The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Fast on the heels of giving the US Military props for their funding, R&D and real-time application of alternative energy sources, I’m reminded that in all things involving humans, the good, the bad and the ugly principle applies.  Chalk this up to a gentle knock on the noggin, a serious reminder that our military’s purpose is to defend the country, develop defense and wartime strategies [alternative energy works into this] and support all things weapon-related with gusto.

In this case, the subject is drones, aka UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], a new generation that is sure to amaze.  And disturb.

An article I recently read made my jaw drop with awe and an undeniable sense of foreboding.  We could call this the nascent I Robot stage of drone development.   I’ve written to the subject of drones before.  The science is incredible but I find the use of drones, war and peace applications alike, incredibly creepy.

The X47B, however, a fully-automated drone being tested by the Navy is in a class of its own.

Fully automated.  Meaning no one in Omaha is joy-sticking the X47B remotely, guiding its maneuvers, reconnaissance or defensive/offensive usage.  This drone will be dependent on onboard computers, perceiving threats through highly attuned sensors, and then acting, accordingly.

How sophisticated is this drone?  X47B has been designed to land on an aircraft carrier at sea.  My husband served in the Navy and lived on a carrier [a floating city] of approximately 5000 personnel.  Though not a pilot, he’d be the first to say that landing an aircraft on any carrier is incredibly challenging.

X47B is that advanced, that sophisticated.

The speed with which robotic aircraft is developing is frankly . . . stunning.  On 9/11, the US military had few drones in its arsenal.  Reportedly, 1 in 3 US aircraft are now robotic, primarily because of the cost effectiveness in comparison to traditional planes and reduced casualties to military personnel.  As aerospace pioneer Simon Ramo stated in his book “Let Robots Do the Dying:”

More aggressive robotry development could lead to deploying far fewer U.S. military personnel to other countries, achieving greater national security at a much lower cost and most importantly, greatly reduced casualties.

But as has been pointed out in numerous articles, we aren’t fighting Robot against Robot wars.  At least not yet.  Israel’s R&D drone technology is said to have started as early as 1992. Russia, Pakistan, even Iran are funding and developing their own drone programs. In fact, according to ABI Research, 65 countries are utilizing or developing drone programs. We’ve seen and read of the carnage when drones miss their target or targets are just plain wrong.  We’re talking Robots vs. Humans and the question of accountability cannot be dismissed.

X47B is a new generation, a next step.  As startling as its capabilities sound, the X47B will not be alone in the expanding robotic landscape.  We have robotic ground vehicles, mapping robots, IED detecting devices [that look like oversized Tonka toys] in the field, as well as robotic submarines and tanks to small, insect-like drones, complete with micro-cameras, in development.Small Fry Drones Utilizing Micro-Cameras

Ready or not, we’re approaching a Brave New World of robotics and weapon development.  The US military sees robotic vehicles, surveillance equipment and weapon systems replacing manned missions to handle the Three Big D’s—dull, dirty and dangerous. Defenders of autonomous systems insist that on-ground personnel will have the ability to abort missions and on-board computer-driven directives.  Still, the question lingers–if on-board computers are making split second computations would a manual ‘abort’ order have any relevance?

But what sets the X47B apart from its predecessors?

The GPS-based navigation and landing system is state-of-the-art, making the carrier landings feasible for this fighter-sized vehicle.  In addition, the program will allow the drone to conduct aerial refueling.  Missions would be preprogrammed, making remote guidance unnecessary. The X47B provides a far larger payload, allowing it to attack larger targets and perform multiple back-to-back missions, many of which would be beyond human endurance.  And it has stealth capabilities.

Robotic technology is racing forward.  What has not proceeded with equal speed or ease is the conversation about the ethics and morality involved in using these systems, particularly as relates to the chain of accountability.

As Noel Sharkey, computer scientist and robotics expert, recently stated in the LA Times:

Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability. This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?

The LA Times further states:

Sharkey and others believe that autonomous armed robots should force the kind of dialogue that followed the introduction of mustard gas in World War I and the development of atomic weapons in World War II. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the group tasked by the Geneva Conventions to protect victims in armed conflict, is already examining the issue.

There is no denying that we’re entering a far different world in the way wars, international tensions, border protection, even domestic policing will be handled in the near future.  Let’s hope the right questions are asked and adequate answers provided before we slide down a very slippery slope.

Is there oversight? you may ask.  If the Congressional Unmanned Vehicle Caucus is an example, not much.  Though the caucus likes to advertise itself as a watchdog it has become little more than a booster club for all things drone.  For instance, instead of questioning the enormous amount of money, the cost-effectiveness of domestic drones used for border surveillance—illegal drug smuggling and illegal immigration—or even the success rate of the domestic drone fleet [which is anything but spectacular], the Department of Homeland Security actively supports the acquisition of ever-expanding systems.  As is so often the case, it’s a ‘follow the money’ love affair. Alternet reports that:

In the 2010 election cycle, political action committees associated with companies that produce drones donated more than $1.7 million to 42 congressional members who were members of the congressional drone caucus.

Yup, it’s always the same formula, working the cheap seats with suitcases of ready cash.

X47B will be testing its carrier landing capabilities in 2013, aerial refueling in 2014, and if all goes as planned the drone will be operational by 2016-17.

There’s still time for Americans to demand a serious Q&A.  But not much time.


Wednesday Reads: History…War on Christmas, War in Iraq, and the Fog of War

Peace River Citrus...tasty orange juice, freshly squeezed.

Good Morning!

Ooof, that is quite a lot of war in the title for today’s post…lots of things to share with you this morning. It’s been raining pretty steady and the wind is whipping up the cows in the pasture down here in Banjoland.

Today’s post is going to focus on a theme that revolves around History…but first, a quick article about  something meteorological.

This weather link is so damn cool!

I saw this article when it was first published earlier this week, and planned on using it for today…Weird Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds over Birmingham and let me tell you, it is freaky!

While driving through Birmingham, Alabama, Redditor alison_bee couldn’t help but notice the bizarre, repetitive wave shapes appearing in the clouds near the horizon. While these strange cloud formations look otherworldly, they’re an example of what’s called Kelvin-Helmholtz instability — which is a pretty awesome name for a spectacular phenomenon.

What did I tell you?

Heres what Redditor and meteorologist zensunnioracle had to say:

Meteorologist here. These are indeed Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. What is happening is that the nocturnal near-surface layers (lowest 50-100m) of the atmosphere are much more stable than the layers above it in the mornings. Until the ground heats up due to daytime heating, the surface layers stay more stable than the air over it. Kelvin-Helmholtz waves occur when the wind shear between the layers destabilizes the topmost portion of that stable layer, and entrains the air into the unstable layer. What you see is stable air being lifted, cooled, and condensed so that this process becomes visible, though this commonly happens many places without being visible.

As spectacular as these waves are here on Earth, the same forces create similar patters on the gas giant planets like Saturn and Jupiter. While those are some truly enormous waves, these pictures from alison_bee should show that the Earthbound variety aren’t to be sneezed at either.

Video of these clouds as they roll over the city at the link…

Do you remember that hostage situation in a Russian cinema back in 2002? European Court Orders Russia to Pay Victims of 2002 Theater Siege

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay more than $1.3 million to victims of the government’s mishandled attempt to end the siege of a Moscow theater in 2002.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled Tuesday that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by a lack of planning and poor execution of the rescue operation.

Chechen militants refused to surrender after a standoff at the Dubrovka theater lasting several days, leading Russian security forces to launch a raid on the theater, where the militants were holding more than 800 people hostage. The troops fired an unidentified gas into the theater to try to knock out the militants, but nearly 130 hostages died in the attempt.

In addition, the report stated that Russia did not provide adequate medical aid to the hostages after its rescue effort and failed to conduct an effective investigation of the tragedy.

This comes at a time when tensions are running high in Russia, as Peggy Sue described it in a post last week, The Russian Winter.

Well, the Arab Spring is still ongoing, I thought this next post was interesting because it discusses British History in the Middle East, and the lessons that should be learned. The ‘Arab spring’ and the west: seven lessons from history

talat harb 1956/2011

October 2011: Egyptians in Talat Harb square, Cairo, protest against military rule; October 1956: Egyptians demonstrate in the same square against British-French invasion. Photograph: Getty/Associated Press

There’s a real sense in which, more than any other part of the former colonial world, the Middle East has never been fully decolonised. Sitting on top of the bulk of the globe’s oil reserves, the Arab world has been the target of continual interference and intervention ever since it became formally independent.

Carved into artificial states after the first world war, it’s been bombed and occupied – by the US, Israel, Britain and France – and locked down with US bases and western-backed tyrannies. As the Palestinian blogger Lina Al-Sharif tweeted on Armistice Day this year, the “reason World War One isn’t over yet is because we in the Middle East are still living the consequences”.

Just a side note, I think the comparison of those two photos is a perfect introduction to this article.

The Arab uprisings that erupted in Tunisia a year ago have focused on corruption, poverty and lack of freedom, rather than western domination or Israeli occupation. But the fact that they kicked off against western-backed dictatorships meant they posed an immediate threat to the strategic order.

Since the day Hosni Mubarak fell in Egypt, there has been a relentless counter-drive by the western powers and their Gulf allies to buy off, crush or hijack the Arab revolutions. And they’ve got a deep well of experience to draw on: every centre of the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Yemen, has lived through decades of imperial domination. All the main Nato states that bombed Libya, for example – the US, Britain, France and Italy – have had troops occupying the country well within living memory.

If the Arab revolutions are going to take control of their future, then, they’ll need to have to keep an eye on their recent past. So here are seven lessons from the history of western Middle East meddling, courtesy of the archive of Pathé News, colonial-era voice of Perfidious Albion itself.

Please go to the link to read about the seven lessons, the first one is a big lesson that we will probably never learn…there are also embedded videos to support the article, some go back to Libya and Jerusalem in the 1930’s.

And for another History Lesson, there is a lengthy timeline here at this link to MoJo: Lie by Lie: A Timeline of How We Got Into Iraq

George Bush Dr. Strangelove

At A congressional hearing examining the march to war in Iraq, Republican congressman Walter Jones posed “a very simple question” about the administration’s manipulation of intelligence: “How could the professionals see what was happening and nobody speak out?”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, responded with an equally simple answer: “The vice president.”

Oh… this is extremely detailed, so just go read the entire thing! Perhaps it will make you remember some of the events listed, as it made me recall them, in my mind’s vivid memory.

History has yet to write the story of Bradley Manning, however, Amy Goodman has done a good job of reporting on his case. Amy Goodman: Bradley Manning and the Fog of War

Accused whistle-blower Pvt. Bradley Manning turned 24 Saturday. He spent his birthday in a pretrial military hearing that could ultimately lead to a sentence of life … or death. Manning stands accused of causing the largest leak of government secrets in United States history.

Goodman explains the reasons for his “imprisonment” and gives a summary of what his outlook may be:

Back in the Fort Meade, Md., hearing room, defense attorneys painted a picture of a chaotic forward operating base with little to no supervision, no controls whatsoever on soldiers’ access to classified data, and a young man in uniform struggling with his sexual identity in the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Manning repeatedly flew into rages, throwing furniture and once even punching a superior in the face, without punishment. His peers at the base said he should not be in a war zone. Yet he stayed, until his arrest 18 months ago.

Since his arrest, Manning has been in solitary confinement, for much of the time in Quantico, Va., under conditions so harsh that the U.N. special rapporteur on torture is investigating. Many believe the U.S. government is trying to break Manning in order to use him in its expected case of espionage against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It also sends a dramatic message to any potential whistle-blower: “We will destroy you.”

For now, Manning sits attentively, reports say, facing possible death for “aiding the enemy.” The prosecution offered words Manning allegedly wrote to Assange as evidence of his guilt. In the email, Manning described the leak as “one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare.” History will no doubt use the same words as irrefutable proof of Manning’s courage.

There are so many things going on these days that indicate a change in the rights and liberties of American citizens. We are in the process of losing these rights in this Bush/Obama Administration.

I love this history theme for today’s post…here is another article from Truthdig: William Pfaff: History Tells Us Not to Dismiss a Democratic Challenge to Obama

A week ago, in the Providence Journal newspaper (in Rhode Island), the publisher of Harper’s Magazine, John R. MacArthur, wrote that President Barack Obama, through expedient political compromises, has lost the moral authority that an American president must command, and therefore has lost his right to a second presidential term. Mr. MacArthur quotes in support of his argument the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s staff from 1965 to 1967, and since has become a prominent commentator on public television and in liberal and Democratic Party circles.

Just click the link to read the rest…and there is a note at the end of the post you may find interesting too. (Especially those following the Euro/EU economic news.)

And for the last link, we’re going Medieval…on the Right and Left’s perceptions of the “War on Christmas.”  Illuminating the “The War on Christmas” — Got Medieval

No snark today, just a few pretty medieval pictures interspersed with thoughts on this whole War on Christmas thing that you hear so much about these days.

At heart, I think, the War is a matter of incompatible perception. One camp looks at Christmas and sees this:

British Library MS Additional 52539, f. 2 (click-expandable)

And the other, this:

British Library MS Egerton 2045, f. 95 (click to expand)

Behold, a pair of “Adoration of the Magi”.* Neither version looks very much like the medieval marginalia this series typically features** but they both muck about with the page’s margins, nevertheless, so they’re fair game.

The second adoration is actually the most properly called “marginalia”; look closely, and you’ll see there’s a tiny rectangle of text there in the middle of the page, barely a half line of scripture.  Everything else–Jesus and Mary, the three magi and their retainers, the gifts, the castle, even the camel–is located fully within the page’s sumptuously decorated margin, a margin that has expanded so as to nearly blot out the page’s text.

Likewise with the first; it’s marginal, if only just.  While it’s technically a “historiated initial,” if you squint at the lower left quadrant, you’ll see that the kneeling cup-bearing servant is slipping out into the margin.  Everyone else is crowded in so that there’s no room left for him to stand in the main image.

Which one is the metaphor for the Christmas War-Uponers, and which the Christmas Defense Squad?

There is so much one can learn about the attitudes and thought process of the Medieval mind through the art of page decorations.

As the above blog post analyzes the pictures of Christmas, that include the Savior, an occasional Christmas “Beasty” and all the other familiar characters, i.e. the Three Wise Men, I wonder what the three idiots on the curvy couch would have to say about all this marginalization going on.

So this is your History Lesson for the day, what else are you reading and thinking about? See y’all later in the comments.

Hmmm…that makes me think of the phrase, See You in the Funny Papers.


Nicholas Kristof Suddenly Discovers the Unemployment Crisis

I probably shouldn’t pick on Nicholas Kristof, because I guess as media elites go, he’s one of the least offensive. But really, his latest column just about sent me out into the street screaming and tearing my hair out. The piece is titled “Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment?”

WHEN I’m in New York or Washington, people talk passionately about debt and political battles. But in the living rooms or on the front porches here in Yamhill, Ore., where I grew up, a different specter wakes friends up in the middle of the night.

It’s unemployment.

I’ve spent a chunk of summer vacation visiting old friends here, and I can’t help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs. Some 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed — that’s more than 16 percent of the work force — but jobs haven’t been nearly high enough on the national agenda.

Duh! I have a question for Captain Obvious Nick Kristof: Is the Pope Catholic? Here’s another one: Does a bear sh*t in the woods? Yes, Nick. You and your pals dropped the ball, missed the boat, and every other metaphorical cliche you can think of. Yes. And it’s way too late for your mealy-mouthed *concern* to make a difference.

What is wrong with these people? Kristof goes on to provide a few examples of people he knows in Oregon who are suffering from joblessness and hopelessness. Frankly, I found his little anecdotes rather patronizing. Maybe I’m being too hard on him, but really, if this man claims to be a “journalist,” why didn’t he recognize years ago that unemployment was a huge problem for the American people and for the economy as a whole? Kristof’s half-hearted prescriptions for solutions aren’t much better than Obama’s:

There are no quick fixes to joblessness, but Washington could temporarily make federal money available to pay for teachers who are otherwise being laid off. We could increase spending on service programs like AmeriCorps that have far more applicants than spots.

We could extend the payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of December. Astonishingly, Republicans in Congress seem to be lined up instinctively against this basic economic stimulus. Could the Tea Party actually favor tax reductions for billionaires but not for working Americans? Could we have found a tax increase the Republican Party favors?

Mr. Obama, with 25 million Americans hurting, will you fight — really fight! — to put jobs at the top of the national agenda?

Give me a break! Obama isn’t going to fight for anything except his own reelection and keeping his wealthy donors happy. And Nick Kristof, after tossing of a facile column in which he pretends to care about struggling Americans, will return to Washington and New York, smile his self-satisfied smile, and continue to ignore the depth of what is really happening to our country.

Why doesn’t The New York Times hire Jeffrey Kaye, who writes about important topics like torture? Joblessness can be a kind of torture too, and a couple of weeks ago, Kaye wrote a fine article about the links between unemployment, depression, and suicide.

When considering the effects of unemployment, and the desultory, really uncaring response of the current Democratic administration, as well as Republicans in Congress, to the human devastation of joblessness, it is important to consider the terrible emotional and psychological effects of such unemployment. Such effects are well-documented, but rarely mentioned in articles or blog postings.

A well-regarded 2010 study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, “The Anguish of Unemployment,” quantified the tremendous emotional suffering engendered by unemployment. “‘The lack of income and loss of health benefits hurts greatly, but losing the ability to provide for my wife and myself is killing me emotionally,’ wrote one respondent to the survey.” ….

Just last April, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study that showed that suicide rates rise and fall in tandem with the business cycle.

Kaye, a clinical psychologist actively working with clients, says he has seen the devastating effects of joblessness in his own practice since the financial crisis. He writes:

Unemployment is deadly. The effects of the capitalist boom-and-bust system seriously damage millions of lives. But with an almost daily bombast of propaganda about terrorism, the populace lives in fear, while wondering how they will make their bills, ground down between anxiety over ghostly terrorists and eviction, or how to put gas in their car, or afford a bus pass. Hopelessness stalks the land, not Al Qaeda. And yet the politicians in D.C. care little or nothing about the suffering their policies cause. Indeed, their pockets are lined with campaign donations from corporations that routinely layoff hundreds of thousands, and ship many thousands more jobs overseas.

Callous disregard for human lives is what links the terrible policies of war and torture with the policies of neglect and indifference towards the jobless. Such callousness is the by-product of a get-rich-quick ethos that worships profit over all else, over worship of a capitalist system that has brought about terrible world wars, massive depressions, colonial atrocities, and even genocide. U.S. society awaits its turn through the meat-grinder of history.

That is the kind of writing I’d like to see on the op-ed page of the NYT. Of course I know it will never happen. The elite media, the out-of-touch political class, and their wealthy enablers must not be made to feel even slightly uncomfortable about the effects of their actions–not even for the few minutes it takes to read a newspaper column.


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?