Friday, February 27, 2015

FEBRUARY 27 = Mardi Gras, Lincoln's Photo, the Reichstag

On today's date, February 27:

In 1827 = a group of students dressed in outlandish costumes and masks went running and dancing
through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, for the first time, the start of that city's famous Mardi Gras celebrations.  The origins of Mardi Gras date back to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice. This carried through the 17th and 18th centuries to France.  And from there, the whole tradition of revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the whole parade idea, which had been banned by the Spanish colonial authorities.  It was after Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, that New Orleanians convinced the city council to cancel the ban on the parties in the streets and wearing masks. The new Mardi Gras tradition started on this night in 1827 when groups of students, inspired by their experience of studying in Paris, put on jester costumes and masks and established their own Fat Tuesday festival.

In 1860 = Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Republican nomination for President had a photograph made of himself (the first of many such) by Mathew Brady in New York City, before going on that evening to make a very important speech at the Cooper Union Building. Lincoln did not make an especially dashing subject, so Brady recalled drawing Lincoln's collar higher up around his neck to improve the man's appearance.

That evening, Lincoln gave a speech at the Cooper Union in New York City in which he clearly outlined his opposition to the idea of allowing slavery to spread into the territories of the west as they became states:
"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

By clearly outlining his belief that slavery should not be extended beyond the South, Lincoln's speech marked his transformation from a regional politician into a national figure in the debate over slavery. This famous portrait would be made by artists at Harper's Weekly into full page woodcut images to go with their stories. In subsequent versions of the photo, artists would smooth out Lincoln's hair and subtly refine his facial features. This early form of candidate's image making were important keys to Lincoln's election.  As Lincoln himself said: "Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President."

In 1933 =  The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament caught fire, and was seriously damaged. The blaze was blamed on one Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch communist who was apprehended at the scene. But according to most historians, the fire was in fact set by members of the Nazi party of Chancellor Adolf Hitler as a way of silencing any lingering apposition to his rule in Germany.  By blaming the destruction of the seat of German democracy on the Communists, Hitler and his thugs were able to suspend any rights that his opposition had and, and conduct a ruthless crackdown by jailing, torturing, and murdering thousands throughout Germany. Hitler thus tightened his grip on power in Germany and continued his march into World War II.

D. Sefton Delmar was a reporter for the London Daily Express who witnessed the fire:

"'This is a God-given signal! If this fire, as I believe, turns out to be the handiwork of Communists, then there is nothing that shall stop us now crushing out this murder pest with an iron fist.'  Adolf Hitler, Fascist Chancellor of Germany, made this dramatic declaration in my presence tonight in the hall of the burning Reichstag building. The fire broke out at 9:45 tonight in the Assembly Hall of the Reichstag. It had been laid in five different corners and there is no doubt whatever that it was the handiwork of incendiaries.  One of the incendiaries, a man aged thirty, was arrested by the police as he came rushing out of the building, clad only in shoes and trousers, without shirt or coat, despite the icy cold in Berlin tonight.  Five minutes after the fire had broken out I was outside the Reichstag watching the flames licking their way up the great dome into the tower."

But in spite of the charge against the young Dutchman, William L. Shirer states in his book "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich": "...there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends."


Mardi Gras =

Lincoln =

The Reichstag =

"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SPECIAL = Rare Roman Tombstone Found in England

The following article is from "The Blaze" website at the following web address =

Tombstone Uncovered in England That’s So Rare It’s Being Called ‘Career Defining’
Feb. 25, 2015 1:14pm Liz Klimas

An “incredibly rare” Roman tombstone found face down in England was flipped over on live TV this week to reveal its Latin inscription.

According to Cotswold Archaeology, the tombstone uncovered in Cirencester said “D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII.” Translating the Latin to English, this reads “In memory of Bodicia. Wife. Lived 27 years,” the archaeological group reported.

A rare, Roman tombstone was found in Cestershire this week.
(Image source: )

Neil Holbrook, Cotswold Archaeology’s chief executive, told BBC he was “elated” at the discovery of the tombstone and the success the crew had flipping it over in one piece. Roman tombstones as a whole in the area are rare finds. This particular stone would have cost “quite a lot of money,” Holbrook said, according to BBC.

“It’s a thing of beauty, a real career-defining [moment],” another archaeologist who was at the site told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.  Holbrook noted that the woman’s name was Celtic, so he speculated that she might have been from Gloucestershire but married to a Roman or Gaul from France.  The Gloucestershire Echo reported that the tombstone will undergo analysis before it is put on display in a museum.

The discovery was made at an existing dig site at the former automotive garage located just outside of Cirencester, a city Cotswold Archaeology said was called Corinium Dobunnorum when it was founded by the Romans in the first century. Dozens of Roman graves have been found in the area.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FEBRUARY 20 = John Glenn Orbits the Earth

On today's date, February 20, in 1962, Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, U.S.M.C.  became the first American to orbit the earth, making three revolutions around our planet in the Friendship Seven Mercury spacecraft.  Col. Glenn became a national hero for his flight.  But this hero status made him too valuable to risk on subsequent space flights, and this inactivity wound up driving him into the political arena as a democratic Senator from his (and my) home state of Ohio.

John Glenn, the Clean Marine

Born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921, John Glenn had been a successful Marine pilot, completing over 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean conflict, and receiving numerous decorations.  And he was also a successful test pilot, having made the first the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes. Dubbed the Clean Marine because of his exemplary private life (he married his wife Annie in 1943 and stayed with her ever after) and because he refused to use curse language, Glenn had been one of the first seven pilot chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to be the original astronauts in America's space program.

Glenn's Mission on February 20

In these early days of the U.S. space program, the U.S. was seen by many as falling behind the Russians who had already had a man in space, as well as a man orbiting the planet. so while the U.S. had already put men in space on previous missions, we had a lot by way of national prestige on the line with Col. Glenn's mission this day in 1962. He lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on with some 100,000 spectators watching in person nearby and millions watching on television. Parted from its launching rocket, the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule moved into orbit around Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. After only five minutes Glenn radioed back: “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.” During his first orbit, Glenn saw what he described as small, glowing fireflies drifting by the capsule's tiny window. "Get out of here you little gadgets!" he said playfully as they dispersed. Later NASA figured out that the sparks were crystallized water vapor from the capsule's air-conditioning system.

The View from Space and the Heat Shield

At the start of his third orbit, Glenn photographed  a truly unique view of Florida from the Georgia border to north  Cape Canaveral. “I have the Cape in sight down there,” he radoed to mission controllers. “It looks real fine from up here. I can see the whole state of Florida just laid out like on a map. Beautiful.” The photo is below.

There was some trouble on this flight. As put in the New York Times: "The astronaut's safe return was no less a relief than a thrill to the Project Mercury team, because there had been real concern that the Friendship 7 capsule might disintegrate as it rammed back into the atmosphere."  Mission control received a signal from the spacecraft saying that the heat shield on the base of the capsule might be loose. This meant that the capsule could burn up upon re-entry to earth's atmosphere if the heat shield came off,  NASA decided to keep the craft's retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, in place to hold the heat shield in position, Less than a minute later, Friendship 7 hit Earth's atmosphere. After four minutes of radio silence. Glenn's voice came sputtering over the speakers at Mission Control. As reported in the Times the next day: "Still in his capsule, he was plucked from the water at 3:01 P. M. with a boom and block and tackle by the destroyer Noa. The capsule was deposited on deck at 3:04. Colonel Glenn's first words as he stepped out onto the Noa's deck were: 'It was hot in there.' He quickly obtained a glass of ice tea."

The Years Following 1962

Thereafter, Colonel Glenn was a national hero, given a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and was praised all around for his feat of circling the globe in the Friendship 7, and to no small degree, for restoring America's national pride in her space program.  And while NASA would go on to surpass the Russians, ultimately landing a man on the moon in 1969, John Glenn the hero was seen by NASA as a far too valuable commodity to risk on another space mission.  With his naturally active spirit rebelling at this inactivity, Col. Glenn entered the political arena as a democratic candidate for the United States Senate from Ohio. He won election in 1974, and was re-elected three times after that - I am pleased and proud to say that I voted for him myself in those contests from 1980, onward.  On October 29, 1998, almost forty years after his orbital flight in Friendship Seven the 77-year-old Glenn was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as the oldest human ever to travel in space.  Lieutenant Colonel, Senator John Glenn - what a man!!


"The Right Stuff' - dir, by Philip Kaufman, 1983

Friday, February 13, 2015

FEBRUARY 13 = Catherine Howard is Executed.

On today's date in 1541, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of England's King Henry VIII was executed for treason and adultery. And she is said to have died with her lover's name on her lips.

The Rose Without Thorns

It had been like a rocket that Catherine Howard had risen. She had been a young lady in waiting to Henry's fourth wife, the German Anne of Cleves. She caught the eye of his Majesty as the bright and personable niece of Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk, one of the King's close advisers.  Henry showed little interest in his fourth wife, instead showering young Catherine with gifts and attention. In spite of the significant age difference between them (He was 50, Catherine barely 18) Henry was thoroughly besotted with the kid, calling her "his rose without thorns." He had his marriage to Anne annulled in July of 1540. He married Catherine on July 28 of that month.

Rumors, and Thomas Culpeper

But it seems that Catherine had more than a few thorns, having been less than chaste in her years before marrying the King, or so the rumors went. Apparently she had slept with a man named Thomas Dereham. So there was the business of keeping that hushed up.  But shortly before her marriage to the King, she began a romance with one of the King's courtiers, one Thomas Culpeper.
This was hardly surprising, as the King was more than thirty years her senior and Culpeper was 26 at the time (pictured at right as portrayed in the TV series "The Tudors").Very soon after her marriage to the King these rumors began to circulate more. The king and his new wife toured England in preparation for her coronation, and her hoped for pregnancy. Henry had two daughters from previous marriages, and a son, but the boy was sickly, and the King hoped for another son and a healthy one to be his heir,  But the pregnancy didn't happen.

Catherine's Downfall

So when her affair with Culpeper came to light, along with the rumors of past misconduct, poor Catherine was through. A letter from her to Culpeper came to light, which is about the only writing of hers that still exists:

"I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company."

These sentiments, though delicate sounding enough to our modern ears were nevertheless used against her. She had virtually no hope of survival.  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, sent to question Catherine was quite moved by her plight. "I found her in such lamentation and heaviness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart to have looked upon her." She was beheaded at 7:00 a.m. on Feb. 13, 1541. She went to her death with composure, but legend says that at her last moment she said: "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper". This probably did not happen, but it does lend her tragic story some dimension, since apparently she was in love with Culpeper, and knew that he had been horribly executed (drawn and quartered) before her. She was a mere twenty years old at the time of her death.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FEBRUARY 11 = The Yalta Conference Ends

           (Above: left to right, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin)

“ I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. . . . I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace. ” —Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong about Stalin."

- Winston Churchill

Unfortunately for Eastern Europe, both the President, and the Prime Minister proved to be wrong about not only the character of the Soviet Dictator, but about his intentions. But the outcome of the Yalta Conference which ended on today's date, February 11 in 1945, would probably have been the same in any event.

The Yalta Conference

As World War II came to an end in Europe, the leaders of the soon to be victorious Allied powers of the United States, Great Britain, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R. - Russia) met at the Black Sea resort town of Yalta in the Crimean peninsula in what is now Russian-occupied territory of the independent Republic of Ukraine. The conference was held in the luxurious Livadia Palace (below) which
had once been a favorite retreat of the Czar.  Here, the heads of the allied governments, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and Josef Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union met to discuss the post-war situation of Europe. And all three men had different agendas.  Churchill wanted to keep Russia from becoming the overall power in Europe.  Roosevelt wanted this also, but was mainly wanting Soviet participation in the new United Nations as well as Soviet help in the still unfinished war against Japan, and Stalin had his troops all over Eastern Europe and he was determined to keep them there.

The Leaders and Their Agendas at Yalta

Winston Churchill came to Yalta as the leader of a victorious Britain, but a Britain which had been seriously weakened by the struggle of this huge war, and no longer the vast imperial power that she had once been.  He was hoping to negotiate the Russian away from becoming the predominant power in Europe. Roosevelt came to Yalta hoping this as
well, but also with the need to get Russia to help out in the still unfinished war against Japan, and also to gain Russian participation in his cherished idea of an international organization to keep the peace - the United Nations.  But Roosevelt was a very sick man at this time.  The years of war had taken a great toll on him; in fact he would die in just over two months.  As shown in the quotations that open this posting, both men thought that Stalin was a reasonable man with whom they could do business.  But Stalin had his troops all over Eastern Europe, and far from being reasonable, he had no intention of turning loose of any of it. Poland in particular had been the route to invade Russia in 1812, 1914, and 1941 and he was determined to close it off once and for all.

The Yalta Negotiations and the Result

The negotiations over Eastern Europe came down to the fact that the Russians had it and that was it. As Llewellyn Woodward, a British diplomat said:

"The problem for the British and the Americans was to discover how far the Russians intended to collaborate with the western powers after the war... what use they intended to make of their military power... The President and his entourage continued to assume that, unlike Great Britain, Russia was not an imperial power."

Also, FDR was very anxious to gain full Russian participation in his planned United Nations as well as the war on Japan.  The atom bomb which would in a few months end that war, had not been developed yet, and the likely casualties of an invasion of Japan itself would be in the millions.  The President was set on attaining these two vital goals. The
Russians had full military possession of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe, and the prospect of forcing them out militarily was (above: the Yalta conference table) simply impossible for the war-weary and exhausted allies. This lead to long and detailed talks about free elections in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe which in the end the Russians would not honor.  Stalin had his foot on that land and had no intention of removing it.

FDR's Sell-out of Eastern Europe?

When all of this became public in the months and years that followed the Yalta Conference, it began to look as though a sick Roosevelt had sold the store to Stalin, condemning Eastern Europe to years of Soviet domination.  Yes, FDR had indeed been on his last lap during Yalta.  But the truth had been much simpler.  As James Mac Gregor Burns wrote, Roosevelt's stance at Yalta did not result from

"naivete, ignorance, illness or perfidy, but from his acceptance of the facts: Russia occupied Poland.  Russia distrusted its Western allies.  Russia had a million men who could fight Japan. Russia could sabotage the new peace organization.  And Russia was absolutely determined about Poland and always had been." 

(Above: the final partition of Germany into occupation zones)
The Final Joint Communique' of the Yalta Conference issued on this date reflects the hopes of a world which was exhausted after years of war, and which was about to enter upon a new and even more perilous period of "Cold War" versus a determined and expansionist Soviet Union under Stalin:

"Our meeting here in the Crimea has reaffirmed our common determination to maintain and strengthen in the peace to come that unity of purpose and of action which has made victory possible and certain for the United Nations in this war. We believe that this is a sacred obligation which our Governments owe to our peoples and to all the peoples of the world.

"Only with the continuing and growing cooperation and understanding among our three countries and among all the peace-loving Nations can the highest aspiration of humanity be realized—a secure and lasting peace which will, in the words of the Atlantic Charter, "afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want."

"Victory in this war and establishment of the proposed international organization will provide the greatest opportunity in all history to create in the years to come the essential conditions of such a peace."


"A History of Modern Europe, 1815 to the Present" by Albert S. Lindemann, Wiley and Sons. Ltd., Chichester, U.K., 2013

"British Foreign Policy in the Second World War" by Sir Ernest Llewellyn Woodward, HM. Stationary Office, London, U.K., 1962

"Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom 1940 - 45" by James MacGregor Burns, U.S.A., 1970

+ 156.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

FEBRUARY 7 = "The Beatles", Baltimore -1904 & Mengele Dies

On today's date of February 7 in:
1964 =

The British Rock and Roll group "The Beatles" landed at Kennedy Airport in New York City at 1:20 p.m. and instantly recaptured the city for the first time since the Brits pulled out in 1783.  Ringo Starr was concerned that the Yanks wouldn't like them so much: "They've got everything over there, will they want us too?" Well he needn't have been worried.  The Ed Sullivan Show which had 728 seats available had requests for over 50,000 such seats. On the cold and clear day when the Fab Four arrived in NYC, some 5,000 fans were waiting for them at Kennedy, waving home-made placards saying "We love you Beatles!!" An official for the airport remarked: "We've never seen anything like this before, ever. Never.  Not even for Kings and Queens." 

The group had just released "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" six days before, so the reception they got as they stepped of their Yankee Clipper Flight 101 from London was predictably wild, According to Barry Miles: "The scene at the Plaza, New York's grandest hotel (left) was chaotic, with hundreds of fans being held at bay by police barricades and twenty mounted police.  They kept up a constant mantra- like chant: 'We love you Beatles, oh yes we dooo! We love you Beatles and we'll be true!!' interspersed with shouts of 'We want the Beatles!'" This was followed by their performance on "the Ed Sullivan Show" two days later before an estimated TV audience of over 73 million viewers.  And THAT was so crazy that it has to be seen to be believed (just click on the preceding sentence).

In 1904 =

In Baltimore, Maryland, a small fire in the business district was blown by the wind into a massive blaze which swallowed up a large chunk of that city before it finally died the next day. The fire which may have started with a discarded cigarette in the vast dry-goods warehouse of John E. Hurst & Co. Building was quickly blown by high winds into a conflagration which wound through the narrow streets of Baltimore. The flames fed mostly on old wooden structures which went up quickly.

As would happen in the blaze that overtook San Francisco in 1908, the Fire Department lost the services of their Chief when he was knocked unconscious by a falling wall early in the fire. As a result most of the fire fighting was ill-directed and counter-productive.  It was only when the winds died down on the eighth that it finally drew to a close.  The fire had lasted 31 hours, and had eaten up an 80-block chunk of the downtown in Baltimore; over 140 acres of the business district.  Almost 2500 buildings had been damaged, with about 1500 of that number being total losses. Between 85 and 100 million dollars in damage was done, but unbelievably, no homes were lost, and there was only one fatality.

In 1979 =

"I am convinced that he was longing to return to Germany,  That was clear towards the end; on the last day he made it clear.  I don't know whether he knew death was coming, but he was on a large rock by the sea, and said 'Over there is my country... I would like to spend the last days of my life in my native town of Gunzburg...' "

These were apparently the final thoughts of one Josef Mengele (left) on the last day of his life, Feb. 7, 1979 as told to his friend Wolfram Bossert. Mengele was the sinister doctor who earned the title "the Angel of Death" for his inhumane experiments on inmates at Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War II.  Mengele would supervise the selection of who would live and who would die by walking among them as they arrived. Wearing distinctive white doctor's gloves, and yelling "Left!" or " Right" he would direct them either to murderously hard labor , or immediate extermination. Further, he was in charge of a program of hideous "medical experiments" on the captive inmates. Mengele would inject them with all sorts of deadly chemicals such as chloroform or petrol to study the effect that this would have on them. Particularly gruesome were his "experiments" on genetic twins, including sex  change operations, attempts at changing eye colors, removal of bones and organs, incestuous impregnations, and injections with various germs.

Mengele survived World War II and managed to escape Germany with
the help of fellow ex-Nazis and wound up in Brazil.  He never had a peaceful moment though, as he was always looking over his shoulder for Israeli agents looking to capture him as had happened to Adolf Eichmann.  Sadly for the cause of justice, Mengele cheated the hangman by having a stroke while swimming in the ocean at the town of Bertioga, Brazil on today's date in 1979.  But as he was living under the alias of Dr. Wolfgang Gerhard, his death was not discovered and confirmed with dental records until 1985.

Sources =

"The Beatles Diary" by Barry Miles, Omnibus Press, New York, 2001

"Darkest Hours" by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1977

"Mengele - the Complete Story" by Gerald Posner and John Ware, Mc Graw Hill Book Company, New York, 1986.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SPECIAL = The Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.

Our President, Barack Obama said in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, the following:

"Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,... In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

OK then... since I look upon it as being my duty to keep you - all of my readers well- informed whenever these historical parallels are invoked, let me PLEEEASE do so now:

The Crusades = 1095 - 1291

The next three sections were taken directly from "Wikipedia"....
The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church during the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Following the First Crusade there was an intermittent 200-year struggle for control of the Holy Land, with six more major crusades and numerous minor ones. In 1291, the conflict ended in failure with the fall of the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land at Acre, after which Roman Catholic Europe mounted no further coherent response in the east.

Eight hundred years after the Fourth Crusade, Pope John Paul II twice expressed sorrow for the events surrounding it. In 2004, while Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, was visiting the Vatican, John Paul II asked, "How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust." This has been regarded as an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church for the terrible slaughter perpetrated by the warriors of the Fourth Crusade.

So yes, atrocities were committed in the name of Christ.

The Spanish Inquisition = 1478 - @ 1700's officially 1834. 

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. Hideous forms of torture were used throughout the Inquisition to force non-believers to confess to heresy.

The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave.  The body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the previous century.

So yes, once again atrocities were committed in the name of Christ.

Jim Crow Laws = @ 1890 - 1965

The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruc- tion period in Southern United States that continued in force until 1965 mandating de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern U.S. states (of the former Confederacy), starting in 1890 with a "separate but equal" status for African Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for African Americans that were inferior to those provided for white Americans. It institutionalized a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.

So yes, injustice was practiced, frequently in the name of Christ, and much of that is discussed in this Blog.

"ISIS" (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) = RIGHT NOW

According to a U.N. Report released today, the Islamic State group is systematically killing, torturing and raping children and families of minority groups in Iraq, and it is calling on government forces there to do more to protect them. In a report issued Wednesday in Geneva, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said it has received reports of "several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of be- headings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive." And of course we have the be-headings of foreign journalists, and aid workers, and yesterday's news of the burning alive of a caged Jordanian Air Force Pilot.  And all of this happening NOT in the 13th Century, nor the 16th Century, nor even 50 years ago, but RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

I just thought that a little historical prospective was called for...


Monday, February 2, 2015

FEBRUARY 2 = Groundhog Day, Stalingrad

Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmotte; Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is marked every February 2. According to long standing American myth, if the furry little Groundhog (Above, Marmota monax - a rodent of the family Sciuridae, from the group of large ground squirrels) emerges from his burrow and it is cloudy, then we'll have an early Spring. If however it is sunny out, and Mr. Groundhog sees his shadow, then he will scurry back into his little hole, because that means there will be six more weeks of winter.

The Origins of This Strange Event

This originated with sixteenth Century German farmers, and it was actually the wood chuck that they were seeing,  Soon enough, these folks immigrated to America, many of then settling in the state of Pennsylvania. The first reference to Groundhog Day in America which has been documented comes in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of James Morris, a storekeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania:

"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

In 1887, a newspaper editor who was with a groundhog hunting group from Punxsutawney, Pennsylavania named "The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" published an article which said that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was the only groundhog in America which could preform this act of rodent-meteorology. The descendant groundhogs of Phil have of course earned considerable fame. But other towns across North America have long since began their own Groundhog traditions, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Balzac Billie in Balzac, Alberta and Manitoba Merv in Manitoba, both in Canada.

"So this is what the end looks like..."

"I was shocked when I saw the map.  We are entirely alone, without help from the outside. Hitler has left us in the lurch.  The men of my battery have some inkling of it too, but they don't know it as clearly as I do. So this is what the end looks like."

These were the reflections of an unknown German soldier in a letter to home shortly before his army surrendered.  On this date, February 2 in 1943, the last remnants of the once mighty Wehrmacht 6'th Army, which had been encircled in the ruined city of Stalingrad since November of 1942 surrendered to the Soviet army commanded by Marshall Zhukov.  The last German plane that flew out in January carried seven bags of letters to home from the soldiers.  But none of them was ever delivered, because German Army censors decided that their "negative attitude" would be damaging to morale on the home front.  They were found in Army archives in 1954 with names and addresses removed.   An excerpt from another:

 "Around me everything is collapsing, a whole army is dying, day and night are on fire....I don't know much about war.  No human being has died by my hand.  I haven't even fired live ammunition from my pistol.  But I know this much: the other side would never show such a lack of understanding for it's men."

The 6'th Army which had once been over 200,000 strong had been reduced to 90,000 frozen, starving survivors (pictured above marching into captivity).  Of these, only 5,000 would ever return to Germany from their imprisonment in Russia.


Groundhog Day =

"Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things" by Charles Panati, Harper and Row, New York, 1987

Stalingrad =

"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II"  by C.L. Sulzburger, American Heritage Publ. Co. Inc., New York, 1966