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Iceland Elects Openly Gay Prime Minister

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Iceland has elected the world’s first openly gay leader. 

Prime Minister Johnanna Sigurdardottir is gay.

She also has a last name with 14 letters.  

Above you see a picture of Prime Minister Sigurdardottir.

Here is some information about Prime Minister Sigurdardottir from a London Times article— 

….a historic milestone for the gay and lesbian community worldwide. She lives with a journalist, Jonina Leosdottir, with whom she was joined in a 2002 civil partnership, and has two sons from a previous marriage. It is also a significant personal triumph for a politician who managed to retain, and even increase, her popularity while much of Iceland’s political class were pilloried over the financial crisis engulfing the country. …The new leader is known for allocating generous amounts of public funding to help the disabled, the elderly and organisations tackling domestic violence, and she is seen by many as a unifying character capable of solving tensions in Iceland….After acting as a union organiser when she worked as a flight attendant for Loftleidir Airlines, now Icelandair, in the 1960s and 1970s, Ms Sigurdardottir was elected to Iceland’s parliament in 1978. She served as social affairs minister from 1987-1994 and again from 2007.

Here is a web site about Iceland with many good facts and pictures. 

Please click here for a report on the election from the Seattle Gay News.  

It is true that Seattle, with a population of 582,000, has more people than does Iceland. Iceland has 304,000 people.

No matter—Iceland is a nation and Seattle is only a city.

(Below–Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. Here is information on visiting Reykjavik. ) 

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Prime Minster Sigurdardottir was appointed to her post last February after the collapse of Iceland’s economy led to the demise of Iceland’s right -of-center government. The main issue in Iceland is the impact of the global financial collapse. Iceland took a big hit last year and there were large street protests.  Please click here to read about economic and political troubles in Iceland.

Prime Minister Sigudardottir’s Social Democrats won 20 seats in the 63 member parliament in the April 25 election. The Greens won 14 seats. A coalition government was formed.

The Icelandic parliament is called the Althing. It literally means the “all-thing” of Iceland. It can trace it roots back to the year 930. Here is the web home of the Althing. 

It seems that for many years the Althing met on the big rock you see drawn below. The Speaker would sit on a high point of the rock.

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Should they meet, will Prime Minster Sigudardottir ask President Barack Obama why he opposes gay marriage?

It is excellent that we are making progress and that we are seeing world leaders that are more like the people they represent.

Yet progress is still far away in many nations. ( Including the United States in a number of respects.) Here is a link to Global Voices where you can read about issues of gay rights around the world.   

(  Below–An Icelandic Horse.  This breed was developed in Iceland.

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May 15, 2009 Posted by | History, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pictures Of Old Time North Dakota—North Dakota Facts

Image, Source:

Above is a picture of a peddler in North Dakota. The picture was taken in the first decade of the 20th Century.

The picture is from the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress.

Here is how the picture is described— 

Man by horse-drawn buggy displaying photographs to woman. Displayed on ground, on buggy and on horse are mounted photographs. Behind is a tar-paper house. In back of buggy is an open wood chest with the initials “J.V.H.” on side.

The photo may have been taken by a Job. V. Harrison of Rock lake, North Dakota.

Please click here for all the information available about this picture

The picture comes from a larger set of photos about the Northern Great Plains between 1880 and 1920.   

The collection is offered by the Institute for Regional Studies at the North Dakota State University.

Here is a link for Rock Lake, North Dakota.  Rock Lake is a small town that has a lake and is near the Canadian border.

Here is the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Here are some basic facts about today’s North Dakota–

Area, 70,665 sq mi (183,022 sq km). Pop. (2000) 642,200, a 0.5% increase from 1990 pop. Capital, Bismarck. Largest city, Fargo. Statehood, Nov. 2, 1889 (39th state), simultaneously with South Dakota. Highest pt., White Butte, 3,506 ft (1,069 m); lowest pt., Red River, 750 ft (229 m). Nicknames,Sioux State; Flickertail State. Motto, Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable. State bird, Western meadowlark. State flower, wild prairie rose. State tree, American elm. Abbr.,N.Dak.; ND

Here is a link to a post I made earlier this year about President Obama’s policy for rural America.

Here is a link to a history of North Dakota. If you go this link you will find a lot easily accessible information about North Dakota. 

I have never visited North Dakota. I hope I will get the chance to do so some day. There are many different places to live and ways to live. I wish I knew more about things other than where and how I live. 

North Dakota seems so out of the way. Not out of the way to the people who live there. But just out of the way to anywhere I have visited or feel that I am likely to visit. Still–Someday I feel I’ll make it to North Dakota. I never thought I’d see Wyoming and I went there once. You never know where life will take you.  

Below is another picture of old time North Dakota. The picture was taken between 1900 and 1909. 

Here is how the picture is described—

Four women out of doors by log cabin. Two are seated at a table set with teapots and dishes. An elderly woman is standing behind them with a tin or a box in her hands. Another woman is standing to one side of the picture. Trees, a garden, and a rock pile are visible. A barrel, a bucket, and a wash tub are against the cabin. Likely taken in North Dakota.

Image, Source: black & white

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barges & Pipes—Pictures And Thoughts

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Above is a picture of a barge loaded with pipes. The barge is in the Houston Ship Channel back in 1939. The photo was taken by Russell Lee.

Here is information about Russell Lee. He took pictures for a New Deal agency and was later a professor of photography at the University of Texas.  

I like the picture because it looks like such a quiet scene. I used to enjoy seeing barges coming up the Ohio River whenever I was a few miles out of town from home in Cincinnati. Especially in the summer. While I’m not certain that life on a barge is really so nice, it just seemed so quiet to be moving up and down the river past the trees on the shore and past the small towns.  

Pipes are basic to transporting something from one place to another. (Though in the picture above it is the pipes themselves that are being transported.)  Pipes have been used for a long time. Below is a picture of lead pipes from ancient Rome. 

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Some parts of the world apparently worship pipes. Below is a statue of water pipes in Mytishchi, Russia.

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Here is a video about pipelines from Rome to the current day from How Stuff  Works.

Barges are basic as well. Below is the Japanese painting Barges on the Yotsugi-dori Canal. I’d much rather be riding in the barge than pulling it along. This painting is one of 100 Views Of Edo by Ando Hiroshige.  These paintings were made between 1856 and 1858. Please click here to see all 100 views.

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Here is a good video on barges from How Stuff Works.  

Below you see a picture of barges gone wild. Here is information about the so-called 1985 Election Day Flood on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. This was the flood that caused the barges below to go wild.

I think barges and pipes are interesting to consider. We often hear in life that the journey is as important as the destination. For the stuff we use in our lives, it is with barges and pipes that these things reach us.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, History, Houston | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

John Maynard Keynes & Deadheads

Here is what the great economist John Maynard Keynes (above) said in favor of government intervention in the economy—

“….There was no expenditure…it was thought proper for the State to incur except for war. In the past, therefore, we have not infrequently had to wait for a war to terminate a major depression. I hope that in the future we will not adhere to this purist financial attitude, and that we shall be ready to spend on the enterprises of peace what the financial maxims of the past would only allow us to spend on the devastation of war.. At any rate, I predict with an assured confidence that the only way is for us to discover some object which is admitted even by the deadheads to be a legitimate excuse for largely increasing the expenditure of someone on something.”  

I like this for two reasons. One is that it allows me to help make the case for government involvement in our economy. It is good that we live in a time when government is taking an active role in our economy, and is seeking to regulate and guide the economy rather than just letting this current deep recession take its course on people’s prospects in life. 

If we’re all just left the private sector, we will not have the opportunities in life that collectivist initiatives can offer the struggling but hardworking person.  

Here is a profile of Keynes from the Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Read about him and see what you think. Keynes lived from 1883 until 1946.

The excerpt above comes from the book Global Capitalism–Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry Frieden.  This is a solid book that fills you in on capitalism as practiced—for both good and ill—in all parts of the world for a span of more than 100 years.

The other reason I like what Keynes said is that it allows me to run a picture of some deadheads from a Grateful Dead concert. Below you see a  picture of many deadheads at a Grateful Dead show.

I once went to a Grateful Dead concert. I was curious to see what it was like. I went at some point in the early 90’s. The show was just outside Columbus, Ohio and I think the temperature was about 102.  The opening act was Bruce Hornsby and the Range. I have to admit it was one of the most boring concerts I’ve ever seen in my life. That said, I had some sympathy for the deadheads traveling around and following the Grateful Dead.

They were just bumming around and getting stoned and whatever else they were doing. They were not bothering anybody and they seemed good-natured enough. I remember some of them were selling food and other things in the parking lot at the show.  I bought some spaghetti with sauce a one guy.  Maybe my purchase bought him a gallon of gas to help him get to the next concert.  

Here are annotated Grateful Dead lyrics.

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Books, History, Music, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Specter Switch—Republicans Unable To Get A Hold On Senate Since 1929 Crash

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The switch of Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat leaves Republicans with just 40 Senators in the 100 seat Senate. After Al Franken is seated in Minnesota there will be 58 Democrats and 2 independents who mostly vote with the Democrats in the Senate.  

( Above–Arlen Specter with Martin Luther King. Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.)

This weak Republican presence in the Senate is not out of line with Republican membership in the Senate since the 1929 stock crash. Beginning with the 1930 election, the first after the crash, Democrats have reached 60 or more seats in the Senate 11 times. Mr. Franken’s seating will make that 12 times.

The peak of Democratic control was the 76 seats won in the 1936 election.

(Below–Charles McNary of Oregon was leader of the very small Republican Senate minority after the 1936 election.)

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The Republican high since 1930 is just 55 seats. This mark was reached in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 2004. The last time Republicans were as strong in the Senate as are Democrats today was after the election of 1920 when they had 59 seats. The Senate at that time had only 96 seats as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet part of the union.

Democrats have won more than 55 seats in the Senate 20 times since 1929 in contrast to the inability of Republicans to win as many of 56 seats since that year.

( Here  is the link to the web home of the U.S. Senate. There is a lot of information to be found at the Senate site. Here is a link to the divisions by party going back to the beginning of the Senate in 1789.)   

The last time Republicans reached 60 seats was the election of 1908. Republicans won 60 seats that year in what was a 92 seat Senate.

Democrats have had two main periods of dominance in the Senate since was 1929.  In the years between and including the first election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and his final election in 1944, Democrats never fell below 57 seats.

( Below—Republican Robert Taft of Ohio was Senate Majority Leader at the time of  his death in 1953.

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In 1958 Democrats won 65 seats and in 1978 they took 58. In between those years, they never went lower than 54 and seven times eclipsed 60.  

(Below–Mike Mansfield of Montana was Majority Leader of the Senate 1961-1977. That is the longest tenure in that position.) 

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Republicans have only had two stretches since 1929 where they’ve won control of the Senate in consecutive elections. 

In the Reagan years, Republicans ran the Senate after the 1980, 1982 and 1984 elections. After the Republican Congressional landslide of 1994, Republicans won at least 50 seats each election up to and including 2004.  Though after the 2000 election Republican control was ended when Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats giving Democrats a 51-49 edge.

( Below–Howard Baker of Tennessee served as both Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the Senate.)

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A qualification to all this could be that many Democrats in the years of Democratic control since 1929 were Southern Democrats who often voted with Republicans. True control of the Senate often eluded the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

There is truth to that qualification. But it must be said that the New Deal and Great Society programs that conservatives would like to undo were passed in these years. Civil Rights legislation also passed in these years though it took a long time and required the principled support of some Republicans in the Senate.

Today’s strong Democratic majority has moderate members, but nothing like the segregationists of the past. 

For 40 years, since the Sunbelt driven election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we’ve been hearing about the supposed realignment of American politics towards Republicans. Well–Where is it?

( Please click here to read about the Senate’s art collection.) 

Today’s Democratic majorities and the states that Barack Obama won come from all around the nation. In the South, Mr. Obama won North Carolina, Virgina and Florida. Senator Specter’s switch only adds to the 80 years and counting slump of the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.

( Coming soon -A look at membership of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1929. The story is much the same as it has been in the Senate.)

(Below—Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia has seen a lot of Senate history since he entered the Senate in 1959.  He is the longest serving Senator ever.) 

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April 29, 2009 Posted by | Art, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Swine Flu—An Explanation With Hand Washing Tips

Many people in Mexico have died from Swine Flu.

(4/26/09 —The latest update from the Los Angeles Times. People are being checked as they cross the border to see if they have the Swine Flu.)

( 4/27/09–The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has a Swine Flu web page up.)

( 4/28/09—Now 1oo cases outside of Mexico though it is still not clear how bad it all be.)

( 4/29/09—More than 2,500 cases worldwide. Almost all deaths still within Mexico.)

(4/30/09—Still not certain how big a threat the outbreak will end up being.)

(5/1/09—The science of fighting flu is much advanced since 1918 epidemic.)

(5/3/09–Not spreading as fast as feared and not as deadly as feared.)

( 5/5/09—1124 cases in the world so far. Virus remains mild.) 

Here are my seven swine flu poems.

Below are three people in Mexico City who are hoping not to catch the Swine Flu.

Women wear masks as they wait inside a Mixcoac health centre in Mexico City (Source: Reuters)

What is Swine Flu? Here is the answer from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) —

“Swine influenza (swine flu) is caused by type A influenza virus and gives pigs the flu. Swine flu viruses cause regular outbreaks of flu in pigs but death is infrequent. The viruses may circulate among pigs throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.”

This CBC Q & A article covers many of your questions.

Here are  the symptoms—

“The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

Seems a lot like your normal flu—But it is worse.

A terrible flu epidemic was the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu outbreak.

Here is information from the Federation of American Scientists—

The “Spanish” flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 caused the deaths of 20-50 million people worldwide including up to 675,000 in the U.S. While only about 1% of those infected with the virus died, it became one of the deadliest viruses ever known to man. The 1918 flu has been described as capable of sickening and killing a person on the same day. The virus is an H1N1 type A influenza. Symptoms of infection were similar to, but more severe than typical, seasonal flu. Viral pneumonia leading to acute respiratory distress was the primary cause of death. Recently, the virus was reconstituted from frozen tissue samples from a woman who died from the virus.

Here is the full article.

Here is another article on the 1918-19 epidemic from the BBC.  The article discusses how the virus did so much harm.

With both the Swine Flu and the 1918 epidemic you see that an A H1N1 virus is involved. What does that mean? Here is what it means.

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There was a Swine Flu outbreak in 1976. President Gerald Ford asked that all Americans be innoculated. As it turned out, the disease only killed one person but the vaccine harmed hundreds and may have killed some. It is still debated if President Ford did the right thing. This article addresses that question.

(Above is a picture of President Ford with his then Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld (left) and his Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Cheney (right) . That’s enough to make you ill. Please click here for some good information on Gerald Ford from the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the U. of Virginia.

Swine Flu comes from pigs. Pigs often make people sick.  Diseases that go from animals to people are called zoonotic diseases. AIDS is a zoonotic disease that jumped from chimps to people. This took place after people ate chimps.

We can’t forget that people do a lot more harm to animals than animals to do people.

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There are many diseases people can catch from animals. Like Cat Scratch Disease.

Please wash your hands after you play with your pet or with an animal.

Here are Swine Flu facts from Web MD. There is no vaccine to prevent the Swine Flu. You can not get it from eating pork. Washing your hands and avoiding touching your nose or mouth will help you avoid the Swine Flu and all flu.

Here is how to wash your hands—

There’s a right way to wash your hands. A splash of water and a drop or two of soap won’t do the trick. Follow these simple steps to keep your hands clean:

  • Use warm water (not cold or hot).
  • Use whatever soap you like. Antibacterial soaps are popular but regular soap works fine. If you suspect that your hands have come into contact with someone with an infection, think about using an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Rub your hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces: Lather up on both sides of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers, and around your nails. Wash for 15 seconds – about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
  • Rinse well under warm running water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • In public restrooms, consider using a paper towel to flush the toilet and open the door because toilet and door handles harbor germs. Throw the towel away after you leave.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | History, Please Wash Your Hands | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Rick Perry & Republican Southern Governors Find A New Schoolhouse Door To Block

With his refusal of federal stimulus dollars to help unemployed folks in Texas, far right-wing Governor Rick Perry has found his schoolhouse door to stand in and block.

Governor Perry and other Republican Southern governors, along with disloyal secessionist Sarah Palin, now have an updated interposition and nullification stance to rally around. They don’t want that mean old Federal government coming in and telling them what to do!

Some things are very slow to change in at least some quarters of the South.

There is our Governor below. Big tough guy Rick Perry laying down the law as he runs scared from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s 2010 primary challenge. 

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March 13, 2009 Posted by | History, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery

The new video on the blog is called Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery. It runs just over two minutes and 30 seconds.  

I filmed this in Houston’s College Memorial Park Cemetery. This cemetery, now in some disrepair, began in 1896. It was a cemetery for the burial of black people. There are 6000 people laid to rest on the grounds including some former slaves.

The book I read from is Lend Me Your Ears–Great  Speeches In History. It is edited by William Safire. 

A good book to read to learn about Malcolm X, as you may have already, is Malcolm X’s Autobiography.

Two other good titles to learn about Malcolm, and that are also listed that are also listed on my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List, are the second of Taylor Branch’s three volumes of Martin Luther King, called Pillar of Fire, and Martin & Malcolm & America — A Dream or a Nightmare by James Cone.

Pillar of Fire has a lot about Malcolm and the Cone book is a first rate compare and contrast of Rev. King and Malcolm.

We all merit respect. All people matter.

Below is Malcolm X’s grave from a photo taken by Jim Tipton. The grave is at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York 

Malcolm Malik Shabazz X

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Books, History, Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Reading About The Panic Of 1873 In Front Of The Enron Building

This video is called Reading About The Panic of 1873 While In Front Of The Former Enron Building. It is the second video on the blog. This video is about three minutes long.

Please click here to see the first video on this blog.

I view the ability for average person to make a video as an updated kind of folk art. Here are various definitions of folk art. One idea of folk art is people without any artistic training creating something with the tools they have at hand.

All people are able to express themselves in some creative way.

Here is information about the impact of the Panic of 1873 in New York. This article discusses what the 1873 crisis had in common with the current economic distress. 

There were issues of banks and credit and greedy speculation.  

Here is a good essay about the impact of the Panic of 1873 in Illinois.    

Here is the Panic of 1873 for kids from PBS.

The book I read from in the video is The Age of Lincoln by Orville Burton. 

Here is a chronology of Enron events from USA Today

Here are a series of articles about Enron from the Houston Chronicle.

Here is a history of Enron from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

In the video, the sun is partially on my big head while the other portion of my head is in shadow. This makes my head somewhat like this drawing of the Earth—Part light and part dark. Here is an explanation of daylight.  Here is an explanation of night time on the Earth.

Thanks for reading Texas Liberal. Please feel free to offer a comment. If you like the blog, please forward the link. A blog grows one reader at a time.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Books, History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Congressman Culberson Says Stimulus Package Is Trojan Horse Meant To Turn America Into France

My Congressman here in Houston, John Culberson, has said the following about the proposed government stimulus package that will soon be passed in Congress and signed by President Barack H. Obama—

“Redistributing hard-earned tax dollars will do far more to expand the power of the federal government than it will to stimulate the economy,” said Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. “This legislation is a Trojan horse that liberals are using to ultimately turn America into France, because it contains massive expansion of multiple federal programs that are utterly unrelated to stimulating the economy.”

Well, I sure hope all this is true.

I hope stimulus package dollars are used to build a Trojan Horse such as you see below….

( Here is a history of the Trojan War and the Trojan Horse.) 

…..And that this horse is filled up with liberals. I hope the commander of the horse is the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill (below) who is brought back to life by Wiccan socialists in a pagan rite also funded by stimulus dollars. It’s time for everybody to get a fair share of the faith-based dollars.

(Here is information about the best biography of Tip O’Neill. It is called Tip O’ Neill and the Democratic Century and was written by John Farrell.)

(Below are Wiccans chanting and casting spells for federal dollars and to bring Tip back to command the liberals in the Trojan Horse. Here is information about the Wicca religion. If you want to join up with them I say more power to you.)

And I hope that the liberals come out of the horse and help turn America into France.

Below is the French city of Calvi. Can we please make America look like this?

The new President and the increased Democratic majorities in Congress are working out even better than I had imagined.

Could anyone in Washington be more useless than my Congressman? So much is going on and going wrong and what he has to offer is liberals turning America into France.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Books, History, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If Michelle Obama Is So Smart, Why Is She Not As Hot As Was Dolley Madison?

A portrait of First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison

I keep hearing about what Michelle Obama is wearing. 

If we are going to grade Mrs. Obama on her appearance, she will lose out to Dolley Madison. (Above)

So let’s judge Mrs. Obama on her talents and skills and have less focus on how she looks. That is the right thing to do fo this hard working  and successful person.

For all we know, Mrs. Obama is the smarter half of the First Couple.

(Dolley Madison was also smart.)

However, since we are on the subject. I will say that Mrs. Obama’s Inauguration outfit was almost as fluorescent—

—as are these fish below. 

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, History, Politics | , , , , , | 3 Comments

An Expansive Idea Of Family In Colonial Virginia

I’ve been reading  Albion’s Seed—Four British Folkways In North America. This book was written by David Hackett Fischer.   

Here is what I read today in this book about the definition of family in 17th Century Colonial Virgina–

“The word family tended to be a more comprehensive term in Virginia than in Massachusetts. Virginians addressed relatives of all sorts as “coz” or “cousin” in expressions that were heavy with affective meaning; but the term “brother” was used more loosely as a salutation for friends, neighbors, political allies, and even business acquaintances. It is interesting to observe that an extended kin-term tended to be more intimate than the language of a nuclear relationship. The reverse tended to be the case in Massachusetts.”   

Fully understanding that this idea of family did not extend to slaves, there is a lot to be said for this concept  of family. It’s an idea we can update for the current day.  The broader the definition of family, the happier your may be. We are all connected in this life. The people in our immediate nuclear family may or may not be the people we really want around us.   

Here is my post “People Have A Right To Define Family Anyway They Wish.” This is a signature post of this blog.

Here is some good history of 17th-century Virginia.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History, Relationships | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Political Leaders Declare Themselves Gods To Keep Power?—The Facts From Antiquity

What if recently deposed Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick had announced himself a god? Would this have kept him from losing his post? Is declaring himself a god an option to save the career of politically troubled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? (above)

Let’s review the record from antiquity.  

In his History of Government from the Earliest Times–Volume I, Ancient Monarchies and Empires, the late Oxford political scientist S.E. Finer addressed the subject of rulers as gods or as chosen by heaven.

In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh asserted divinity. Professor Finer wrote that these claims held the most weight in the early years of the Egyptian kingdom. But in time, as Pharaohs lasted for only brief stretches before dying or being usurped, the claim to divininty must have been nearly impossible for anyone to really believe.

In this era of 24 hour cable news and irreverent coverage by political blogs, it would seem, at best, that only some of the public would believe a claim by a leader that he or she was a god. If rulers had a hard time maintaining the fiction back in ancient Egypt, imagine convincing people today.

Professor Finer also wrote that the Egyptians responded to the diminished stature of the Pharaoh’s person by giving the throne divinity more so than the individaul holding the throne.

From Finer—

 “In my view…originally the (pharaohs) person was a sacred person, because, in accordance with certain rules or portents, he was, uniquely, indicated as the rightful possessor of the throne. But later it was the throne that made the king..irrespective of a particular individuals personal history or qualities.”

By this logic, the holder of the office of Speaker of the Texas House or the Governorship of Illinois would be a god by definition. It would not make any difference if  Mr. Craddick or Mr. Blagojevich were gods because their successors would be gods as well.  This, in my view, would limit the value of declaring yourself a god.  No matter what, you’re going to get a god in the position.

In ancient China, the Emperor had the “Mandate of Heaven.”

From Finer—

“…the Chinese emperorship…was irreducibly ritualistic:  ying-yang and the perfect harmony of Earth, Man ans Heaven turned exclusively upon the emperor’s actions….so the emperor, the Son of Heaven, was sacred because he alone could offer to Heaven the supreme sacrifices and maintain the harmony between the terrestrial order and the cosmos.”

Reading this you’d think a politician looking for a firm hold on power would try to establish himself as holding such importance. But the power of the Chinese emperor came with a catch not unlike what we have already seen in Egypt. The presumption was that if you challenged the emperor and prevailed, that you then had the Mandate of Heaven. 

The verdict here, informed by history, is that declaring yourself to be god or as heaven-sent is not a viable strategy to keep political power. Though it sure would be fun if someone would try. It does seem possible that Governor Blagojevich has at least considered this idea.  

(Below—Ancient Egypt)

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Books, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benjamin Harrison

original 

Above is the 1889 Inauguration of Benjamin Harrison.

Here is the link to the Benjamin Harrison home in Indianapolis. I’m glad to be able to report that I’ve visited this home.

Here is a comprehensive profile of President Harrison. Mr. Harrison was a Republican who served from 1889-1893. From the profile—

“When Harrison lost his bid for reelection in 1892 to Grover Cleveland, he had himself partly to blame. He had frozen out many of those who should have been most active in his support, and his own party was lukewarm toward him. Additionally, midway through this second election, near the end of Harrison’s term, his wife, Caroline, died of tuberculosis. Her illness and eventual death greatly distracted him, which accounts in part for the magnitude of his defeat. In 1892, the voters handed Cleveland the most decisive presidential victory in twenty years. Harrison told his family he felt as though he had been freed from prison.” 

President Harrison (below) always struck me as possibly having food in his beard.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Inauguration/Washington Hugging Lincoln Because They Are Both Happy

The first Presidential inauguration took place on April 30, 1789 in New York City. The above painting of the event was completed in 1899.  It does not appear that the general public was invited. 

I guess the bloggers and media of the day had to stand out on street corners ringing bells and yelling out the day’s events.

Though members of the public who wished to mark and remember the event could buy buttons to note the day. The souvenir trade is a longstanding enterprise. 

Here is some good information about George Washington from the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. 

Here is President Washington’s first inaugural address.  

And here are pictures of the handwritten text of that address.

The swearing in took place in Federal Hall which is located at 26 Wall Street. This building, which still stands, was the first capitol of the United States. Below is what Federal Hall looks like today. Federal Hall is now run by the National Park Service. Here is the web home for Federal Hall.

Below is a rendering of George Washington and Abe Lincoln celebrating the election of Barack Obama. They are very happy.

While progress is not inevitable, nor once made irreversible, there is much to be said from the progression, and I think progression is the correct word, from the days of George Washington to the days of Barack Obama.

It is progress from the closed circle in 1789 evident in the painting at the top of this post, to the open festivities we will see later this month. ( Though what would President Washington have made of all the security our celebrations later this month will require?) 

Hopefully, President-elect Obama will conduct the office in a way that will continue to enlarge the circle of American opportunity in these hard times.  Though we hope that we can trust Mr. Oabma, we must not forget that we as citizens will need to keep on him all the time.

January 2, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment