the DMV the other day, the line was hours long. So I pulled out my cell phone, and began reading a book from my OverDrive account.

When I looked around the long line of people, I noticed they too were engaged in cell phone activity. I began to wonder, how did cell phones first get started? So, I pulled up Google on my trusted cell phone.

The cell phone dates back to its early inception of the shore-to-ship radio telephony during the Second World War. The inventor, Reginald Fessenden probably never anticipated the huge impact he would have on society. An inveterate tinkerer, Fessenden eventually became the holder of more than 500 patents. His rendition of ‘O Holy Night‘ from a 1906 broadcast was the first coherent audio transmission to be received.

The telephony developed into mobile phones that were first used for automobiles in the 1940’s. The early mobile phones of the 1970’s to the 1990’s were bulky, consumed high power and the telephone network supported only a few simultaneous conversations. The first cell phone I used in 1993 could only be used in the car and was the size of a man’s size 12 shoe.

I wonder how Reginald Fessenden would react to the huge success of his invention? No doubt he would be proud. But, I bet he would of had no idea how far his inventions would take us and that he would become the father of the cell phone.

Shine On

Persistent Illusion

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction
between past, present and future is only
a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Albert Einstein

Shine On

Bernie Sanders Bundled Up

“When we stand together there is nothing,
nothing, nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Bernie Sanders

In my youth, I was never a fan of politics. Mostly because, I once worked for a Fortune 500 Corporation as their PAC Administrator. I experienced firsthand how major organizations dole out large sums of money to politicians they buy with their PAC funds. This job highly enlightened me to the true inner workings of politics.

My view of politicians changed dramatically, when in 1993 I saw Bernie Sanders, Independent Vermont Senator interviewed on CSPAN. I had never heard of Sanders before, but he caught my attention that day.  He was the first politician I ever saw who was honest and real, which is never two words that are used simultaneously when describing a political figure.

In the past several decades Sanders has never wavered in his viewpoint against wars, helping veterans, private health care options for veterans, improving our healthcare system and attempting to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Funny, how half of America despises the only politician who can’t be bought and never changes his moral values and conduct.

My late husband was a disabled Vietnam veteran. As a wife/caregiver, I always followed any and all news about veterans. Back in 2013, I was watching closely a Veterans Bill that was being turned down by both Democrats and Republicans.  At the time, Bernie Sanders was the chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee. Sanders was working tirelessly to get this bill passed. An important bill that would help all veterans.

Meanwhile, during the fight over the bill, national news broke that Veterans across the country were waiting months on end for appointments and the wait times were being hidden. Up to 40 veterans in Phoenix died while waiting for appointments. Hundreds never even got onto a list. And retaliation was the order of the day for those who tried to blow the whistle.

It turned out that nationwide, the VA was coping with the spike in demand by delaying appointments and treatment, manipulating schedules, falsifying records and possibly engaging in fraud. An interim report from the VA Inspector General on May 28, 2014 found it was taking an average 115 days for veterans in Phoenix to get primary care, as opposed to the 24 days shown on official records and 1,700 people seeking appointments were not on any list at all. The IG called the Phoenix problems systemic and said he had opened investigations at 42 VA health centers. On June 9, the VA reported that 57,000 veterans at its facilities were waiting more than 90 days for an appointment, and another 64,000 were not on a waiting list although they had sought care.

My husband and I were not surprised by the news reports concerning the deaths and wait times. We had experienced personally these same problems with the VA for years.

From the moment the scandal broke in April 2014, it took Congress less than four months to produce a new law, a split second by Capitol Hill standards. That it happened at all, and so fast, was a testament to the determination of Sanders and his partners to surmount the red-blue divide in American politics.

In the end, both votes were close to unanimous, a 420-5 in the House and 91-3 in the Senate. Obama signed the VA bill August 7, 2014. The new law, helped ensure that veterans have access to the care that they’ve earned.

Before this bill passed, my husband and I were stressed dealing with the VA and their lack of medical care. I would often wait hours on hold, get disconnected and worse yet, couldn’t get a needed doctor appointment for my husband. After the bill passed, I saw a dramatic improvement in the respect my husband received along with improved medical care and response times from the VA. The biggest improvement was the use of non-VA medical care my husband desperately required.

I truly believe, without Bernie Sanders determination to help veterans, the problems at VA medical facilities would have never improved and more deaths would have occurred.

Most people only know Sanders as that old crazy Independent Senator from Vermont who ran for president in 2016. But, that all changed when Bernie showed up at the 2021 Biden Inauguration dressed in casual attire wearing a heavy parka and hand-made wool mittens from a Sanders fan.

As of today, that image of Bernie bundled up has not only created countless memes and late night jokes, the senator seized on the opportunity to reprint the image on different products that he began selling on his website, Berniesanders.com the following day. The merchandise all sold out in less than 30 minutes, and Bernie has raised over $1.8 million for charities in his home state.

“Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need,” Sanders said in a written statement.

My son knows how much respect I have for Bernie Sanders, so this past week, he texted me a photo of a mural that a local artist created of Bernie.

I probably will never have the honor of meeting Mr. Sanders. So, being the die-hard Bernie fan that I am, I drove to Culver City and got the next best thing. A photo of this giant, magnificent fresco of my hero, Bernie Sanders bundled up.

Shine On

Native American Heritage

“Bias and prejudice are attitudes
to be kept in hand, not attitudes to be voided.”
Charles Curtis

Charles Curtis born on January 25, 1860
died on February 8, 1936

When Senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President last Wednesday, she made history as the first woman, first African American, and first person of South Asian heritage to become Vice President of the United States. But, she is not the first Vice President of color we’ve had to hold that office. That distinction belongs to Vice President Charles Curtis who was the first and only Native American Vice President sworn into office 92 years ago.

Prejudice against Native Americans was widespread at the time of the Curtis Vice Presidency. His climb to the office attests to his skillful navigation of the political system. It was also a story of how Native Americans viewed their communities and how they were forced to assimilate within a predominately white society and government.

Charles Curtis was born January 25, 1860, in Eugene, Kansas now known as North Topeka, Kansas. His white, Irish, English, Welch and Scots father was from a wealthy Topeka family while his mother was one-eighth each of Kansa Indian, of Osage Indian, of Potawatomi Indian. Curtis was a member of the Kaw Indian Nation which are a federally recognized Native American tribe in Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. They come from the central Midwestern United States. The Kaw tribe have also been known as the People of the South wind or People of water. Most of us don’t realize that the state of Kansas takes its name from the Kaw Indian people.

His mother died when he was just three years old and at the same time his father left to fight in the Civil War for the United States. Due to the lack of parental supervision, Curtis spent time living with both sets of grandparents and for eight years, he lived on the Kaw reservation where his first language was Kanza and French, he later learned English.

By 1873, the Kaw Nation, once millions of acres in area had dwindled to little more than a burial plot and the few 100 surviving Kaw members were being forcibly relocated South, which would become Oklahoma. The majority of the Kaw walked to their new locations which took about 17 days. During this relocation, a great many of the Kaw people got sick, contracted typhoid and even starved to death.

Thirteen year old Charles Curtis was expected to join the migration to Oklahoma but his Indian grandmother wanted what she believed was the best for her young grandson and commanded him to stay in Topeka with his white grandmother and to assimilate. Chances are, had Charles left Topeka for Oklahoma he may not have survived and we might never have heard of him.

Curtis learned to ride Indian ponies bareback and won a reputation as a “good and fearless rider.” His grandfather William Curtis had built a race track, and Charles rode in his first race. He soon became a full-fledged jockey and continued to ride until 1876. A fellow jockey described Curtis as “rather short and wiry” and “just another brush boy jockey,” explaining that eastern riders “called us brush boys because we rode in what would be called the sticks.”

As a winning jockey, Curtis was known throughout Kansas as “The Indian Boy.” His mounts made a lot of money for the local gamblers and prostitutes who bet on him, and he recalled that after one race a madam bought him “a new suit of clothes, boots, hat and all,” and had a new jockey suit made for him; others bought him candy and presents. “I had never been so petted in my life and I liked it,” Curtis reminisced.

After studying law and working for a Topeka attorney for several years, Curtis passed the Kansas bar exam in 1881 and was admitted to the bar. At 34 years old, he married Annie Elizabeth Baird on November 27, 1884. They had three children, Permelia Jeannette Curtis, Henry King Curtis, and Leona Virginia Curtis.

From 1885 to 1889 he was an attorney for Shawnee county in Topeka, Kansas.

His long political career began in 1893 to 1899, with a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives. He then served as a U.S. Senator from Kansas from 1907-13 and again from 1915-29.

During his political career, he served on numerous committees and authored many pieces of legislation. He was a staunch believer in laws and was quoted as saying, “If you don’t want the laws enforced, then don’t vote for me.” He understood that the federal policies he championed were conceived on the Indians’ behalf.

He was one of the early champions of women’s equal rights. Growing up in an Indian nation, he experienced how woman always had leadership roles and were often the backbone of the tribes. Senator Curtis proposed one of the first woman’s equal rights amendments in the country.

One of the largest pieces of legislation he brought forth was also one of the most controversial throughout Indian Country. Curtis devoted much of his attention to his service on the Committee on Indian Affairs, where he drafted the ‘Curtis Act’ in 1898.  Entitled, An Act for the Protection of the People of the Indian Territory and for Other Purposes, the Curtis Act actually overturned many treaty rights by allocating federal lands, abolishing tribal courts, and giving the Interior Department control over mineral leases on Indian lands.

The Act brought along allotments to the Five Civilized Tribes such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole who were previously exempt from the General Allotment Act of 1887.

The Curtis Act helped weaken and dissolve Indian Territory tribal governments by abolishing tribal courts and subjecting all persons in the territory to federal law. This meant that there could be no enforcement of tribal laws and that any tribal legislation passed after 1898 had to be approved by the President of the United States.

In 1900, after pushing through Congress legislation that provide for the further allotment of tribal lands in Indian Territory, Curtis wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock and proudly proclaimed, “I have done more to secure legislation for the Indian Territory than all others put together since the 54th Congress of 1896.”

Meanwhile, he and his wife had always provided a home in Topeka for his paternal sister Dolly Curtis. So, when his wife died of an undisclosed cause in 1924, Dolly took over the care of his home and later assisted him with his social calendar during his vice presidency.

Curtis sought the presidential nomination in 1928 and hoped a deadlocked convention would allow him to win as a dark horse candidate. However, Herbert Hoover won the nomination and then offered the VP nomination to Curtis, hoping that the senator from Kansas would balance the ticket and help Hoover overcome his unpopularity in farm states.

Truth be told, Charles Curtis had wanted to be President, but the rest of the nominating committee didn’t agree. He was on the first ballot for the presidency but did not have enough ballots, so he agreed to run as the Vice President instead for Herbert Hoover. Hoover easily won the presidential election with a margin of more than six million votes.

With the election of Hoover-Curtis, there were several firsts in the White House. One was that Curtis became the first unmarried Vice President during his entire time in office as well as the first Native American.  Another first was, Curtis arranged for a Native American jazz band to perform at the 1929 Presidential Inauguration.

The Hoover and Curtis association was one of political convenience, and prolonged hard feelings from their controversial battle for the 1928 nomination did little to promote a functional relationship. As VP, he was rarely consulted and had a distant relationship with Hoover. Curtis attended a few cabinet meetings, but as a whole did not significantly affect policy during his tenure.

Four years later, after the start of the 1929 Great Depression, the Hoover-Curtis ticket was badly defeated by the Democratic candidates, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Nance Garner. Voters felt that both Hoover and Curtis had caused the depression, so the people voted for another Presidential team.

After losing the 1932 election, Curtis retired from public life and practiced law in Washington, D.C.  He died of a heart attack at age 76, in the morning hours, alone at home on February 8, 1936.

Many Native Americans today say a great deal of Curtis’ policies were a disaster for their nations. Although Curtis tried his best for his Native people, he was concerned with issues like the education and health of Native American people. At the time, Curtis truly believed he was helping his people. However, in his later years, it has been said he regretted in the end, being an assimilationist. If he were alive today, he would most likely see how his policies had a very negative effect on Native Americans.

Curtis never forgot his Indian heritage. His major concerns were always, Indian rights, farmer’s rights, women’s rights as well as children’s rights. These concerns stayed with him throughout his lifetime. The policies and issues he pursued for Native Americans in Congress and as Vice President changed the world for the better and for some the worst. Still, he will be remembered in a good way, as the first Vice President of Native American heritage.

Shine On