Still feel like celebrating even though the Fourth of July holiday is over? No problem. Today and tomorrow are holidays in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, so party on in good conscience. Today's honorees, Saints Cyril and Methodius, may not have been the partying kind, but they do have a connection to the ancient pagan god Radegast, credited by many legends with inventing the very concept of partying.
Two brothers, an alphabet, a mountain, a church, and a god (or two)
Cyril and Methodius, or Constantine and Michael as their parents called them, are almost always mentioned in the same breath. Numerous churches and schools and even an order of nuns are named after the two brothers; hardly anything is named after either alone. The notable exception is the Cyrillic alphabet, named after Cyril even though Methodius probably had more to do with its development, used in many Slavonic languages including Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Moldovan.
Born in the Greek town of Salonika (now known as Thessaloniki) in the early 9th Century, both were called to religious service, and both became missionaries. The two took an unorthodox approach to spreading the gospel: instead of barging into a place and demanding that the people there learn Latin so that they could learn the religion the missionaries were preaching, Cyril and Methodius decided to learn the local language first and then preach in that tongue. It was a revolutionary and controversial approach for which they were persistently criticized and punished by their employer, the Catholic Church. Their first successful campaign was in the southern Russian region of Khazaria, where the people spoke Khazar, so Cyril and Methodius learned the local lingo and then began translating the sacred texts of their faith into that language. Word of their success in communicating with and converting the Khazars eventually got back to Rome, where, coincidentally, the Holy Roman Empire had just received a request from its Moravian branch for someone who could and would teach and preach in the local vernacular: Slavonic. Cyril and Methodius got the assignment. (If they'd stayed in Khazaria, the Khazar language might not be dead today.) Slavonic, now known as "Old Church Slavonic", was right up their alley because a version of it was spoken by some in their native northern Greece. But there was one big problem: because use of the Slavonic language had been discouraged for centuries by whatever conquering empire happened to be in control at any given time, there was no written version. Cyril and Methodius took care of that problem by developing the Cyrillic alphabet, based mostly on the Greek alphabet, with some Hebrew and other characters thrown in to handle sounds the Greek letters couldn't easily address. Because of their efforts, the Slavonic language became the second-most-used liturgical language in the Catholic faith, and more significantly, because of their efforts, the Catholic faith spread across eastern Europe. Though Cyril died in 869 before the Church could punish him sufficiently for that accomplishment, Methodius lived for 16 more years and spent three of those years in prison for his work.
As is so often the case, the people of eastern Europe already had a religion before Cyril and Methodius arrived. They worshipped Radegast, god of the sun, harvest, fertility and hospitality. Radegast had a lot in common with the Greek god of pleasure, Dionysus, also known as Bacchus to the Romans, also known as the god of wine. Dionysus/Bacchus also was considered the god of beer by some, but true Slavs know that beer is too important to be lumped in with wine: it has its own deity, the pagan god Gambrinus.
The locals believed that Radegast lived in a Moravian mountain, Radhost, and every year they gathered there to celebrate the summer solstice. They still do to this day, though there is now a chapel of Sts. Cyril and Methodius atop Radhost mountain as well as a statue of Radegast. Long ago, Cyril and Methodius Day was celebrated in February, since Cyril died on Feb. 14. Later the religious authorities moved it to summer, closer to the traditional solstice celebration -- one of many ways the Catholic Church incorporated and assimilated pagan traditions as it grew.
Tomorrow: yet another holiday, this one also associated with the Catholic Church.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:15 AM
This just in: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he did NOT apologize to Germany for comparing its European Parliament representative to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
In other news, the Declaration of Independence published today by the Boston Globe has not one but two copyright notices: one for the Boston Globe, the other for the Globe's parent company, The New York Times. Audacious! The Times is welcome to join the Globe in pursuing any claim on that document, which is published in full below.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @12:45 PM
Today is notable not only as the birthday of the United States of America and Kamil, but for cosmic matters as well. As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere sweat out today's heat and humidity, we remind ourselves that today the earth is at its aphelion, the most distant point of its elliptical orbit around the sun. And when we're farthest from the sun, the average temperature of the whole earth (including the wintery Southern Hemisphere) is about 4 degrees (F) or 2.3 degrees (C) higher than it is at perihelion (the closest point).
We began celebrating our nation's 227th birthday early this morning by adding the names of three brothers named Dagley to the World War II Memorial Registry. The registry will be part of the World War II Memorial, scheduled for dedication May 29, 2004. Though World War II happened long before the Vietnam War, the latter got its memorial first.
Sadly, at some point our attention must turn to a memorial for those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.
Today the Boston Globe printed the Declaration of Independence, along with a copyright notice. Boston Globe, you do NOT own the Declaration of Independence, and you cannot claim copyright on it. It belongs to everyone. In fact, anyone who wants to sign it, all these many years later, can do so here:
Here it is, complete with the names of the original signers. I double-dog-dare the Boston Globe to pursue its copyright claim on this public-domain document:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @8:52 AM
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! The Dagley Dagley Daily is now an official online affiliate of one of the world's best-known landmarks: The Empire State Building and its live Towercam. Just click on the image there in the left-hand column and you should get two pop-up windows: one will be the Empire State Building's official web site, and the other a live view from the Towercam. You can choose from among several views, including the observatory decks, and you can even e-mail an image right from the Towercam viewer. Some browsers may need plug-ins in order to show the image properly; if so you'll be offered a chance to download and install it the first time you visit. Of course, regular readers of this blog know that since its founding Feb. 1, 2003, The Dagley Dagley Daily has had a longstanding unofficial relationship with the Empire State Building, similar to the relationship between the classic Japanese artist Hokusai and Mt. Fuji.
Lofty views, live
In other news, as reported yesterday by Ohrada News, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inadvertently invoked one of the best-known laws of cyberphysics yesterday when he compared Germany's representative to the European Parliament to a Nazi concentration camp guard. According to Godwin's law, as an online discussion grows longer, "the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress." While Godwin's law applies to online discussions, it seems equally valid in real-world arguments as well. Berlusconi mentioned Nazis, and automatically lost the argument. He has since apologized, but be that as it may, he still lost the argument.
Thanks again to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.), who once again impeccably represented this constituent's interests in his response to George W. Bush's double-dog-dare to anyone who might want to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. "I am shaking my head in disbelief," Lautenberg said. "When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander – let alone the Commander in Chief – invite enemies to attack U.S. troops.". Unlike Lautenberg, George W. Bush is not a war veteran, and mystery surrounds his record in the Texas Air National Guard. Rewards are still available in Texas and Alabama to anyone who can provide proof that Bush actually served in those states' National Guards. Meanwhile, Lautenberg has also written to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to express his concern about the growing number of U.S. casualties in Iraq; one-third of those died after Mr. Bush announced the "end of hostilities."
The Dagley Dagley Daily is brought to you by the fine sponsors you see there on the left side of this page, as well as the letters G, Q, and V. G as in "guerrilla." Q as in "quagmire." V as in "Vietnam."
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @5:01 PM
There was so much traffic out in New York harbor today that Lady Liberty had hardly a moment to herself. Here she is welcoming a boatload of tourists:
As well as the Staten Island Ferry (the big yellow one in the middle there), a NY Waterway ferry, and assorted incoming barges, tankers, and cargo ships:
A passing sailboat gets a welcome as well, even though it has unsolicited advertising on its sails:
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @5:35 PM
Health-insurance diagnosis: sick, getting sicker, and Medicare prescriptions are no cure
While Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush and so many other unlikely allies are busy congratulating each other on last week's passage of Medicare reform bills (which offer some prescription coverage to some senior citizens in some circumstances in exchange for much of their privacy), a few thousand more Americans woke up without health insurance this morning.
Of course, a few thousand people (or more) lose their health coverage every day these days, so this group's loss isn't exactly man-bites-dog breaking news. The number of uninsured goes up every time it's reported; the most recent consensus of estimates is 40 million and counting. But today's loss is a particularly hard one for me, because I know how hard the National Writers Union (Local 1981 of the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America) worked to keep its members covered.
The NWU's plan, which expired at midnight last night with no replacement coverage to be found anywhere at any price, was what they call an association-type plan, covering not a group of employees in a factory but a group of independent contractors spread over 49 of the 50 states (thanks to the laws of the state of New York, currently insured members there are still covered, though no new members can enroll).
Insurance companies have developed a severe allergy to association-type plans in recent years; meanwhile the number of people working independently continues to rise. Insurers may not like freelancers, but employers love them: no benefits, no commitment, no problem. Employers love freelancers so much that they often replace regular employees with them, or even force full-time employees to become freelancers.
It's sometimes difficult to tell which employees are real and which are freelance, as they often work side by side, 40 hours or more a week in many American businesses. In many offices there are freelancers with months or years of theoretical seniority over workers who've actually been "hired;" those and other long-term full-time freelancers are known as "permatemps."
Some independent contractors, such as myself, are fortunate enough to be included in their spouses' group coverage, so we aren't inclined to shell out another several hundred dollars a month for duplicate coverage through the association, in my case the NWU. And that fact, the insurance providers say, is why non-employer-based group plans aren't worth the bother (and risk) of collecting premiums.
I had a falling out a year or so ago with a friend of mine over health insurance: born into a wealthy family, he owns a small business founded by his grandfather. He can't understand why anybody would go without health insurance; to him it's just irresponsible not to buy it. He shops for insurance for his company, and (so far), his company has enough employees to qualify for a group plan. So he doesn't know that health insurance isn't available to every individual who offers to pay premiums. While there are individual plans available to some at a much higher cost than group coverage, they generally exclude any pre-existing conditions, and providers choose their individual customers very carefully to minimize risk and maximize profit. To paraphrase those ubiquitous Medicare-supplement TV commercials, "If you have diabetes (or other pre-existing condition), and you're a freelancer, I've got some bad news. You may not be able to buy medical insurance at any price, anywhere in this nation, or if you can, it won't cover your condition. Guess you should have thought of that before you a) got sick or injured, b) went to work for a company that doesn't offer insurance, c) lost your job and could only find freelance work, or d) any or all of the above." Nobody's going to pay Wilford Brimley to tell you that.
Of course, in these iffy economic times, my friend's company may lose an employee or two, but even if it doesn't, by the time the next round of insurance negotiations come around, his business might not be big enough anymore to interest a provider. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, but I fear that may be the only way my friend will understand why some people are uninsured.
Like my friend, our elected representatives don't have to scramble for health insurance, either: the taxpayers take care of their medical coverage. No matter how many hearings they may hold, they have no idea what it's like for the rest of us.
Being uninsured and unable to buy coverage does have a brighter side, though: people without insurance don't have to bother with the frustration of having each and every health-care claim automatically rejected by their providers. I went in for a physical last week, and have yet to receive the rejection for that, but the previous time my insurance provider rejected the bill for the associated blood tests, claiming they hadn't been authorized by my doctor even though the blood was drawn in his office by his employee on his written orders and he himself called me with the results. The insurance did pay, eventually, but not for the time or effort I had to put into appealing the rejection.
Over the past four years, our medical insurance companies (there've been five different ones) have automatically rejected nearly every claim, and firmly refused to pay for X-rays performed during surgeries they themselves had pre-authorized, claiming the X-ray provider was "out of plan." Remember that next time you go under the knife: you may need to wake yourself up during surgery to remind the doctors that your X-ray and pathology work can only be done by "in plan" radiologists and pathologists; take along that phone-book-size directory of "in-plan" providers into the operating room just to be sure. For a few months there, we were insured by a Virginia health-insurance company, which meant that although we live in New Jersey and Michael worked in New York, we couldn't go to a doctor outside the state of Virginia without special permission from the insurance company. Then there's the insurance company that insisted Michael should have left the hospital the morning after a 7-hour back operation, and insisted that we pay approximately $23,000 because his doctors wouldn't release him as the insurance company ordered. I did call them to ask how I was supposed to transport a patient with all those tubes in him, IV and morphine pump still attached, and whether they would pay for such transportation, but they have yet to respond to that question. We haven't gotten a nastygram from them in awhile, though, so maybe our appeal was finally successful. They usually don't bother to notify us when we win one.
So you folks in Washington, keep right on patting yourselves on the back. Brag about offering a few health-care crumbs to old people if they can prove they're poor enough. Swagger at the notion of making basic coverage possible for cute little children, right up to the moment they turn 18 and have to fend for themselves. But remember that people of all ages need health insurance, whether they are employed, self-employed, underemployed or unemployed. And remember that every day, thousands more find themselves without it. If you ignore them, you, too, may find yourselves self-employed and unable to buy insurance at any price.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:18 AM
Small craft, big city
People have been paddling the Hudson for centuries, most of that time in vessels far more primitive than these.
For the past few centuries, however, they've had a lot of other traffic to contend with, all of it larger and faster:
Last year about this time, I saw a couple of kayakers paddling furiously as the Queen Elizabeth II headed out with the tide, and I wished I'd had the camera handy. There were a few cruise ships in port early Sunday morning when this group was out exploring the estuary, but none was available for a race with these human-powered vessels.
In a couple of weeks, Hoboken is expecting kayaks and other watercraft galore to descend on the city as part of The Great Hudson River Paddle July 12. The Fund for a Better Waterfront will be greeting them with a community picnic on Hoboken's only beach, near the former Maxwell House coffee factory: free food (blackened bluefish, roasted corn on the cob, homemade salads & desserts) AND free kayaking, the latter courtesy of the New York City Downtown Boathouse, dedicating to providing access to the Hudson for everyone. If you're considering giving it a try, you might also want to check out some of the classes offered by the Downtown Boathouse, including a workshop July 9 on "procedures for re-entering a capsized kayak."
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @1:03 PM
Now there's another way to visit The Dagley Dagley Daily: just go to janetdagleydagley.com and you'll be magically transported right here to dagleydagley.blogspot.com.
Another way to get here, and (coming soon) another place to visit
And coming soon, another place to visit: Radio Free Blogosphere.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:52 AM