May 2021, flag-flying dates

May 1, 2021

Childe Hassam,

Childe Hassam, “Victory Day, May 1919,” 1919, oil on canvas, 36 x 21 3/4 inches (91.4 x 55.2 cm), American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY. There were at least twenty-three paintings in Hassam’s series of flag paintings. This Victory Day celebration no longer occurs, though there are several other May days to fly the colors.

May has three days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, three days designated in other federal laws,  and three statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.

Interestingly, the three designated days all float, from year to year:

  • Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May (May 11, in 2021)
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May (May 17)
  • Memorial Day, the last Monday in May (May 26)

Residents of these states celebrate statehood; South Carolina and Wisconsin share May 23:

  • Minnesota, May 11 (1858, the 32nd state)
  • South Carolina, May 23 (1788, the 8th state)
  • Wisconsin, May 23 (1848, the 30th state)
  • Rhode Island, May 29 (1790, the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the Constitution)

In 2016 President Obama issued a proclamation calling on citizens to fly the flag on May 1, Law Day. It’s also Loyalty Day, which got a proclamation from President Obama calling for flag flying in 2016.

Trump did the same in 2017, and for Loyalty Day, surprising me that his office was organized enough to do it.

May 8 marks the 76th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the day the Axis Powers in Europe surrendered at the end of World War II.  Some years that day is marked by a proclamation calling for flag flying.  (You may fly your flag then even if Congress and the President do nothing.)

In recent years Presidents have proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, with flags to fly at half-staff. We might expect another such declaration in 2021.

May 22 is National Maritime Day, under a Joint Resolution from Congress from 1933. President Joe Biden may proclaim that day as a day to fly the flag, too.

Twelve events on fourteen days to fly the U.S. flag.  May could be quite busy for flag fliers.

  1. Law Day, May 1, AND
  2. Loyalty Day, May 1
  3. Victory in Europe Day, May 8
  4. Minnesota Statehood, May 11
  5. Mothers Day, May 11
  6. Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15 (half-staff flags; the law for Police Week calls for flags to be half-staff the entire week in which May 15 occurs, May 11-17 in 2021)
  7. Armed Forces Day, May 17
  8. National Maritime Day, May 22
  9. South Carolina Statehood, May 23, AND
  10. Wisconsin Statehood, May 23
  11. Memorial Day, May 26
  12. Rhode Island Statehood, May 29
US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court's west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court’s west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

World Malaria Day was April 25: WHO’s fact sheet

April 26, 2021

Preparing for World Malaria Day the World Health Organization (WHO) put out a fact sheet on malaria and status of current work to fight it. Technically it’s nothing new — but much of the material is news to the general public who get the politicized versions of the stories.

World Malaria Day 2021 logo from Roll Back Malaria via BioMed Central

World Malaria Day 2021 logo from Roll Back Malaria via BioMed Central

WHO’s analysis shows malaria declines, but the rates of decline are not so steep as desired. Developed nations get distracted in providing funds to fight malaria. 2020 was an outstanding year of distraction of the malaria fight, now complicated by spread of COVID-19 viruses.

Notable:

  • No call for DDT; pesticide resistance remains a problem, but it’s a problem DDT cannot solve.
  • Malaria remains near all-time lows in humans, with 229 million cases worldwide.
  • Malaria still kills kids predominantly, and African kids make up most of those deaths.
  • 15 years ago there was hope of eradicating malaria from many countries by 2020; that goal will be missed in several nations.

The fact sheet:

Key facts

  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
  • In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide.
  • The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019.
  • Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2019, they accounted for 67% (274 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.
  • The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, the region was home to 94% of malaria cases and deaths.
  • Total funding for malaria control and elimination reached an estimated US$ 3 billion in 2019. Contributions from governments of endemic countries amounted to US$ 900 million, representing 31% of total funding.

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors.” There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat.

In 2018, P. falciparum accounted for 99.7% of estimated malaria cases in the WHO African Region 50% of cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 71% of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean and 65% in the Western Pacific.

P. vivax is the predominant parasite in the WHO Region of the Americas, representing 75% of malaria cases.

Symptoms

Malaria is an acute febrile illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache, and chills – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ failure is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.

Who is at risk?

In 2019, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the WHO regions of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas are also at risk.

Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers. National malaria control programmes need to take special measures to protect these population groups from malaria infection, taking into consideration their specific circumstances.

Disease burden

According to the latest  World malaria report, released on 30 November 2020, there were 229 million cases of malaria in 2019 compared to 228 million cases in 2018. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019, compared with 411 000 deaths in 2018.

The WHO African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, the region was home to 94% of all malaria cases and deaths.

In 2019, 6 countries accounted for approximately half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (23%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), United Republic of Tanzania (5%), Burkina Faso (4%), Mozambique (4%) and Niger (4% each).

Children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in  2019  they accounted for 67% (274 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.

Transmission

In most cases, malaria is transmitted through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. There are more than 400 different species of Anopheles mosquito; around 30 are malaria vectors of major importance. All of the important vector species bite between dusk and dawn. The intensity of transmission depends on factors related to the parasite, the vector, the human host, and the environment.

Anopheles mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, which hatch into larvae, eventually emerging as adult mosquitoes. The female mosquitoes seek a blood meal to nurture their eggs. Each species of Anopheles mosquito has its own preferred aquatic habitat; for example, some prefer small, shallow collections of fresh water, such as puddles and hoof prints, which are abundant during the rainy season in tropical countries.

Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito lifespan is longer (so that the parasite has time to complete its development inside the mosquito) and where it prefers to bite humans rather than other animals. The long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the main reason why approximately 90% of the world’s malaria cases are in Africa.

Transmission also depends on climatic conditions that may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity. In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season. Malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions suddenly favour transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low immunity move into areas with intense malaria transmission, for instance to find work, or as refugees.

Human immunity is another important factor, especially among adults in areas of moderate or intense transmission conditions. Partial immunity is developed over years of exposure, and while it never provides complete protection, it does reduce the risk that malaria infection will cause severe disease. For this reason, most malaria deaths in Africa occur in young children, whereas in areas with less transmission and low immunity, all age groups are at risk.

Prevention

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. If coverage of vector control interventions within a specific area is high enough, then a measure of protection will be conferred across the community.

WHO recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control. Two forms of vector control – insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying – are effective in a wide range of circumstances.

Insecticide-treated mosquito nets

Sleeping under an insecticide-treated net (ITN) can reduce contact between mosquitoes and humans by providing both a physical barrier and an insecticidal effect. Population-wide protection can result from the killing of mosquitoes on a large scale where there is high access and usage of such nets within a community.

In 2019, an estimated 46% of all people at risk of malaria in Africa were protected by an insecticide-treated net, compared to 2% in 2000. However, ITN coverage has been at a standstill since 2016.Indoor spraying with residual insecticides

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides is another powerful way to rapidly reduce malaria transmission. It involves spraying the inside of housing structures with an insecticide, typically once or twice per year. To confer significant community protection, IRS should be implemented at a high level of coverage.

Globally, IRS protection declined from a peak of 5% in 2010 to 2% in 2019, with decreases seen across all WHO regions, apart from the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. The declines in IRS coverage are occurring as countries switch from pyrethroid insecticides to more expensive alternatives to mitigate mosquito resistance to pyrethroids.

Antimalarial drugs

Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria. For travellers, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria disease. For pregnant women living in moderate-to-high transmission areas, WHO recommends at least 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations.

Since 2012, WHO has recommended seasonal malaria chemoprevention as an additional malaria prevention strategy for areas of the Sahel sub-region of Africa. The strategy involves the administration of monthly courses of amodiaquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to all children under 5 years of age during the high transmission season.

Insecticide resistance

Since 2000, progress in malaria control has resulted primarily from expanded access to vector control interventions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, these gains are threatened by emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes.  According to the latest  World malaria report, 73 countries reported mosquito resistance to at least 1 of the 4 commonly-used insecticide classes in the period 2010-2019. In 28 countries, mosquito resistance was reported to all of the main insecticide classes.

Despite the emergence and spread of mosquito resistance to pyrethroids, insecticide-treated nets continue to provide a substantial level of protection in most settings. This was evidenced in a  large 5-country study coordinated by WHO between 2011 and 2016.

While the findings of this study are encouraging, WHO continues to highlight the urgent need for new and improved tools in the global response to malaria. To prevent an erosion of the impact of core vector control tools, WHO also underscores the critical need for all countries with ongoing malaria transmission to develop and apply effective insecticide resistance management strategies.

Diagnosis and treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment, particularly for P. falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).

WHO recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatment. Results of parasitological confirmation can be available in 30 minutes or less. Treatment, solely on the basis of symptoms should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not possible. More detailed recommendations are available in the third edition of the “WHO Guidelines for the treatment of malaria”, published in April 2015.

Antimalarial drug resistance

Resistance to antimalarial medicines is a recurring problem. Resistance of P. falciparum malaria parasites to previous generations of medicines, such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s, undermining malaria control efforts and reversing gains in child survival.

Protecting the efficacy of antimalarial medicines is critical to malaria control and elimination. Regular monitoring of drug efficacy is needed to inform treatment policies in malaria-endemic countries, and to ensure early detection of, and response to, drug resistance.

In 2013, WHO launched the Emergency response to artemisinin resistance (ERAR) in the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS), a high-level plan of attack to contain the spread of drug-resistant parasites and to provide life-saving tools for all populations at risk of malaria. But even as this work was under way, additional pockets of resistance emerged independently in new geographic areas of the subregion. In parallel, there were reports of increased resistance to ACT partner drugs in some settings. A new approach was needed to keep pace with the changing malaria landscape.

At the World Health Assembly in May 2015, WHO launched the  Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong subregion (2015–2030), which was endorsed by all the countries in the subregion. Urging immediate action, the strategy calls for the elimination of all species of human malaria across the region by 2030, with priority action targeted to areas where multidrug resistant malaria has taken root.

With technical guidance from WHO, all countries in the region have developed national malaria elimination plans. Together with partners, WHO is providing ongoing support for country elimination efforts through the Mekong Malaria Elimination programme, an initiative that evolved from the ERAR

Surveillance

Surveillance entails tracking of the disease and programmatic responses, and taking action based on the data received. Currently, many countries with a high burden of malaria have weak surveillance systems and are not in a position to assess disease distribution and trends, making it difficult to optimize responses and respond to outbreaks.

Effective surveillance is required at all points on the path to malaria elimination. Stronger malaria surveillance systems are urgently needed to enable a timely and effective malaria response in endemic regions, to prevent outbreaks and resurgences, to track progress, and to hold governments and the global malaria community accountable.

In March 2018, WHO released a  reference manual on malaria surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, monitoring and evaluation. The manual provides information on global surveillance standards and guides countries in their efforts to strengthen surveillance systems.

Elimination

Malaria elimination is defined as the interruption of local transmission of a specified malaria parasite species in a defined geographical area as a result of deliberate activities. Continued measures are required to prevent re-establishment of transmission. Malaria eradication is defined as the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of malaria infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate activities. Interventions are no longer required once eradication has been achieved.

Globally, the elimination net is widening, with more countries moving towards the goal of zero malaria. In 2019, 27 countries reported fewer than 100 indigenous cases of the disease, up from 6 countries in 2000.

Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years of 0 indigenous cases of malaria are eligible to apply for the WHO certification of malaria elimination. Over the last two decades, 11 countries have been certified by the WHO Director-General as malaria-free: United Arab Emirates (2007),  Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018), Uzbekistan (2018), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019) and El Salvador (2021). The WHO Framework for malaria elimination (2017) provides a detailed set of tools and strategies for achieving and maintaining elimination. In January 2021, WHO published a new manual, Preparing for certification of malaria elimination, with extended guidance for countries that are approaching elimination or preparing for elimination certification.

Vaccines against malaria

RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is the first and, to date, the only vaccine to show that it can significantly reduce malaria, and life-threatening severe malaria, in young African children. It acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa. Among children who received 4 doses in large-scale clinical trials, the vaccine prevented approximately 4 in 10 cases of malaria over a 4-year period.

In view of its public health potential, WHO’s top advisory bodies for malaria and immunization have jointly recommended phased introduction of the vaccine in selected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – began introducing the vaccine in selected areas of moderate and high malaria transmission in 2019. Vaccinations are being provided through each country’s routine immunization programme.

The pilot programme will address several outstanding questions related to the public health use of the vaccine. It will be critical for understanding how best to deliver the recommended 4 doses of RTS,S; the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths; and its safety in the context of routine use.

This WHO-coordinated programme is a collaborative effort with Ministries of Health in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and a range of in-country and international partners, including PATH, a non-profit organization, and GSK, the vaccine developer and manufacturer.

Financing for the vaccine programme has been mobilized through a collaboration between 3 major global health funding bodies: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid.

WHO response

WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030

The WHO  Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 – adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015 – provides a technical framework for all malaria-endemic countries. It is intended to guide and support regional and country programmes as they work towards malaria control and elimination.

The Strategy sets ambitious but achievable global targets, including:

  • reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90% by 2030;
  • reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030;
  • eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries by 2030;
  • preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.

This Strategy was the result of an extensive consultative process that spanned 2 years and involved the participation of more than 400 technical experts from 70 Member States.

The Global Malaria Programme

The  WHO Global Malaria Programme coordinates WHO’s global efforts to control and eliminate malaria by:

  • setting, communicating and promoting the adoption of evidence-based norms, standards, policies, technical strategies, and guidelines;
  • keeping independent score of global progress;
  • developing approaches for capacity building, systems strengthening, and surveillance; and
  • identifying threats to malaria control and elimination as well as new areas for action.

The Programme is supported and advised by the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC), a group of global malaria experts appointed following an open nomination process. The mandate of MPAC is to provide strategic advice and technical input, and extends to all aspects of malaria control and elimination, as part of a transparent, responsive and credible policy-setting process.

“High burden high impact approach”

At the World Health Assembly in May 2018, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for an aggressive new approach to jump-start progress against malaria. A new country-driven response – “  High burden to high impact” – was launched in Mozambique in November 2018.

The approach is currently being driven by the 11 countries that carry a high burden of the disease (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania). Key elements include:

  1. political will to reduce the toll of malaria;
  2. strategic information to drive impact;
  3. better guidance, policies and strategies; and
  4. a coordinated national malaria response.

Catalysed by WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, “High burden to high impact” builds on the principle that no one should die from a disease that can be prevented and diagnosed, and that is entirely curable with available treatments.


Still true in 2021: Earth Day does not celebrate Lenin, who was anti-environmentalist – annual debunking of the annual Earth Day/Lenin hoax

April 22, 2021

This is mostly an encore post, repeated each year for April 22 and Earth Day — sad that it needs repeating; anti-environmentalists don’t appear to learn much, year to year.  (Yes, some of the links may be dated; if you find one not working, please let me know in comments.)

In 2021, we may need this post more, to put up with anti-science backlash to the defeat of Donald Trump.

You could write it off to pareidolia, once.

Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday, when the greatest number of college students would be on campus.

Google Doodle for Earth Day 2021

Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax.  It’s as much a hoax on the ill-informed of the right, as anyone else. Many of them believe it.

No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:

One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.

Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22, on the new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — one might accurately note that Lenin’s mother always said he was born on April 10.

It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.

About.com explains why the idea of a link between Earth Day and Lenin is silly:

Does Earth Day Promote Communism?
Earth Day 1970 was initially conceived as a teach-in, modeled on the teach-ins used successfully by Vietnam War protesters to spread their message and generate support on U.S. college campuses. It is generally believed that April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was a Wednesday that fell between spring break and final exams—a day when a majority of college students would be able to participate.

U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.

“On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”

April 22 is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska newspaper editor who founded Arbor Day (a national holiday devoted to planting trees) on April 22, 1872, when Lenin was still in diapers. Maybe April 22 was chosen to honor Morton and nobody knew. Maybe environmentalists were trying to send a subliminal message to the national subconscious that would transform people into tree-planting zombies. One birthday “plot” seems just about as likely as the other. What’s the chance that one person in a thousand could tell you when either of these guys were born.

My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.

Certainly, the Soviet Union never celebrated Earth Day. Nor was Lenin any great friend of the environment.  He stood instead with the oil-drillers-without-clean-up, with the strip-miners-without-reclamation, with the dirty-smokestack guys.  You’d think someone with a bit of logic and a rudimentary knowledge of history could put that together.

Gaylord Nelson, Living Green image
Inventor of Earth Day teach-ins, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

The REAL founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, usually recognized as the founder and father of Earth Day, told how and why the organizers came to pick April 22:

Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

In his own words, Nelson spoke of what he was trying to do:

After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.

Lenin on the environment? Think of the Aral Sea disaster, the horrible pollution from Soviet mines and mills, and the dreadful record of the Soviet Union on protecting any resource. Lenin believed in exploiting resources and leaving the spoils to rot in the sun, not conservation; in practice there was no environmental protection, but instead a war on nature, in the Soviet Union.

So, why are all these conservative denialists claiming, against history and politics, that Lenin’s birthday has anything to do with Earth Day?

Can you say “propaganda?” Can you say “political smear?”

2017 Resources and Good News:

2015 Resources and Good News:

2014 Resources and Good News:

2013 Resources and Good News:

Good information for 2012:

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

2014’s Wall of Shame:

2013 Wall of Shame:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2012:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2011:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2010:

Spread the word. Have you found someone spreading the hoax, claiming Earth Day honors Lenin instead? Give us the link in comments.

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Annals of global heating, Africa edition: Record heat, again

April 9, 2021

Image

High temperatures in Africa, during the first week of April 2021. MET Office.

Dissenters from the science of global heating/climate change often point to snow in winter, or any cool snap anywhere on Earth in any season, as evidence that global warming cannot occur.

In reality, back on Earth, heat records are being set all over the globe, and there are far more heat records than cold records. (“Global warming” is shorthand for “more energy in the atmosphere,” which means the atmosphere strives for equilibrium by releasing and evening out the energy — and that means storms are more severe, and temperature fluctuations are often more extreme. So we should see record colds, too.)

Britain’s meteorology service, the MET, released the map above last week, showing incredible heat across Africa. Africa is frequently overlooked in discussions about climate change.

Intense hot spell in Subsaharian Africa with Togo getting close to its highest temperature on record (it can attack it tomorrow again). Dapaon with 43.0c sets a new all time high,while Wa in Ghana and Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso both tied their all time Tmax with 42.0C.

Tip of the old scrub brush to @extremetemps on Twitter.


Salina Lotion – resurrected from the past?

March 28, 2021

Ain’t the internet wonderful?

I complained about the apparent demise of Salina Drug Lotion from Salina Drug, a company that no longer exists in Salina, Utah.

Reader J. W. Higginbotham — a stellar researcher of things internet — responded with an obscure page from a company in Utah that said it has the lotion available. Pure Cell Organics in Salt Lake City has the stuff.

Salina Lotion, from Pure Cell Organics, in Salt Lake City

Salina Skin Lotion, from Pure Cell Organics, in Salt Lake City. Hoping it’s not a mirage.

The page invites raised hopes:

Ready for something new? 

Try this 70+ year-old recipe developed by a local pharmacist in Salina, Utah.   

Salina Lotion is a glycerin, bay rum and rosemary essential oil based liquid lotion that promotes the healing of dry, cracked and itchy skin, especially on feet and hands.  It softens skin, cuticles and calluses and is great for sunburn relief. 

Local family owned and operated.  

After checking to be sure it isn’t a scam, or badly outdated, and an email exchange with the woman who owns the company, we should have a bottle on the way.

It’s almost as good as DNA tests finding lost, wealthy or entertaining relatives.


Respect the flag; time to retire this one

March 24, 2021

Found this flag in the neighborhood while running the dogs.

Remember this as an example of when to retire a flag, and replace it.

Worn or badly soiled flags that cannot be repaired should be retired and replaced. The tattered flag — or in this case, remnants — should be disposed preferably by fire, with honor.


Salina Drug’s hand lotion — gone for good?

March 11, 2021

Hand lotion from Salina Drug, in Salina, Utah — long ago.

Utah friends, or anyone who can help: Do you know where to find this great hand lotion?

We nursed this bottle as long as we could. It ran out in January. Where do we get more?

We have not been able to get more in Salina, Utah.

The story: I heard stories about Salina Drug’s great hand lotion on the trail, hiking around Southern Utah. I was always in Salina late at night, or early in the morning, when the drug store was closed — Kathryn and I finally picked up a bottle on a red rock vacation, in 1983

A few drops are all you need. There was eucalyptus, I think, and camphor. A touch of glycerine. Witch hazel? Fantastic stuff. Miracle cure. We rationed the stuff through law school, awaiting a chance to get more.

Finals, a job change or two, a baby, another job change and move to Texas, bar exam, another baby — we didn’t get back to Salina until one Sunday in 1991 or 1992. We got late on a Sunday. Salina Drug was closed.

Was it closed for good? I don’t know. I tried a couple times to phone. No success.

New jobs, kids in school. Our rationing system consisted of putting it in the back of the medicine cabinet and forgetting about it, until you get hands so chapped in desperation you remembered that old hand lotion. Just a few drops. It’s particularly good for hands chapped from climbing red rocks, or bouldering.

It was a formula probably close to a century old in 1983. They brewed and bottled the stuff right there in the pharmacy. Amber bottle, locally-printed stick-on label, a piece of real cork with a slit to dispense, under the cap. But at some point in between 1985 and 2000, Salina Drug slipped away (like Bobbie McGee near Salinas, not to be confused with Salina).

When the drugstore died, did anybody save the recipe? Is anyone selling the stuff now?

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February 23, flags rose on Iwo Jima.

February 23, 2021

Color movie film of one of the flag raisings surfaced.

So little of the news coverage of World War II is in color, it’s almost shocking to see this and realize it’s not a later re-enactment.
twitter.com/wwiipix/status/1364181702629818372


2021, flying the flag in February

February 13, 2021

Lincoln at Independence Hall, February 22, 1861; Library of Congress image via Lincoln's Cottage

Lincoln at Independence Hall, February 22, 1861, raising a flag in honor of George Washington’s birthday; Library of Congress image via Lincoln’s Cottage

You want to mark your calendar so you remember to put your U.S. flag up on those dates designated by law and tradition, right?

Is the flag flying a bit more easily and briskly, with the new administration in Washington?

Which dates in February? A few are already gone (cue Eagles?)

  • Massachusetts statehood, February 6 (6th state, 1788)
  • Lincoln’s birthday, February 12 (yes, it’s still designated in law as a date to fly the flag)
  • Oregon statehood, February 14 (33rd state, 1859)
  • Arizona statehood, February 14 (48th state, 1913)
  • Washington’s birthday, now designated President’s Day, the third Monday in February, February 15 in 2021 (Washington’s actual birthday is February 22 on the Gregorian calendar; some people fly the flag then, also)

You may fly your flag on state holidays, too — which of those dates do we see in February?  Is there a good list? (I don’t have one.)

Though we don’t mark it usually, February 14 is the anniversary of the first recognition of the Stars and Stripes by a foreign government, in 1778.  The French fleet recognized the ensign carried by Capt. John Paul Jones, at Quiberon Bay.

February 23 is the anniversary of the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, in 1945 — 76 years ago.  We should probably watch for proclamations to fly the flag on that date, an anniversary made more important simply because so few survivors of from among the veterans of that war and that fight can be expected to live to see the 80th anniversary. Regardless any official, formal proclamation to fly the flag for the Iwo Jima events, you may always fly your flag.

Please visit earlier posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, on the death of Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who took the widely-released iconic photo; on the death of Charles Lindberg, pictured in the first flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi; on the death of Raymond Jacobs, the last-surviving veteran from the flag raisings; and on my visit to the Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima-themed U.S. Marine Memorial overlooking Washington, D.C.

Happy flag-flying!

More:

  • Image of Lincoln and the flag is in the collection of the Library of Congress, probably more than once; artist is Jean Louis Gerome Ferris, and thought to be circa 1908, in Detroit, Michigan

This is an encore post.

Yes, some of this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


Chess games of the rich and famous: T. Roosevelt, John Hay and Joe Cannon

February 1, 2021

Charles Davis Mitchell (1887 – 1940) penciled and penned this in 1905, showing John Milton Hay, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Joseph G. Cannon. It looks like Hay and Cannon are playing against each other, with Roosevelt just enjoying the game. National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian image.

Descriptions of the drawing from the National Portrait Gallery only identify the people portrayed above the chess board. It shows Secretary of State John Milton Hay playing against House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon, while President Theodore Roosevelt looks on smiling.

That’s it?

It may be quaint today. I have found no description of issues portrayed in the drawing. But it’s a curious collision of now mostly-overlooked history.

NPG lists the drawing by Charles Davis Mitchell as circa 1905. We might presume it to be before July 1, 1905, since that’s the day John Hay died. If 1905, it’s after Roosevelt’s election in November 1904 — whether before or after his March inauguration, we don’t know.

Mitchell was famous for his drawings later, of women, for fashion magazines. We can assume he did other illustrations of political people — but those drawings don’t come up in quick searches.

Joe Cannon is a legendary Speaker of the House, after whom the first House Office Building is named (there are three: Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn). Early in Roosevelt’s first term Cannon complained that Hay had not consulted enough with Congress on foreign policy initiatives, but by 1905 that rankle had largely died down, as I read it.

John Hay may be the most interesting figure in the drawing. Hay was personal secretary to President Abraham Lincoln. He had been active in statecraft and politics after Lincoln’s death, serving in diplomatic posts and supporting James Garfield’s campaign, for example — but Garfield did not offer him a cabinet position, and Hay returned to private life and writing the definitive biography of Lincoln with Lincoln’s other secretary and Hay’s colleague, John George Nicolay. After Garfield’s assassination, Hay was much in the political wilderness for a few years. Hay and Nicolay published ten volumes of the history of Abraham Lincoln in 1890.

Hay returned to government as U.S. Ambassador to Britain, and then as Secretary of State in 1898, in the first administration of William McKinley. McKinley was victim of the third assassination of a U.S. president — Hay and Lincoln’s son Robert share an uncomfortable closeness to the three assassinations. When Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency in 1901 he kept Hay at State. Hay remained there until his death.

What does the illustration attempt to illuminate? Was this meant as a barbed cartoon, or did it illustrate an article on politics of the time? Details from the National Portrait Gallery do not say.

Delicious mystery. Was this image ever published? Does it have greater historical significance on events of 1905? Was either Hay or Cannon a chess player? Mystery.

 


Flying U.S. flags in January 2021

January 6, 2021

“Raising the first American flag, Somerville, Mass., January 1, 1776.” Harper’s Weekly painting by Clyde Osmer DeLand, 1897. From the digital collections of the New York Public Library; yes, MFB has used this painting before. I like it.

One problem with January’s flag flying dates is that if I snooze a little, you miss a lot. There are four flag-flying dates in the first five days of January: New Year’s Day and statehood days for Georgia, Alaska and Utah. You, Dear Reader, are alert and didn’t let any of those dates pass unmarked if you’re in those states, right?

There are six more dates to go in January 2021, including New Mexico’s statehood today. We’re not halfway done, yet.

In January 2020, the U.S. Flag Code urges citizens to fly flags on these dates, listed chronologically:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1, a federal holiday
  • January 2, Georgia Statehood Day
  • January 3, Alaska Statehood Day
  • January 4, Utah Statehood Day
  • January 6, New Mexico Statehood Day
  • January 9, Connecticut Statehood Day
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a federal holiday on the third Monday of January; that date is January 18, in 2021; King’s actual birthday is January 15, and you may fly your flag then, too
  • Inauguration Day, January 20, the year after election years; 2021 will see the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden (first President named Joe; what took so long?)
  • January 26, Michigan Statehood Day
  • January 29, Kansas Statehood Day

You may fly your flag any other day you wish, too; flags should not be flown after sundown unless they are specially lighted, or at one of the few places designated by Congress or Presidential Proclamation for 24-hour flag flying.  According to Wikipedia’s listing, those sites include:

  • Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).
  • Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore, Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).
  • Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).
  • Lexington Battle Green, Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965).
  • White House, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).
  • Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971).
  • Any port of entry to the United States which is continuously open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).
  • Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).
Flag House in 1936, 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland) (cropped). Image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

Flag House in 1936, where Mary Pickersgill sewed the garrison-sized, 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore in 1814; one of the sites where the U.S. flag may be flown 24 hours. The house is at 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland). Cropped image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

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Children unfurl a large flag at a Denver Nuggets/Indiana Pacers NBA basketball game in Denver, January 2016. Colorado Public Radio image.
This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Christmas 2020 questions: Who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 24, 2020

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007, with modifications.

“Today in History from the Associated Press notes, for December 23:

In 1823, the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.

Regardless who wrote the poem first published 197 years ago, how did the poem influence America’s view of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus?  And how much of the Santa Claus story really was invented in America?

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.

Isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In January 1863, Thomas Nast portrayed Santa Claus as he delivered gifts to Union troops a few days earlier in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat.

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 1823. 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)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.

Thomas Nast’s full realization of Santa Claus, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” January 1, 1881. Harper’s Weekly, from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, via Bill Cassellman's site

Thomas Nast’s full realization of Santa Claus, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” January 1, 1881. Harper’s Weekly, from Wikimedia.

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to Coca-Cola advertising campaigns. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

Coca-Cola’s film, “The Legend of Coca-Cola and Santa Claus”:

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

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Scrooge’s continuing Christmas gift: Appropriate words for seeing 2020 out

December 11, 2020

I wish it were not so. These words of Dickens’s through Scrooge, remain salient, damning and depressing, every day Donald Trump holds the Oval Office. Now Trump’s been impeached, but left in place, and defeated by American voters, but he still sits on his throne, messing up America in every way he can think to do it.

And so our annual post on the lessons we take from “A Christmas Carol.”

Roberto Innocenti, Scrooge on a dark staircase

Ebenezer Scrooge, up a dark staircase; “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” Illustration by Roberto Innocenti, via Pinterest.

It’s a Quote of the Moment (an encore post for the season, with a bit of context thrown in later), Trump’s platform, and life, edited down to just three words, in green:

Darkness is cheap,
and Scrooge liked it.

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave 1

Isn’t that the entire GOP platform in three words? “Darkness is cheap.” Substitute “Trump” for “Scrooge,” you’ve got the picture. Three more words than the actual Republican National Platform of 2020, but more accurate.

I think of that line of Dickens’s often when  I read of the celebrations of calumny that pass as discourse in Republican politics these days. Although, with the 2008 renewing of Limbaugh’s contract, with the 2020 coming of COVID-19, it may no longer be true that his particular brand of darkness is cheap. With the advent of Donald Trump’s insult politics, offending America’s allies and all American ethnic groups possible, with un-ironic calls to drop nuclear weapons, GOP politics is even darker than ever.

Cheap or not, darkness remains dark.

John Leach, Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want

Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want, the products of his stinginess (drawing by John Leech, 1809-1870)

Here is the sentence Dickens put before the quote, to add a little context; Scrooge was climbing a very large, very dark staircase.

Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

Speaking of darkness, a longer excerpt from a bit later in Dickens’s story, when the Ghost of Christmas Present ushers Scrooge to glimpse what is in the present, but what will be the future if Scrooge does not repent:

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, ‘but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit! are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!’

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’ The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

A Christmas Carol, Stave 3

Think of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, children abused in Central America and in the Middle East, fleeing as best they can, only to die, off the shores of Greece, on the southern deserts of the U.S., or be cast into incarceration after having achieved a nation whose very name promised them refuge, the United States. “Two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable,” Dickens described. Whose children? “Man’s.” Yours, and mine.

Christmas is a festival to celebrate light, what many Christians call “the light of the world?” If so, let us work to stamp out the darkness which the unrepentant Scrooge so dearly loved.

Darkness may be cheap, but it is not good.  Light a candle, and run into the darkness, spreading light. We need more light.

Hope you have a merry Christmas in the making for 2020. Let us remember, as Tom and the late Ray Magliozzi always reminded us, the cheapskate pays more in the end, and usually along the way. Is Darkness cheap? Let us then eschew it as too costly for a moral nation, too costly for a moral people.

Is Donald Trump as smart as Ebenezer Scrooge? Is his heart as good as Scrooge’s heart?

If Trump died, who would attend his funeral?

When we die, who will mourn our passing? Which spirit moves us to action?

God bless us, every one. Or gods, or family and friends bless us, as the case may be.

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Yes, this is an encore post, mostly. Fighting ignorance is taking a lot longer than anyone thought.

Yes, this is an encore post, mostly. Fighting ignorance is taking a lot longer than anyone thought.

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Mississippi flags fly for statehood, December 10, 2020

December 9, 2020

For statehood day this year, Mississippi has a new state flag.

Abandoning vestiges of the old Confederacy, Mississippi voters approved a new flag for the state in November, harkening back to its original flag featuring a magnolia tree. This flag is popularly called the “In God We Trust” flag, carrying the most recent of the “official” mottoes of the U.S. The flag change was prompted by Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd

U.S. Flag Code urges residents of states to fly U.S. flags on the anniversary of that state’s joining the union. Technically, then, the shortage of new flags shouldn’t impair Mississippi’s celebration of statehood.

Mississippi joined the union as the 20th state on December 10, 1817.

Do Mississippians celebrate?

More:

Mississippi Power raises new Mississippi flag with the U.S. flag, at its headquarters. Mississippi Power image.

December 3 is Illinois Statehood Day; let your flags fly for 202 years of US-ness

December 3, 2020

American Experience reminded us at Facebook that December 3 is the anniversary of the day Illnois was admitted to the union in 1818, the 21st state.

Under the U.S. flag Code, Americans should fly their U.S. flags on the statehood day of their state.

Illinois is 202 years old as a state today, December 3, 2020.

You flying ’em, Illinois?  You should be!

Map of the Illinois territory, about 1818, the year the state was admitted to the union, on December 3.

Map of the Illinois territory, about 1818, the year the state was admitted to the union, on December 3.

At the American Memory site at the Library of Congress, we get a good, brief dose of the events leading to statehood.

Land of Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois, 1867. Drawn from Nature. A. Ruger, 1867. Map Collections of the Library of Congress

Springfield, Illinois, 1867. Drawn from Nature. A. Ruger, 1867. Map Collections of the Library of Congress

Illinois entered the Union on December 3, 1818. The twenty-first state takes its name from the Illinois Confederation—a group of Algonquian-speaking tribes native to the area. An Algonquian word, “Illinois” means “tribe of superior men.”

Remnants of a much earlier Algonquin civilization thought the most sophisticated prehistoric society north of Mexico, are preserved at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in the southwestern part of the state.

French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette entered the Illinois region in 1673. Control of the territory passed to Great Britain in 1763. When the United States acquired the land that became Illinois Territory in 1783, most European settlers there were of French descent. In 1788, the Continental Congress received information concerning the inhabitants of the Illinois area. “There are sundry French settlements on the river Mississippi within the tract,” the committee reported:

Near the mouth of the river Kaskaskies, there is a village which appears to have contained near eighty families from the beginning of the late revolution. There are twelve families in a small village at la Prairie duRochers, and near fifty families—the Kahokia village. There are also four or five families at fort Chartres and St. Philips, which is five miles farther up the river. The heads of families in those villages appear each of them to have had a certain quantity of arable land allotted to them, and a proportionate quantity of meadow and of woodland or pasture. The Committee…referred the memorial of George Morgan…respecting a tract of land in the Illinois, June 20, 1788.
Documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789

Twenty years later, Congress organized the Illinois Territory. Pioneers from Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee settled the southern part of the territory, while New Englanders ventured to northern Illinois via the Erie Canal.

Land of Lincoln, the state slogan, pays homage to famous son Abraham Lincoln. Born in Kentucky, Lincoln came to Illinois in 1830. He was instrumental, along with his colleagues in the Illinois legislature, in moving the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Settling there in 1837, Lincoln married socially prominent resident Mary Todd, practiced law, and built the political career that brought him the presidency in 1861.

Chicago, a minor trading post at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan until the 1830s, developed into a railroad hub and industrial center. After the Civil War, industrialization attracted a new wave of immigrants. People from all over the U.S. and the world ventured to Chicago to work in the meat-packing and steel industries. Even the Great Conflagration of 1871 failed to prevent the Windy City from becoming one of the largest urban centers in the country. It remains the third most populous city and metropolitan area in the United States.

Learn more about Illinois:

Lotta history there.

U.S., Illinois and City of Chicago flags in a stiff breeze at the Navy Pier, Chicago. Photo by John Junker, at flickr.

U.S., Illinois and City of Chicago flags in a stiff breeze at the Navy Pier, Chicago. Photo by John Junker, at flickr. (copyright to Junker, too)

Even more:

This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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