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Flags and Flags

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Do you remember this from grade school, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America – one nation, indivisible, under god, with liberty and justice for all?” From the time I started Grammar School in 1946 until I graduated in 1958 this pledge started the school day, and was also included in weekly assemblies where it was recited by the entire student body of Sandersville High School. The stars and stripes again played a significant part in my life when in 1963 as a newly commissioned Second Lt. of Engineers, I pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States.

As a privileged southern white child of the 1960s in the midst of the turmoil regarding the Vietnam war, school and college intergradation, I had received an excellent education in Georgia’s segregated school system. My class produced a number of doctors, lawyers, career military officers and the present Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, who was on the debate team with me. As I later discovered, my same-age black contemporaries also received an education, but not the equivalent of mine. It was during this era that the Confederate battle flag was resurrected throughout the South as a symbol of  resistance to the imposition of Federal intergradation statues. It became incorporated as part of Georgia’s state flag, and it was during this era of resistance to the Federal Government that it was flown on the statehouse grounds in South Carolina.

I have a deep reverence for the Confederate Battle Flag as a banner under which my ancestors, as men and boys, fought for the rights of individual states to chart their own paths to economic development which included, but was not exclusively about, the preservation of slavery. I asked myself, “Had I been alive during the 1850s and faced with the same economic circumstances, would I have owned and worked slaves?” I would have probably have used slave labor, as did everyone else. Would I have been better or worse at it than anyone else? I do not know. One does not really know how one would react to any given situation until you has been placed in it.    This is the “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” concept, and not having had the opportunity, I don’t know what kind of  plantation owner I would have been.

We southerners of Scotch-Irish ancestry are an independent bunch who do not like to be dictated to.  The Confederate Battle Flag was transformed from a venerated relic held in a place of honor in memory of the sacrifices of our fallen ancestors who fought to preserve their homes and families into a popular symbol of rebellion against all authority. The use of this symbol  proliferated during the 1960s along with the rise of protest music, rock and roll and mass marches. It was carried as a symbol of rebellion and resistance by some, and denounced as a symbol of repression and brutality as the worst offences of the Jim Crow South and State-enforced segregation came to light.

Organizations with older roots, like the KKK and Sons of Confederate Veterans, had also employed the Confederate Battle Flag. The KKK was responsible for cross burnings, shootings, hangings and other acts in an attempt to intimidate the black population of the south. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, on the other hand, kept to their purpose of honoring the Confederate dead and their service. Not unexpectedly, they incorporated the battle flag in their logo as a universally recognized symbol of the Lost Cause and their logo later became an option for printing on vanity license plates in Georgia.

The horrific shootings of nine people in a historic black church in Columbia, South Carolina, by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who recorded a video of himself with the Confederate Battle Flag, brought renewed demands that flag be removed from the statehouse grounds. One of the those killed, State Senator The Rev. Daniel Simmons, was laid in state in the Capitol Building while the flag remained flying. A few days later, at the request of Gov. Nikki Haley, the state legislature voted to remove the flag. These actions were widely publicized and garnered more than a month’s nearly continuous news coverage. Mass market retail stores that had sold images of the battle flag printed on towels, T-shirts, coffee mugs and almost anything else imaginable, removed these items from their shelves.

Emboldened by their success with having the battle flag removed from the statehouse grounds, a number of other calls have arisen to remove all  the Confederate monuments from cities across the South and even to obliterate the  carvings on Georgia’s Stone Mountain.   These monuments were largely paid for by money raised by the widows, sons and daughters of the fallen along with collections from the survivors of the units that had fought in battles like Gettysburg, the siege of Vicksburg and the battle of Atlanta. Once these survivors marched shoulder-to-shoulder on Confederate Memorial Day through the cities of the south. Death had taken  its toll, and none remain to defend their honor and comrades.

Like the monuments or not, agree with what you suppose they fought for or not, these monuments are part of the history of  these United States. While it is desirable to debate the continuing legacy of the Civil War and to seek a better understanding of our shared history,  these monuments are a part of that history and should be respected.  So far as the battle flag itself is concerned, I agree that it should not now be flown on statehouse grounds or incorporated in state flags, but its use with other displays of Confederate flags in museums and on battle grounds should be continued. The attempt to hide this flag from all view is an overreaction. I never did particularly like to see the battle flag on  T-Shirts and coffee cups, but it should be available on these products for those who want them.

I live and served under one flag and received the Distinguished Service Metal and a letter of commendation from the Governor of Alaska for my service. My ancestors fought during the Revolutionary War and under the Confederate banner during the Civil War. When I die the flag of the United States will be placed on my coffin. While I live I will honor them both.

 

 

 

Written by hoveysmith

July 20, 2015 at 8:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Closer Look at Ethanol Production from Corn as a Gasoline Extender

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Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.'s ethanol plant near York, Nebraska.

Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.’s ethanol plant near York, Nebraska.

In past decades the mix of products being used in U.S. gasoline engines has undergone considerable change with ethanol-blended gasoline becoming the norm. The oil-gas-fuel supply mix is still in flux with the production of now abundant oil and gas from shale-oil production in the U.S. and lower oil prices worldwide. While good from the U.S. balance of payments and energy security points of view, this shale oil and Canadian tar-sand production comes at increasing environmental costs.  With present, although perhaps temporary, relatively inexpensive oil, do we still need to use corn-produced alcohol to extend our national fuel supply? Is this corn better diverted towards use as human food, rather than now being dominantly used as animal feed and ethanol production? It is commonly argued that all of this is feed corn, as if corn good enough to be fed to livestock is unsuitable for human use. This argument does not hold water. If it is safe to feed to our livestock, we human’s can eat it too, although likely as more traditionally ground products as in corn meal, grits, corn flour and the like, rather than as boiled sweet corn. If you wanted to grow a more palatable corn strain on the same land, there is no logical reason not to do so. In the southeast since pre-Colonial times we have been a corn-consuming culture and have historically consumed many forms of this plant over the centuries. Whether hand ground between two rocks or produced in the most modern plants available, these corns are editable products and their use is more based on fashion and advertising than their real utility as human food. After the Energy Crisis had somewhat abated about 10 years ago, environmentalist debated the economic/environmental impact of corn production for use as fuel stocks. While the issue is still argued today and can change depending on the price of oil at the moment, the general opinion came down to be about a wash. That is considering the energy costs of producing corn and converting it to alcohol and the consequential depletion of ground water and environmental problems caused by agricultural run-off,  the total cash and environmental costs of producing ethanol was about equal to the benefits gained by its use.  Even at the time ethanol production from corn was considered as a stop-gap measure, until more energy/environmentally friendly methods of bio-fuel production could be developed. Political factors figured strongly in the argument with politicians from the corn-producing states strongly pressing their case that ethanol should remain a part of the U.S.’s gasoline formulation which effectively supports corn prices and keeps their voters and agribusiness supporters happy. These bills passed, and they would be very difficult to reverse. Technological advances have resulted in both increased yields from the land that is planted and the developments of ethanol producing plants that are based on  breaking down cellulosic fibers in grasses, stems and woods. No new corn-based ethanol producing plants are being built. New ethanol plants are based on using cellulose which may even be derived from municipal city waste as well as stems remaining from harvesting agricultural crops or even grass clippings. Because of the increased bulk of these grassy and woody feedstocks, the cellulose plants are typically smaller and located close to their sources of raw materials. They have the additional advantage that they are energy producers, as a byproduct of the process, lignin, is used to meet the plant’s energy needs and often generates a surplus of electricity to sell back to the power grid.

Taking a look at a corn-based ethanol plant

Although I have toured several  distilleries  in the Southeastern U.S., my first opportunity to visit an industrial-production ethanol plant was when I was in Seward, Nebraska, to cover their 4th of July festivities which usually draws about 30,000 people. While scouting the area for my story, I found Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.’s ethanol plant on U.S. 31, about 40 miles west of Seward near York. At a glance, the plant had the appearence of an oil refinery, but was much smaller than those I was accustomed to seeing in Texas. I correctly assumed that this was an ethanol-producing plant, and asked Plant Manager Mitch Stuhr, if I could get a tour. He politely referred me to a company spokesman in Washington D.C., and facilitated an exchange of E-mails. This was not as warm a reception as I received when I joined tourists to be escorted through the Jack Daniel and George Dickel distilleries in Tennessee.

George Dickel Distillery, Cascade Hollow, Tennessee.

George Dickel Distillery, Cascade Hollow, Tennessee.

Background information released by the company spokesman revealed that the plant was owned by a Spanish company that was chartered in 1941 that is presently ranked at about fifth in the U.S. in ethanol production. The York plant is a medium-sized corn-ethanol facility with a production of about 55,000,000 gallons a year. Since its start in 1994, it has shipped ethanol, distillers’ grain for animal feed, an oil extract used as a bio-fuel component and captured the carbon dioxide resulting from fermentation. The ethanol production is 99.9 percent alcohol to which gasoline is added to satisfy the Federal requirement that this commercial chemical product could not be utilized for human consumption. This denatured alcohol has been predominantly shipped in railroad tank cars.  Although it will burn, it is much less dangerous than shale oil because of the alcohol’s decreased volatility.  The York plant does have a distiller’s license, but has not sold products into this market for over a decade. Unlike distillers in Tennessee, the York plant does not give out free samples, although I could use a gallon or so to make Cherry Bounce from the fruit from my native black cherry trees.

The over 230 alcohol-producing plants throughout the country are committed to maintain as green a footprint as possible. Process waters are cleaned and recycled in nearly closed systems to reduce the amount of water required and return what little discharge there is to the environment in as clean a state as possible. Being involved as a component in the world’s energy production, the plants themselves are engineered to have as small an energy demand on the environment as possible and some cellulose plants even produce excess electricity that can go back into the national grid.

Do we still need ethanol produced from corn?

The realistic answer to this question is whether the particular economics of the moment can practically demonstrate this need or not, the U.S. is fairly well stuck with corn ethanol production for the next two decades, or until the present production facilities wear out. When they become too costly to maintain vs. product profit margin, they will be shut down, as would any industrial facility. If there are any parallels from the oil industry, there are some dangerously ancient oil refineries that are still going strong which were constructed in the 1950s. The industry trend would be to decrease the relative amounts of corn-based ethanol in favor of cellulose-produced ethanol over the next half century. The amount of ethanol produced from all sources will be driven by the usage of gasoline-based internal combustion engines in vehicles and small motors.  Gasoline engines of all sizes will be under increased competition from electric cars, non-gasoline engines, hydrogen-powered cars,  or fuel-cell vehicles or technologies that have yet to be developed. Significant inroads into the gasoline engine market have been made by more efficient Diesel engines and to a lesser extent by propane and natural gas powered internal-combustion engines. Although receiving a lot of media attention, electric and hybrid vehicle sales have plummeted due to lower prices for gasoline and their relatively expensive initial costs, even with subsidies. The future is murky, but gasoline and alcohol-supplemented gasolines would appear to still be in the world’s future for some decades to come.

From feeding cars to feeding people 

The push towards higher yields to supply ethanol needs is a positive gain that can be largely transferred to the production of  corn for human consumption. These gains added to reduced corn-ethanol demand will make more corn available on the world market to help meet the needs of a growing population. Some critical points are if this production increase can be maintained while simultaneously seeking to control the run-offs of excess nutrients into the nation’s rivers, eliminating the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and retaining the productivity of nation’s soils.  Balancing all of these demands is possible, but creates real challenges for the present and future generations.

Seward, Nebraska’s 4th of July

If you are curious about what I was doing in Seward, Nebraska, you can read the previous post on this blog or Google “Hovey Seward Video” and this will bring up four videos from which to select. These are  Explosive Guerrilla Marketing, my 30-min. stage performance at the Band Shell, an 8-minute preview of the performance, and an overview of the events and parade that took place on the town square.

Written by hoveysmith

July 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Social Media’s Exposure of Small Town America – Seward, Nebraska’s 4th of July

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If you are a small town and you want increased national and international exposure of your community, social media offers an infinite number of low-costs opportunities.

If you are a small town and you want increased national and international exposure of your community, social media offers an infinite number of low-costs opportunities.

Many of America’ small towns are county seats that have an annual community celebration. In the case of Seward, Nebraska, they are the State’s official 4th of July City, and have an annual event on the 4th that draws between 25-30,0000 participants from nearby Lincoln, the state capitol, and surrounding communities. This is also the homecoming day for their High School graduates, out-of-state relatives and anyone who wants to participate in a typical small-town festival.

Most commonly media coverage of such events consist of a good spread in the local newspaper, a reporter sent to cover the event from the nearest regional newspaper and perhaps a radio and TV broadcaster from local stations. All this coverage is fine, but does not have much lasting power. On the other hand, free social media such as YouTube video, PodCast radio, blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook offer national and even international exposure for locally produced content.

Seward County Court House.

Seward County Court House.

My introduction to Seward County came when I had to do community service following a traffic stop on nearby Interstate 80 while on my way back from an Idaho hunt.  I discharged this obligation with a video and radio show on Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures. I was charged with having an unlicensed concealed handgun in my vehicle because my Georgia carry license had lapsed. After having successfully completed all of my requirements regarding this event, I was informed that I could reclaim my gun at a State Patrol facility in Lincoln. I arranged to pick the pistol  following my receiving a prize from the Outdoor Writers Association of America in Knoxville,  which put me near Seward in time to cover their 4th of July event.

I contacted the festival organizers with an offer to do an outdoor comedy show to be followed by brief presentation on how to start a million or billion dollar business in small-town America. I also

Author in costume for book signing.

Author in costume for book signing.

arranged for a book signing at Chapters  Books and Gifts on the town square. The larger news outlets had more profitable markets and gave relatively scant attention to the goings-on in nearby Seward. In sharp contrast, I was there from dawn to dusk on the 4th, but actually started my coverage two days before by taking set-up photos and doing interviews. I even went to nearby York and arranged to do a story about Abengoa Bioenergy Corp’s ethanol production plant. I also arranged a long interview on Small Town Business Development with Stephanie Croston of the Seward County Independent to run sometimes after the 4th. As I would be walking around town with Young Blunderbuss slung over my back, I informed the County Sheriff’s office and City Police about my activities. My unusual appearance with a white sodbuster straw hat, coveralls and blunderbuss was specifically designed to attract attention and work up potential spectators for my off-menu stage performance and advertised book signing.

Competing fire teams attempt to push the 25-gal. drum back to their opponent's engine.

Competing fire teams attempt to push the 25-gal. drum back to their opponent’s engine

Pre-parade events on the 4th that I and Young  Blunderbuss covered included the pancake, eggs and sausage breakfast at the VFW, Anvil Firing, Old Car Show, Crafts Fair, Fire Company Competition, Clogging, Pie Eating Contest and Bubble-Gum Blowing Contest. Simultaneous events were also taking place at the Civic Center and Fairgrounds that I did not attend. The observed presence of other media was scarce. There were some reporters/photographers from the Steward Independent and one TV reporter, and only one other recognizable media representative. If these events are going to receive much coverage on anything on more than local scale, it is apparent that local people are going to have to gather and report it.

I had an added complication by the time I did my stage show in that I discovered that I had lost my truck keys and had to make plans to get back to Lincoln and return to reclaim my truck. I was hot and a little flummoxed from these prior events, but, “The show must go on,” and it did. I have a preview of my show at: https://youtu.be/UGdFb9l0x-A and you can see the full 30-minute version on YouTube at:https://youtu.be/x6kNXvHyJ7w.

078Of considerably more interest to most people was that I did an additional video where I attempted to capture the  day’s events from the pancake breakfast to literally sleeping off the events of the day. This included still photos that I took the previous days, an interview with a local gallery owner, some bits of live footage of the more exciting events, and close-ups of the aftermath of a bearded contestant’s winning the bubble-gum blowing contest.

Want some bubble-gum? I am willing to share.

Thus far the count is three videos with exposure on Pinterest,, Facebook, Twitter and Google +. There will also be cross connections between this blog and YouTube. Although all of these were posted within the last three days, they have already received comments from people in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Although these videos contain ads for my books and services they should have also contained contact information from the Chamber of Commerce and Concordia University. I was unsuccessful in making contact with them although I made three attempts with Concordia and one with the Chamber.

With the pool of talent available at the High School or at Concordia there is no reason that this type of Media Blitz could not have been done in previous years or in the future as a low costs means of advertising the community, attracting businesses and new residents. Using four students pushing out social media content with input, and pay, provided by the Chamber of Commerce can go far towards advertising Seward as an attractive place to live and a viable location for new businesses at far less costs that hiring professional video production firms or public relations agents from Lincoln or Chicago.

I could return and do a more typical “Chamber of Commerce Video,” but this would costs $2,500 for similar coverage with more input about businesses and the Chamber, but the same can be provided with local talent for far less costs. Slick productions are not desired, as these look like ads and will be switched off as soon as they are identified. If these community ads tell people something that they need to know, are fun and have more than temporary usefulness they will go far towards advertising the community, particularly if there are hundreds of them. One video, presented once, will do little, but needs to be linked to follow-up and past activities, other forms of media, etc. In few words make the videos interesting, lively, smart and personal.

Written by hoveysmith

July 10, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized