Monday Reads

Happy Memorial Day!

While this is the usual time to remember America’s war dead from past wars, it’s good to remember that we still have  two wars going on today.  As the saying goes, War is Hell.  The BBC reports that Afghan leaders have put NATO on warning for recent ‘collateral damage’.

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville said villagers brought their dead children to the governor’s office shouting: “See they aren’t Taliban”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has forcefully condemned the killing of 14 civilians in the south-west of the country in a suspected Nato air strike.

Mr Karzai said his government had repeatedly asked the US to stop raids which end up killing Afghan civilians and this was his “last warning”.

A Nato spokesman said a team had been sent to Helmand province to investigate the attack carried out on Saturday.

Afghan officials say all those killed were women and children.

The strike took place in Nawzad district after a US Marines base came under attack.

The air strike, targeted at insurgents, struck two civilian homes, killing two women and 12 children, reports say.

“The president called this incident a great mistake and the murdering of Afghanistan’s children and women, and on behalf of the Afghan people gives his last warning to the US troops and US officials in this regard,” his office said.

The White House said it shared Mr Karzai’s concerns and took them “very seriously”.

A group from Sera Cala village travelled to Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah, bringing with them the bodies of eight dead children, some as young as two years old, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.

“See, they aren’t Taliban,” they chanted as the carried the corpses to local journalists and the governor’s mansion.

While insurgents are responsible for most civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the killings of Afghans by foreign soldiers is a source of deepening anger, our correspondent adds.

In other Afghan war news, a Nato commander was injured in Taliban suicide attack in Afghanistan.  This is from the UK Guardian.

A Taliban suicide bomber attacked a provincial governor’s compound in Takhar, killing the police chief of northern Afghanistan and seriously injuring a top Nato commander. Two other Afghan officials were also reported to have died in the attack. Several international servicemen were reported injured by eyewitnesses.

German officials confirmed to Spiegel magazine Major General Markus Kneip, who commands NATO  forces in the north Afghanistan, had received wounds that were “severe” but not life-threatening.

A Nato spokesman in Kabul confirmed western casualties but was unable to provide details.

The Taliban, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for the attack and pledged that “killing high ranking officials will continue.”

Mujeebullah Rahman, the deputy director of the local council in Takhar province, said the attack took place at about 4pm when a meeting to discuss local security operations was ending.

“The bomber was waiting in the corridor, wearing the uniform of an Afghan policeman,” Rahman said.

The attack capped a bloody 48 hours in which seven Americans, two British and two other Nato servicemen were killed by roadside bombs or by insurgents in the south of the country. So far 44 Nato soldiers have been killed this month, and .nearly 200 have died in the year.

While we continue to fund these wars, Republicans are demanding that any relief to tornado-wrecked Joplin Missouri must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.  Congressman Eric Cantor–house majority leader–has joined in the call first sent out by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week.  Talk about kicking people when they’re down!

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) continued to stress Sunday that disaster relief funds for tornado-ravaged Missouri would have to be offset in the federal budget with cuts elsewhere.

The House majority leader added on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that there was a certainly a federal role in helping to rebuild Joplin, Mo., and that Congress would move after getting a request from President Obama.

But, he said, the government needs to act in this case like a family who faces an unforeseen expense and has to cut elsewhere.

“Because families don’t have unlimited money,” Cantor said. “And, really, neither does the federal government.”

Cantor began calling for offsets last Monday, the day after the tornado that has killed well over 100 struck Joplin. On Tuesday, a House appropriations subcommittee found a $1.5 billion offset to help finance an aid package.

Somebody needs to remind these guys that the government can raise revenues via taxes for legitimate expenditures.  That’s something families don’t have the ability to do.  There’s also printing money and borrowing money at nearly zero interest via Treasury Auctions. Cantor was honest enough to admit that Medicare played an “undeniable” role in the recent election in NY 2 6.

“It’s undeniable that it played some role in the election. Any time you have one side demagoguing and frankly, accusing the other side in a way that’s not factual of trying to reform the program, certainly that’s going to influence the electorate,” Cantor said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “As far as Medicare is concerned, there’s a simple choice here – either we’re going to save the program or let it go bankrupt.”

Wasserman Schultz, who appeared just after Cantor said, “Coming from the majority leader,” who was one of the “architects” of a 2010 midterm congressional election victory “focused on scaring seniors about what Democrats were doing with Medicare, he would know.”

“What we’re doing is making sure we can prevent Republicans from ending Medicare as we know it,” she said. “That’s what Kathy Hochul ran on leading up to her victory this Tuesday in New York 26.”

Voters were making it clear that they didn’t support the GOP’s budget plan, Wasserman Schultz asserted.

So, I thought I’d offer up some history of Memorial Day for you.  One of the things that I learned moving down here was that much of the south does not really celebrate the holiday and refer to it as a Yankee holiday even though it was supposed to be in remembrance of all civil war dead.  Many southern cities actually claim to have started the holiday.  I guess Mississippi sees things a little different. The holiday originated after the Civil War as “Decoration Day”.  It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to honor the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances of the day in several towns throughout America that had taken place in the three years since the Civil War. In fact, several Northern and Southern cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Miss.; Macon, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; Boalsburg, Pa.; and Carbondale, Ill.

So, it’s not all about mattresses and sales tax holidays!!!  My mother used to tell me that all the relatives would go clean up the family cemeteries on memorial day in Missouri and Kansas.  They would all have huge picnics along with trimming the overgrown bushes or flowers.  We used to continue the tradition when I was very young until most of the cemeteries started using huge mowers and removed all bushes and flowers.  As I recall, we had an ongoing battle in one cemetery with massive and profuse peony bushes.

So, that’s my offering for the day!  Have a really wonderful holiday!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?