In which we expose Leo Todd’s insults to President Fillmore

December 24, 2007

Dr. Bumsted sends us an alert to a site dedicated to President Franklin Pierce, the Franklin Pierce Pages. A delight to historians, no?

Not necessarily. The page designers chose Pierce, our 14th President, as the most obscure and trivial of the presidents. They claim Pierce as even more trivial and obscure than Millard Fillmore!

How close did we come to having “the Millard Fillmore Pages?” You’ll shudder to find out.

Leo Todd relates the story, here, The Great Franklin Pierce Debate.

The wonders of the intertubes: We can afford to have a set of pages dedicated to our 14th President, Franklin Pierce! Let’s see you do that on broadcast or cable television, or on radio.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Bumsted.

Liberty Counsel turns into Grinch: Hoax press release

December 24, 2007

“And so it was that just two days before Christmas the call went out from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office that faculty and staff at Southwestern Oklahoma State University would have to refrain from celebrating Christmas, or even saying the word “Christmas” on campus.”

Say what?

The AG in Oklahoma probably worries that Mike Huckabee is going secular. Now he’s suddenly all super-anti-Christian on us? And he’s only that way at a smaller, out of the way Oklahoma school, not at the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University?

Of course you know the rest of the story. From the Associated Press, in the Chickasha Express-Star:

A Florida-based group wasn’t being truthful when it sent out a press release claiming Attorney General Drew Edmondson advised a college to refrain from using the word “Christmas,” Edmondson said.

Dozens of calls poured into Edmondson’s office Thursday after callers had read an “alert” from the group, Liberty Counsel, that said a Southwestern Oklahoma State University administrator issued the directive to employees after receiving legal advice from Edmondson’s office.

Want to wager that Liberty Counsel was down a few dollars in the annual contributions, and just wanted to promote a little panic to bring in some money? Or, are you putting your money on the rum being a little too fiery in the office party egg nog? (Check out Liberty Counsel’s public notice, and nota bene the “Donate” button at the bottom.)

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson - Tulsa World photo

  • Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson: “It seems like stating the obvious, but I would like people to remember that there is no accuracy filter on the Internet. My second message — merry Christmas.” Tulsa World photo and quote.

    “Some of the callers were quite upset,” Edmondson said later. “The idea that a state official would ban Christmas just days before such a holy day obviously struck a chord with a number of people.”

    The Orlando-based group issued two “alerts” on its Web site, saying an order about not using Christmas in written or oral form stemmed from counsel given by Edmondson.

    But Edmondson said he never provided any such advise to Southwestern Oklahoma officials and does not advise the school about anything.

    “Once the false information is out there, it seems to be immortal,” Edmondson said. “What gets reported as fact on one blog gets repeated as such on others.

    “A few of the bloggers did call this afternoon to try to ‘verify’ the story and they did retract their original version of the events, but the damage was already done,” Edmondson said. “When it comes to the Internet, credibility is not required ‚Äî nor is truth.”

    Brian Adler, director of public relations at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, said Thursday that the information was false and that there is no ban on Christmas at the school.

    Employees were asked to keep public areas of the campus free of religious decor because not all students celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, Adler said.

    But faculty and staff members also can decorate their offices however they want, he said.

    The issue “has been resolved, and it’s fine,” Adler said. “We’re going to have a merry Christmas here.”

    Liberty Counsel is a “nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family,” according to the group’s Web site.

    Attempts to reach Liberty Counsel officials weren’t successful on Thursday.

    The attorney general at least kept a little sense of humor about the incident.

    Edmondson had a message for the group.

    “The folks at Liberty Counsel will find lumps of coal in their stockings on Christmas morning,” he said. “That’s what Santa leaves for bad kids who tell lies.”

    Liberty Counsel could have a real target, though. See the comments section on the story at the Tulsa World:

    12/21/2007 8:25:42 AM, Graychin, Eucha
    This must be the latest news from the “War on Christmas.” Somebody has been listening to too much talk radio.
    How come the 2007 White House “Christmas” cards don’t mention Christmas? They only say “Season’s Greetings.”

    “And that is how Liberty Counsel became home to the Boy Who Cried ‘War On Christmas’ Too Many Times.” ::Fade to tinsel::

    Tip of the old scrub brush to Burning Hot (see comments)


    On the night before Christmas: Untangling the history of a visit from St. Nick

    December 24, 2007

    Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

    The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

    But isn’t that part of the fun of history?

    • Below: Thomas Nast’s first published drawing featuring Santa Claus; for Harper’s Weekly, “A Journal of Civilization,” January 3, 1863 Nast portrayed the elf distributing packages to Union troops: “Santa Claus in camp.” Nast (1840-1904) was 23 when he drew this image.

    Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863 Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

    Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman’s page, “The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

    Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

    Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

    The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

    Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

    Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

    Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

    Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (“the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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