It is sometimes said regretfully that many Americans today get their “slant” on the news from TV’s late-night comedians. But today’s “baby boomers” and Generation X-ers and Y-ers are not among the first Americans to find their politics strained through the filter of humor. More than a century before Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert began coming into people’s living rooms via broadcast and cable television, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to readers around the world as Mark Twain, was infiltrating the same sanctuary via newspapers, magazines, and books. In a 2008 article for Time magazine, humorist Roy Blount, Jr. showed just how topical, yet timeless, Twain’s humor was and is.
Though the majority of Americans have never heard of him, one hundred years ago a key figure in Islamic socialism was born in Damascus — most scholars believe a few days after Christmas. His name is Michael Aflaq (photo at left). Born of Orthodox Christian parents, Aflaq received a proper middle class education in Syria before studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. What did he study? That strange hybrid pseudo-science so common then as today — “political economy,” the salient parts of which were socialism and Arab nationalism.
December 27 marks the birthday of the Father of Celestial Mechanics, Johannes Kepler. Born in 1571, he went on to become one of the most important scientists in the field of astronomy as the first person to explain the laws of planetary motion. He also made important advances in the fields of optics, geometry and calculus. Kepler is credited with explaining how the moon influences the tides and with determining the exact year of Christ's birth.
The Southern Poverty Legal Center, which might be interested in innocent Americans enduring state-sponsored sexual harassment in airports or the coercion on college campuses faced by Christian students, has found another grave danger which merits its interest — the rehabilitation of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
On June 8, 1789 James Madison, the congressman representing Virginia’s 5th District, rose to speak in a session of the First Congress and advocated passage of the slate of amendments to the Constitution to be known to history as the Bill of Rights. On December 15, 1791, the requisite number of states (three-quarters, or nine states) ratified the amendments and thus the Bill of Rights became the constitutional law of the land.
Papers released to the public on December 10 by the Eisenhower Presidential Library appear to show that as America’s 34th President prepared his farewell address to the nation, he toyed with several options before coming up with the term “military-industrial complex” to describe his supposed fears of a highly placed network of powerful groups and individuals driving the nation’s foreign policy.
John William Finn was an amazing man. He passed away earlier this year just shy of 101 years of age. He was a military hero admired by the tens of thousands of service men and women who met him over the years, as well as the many thousands of people who never had the opportunity to meet him, but who had heard of, or read, his story. He was also a much-beloved husband, father, foster father, uncle, and neighbor. Alice, his devoted wife of nearly 60 years, died in 1998. He continued to live the simple rural life in the rustic home on their Pine Valley ranch near the California-Mexico border east of San Diego.
True history is not served if all that is remembered about December 7 is that it is the 61st anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day America lost 18 naval vessels including eight battleships, 188 airplanes, over 2,000 servicemen — and its innocence about government lies, coverups, and deceit.
It should surprise no one that someone who had served in the Eisenhower administration would call FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's attention to the charge made by John Birch Society founder Robert Welch that President Dwight Eisenhower was aiding and abetting the worldwide Communist conspiracy. But it might be surprising to learn that the cabinet official thought Welch was right, at least in the effect the Eisenhower policies were having in advancing rather than containing Communism and ultimately "rolling back the Iron Curtain" — as Republicans said they would do in winning the White House and gaining effective control of Congress in the 1952 elections.