The Watering Hole, Wednesday, August 12th, 2015: Chuck Should Listen to George (Bonus: Birds!)

I started this post (a few days ago) thinking that I would rebut Senator Chuck Schumer’s reasoning, as reported in this NY Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman, for his opposition to the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  But that would have taken too long and wouldn’t have been good for my mental and physical health.  Suffice it to say that Chuck’s ‘arguments’ against the deal are specious and unfounded, and the final quote in the article is, quite literally, nonsensical:  “To me, after 10 years, if Iran is the same nation as it is today, we will be worse off with this agreement than without it.”

Then I got distracted (once again) by President Washington’s Farewell Address, with his  warning against aligning the Nation with any particular nation(s) at the expense and enmity of any other nation(s), and at the expense of our country’s interests.  (If you’re interested, the pertinent discussion starts at “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”)  I wanted to scold Schumer with these two sections in particular:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.

~ and ~

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Then, for a bit of crazy, there were a couple of stories on RightWingWatch about Michele Bachman “predictions” and/or supposed validation of previous “predictions.” 

Finally, I ran across something to wash the bad taste out of your minds: a story about birds from DailyKos.

This is our daily open thread, so talk about ‘such and stuff’ (as my mum used to say.)

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The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 4th, 2015: Today in History

Born on April 4th, 1918, my dad would have been 97 today.  Later today, after I take Squiggy to the vet for whatever shot he’s scheduled to get, I’ll be heading down to the cemetery for a visit. One of my coworkers said that she couldn’t bear to go to the cemetery where her father is buried, but I don’t have such a hard time going to see my dad. Not that I don’t miss him, or my mum (it is harder for me when mum is the reason for my visit), but when I’m there and look around at so many of their old friends buried nearby, it’s somewhat comforting. Nearly every name I see is one that I know, or know of, from growing up in Brewster. And almost every day when I’m driving home from work, I pass the old entrance to the cemetery, and I wave and say ‘hi’ each time because, while out of sight from the road, I know that my parents are straight up that old drive, and among friends.

Today also marks 41 years since my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth “Bessie” Cook, died of breast cancer. Even though the film mammogram had been invented in 1969, five years later it was certainly not the common preventative screening method that it is today. So despite having undergone a double mastectomy, Grandma’s cancer was too far along to be stopped. I remember mum and I going to the nursing home a day or two after my sister, Anne, had given birth to Bessie’s first great-grandchild, my godson and oldest nephew, Michael. We believe that, knowing that Anne was due any day, Grandma had been stubbornly hanging on until Michael was born. Anne had taken one of those old instant photos of newborn Michael and mailed it to Grandma immediately, but it arrived too late for Bessie. I will never forget her funeral, with my mum clutching my hand and sobbing aloud when the church soloist started to sing “Ave Maria.” to this day, I cannot hear that song without flashing back to that harrowing moment.

Mum and Dad's Wedding - Left to Right, Grandpa Joe Sechny, "Baba", my dad, my mum, Grandma Bessie Cook, Grandpa Ralph Cook

Mum and Dad’s Wedding – Left to Right, Grandpa Joe Sechny, “Baba”, my dad, my mum, Grandma Bessie Cook, Grandpa Ralph Cook

On a more global scale, several much more important events occurred on this day in history:

-On April 4th, 1968, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. This alone makes April 4th a day that should live in infamy. (I’m sure that if those who wish to re-write American history according to their own delusions, schoolchildren will someday be taught that “The Great White Hope” James Earl Jones pulled the trigger.) Remarkably, Dr. King was only 39 years old at the time of his murder – remarkable considering how huge an impact his brief life’s work had on the Civil Rights of African-Americans and on our nation’s history.

-On April 4th, 1776, General George Washington began his march from Boston to New York, and his presence here in our little neck of the New York woods is commemorated by several roadside historical markers. For a time, Washington’s headquarters were located in what is known as the John Kane House here in Pawling.

John Kane House, once George Washington's Headquarters

John Kane House, once George Washington’s Headquarters

-On April 4th, 1841, President William Henry “I died in 30 days!” Harrison died of pneumonia, exactly one month after having insisted on giving his over-long inaugural address on a frigid day without a coat or hat.

-On April 4th, 1949, the NATO pact was signed.

-On April 4th, 1928, future U.S. Poet Laureate Maya Angelou was born.

-And on April 4th, 1865, supposedly Abraham Lincoln dreamt about his own assassination.

This is our daily Open Thread – talk about anything you’d like.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 16, 2015: It’s Not Really Presidents Day

If you’re celebrating a federal holiday today, Monday, February 16, 2015, then you are not celebrating Presidents Day. Nor is it President’s Day. It’s not even Presidents’ Day. Officially, according to the federal government, the national holiday we celebrate today is, and always has been, called “Washington’s Birthday.” And because the states do not have to observe the same holidays as the federal government (on account of States’ Rights!), through the years various states have called the holiday some version of President’s Day. But to the federal government it was never meant to honor anybody but our nation’s first president, Neil Patrick Harris, popularly known as “JFK.” And it wasn’t Nixon who changed it, either.

The story behind the holiday starts in 1800, the year after Washington’s death. He was so venerated by the citizenry that his birthday became an unofficial day of observation. Not many people know that Washington was actually born on February 11, 1732, which was his birthday under the Julian Calendar. When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in 1752 (which changed the date to eleven days later, in order to properly match up with the motions of the Sun and planets), Washington’s date of birth was now February 22 under the new reckoning. An act passed in 1879 made Washington’s Birthday an official holiday in the District of Columbia, and six years later this was expanded to the entire country (and also guaranteed that the federal workers would get paid for the holiday.) At the time it was only the fifth federal holiday (along with New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day), and the only one to honor an individual person. Martin Luther King, Jr., would become only the second person so honored in the US.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved three federal holidays, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, to fixed Mondays on the calendar. (After public outcry, Veterans Days was moved back to November 11.) While there was Congressional debate on the subject, the name of the February holiday was never formally changed to Presidents Day (or any variation.) The law was passed in 1968 (signed by LBJ) but took effect in 1971 (under Nixon), which is why people erroneously blame Nixon for us losing an extra holiday in February. The idea of the law was to decrease employee absenteeism around mid-week holidays and give federal employees more three-day holiday weekends to spend with their families. (Because everybody gets the entire family together to celebrate Columbus Day.) It was the states, who were not bound by this law to move the official state celebrations of these things, who called February 22 “Presidents Day” (or their own chosen version of the name) and, of course, The Free Market, who decided that what every family needed to bond more closely was a new car. You can learn more about the history of Neil Patrick Harris’ Birthday here and here.

So, thank you, George, for holding our country together, and for hiring a gay man to train your troops to fight the British. We wouldn’t be Americans today without the two of you.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Washington’s Birthday, Presidents Day, President’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or the Saturday Night Live Reunion Special that aired last night.