Sunday Reads: Memorial Days and One Hot Summer Ahead

Memorial Day 1909, click image to see more vintage postcards.

Morning all!

This is a long weekend for many of you, and I hope that you all are enjoying it! Take care because it is during these weekends that bring about travel and water related fatalities.

Earlier this week, Boston Boomer mentioned something in a comment about the origin of Memorial Day. So I thought this link from the New York Times was interesting… Many Claim to Be Memorial Day Birthplace

James Rajotte for The New York Times

WATERLOO, N.Y.: OFFICIAL RECOGNITION Col. Lars Braun, who had just returned from 14 months in Iraq, in a Memorial Day parade in 2008 with his daughter, Rachel. In 1966, a presidential proclamation designated the town, in the Finger Lakes area, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Right on either side of Alabama, there are two places with the same name.

Like the one over in Mississippi, this Columbus was founded in the 1820s and sits just a few minutes from countryside in almost any way you drive.

Residents say it was here, in the years after the Civil War, that Memorial Day was born.

They say that in the other Columbus, too.

It does not take much for the historically curious in either town — like Richard Gardiner, a professor of teacher education at Columbus State University here — to explain why theirs is the true originator of a revered American holiday and why the other is well-meaning but simply misguided.

“I’m going to blame Memphis to some degree,” Professor Gardiner said, about which more later.

Oh boy, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned squabble about something that dates back to the Civil War.

The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers has innumerable founders, going back perhaps beyond the horizon of recorded history, perhaps as far as war itself. But there is the ancient practice and there is Memorial Day, the specific holiday, arising from an order for the annual decoration of graves that was delivered in 1868 by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group made up of Union veterans of the Civil War.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly two dozen places claim to be the primary source of the holiday, an assertion found on plaques, on Web sites and in the dogged avowals of local historians across the country.

Yet each town seems to have different criteria: whether its ceremony was in fact the earliest to honor Civil War dead, or the first one that General Logan heard about, or the first one that conceived of a national, recurring day.

The article mentions several of the towns that claim being the first, but it focuses on two specific towns.

the claims of the two Columbuses, eyeing each other across Alabama, are among the more nuanced and possibly the most intertwined.


Columbus, Miss., was a hospital town, and in many cases a burial site, for both Union and Confederate casualties of Shiloh, brought in by the trainload. And it was in that Columbus where, at the initiation of four women who met in a 12-gabled house on North Fourth Street, a solemn procession was made to Friendship Cemetery on April 25, 1866.

As the story goes, one of the women spontaneously suggested that they decorate the graves of the Union as well as the Confederate dead, as each grave contained someone’s father, brother or son. A lawyer in Ithaca, N.Y., named Francis Miles Finch read about this reconciliatory gesture and wrote a poem about the ceremony in Columbus, “The Blue and the Gray,” which The Atlantic Monthly published in 1867.

“My view is it’s really the poem that inspired the nation,” said Rufus Ward, a retired district attorney, sitting in his basement and sipping a mint julep (his grandmother’s recipe, he said, the one she shared with Eudora Welty).

The Georgians dispute little of this. But they argue that the procession in the other Columbus was actually inspired by the events in their Columbus.

And what about Georgia’s Columbus?

…Professor Gardiner points to a local woman named Mary Ann Williams, who in the spring of 1866 wrote an open letter suggesting “a day be set apart annually” and become a “custom of the country” to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

That day, described as a national day, was chosen to be April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender in North Carolina to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The letter, or a summary of it, ran in newspapers all over the South, and as far west as St. Louis and as far north as New Hampshire, leading to widespread ceremonies on that day.

It also ran in the The Memphis Daily Avalanche on March 27, 1866. But the paper had the wrong date — April 25.

“This misprint right here is the difference between what you’ll hear in Columbus, Mississippi, and here,” Professor Gardiner said, concluding that the Memphis misprint traveled to the other Columbus. The Mississippi commemoration did take place a day earlier, he admitted, but they go too far in claiming they came up with it independently. “I just can’t — I don’t buy it.”

But this day set by Mary Ann Williams was only for the Confederate dead. And still to this day the south celebrates Confederate Day, our Banjoville courthouse is closed on that day.

However, according to Professor of History David W. Blight, Yale University…the event that brought about Memorial Day is…

…a mostly forgotten — or possibly suppressed — event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track.

He has called that the first Memorial Day, as it predated most of the other contenders, though he said he has no evidence that it led to General Logan’s call for a national holiday.

“I’m much more interested in the meaning that’s being conveyed in that incredible ritual than who’s first,” he said.

I agree with Blight’s assessment too. The meaning of the day is what is most important.

So with that in mind, please take a moment today and remember all the soldiers who have died in the service of their country.

More news links after the jump.

Some of you may have seen this post from David Dayen on Friday, I thought it would be good to bring it up here today…The Bush Tax Cut Fight on the Left: Americans for Tax Fairness Launches

So here’s a new development in this Nancy Pelosi/Bush tax cut situation. Last night, a new coalition called “Americans for Tax Fairness” was formed, composed of nearly 30 labor unions and progressive groups. They have a Facebook page here (UPDATE: That is not a Facebook page for this iteration of Americans for Tax Fairness, but an older page for an unassociated group with the same name). The Wall Street Journal has a story about them here. And their entire reason for being is to call on Congress to let the Bush tax cuts expire beyond $250,000. This is the same figure that’s in the President’s budget. But it’s not the figure Nancy Pelosi used in her letter this week to John Boehner. She defined “middle-class tax cuts” as everything under $1 million in income. The initial press release from Americans for Tax Fairness specifically criticizes that.

“We established Americans for Tax Fairness to help make the economy work for all,” said Americans for Tax Fairness Campaign Manager Frank Clemente. “To achieve this goal, we need adequate levels of investment in critical areas like education and rebuilding infrastructure that create and sustain jobs. We also need a balanced and equitable approach to the federal budget challenges we face, which includes protecting critical services for the middle class and the most vulnerable. This requires that we all pay our fair share of taxes, especially big corporations and the richest 2 percent making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.”

There are proposals on the table to end the Bush tax cuts for those making $1 million a year. One of the coalition members, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), estimates that 43 percent of the tax revenue would be lost if the threshold for extending the Bush tax breaks is set at $1 million in income rather than at $250,000 – the level President Obama has proposed. In addition, CTJ estimates that half of the breaks resulting from moving the threshold from $250,000 to $1 million would go to people with income exceeding $1 million.

Just to shed some light on how these coalitions get formed: it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not like Pelosi sent her letter on Wednesday and you have a coalition critiquing her by Thursday afternoon. When you have large organizations like the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and SEIU, pretty much every economic think tank on the left like CTJ and the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, along with big progressive organizations like MoveOn and the National Council of La Raza, you need a lot of lead time to confirm everything out. In other words, my working thesis is that this coalition to push for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the same level of the President was in the works for some time. Then Pelosi inexplicably changed the dividing line, and Americans for Tax Fairness rushed out their product to counter her.

Dayen contitnues:

So now we have a fight on the left over tax revenues. And it’s not even a particularly good fight. $250,000 a year isn’t exactly middle-class, either, and both approaches assume that the Clinton-era tax rates were too high for 98% of all Americans. That actually may be the case on January 1, 2013, just on the level of not wanting to pursue tax-side austerity. But over time, there’s no reason to suggest that the Clinton-era tax rates were overly burdensome. There may be a better way to structure the tax code other than the Clinton-era rates, perhaps through expanding the EITC or giving refundable tax credits at the low end and keeping the rates higher on income, so that everyone pays a bit more on their early dollars while the poor still benefit from lower taxes. The Bush tax cut structure certainly doesn’t do that, and until you unwind those tax cuts, you’re not going to get a fairer tax code.

Anyway, the point is that Pelosi’s action has really damaged the ability to come to a decent resolution on the revenue side at the end of the year. The consequences of her shift is that 50% of the foregone revenues go to millionaires. And as for how this would work with the Buffett rule, the Administration that created the Buffett rule still wanted to go with $250,000 as the dividing line, and they clearly amassed a very large progressive coalition behind that principle.

He ends his post with the observation, “What a mess.”

(Let me just put a side-note in reference to the links I have for you today. Glancing at Memeorandum just now, I do not feel like linking to any of the hot topics of the weekend.)  Well, that is with the exception of the following two links:

John Waters Tries Some Desperate Living on a Cross-Country Hitchhiking Odyssey – From the New York Times


FL Official: Gov. Scott’s Voter Purge Will Remove Eligible Voters–  from ThinkProgress

Okay…now, that side-note being said, here are some other interesting things for you to read about.

First, do you remember the North Carolina pastor who wants to put LGBT people in a concentration camp setting, and let them die off? Well, here is one of his churches members voicing her support. Video at the link: Church Member Defends NC Pastor: LGBT People ‘Worthy of Death’

Geneva Sims told WCNC that she had been listening to Pastor Charles Worley’s sermon’s since the 1970s and agrees with the message.

“He had every right to say what he said about putting them in a pen and giving them food,” Sims explained. “The Bible says they are worthy of death. He is preaching God’s word.”

Church member Stacey Pritchard agreed that Worley was just speaking the truth.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be scared straight,” she said. “He is trying to save those people from Hell.”

I think I have an “idea” for Ms. Sims,to set her straight…get the hell away from this intolerant state of North Carolina….why not take the road trip with John Waters and see what kind of real people are out there in the world. If you read that NYT link up top, Waters got rides from all sorts of people, and let me tell you, there is no way I would pick up a guy looking like Waters does, and I am a huge fan of his cult flicks!

But going back to Worley and his “brethren” what do you expect? No mater what you say to these people, they will still project their stupid beliefs on everyone they meet. Talking slow is not going to cut it, you won’t get your progressive point across.  Check this bit of info out: Members Of Congress Speak Like High School Sophomores, Sunlight Foundation Report Says

Mick Mulvaney

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who speaks at the lowest grade-level of any member of Congress.

The sophistication of federal lawmakers’ speech patterns is on the decline, with members of Congress now talking, on average, at the level of high school sophomores. According to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation, Congress has fallen by almost a full grade-level since 2005.

The members speaking at the lowest grade levels tend to be freshmen Republicans.

As NPR noted on Monday, “Of the 10 members speaking at the lowest grade level, all but two are freshmen, and every one is a Republican.” That measurement is for all speeches since 1996.

“Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right,” said Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) clocks in at the lowest grade-level: 7.9 in this Congress.

According to the article, before 2005 Republicans spoke on average slightly better than Dems.

Sunlight also found that members of Congress rarely use the 100 most common SAT words, which are likely very familiar to high school students.

In fact, only 10 members of Congress have used at least 20 of these words in the 112th Congress; only 92 members have used at least 10 of them. Thirty-two members did not use a single one of the SAT words.

The most commonly used SAT word was, ironically, “compromise.” It has been used 1,820 times in this Congress as of the end of April. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has used it more than anyone else.

As seen in this chart from the study:

One of the people Sims and Worley would have in their conception of “God’s little acre” would be this man, Steve Crecelius aka Stevie: Man Admitted to Hospital for Kidney Stone, Discovers He’s a Woman Stevie is now in the process of becoming a woman, what he says he has felt was his true identity was way before the hospital made the discovery.

I don’t know. Maybe one day all these batshit crazy right wing religious extremist will have to except what nature and science mean to the human race. This is linking to an AP article, so I won’t quote from it, be sure to check it out. Scientist: Evolution debate will soon be history

In other news this week, the richest woman in the world as been named…Australian Becomes World’s Richest Woman, Mag Says

The article states that American’s have lost their “world’s richest” titles lately…it is a trend.

Americans no longer hold claim to the world’s richest people.

First, Bill Gates lost the “world’s richest man” crown to Carlos Slim, the Mexican businessman. Now, according to Australia’s BRW magazine, Gina Rinehart – the Australian mining magnate – has become the world’s richest woman. She takes the crown from Wal-Mart heiress Christy Walton, who held the title of world’s richest woman for seven years.

Interesting isn’t it?

Now I will end this post with two items from…one of my favorite sites on the web.

Hildegard of Bingen: Interdisciplinarian of Medieval Europe

Interdisciplinarity is not solely defined by one’s familiarization with more than one discipline of academic study. It can better be defined as a lifelong process involving the integration of many dimensions present in one’s life in order to form a more progressive, inquisitive mind which is illustrated through the way in which that life is lived. Throughout history, important and powerful men and women have demonstrated a life such as this; among them are Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi. One other person who has most assuredly reserved a place on this list is a woman named Hildegard of Bingen.

Born in 1098, Hildegard was the tenth child to Hildebert von Bermersheim and his wife Mechtild. They were a very well‐to‐do family of the free nobility from the Bermersheim region of Germany. When she was eight years old, Hildegard’s parents dedicated her to the church as a tithe. Hildegard was placed in a Benedictine monastery in an enclosed room with an anchoress and tutor named Jutta von Sponheim. As an anchoress, Jutta (and presumably Hildegard), had been placed in the room also called a cell or a tomb, with a ceremony including funeral honors. This was a lifelong dedication of seclusion from the world, the ceremony being symbolic of one dying to the world, or rather the world dying to one’s self so that that person might live a life of purity removed from all sin of the world.

Click here to read this article from Georgia College & State University

New facial recognition software to help solve art mysteries

Anyone who has admired centuries-old sculptures and portraits displayed in museums and galleries around the world at some point has asked one question: Who is that?

Three University of California, Riverside scholars have launched a research project to test — for the first time — the use of facial recognition software to help identify these unknown subjects of portrait art, a project that ultimately may enrich the understanding of European political, social and religious history.

Funded by an initial grant of $25,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the research project — “FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems” — will apply state-of-the-art facial recognition technology used in the fight against terrorism to solve old and vexing art historical problems, said Conrad Rudolph, professor of art history and project director.

“Almost every portrait painted before the 19th century was of a person of some importance,” Rudolph explained. “As families fell on hard times, many of these portraits were sold and the identities of these subjects were lost. The question we hope to answer is, can we restore these identities?”

I wonder if this is the same technology used for identifying prisoners…

Technology that “reads” human faces already must contend with variations in facial expressions, age, facial hair, angle of pose, and lighting, Rudolph said. Refining that technology to recognize human faces in two- or three-dimensional art introduces further challenges, as does portrait art generally in that the image is not a photographic likeness, but rather one that is a visual interpretation on the part of the artist.

Read more about this new computer-based research at the link above.

So, have a safe and happy Memorial Day, hopefully it is a dry one. Comment section is below, you know what to do.

32 Comments on “Sunday Reads: Memorial Days and One Hot Summer Ahead”

  1. Okay, this is f’d up: Report: Officer kills naked attacker chewing man’s face –

    The Miami Herald reports that gunshots were heard at about 2 p.m. on the MacArthur Causeway off-ramp, which is near the newspaper’s offices. Witnesses said that a woman saw two men fighting and flagged down a police officer, who came upon a naked man mauling the other man. The newspaper quoted witnesses as saying that the officer ordered the naked man to back away, and when he ignored the demand, the officer shot him. Witnesses said that the naked man continued his attack after being shot once, and the officer shot him several more times.

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    Gosh, I didn’t realize that Memorial Day was a competitive sport. All this time I thought it was a day off to go shopping & get some great deals (snark). Seriously, the honoring of the dead is a tradition that dates way back in history. And since wars have been around nearly as long as humans, it makes sense that honoring those who died for tribe/people/country have been honored. Maybe if we focused on the sacrifice, we would, one day, realize that we should wage peace instead of war. Yeah, I know – it’s a novel idea.

    I read the Steve/Stevie Crecelius story and was confused. I get the “hermaphrodite” part. What confused me was: 1) why having ovaries & fallopian tubes caused him to “run like a girl” and 2) why he bought a bra. I didn’t see anything about him deciding to go through hormone treatment & surgery.

    The piece about the pastor & his 2 parishioners illustrates what truly bothers me about the born agains. For them they’ve done their part by accepting Jesus as their savior and nothing else is necessary. What I learned in church was that leading a life like Jesus was the lesson being taught. Would penning up LGBT people have been what Jesus would have done? Don’t think so. Sounds more like a page out of Hitler’s playbook to me. One needs only look at the story of Jesus and the leper. Guess these folks have overlooked a couple of verses that I remember: judge not lest ye be judged & let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (btw – not preaching – devout agnostic now).

    I have to say that on the Hildegard story, what struck me the most was that her father “tithed” her to the church. Ahhh, chattel. I did go to the link within the link you posted. It read like a school paper/thesis. I do, however, always enjoy learning about women who have generally been erased from history simply because they were women. It makes me want to re-read The Serpent & The Goddess.

    You have a knack for sharing such a wide variety of interesting & divergent links, finding and choosing stories I would probably never see. Thanks for a terrific roundup, once again, JJ.

    • If you were born female in the Middle Ages, and came from a moneyed family…and survived childhood, the church was the only option if you were not used for marriage. What bothers me is that in our own present time, there are people forcing that control onto women still.

      I am glad you liked the links Connie. Like Mona, I enjoy reading research journals, and the links from go to papers written by historians.

    • NW Luna says:

      The “Stevie” story indicated he had the typical male outside shape but also had ovaries and fallopian tubes in the pelvic region. So intersex which apparently is the new term for hermaphrodite. Like ecocat I wondered why the person threw away the male aspect in welcoming the female aspect. Does not appear that the ovaries were functioning from appearances! So I rather doubt s/he “ran like a girl” which is usually intended to describe incompetence, but more likely s/he ran like someone not used to running. And kids playing with costumes and cosmetics is pretty normal. In some societies men have/do use cosmetics regularly.

      Wish everyone could be free to dress, decorate themselves, and move around the way they want without stereotyping.

  3. Beata says:

    Excellent variety of reads today, JJ. Thank you.

    One of Hildegard of Bingen’s many beautiful compositions: “O Frondens Virga” ( “O Leafy Branch” )

  4. quixote says:

    I’m becoming such a crotchety curmudgeon I’m not sure I can stand it. Now Memorial Day is getting on my nerve because it’s remembering the soldiers without remembering all the unarmed civilians who’ve done at least as much dying. As the latest horrors out of Syria remind us, yet again.

    Stop the world, I want to get off.

    Then again, it is springtime. Maybe I’ll just go hiking instead.

  5. Here are some updates to the Florida voter shit:

    EXCLUSIVE: Florida Telling Hundreds Of Eligible Citizens That They Are Ineligible To Vote | ThinkProgress

    Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has ordered the state to purge all “non-citizens” from the voting rolls prior to November’s election. But that list compiled by the Scott administration is so riddled with errors that, in Miami-Dade County alone, hundreds of U.S. citizens are being told they are ineligible to vote, ThinkProgress has learned exlusively.
    According to data from the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections obtained by ThinkProgress:
    – 1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.
    – Of that group, 359 people have subsquently provided the county with proof of citizenship.
    – Another 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.
    – The bulk of the remaining 1200 people have simply not responded yet to a letter sent to them by the Supervisor of Elections.

    EXCLUSIVE: Florida Congressman Demands Gov. Rick Scott ‘Immediately Suspend’ Voter Purge | ThinkProgress

    Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D) told ThinkProgress today that Gov. Rick Scott was engaging in a “blatant attempt to supress voter turnout.” Scott is currently involved in a massive effort to purge up to 180,000 from the voting rolls. The list, purportedly of non-citizens, has proven unreliable. Earlier this week, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, a Republican, posted a picture on Twitter of a voter on the list falsely identified as ineligible, with his passport.
    Congressman Deutch said that his office has heard from several constituents who have recieved a voting ineligibility letter in error. In light of these errors, Deutch will soon send a letter to Scott demanding the purge be immediatly suspended.

    • RalphB says:

      They know exactly what they’re doing. Florida did the same thing in 2000. Disenfranching enough minorities and democrats could make the difference in a close election.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Google Jeb Bush + absentee ballots. You’ll get a bunch of hits about the 2000 election, especially ballots missing witness signatures. I was trying to find a story that I vaguely remember about the Florida Republican Party sending out absentee ballots to voters who had not requested them. This was under Jeb’s reign. I don’t remember when I first had to show a picture ID, but it was at least the last Presidential primary in 2007, but I think it was before that. However, I can’t find anything online to confirm it. Before that we only had to show our voter registration card. But under Scott, the voting restrictions are even more stringent; limiting early voting days and voter registration.