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Facts in Five

Memorial Day by the numbers:

  • The roots of Memorial Day can be traced to Athens and the Funeral Oration of Pericles–  honor those who have fallen, follow their example of citizenship
  • The commemoration was originally made by the Grand Army of the Republic as Decoration Day-  flags were to be placed on all the graves of fallen Union soldiers
  • The first Decoration Day was celebrated by 27 states in 1868
  • By 1890, every state in the Union observed the holiday in some way… it was not a Federal holiday until 1971
  • The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1922. 
Remeber

remember

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America’s Best Legislators

Americans seem obsessed with the idea… of ideologically pure lawmakers.  Officials elected to go to Washington and fight the very process of legislating for the sake of political purity that has never existed.  The 112th Congress has achieved a level of infamy not seen since the indolence of the 80th in 1947.  Legislating is a messy process built upon compromise (often compared to sausage making.)  Successful legislators find the balance between what Americans need and what they will tolerate.  Compare our current crop, Boehner, Cantor, Reid, Kyl– with our very best:

 

5.  Tip O’Neill– A Liberal Democrat able to survive the Reagan Revolution, O’Neill was a master deal-maker.  Reagan and O’Neill were at odds over every major issue of the day, but they were able to keep the government running throughout the 1980’s.  Reagan’s budgets included the social spending the Democrats demanded and O’Neill secured the defense increases Republicans pressed heavily for.  The two men forged an unlikely friendship amidst their budgetary battles.

Tipper and the Gipper

 

4.  James Madison– It is easy to forget Madison’s career as a legislator, being the Father of the Constitution and all.  Madison was the consummate pragmatist, willing to compromise when he believed the measure would build an enduring alliance.  His coalition building forced the original states to give up western claims allowing the territories to form.  He guided the Bill of Rights through the first Congress and built the foundation for the judiciary.  Madison distinguished himself despite life long ill-health and jealous rivals like Patrick Henry (who did all he could to deny Madison a seat in the first Congress.)

3.  Sam Rayburn– The picture of longevity and ethics, Rayburn served in the House from 1913-1961 and never once accepted government money for personal expenses.  Rayburn fought for programs he believed in, regardless of their party of origin.  He battled for the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt as well as the federal highway projects of Eisenhower.  Rayburn set a powerful example for a generation of lawmakers (see #2.)

Johnson, Truman, Garner, Rayburn enjoy a laugh

 

2. Lyndon B. Johnson– There has never been an arm-twister like LBJ.  Many historians consider him the most effective Majority Leader in the history of the Senate.  Central to his ability was intelligence; Johnson would learn as much as he could about the Senator(s) who needed persuading.  With information in hand, he proceeded with the “Johnson treatment” and few could resist.   LBJ brought these skills to the oval office, first passing the Kennedy agenda (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964) in just under 100 days.  Later, he pushed the Great Societythrough a reluctant Congress.

“I will have your support.”

 

1.  Henry Clay– Andrew Jackson’s name is given to the era, but Clay was the essential American political leader.  Clay transformed Speaker of the House from  a ceremonial to  a political position.  He used his influence to push his American System  that stabilized the country after the War of 1812.  Clay brokered  the Missouri Compromise which saved the Republic from collapse in 1820.  The Nullification Crisis of 1831 was averted through Clay’s efforts.  Clay again forestalled disunion in 1850 through another compromise.  Far from perpetuating slavery, Clay’s efforts allowed essential social movements and political debate to occur.  Had the Republic collapsed during his lifetime, the changes brought on by the Civil War might never have happened.

Essential American

 

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The Johnson Treatment at Work

LBJ worked closely with civil rights leaders… despite attempts of late to portray him as a vile racist.  The Johnson treatment always started with a cause Johnson cared deeply about. More than Kennedy imagined, his successor pressed for equal rights- forcing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in less than 100 days.

Consulting with MLK in 1964

Consulting with MLK in 1964

 

Johnson always kept his house in order… Arguably the most powerful and effective Majority leader in the history of the US Senate, no one rallied the troops like LBJ.

Schooling the Jr. Senator from Massachucetts in 1957

Schooling the Jr. Senator from Massachusetts in 1957

 

Twisting arms was sport to Johnson… and he never shied away from confrontation.  His battles with conservative Southern Democrats were some of the nastiest in the political records- LBJ usually got his way….

Crushing civil rights opponent Richard Russell of Georgia.

Crushing civil rights opponent Richard Russell of Georgia.

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Brief History Lesson for Our Leader

Donald Trump continues to display a disturbing ignorance of American history…  A recent interview with a friendly reporter on Sirius Radio gave President Trump the opportunity to question the necessity of the Civil War.

Confederates in the attic

“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Look how far we’ve fallen

Slavery, Mr. President–  The Rebellious states started the war, Lincoln finished it…. It would be no surprise if Trump’s understanding of Civil War history came from an academic huckster like Tom DiLorenzo.   Clearly, Trump is pandering to his ultra-right wing, states rights base.

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Ramblings of an Antiquated Mind

Who has the best words?

  • Strange we hold a television news host to a tougher standard than our President
  • The most dangerous thing about Trump is his lack of the most basic knowledge about every pertinent policy issue facing this country today 
  • Trump knows very little about history- his discovery of Lincoln’s membership in the Republican party was both sad and amusing 
  • The world is perilously close to war, Trump thought it important to hangout with The Nuge…
  • Cultural appropriation and cultural relativism always seem to be utilized by the same people
  • Free speech should avoid college campuses
  • Remember when safe spaces were in parking lots?
  • Civil War history is under attack in this country- we should all be alarmed
  • We cannot erase our history to satisfy the convenience of political correctness
  • Charlottesville’s decision to “sell”  Lee’s monument is farce 
  • The Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s decision  to call a renovated room in Monticello “Sally’s Quarters”, based on conjecture and innuendo is farce 
  • Betsy DeVos is giving school choice a bad name
  • It’s only a matter of time before social justice warriors begin protesting Confederate Civil War reenactors

The Marble Model for sale

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Study Computers in College!

History majors face a difficult job market… according to a new study.  Only architecture majors fared worse statistically.  History majors face an unemployment rate of over 15% with little hope of improvement.  Because of stringent teaching requirements in most states, a history degree cannot lead to a career in education.  A history degree seems to condemn the recipient to more schooling and more debt.

A history degree ??

The remedy is a simple one… avoid history classes in college.  Studying engineering and computers will provide the most opportunities after college.  It appears as if the national drive to strengthen science and math education has paid off handsomely.  Dot.com executives dominate the Fortune 500 and even entry level technology work pays handsomely when compared to what is available in the liberal arts.  There’s nothing cooler than hip, young tech industry executives soaking up everything gentrified neighborhoods have to offer.  But has all this effort come at a price?  Will our education system continue to turn its back on the liberal arts?

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Throwing Stones Through Conception Windows

At the center of the Jefferson/Hemings controversy... is the contention that Thomas Jefferson was in residence at Monticello 9 months prior to the births of Sally Hemings’s  four surviving children.  These ‘conception windows’ now serve as one of the three legs of the case for Jefferson’s paternity(along with the inconclusive DNA and inconsistent oral history.)

Behind closed doors?

Behind closed doors?

Fraser Neiman’s 2000 analysis... published in William and Mary Quarterly seemed to be just the type of evidence the paternity advocates wanted, the proverbial smoking gun.  Jefferson was at Monticello when Hemings conceived her children– case closed.  This is just the kind of scholarship that sells books, but at the same time,  assails history.  When it comes to the Jefferson/Hemings controversy, minds were made up before the DNA results, Annette Gordon-Reed’s revisionism, and Neiman’s loosely connected dots…whatever circumstantial evidence produced is now seen as definitive– scholarship be damned.

Be true, keep it real

Be true, keep it real

  • Neiman bases his assumptions solely on recorded birth dates in Jefferson’s Farm Book.  Jefferson was not present for all the births and there is no way of knowing when he recorded the events.
  • The conception windows are established by Neiman counting backward 267 days- a full term pregnancy.  There is no proof Sally Hemings carried all her children to term. It seems unlikely that a woman in the 19th century would have six full term pregnancies.
  • Jefferson was present at Monticello for  long stretches where Hemings did not give birth.  Neiman implies throughout his study that Jefferson’s visits consisted of sexual liaisons. Jefferson was at Monticello for nearly two years before the birth of Harriet Hemings(there were two Harriets)  in January 1795.   There are three year gaps between two of her births- Jefferson’s visits to Monticello did not result in a Hemings pregnancy.
  • Beverly Hemings’s conception date was set prior to July 8, 1797- yet Jefferson doesn’t arrive at Monticello until July 11.  Neiman cleverly fudges the numbers in this case.
  • Hemings’s next birth was not discovered in the Farm Book, but in a letter to Jefferson’s son-in-law, John Wayles Eppes.  Jefferson relates the birth  to “Maria’s maid.”  Maria was not living at Monticello during this time (Spring of 1799.)  Sally Hemings’s residence at Monticello is never firmly established.
  • Harriet Hemings was born in May of 1801, shortly after Jefferson became President.  Evidence suggests he was in the Charlottesville area during the conception window, but also reveals he was rarely at Monticello during the crucial period of August-September 1800.
  • Madison Hemings(one of the original sources in the oral history) was conceived during April of 1804.  Neiman wants us to believe that Jefferson did this during the final days of his daughter Maria’s life(she died April 17) and her funeral–with large number of extended family present.
  • There is evidence Sally Hemings worked outside the Monticello community.  When Martha Jefferson Randolph  informed her father of Harriet Hemings’s death, she wrote the letter from her home at Bellmont.  Jefferson referred to “Polly’s maid” giving birth in 1799.  If Sally was Martha’s maid at this time- they were not living at Monticello.
  • Sally Hemings conceived her last child, Eston, when Jefferson was 64 years old.  Jefferson took up permanent residence at Monticello in 1809- Sally Hemings stopped having children.  She was 35 at that time.  Wouldn’t Jefferson’s presence mean more births?

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