July 12, 2012 archive

On This Day In History July 12

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enalarge

July 12 is the 193rd day of the year (194th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 172 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1862, the Medal of Honor is created.

President Abraham Lincoln signs into law a measure calling for the awarding of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor, in the name of Congress, “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” The previous December, Lincoln had approved a provision creating a U.S. Navy Medal of Valor, which was the basis of the Army Medal of Honor created by Congress in July 1862. The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.


The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American soldiers was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, designed to recognize “any singularly meritorious action.” This decoration is America’s first combat award and the second oldest American military decoration of any type, after the Fidelity Medallion.

Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. armed forces had been established. In 1847, after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a Certificate of Merit was established for soldiers who distinguished themselves in action. The certificate was later granted medal status as the Certificate of Merit Medal.

Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes to Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army. Scott did not approve the proposal, but the medal did come into use in the Navy. Senate Bill 82, containing a provision for a “Medal of Honor”, was signed into law (12Stat329) by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was “to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection.”

As there were only two medals that could be issued until the World War I including the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor was sometimes awarded for deeds that would not later merit that distinction. In 1917, when other medals were created for bravery, a recall was requested for 910 Medals of Honor that had been previously issued, but no longer considered that noteworthy. Thereafter, and until the present day, the Medal was awarded for deeds that were considered exceptional.


5 x Five – Colbert Report on America – Tourism (3:15)

How Some of Us Think

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

“See better, Lear; and let me still remain / The true blank of thine eye”

Earl Of Kent, King Lear, ~William Shakespeare~

How to Think

by Chris Hedges

Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets. They are dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship. They force us to confront unexamined assumptions, ones that, if not challenged, lead to destruction. They expose the ruling elites as hollow and corrupt. They articulate the senselessness of a system built on the ideology of endless growth, ceaseless exploitation and constant expansion. They warn us about the poison of careerism and the futility of the search for happiness in the accumulation of wealth. They make us face ourselves, from the bitter reality of slavery and Jim Crow to the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans to the repression of working-class movements to the atrocities carried out in imperial wars to the assault on the ecosystem. They make us unsure of our virtue. They challenge the easy clichés we use to describe the nation-the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, the beacon of liberty-to expose our darkness, crimes and ignorance. They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation. [..]

We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.

If the only real achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency is to have opened the eyes of Americans to the depth of the corruption and control of the elites, then he will have achieved more than I expected.

The Egyptian Game of Chicken: Morsi v. The Miltary

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Egyptain Pres. MorsiJust before the last round of presidential elections in Egypt that put Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in office, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, which is still packed with the Mubarak regimes appointees, ruled that the parliamentary elections were invalid. The ruling military then dissolved the lower house until new elections could he held. Sunday, in defiance of the ruling, President Morsi decreed the the old parliament to reconvene until a new parliament was elected:

The move was the first in a series of decrees planned by Morsi against the military, according to Morsi’s former campaign media coordinator Sameh El-Essawy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. [..]

And hints of a deal seemed unlikely after Morsi’s decree, which stipulated that parliament reconvene and continue its duties until a new assembly is elected, scheduled for 60 days after Egypt drafts a new constitution. Morsi’s decree directly contradicts Scaf’s wishes, and underlines his determination to take control of the country’s executive.

Morsi’s decree is a reversal of the Scaf decision to dissolve parliament, not the SCC ruling that deemed it invalid, said El-Essawy. “He reversed the Scaf decision, using the same executive powers they had. He has not reversed the court ruling which he respects and that’s why a new parliament will be elected after the constitution,” he said.

The Egyptian Parliament reconvened for five minutes on Tuesday for just one vote:

The parliamentary speaker, Saad el-Katatny, convened a session of the lower house on Tuesday morning but it lasted only five minutes, during which time he stressed that parliament had the utmost respect for the law, and would do nothing to subvert it. MPs then voted that parliament would refer the matter of its ability to convene to the court of cassation in Cairo, and would not assemble until a judgment had been given.

As the drama was being played out, demonstrators against the dissolution of parliament gathered in Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, anti-parliament protesters congregated on the other side of town in the eastern district of Nasr City to voice their objection to its return.

Tuesday’s assembly was boycotted by a sizable number of liberal MPs while an independent MP, Mustafa Bakri, had already announced his formal resignation from parliament due to its unconstitutionality.

Then just hours after the chamber’s brief session, the Supreme Constitutional Court stepped in

“The Supreme Court has once again reiterated that the parliament is dissolved,” our correspondent said. “It’s the third decsion by them saying that Morsi’s decison to reinstate the parliament was illegal. They cannot say it in any more certain terms than that.”

“They’re saying that the parliament sessions cannot continue, which would mean legislative powers would stay in the hands of the armed forces – in this power struggle between the military and the president.” [..]

Lawyers representing Morsi criticised the court’s latest decision and said Tuesday’s ruling was a political move that would further complicate the crisis.

“This ruling is null and void,” lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud told reporters while another member of the team, Mamduh Ismail, called it a “political decision”. [..]

Morsi’s decree was hailed by those who want to see the army return to barracks, but it was criticised by those who fear an Islamist monopolisation of power as a “constitutional coup”.

As noted in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, this is just the first of many confrontations between Morsi and the military:

In reconvening the People’s Assembly, Morsi insisted that he wasn’t flouting the decision of the court but rather reversing an executive action taken by the military council in the absence of a civilian president. Indeed, the overarching issue in this dispute is whether the armed forces are prepared to yield power to the elected representatives of the Egyptian people. [..]

To some extent, the military’s power – along with economic realities – may have inclined Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to a more pluralist and moderate course. But if the generals overplay their hand, they will lose popular support and antagonize Egypt’s allies, including the United States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in assistance. Both Congress and the Obama administration have put the generals on notice that those funds are in jeopardy if the transition to democracy is thwarted. An attempt to shut down a reconvened parliament would be interpreted inside and outside Egypt as just such an obstruction.

So far, the Mohamed Morsi 0 – Egyptian Military 1.  

Le Tour de France 2012: Stage 9

The Tour de France 2012, the world’s premier cycling event kicked off last Saturday with the Prologue in Liège, Belgium and will conclude on July 22 with the traditional ride into Paris and laps up and down the Champs-Élysées. Over the next 22 days the race will take its course briefly along the Northwestern coast of France through  Boulogne-sur-Mer, Abbeville and into Rouen then into the mountains of the Jura, Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees.

We will be Live Blogging Le Tour 2012 every morning at The Stars Hollow Gazette starting at 7:30 AM EDT. Come join us for a morning chat, cheer the riders and watch some of the most beautiful and historic countryside in Europe.

Stage 10:  Mâcon – Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194.5 km

Tuesday’s rest day and Wednesday’s start are in the town of Mâcon a small city (commune) in central France, in the region of Bourgogne, and the capital of the Mâconnais district. Mâcon is home to over 35,000 residents, called Mâconnais.

The city lies on the western bank of the Saône river, between Bresse in the East and the Beaujolais hills in the South. Mâcon is the southernmost city in the region of Burgundy. It is located 65 kilometres north of Lyon and 400 kilometres from Paris. The Saône river runs through the town.

Mâcon was a major crossroads in Roman times, and grapes would have been brought by the Romans if they were not already cultivated by the Celts. Viticulture was further encouraged by local religious foundations; the province was dominated by the bishopric of Mâcon during the Dark Ages.

The region formed the border between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire from 843-1600 and grew rich on customs duties in that time. A secular Count of Mâcon is not recorded until after 850; from 926 the countship became hereditary. The last Count of Mâcon and of Vienne died in 1224 and the lands passed to his daughter, Alix de Bourgogne (Alice of Burgundy); when her husband died in 1239, she sold the Mâconnais to Louis IX of France. The 1435 Treaty of Arras saw Charles VII of France cede it to Philip, Duke of Burgundy, but in 1477 it reverted to France, upon the death of duke Charles the Bold. Emperor Charles V definitively recognized the Mâconnais as French at the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529.

After the fall of the Bastille in 1789, the mountain peasants of Mâconnais revolted. Many were executed by the urban militias of Mâcon, Cluny and Tournus after much brigandage.

The area west and north of Mâcon produces well-known wines from the Chardonnay grape. The best known appellation of the Mâconnais is Pouilly-Fuissé. Almost all the wine made in the Mâconnais is white wine. Chardonnay is the main grape grown, in fact there is a village of that name in the far north of the region. Some plantations of Gamay and Pinot Noir is made into red and rosé Mâcon, making up no more than 30% of the total wine production. Gamay is grown in the Beaujolais cru of Moulin-à-Vent which extends into the Mâconnais, but has little in common with the wines north of the border.

After 194.5 km and a 17.4 km climb up the Col du Grand Colombier. the race ends in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, a commune in the Ain department in eastern France, located at the confluence of the Valserine and the Rhone.

The New York Times featured an article on this small industrial town nestled in the Jura Mountains:

It was last August when Régis Petit, the mayor of this small industrial town nestled in the Jura Mountains, received an unexpected phone call from Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. [..]

Petit, a lifelong resident who has been mayor since 2003, was shocked. More than 250 French towns had applied to host the Tour; neither Petit, nor anyone else in Bellegarde, had sent in an application. But he quickly regained his wits.

“We said yes right away,” Petit said. “You can’t refuse the Tour de France.”

On Wednesday, this town of 12,000 will see its population temporarily triple as the race arrives here for the first time in history. [..]

In the late 19th century, it was one of the first French towns to have public electricity, thanks to a hydro-electric dam built on the Rhône. The electrification of the town, combined with its central position on a rail line from Lyon to Geneva, which is about 40 kilometers to the east, created a factory boom. Until the 1970s, textile, paper and electrometallurgy factories dominated the Bellegarde economy. Since then, outsourcing has rendered industry here a shell of its former self. “The factory of the world is in China now,” said Petit. “It’s sad, but it’s like that.”

In the last decade, Petit and a group of town leaders have tried to wallpaper over the town’s industrial past with projects aimed at increasing a white-collar work force, including the new train station, an architecturally incongruous plastic dome that stands out amid Bellegarde’s terra cotta roofs and modern apartment buildings. The €12 million high-speed rail hub has put the Champs-Élysées within three hours. It is an endeavor that makes what that the town is spending to host the Tour look like pocket change.

My Little Town 20120711: Uncle David’s Boat

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

When I was around eight or so Uncle David built a jon boat out of marine plywood.  Uncle David is really good at woodworking and makes some nice pieces.  As far as I know it was his first attempt at a boat.  I rarely write about living people, but the humor in this piece is not at Uncle David’s expense and I bet that he gets a kick out of reading this.

He did a really good job of it, and it looked really nice.  It took him several days to finish it, and since they lived just across the street I watched quite a bit of how he built it.  He had gotten some plans from somewhere, but could have built it without any prepackaged plans because he was that good.