To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted so as to be most useful, I should answer, “by restraining it to true facts and sound principles only.” Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, etc., but no details can be relied on. I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
Thomas Jefferson, from a letter to John Norvell, 1807
President Obama’s war in Libya, even if it is moral, prudent and legally authorized under international law by the Security Council, is plainly unconstitutional
Michael Lind lays out the case pretty well in today’s Salon article for why he thinks Obama’s order to assist in the UN action against Ghadafi is illegal. On the one hand I really believe it would be the height of hypocrisy for America to refuse to assist any movement of people living under an authoritarian regime to overthrow their oppressors when our very existence as a nation is the direct result of French assistance to us during our struggle against the English in our own War for Independence. It seems especially hypocritical considering the sheer volume of rhetoric we’ve thrown around for 40 years concerning democracy while silently propping up the very dictators we’re asked to remove now. But on the other hand, if the president doesn’t have the authority to order military actions (even if requested by allied UN nations and required by UN treaty obligations), then he doesn’t have it. If an act of Congress is required to authorize military action in support of a UN resolution under article 42 then Congress should be asked to authorize it. I understand the time-sensitive nature of the situation, and that swift action may have been required, but certainly there is always enough time to obey the law?
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The other night I was having a fantastic time with some friends after a barbeque and the subject of family history came up. I had pulled some old photographs off the walls and we were talking about this and that character in the photo and when someone asked the question, I realized I had no idea what year my grandfather had been born. “No problem”, I said, “I’ll just fire up the Mac and call up my website – I have this awesome software running that I share with the family with lists and graphs and everything, we’ll just look it up!” Seconds later I was staring at the screen wondering what had happened to my data. I couldn’t log into my own site and all my family data was inaccessible.
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Since I haven’t been moved to write very much of late, I have promoted last year’s Memorial Day article to first post for this year instead.
Memorial Day commemorates those US men and women who have DIED while in military service. It is not a day to honor those who served and lived (Veteran’s Day), or a day to remember those killed in attacks on civilians (9/11). It has been suggested by David Blight, professor at Yale that Memorial Day has its origins at a ceremony performed by former slaves in May, 1865 to honor UNION dead. During the day long ceremony, bodies were exhumed from mass graves at the old Washington Race Course (the racecourse had been turned into a prison camp during the Civil War) in Charleston, SC and re-interred properly. There may be no connection between this touching ceremony and the observance in Waterloo, NY the following year which is often credited as the first Decoration Day (so called because the graves of Union soldiers were decorated).
This first official observance was made by General John A. Logan which proclaimed in General Order No. 11 on May 5th, 1868 that the 30th of May would be observed as Decoration Day.
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
You may note that these three origins for Memorial Day all point to the decoration of the graves of Union soldiers. Not surprisingly, most of the southern states refused to celebrate it. Mississippi, which is the final resting place of a considerable number of union dead did observe it. Hardly surprising then, is the fact that some southern states celebrate a different date – known as Confederate Memorial Day (of course now days this holiday is celebrated in addition to Memorial Day proper). Celebrated on either the 4th Monday in April or on May 10th the day gives an official nod to the Confederate dead of the US Civil War in much the same fashion as the (subtly) Union-centric Memorial Day.
Over the years Americans have forgotten some of this old enmity and most ignore (or are ignorant of) the distinction between Union and Rebel forces on Memorial Day. The day became more commonly celebrated after World War II. The name “Memorial Day” was first used in 1888 but only made official in 1967 which also ensured the day’s longevity by moving it by law to create a three day weekend. There have been several attempts to move it back to its original date (the 30th) because the three day weekend “cheapens” the holiday, but such movements (understandably) haven’t met with very much success.
Great article in the NY Times magazine today examining the question of Christianity in education as the Texas State Board of Education weighs various petitions for modifying the curriculum. On the one hand arguments are made that the ‘separation’ clause has been misused to totally remove any discussion of religion as a motivation in the founding of the US, while on the other that Christian factions are attempting to rewrite history and cast the founders as Christian fundamentalists. Why should we care, it’s only Texas? Simple, schoolbooks get rewritten based on how this very populous state decides to portray American history.
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