Name Calling or Am I Really a Freak?

Based on a couple of things I have recently read, I am a freak, hate intellectuals and am just  downright ignorant. I may be even worse than that since those characterizations come from  just two sources. A brief elaboration on the intellectual  comment. Not only do I hate intellectuals  but I probably don’t  even want to associate   with them since there is no room for them in the Republican Party, or so says Chris Matthews. Oops,  I wasn’t supposed to mention his name. Should I  not quote him as saying that Rick Perry is  a clown?

I realize that politicians have to accept a certain level of name calling as part of the territory but I so wish that those in the media who make their living with their words, could describe a candidate or office holder without the use of epithets.  This applies to both ends of the spectrum  since both are guilty of using this tactic and I just cannot stand it. It reminds me of  one of my  #1 pet peeves, tearing down another to make oneself look good.

I could probably be  called lots of things but I am relatively  certain that freak is not one of them. That was the name applied to Rep Louie Gohmert just a few weeks ago. and it has been amplified with the word crazy among others. And, since I  like the  congressman, while not always agreeing with him, guess I am a freak by association.

So, is there a cure  for this political name calling?  I really doubt it since the practice is time-honored in American politics as far back as he days of George Washington. In fact, the names used to describe some of our  earlier presidents were generally far more creative than those used today.

In fact, if I hear another conservative  called  Nazi, I think I might have a fit. What makes  this epithet so abhorrent to me is the person using the name has got to know better, He or she has to know what Nazis did and i daresay that none of those so described have done things to equal those.

So, the next time  you see fit to “attack”  a politician, try to use an appropriate word.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling with Mr Madison

stippling engraving of James Madison, Presiden...

In what I deem to be a significant accomplishment, I finally managed, on the third try, to complete a bio of our fourth president. The book is entitled, The Fourth President- A Life of James Madison by Irving Brant. Here I was thinking that this 642 page tome, written in 1969, was a tough read. This book is actually drawn from Brant's 6 volume, 3000 + page work. Guess I got off easy.

As always seems to be the case, I came away fascinated with Madison himself and all that he achieved, but also with the entire cast of characters with whom he interacted. Perhaps foremost among would be first lady Dolley, she who saved Washington’s  famous portrait just before the White House was burned in the war of 1812. She  was often described as glamorous and  arguably one of the best of our  first ladies. Or, as Brant wrote, ” Madison’s marriage had given him an effective sidearm.”

So, how can one describe the man who was the “father of the Constitution,” Secretary of State for 8  perilous years and the only president who served when his country was invaded? Brant used 3000 pages and  I will use fewer words than that. That is always a real dilemma when reading about a president, particularly an accomplished one, although his average ranking among presidents{ from 1948-2000) comes in around 12th. He just seems worthy of more. I kinda like him above Jefferson myself. His relationship with Jefferson himself was quite  was intriguing. They were rather close, although Madison want Jefferson’s puppet as he was accused of being. Nor was Jefferson controlled by Madison when he was Secretary of State. It was said that Madison often rescued Jefferson from some of his worst ideas.

Madison was often pilloried in the press, by the Federalist opposition and by  a somewhat belligerent Congress. It was amusing to hear him described by some of the above as well as the representatives of foreign governments. He was simultaneously weak nad timid but power mad. He was beholden to France , no he was in league with Britain. He wants war, why doesn’t  he  want war?

This quote from page 674 of Brant’s book in some ways summed up Madison for me. This was during some of the worst times of the war.

For more than four days the 64 year-old President had spent up to 20 hours in the saddle. Accused of fleeing to safety, he had been with the army at its farthest point of advance, followed it to battle, was under fire and came back to Washington  ahead of the army after the debacle. He found the  White House, (and) the Capitol………… a mass of gaunt and blackened ruins.

It often appeared that lies and falsehoods spread during his day were actually not refuted for many, many years leading to a less than flattering opinion of one to who, we owe much.

As he wrote in 1834 near the end of his life, the following,  which he desired to be  published after his death. ” The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated.” A man small  in stature and  by no means physically  imposing, what he wrote and championed secures his place among the Founding Fathers.

April 30, 2011 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Breaking up is so hard………..

…….  so very hard to do. Compliments of Neil Sedaka  from  a number of years ago, we have an apt description of the departure of Rahm ( never let a crisis go to waste ) Emanuel. It was a little surprising to me to see that ole Rahm become a mite emotional during his farewell appearance. Perhaps that contributed to his historical faux pas in describing his soon to be former boss. His praise of Obama was borderline effusive  as he called  him “the toughest leader any country could ever ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Being  an ardent observer of political hyperbole I  was attracted to Emanuel’s statement. A brief examination ensues. Starting with part#2 I wonder where that places such historical crises as WWII, the Civil War, the real Great Depression and even such things as the war of 1812. Other presidents who have faced demonstrably tougher times? That would be a lengthy list. Let’s see, Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, James Madison, and possibly even Kennedy, Truman, etc, etc. But it was an emotional time, lots of  sorrow in the room so maybe we shouldn’t judge ole Rahm so harshly, should we? Oh, yeah, we should, since these are ways in which Obama refers to himself. He’s the most criticized, maligned president ever, blah, blah. I repeat from an earlier post. He needs to read just a little about Lincoln’s treatment in the media and by people within as well as outside his own party.

So, we now move from the era of  Rahm who heads to Chicago to become ethe next Richard Daley and we begin a new day with Rahm’s  successor, or at the latest his interim successor. His name is  Pete Rouse, or Mr Fix-It as Obama referred to him. Rouse has been on the Obama team for about 6 years since his then boss Tom Daschle was defeated for re-election in 2004. Mr Rouse is known as a savvy politician and not nearly so media friendly as Emanuel. Shucks, he seems to resemble  a prototypical Chicago pol, so he should fit in very well.

Just  a thought to consider, Emanuel announced his departure last week and today Gen James Jones, the president’s National Security Adviser said that he will be leaving. Do we have  a simple mid-term shuffling ( although it’s not mid-term) or something of  a rats jumping the ship situation?  Whichever is true it is quite fun to watch, is it not?

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Was A Very Good Year, But…

…only as one looks back with hindsight’s 20/20 vision. What was the year? 1776!  We date the very birth of our country from that year, focusing our attention primarily on the “doings” in June and early July that culminated in  Mr Jefferson’s finest work, although it was not his alone, the Declaration of Independence.

Quite a phrase that is, even 233 years and 9 months hence. But as David McCullough writes in his excellent book of the same name, 1776 was known maybe more for its failures than successes at least as far as  the Revolutionary War itself. He writes of the Battle of Brooklyn that was an American disaster, the retreat from Boston, a crushing defeat at Ft Washington and on it goes. Were it not for the near miraculous crossing of the Delaware and the victories at Trenton and Princeton, all could have been lost.

What fascinated me even more were the insights into George Washington, both good and bad. He was indeed highly thought of by his men and officers, but there were flaws. He was somewhat lacking in strategy and tactics, particularly in the early days. He showed several marked examples of poor judgment as well. But, perhaps the key as McCullough  writes, he never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up. In both his words and deeds, the concept keeps recurring, perseverance. As Nathaniel Greene so aptly foresaw,” he will be the deliverer of his own country.”

But perhaps for me this next showed Washington at his best and foreshadowed his attitude towards the presidency and the near hero worship status he was accorded. In late 1776, Congress gave him, for a period of six months, near dictatorial powers. A lesser man could have done irreparable damage to the  country while edifying himself above civil authority. In our time , in many countries, we have seen that very thing. But this was his response.

                   ” Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil obligations by this mark of their confidence, I shall constantly bear in mind that as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.”

The Father of his county indeed and a good example to follow.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Holiday that should be Bigger!!

Today is Presidents’ Day, a day set aside tat to honor/remember those 43 people who have held the highest office in the land. I guess technically it is more designed to honor Washington and Lincoln since their birthdays are close on the calendar. I think that it probably does neither of the above things very well, if at all.

It is  a federal holiday of course, so those of us who are postal workers take part. Schools seem to sorta use it or not, depending on the need for making up days lost to weather. ( I’m guessing most of them are using it today as  a school day.) Banks seem to go with an either or approach.

I know, we used to have a day for George and Abe but they were consolidated  when Martin Luther King, Jr day was added as  a federal holiday. Both of those actions were correct, I believe. I’m not advocating an extra holiday just a better use of this one. I remain convinced that our educational system does not  do well in educating its “charges” about our presidents. History, after all, is dull and boring, is it not? In our technologically advanced society, the greatest emphasis needs to be elsewhere.

I have been a big history fan for  a long time. However, I did not become  a fan until college. I have no great recollection of history teachers or subjects from public school, so the lack of emphasis is not  a recent occurrence. My college history professors undoubtedly “juiced” up the subject in ways until now unknown to me.

So, what better aspect of American history to know than the men who have served in the White House(all but Washington, of course). So, a number of years ago, I began my quest to read at least one each president. That has proven to be   a daunting  task, as I have observed before. The tally right now is at 21, which is almost half of the total. Te problem lies in the dearth of books about the less familiar guys. You probably know them little if any. There is Harrison(William Henry and Benjamin) , Hayes, Taylor, Fillmore, etc. Libraries, at least our size, have either nothing about them or books dating  of  50+ years old.

My mission continues ever so slowly and perhaps will one day be complete. I remain convinced that those who do not history are” doomed” to repeat it .  And  perhaps, just as telling, events  and actions in the current administration have a  historical precedent , sometimes deliberately.

I leave with this thought. President Obama’ s Oval Office desk is the same one used by Rutherford B  Hayes. It is known as the Resolute desk and was  a gift  from Great Britain. The desk was constructed  from the timbers of the British ship of the same name. To think that every president since Hayes ( except Johnson, Nixon and Ford) has used the desk is just a small example of the fascinating things we learn from our history.

Maybe you have no wish to read about all the presidents. Fine. I have a friend and fellow blogger who specializes in Washington and attempts to keep pace with new books that are still published. Maybe better than some of the  “fancy fiction”, huh?

February 15, 2010 Posted by | History, Literature | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A One Term President?

Just a few days ago, the president did an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC. She happens to be one of the very few media people who I will tolerate for any length of time. Anyway,  the president said something very interesting. He said that he would rather be a very good one term president than a mediocre two term president. ( Paging Jimmy Carter, at least on the one term part.)

Let’s look at that statement for a moment. First though, a bit of history. Other than the pious Palestinian from Plains, the one term club includes George H W Bush, Herbert Hover and Martin van Buren.  Other than Carter, all were denied a second term by economic issues. The panic of 1837 domed Van Buren as he evidently lacked a Rahm( never waste  a good crisis) Emanuel to get him through the situation.

The point, which Sawyer did not seem to address, is that no president steps down voluntarily when doing a good job or even a mediocre one. We just do not see voluntary retirements from the Oval Office. Perhaps George Washington  I  guess, who could have served for life had he been willing. So, what did he mean by his comment? Maybe it was  just for effect, along with a later statement that he will continue ” full bore” to tackle the tough issues.

Perhaps it is time for the president to heed the words of an Elvis Presley song-a little less talk , a little more action.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Forgotten Holiday

Wanted to get this out a little ahead of time. My far and away #1 candidate for the most forgotten holiday is Thanksgiving. Overwhelmed by the growth in Halloween preparation and paraphernalia on the one hand and the holiday shopping season on the other, the humble day of thanks has no chance. Perhaps it even should get a new name. Oh, how about Holiday Shopping Eve. Since the Friday afterwards is known as Black Friday and people must shop or else, it makes perfect sense. Rest up on Thursday, forget the big meal and hit the mall and Wal-Mart  ASAP.

In my family, I am sometimes indicted as one who “hates” holidays, modern-day Scrooge, if you will. But Thanksgiving, now that is one that I like. Can’t really eat as I once could, but that’s not  a problem. The food is just a backdrop, I think for the reconnecting with family that we wish were more commonplace.

I remember with great fondness songs like, “Come, Ye Thankful People Come and  “Over the river and through the wood”. If my memory does not totally fail me, we even sang some of those in elementary school. Not so sure that would happen today.

I know, I know all of the stories about the 1st Thanksgiving are not 100% accurate but there are elements from  that day that remain with us. The day itself has only been a federal holiday since 1941 and who knew what was going to happen in just a couple of weeks. obviously, there are stong religious  underpinnings but the day is much more secular now than religious. Wonder how long it has been since families actually started eating out  on Thanksgiving, have even done  that myself. Perhaps the pressure to create a culinary masterpiece has just become  too great. Here’s  a thought, it doesn’t have to be  a biiiggg deal meal to be a time for thanks. I will admit that Snoopy’s thanksgiving meal left  a bit to be desired though.

I understand that the First Family does not give Christmas gifts to their children and that’s ok. Hope they celebrate Thanksgiving though. And, if you need a little extra something for which to give  thanks, try this link, militaryfamiliespray. That could include those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ft Hood and… you get the picture.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Holidays | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three Who Pledged

The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads thusly: ” And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our scared honor” . Stirring words are they not and ones that should be read and pondered periodically, along with the remainder of the document.I suspect that most of us are woefully inadequate when pressed for knowledge of our declaration, much less those who wrote and signed it. Sure, we know of Jefferson and Franklin and Washington among others. But each of those 13 colonies had at least one and usually more than one representative.

For today, I want to briefly mention those from my home state of North Carolina. They were John Penn(who I had completely forgotten) William Hooper and Joseph Hewes.None of course was born in North Carolina. Penn came  from Virginia to Granville County, Hooper from Boston to Wilmington and Hewes from New Jersey to Edenton.

There is so much one could say but I just want to illuminate them a bit and help assure that they are not totally forgotten. Penn and Hooper were in their mid 30’s when they signed , with Hewes about 10 years older. None  lived very long afterwards. Hewes died first in 1779, Penn in 1788 and Hooper in 1790. One  can safely assume that  the rigors of the Revolution had to play a role in this. In fact, Hewes was serving the Department of Naval Affairs when he died .

Penn and Hooper were lawyers while Hewes was a wealthy merchant and  sponsor of one John Paul Jones. Hooper for his trouble was disowned by his father and barred from the practice of law. he also had property destroyed and barely escaped British capture.

There is not a wealth of information about them as after the revolution they really were not around to make a visible impact. But they were there at the beginning and for that, along 53  other men, we owe them much.

Joseph Hewes

Joseph Hewes

William Hooper

William Hooper

John Penn

John Penn

July 3, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Liberty Bell, Part Deux

We left the story of the bell hanging yesterday, although it actually hasn’t hung in quite a while. Sorry, just couldn’t resist. Anyway, moving forward. Anything as old as  the Liberty Bell ( 250+ years) is bound to have  a lot of trivia and a bit of hyperbole to it. And so it does.

Being a big fan of history( if I could have figured out how to make a living at it, I should have gone into the field after college) , I love all the stories and the names and dates associated therewith. As we said yesterday, the bell originated in London where it was cast by Whitechapel Foundry at a cost of  150 pounds, 13 shillings, 8 pence. This cost also included shipping and insurance.

Some 9 months later, a crack was discovered which apparently came from a sort of test ringing. Two workmen named Pass and  Stow were hired to repair the crack and also got their names on the bell. After their repair ( by adding copper) the bell’s sound apparently was a bit disappointing to those who heard it. Even so, it was hung in the statehouse steeple. But, a new bell  was ordered and it also sounded unsatisfactory. Bell#2 was hung  in a cupola on the statehouse roof and handled  the mundane ringing, while #1 bell rang only on special occasions. In fact, it soon began to be rung over every perceived English grievance, so much so, that in 1772, some complained about the noise. That sounds like a good 21st century move, huh? Little did they know that the bell would eventually be silenced. The beginning of the end can be dated from 1774 when the first problems were noted with the steeple.

In 1777, the bell was hidden lest the British capture it. On its journey it was guarded by a North Carolina colonel named Thomas Polk. When it returned, the discovery of even more deterioration in the steeple caused it to go into storage for 7 years.It was finally rehung 1n 1785 and rang 2 years later when the Constitution was ratified. Alas, it did not ring when the Declaration of Independence was first read. It also rang periodically on momentous occasions, particularly on the deaths of famous Americans.

This next is very interesting and I had no clue about it. In 1828, the decision was made to have a new bell cast by foundry owner John Wilbank. He was supposed to haul away the old bell, but did not. This being America, even then, a lawsuit ensued for Wilbank breaching his contract with the city of Philadelphia. He argues that the $400 value of the bell was less than his cost to dispose it. Calmer heads sort of prevailed and the judge crafted a cool compromise. The city would keep the bell and Wilbank paid court costs. The catch was that the Wilbank family felt they owned the bell and were “loaning” it to the city.Periodically members of the family agitated for it to be returned  but in a 1915  agreement agreed the city could keep it as long  as it stayed in Independence Hall. Of course, governments being what they are, the city moved it a block or so  and in 1984 almost lost it again.

In 1837, the name Liberty Bell was first used in an abollitionist pamphlet and it stuck. Sort of fitting, I think, although belated. The great crack occurred on February , 1846 when it was rung for the 100th celebration of George Washington’s birth. In a somber article just 2 days later the Philadelphia Public Ledger bemoaned the fact that the bell was “irreparably cracked and dumb”. Beginning in the 1880’s the bell was actually well enough to  make  several road trips. One went all the way to  San Francisco.

Obviously, I could go on. But just a couple more cool facts. On December 31,1926, to celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday,microphones captured the sound of the bell itself as it was struch witha specially designed hammer. More recently, On April 6, 2001 it was attacked by a somewhat deranged tourist, fortunately suffering minor damage.

See, history is fun, even if it is just about a Bell.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Periodically but unpredictably there comes an opportunity for a sitting President to have an impact long after his term of office is over. All Presidents do not get this opportunity, some only get it once , other get multiple opportunities. And one tried to create his own opportunity( remember packing the Court?) to influence the future. Yep, we speak of nominating a person to the U S Supreme Court. Mr.  Obama now has the chance, early in his term, to make his mark on history. Thanks to Justice David Souter, who is retiring of his own volition, the Court will have a new justice; perhaps by October.

The new justice will be #111 which was an interesting thing to learn, meaning there in considerable overlap on appointments. For example, there are currently 2 justices appointed by Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, Bush 43 and one by Ford. When the new justice is seated, as a group they will have been nominated by 6 different presidents.

But enough trivia, on to the juicy stuff . Who will be the nominee? The guesses are flying as are the hints and suggestions, both specific and general. Senator Leahy, D, VT wants someone representative of  America. There are not enough women or minorities for his preferences. Senator Shelby, R, AL says that even though Obama ( and Biden and Hilary) were against Justices Alito and Roberts, there will be no payback(yeah, right!)

So, a justice who  looks like America. Can anyone satisfy the criteria sufficiently knowing they cannot meet all the stipulations. Leahy went on to say that he did not think Obama would select an ideologue while Senator Hatch, R , UT said the choice would likely be a pro-abortion liberal- very possible. Senator Spector(what party is he? ) PA also weighs in on the side of variety, seeming to favor a female Hispanic. He whose opinion will count the most says that he wants someone with a  sharp, independent mind. Does that open up the possibilities? Yes, indeed.

Using that phrase as a qualifier, allow m eto toss out some names based primarily on that phrase. No endorsements intended. Feel free to suggest your own, either by comment or on your own.

  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Hilary Clinton
  • Bill Clinton
  • The Oprah
  • Ann Coulter
  • Michele Obama
  • Skipper(the penguin)
  • Sean Penn
  • Madonna
  • Jesse Jackson
  • George Clooney
  • Brad Pitt
  • Hugo Chavez (oops, not a citizen)
  • Rudy Guliani
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Saul Alinsky (oops, deceased)
  • Sonia Sotomayor

Remember his real keys, identity politics and/or income redistribution. See also how much backbone the Republicans have.

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment