mm202: November 22, 2007: Thanksgiving day, and so much more

November 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Thanksgiving day, the U.S. holiday, is celebrated by statute on the fourth Thursday in November. This places the holiday on a varying schedule. It can fall on any date between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28.

Unvarying is the other, deeper implication of this Thanksgiving day, Nov. 22, as this particular day, in 1963, is one of the defining incidents of my generation’s lifetime: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This self-congratulating student of history is ashamed to admit that he had to be reminded of the importance of this day by a story in Wired.com.

By Tony Long   11.22.07 | 12:00 AM

President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally ride in a motorcade in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963, moments before a sniper’ would shoot the two men, fatally wounding Kennedy. Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

1963: President Kennedy is assassinated as his motorcade passes through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. Texas Gov. John Connally, riding in the same car as Kennedy, is seriously wounded.

The Warren Commission, set up by order of President Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded that Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Although the report was widely accepted at first, skepticism grew as more information concerning possible conspiracies leaked out.

Oswald denied having anything to do with the shooting at all, let alone being part of any conspiracy, but he was killed — and silenced — two days after the assassination while in the custody of Dallas police.

That, coupled with the FBI’s miserable handling of the initial investigation, did nothing to quell the suspicions of those who believed Kennedy’s assassination was the work of (pick one, or more than one): the CIA, Johnson, the mob, Fidel Castro, the anti-Castro Cubans, J. Edgar Hoover.

Defining events for a generation. For my parent’s generation, if it had to be boiled down to a single day of so many eventful days, it would be April 12, 1945, the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He was the only president they had known their entire life, and his passing, my mother has said, was like losing one’s father. Anyone alive then can tell you exactly where they were, and what they were doing when they learned the sad news out of Warm Springs, Georgia.

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For my children’s generation, there is no contest: September 11, 2001. Can’t you tell us exactly what you were doing, and where, when those shocking images started to appear on CNN?

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For we boomers, upper half, JFK’s murder changed everything. And yes, I was sitting in my junior year English-Journalism class when we heard; school was immediately suspended as we all rushed home to watch the continual telecast that dominated the entire weekend. (BTW, I believe that this event coverage certified the new ascendancy of television news over printed newspapers and magazines. The boob tube was capable of delivering more than Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan.)

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Nov. 22, 1963: A Magic Bullet, a Grassy Knoll, an Enduring Mystery

For an explanation, or at least a description, of what changed, the Wired story links to this article that appeared the week of what would have been Kennedy’s 90th birthday last month:

John F. Kennedy would now be 90 years old — a circumstance virtually impossible to imagine, for those of us alive on November 22, 1963. When Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets killed the 35th president of the United States, our memories of him were frozen in a kind of memorial amber.

It’s hard enough to picture 60-year old JFK as the proprietor of a great newspaper (a post-presidential career he was considering). It is simply impossible to conjure up images of him at 75, much less 90. He remains, forever, young, at least in the memory of those who remember his presidency.

Do we understand why he died, though? And does the regnant interpretation of the Kennedy assassination mask the truth about his presidency, and about his place in the spectrum of American political opinion?[…]

Why did John F. Kennedy die? According to the interpretation advanced by admiring biographers (and former Kennedy aides) Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Theodore Sorensen, JFK’s assassination was the by-product of a culture of violence that had infected the extreme American right-wing: thus right-wing paranoia about communism and civil rights activism had turned the city of Dallas into a seething political madhouse where something awful was very likely to happen.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The-Tidings.com

The interpretation advanced in this last article resonates with me; things changed. Optimism, born of victory, born of world leadership, born of that post-war prosperity that built the suburbs and the interstate highways that wove them together, took a terrible blow that November afternoon.

The American century, at that precise moment, began to unravel. And we boomer inheritors were not destined to enjoy the triumph our parents earned for us after all, but only to ride that plunging elevator into some other nation’s century — China’s?

And shame on me for having to be reminded!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance despite the neocons

November 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Last post, we picked up on the report that stem cell researchers have an alternative source for the miracle tools. The writer of that NYTimes story follows up with a sidebar on the lead scientist, James A. Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, who has played a leading, even defining, role in stem cell research for more than a decade.

nytimes3_thumb1

By GINA KOLATA

If the stem cell wars are indeed nearly over, no one will savor the peace more than James A. Thomson.

Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate.

And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo.

Turns out that Dr. Thomson was, as he and his UW colleagues report it, concerned about the ethical implications of stem cell research from the beginning.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It – New York Times

Some of the commentary others in the blogosphere have shared since the original story hit the other day have expressed a good deal of knee-jerk cynicism regarding the nature of this latest twist. It’s just so perfect that this latest news fits so well with Bush administration dogma. See, you can do your research without abortion!

People, this isn’t politics, or religion; it’s science. Forced by ethical, political and/or religious imperatives to curtail stem cell research, many wrung their hands, took off to more scientifically adventurous locales, or found a new field to pursue.

Thomson, and, separately, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, decided that the potential for breakthrough discoveries was too important, and figuratively lit a candle rather than curse the darkness, and began the work that resulted in this weeks breakthrough announcements.

MUDGE chooses to suspend cynicism (after all, it’s a holiday in the U.S. today!), and believe the best. Okay, so this fits with distorted agenda of the neo-con know-nothings who have distorted too much and spread a huge swath of medieval ignorance over too much of our culture.

But, sometimes, even good news for the dolts is good news for humankind, and this discovery, whose potential to accelerate further discoveries into the cause, prevention and cure of many neurological diseases that have caused such misery in the world, is worthy of our Thanksgiving celebration.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE