Declassifying The Classified.

January 25, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Historical | Leave a comment
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Theodor Horydczak)

Construction of National Archives, 1933/1934 (Photo: Theodor Horydczak)

Congress passed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act in 1998. Irwin Nack, Investigative Counsel for the New York State Banking Department’s investigation into the activities of Swiss banks in New York prior to and during the Second World War, addressed the Interagency Working Group (IAWG) on September 27, 1999:

The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act seeks to declassify those remaining documents which still remain shielded from the public eye. What about those documents which have already been declassified, but only in redacted form?

Adolf Hitler saluting, with two SS generals in uniform behind him, at Nazi Party Day, Nuremberg, Germany (1937)

Adolf Hitler saluting, with two SS generals in uniform behind him, at Nazi Party Day, Nuremberg, Germany (1937)

Several weeks ago I visited the electronic library set up by the Department of Justice on their web site. Among the documents available are those relating to our government’s postwar relationship with the notorious SS officer, Klaus Barbie.

In viewing the documents, I was struck by the extent of information which was redacted and which still remains redacted. Some of those documents go back to the 1940s and yet despite their relevance, they still remain partially classified. Similar redacted documents bear notations that confidentiality is necessary for national security.

It is my sincere hope that among the recommendations made by the Interagency Working Group will be one which calls for a review of those earlier redactions so that a determination can be made whether such classified status is still warranted (or ever warranted in the first place).

This brings me to some final suggestions regarding the manner by which the remaining records are declassified. The review of the documents in question must be done by individuals who are knowledgeable of the underlying subject matter and are able to appreciate it’s importance in its historical context. In some cases, I have seen documents which have been extensively redacted and though other channels have obtained unredacted copies, only to be amazed at the extent of innocuous information which was still deemed classified.

US Secretary of State Stimson broadcasts greeting to Japan on the occasion of the birthday of the Emperor of Japan, April 29, 1931.

US Secretary of State Stimson broadcasts greeting to Japan on the occasion of the birthday of the Emperor of Japan, April 29, 1931.


In December 2000 the scope of work was expanded when Congress passed the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act of 2000.

As of October 2002, 19,890,396 documents had been “screened for relevancy,” with 12,289,500 still unexamined. The combined Acts were set to expire in December 2003 but an executive order by George W. Bush extended the deadline to March 2007.

The final report was presented to members of Congress in late September 2007 by Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States. The report indicates that over 6,000,000 documents were declassified.

In February 2005 “the National Security Archive posted the CIA’s secret documentary history of the U.S government’s relationship with General Reinhard Gehlen, the German army’s intelligence chief for the Eastern Front during World War II.”

Reading about this makes me think it unlikely that any significant declassification of Bush administration documents will occur in my lifetime.

America First Committee

January 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Historical | 2 Comments
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Hes one of our best customers - Cartoon shows Senator Burton K. Wheeler, wearing a large America First button, with his hand lying protectively on the head of a small Japanese soldier. In 1941, as Japanese aggression in China intensified, Wheeler, one of the leading Congressional isolationists and a spokesman for the America First Committee, stated publicly, Japan is one of our best trading partners . . . and there is no reason why we should not live in peace with her. Several months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  Published August 29, 1941.  Rollin Kirby, artist.

"He's one of our best customers" - Cartoon shows Senator Burton K. Wheeler, wearing a large "America First" button, with his hand lying protectively on the head of a small Japanese soldier. In 1941, as Japanese aggression in China intensified, Wheeler, one of the leading Congressional isolationists and a spokesman for the America First Committee, stated publicly, "Japan is one of our best trading partners . . . and there is no reason why we should not live in peace with her." Several months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Published August 29, 1941. Rollin Kirby, artist.

In 1940, [Hugh] Johnson was on the national board of the America First Committee (AFC) with Gen. Robert Wood, head of Sears Roebuck [sic]. It was the leading lobby against U.S. entry into WWII.

Started by Yale’s Douglas Stuart Jr., its key backers included Gerald Ford (later U.S. president), and well-known fascists Charles Lindbergh (aviation hero, AFC spokesman and Nazi-medal recipient), Coughlin (Father of hate radio) and Gerald Smith (a fascist priest who called Roosevelt, “Rosenfeld”), Avery Brundage (Olympic athlete, member of the International Olympic Committee in 1936, and the U.S. Nazi Party), Henry Ford (another Nazi-medal recipient), Hanford MacNider (American Legion commander), Senator Burton Wheeler, John F. Dulles (Nazi lawyer and later Secretary of State).

In 1941, Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, said: “The America First Committee is truly American and truly patriotic!”

(Source: Arlington National Cemetery)

In 2003 Justin Raimondo reviewed a book titled “The Last Word on America First.” It was his opinion that America joining the Allies in World War II was a terrible mistake, opposing Hitler a betrayal of all that is good and right:

Roosevelt, many Republicans were convinced, was using the war scare to divert attention from the failure of the New Deal and to increase the power of the executive branch beyond anything yet dreamed. Yet the GOP was oddly quiescent. This lack of an effective opposition party led to the creation, in a very short time, of the biggest antiwar movement in American history.

Emaciated man lying on straw at Sachsenhausen, Germany concentration camp.  (Published between 1942 and 1944; Distributed by the Ceskoslovenská tisková kancelár, Prague.)

Emaciated man lying on straw at Sachsenhausen, Germany concentration camp. (Published between 1942 and 1944; "Distributed by the Ceskoslovenská tisková kancelár, Prague.")

The America First Committee was founded, too, because of the abdication of the Left, which joined the War Party when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. In the face of these serial betrayals, the job of keeping us out of the biggest mass slaughter in human history was left to a group of anti-New-Deal businessmen, retired military officers, and college students of a conservative disposition

.

Well, let’s hope the current crop of “businessmen, retired military officers, and college students of a conservative disposition” are as successful in their efforts as those so admired by Mr. Raimondo.

National Recovery Administration.

January 25, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Historical, Labor | 1 Comment
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Cartoon shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt singing a song entitled Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing. The sheet music indicates that the words and music are by the Roosevelt Administration. Dame Democracy enthusiastically plays the piano while Roosevelts old opponent for the Democratic nomination, former New York governor, Al Smith, sits glumly in the background. By midsummer 1933, the first year of his presidency, the Roosevelt Administration had passed a record amount of legislation designed to counteract the Depression. Although Smith had supported Roosevelt during his campaign, he soon became disenchanted with Roosevelts New Deal programs.  July 11, 1933.  (Clifford Kennedy Berryman, artist)

Cartoon shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt singing a song entitled "Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing." The sheet music indicates that the "words and music" are by the "Roosevelt Administration." Dame Democracy enthusiastically plays the piano while Roosevelt's old opponent for the Democratic nomination, former New York governor, Al Smith, sits glumly in the background. By midsummer 1933, the first year of his presidency, the Roosevelt Administration had passed a record amount of legislation designed to counteract the Depression. Although Smith had supported Roosevelt during his campaign, he soon became disenchanted with Roosevelt's New Deal programs. July 11, 1933. (Clifford Kennedy Berryman, artist)

Did you know that in 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt created the National Recovery Administration (NRA)? The purpose of the NRA was to organize “thousands of businesses under fair trade codes drawn up by trade associations and industries.

As part of the NRA legislation, Congress passed laws setting a 40 hour week for clerical workers, a 36 hour week for industry workers, a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour, abolishing child labor, and guaranteeing workers the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

Mr. President, we dont want anything - We just want to grow up.  Crowd of emaciated, crippled child laborrers petitioning Woodrow Wilson.  (1913)

"Mr. President, we don't want anything - We just want to grow up." Crowd of emaciated, crippled "child laborrers" petitioning Woodrow Wilson. (1913)

That’s right. Not until 1933 was child labor banned in the United States. Alexander Hamilton, the first United States Treasury Secretary, believed there was “virtue” in child labor, declaring that “women and children are rendered more useful, and the latter more early useful, by manufacturing establishments, than they otherwise would be.

Although voluntary, about 23,000,000 jobs were governed by NRA code.  Participating businesses could display the NRA blue eagle symbol in their window or on their packaging. The public favored businesses that displayed the NRA symbol, considering those that didn’t to be “unpatriotic and selfish.”

Former coal miner, worked twelve years for Chaplin Coal Company as hand coal loader. He and several others complained to company about conditions not being up to NRA (National Recovery Administration) standards. All lost jobs. Hes now on WPA (Works Progress Administration) at thirty-eight dollars and twenty-five cents per month. Scotts Run, West Virginia.  September 1938.

Former coal miner, worked twelve years for Chaplin Coal Company as hand coal loader. He and several others complained to company about conditions not being up to NRA (National Recovery Administration) standards. All lost jobs. He's now on WPA (Works Progress Administration) at thirty-eight dollars and twenty-five cents per month. Scotts Run, West Virginia. September 1938.

All was not rosy, however.  Business and corporate interests thought the whole thing a bad idea. Upon advice from Bernard Baruch, President Roosevelt appointed former Army General Hugh Johnson to head up the newly-created federal agency.

General Johnson was no friend of unions.  When he arrived in San Francisco in 1934 to mediate the general strike that had started with the longshoremen, he sided with the anti-unionists and helped spin public sentiment against the strikers, announcing to the press, “When the means of food supply – milk for children – necessities of life to the whole people are threatened, that is bloody insurrection.”

The strike had not in fact interrupted milk delivery.  All fundamental public services continued to function uninterrupted.  There had been no violence. But the public was turned against the strikers by General Johnson and others fanning the flames of fear and insecurity.

Aw, youre not getting anywhere! Cartoon shows Uncle Sam as a painter, attempting to paint the letters NRA across a map of the United States. A small man labeled Impatience, (probably General Hugh Johnson, director of the NRA) jumps up and down, stepping on Uncle Sams fingers as he does so. The National Recovery Administration, one of the first New Deal programs, was established to negotiate code agreements designed to stimulate industrial recovery. Johnson attacked his job with demonic energy, but his failure to develop a coherent policy impeded the progress of the program, and Roosevelt replaced him after a year. (cartoon published 1933 or 1934; Lute Pease, artist)

"Aw, you're not getting anywhere!" Cartoon shows Uncle Sam as a painter, attempting to paint the letters "NRA" across a map of the United States. A small man labeled "Impatience," (probably General Hugh Johnson, director of the NRA) jumps up and down, stepping on Uncle Sam's fingers as he does so. The National Recovery Administration, one of the first New Deal programs, was established to negotiate code agreements designed to stimulate industrial recovery. Johnson attacked his job with "demonic energy," but his failure to develop a coherent policy impeded the progress of the program, and Roosevelt replaced him after a year. (cartoon published 1933 or 1934; Lute Pease, artist)

By September 1934, President Roosevelt moved General Johnson to a less prominent position in the Works Progress Administration (later Works Projects Administration, or the WPA).

As terrific an idea as the NRA was at inception, the execution guaranteed its failure.

“Under NRA supervision, each sector of the economy developed a code to govern itself. Corporations, especially the biggest ones, were happy with this plan, designed by Johnson and [Bernard] Baruch. Industries devised their own production standards, fixed prices and set wages. And, once they agreed to abide by their sector’s code, they were exempt from antitrust laws. To many, this was indistinguishable from having illegal monopolies and trusts.”

As appalling as many of Bernard Baruch’s acts and statements might have been, he was responsible for at least one good deed. In 1946 he proposed the establishment of an international atomic development authority “that would control all activities dangerous to world security and possess the power to license and inspect all other nuclear projects.”

The Baruch Plan, in Baruch’s words “the last, best hope of earth,” deviated from the optimistic tone of the Acheson-Lilienthal plan, which had intentionally remained silent on enforcement, and set specific penalties for violations such as illegally owning atomic bombs.64 Baruch argued that the United Nations should not allow members to use the veto to protect themselves from penalties for atomic energy violations; he held that simple majority rule should prevail in this area. As on enforcement, the Acheson-Lilienthal report had studiously avoided comment on the veto issue.

In September 1935 the Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional, ruling that it  was “an illegal delegation of legislative authority” and that the federal government was interfering with  states’ authority.

The struggles American workers face today are not new. 
Worker protections achieved in the 1930s are under significant attack.

Better understanding our history is important to making better, more informed choices today. I encourage you to read the more complete information at the different links.

Recovery.gov

January 25, 2009 at 10:19 am | Posted in Economy, Weekly Radio Address | Leave a comment
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In his Saturday, January 24, 2009 video address, President Obama talks about his administration’s intentions with respect to rescuing the national economy. The transcript is available here.

As President Obama mentions in his address, Recovery.gov will be the go-to website for information about implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act once it has passed the House and Senate and is signed into law.

Right now the website has essentially an “opening soon” sign up and says, “An oversight board will routinely update this site as part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government.”

In addition to providing a link to the White House website, recovery.org provides a link to USA.gov which you might find useful. We’ll put that up in the sidebar links.

When I saw that link to USA.gov I laughed. A gentle reminder from our good president that he is not doing this all by himself? Subtle encouragement for us to look to wider resources for answers than just the White House?

It’s a small thing to put up those additional links but it’s in the small things that we see that someone is paying attention.

Whoever is in charge of putting together these websites, they’re doing a swell job so far.

Remembering Madelyn Dunham.

January 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Posted in Historical, Obama! | Leave a comment
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This is a video that was done for the presidential election campaign and features President Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng talking about the strong influence their mother has had on their values and outlook.

This is a longer video that President Obama presented at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The President Meets The Press.

January 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Obama!, WH Press Briefings | Leave a comment
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Yesterday President Obama ventured down into the White House press rooms.

Suggestions that the President was “irritated” are an overblown description of him reminding the White House reporters that he was simply there to see their quarters and say hello, not answer questions.

Politico’s Jonathan Martin was completely out of line in asking the question and further compounded his discourtesy by attempting to press it.

In my opinion, President Obama displayed his usual poise. Judge for yourself.

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

January 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Historical, Miscellany | Leave a comment
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Forbes Co., c1883 (i.e., c1884)

"Boston ; N.Y. : Forbes Co., c1883 (i.e., c1884)"

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus (1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(BETA/New York) Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to the top of the crown with fellow democrats New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Rep. Albio Siries and New York Rep. Anthony Weiner.

He said a study is underway on whether to open the crown to the public and that the review should be complete in April.

Opening the crown “is very important to me,” said Salazar, but he added that any such plan must include the safety of the public.

Menendez suggested there may be some sort of lottery to allow limited numbers of tourists access to the crown on a daily basis.

After Sept. 11, access to the crown was closed as a security measure, along with the rest of the Statue and Liberty Island.

When the island and base of the statue were reopened several years later, the crown remained closed. U.S. Park officials said the narrow spiral stairway first built for worker access was a danger for anyone suffering an injury or other medical event, such as a heart attack.

In addition, a 1999 internal study found that if there were a fire in the pedestal, the interior of the statue would act like a chimney, with smoke suffocating anyone on the stairs.

(Excelsior, the New York state motto, is Latin for “ever upward.”)

Let’s Not Interrupt “Dancing With The Stars.”

January 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Posted in WH Press Briefings | Leave a comment
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Today White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs did another press briefing.

Mary Eaton, Ziegfeld dancing star.

Mary Eaton, Ziegfeld dancing star.

(HuffPo) “I think it is likely that he will speak to Congress, a joint session in Congress, sometime in February. I don’t believe that we have got a date nailed down. I know there is interest from your bosses whether it will coincide with Dancing With The Stars … and I don’t mean Congress,” he said. “It is something we are doing, I just don’t know the time frame.”

Heaven help us that the work of government should interfere with Americans watching “Dancing With The Stars”!

Enjoy the follies.

What’s That You’re Eating?

January 23, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Posted in Food & Drug Administration | Leave a comment
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Lester P. W. Wehle, a live-poultry inspector for the city of New York, inspects the crop of a chicken, 1951.  (World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

Lester P. W. Wehle, a live-poultry inspector for the city of New York, inspects the crop of a chicken, 1951. (World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

(Newsday.com) “The truth be told, the FDA is a failed agency … the main problem is that it is terribly underfunded,” [Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic] said. “It needs to do more inspections, especially of foods brought in internationally. We are all very vulnerable. This has to be fixed and fixed quickly.”

One hundred and two years ago — on June 30, 1906 — President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Food and Drugs Act. The Pure Food Law was an important part of that legislation.

h/t Crooks & Liars

FDA History Office)

Harvey W. Wiley, MD (Photo: FDA History Office)

Harvey W. Wiley came to be the leader of the “pure food crusade.” A chemist and physician, State chemist of Indiana and professor at Purdue University, Wiley went to Washington in 1883 as chief chemist of the Department of Agriculture. He made the study of food adulteration his bureau’s principal business, at first merely outraged by what he deemed essentially harmless fraud. In time, sensing real threats to health, Wiley could express himself in writing, conversation, and oratory with vividness, clarity, homely wit, and moral passion. He toured the country making speeches, every rostrum a pulpit for the gospel of pure food.

How much melamine is in your cookies?

“They can have their 35-hour cake and eat 25% bonus time too.”

January 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Economy, Foreign Affairs | Leave a comment
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Alsace-Lorraine Street, Toulouse, France (some time between 1890 and 1900)

Alsace-Lorraine Street, Toulouse, France (some time between 1890 and 1900)

(Yahoo/Time) Few of the expected changes to the 35-hour week have materialized since France’s Conservative government passed a measure in July [2008] designed to make it easier for bosses to force their employees to work more.

* * *

“And by allowing companies to calculate employee time worked on a yearly rather than strict weekly basis as the previous law required, the 35-hour law provides businesses with badly needed flexibility to adapt to evolving activity at lower cost.”

* * *

More crucially, perhaps, the 35-hour week’s survival owes a lot to other measures the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy has passed as part of its mantra of “work more to earn more.” Key to that is a provision introduced in late 2007 that makes overtime more profitable to both companies and employers by waving taxes and social charges. The ironic result: bosses and workers now find they can have their 35-hour cake and eat 25% bonus time too. “Rather than increasing the set week to 37, 39, or 40 hours – and have to raise fixed salaries proportionally – it’s more logical to stay at 35 hours, and go beyond or below it with affordable extra-time as demand surges or decreases,” says Zenevre, who is also head of the Lorraine regional section of France’s General Confederation of Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses, the nation’s largest employer category. “This flexibility is particularly valuable with the recession setting in and really disrupting demand.”

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