Quote of the moment: Jefferson on the 4th of July

July 4, 2007

Thomas Jefferson to Roger Weightman, declining to attend the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in the District of Columbia. This was the last letter written by Jefferson, who died 10 days later, on July 4, 1826. –LB

Monticello, June 24, 1826

Respected Sir –

The kind invitation I receive from you, on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence, as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. It adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. But acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to control. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exch anged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.

The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the city of Washington and its vicinities, with whom I passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. With my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect and friendly attachments.

Th. Jefferson

Cribbed entirely from Counterpunch. Tip of the old scrub brush to Bernarda, in comments on the previous post.

Read the Declaration of Independence today.

Oklahoma opposes civil rights? What is this?

July 4, 2007

Americans seeking justice and healing for crimes committed during the civil rights movement, from about 1953 through at least the 1970s, championed a proposed law that would establish a unit in the Justice Department to clear up some of these old cases before the perpetrators all die — sort of a civil rights cold case division.

H.R. 923 is called “The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act” in honor of the slain young boy whose murderers were convicted by a racist-tinged jury, and then bragged about the murder in a national magazine.

The bill passed the House of Representatives June 21, 422 to 2.

It was scheduled for a quick vote in the U.S. Senate, a unanimous consent motion, to speed the bill to President Bush, so the investigations can begin quickly.

Then that old curmudgeon hurdle to progress and to the 21st century, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn stepped in.  He put a “hold” on the bill, which is a notice that a senator has gross objections to a matter.  As a matter of courtesy in that great deliberative body, holds are honored.

The bill is dead, unless Coburn removes his hold.

Coburn may be a nice guy otherwise, but his recent holds, stopping action honoring Presidential Medal of Honor winner Rachel Carson, and now, delaying justice already too long denied, go beyond the pale of polite society.  These are thuggish actions.

I hope he’ll reconsider.  But if past history is any sign — his refusal to allow the Senate to vote to stop cockfighting was one mackerel by moonlight — he won’t.

Say a prayer for America today.  When justice and honor cannot be had in the U.S. Senate, because one man is a crank — when his saner colleagues cannot prevail upon him — our nation is in trouble.  Don’t fly your flag upside down today — but be sure it flies in protest of Sen. Tom Coburn’s inactions.

Flag etiquette for the 4th of July

July 4, 2007

Every kid should learn this stuff by third grade, but it’s clear from what we see that they don’t.

Flag flying in front of U.S. Capitol (East side) LOC photo

So here’s a quick review of dos and don’ts for display and behavior toward the U.S. flag on this most flag-worthy of days, the 4th of July. With a few comments.

1. Fly your flag, from sunup to sundown. If you’re lucky enough to have a flagpole, run the flag up quickly. Retire it slowly at sunset. Then go see fireworks.

2. Display flags appropriately, if not flown from a staff. If suspended from a building or a wall, remember the blue field of stars should always be on the right — the “northwest corner” as you look at it. Do not display a flag flat.

3. Salute the flag as it opens the 4th of July parade. In a better world, there would be just one U.S. flag at the opening of the parade, and the entire crowd would rise as it passes them in a great patriotic, emotional wave — civilians with their hands over their hearts, hats off; people in uniform saluting appropriately with hats on. It’s likely that your local parade will not be so crisp. Other entries in the parade will have flags, and many will be displayed inappropriately. A true patriot might rise and salute each one — but that would look silly, perhaps even sillier than those sunshine patriots who display the flag inappropriately. Send them a nice letter this year, correcting their behavior. But don’t be obnoxious about it.

4. Do not display the flag from a car antenna, attached to a window of a car, or attached in the back of a truck. That’s against the Flag Code, which says a flag can only be displayed attached to the right front fender of a car, usually with a special attachment. This means that a lot of the National Guard entries in local parades will be wrongly done, according to the flag code. They defend the flag, and we should not make pests of ourselves about it. Write them a letter commending their patriotism. Enclose the Flag Code, and ask them to stick to it next time. Innocent children are watching.

5. Do not dishonor the flag by abusing it or throwing it on the ground. It’s become popular for a local merchant to buy a lot of little plastic flags and pass them out to parade goers. If there is an advertisement on the flag, that is another violation of the Flag Code. The flag should not be used for such commercial purposes. I have, several times, found piles of these flags on the ground, dumped by tired people who were passing them out, or dumped by parade goers who didn’t want to carry the things home. It doesn’t matter if it’s printed on cheap plastic, and made in China — it is our nation’s flag anyway. Honor it. If it is worn, dispose of it soberly, solemnly, and properly.

That’s probably enough for today. When the Flag Desecration Amendment passes — if it ever does — those parade float makers, National Guard soldiers, and merchants, can all be jailed, perhaps. Or punished in other ways.

Until that time, our best hope is to review the rules, obey them, and set examples for others.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! Fly the flag. Read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Love your family, hug them, and feed them well. That’s part of the Pursuit of Happiness that this day honors. It is your right, your unalienable right. Use it wisely, often and well.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

July 4, 2007

The rain in New Mexico is more spectacular than the rain you’re getting in Dallas, especially with the lightning.

So on your birthday we both get rained on, but a few hundred miles apart. I’d prefer we get rained on together. Dinner when we get back. Out.

[Dear Reader, you can’t know what this dear woman has put up with. It was love at first date. Even despite our seeing “Quadrophenia.” We’ve enjoyed so much together — Washington, D.C., life in the Senate, birding the east, camping in Utah and Texas, two wonderful kids. And you know, with the celebration the nation does on her birthday, it’s still not really adequate.]


Kathryn photographing her son and husband off to New Mexico for a week. Click photo for larger version.

Texas Education Agency: Trouble at the top

July 4, 2007

Steve Schafersman dutifully follows events at the Texas Education Agency, particularly with regard to textbook selection, and particularly with regard to biology textbooks. As head and chief instigator and chief bottle washer for the Texas Citizens for Science, he still gets little notoriety for the good work he does — all volunteer.

Shafersman says important stuff to know. So, when he sends along an editorial from the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram pointing out ethical and legal lapses at the agency which appear to be the work of the chief lawyer of the agency, one should read it. That lawyer, by the way, is probably in line to be the next head of the agency.

TEA has suffered from politicized leadership the last few years. Since Mike Moses left the agency, Texas education has drifted, and lack of leadership from TEA has not helped. Controversies over silly things are almost invited; serious issues, like cheating on the state’s graduation test, go unstudied and unremedied. I take the liberty of publishing the full editorial, below the fold — please read it, especially if you’re in Texas. Since Texas influences education so heavily, especially in textbook selection, everybody who has a kid in U.S. schools, who did have a kid in U.S. schools, who was educated in U.S. schools, or lives in a state that has schools, has a dog in this fight. Read the rest of this entry »

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