Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Moratorium on the News

Today is a self-imposed effort to ignore the news - two year old kidnapped by alligator, not "feared dead" but since an alligator immediately dives to the bottom of the body of water he's occupying, known dead.  Then there's all of the politicians bleating about guns, ISIS and Their Position On It All.  Lastly, I have no interest whatsoever in another's sex life.  Hook up with the sex of interest to you, go to the bedroom and shut the door.

Instead, let us enjoy this gray, overcast day with a good book.  I recommend Dead Presidents - An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders by Brady Carlson.  W.W. Norton & Co.   324 pages   $26.96  

The U.S. presidents didn't have a federally-paid for doctor in attendance until Andrew Johnson's administration.  Before that, they all consulted with their personal physicians.  But military doctors could be summoned at any moment of the day and the government was already paying them so ...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's doctors encouraged the public to believe that he was hale and hearty (visions of a fourth term) when in fact his blood pressure was dangerously high. 

Zachary Taylor had been resting comfortably (presumably) for 140 years when he was unceremoniously lifted from his grave so that samples of hair, nails, etc. could be taken.  An obsessed (fair to say) teacher of humanities at the University of Florida was convinced Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning.   To get permission for this graveyard upheaval, she tracked down and asked for permission from every living off-spring of Taylor's.  He hadn't died of arsenic poisoning, just cholera. 

Well, when a president dies in office, what should be done with the body, what kind of service - is there, in fact, a "standard" service? 

It turns out that the source book for presidential funerals is the Army Pamphlet 1-1:   State, Official and Special Military Funerals.  It is said to be extremely detailed -- such as there's a 3 mph speed limit for the cortege.  The military personnel lining the route are not to salute until the coffin is within six feet of the saluter.    

A new tidbit about Air Force 1 - several of the tables and chairs aboard are removable so as to provide space for a presidential coffin. 

The book while lighthearted is also educational.  Historians will probably enjoy it for the juxtaposition of a grin while learning something. 

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