Category : History

(1st Things) Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Language, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Prison/Prison Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day especially–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

George Washington’s January 1 1795 Proclamation

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment I George Washington President of the United States do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations and to all persons whomsoever within the United States to set apart and observe thursday the nineteenth day of February next as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer; and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a Nation; particularly for the possession of Constitutions of Government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order, for the preservation of our peace foreign and domestic, for the seasonable controul which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs public and private…

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(Guardian) Robyn Vinter–A Christmas Carol is not cosy, and its angry message should still haunt us

“A Christmas Carol isn’t just a cheery, uplifting tale that we can mimic in various modern ways,” says Mayhew. “It’s a very seriously intended work of moral fiction and, perhaps because we tend to pigeonhole it as a Christmas story, we don’t read just how serious it is.”

The message that Dickens had for Victorian Britain is increasingly pertinent, even though we may use different words to describe similar problems, [Professor Robert] Mayhew believes.

“It’s interesting because we’re living right now with unprecedented levels of homelessness and individuals needing the support of food banks. We have the binary between extreme wealth on one hand and those inured to poverty on the other.” You feel the resonance of A Christmas Carol seems to get stronger every year.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Christmas, England / UK, History, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(Council on Foreign Relations) The Ten Most Significant World Events in 2021

2. COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive as the Virus Mutates. The vaccines created to address the novel coronavirus may join the smallpox, polio, and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines as major advances in saving lives and diminishing morbidity. The speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were developed was stunning. Vaccines historically took ten to fifteen years to develop. The quickest any vaccine had been developed previously was the four years it took to create the mumps vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines were created in less than a year. Just as important, the leading COVID-19 vaccines worked stunningly well; the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both more than 90 percent effective against early COVID-19 variants. More than 7.4 billion vaccine doses were administered in 184 countries in the first eleven months of 2021, with seventy countries making donations. Unfortunately, too many people who could have been vaccinated chose not to, and too many people who wanted to get vaccinated couldn’t. That was deadly because COVID-19 is incredibly adaptive. The Delta variant, first identified in December 2020 in India, was more infectious than its predecessors and soon became the dominant strain around the world. In November 2021, South African scientists identified the emergence of the Omicron variant. Within weeks it had been found around the world. As 2021 ended, it was unclear whether Omicron presented a greater health threat or would send the global economy into another tailspin. What was clear is that more than 5 million people globally and 800,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

1. Countries Fail the Climate Change Challenge—Again. “A code red for humanity.” That’s how UN Secretary General António Guterres’ described the UN report released in August that concluded that humanity faces catastrophic climate change unless the emission of heat-trapping gases is slashed. But one didn’t need to read the 4,000-page report to know that. Extreme weather dominated the news in 2021, as it has for much of the past decade. Record drought wracked the American southwest. Record flooding devastated Belgium and western Germany. Epic wildfires tore through Greece. Late season monsoons ravaged India and Nepal. Climate optimists could find some developments to cheer in 2021. President Biden committed the United States to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. China agreed in September to discontinue financing coal-fired power plants overseas, and Iceland opened a facility to take carbon dioxide out of the air. At the COP-26 meeting in Glasgow in November countries pledged to take steps to address climate change, including by cutting methane emissions. But pledges aren’t accomplishments. Carbon emissions jumped in 2021 as the global economy roared back to life. Even as President Biden pushed Congress to address climate change in a major infrastructure bill, he asked OPEC to increase oil production in a bid to lower gasoline prices. He was hardly the only world leader hoping to have his cake and eat it too. The transition away from fossil fuels poses difficult choices. Mother Nature, however, doesn’t give credit for degree of difficulty.

Read it all and see what you make of their choices.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, History, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(BBC) Pillar of Shame: Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square statue removed

A famous statue at the University of Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre was removed late on Wednesday.

The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident.

Its removal comes as Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.

The city used to be one of few places in China that allowed public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests – a highly sensitive topic in the country.

Read it all.

Posted in Art, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Hong Kong, Politics in General

(L and L) Mark A. Kalthoff–The Purpose of a Liberal Education

My thirty-two years of teaching experience have taught me that most students of the liberal arts become less interested in acquiring the means to get what they want than in figuring out what in life is really worth wanting, what ends are ultimately worth pursuing. The business of education is learning what to love and how to love it in the right way. If done properly, this involves improving one’s heart and character—which involves an ordering of the soul. One must come to recognize that which is genuinely good, true, or beautiful, and one’s soul must learn how those things ought to be loved.

Students young and old must free themselves to enjoy learning for its own sake, not just for the sake of the earning power it bestows. Only when learning is pursued for its own sake will that learning do its most for the student. It will order the soul, discipline the mind, and equip one, not just for the workplace, but for the job of living, that is, for flourishing in all the capacities that await in life. A good liberal education provides the kind of preparation needed to live well—not just for success at the office, but more importantly, beyond it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, History, Philosophy

(TLS) Niall Ferguson reviews ‘The Age of AI: And Our Human Future’ by by Henry A Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher

It had never occurred to me until I read The Age of AI that what differentiates AI from HI – human intelligence – is that even the most brilliant human chess player rules out ex ante certain moves that involve very high sacrifice. But AlphaZero plays chess “without reflection or volition, with strict adherence to the rules”. It is unbeatable partly because it has inferred from the rules certain tactics – and hence, cumulatively, a strategy – that HI would never consider.

The other obvious difference is that AI is much, much faster than HI. As the authors note, “An AI … scanning for targets follows its own logic, which may be inscrutable to an adversary and unsusceptible to traditional signals and feints – and which will, in most cases, proceed faster than the speed of human thought”. The idea of an AI program waging war, rather than playing chess, with the same ruthlessness and speed is deeply frightening. No doubt DeepMind is already working on AlphaHero. One imagines with a shudder the programme sacrificing entire armies or armadas as readily as its chess-playing predecessor sacrificed its queen. No doubt the reader should feel reassured that the United States has committed itself to develop only “AI-enabled weapons”, as opposed to “AI weapons … that make lethal decisions autonomously from human operators”. “Created by humans, AI should be overseen by humans”, the authors declare. But why should America’s undemocratic adversaries exercise the same restraint? Inhuman intelligence sounds like the natural ally of regimes that are openly contemptuous of human rights.

If the foe of the future is literally inhuman as well as inhumane, how shall we be able to defend ourselves? The varieties of deterrence that evolved during the first Cold War, up to and including Mutually Assured Destruction, seem unlikely to apply to AI war. Because, unlike nuclear weapons, AI will be widely used in multiple ways and at multiple scales, “the achievement of mutual strategic restraint … will be more difficult than before”. That seems an understatement. I have thought for some time that there may simply be no deterrence in the areas of cyberwar and information warfare.

We are left with only two possibilities. “For nations”, the authors note, “disconnection could become the ultimate form of defense.” This makes sense. The past five years have vividly revealed the dangers of a hyperconnected world. Without effective circuit-breakers that sever network links at the first indication of hazardous contagion, we are as vulnerable to cyberattack as we were to fake news in 2016 or a novel pathogen in 2020.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Books, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

Elon Musk Named Times person of the year for 2021

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, History, Science & Technology

(Economist Leader) What would America fight for?

Unfortunately, America is tiring of its role as guarantor of the liberal order. The giant has not exactly fallen asleep again, but its resolve is faltering and its enemies are testing it. Vladimir Putin is massing troops on the border with Ukraine and could soon invade. China is buzzing Taiwan’s airspace with fighter jets, using mock-ups of American aircraft-carriers for target practice and trying out hypersonic weapons. Iran has taken such a maximalist stance at nuclear talks that many observers expect them to collapse. Thus, two autocratic powers threaten to seize land currently under democratic control, and a third threatens to violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty by building a nuclear bomb. How far would America go to prevent such reckless acts?

Joe Biden can sound forceful, at times. On December 7th he warned Mr Putin of severe consequences if Russia were to launch another attack on Ukraine. He has maintained sanctions on Iran. And in October he said that America had a “commitment” to defend Taiwan, though aides insisted policy has not changed. (America has long refused to say whether it would send forces to repel a Chinese invasion, so as not to encourage any Taiwanese action that might provoke one.) China was left wondering whether Mr Biden misspoke or was craftily hinting at a more robust stance. On December 7th America’s House of Representatives passed a big boost to the defence budget. Also this week Mr Biden was to hold a “Summit for Democracy”, to encourage countries that respect the rules to club together.

And yet, as our Briefing explains, America has become reluctant to use hard power across much of the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General

Alan Haley Analyzes what happened in the Oral Arguments Wednesday before the South Carolina Supreme Court in the TEC in SC/Anglican Diocese of SC Case

If anything remained clear at the conclusion, it was this: the current Justices will have to do the homework of looking carefully at all the documentary evidence in the record in order to feel comfortable with any final ruling they make. There has been too much legal bias and posturing in the past — like the claim that All Saints Waccamaw was no longer the law in South Carolina, when it clearly was; or like the claim that the Court was required to “defer” to the unilateral decisions by ECUSA in matters of property law (as opposed to religious doctrine).

The reason for much of that bias and posturing, it has to be said, should be laid at the feet of the now recused, but in 2017 highly partisan, Justice Kaye Hearn — aided and abetted by retired Justice Pleicones. Together, their unified front against (former) Chief Justice Toal seems to have deprived her of the command of the law and the authority she wielded to great effect in achieving the unanimous decision eight years before, in the All Saints Waccamaw case. They appear to have determined that she not be allowed to treat ECUSA in the same fashion again, and alas, if that was their goal, they succeeded. Fortunately, that success may not be lasting, if the current justices prove up to the evidentiary task before them.

Trying to make the Court’s work less burdensome, by having the parties pare down the record, Chief Justice Beatty admitted at the end, had been a mistake. The complex cannot be made simple in that way. There will be no easy out for this Court, and I predict we will have to wait a good many months for a consensus to emerge. Given the facts as we all know them from the history of the last twenty-odd years, there is no reason, in my humble opinion, why there should not be another 5-0 decision in this case.

Read it carefully and read it all and make sure to take the time to follow the links.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Historic Anglican Diocese of SC) South Carolina Supreme Court hears TEC appeal from Judge Dickson’s interpretation of the 2017 Collective Opinions in Church Property Dispute

…[Wednesday] the South Carolina Supreme Court heard the appeal of Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s interpretation of the high court’s 2017 ruling. On June 19, 2020, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar W. Dickson granted the motion by the Plaintiffs (The Anglican Diocese of S.C. and Parishes) for clarification and other relief related to the August 2017 ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court. That ruling had the rare character of consisting of five separate opinions (the “Collective Opinions”). Judge Dickson’s clarification determined that the disassociated parishes and The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina are, “affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties.”

The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) arguments at that time that the Dennis Canon alone, or the Canon in conjunction with various pledges of allegiance and the like were sufficient to create a trust under South Carolina law were rejected. Judge Dickson’s ruling clarified the Collective Opinions, explaining that, “the Dennis Canon by itself does not create a legally cognizable trust, nor does it transfer title to property.” This affirmed that those congregations that followed state non-profit guidelines for their disassociation from TEC retained all their real and personal property.

TEC appealed this interpretation of the Courts 2017 collective opinions in July 2020, not on the basis of Judge Dickson’s legal arguments, but only on the assertion that he had no authority to provide any interpretation. Their argument is that his only possible role was to simply enforce what they assert the Court had ruled.

In today’s hearing, the justices were very active in their questioning. The time allotted to both sides legal counsel was exceeded because of the extensive questioning.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Nikkei Asia) 80 years since Pearl Harbor: How the attack reshaped Asia

President Franklin Roosevelt’s somber speech to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives the day after “naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan” attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet — “a date which will live in infamy,” in his estimation — has indeed never been forgotten.

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days, or even weeks ago,” said Roosevelt. He noted that Malaya, Guam, the Philippines, Wake Island and Midway Island were also attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, but neglected to mention that Japanese forces had begun invading Thailand hours earlier, on Dec. 8, across the international date line.

Some scholars have pondered what might have happened if Japan had only moved in Southeast Asia and not attacked Pearl Harbor. Where would the Americans have been? Would Japan have kept its Asian conquests

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Asia, History, Military / Armed Forces

Looking Back 80 years–Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Japan, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President

(Unherd) Mary Harrington–The key is Anthropology, why Public order has been sacrificed on the altar of empathy in America

Are humans naturally good given the right circumstances? Or are we flawed and in need of threats and guidelines to keep us on the straight and narrow? The split is a legacy of radical ideas stretching back to the revolutionary 18th century.

Perhaps the most famous proponent of intrinsic human goodness is Rousseau, who claimed in Emile (1762) that children are born virtuous. As Rousseau sees it, we only need freedom, love and the right environment to spontaneously come to an understanding of what’s right.

When Emile was first published, it stood in stark challenge to the then-dominant view, emerging from the Christian tradition, that humans are tainted by ‘original sin’. From this vantage point, we’re naturally flawed, and must always struggle against our less virtuous instincts. Rousseau’s claim so appalled adherents of this then-dominant view that copies of his book were burned in the street.

Today, though, the boot is on the other foot. The high-status view among contemporary elites is unmistakeably Team Rousseau.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, History, Philosophy

Thursday Morning Encouragement–An unforgettable story about the tremendous impact of one teacher

Listen to it all (just under 6 minutes).


(Hat tip: EH)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Education, History, Poetry & Literature

([From 2020] RethinkX) Rethinking Humanity

We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history, a transformation every bit as significant as the move from foraging to cities and agriculture 10,000 years ago.

During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Globalization, History, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Disney+ Omits ‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Episode in Hong Kong

On Disney+, which launched in Hong Kong on Nov. 16, episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 are viewable in the Chinese territory, but not episode 12, which first aired in 2005. That episode was available over the weekend in Singapore, where Disney+ launched earlier this year.

“This is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” said Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” he added. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television

(NYT) Stephen Sondheim, Titan of the American Musical, Is Dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.

His lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas, announced the death, which he described as sudden. The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury, Mr. Pappas said.

An intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths, Mr. Sondheim was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular.

His work melded words and music in a way that enhanced them both. From his earliest successes in the late 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” through the 1990s, when he wrote the music and lyrics for two audacious musicals, “Assassins,” giving voice to the men and women who killed or tried to kill American presidents, and “Passion,” an operatic probe into the nature of true love, he was a relentlessly innovative theatrical force.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Theatre/Drama/Plays

A Thankgiving Menu from 1899

Posted in America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, History

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick–Thanksgiving, 1789

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God….”

It fell to a New Englander to stand up in support of Thanksgiving. Connecticut’s Roger Sherman praised Boudinot’s resolution as “a laudable one in itself.” It also was “warranted by a number of precedents” in the Bible, he said, “for instance the solemn thanksgivings and rejoicings which took place in the time of Solomon, after the building of the temple.”

In the end, the Thanksgiving resolution passed—the precise vote is not recorded—and the House appointed a committee. The resolution moved to the Senate, which passed it and added its own members to the committee.

The committee took the resolution to the president, and on Oct. 3 George Washington issued his now-famous Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, he designated Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” He asked Americans to render their “sincere and humble thanks” to God for “his kind care and protection of the People of this Country.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(Local Paper Editorial) Editorial: On this day, we give thanks for our many blessings

Giving thanks is a central part of most religions. Indeed, the American celebration of Thanksgiving that we trace (accurately or not) to 1621, that was first officially declared by George Washington and made permanent by Abraham Lincoln and later enshrined in law by the Congress was conceived as a religious holiday — although with a far different meaning than the traditional period of prayerful fasting that defined the thanksgiving that the Pilgrims brought with them from England.

But thanksgiving is not exclusively religious. The Mayo Clinic (and pretty much any public health expert) tells us that regularly recognizing our blessings increases our happiness, along with our physical health: “In addition to helping you get more sleep, practicing gratitude can boost your immunity and decrease your risk of disease.”

So today, whether we’re religious or secular or somewhere in between, whether we’re able to be with family or friends or not, we give thanks for blessings that we cannot begin to count.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., History

The 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

Happy American Thanksgiving to all Blog Readers!

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, History

Amarnath Amarasingam reviews Jytte Klausen’s new book “Western Jihadism” (OUP)

As the Cold War came to an end, political scientists began to debate what the new paradigm in global conflict might look like. Perhaps the most notorious theory was proposed by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations (1996) – “the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future” – in which he singled out Islam as likely to be particularly problematic; Huntington further expounded this argument in Who Are We? (2004), in which he argued that, in many non-Muslim societies, Muslim minorities are proving to be “indigestible”.

Jytte Klausen’s The Islamic Challenge (2005) was in many ways a direct riposte to Huntington. The book, based on interviews with Muslim parliamentarians, educators, lawyers and businesspeople, pushed back on the notion that there is a uniform “Muslim” approach to integration in the West. Klausen discovered something “shocking”: Muslims are basically like everybody else. They want to educate their children, make a decent living and find ways to live a religious life of their choosing. Critics of her book didn’t see it that way, however, and pointed out that Klausen was ignoring a significant subset of the Muslim population in the West that was committed to terrorist violence.

The quest to answer these critics turned out to be a long one. As she writes in her new book, Western Jihadism: A thirty-year history, it took “fifteen years and the work of eighty students”, each of whom scoured court records, media reports and martyrdom biographies released by terrorist groups themselves, to amass a dataset containing 5,832 men and 561 women who have acted on behalf of al-Qaeda or Islamic State in some manner. The book – which has revelatory individual chapters on the life of Osama bin Laden, the first World Trade Center bombing, 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing and the rise of ISIS – argues that the “Western branch” of the jihadist movement is driven by a coalescence of the “strategic objectives of Osama bin Laden and the global movement he spearheaded” and the desire of some young Muslims to take part in a transnational and revolutionary social movement, to be part of a historical moment, and to have their lives imbued with purpose.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Globalization, History, Terrorism

Veterans Day Remarks–Try to Guess the Speaker and the Date

In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. The resolution of the Congress which first proclaimed Armistice Day, described November 11, 1918, as the end of “the most destructive, sanguinary and far-reaching war in the history of human annals.” That resolution expressed the hope that the First World War would be, in truth, the war to end all wars. It suggested that those men who had died had therefore not given their lives in vain.

It is a tragic fact that these hopes have not been fulfilled, that wars still more destructive and still more sanguinary followed, that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow men.Some might say, therefore, that this day has lost its meaning, that the shadow of the new and deadly weapons have robbed this day of its great value, that whatever name we now give this day, whatever flags we fly or prayers we utter, it is too late to honor those who died before, and too soon to promise the living an end to organized death.

But let us not forget that November 11, 1918, signified a beginning, as well as an end. “The purpose of all war,” said Augustine, “is peace.” The First World War produced man’s first great effort in recent times to solve by international cooperation the problems of war. That experiment continues in our present day — still imperfect, still short of its responsibilities, but it does offer a hope that some day nations can live in harmony.

For our part, we shall achieve that peace only with patience and perseverance and courage — the patience and perseverance necessary to work with allies of diverse interests but common goals, the courage necessary over a long period of time to overcome…[a skilled adversary].

Do please take a guess as to who it is and when it was, then click and read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

(FT) Grade I to net zero: can historic houses be made energy efficient?

Lymm Hall is an Elizabethan manor house built in 1603. It is Grade II* listed, making it among England’s most protected properties and creating a problem for its owner Kit Knowles, who is attempting to bring the hall up to modern standards of energy efficiency.

“We have an incredibly effective guide for creating high-performance buildings. But there are a lot of issues with applying that to historic buildings,” says Knowles, who runs Ecospheric, which works on pioneering sustainable development projects. Lymm Hall is a test bed for the company’s work to retrofit historic properties and, ultimately, will be a home for Knowles and his family too.

The house, in Cheshire, has some very particular issues: “It has a cockfighting pit, a moat and an icehouse, each protected in their own right,” Knowles says.

While some of the challenges at Lymm Hall are unique, the problem of how to make old buildings more energy efficient and end their reliance on polluting heating systems cascades through the UK’s property market. And it is a problem that must be solved if the UK is to meet its goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Science & Technology