Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Oldest Pet Cemeteries in America

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

America’s oldest pet cemetery was established in Hartsdale, New York, in 1896.  A veterinarian converted his apple orchard into a final resting place for dogs.  Today the cemetery, known as “The Peaceable Kingdom” is the final resting place for more than 80,000 pets of every kind.  Some of the pet mausoleums are spectacular, including a fifty ton above-ground mausoleum for two spaniels, the first and largest of its kind in the world. The famous War Dog Memorial, dedicated after World War I, was the first public tribute to honor military canines for their bravery and sacrifice.  The cost of a burial plot, casket and interment runs some $1,800 for small pets.

The Aspin Hill Memorial Park, established in 1921 in Aspen Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., is believed to be the second-oldest pet cemetery in the nation, and is the final resting place for various animal celebrities, including stars of movies and television, pets of U.S. politicians and heroes of foreign wars, as well as more than 50,000 other beloved pets.  Notable pets buried in the cemetery include seven dogs that belonged to J. Edgar Hoover, and Rags, the mascot of the First Division on World War I, “who risked life and limb in the Meuse-Argonne when he crossed enemy liens to deliver a not to Allied Forces.” President Lyndon Johnson’s dogs were cremated at Aspin Hill and the remains sent to Texas.  There also are 17 horses and hundreds of pet rabbits, monkeys, parrots, turkeys, goats, hamsters, guinea pigs, frogs, goldfish, turtles and snakes buried at Aspin Hill, as well as thirteen humans who chose to be buried close to their pets.

Reality is no respecter of delusions, except perhaps in Del Boca, a model American community, struggling to be heard above the din. The days are fully packed as the good people of Del Boca deal with such problems as elitism, education reform, celebrity culture, political correctness, free speech, science, and politics. A social satire about life in our times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Margaret Sanger on Preventing a Permanent Criminal Underclass

In her book, The Pivot of Civilization, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood offered this prescription for eliminating the permanent criminal underclass:

There is but one practical and feasible program in handling the great problem of the feeble-minded. That is, as the best authorities are agreed, to prevent the birth of those who would transmit imbecility to their descendants. Feeble-mindedness as investigations and statistics from every country indicate, is invariably associated with an abnormally high rate of fertility. Modern conditions of civilization, as we are continually being reminded, furnish the most favorable breeding-ground for the mental defective, the moron, the imbecile. "We protect the members of a weak strain," says Davenport, "up to the period of reproduction, and then let them free upon the community, and encourage them to leave a large progeny of `feeble-minded': which in turn, protected from mortality and carefully nurtured up to the reproductive period, are again set free to reproduce, and so the stupid work goes on of preserving and increasing our socially unfit strains."

The philosophy of Birth Control points out that as long as civilized communities encourage unrestrained fecundity in the "normal" members of the population—always of course under the cloak of decency and morality—and penalize every attempt to introduce the principle of discrimination and responsibility in parenthood, they will be faced with the ever-increasing problem of feeble-mindedness, that fertile parent of degeneracy, crime, and pauperism. Small as the percentage of the imbecile and half-witted may seem in comparison with the normal members of the community, it should always be remembered that feeble-mindedness is not an unrelated expression of modern civilization. Its roots strike deep into the social fabric. Modern studies indicate that insanity, epilepsy, criminality, prostitution, pauperism, and mental defect, are all organically bound up together and that the least intelligent and the thoroughly degenerate classes in every community are the most prolific. Feeble-mindedness in one generation becomes pauperism or insanity in the next. There is every indication that feeble-mindedness in its protean forms is on the increase, that it has leaped the barriers, and that there is truly, as some of the scientific eugenists have pointed out, a feeble-minded peril to future generations—unless the feeble-minded are prevented from reproducing their kind. To meet this emergency is the immediate and peremptory duty of every State and of all communities. 

We think we know the Victorians, but do we? The same passions, strengths and weaknesses that exist now, existed then, but people organized themselves very differently.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Presidential Anthem: Hail to the Chief

The official presidential anthem, Hail to the Chief , was first played in Boston to commemorate the birthday of George Washington, on February 22, 1815.  The tune did not formally become associated with the presidency until the administration of John Tyler (1841-1845), when the Marine band was instructed to play the air whenever the president appeared. 

The words of the song come from an 1810 poem written by Sir Walter Scott:
       Hail to the Chief who in
     triumph advances!
       Honour’d and bless’d be the
     evergreen pine!        
       Long may the tree in his
     banner that glances
       Flourish, the shelter and grace
     Of our line!

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, used Hail to the Chief, as his presidential anthem.

     In 1933 the man who subverted American democracy pronounced, “The fact is, the English are soft. Britain is like a frightened, flabby old woman. The whole empire is just rotted through and through. Kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will collapse.” He would soon drag America into a two ocean war, with Canada as the prize.
     Sticking as closely as possible to the real history of the period, making no radical leaps in terms of behavior, logic, or technology, the author paints a stunning picture of how the history of the world could have been radically different.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Major Archibald Butt and the Sinking of the Titanic

Archibald Butt was the military aide to both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.  Butt and his housemate (some say lover), the painter Francis Davis Millet, died during the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.  Butt was universally recognized for his heroic conduct during the tragedy. His body was never recovered.  President Taft who had come to regard Major Butt, “as a son or a brother”, praised him as a Christian gentleman and the perfect soldier.  Taft wrote, I knew that he would certainly remain on the ship's deck until every duty had been performed and every sacrifice made that properly fell on one charged, as he would feel himself charged, with responsibility for the rescue of others.”  At a May 5 ceremony, Taft broke down weeping, bringing his eulogy to an abrupt end.

As the Titanic sank, the crew prepared the lifeboats and Major Butt helped in the rescue efforts.  One survivor described him as calm and collected, “Major Butt helped…frightened people so wonderfully, tenderly, and yet with such cool and manly firmness.  He was a soldier to the last.”  A cenotaph was erected in the summer of 1913 by his brothers in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery at a point that Major Butt had previously selected as his gravesite.  The Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, a private memorial fountain, located in the President’s Park, adjacent to the White House, was dedicated in October 1913.  Powerful friends argued that Butt (who was an aide to the president) and Millet (who was vice chair of the United States Commission of Fine Arts at the time of his death) were both public servants who deserved to be memorialized separately from private citizens who died in the Titanic disaster. 

Major Archibald Butt

A brief look at the often overlooked stories of American history from colonial times to modern times, stories such as, the original Emancipation Proclamations, the plot to kill Martha Washington, terrorism in the Civil War, America’s plan to invade Canada in 1930, a planned coup against the president, and many others hidden tales.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A History of Alternate History

Alternate history is fictional history, in which an author changes some aspect of the past and sees how this change would have impacted history as we know it.  The Roman historian Livy wrote the first alternate history around 25 BC, when he imagined a world in which Alexander the Great marched West rather than East.

The first mass market alternate history was written in 1836 by a Frenchman named Louis Geoffroy.  Call it literary wish fulfillment, the book entitled History of the Universal Monarchy: Napoleon and the Conquest of the World was a smash hit in France.

The first novel-length alternate history written in English appeared in 1895 and was written by an American named Castello Holford.  The book called Aristopia (which translated from the Greek means “The best place”) imagines a world in which one of the first English settlers in Virginia discovers a vast reef of gold.  The hero uses his new wealth to create a planned society where the state looks after the interests of the vast majority of the people rather than the interests of the very rich.  What an imagination!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Washington Speech Writer

     Norbert Ealy, was a talented young man with a gift for words, and should have been one of Del Boca’s most eligible bachelors.  Unfortunately, Norbert’s talents and gifts did him little good when it came to women, because he suffered from a medical condition known as, “involuntary eye roll.”  Whenever, Norbert heard a falsehood, a half-truth, or even a statement that could not be easily corroborated, his eyes would involuntarily roll.  Thus in the midst of passion, if Norbert said, “You are the most beautiful woman in the world,” his eyes would involuntarily roll, since conceivably somewhere in the world there could be a more beautiful woman.  Unreasonably, women accused Norbert of being “the rudest and most sarcastic” man they had ever dated.  When Norbert tried to explain his rather rare condition they called him a “liar”, and he was forced to quickly exit amid a stream of flying books, flower vases, and picture frames.

     Unlucky in love, Norbert was lucky in his professional life, for he was the head speech writer for Congressman Dorrance Ague.  Of course, Norbert’s eyes were constantly rolling given the things that came out of Congressman Ague’s mouth, but his colleagues wrote this off to Norbert’s “coolness”. “Norbert sure doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid,” other speech writers and aides said admiringly.  In the Congressman’s defense, it should be said that most of the words coming out of his mouth (the very words that caused Norbert’s eyes to roll), were, in fact, the words that Norbert had put in the Congressman’s mouth.  No one could make even Dorrance Ague sound positively Churchillian or Reaganesque like Norbert Ealy.  With the insertion of a few “Indeeds” and a rolling cadence, Norbert could turn the dreariest old platitudes into crowd pleasing draughts of inspiration.  A typical speech for the Congressman went something like this.  “We are, Indeed, the American people.  Indeed, we are the people who love Mother (I call my Mother ‘Mom’).  Indeed, we are a great people who love Mom and pie.  Indeed, we love apple pie.  Indeed, we are a great people who love Mom, apple pie….and yes, we are, Indeed, a great people who love, the Flag…the flag that stands for the land we love, Indeed, that land is our home, the land that loves Mom, apple pie and the people of America!”  At this point the crowd was usually on its feet chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

     Had it not been for his unfortunate medical condition, Norbert might actually have been able to take Dorrance Ague’s place in Congress, for Norbert was a talented young man with a gift with words and Dorrance Ague, while amiable, was a dunce.  Of course, it didn’t really matter that Dorrance Ague was a dunce.  He was, after all, only a Congressman, and had once proudly boasted, “I never read any piece of legislation that I ever voted on!”  Dorrance Ague regarded this as good time management.  He knew he didn’t have to waste time reading all of those tedious Bills.  All he had to do was get the word from his primary financial backer the celebrity magician and ventriloquist Selby Ampeter (aka “Selby the Great”) and he would KNOW in his heart how to vote.

     Now normally Dorrance Ague was the easiest man in the world with whom to get along.  But in early January he was tense.  Very tense. 

      “Ealy, Selby the Great is the opening act at the Party’s National Convention in Andromeda City next month and he wants me to give the warm up pitch to his newest magic trick.  This is the biggest speech of my life…you’ve got to pull out all of the stops son…all of the stops.”

      Norbert Ealy knew this was the big one.  All of the Party’s big wigs would be there, not to mention all of the Party’s big donors.  This speech could carry Dorrrance Ague to the VP spot on the national ticket, and who knew, maybe in a few years even beyond.  And Norbert Ealy could be there with him, if he could hit this one out of the ballpark.

     And so on the fateful night Congressman Dorrance Ague said, “My fellow Americans, many in America now-a bed shall think themselves accursed that they were not here with us tonight!  Here, on this historic anniversary month of Rosa Parks’ birthday.  Indeed, on this most historic of Thursdays.  Rosa Parks thought about buses in a new way.  Indeed, what she did on a bus changed everything.  And now, what Selby the Great will do has the potential, Indeed, holds out the promise to future generations of Americans, that all things are Indeed possible in this great land and that if we embrace the old with the innovations of the new we can all move forward, together, to the bright sunlit uplands!  Behold as Selby the Great makes a pig dance and sing for its supper!”

     The entire crowd was on its feet chanting, “Ague! Ague! Ague!”

     Norbert Ealy felt tears in his rolling eyes.

This story is from the "Del Boca" social satire series.

Reality is no respecter of delusions, except perhaps in Del Boca, a model American community, struggling to be heard above the din. The days are fully packed as the good people of Del Boca deal with such problems as elitism, education reform, celebrity culture, political correctness, free speech, science, and politics. A social satire about life in our times.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The Spaniards conquered Peru over the course of several decades in an atmosphere of civil war and chaos.  The Incas had just concluded a war between two brothers, Atahualpa and Huascar when the Spanish arrived on the scene.  Atahualpa had just captured Huascar and was heading south to enter his capital, Cuzco, when he himself was made hostage by the Spanish.  Atahualpa then had Huascar murdered.  After extorting the proverbial king's ransom, the Spanish, in turn, murdered Atahualpa.  The Spanish next marched on Cuzco, the capital and Holy City of the Inca Empire, installing a puppet emperor.  Throughout the period the Incas scurried about trying to hide the most sacred religious items from defilement.     

Gold and silver had no monetary significance to the Incas.   They were considered sacred, with gold regarded as the sweat of the sun and silver as the tears of the moon.  Religious items were made of gold and silver, but they had no worth, other than artistic, to the common man. 

Huascar's Chain: On the occasion of Huascar's weaning ceremony, his father decreed that a gold chain be cast for the dancers to carry as they went through their ritual dance.  The chain later disappeared, never falling into the hands of the Spaniards, and in all probability guarded somewhere in the remote mountains.  The chain is described as being seven hundred feet long, twice the width and length of the great Square of Joy in Cuzco.  The two hundred dancers were scarcely able to raise it.

Atahualpa's Mug:  One of the Emperor Atahualpa's favorite possessions was the head of an enemy general named Atoc.  One of the Spaniards, Cristobal de Mena saw this "head with its skin, dried flesh and hair.  Its teeth were closed and held a silver spout.  On top of the head a golden bowl was attached.  Atahualpa used to drink from it when he was reminded of the wars waged against him by his brother.  They poured the chicha (beer) into the bowl and it emerged from the mouth, through the spout, from which he drank."