Book Review: Tales Of The Frontier Newsman

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

David Dary clearly had a mission when he penned “Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West,” his eighth book about America’s frontier heyday. The dean of the University of Oklahoma’s journalism school and descendant of two pioneer newsmen wanted to convince readers of the tremendous influence of newspapers during the United States’ westward expansion. He also wanted to condemn the politically correct, revisionist historians who have virtually ignored the role of Western newspapers as “catalysts for social change.”

Dary accomplished his mission — and then some. The former broadcast journalist managed to give unknown heroes of newspaperdom their rightful due and at the same time craft an entertaining tome for readers who could care less about “tramp printers” and the origins of the modern-day opinion column. “Red Blood and Black Ink” provides a glimpse of life in the Old West through the eyes of the men and women who recorded history as it happened, and it encourages nostalgia for a more adventurous time.

Dary’s delightful journalistic gems
The book is replete with newspaper clippings and reproductions of decades-old photographs. It also includes nearly 30 pages of appendices for readers who want the scoop on the printing business from the early 1800s into the first part of this century.


‘Universal Coverage’ To ‘Incremental Reform’

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

In September 1993, President Clinton outlined to a joint session of Congress what remains the largest and boldest social-policy initiative of his presidency. His plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system called for a mandate of insurance and a package of standard benefits for every American and a limit on the annual increase in insurance premiums. Had the proposal become law, today’s businesses would have been paying at least 80 percent of their employees’ health insurance premiums since Jan. 1.

Neither Clinton’s plan nor any like it survived the legislative grind, though, and Republicans ultimately regained control of Congress for the first time in four decades in part thanks to the electorate’s rejection of a sweeping health-care overhaul. But in the nearly five years since Clinton’s biggest domestic failure, the system has transformed rapidly. More Americans are uninsured, and far more of them receive their care through health maintenance organizations.

That change has alleviated some problems, chief among them the increase in health-care spending, which the Department of Health and Human Services said hit a 37-year low in 1996. But it also has triggered new problems and failed to solve some substantial old ones. An estimated 41 million Americans still have no health insurance, and HMOs have gained a reputation for being uncaring bureaucracies that restrict patients’ access to specialists and deny care for the most serious illnesses.

The weaknesses in the system once again have thrust health care to the forefront of national debate, and Congress, faced with an abbreviated legislative schedule and election-year pressures, now must decide how, or whether, to act. The one constant in the debate, the key question lawmakers must answer, seems to be this: How broad should federal control of health care be?

Transition to the ‘incremental approach’
The answer varies with the audience. HMOs, insurance executives, health-plan administrators and businessmen for the most part oppose government involvement. If given the chance, they say, the market will solve any shortcomings as the health system continues to change. Don White, a spokesman for the American Association of Health Plans, says more people have enrolled in HMOs because those groups have responded to public concerns. “We’re getting better at what we do,” he says.

But consumer groups and organizations like Families USA believe new government rules are necessary to curtail the number of “horror stories” of people who have been denied coverage when they need it most. Edward F. Howard, the executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform, recalls the criticisms of Clinton’s 1993 plan as he thinks about the current debate.

Stepping Gently On Monopolistic Toes

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

In early March, billionaire Bill Gates trekked to Capitol Hill to defend the business practices of Microsoft Corp., the computer giant he has created. Gates denied that the company’s Windows software illegally monopolizes the operating-system market and insisted that its domination is the result of superior quality and heavy investment.

Few senators on the powerful Judiciary Committee believed Gates, though. “All of us agree that Microsoft has a monopoly share,” said John Ashcroft (R-MO). And most seemed to support the antitrust investigation of Gates’ company launched by the Justice Department in 1997.

A little more than a month after Gates’ testimony, two other business giants — the banking conglomerate of Citicorp and insurance titan Travelers Group — announced what would be the nation’s largest corporate merger, totaling at least $70 billion. The news sparked nary a whisper in the halls of Congress about the dangers of monopoly. Instead, lawmakers who a week earlier had proclaimed as dead a banking reform bill that would allow mergers like the one proposed under the new Citigroup umbrella rejoiced at the prospect of resurrecting their legislation.

Two unrelated scenarios, one underlying message: When it comes to the regulation of monopolistic industries in America, Congress is unpredictable at best and schizophrenic at worst. But that reality is not a new one. Antitrust law has existed in all its ambiguity in the 100-plus years since enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 precisely because a nebulous statute is what lawmakers have desired.

The antitrust groundswell
The Grangers, an activist group of farmers, first called for a law targeted at monopolies in 1872, as the U.S. populace moved westward and the railroad industry led a burst of industrial expansion. The economic “panic” of the mid-1870s spurred the creation of even more “trusts” — a business practice used to consolidate an industry under single ownership or control. Bigger firms purchased the smaller, troubled ones, and those even larger, wealthier firms thrived all the more when the economy revived.

The Grangers in particular wanted Congress to regulate railroads, and lawmakers responded by creating the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 to do just that. Still, by the late 1880s, virtual monopolies existed in an array of industries: cotton, oil, sugar and whiskey. Outcries against the most egregious abuses, such as the collusion between Standard Oil Company and the railroad industry to quash John D. Rockefeller’s competitors in the oil-refining business, hastened broader congressional action.

Dear Dad: Let Me Walk For You

Originally published in the Prince William Journal, April 8, 1998
By K. Daniel Glover

The year is 1958, and Jack is in a strange place, far from the tiny West Virginia community he has called home for the first 20 years of his life. Everybody knew him there. Here, in Great Lakes, Ill., he is just another sailor wannabe lost in a boys club called the U.S. Navy.

Jack knew when he enlisted that life in the Navy would be difficult, but week five, what they call “service week,” truly has tested his mettle. Mornings in the chow hall start at 4 a.m. and last until after the evening meal for his company of about 60 men.

A high fever early in the week has sapped Jack of his energy. He doesn’t know what is wrong; he only knows he feels awful — like someone gave him a shot of morphine that has left him dazed. He is exhausted, but the fatigue is mysterious.

He is sure the weariness is unrelated to the rigors of basic training because he experienced it before, in high school. He didn’t understand it then, either. But there are no excuses in boot camp. Jack visits the sick bay and a military doctor immediately sends him back to the chow line.

Somehow he survives the week and joins his Navy buddies for a weekend trip to Milwaukee, the nearest major city.

Jack is my father, and he shared that story with me a few days ago when I quizzed him, 40 years after his boot-camp ordeals, about the inexplicable sensation that plagues him to this day. Thanks to an episode of double vision in one eye about 15 years ago, Dad now knows the cause of that fatigue is a nasty disease called multiple sclerosis.

Knowledge, however, has provided little comfort — either physical or emotional — to my father or the hundreds of thousands like him because modern medicine offers little relief from a neuromuscular disease that slowly ravages the body. There is no cure, and only a few drugs have proved effective in treating the symptoms.

The prognosis of MS patients has improved in recent years with the help of researchers worldwide. And in 10 days my wife and I will join dozens of other area residents in the annual MS Walk sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise money for more research and aid to local MS patients.

My interest in this cause obviously is personal, and I will be the first to admit that multiple sclerosis doesn’t touch as many lives as cancer or some other terrible afflictions. But I hope after hearing my father’s story that you will appreciate the impact of a disease unfamiliar to too many people.

The Tobacco Road Less Traveled

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

You know all is not right in tobacco country when a self-proclaimed “proud North Carolinian” like White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles takes to the podium, as he did at a luncheon this week, to condemn as a purveyor of “deadly products” an industry that is central to his home-state economy. Or when a long-time tobacco ally like Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-VA) exerts his congressional authority, as he did last December, to secure evidence of alleged deception by the tobacco industry and post it on the Internet for mass public consumption.

But these days, the unimaginable has become the commonplace in the tobacco wars. Tobacco companies and the health groups who once condemned them as “merchants of death” now walk hand in hand to Capitol Hill to appeal for a nearly $400 billion tobacco settlement. Tobacco-state lawmakers like Sens. Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) and Lauch Faircloth, (R-NC) who in times past would have worked to kill such a deal, now only seek protection for tobacco farmers and caps on attorneys’ fees.

And tobacco executives who in 1994 denied under oath the addictive nature of nicotine and dodged questions about the health risks of smoking now openly, albeit carefully, acknowledge the dangers inherent in the use of their products.

On the surface, the 100-year war to regulate one of America’s most profitable crops appears to be nearing its completion. Just beneath the surface, though, the animosity between smokers and nonsmokers that has festered for decades continues to boil, raising one nagging question: Will this war ever truly end?

A see-saw regulatory history
If history offers any clues, the answer to that question is a certain “no.” Although the tobacco industry has seemed invincible for much of the 20th century, its power has not always been so unassailable. In fact, the industry once faced a worse fate than it does today.

The government rage against tobacco has its roots in an effort launched at the state level in the 1890s. In 1892, the predecessors of modern-day anti-tobacco zealots petitioned Congress to ban cigarettes, but the Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases ruled that only states had the authority to act. That decision triggered a slate of statewide bans, beginning with an 1893 statute in Washington and extending to 15 states by 1909. The Supreme Court allowed the bans in a 1900 ruling upholding a Tennessee law.