May 31, 2010

I heard a sermon Sunday that made me stop to think.

Glenn Martin filled in at the pulpit of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Duncanville while Dr. Mike Oden is “vacationing” (preparing to move).  Glenn grew up in this congregation.  He’s a year away from a masters degree from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. I’ve sung with him in the choir for several years, and been privileged to play bells with him — he’s a good musician on the bells, and he can make saves in an  astounding number of ways.  So I was interested in what he had to say just because he’s a friend.

It was a good sermon, even were he not my friend.  He threw in some good historic references, which always gets my attention.

For the Memorial Day weekend, this is Glenn’s sermon:

May 5, 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic issued general order number 11 specifying May 30 to be designated for the purpose of placing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  This was the first official recognition of Decoration Day or what we now know as Memorial Day.  Unofficially, the practice likely began years earlier in a number of places as communities recognized and honored those who had fallen in war.

Some even attribute such a memorial service to Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.  Do you remember the reason the President was there?  There had been a battle at Gettysburg on [in July], and on November 19, 1863, and President Lincoln had come there to dedicate a portion of the field as a cemetery.  How long has it been since you thought of the some 260 words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address which he would have delivered in about two minutes?

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

My topic for today is remembering.  That, in and of itself, deserves some attention.  What do I mean by remembering?  It is not so much the mental exercise of recalling factual details such as what you had for lunch yesterday or if you went to the grocery store on Monday or Tuesday.  The kind of remembering I’m getting at is much deeper than that.  It is the kind where you essentially choose to re-experience something or participate in a kind of reenactment.  Reminiscing after the death of a loved one is a good example of this kind of remembering.  We tell stories, stories that we have likely told many times before.  Stories that those who are reminiscing with us may be able to tell as well as we can.  Our intent is not to convey new information.  In some way, we are reliving or re-experiencing that story.

There is a formal word for this kind of remembering.  The word is anamnesis.  It derives from Greek, big surprise for those who know me.  The prefix means to go up or to come up; the root of the word is the word for mind; quite literally then we have the idea of coming up to the mind or as we say it, remembering.

Why do we remember?

First, it allows us to stay connected with our past.  This seems pretty obvious.  I wonder though if there might be something more to staying connected with our past than just the obvious.  Do you ever tell your children or grandchildren stories about your parents or grandparents?  Do they necessarily need to have known all the people in the story?

We occasionally talk of history and I know there are some people in this room that are history buffs.  I don’t personally put myself in this category.  There are elements of history that I find quite fascinating and a few topics that I have researched in much greater detail.  For me though, this has largely been a result of my interest in that other topic and researching some of its history was a natural part of exploring that topic.  The history buffs I’m talking about seem to exude history.  If you were to ask them about the Civil War for instance, they can tell you about military history, economic history of the time period, distinctions between the North and the South, things that were going on in the church, and even world events of the time.  Not only can they tell you details of these different kinds of histories, they can even suggest ways in which these details relate.

Every once in a while, someone will talk about “what really happened.”  I understand what they are getting at when they say that but is history what really happened or might it be more of what we remember of what happened?

Why do we remember?  The first reason is that it allows us to stay connected with our past.  The second reason is that it allows us to better understand our present.  Here again, this is fairly obvious though perhaps not quite as obvious as the first reason.

I think it is reasonably safe to say that most of us believe the idea of cause and effect.  We even have sayings about it.  For example, “What goes up must… come down” or how about “Look before you… leap” Exactly.

Have you ever thought of tracing cause and effect backwards? This thing over here was caused by such and such.  But that was the result of this other event.  And that event needed these other things to happen for it to occur.  Some of you are interested in genealogy.  This is a perfect example of cause and effect.  We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our parents.  Our grandparents had to be here for our parents to be here.  Our great-grandparents had to be here before our grandparents could be.  You get the idea.  What was the very first cause?  Science tends to point to the Big Bang.  I don’t think this is the first cause at all.  I am not advocating for or against this particular theory, I just don’t think the logic holds that this would be first.  If all the matter currently in our universe were contained in this alleged singularity, what caused it to go bang?  Even my question suggests a prior action of some sort.  It seems much more reasonable to me to locate the beginning point in God.  This is a separate thought however and we’ll have to leave it for another time.

Remembering gives us a way of understanding and interpreting our past so that we can then understand better why things are now the way they are.  Consider for a moment people who get amnesia.  The cause of the amnesia isn’t really important for the illustration.  Some of you have already recognized the Greek origins of this word too. There is same root for mind that I mentioned earlier plus the prefix “a” meaning without so we have without the mind.  People with amnesia have lost that connection with their past.  They have lost their sense of story and have the question of who am I.  Did you note the tense of the question?  It isn’t “who was I” as it would be for the past tense; it is “who am I.”  Very much the present tense, it suggests our self-identity is linked to remembering our past and where we have been.

The third reason we remember is that remembering allows us to look ahead to the future.

Today is the tomorrow we wondered about yesterday and tomorrow will then become the today we wonder about now.  In much the same way that we understand our present in light of our past, we similarly perceive the upcoming future as our past plus the actions we take.  Here is that cause and effect thing again.  I’m not going to dwell too long here.  I want to move to more of a practical example from our faith.

Let’s summarize quickly.  I’ve said that we remember for 3 reasons.
1. It allows us to stay connected with our past
2. It allows us to better understand our present
3. It allows us to look ahead to the future

More importantly, remembering allows us to see God.

The scripture I chose for today was in the context of the Passover.  The Israelites were to remember this day when God delivered them from bondage in Egypt.  Every year, they would celebrate the feast of unleavened bread and reenact the story.

For us, this story is part of the past.  It is also part of the past that we recognize that Jesus added to this narrative.  We remember it every Sunday.  Because we do remember it every Sunday, this story is part of our present.  Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples.  While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying “This is my body.  Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way after supper, he took the cup saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  You remember the word anamnesis that I mentioned earlier.  The Greek word we translate as remembrance here is this same word.  It is as though Jesus was saying that we should experientially reenact, relive, and remember every time we come to communion.

The apostle Paul further states in 1 Cor 11 that when we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns.  This addresses both the present and the future.  I know a number of you took Dr. Mike’s class on Revelation.  The marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19) also addresses the future.

In remembering, we can recall God’s mighty deeds.  We can be assured of God’s continuing and abiding presence with us.  And we can anticipate a future with numerous possibilities.

I started off recalling some of the history around Memorial Day.  In 1971, federal observance of Memorial Day was changed from May 30 to the last Monday in May.  Hooray for 3 day weekends.

By 2000, a number of Americans had lost the sense of the true meaning of the day.  In an effort to reeducate and remind us, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed.  It asks that at 3:00 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”  Since we are Christians, I will give you another alternative to consider.  Place commemoration of the day under the auspices of God and share a communion service with whomever is with you and remember.  Thanks be to God.

Nota bene: I said it made me think.  That’s why I’ve asked Glenn for permission to post it here, to keep me thinking, and maybe make you think, too.  For example, Glenn lists three reasons remembering is valuable.  They parallel the tactic business consultants use to get businesses to think ahead — look back at what happened in the past, consider the condition of the company today, then look ahead to see what is in store for the company, and think about how the company can face challenges identified.

What do you think about remembrance, and remembering, and Glenn’s advice?

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M ay 5,1868,GeneralJohn Logan,nationalcom m anderofthe G rand Arm y ofthe Republic issued generalordernum ber11specifying M ay 30 to be designated for the purpose ofplacing flow ersorotherw ise decorating the gravesofUnion and Confederate soldiersatArlington NationalCem etery.Thisw asthe firstoficial recognition ofDecoration Day orw hatw e now know as M em orialDay. Unoficialy,the practice likely began yearsearlierin a num berofplacesas com m unities recognized and honored those w ho had falen in w ar. Som e even attribute such a m em orialservice to Abraham Lincoln atGettysburg. Do you rem em berthe reason the Presidentw asthere? There had been a battle at Gettysburg on Novem ber19,1863,and PresidentLincoln had com e there to dedicate a portion ofthe field asa cem etery. How long has itbeen since you thoughtofthe som e 260 w ordsofLincoln’sGettysburg addressw hich he w ould have delivered in abouttw o m inutes? Fourscore and seven yearsago ourfathers broughtforth on thiscontinenta new nation,conceived in liberty,and dedicated to the proposition thatalm en are created equal. Now w e are engaged in a greatcivilw ar,testing w hetherthat nation,orany nation so conceived and so dedicated,can long endure.W e are m et on a greatbattle-field ofthatw ar.W e have com e to dedicate a portion ofthat field asa finalresting-place forthose w ho gave theirlivesthatthatnation m ight live.Itisaltogetherfitting and properthatw e should do this. But,in a larger sense,w e cannotdedicate…w e cannotconsecrate…w e cannothalow …this ground.The brave m en,living and dead,w ho struggled here,have consecrated it farabove ourpoorpow erto add ordetract.The w orld w illittle note norlong rem em berw hatw e say here,butitcan neverforgetw hatthey did here.Itisfor us,the living,rather,to be dedicated here to the unfinished w orkw hich they w ho foughthere have thusfarso nobly advanced.Itis ratherforusto be here dedicated to the greattask rem aining before us…thatfrom these honored dead w e take increased devotion to thatcause forw hich they gave the lastfulm easure
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ofdevotion;thatw e here highly resolve thatthese dead shalnothave died in vain;thatthis nation,underGod,shalhave a new birth offreedom ;and that governm entofthe people,by the people,forthe people,shalnotperish from the earth. M y topicfortoday is rem em bering.That,in and ofitself,deservessom e attention. W hatdo Im ean by rem em bering? Itis notso m uch the m entalexercise of recaling factualdetailssuch asw hatyou had forlunch yesterday orifyou w entto the grocery store on M onday orTuesday.The kind ofrem em bering I’m getting at is m uch deeperthan that. Itisthe kind w here you essentialy choose to re- experience som ething orparticipate in a kind ofreenactm ent. Rem iniscing after the death ofa loved one isa good exam ple ofthis kind ofrem em bering.W e tel stories,storiesthatw e have likely told m any tim es before.Storiesthatthose w ho are rem iniscing w ith us m ay be able to telasw elasw e can.O urintentis notto convey new inform ation. In som e w ay,w e are reliving orre-experiencing that story. There isa form alw ord forthis kind ofrem em bering.The w ord isanam nesis. It derivesfrom G reek,big surprise forthose w ho know m e.The prefix m eansto go up orto com e up;the rootofthe w ord isthe w ord form ind;quite literaly then w e have the idea ofcom ing up to the m ind orasw e say it,rem em bering. W hy do w e rem em ber? First,italow s usto stay connected w ith ourpast.Thisseem s pretty obvious. I w onderthough ifthere m ightbe som ething m ore to staying connected w ith our pastthanjustthe obvious. Do you evertelyourchildren orgrandchildren stories aboutyourparentsorgrandparents? Do they necessarily need to have know n al the people in the story? W e occasionaly talkofhistory and Iknow there are som e people in this room that are history bufs. Idon’tpersonaly putm yselfin thiscategory.There are
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elem entsofhistory thatIfind quite fascinating and a few topicsthatIhave researched in m uch greaterdetail. Form e though,this has largely been a resultof m y interestin thatothertopicand researching som e ofits history w asa natural partofexploring thattopic.The history bufs I’m talking aboutseem to exude history. Ifyou w ere to askthem aboutthe CivilW arforinstance,they can telyou aboutm ilitary history,econom ic history ofthe tim e period,distinctions betw een the North and the South,thingsthatw ere going on in the church,and even w orld eventsofthe tim e. Notonly can they telyou detailsofthese diferentkindsof histories,they can even suggestw ays in w hich these details relate. Every once in a w hile,som eone w iltalkabout“w hatrealy happened.” I understand w hatthey are getting atw hen they say thatbutis history w hatrealy happened orm ightitbe m ore ofw hatw e rem em berofw hathappened? W hy do w e rem em ber? The firstreason isthatitalow s usto stay connected w ith ourpast.The second reason isthatitalow s usto betterunderstand ourpresent. Here again,this isfairly obviousthough perhaps notquite asobviousasthe first reason. Ithink itis reasonably safe to say thatm ostofus believe the idea ofcause and efect.W e even have sayingsaboutit. Forexam ple,“W hatgoes up m ust… com e dow n” orhow about“Look before you… leap” Exactly. Have you everthoughtoftracing cause and efectbackw ards?Thisthing overhere w ascaused by such and such. Butthatw asthe resultofthisotherevent.And that eventneeded these otherthingsto happen foritto occur.Som e ofyou are interested in genealogy.This isa perfectexam ple ofcause and efect.W e w ouldn’tbe here ifitw eren’tforourparents.O urgrandparents had to be here forourparentsto be here.O urgreat-grandparents had to be here before our grandparentscould be.You getthe idea.W hatw asthe very firstcause? Science tendsto pointto the Big Bang. Idon’tthinkthis isthe firstcause atal. Iam not
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advocating fororagainstthis particulartheory,Ijustdon’tthinkthe logic holds thatthisw ould be first. Ifalthe m atercurrently in ouruniverse w ere contained in thisaleged singularity,w hatcaused itto go bang? Even m y question suggestsa prioraction ofsom e sort. Itseem s m uch m ore reasonable to m e to locate the beginning pointin God.This isa separate thoughthow everand w e’lhave to leave itforanothertim e. Rem em bering gives usa w ay ofunderstanding and interpreting ourpastso that w e can then understand betterw hy thingsare now the w ay they are.Considerfor a m om entpeople w ho getam nesia.The cause ofthe am nesia isn’trealy im portantforthe ilustration.Som e ofyou have already recognized the G reek originsofthisw ord too.There issam e rootform ind thatIm entioned earlierplus the prefix “a” m eaning w ithoutso w e have w ithoutthe m ind. People w ith am nesia have lostthatconnection w ith theirpast.They have losttheirsense of story and have the question ofw ho am I. Did you note the tense ofthe question? Itisn’t“w ho w as I” as itw ould be forthe pasttense;itis “w ho am I.” Very m uch the presenttense,itsuggestsourself-identity is linked to rem em bering ourpast and w here w e have been. The third reason w e rem em beristhatrem em bering alow s usto lookahead to the future. Today isthe tom orrow w e w ondered aboutyesterday and tom orrow w ilthen becom e the today w e w onderaboutnow . In m uch the sam e w ay thatw e understand ourpresentin lightofourpast,w e sim ilarly perceive the upcom ing future asourpastplusthe actionsw e take. Here isthatcause and efectthing again. I’m notgoing to dw eltoo long here. Iw antto m ove to m ore ofa practical exam ple from ourfaith. Let’ssum m arize quickly. I’ve said thatw e rem em berfor3 reasons. 1.Italow s usto stay connected w ith ourpast
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2.Italow s usto betterunderstand ourpresent 3.Italow s usto lookahead to the future M ore im portantly,rem em bering alow s usto see God. The scripture Ichose fortoday w as in the contextofthe Passover.The Israelites w ere to rem em berthisday w hen God delivered them from bondage in Egypt. Every year,they w ould celebrate the feastofunleavened bread and reenactthe story. Forus,thisstory is partofthe past. Itisalso partofthe pastthatw e recognize thatJesusadded to this narrative.W e rem em beritevery Sunday. Because w e do rem em beritevery Sunday,thisstory is partofourpresent.Jesusw ascelebrating the Passoverw ith hisdisciples.W hile they w ere eating,Jesustookthe bread,gave thanks,and gave itto them saying “This is m y body. Do this in rem em brance of m e.” In the sam e w ay aftersupper,he tookthe cup saying “Thiscup isthe new covenantin m y blood. Do thisasoften asyou drink it,in rem em brance ofm e.” You rem em berthe w ord anam nesisthatIm entioned earlier.The G reekw ord w e translate as rem em brance here isthissam e w ord. ItisasthoughJesusw assaying thatw e should experientialy reenact,relive,and rem em berevery tim e w e com e to com m union. The apostle Paulfurtherstates in 1 Cor11thatw hen w e eatthis bread and drink thiscup w e proclaim the Lord’sdeath untilhe returns.Thisaddresses both the presentand the future. Iknow a num berofyou took Dr.M ike’sclasson Revelation.The m arriage supperofthe Lam b (Revelation 19)also addressesthe future. In rem em bering,w e can recalGod’s m ighty deeds.W e can be assured ofGod’s continuing and abiding presence w ith us.And w e can anticipate a future w ith num erous possibilities.
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Istarted ofrecaling som e ofthe history around M em orialDay. vaoccIrBMlineooosynbsatadnmlse2ouyesn0nnmlr.irudee0tivntHasuef0aigfpoonrr,noie.ointlacoyrocetrPwntnaalT,toayuansoapcfemsdfaperoMrepsubvicrna.eseei”ocf3sdirmoenmsSudogerowicmamfdnfaryAicri.aettaoewehmlmIllmtywDweaeoaoeanewrrhsidybakckoahestaswmrraeinoenettardeshmenvCssvaveho.hiectenafirhradrnditastitshttunlh3oeihwsagese,epndytititdsmarthah,yohefrIyleerwouwooNcsdnnmuaiaedoltlwlaneiiMgtonsnariiegvndmayteayhfoaeroleefy3,MrMotmf0aaohuouoetersmomammaptnoteerlibolchumnneAeteettrhsem.olomeanoeffTrstfeIrtRnharoaGieceaMlfn1toammne9sidonnkeir7elsngsneam1mda”nbon,TtabcebdffioyeevrrtatsaedhioohnnneetacrGcoredraeoealdya..

Red eared sliders

May 31, 2010

Red-eared sliders, turtles at Texas Discovery Gardens - photo by Ed Darrell

Red-eared sliders cluster together to catch the sun on a spring day at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell, 2010

Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), a common aquatic turtle in the southern U.S., caught sunning themselves at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas.

Blogger shadow cabinet

May 31, 2010

It was Jim Benton’s idea (he posts here occasionally as PRUP).  It blossomed at Cogitamus and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

A shadow cabinet made up of bloggers.

Not having had to suffer through any of my lectures, Jim suggested me for Secretary of Education.  As the powerless go, high school teachers and Secretary of Education are on a par.  Sort of a lateral move.

But I’m flattered to have been thought of at all.

Sir Charles at Cogitamus:

Also, my list is way too laden with white dudes.  I know that there are more women bloggers and bloggers of color who would enhance any cabinet, but I’m having a hard time coming up with those who have a distinct policy area — likely the fault of not reading widely enough.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts, but I definitely want to hear your line-ups.

  1. Secretary of State – Josh Marshall – Why? Because I said so.
  2. Secretary of Treasury – Atrios – Really is there any other choice
  3. Sec. of Health and Human Services – Ezra Klein — who else is going to read all those regs.
  4. Attorney General – Scott Lemieux — And no, not a fucking chance.
  5. Secretary of Transportation – Matt Yglesias — Supertrain! (Or maybe HUD)
  6. Secretary of the Interior – Our own minstrel hussein boy — He’s got the rez cred and he can cook.
  7. EPA Director – litbrit – She’d be all over those pollutin’ muthafuckas
  8. Secretary of Education – ari — Maybe he’d have to arm wrestle Eric Rauchway for it.
  9. Secretary of Labor – Who do you think? Nathan Newman, of course.
  10. Chairman of the EEOC – Pam Spaulding – (Chairperson?)
  11. Chairman of the Fed – Bill McBride of Calculated Risk
  12. National Endowment of the Arts – Roy Edroso

And how about Amanda as Chief of Staff — she’d be tough with the right people — and Markos as the DNC Chair.

How about your suggestions for fantasy blogger cabinet?

Best deal:  Track those posts down.  As I did, you’ll find some good blogs that should be on your reading list, but probably aren’t.  Ideas, now those are powerful things.

This is Memorial Day: Please fly your flag

May 31, 2010

Flags at DFW National Cemetery - IMGP4169 photo by Ed Darrell

U.S. flags wave at DFW National Cemetery, May 30, 2010. Photo by Ed Darrell

Our local Rotary Club provides a U.S. flag planted in your yard for flag-flying events from Memorial Day through Labor Day, for an annual subscription of about $15.00.  Local groups, including especially Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, take a route and plant the flags.

As a consequence, our town is loaded with flags on a weekend like this one.

But even if you don’t subscribe to a flag service, please remember to fly your flag today.

Memorial Day honors people who died in defense of the nation.  Armed Forces Day honors those who serve currently, celebrated  the third Saturday in May.  Veterans Day honors the veterans who returned.

On Memorial Day itself, flags on poles or masts should be flown at half-staff from sunrise to noon. At noon, flags should be raised to full-staff position.

When posting a flag at half-staff, the flag should be raised to the full-staff position first, with vigor, then slowly lowered to half-staff; when retiring a flag posted at half-staff, it should be raised to the full staff position first, with vigor, and then be slowly lowered. Some people attach black streamers to stationary flags, though this is not officially recognized by the U.S. Flag Code.

On Memorial Day, 3:00 p.m. local time is designated as the National Moment of Remembrance.


Update: Honoring our war dead makes unusual bedfellows, no? Agreement on honorable things creates hope that we can agree on more things, on other important things.

Dan Valentine: Memorial Day, Part I

May 31, 2010

By Dan Valentine

Memorial Day.

War is about death. Plain and simple. It’s been said before. In the past. Many times. It will be said again. In the future. Many times.

After 9/11 I wrote a lot of anti-war songs. There wasn’t a market for them then. There isn’t much of a market for them now.

(c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

THREE FRIENDS on an airplane,
Passing over streets and squares in their hometown …
THREE FRIENDS on an airplane,
Two looking what’s below them just before touching down …

One says, “Look, there’s the shopping mall.”
One points out the new town hall.
One says not a word at all.

Three fam’lies together,
Bonded by a war and intertwining lives …
Three fam’lies together,
Hearts in a near-crazed frenzy till their dear one arrives …

One thanks God for a son’s safe trip.
One’s with child with babe on hip.
One fights tears and bites a lip.

On the jet’s PA
A flight attendant says,
“Please return your tray …
Put all electronic devices away.
We’ll be landing soon.
Hope you have a nice day.”

THREE FRIENDS now deplaning,
Two of whom are cheered, embraced, and kissed heartfelt.
THREE FRIENDS now deplaning,
One in a flag-draped coffin on a conveyor belt …

One’s come home on a two-week leave.
One has got a pinned-up sleeve.
One was killed on Christmas Eve.

THREE FRIENDS on an airplane …

(c) 2010 Daniel Valentine

There’s a LONELY ROOM on the second floor
Where a mother cries when she shuts the door,
Where she dries her eyes and then weeps some more,
Hurting, her heart broke in two.

There’s an empty bed where the mother read
To a little boy, where his prayers were said,
Where she tucked him in and then kissed his head,
Lovingly like mothers do.

There’s a closet where gremlins used to hide.
By a window, there is a tree outside
With a bright yellow ribbon around it tied
With a perfect bow, tho’ the boy he died.

And three Marines,
Standing tall–
One a chaplain–
Grand and all,
Brought the tragic news.

In the LONELY ROOM is an empty chair
Where the boy would chat on his cell and share
Secrets with his girl and at times just stare,
Dreaming of all he would do.

There are bedside books and a glove and ball;
Fam’ly photos, framed; posters on the wall:
One of George and Ringo and John and Paul
And one of Spider Man 2.

All is in its place, all is like it was
When he left to do what a soldier does.
Only now it is lonely and sad because
Wednesday last his mom heard the doorbell buzz.

And three Marines,
Taut and tall–
One a chaplain–
Caught her fall
When she heard the news.

[Memorial Day, Part II, here]

Graves at DFW National Cemetery, photo by Ed Darrell - IMGP4180

Graves at DFW National Cemetery, May 30, 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell (you may use with attribution)

Dan Valentine: Economic recovery? Check the cigarette butts and panty hose

May 30, 2010

By Dan Valentine

Good news! “The economy is growing again!” So said President Obama, just the other day.

Of course, his opponents would have you believe otherwise. But there are certain solid economic indicators that prove him right.

Like, for instance, cigarette butts.

That’s the word from a little-known tobacco expert who calls himself West Virginia Slim. When the economy went bust, he took time off from his job to tour North America–by thumb–after he found a pink slip on the desk of his corner office overlooking Broad & Wall.

I ran into him outside of Hussong’s Cantina here in Ensenada, said to be the oldest bar in the west. He was smoking a Cuban cigar.

And he says he has definite proof that the U.S. economy is, in the words of the President, “picking up considerable speed”. He can tell by the half-smoked cigarette butts strewn across the land.

“After the bust,” he told me during an exclusive interview, ‘cigarette butts flicked on the side of the nation’s streets were short. People took more puffs and got the most out of each cigarette before tossing it.”

But ever since Obama took office, he has noticed that the cigarette butts are getting, slowly but surely, longer. “People are throwing ‘em away, half-smoked,” he says.

30-foot cigarette butt in London - National Geographic photo

30-foot cigarette butt in London, England. Is this an indicator that England is undergoing a huge recovery? National Geographic photo

And this, he assures me, is definite proof, regardless of what the naysayers say, that good times are upon us.

Slim isn’t the only economic wizard who says so. A woman by the name of Gertrude, who made jillions in the stock market before she lost jillions in the market, can prove without a doubt that the country is, in Obama’s words, “beginning to turn the corner.”

Gertrude, who now makes a living as a waitress–she was here to buy duty-free Tequila to take back over the border–uses the “Parsley Principle” to judge prosperity, or the lack of it.

“During the last few months of Bush’s presidency,” says Gertrude, “customers ate the funny little green garnishes that chefs like to place on the sides of dishes as tho’ they were going out of style. Fact is, we couldn’t keep enough parsley in stock during the last days of the Bush Administration.”

But now, in Obama’s second year, very few people, if any, eat the tiny, little parsley garnishes. And this, she says, is a sure-sign that, in Obama’s words: ‘the worst of the storm is over.’”

Another economist, who uses a somewhat different barometer, says times are getting “much” better.

Her name is Olive. She spends a good part of her day going through suit pockets. She works in a dry cleaning establishment in L.A. It’s her job to empty the pockets of the suits before they are dry cleaned.

Says this full-time pocket-picker: “When times are good, people leave all sorts of coins in their pockets. But during bad times, practically no money can be found at all.”

Since the stimulus package was passed, says Olive, “the pocket-picking has been mighty good.” So good that she could afford a 3-day cruise from San Diego to Ensenada on the “Fun Ship”!

Interior of Hussong's Cantina, Ensenada, Mexico

Economics seminar at Hussong's Cantina, Ensenada, Mexico

Another little-known economic expert, a cop from Chicago, told me that he can measure the economic atmosphere of the nation by pantyhose.

He told me this over several rounds of Margaritas. (Some people drive hundreds of miles to visit the birthplace of Abe Lincoln. He flew hundreds of miles, here to Ensenada, to visit the birthplace of the Margarita. But, anyway …

Said this Chicago cop, after years on the force, “When times are good, bank robbers tend to wear expensive, luxury pantyhose over their heads to cover up their mugs. They like the confident, silky-soft feel that expensive pantyhose give them during a hold-up.”

But when times are bad bank robbers tend to buy generic or no-brand pantyhose for a bank job.

“I remember one time,” he told me, “during the last days of the Bush years, we arrested this bank robber at the scene of the crime and he had several runs in the pair of pantyhose pulled over his face. I really felt embarrassed for the fella.”

But the cop added: “Right now, since Obama took over, you hardly ever see a bank robber with runs.”

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Wikipedia loses Sen. Arthur V. Watkins – can you help with the rescue?

May 30, 2010

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954; copyright Time, Inc.

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954 (copyright Time, Inc.) Can Wikipedia find enough information here to add to Watkins’s biography?  Are we really to believe a Time cover subject has disappeared from history?

Utah’s Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, a Republican, made the history books in 1954 when he chaired a special committee of the U.S. Senate that investigated actions by Wisconsin’s Sen. Joseph McCarthy with regard to hearings McCarthy conducted investigating communists in the U.S. Army.

This is all the biography at Wikipedia is, now, in May 2010:

Arthur Vivian Watkins (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating federal recognition of American Indian tribes.

[edit] References

  • Klingaman., William The Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era, New York : Facts on File, 1996 ISBN 0816030979. Menominee Termination and Restoration [1]

[edit] External links

What is there is of little use.  It doesn’t even mention the work Watkins is most famous for, the brave action that brought him fame and electoral defeat, the censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare.  As a biography, it’s insultingly small, trivial, and misleading.

Here in Texas we have a school board that wishes to promote Joe McCarthy to hero status, to sweep under the rug the actual history of what he did, the inaccurate and vicious claims he made against dozens of people including his own colleagues in the U.S. Senate.  Good, readily available biographies of the people who stopped McCarthy, and good, readily available histories of the time can combat that drive for historical revisionism.

Wikipedia, in its extreme drive to prevent error, is preventing history in this case.  Wikipedia is no help.  For example, compare the article on Watkins with the article on Vermont Sen. Ralph Flanders, the man who introduced the resolution of censure against McCarthy. Flanders’s article is enormous by comparison, and no better documented. Why the snub to Watkins?

It’s odd.  Here I am providing a solid example of the evils of Wikipedia to warm the cockles of the heart of Douglas Groothuis, if he has a heart and cockles.   Facts and truth sometimes take us on strange journeys with strange traveling companions, even offensive companions.  Ultimately, I hope Wikipedia will wake up and choose to reinstate a useful and revealing biography of Watkins, to make Groothuis frostier than usual.

What to do?

Here is what follows, eventually below the fold:  I’ve copied one of the old biographies of Watkins from Wikipedia. Much of the stuff I recognize from various sources.  If there are inaccuracies, they are not intentional, nor are they done to impugn the reputation of any person (unlike the purging of Watkins’ biography, which unfortunately aides the dysfunctional history revisionism of Don McLeroy and the Texas State Soviet of Education).  I have provided some links to on-line sources that verify the claims.

Can you, Dear Reader, provide more and better links, and better accuracy?  Please do, in comments.  Help rescue the history around Sen. Watkins from the dustbin.

Will it spur Wikipedia to get its biographer act together and fix Watkins’s entry?  Who knows.

Here is the Wikipedia bio, complete with editing marks, and interspersed with some of my comments and other sources:

”’Arthur Vivian Watkins”’ (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican [[United States Senate|U.S. Senator]] from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating [[Federally recognized tribes|federal recognition]] of [[Native Americans in the United States|American Indian]] [[Indian tribe|tribes]] in order to allow them to have the rights of citizens of the United States.

Watkins’s life is available in basic outline form at a number of places on-line.  A good place to start is with the biographical directory of past members available from the U.S. Congress.  These sketches are embarrassingly short, but Watkins’s entry is four times the size of the Wikipedia entry, with about 20 times the information.  There is the Utah History Encyclopedia, with an article by Patricia L. Scott.  Her biography is copied by the Watkins Family History Society.

Watkins was born in [[Midway, Utah]]. He attended [[Brigham Young University]] (BYU) from 1903 to 1906, and [[New York University]] (NYU) from 1909 to 1910. He graduated from [[Columbia University Law School]] in 1912, and returned to Utah. There he was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in [[Vernal, Utah]].

He engaged in newspaper work in 1914 (”The Voice of Sharon”, which eventually became the ”Orem-Geneva Times”, a weekly newspaper in [[Utah County, Utah|Utah County]].) [Sharon is an area in what is now Orem, Utah; the local division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is called the Sharon Stake, where Watkins was a member. ]In 1914 Watkins was appointed assistant county attorney of [[Salt Lake County, Utah|Salt Lake County]]. He engaged in agricultural pursuits 1919-1925 with a <span style=”white-space:nowrap”>600&nbsp;acre&nbsp;(2.4&nbsp;km²)</span> [[ranch]] near [[Lehi, Utah | Lehi]].

Watkins served as district judge of the Fourth Judicial District of Utah 1928-1933, losing his position in the [[Franklin Delano Roosevelt|Roosevelt]] Democratic landslide in 1932. An unsuccessful candidate for the [[Republican Party (United States)|Republican]] nomination to the Seventy-fifth Congress in 1936, Watkins was elected as a Republican to the [[United States Senate]] in 1946, and reelected in 1952. He served from January 3, 1947, to January 3, 1959. An [[Elder (LDS Church)|elder]] in [[The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]], Watkins was widely respected in Utah. {{Fact|date=August 2007}}

In 1954, Watkins chaired the committee that investigated the actions of Wisconsin Senator [[Joseph McCarthy]] to determine whether his conduct as Senator merited censure. As Chairman, Watkins barred [[television]] cameras from the hearings, and insisted that McCarthy conform to Senate protocol. When McCarthy appeared before the Watkins committee in September 1954 and started to attack Watkins, the latter had McCarthy expelled from the room.

This material comes from an oft-repeated, probably cut-and-pasted story, such as this biography of Watkins at the alumni association of his old high school, the experimental Brigham Young High.  It is confirmed in a thousand places, and one wonders why Wikipedia thought it undocumented, or inaccurate.  See Time’s contemporary report, for example (with a co-starring turn from a young Sen. Sam Ervin, D-North Carolina — the man who would later chair the Senate’s Watergate hearings).

The committee recommended censure of Senator McCarthy. Initially, the committee proposed to censure McCarthy over his attack on General [[Ralph Zwicker]] and various Senators, but Watkins had the charge of censure for the attack on General Zwicker dropped. The censure charges related only to McCarthy’s attacks on other Senators, and excluded from criticism McCarthy’s attacks on those outside of the Senate.

Watkins’s appearance on the cover of Time was the October 4, 1954, edition, reporting McCarthy’s censure.  The story accompanying that cover is here.  The Senate Resolution censuring McCarthy is designated as one of the 100 most important documents in American history by the National Archives and Records Administration — see the document and more history, here.  See more at the Treasures of Congress exhibit’s on-line version.

McCarthy’s anti-communist rhetoric was popular with Utah’s electorate, however. Former [[Governor of Utah|Utah Governor]] [[J. Bracken Lee]] took the opportunity in 1958 to oppose Watkins for the nomination in the senatorial election. Though Watkins won the Republican [[primary election|primary]], Lee ran as an [[independent (politics)|independent]] in the [[general election]]. This caused a split in the Republican vote and allowed Democrat [[Frank E. Moss]] to win the seat. Lee went on to a long career as [[mayor]] of [[Salt Lake City, Utah|Salt Lake City]]. Moss served three terms in the Senate, losing to Republican [[Orrin Hatch]] in 1976.

I’m not sure why Wikipedia’s editors rejected that historical paragraph.  Most of the points can be confirmed on Wikipedia, just following who sat where in the Senate.  Time Magazine covered the election shenanigans of 1958, with an article, “Feud in the desert,” detailing the fight between Watkins and Lee — July 14, 1958.

Watkins served as chair of the [[United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs|Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs]]. He advocated [[Indian termination policy|termination]] of [[List of Native American Tribal Entities|Indian Tribal Entities]] in the belief that it was better for tribal members to be integrated into the rest of American life. He believed that they were ill-served by depending on the federal government for too many services.

Watkins called his policy the “freeing of the Indian from wardship status” and equated it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves during the Civil War. Watkins was the driving force behind termination. His position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs gave him tremendous leverage to determine the direction of federal Indian policy. His most important achievement came in 1953 with passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 108, which stated that termination would be the federal government’s ongoing policy. Passage of the resolution did not in itself terminate any tribes.

That had to be accomplished one tribe at a time by specific legislation. The [[Bureau of Indian Affairs]] (BIA) began to assemble a list of tribes believed to have developed sufficient economic prosperity to sustain themselves after termination. The list was headed by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. One reason the BIA chose the Menominee was that the tribe had successful forestry and lumbering operations which the BIA believed could support the tribe economically. Congress passed an act in 1954 that officially called for the termination of the Menominee as a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Termination for the Menominee did not happen immediately. Instead, the 1954 act set in motion a process that would lead to termination. The Menominee were not comfortable with the idea, but they had recently won a case against the government for mismanagement of their forestry enterprises, and the $8.5 million award was tied to their proposed termination. Watkins personally visited the Menominee and said they would be terminated whether they liked it or not, and if they wanted to see their $8.5 million, they had to cooperate with the federal government{{Fact|date=February 2009}}. Given this high-handed and coercive threat{{POV assertion|date=June 2009}}, the tribal council reluctantly agreed.

To set an example, Watkins pushed for termination of Utah Indian groups, including the Shivwits, Kanosh, Koorsharem, and Indian Peaks Paiutes. Once a people able to travel over the land with freedom and impunity, they were forced to deal with a new set of unfamiliar laws and beliefs. He terminated them without their knowledge or consent.

After Watkins left the Senate, he served as a member of the U.S. Indian Claims Commission from 1959 to 1967. He retired to Salt Lake City, and in 1973, to Orem.

In 1969 Watkins published a book about his investigation of McCarthy, ”Enough Rope: The Inside Story of the Censure of Senator Joe McCarthy by his Colleagues: The Controversial Hearings that Signaled the End of a Turbulent Career and a Fearsome Era in American Public Life”, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969).

It’s astounding to me that mentions of Watkins’s book would be struck by Wikipedia, as if it were questionable that Watkins and the book ever existed.  Did the editor who cut that reference doubt sincerely?

Caption from the Utah Historical Society: Arthur Watkins (seated, center), a United States Senator from Utah, is shown here at a book signing for his book, "Enough Rope" at Sam Weller's Bookstore."Enough Rope" was a book about Joe McCarthy and the red scare. Rights management Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. (use here allowed by UHS, for education)

Caption from the Utah Historical Society: Arthur Watkins (seated, center), a United States Senator from Utah, is shown here at a book signing for his book, “Enough Rope” at Sam Weller’s Bookstore.”Enough Rope” was a book about Joe McCarthy and the red scare. Rights management Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. (use here allowed by UHS, for education)

State and local historical groups curate remarkable collections of images, now digitized and available free, online.  The Utah Historical Society offers a wealth of images in their collection.  Among them, we find a 1969 photograph of former-Sen. Watkins at a book signing at Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, the Salt Lake City monument to bookophilia and still one of the best bookstores in the world.  (Mormons read a lot, but Weller’s is not an official outlet of Mormon ideas; the store is a bastion of learning in a learned culture that pushes the envelope by challenging that culture at many turns; Weller’s bookstore is a nightmare to people who wish to cover up history).  Watkins is the guy seated at the table signing books — the other two men are not identified.  What more proof would one need of the existence of the book?

The book is referenced at the U.S. Congress biographical guideYou can find it at, though you’d have to buy it used or remaindered (hey! Call Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore!)

A project of the [[United States Bureau of Reclamation|U.S. Bureau of Reclamation]], the Arthur V. Watkins Dam north of [[Ogden, Utah]], created Willard Bay off of the [[Great Salt Lake]]

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Christopher J. McCune, “The Weber Basin Project,” Historic Reclamation Projects Book; accessed May 29, 2010.  Scientific Commons lists Watkins’s papers, at Brigham Young University.  That listing can lead you to the Western Waters digital library, which contains an astonishing amount of information, including photos and newspaper clippings.   Watkins’s lifelong work in water and irrigation was the spur to name the BuRec dam after him.  (The Western Waters Digital Project is a good exemplar of the exquisite detail possible in a publicly-available, online archive.)

Watkins died in [[Orem, Utah]].

His son, Arthur R. Watkins, was a professor of German at [[Brigham Young University]] for more than 25 years.

I offered material to Wikipedia’s article on Watkins more than two years ago, when I discovered the article was little more than a repeat of the Congressional biography guide.  At the time I had a couple of inquiries from reporters and others watching elections in Utah, especially the reelection of Orrin Hatch, to the seat Watkins held (from 1946 to today, that seat has been held by just three people, Watkins, Ted Moss, and Hatch).  It was historical curiosity.

Recently in Texas we’ve seen that absence of good history can lead to distortions of history, especially distortions in the history to be taught in public schools.  It would serve the evil ends of the Texas Taliban were Arthur V. Watkins to be “disappeared” from history.  (See this astoundingly biased account from a guy named Wes Vernon; according to Vernon, McCarthy was improperly lynched.)

Let’s not let that happen, at least, not at Wikipedia.


Update: A reader more savvy than I in the ways of Wikipedia has restored most of the old biography.  Now it’s an effort to beef up references.

Wow.  Ask, and it’s done.  Good friends make things much better.

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