Mike Mansfield’s been gone 14 years

October 5, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana; oil on canvas by Aaron Shikler, 1978 – Wikimedia image

Mike Mansfield was born on March 16, 1903.  Best boss I ever had.

Mansfield died 14 years ago on this day, October 5. Rarely a day goes by I don’t read the newspaper and think we could sure use a few more people like him today.  He’s been gone 14 years, and I miss him. I hope I’m not alone in that.

Robert A. Nowlan’s Born This Day attributed this quote to Mansfield:

After all, even a politician is human.

Laconic as he was, Mansfield didn’t say anything more meaty than that?

Read about Mansfield at the Bathtub, here.  Mansfield died on October 5, 2001.  He is interred at  Arlington National Cemetery in a soldier’s grave, reflecting his unique view of the world from an ordinary grunt soldier. Mansfield served as a Seaman in the U.S. Navy, enlisting at the age of 14; he served then as a Private in the U.S. Army; then he served as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps. His history proved a delightful prelude when, as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate,  he met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon on issues of soldiers’ welfare.

At our current sad time, when the political agenda of activist republic destroyers includes bitterly working hard to wipe out the history of great men like Mansfield, it’s important we remember him.

English: Senate desk X, used by Democratic lea...

This is a photo of one of the rarest views of history one can see, visible only to those few people who get onto the floor of the U.S. Senate, and only if someone opens a desk for them.  One of the more interesting, odd, and sentimental traditions developed in the U.S. Senate is the signing of the desks.  Sometime in the 19th century senators began signing the inside of the desks they were assigned to on the Senate floor.  Sometimes a desk gets associated with a particular state and a senator from that class; sometimes a desk get associated with family (Sens. John, Ted and Robert Kennedy, for example).  Here is Senate desk X, used by Democratic leaders (Joseph T. Robinson, Alben W. Barkley, Scott W. Lucas, Ernest McFarland, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mike Mansfield, Robert Byrd, George J. Mitchell, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mike Mansfield on the cover of Time Magazine, March 20, 1964. This cover story reminds us that the Democrats were a fractious majority in the 1960s, which lends an even greater patina to Mansfield's reputation as a wrangler of Senators and the Senate Majority, at one of the most productive times in Congress's history, a sharp comparison to 2015.

Mike Mansfield on the cover of Time Magazine, March 20, 1964. This cover story reminds us that the Democrats were a fractious majority in the 1960s, which lends an even greater patina to Mansfield’s reputation as a wrangler of Senators and the Senate Majority, at one of the most productive times in Congress’s history, a sharp comparison to 2015.


Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Cinco de Mayo: NOT Mexico’s Independence Day; should Confederate sympathizers celebrate?

May 5, 2015

(Mostly an encore post, from 2009, with updates)

You thought Cinco de Mayo was Independence Day for Mexico?

No, it’s not.

History.com has a nice explanation, with a nice little video

NPR’s blogs explain: “Cinco de Mayo: Whose holiday is it, anyway?”

“It ain’t about the Margaritas: The real meaning of Cinco de Mayo,” at NPR’s The Takeaway.

Perhaps the U.S. should celebrate the day, too, at least in those states who were not in the old Confederacy. On May 5, 1862, Mexicans under the command of 33 year old Commander General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín stopped the quick advance of superior French forces trying to invade Mexico to take it over, at the Battle of Puebla. While France did eventually defeat Mexican forces (after getting 30,000 men in reinforcements), the spirit of May 5 inspired Mexicans to continue to fight for freedom. And ultimately, Mexican forces overpowered and captured the French forces and Emperor Maximilian, who was executed.

Thus ended a great hope for the Confederacy, that a French-supported Mexican Army would lend aid to the Confederates in their struggle to secede from the Union.

It is one of the great what-ifs of history: What if France had kept Mexico, and what if French-led Mexican forces backed up the Confederate Army, as Confederates and the French hoped?

One thing is rather sure: Had that happened, and had the Confederacy been successful, we wouldn’t be celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Texas today.

What do the scholars of Lincoln have to add?

Battle of Puebla, Wikimedia (artist?)

Battle of Puebla, Wikimedia (artist?)

Mexican Independence Day is September 16.


Update: A reader sends a note that Seguin was a Texan. So the Mexican hero of the Battle of Puebla was a Texan. You couldn’t make this stuff up — real history is always more interesting than fiction.

César Chávez Day, 2015

March 31, 2015

features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,

Postage stamp honoring Cesar Chavez in 2003. “The stamp features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,” according to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

President Obama declared March 31, 2015, César Chávez Day, as he did in 2014.  Here’s the press release version of the proclamation.

For Immediate Release                                                         March 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation — Cesar Chavez Day, 2015


– – – – – – –


For more than two centuries, the arc of our Nation’s progress has been shaped by ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to the extraordinary work of building a more perfect Union.  It is a story of achievement and constant striving that has found expression in places where America’s destiny has been decided — in Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, and in the golden fields of California where an American hero discovered his mighty voice.  Today, we honor César Chávez and his lifetime of work to make our country more free, more fair, and more just, and we reaffirm the timeless belief he embodied:  those who love their country can change it.

A son of migrant workers and a child of the Great Depression, César Chávez believed every job has dignity and every person should have the chance to reach beyond his or her circumstances and realize a brighter future.  When no one seemed to care about the farm workers who labored without basic protections and for meager pay to help feed the world, César Chávez awakened our Nation to their deplorable conditions and abject poverty — injustices he knew firsthand.  He organized, protested, fasted, and alongside Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers.  Slowly, he grew a small movement to a 10,000-person march and eventually a 17-million-strong boycott of table grapes, rallying a generation around “La Causa” and forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history.  Guided by a fierce commitment to nonviolence in support of a righteous cause, he never lost faith in the power of opportunity for all.

As a Nation, we know the struggle to live up to the principles of our founding does not end with any one victory or defeat.  After César Chávez fought for higher wages, he pushed for fresh drinking water, workers’ compensation, pension plans, and protection from pesticides.  He strove every day for the America he knew was possible.  Today, we must take up his work and carry forward this great unfinished task.

When immigrants labor in the shadows, they often earn unfair wages and their families and our economy suffer — that is one reason why we have to fix our broken immigration system and why I keep calling on the Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  We need to continue to defend the collective bargaining rights countless individuals have fought so hard for and ensure our economy rewards hard work with a fair living wage, paid leave, and equal pay for equal work.

César Chávez knew that when you lift up one person, it enriches a community; it bolsters our economy, strengthens our Nation, and gives meaning to the creed that out of many, we are one.  As we celebrate his life, we are reminded of our obligations to one another and the extraordinary opportunity we are each given to work toward justice, equal opportunity, and a better future for every one of our sisters and brothers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2015, as César Chávez Day.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.


No call for a flying of flags, but you may certainly fly your Old Glory, if you wish.


March 16, Freedoms Day 2015 – How to celebrate James Madison?

March 16, 2015

Celebrations of James Madison, who was born on March 16, 1751, fall to second tier, a paragraph if we’re lucky in your local newspaper’s “today in history” feature.

March 16 is not a holiday.  It’s not even a Flag Flying Day (though, if you left your flag up for March 15th’s anniversary of Maine’s statehood . . . no one would notice).

Secretary of State James Madison, who won Marb...

Secretary of State James Madison, who won Marbury v. Madison, but lost Judicial review. Photo: Wikipedia

Should we leave James Madison out of our celebrations of history with such vengeance?

Madison left a great legacy.  The question is, how to honor it, and him?

  • Madison is known popularly, especially for elementary school history studies (the few that are done anymore), as the Father of the Constitution.  It’s fitting:  Madison engaged in a great, good conspiracy with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to get the convention to “amend” the Articles of Confederation and create a better, probably stronger, national government.  But Washington stayed behind the scenes, and pulled very few strings Madison didn’t tell him to pull. Hamilton’s support from New York was weak; while Hamilton played a hugely important role in getting the convention called, and in getting New York to ratify the Constitution with the creation of the Federalist Papers project, the day-to-day operation of the convention and direction of the political forces to make it work, fell to Madison.
  • Madison’s notes on the Philadelphia convention give us the best record of the then-secret proceedings. 

    English: James Madison, fourth president of th...

    Notice the error in this caption:  “James Madison, fourth president of the United States wrote the Constitution at his estate near Orange Virginia, called Montpelier. Pictured here after an extensive renovation.” Photo from Wikipedia.  (James Madison didn’t write the Constitution; it was hammered out in Philadelphia, not Montpelier; the patriot and rake Gouverneur Morris wrote out the final draft.)

  • Madison devised the scheme of getting conventions to ratify the Constitution, instead of colonial/state legislatures.  He had Patrick Henry in mind.  Henry opposed any centralized government for the colonies, to the point that he refused to attend the Philadelphia convention when he was appointed a delegate; by the end of the convention, Henry was off to another term as governor where he hoped to orchestrate the defeat of ratification of the constitution in the Virginia legislature.  Madison circumvented that path, but Henry still threw up every hurdle he could.  (Henry organized the anti-federalist forces in the Virginia Convention, and hoping to kill the Constitution, called it fatally flawed for having no bill of rights; when Madison’s organizing outflanked him, especially with a promised to get a bill of rights in the First Congress, Henry blocked Madison’s election to the U.S. Senate, and organized forces to stop his popular election to the U.S. House.  That failed, ultimately, and Madison pushed the legislative package that became the Bill of Rights).
  • Andrew Hamilton started writing a series of newspaper columns, with John Jay, to urge New York to ratify of the Constitution; but after Jay was beaten nearly to death by an anti-federalist mob, Hamilton invited Madison to step in and help.  Madison ended up writing more than Hamilton and Jay put together, in that collection now known as The Federalist Papers.
  • Madison backed down George Mason, and got the great defender of citizens’ rights to add religious freedom to the Virginia Bill of Rights, in 1776.  Religious freedom and freedom of conscience became a life-long crusade for Madison, perhaps moreso than for Thomas Jefferson.
  • A sort of protege of Thomas Jefferson, Madison pushed much of Jefferson’s democratic and bureaucratic reforms through the Virginia legislature, into law.  Especially, it was Madison who stoppped Patrick Henry’s plan to have Virginia put preachers on the payroll, and instead pass Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom into law in 1786.
  • Madison wrote the best defense of American religious freedom in the Memorial and Remonstrance, a petition to the Virginia legislature to get Jefferson’s bill passed.
  • Madison sponsored and passed more Constitutional Amendments than anyone else in history.  We have 27 amendments to our Constitution.  Madison pushed through the first 10, now known as the Bill of Rights.  In the original package proposed out of Congress were a dozen amendments.  One of those became salient again in the late 20th century, and was finally ratified in 1992 — the 27th Amendment.  Madison is the author of 11 of the 27 amendments, including the first ten and the last one.
  • Yeah, James Madison was the defendant in Marbury v. Madison; he made history even when he didn’t do anything
  • Madison is the only president to face enemy gunfire while president, commanding troops on the frontlines during the British invasion of Washington in 1814.
  • Madison took over the creation of the University of Virginia when Jefferson’s death prevented his following through.
  • Madison’s record as an effective, law-passing legislator is rivaled only by Lyndon Johnson among the 43 people we’ve had as president.  Both were masters at get stuff done.
  • Madison is the ultimate go-to-guy for a partner In his lifetime, to the great benefit of his partners, he collaborated with George Washington to get the convention in Philadelphia; he collaborated with Ben Franklin to get Washington to be president of the Philadelphia convention, without which it could not have succeeded; he collaborated with Hamilton on the Constitution and again on the Federalist papers; he collaborated with Jefferson to secure religious freedom in 1776, 1786, and 1789; Madison collaborated with Jefferson to establish our party political system (perhaps somewhat unintentionally), and to get Jefferson elected president; Madison collaborated with Jefferson and Jay to make the Louisiana Purchase; Madison took James Monroe out of the Patrick Henry camp, and brought Monroe along to be a great federalist democrat, appointing Monroe Secretary of State in Madison’s administration, and then pushing Monroe to succeed him as president.  Also, Madison was a prize student of the great John Witherspoon at what is now Princeton; Witherspoon took Madison, studying for the clergy, and convinced him God had a greater calling for him than merely to a pulpit.

As the ultimate Second Man — when he wasn’t the First Man — Madison’s role in history should not be downplayed, not forgotten.

March 16 is Madison’s birthday (“new style”).

What would be fitting ways to celebrate Madison’s life and accomplishments, on his birthday?  Nothing done so far in the history of the Republic adequately honors this man and his accomplishments, nor begins to acknowledge the great debt every free person owes to his work.

Still, there are encouraging stirrings.

(Dolley Madison?  There are two topics for other, lengthy discussions — one on their marriage, and how they worked together; one on Dolley, a power in her own right.)

Previously, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Chester Nez, last surviving Navajo Code Talker from World War II, has died

June 4, 2014

Chester Nez saved America, but couldn’t tell anyone about it for decades.  His work was ignored.

He lived to see some recognition for the work he and his fellow Code Talkers did.

There are many morals to his tale, particularly appropriate now as we wind down two wars.


Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Navajo Code Talker, Marine Chester Nez in the yellow shirt, signing copies of his book, Code Talker, in Carrollton, Texas, October 14, 2012; photo by Ed Darrell

Mr. Nez died this morning, Wednesday, June 4, at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was 93.

Others are saying:


“Penetration however slight”: Remembering a good and noble hoax – the U.S.S. Pueblo, 46 years later

January 22, 2014

January 23 is the anniversary of the North Koreans‘ capture of the spy boat, U.S.S. Pueblo, in 1968 — a beginning of a momentous year for bad events.  The saga of the Pueblo and its crew, including especially Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, is of special interest to me because it features a series of some of the grandest, best and most humorously American hoaxes ever perpetrated by imprisoned people against their captors and wardens.  This is one of the great Kilroy stories of American history.  It should not be forgotten.  Especially with the role North Korea plays in contemporary angst, the Pueblo episode should not be forgotten. This is an encore post, with new links added.

1968 brought one chunk of bad news after another to Americans. The year seemed to be one long, increasingly bad disaster. In several ways it was the mark of the times between the feel-good, post-war Eisenhower administration and the feel-good-despite-the-Cold-War Reagan administration. 1968 was depressing.

Lloyd M. Bucher

USN Cmdr. Lloyd M. Bucher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was so bad? Vietnam manifested itself as a quagmire. Just when Washington politicians predicted an end in sight, Vietcong militia launched a nationwide attack in South Vietnam on the Vietnamese New Year holiday, Tet, at the end of January. Civil rights gains stalled, and civil rights leaders came out in opposition to the Vietnam war. President Johnson fared poorly in the New Hampshire primary election, and eventually dropped out of the race for the presidency (claiming he needed to devote time to making peace in Vietnam). Labor troubles roiled throughout the U.S., including a nasty strike by garbage collectors in Memphis. It didn’t help to settle the strike that the sanitation workers were almost 100% African American, the leadership of Memphis was almost 100% white, and race relations in the city were not so good as they might have been – the strike attracted the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – who was assassinated there in early April. In response, riots broke out in 150 American cities.

More below the fold, including the key confession to “penetration.” Read the rest of this entry »

January 21: Odd conjunction of history with Louis XVI and Vladimir I. Lenin

January 21, 2014

This is mostly an encore post.

The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press inform us that France’s King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793.  In 1924, Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin died on January 21.

Portrait of Louis XVI

France’s King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793.  He is seen here in his most famous portrait, in happier times. Image via Wikipedia

Both died of strokes, but of different kinds of strokes.  Lenin’s was a cerebral stroke; Louis’s was the stroke of the blade of a guillotine.

Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925,  by Isaak Brodsky - Wikipedia

Lenin died on January 21, 1924.  Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925, by Isaak Brodsky

Ruminations on the date, and the men:  How much of current history can be understood by studying those two events, and those two men?  How much if we add in George Washington, and Napoleon, other men affected by revolution?

A few years ago I had a sophomore student spell out the importance of people in history.  Israel Pena observed that  Americans got rid of their king through revolution, and ended up with George Washington as leader, and then president.  Washington’s modeling of his life after the Roman patriot Cincinattus led Washington to resign as commander of the Continental Army when the warring was done, instead of declaring himself king, and then later to step down from the presidency after two terms, to promote peaceful retirement of presidents.

The French got rid of their king through revolution in 1789, but in the chaos that followed, they got Napoleon who took over the government after battlefield victories against France’s enemies.  Then Napoleon declared himself emperor, and took off on a reign of conquest and war across Europe.

France’s revolution produced Napoleon; America’s revolution produced Washington, and that has made most of the difference.

Mr. Pena’s commentary compared only those two nations.  What if we add in a third nation and revolution:  Russia?  Russia got rid of its king (czar) through revolution in 1917.  In the chaos that followed it got a government led by Lenin, and upon Lenin’s early death, taken over by Joseph Stalin.

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart - Wikipedia

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart – Wikipedia

Is the future of a nation written by the character of the men who run the government?  One might make a good case that the deaths of these men paint most of the picture we really need to have. Louis XVI died at the age of 39, on the guillotine; Vladimir I. Lenin, died at the age of 53, of stroke.  Both still worked to cling to the strings of power; Compare the deaths of Washington and Napoleon. George Washington. died in 1799 at the age of 67, of complications from a strep throat, but in retirement and in his bed at Mount Vernon, Virginia; while Napoleon Bonaparte died at 52, probably from stomach cancer, while he suffered in humiliating exile on the far distant South Atlantic isle of St. Helena, in 1821.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 - Wikipedia

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 – Wikipedia

Revolution marked these men. Three of them led revolutions, and the fourth was put out of power by one.  Whose life would you have preferred to follow?  Which of these lives is most meritorious of modeling?

Which one lived the life that put his nation on the more secure footing so that its citizens might live good lives, and die of old age in their beds, rather than at war?

Can one person really push the history of a nation so much?  Or are these four lives simply emblematic of the nations they ruled?

Something to ponder on a January 21.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,220 other followers

%d bloggers like this: