THE FLIGHT FROM DALLAS

November 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Posted in First Family, Historical, Office of the President | Leave a comment
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From noon to dusk on November 22, 1963, history went dark, locked inside the closed and crowded cabin of Air Force One. Fifty years later, what happened after JFK died has fully come to light.

President John F. Kennedy

Esquire‘s Chris Jones tells the story of President Kennedy’s last flight from Dallas to Washington, DC.

Elvis Has Left The Building

September 15, 2012 at 11:24 am | Posted in Foreign Affairs, Obama!, politics straight up, Reality Bites, State Department, terrorism | Leave a comment
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When I saw the story teaser — “Why Can’t Muslims Remain Calm?” — I was expecting more “they’re subhuman” bullshit that’s popular again after the killings of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three members of his staff. The teaser misled me. This is the gist of the author’s argument:

Tombs of the Mamluk Sultanate (photo c1867-1899, courtesy of Library of Congress)

“This week’s events have certainly reminded us that there are Americans who hate Muslims, and there are Muslims who hate Americans. And if friendship between Egypt and the United States is contingent upon no American ever saying anything that will offend the religious sensibilities of Egyptians, then it is time to declare that friendship dead. President Obama can no more control anti-Muslim bigotry in America than President Mohammed Morsi can put a lid on anti-Americanism in his country. But the haters don’t have to win the day. In this, Egyptians (and, more importantly, their political leaders) could take a lesson from the United States.”

While I believe the author is correct that the American government led by President Obama has reacted in a measured way to recent events, he gives Americans too much credit. America only appears to be better behaved.

Just as politicians and political actors in Egypt and Libya are playing on emotions to control power, the Bush/Cheney administration used the emotions of the American people after the attacks of September 11, 2001 to justify what turned out to be an enormously expensive (both in money and lives) yet ultimately failed attempt to move Iraq’s assets into the hands of a small group of people. Americans aren’t marching in the streets, throwing rocks at foreign embassies, but we don’t have to. We outsource the violence. We can — and do — sit comfortably in our Barca loungers while drones drop bombs on the people we hate. Americans are, in the end, no more adult than Egyptians or Libyans. We are just as easily manipulated by those who foment hate as a means to their particular end.

The US Postal Service Needs You

May 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Economy, Historical, Labor, Post Office, Reality Bites | Leave a comment
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POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. PARCEL POST, 1914 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

It really annoys me to hear people speak disparagingly of the United States Postal Service. The post office is specifically authorized in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution. It’s worked really well for more than 230 years. If not for the ridiculous budget cuts, Congressional refusal to allow price increases and hamstringing, the Post Office wouldn’t be in the sad condition it’s in today.

Santa Rosa Post Office & Federal Building, 401 Fifth Street (moved to Seventh Street), Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

What private business is going to deliver a birthday card to your sister who lives across town the day after you drop it in a box for less than $1? Not FedEx. They want $7.65 to deliver a letter across town overnight. FedEx wants almost $12 to get a letter from New England to the West Coast in five days. The United States Postal Service? Forty-five cents.

Charlie Pierce is absolutely right, people didn’t come by their ridiculous complaints about the post office without help:

POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. REPAIRING MAILBAGS, 1914 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The entire modern conservative movement consists of an ongoing attempt to sever the relationship of a self-governing people to their government, to break down the concept of a political commonwealth. Many of the conservative attempts to wedge people apart through the use of an Other to be feared and despised — whether that was black people, or empowered women, or immigrants, or gay people — have been framed to attack the government’s attempts to ameliorate discrimination against the groups in question. In modern conservative thought, then, and in the mindset it seeks to ingrain on the people of the country, the government is the ultimate Other.
In doing so, the corporate masters of the conservative movement are good with all of this because they seek a wary, frightened and insecure people. Those people are too cowed to make waves, too spooked to assert their rights as citizens, too confused to demand accountability.

There is a reason why we used to build buildings the way we built the post office in Geneva, with its mural and its marble, and its great arching windows and its Doric entablature. It wasn’t because we were profligate. It was because we considered self-government, for all its faults, to be something precious that belonged to all of us, and that it should be housed in places that looked as though we valued it enough to celebrate it and protect it at the same time. They were monuments we raised to ourselves, because we deserved them.

If you think government is the problem, you haven’t been paying attention.

Welfare Cheats

October 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Posted in Department of Defense, Economy, Occupy, politics straight up, Reality Bites | Leave a comment
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Migrant agricultural worker's family. Seven hungry children. Mother aged thirty-two. Father is native Californian. Nipomo, California. 1936 Feb. or Mar. Dorothea Lange, photographer. (Library of Congress)

Hundreds of defense contractors that defrauded the U.S. military received more than $1.1 trillion in Pentagon contracts during the past decade, according to a Department of Defense report prepared for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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One of America's new warships of the air, a mighty YB-17 bomber, is pulled up at a bombardment squadron hangar, Langley Field, Va. It is all set to taxi out to a runway and take off . 1942 May. Alfred T. Palmer, photographer. (Library of Congress)

USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs are the first line of our Nation’s defense against hunger. … In FY 2001, 17.3 million people recipients received a total of $16.0 billion in benefits. In FY 2008, average monthly participation increased to more than 27.7 million people and benefits totaled more than $31.8 billion – an increase of 60 percent in participants and 99 percent in benefits during that period.

Food stamp fraud isn’t people signing up who aren’t eligible, it’s retailers “paying EBT cardholders in cash for half of the value of their food stamp benefits, then pocketing the remainder.” But that is small potatoes compared to what the defense industry is getting away with.

“I ain’t marching any more”

November 6, 2010 at 7:00 am | Posted in Department of Defense, Reality Bites, terrorism, torture | Leave a comment
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Know Your Agriculture Secretaries: Edwin T. Meredith (1920-1921

May 5, 2010 at 1:24 am | Posted in Department of Agriculture, Historical | Leave a comment
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Agriculture Secretary Edwin T. Meredith. 1920 May 5. (Library of Congress)

Appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to the Treasury Department’s Advisory Committee on Excess Profits in 1918, Meredith went on to serve as secretary of agriculture from 1920 to 1921. An Iowa boy, he was passionate about farm and agriculture issues.

After leaving Washington, Meredith returned to his publishing company, and in 1922 he started Fruit, Garden and Home magazine which became Better Homes and Gardens.

(Time – November 29, 1926) He urged that a federal commission be authorized to fix and guarantee minimum prices on the wheat, corn, cotton, sugar crops and on the production of wool and butter. He suggested that his commission be composed of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, and four other members appointed by the President. Other farm relief plans have sought to take care of the crop surplus by government marketing aid, but Mr. Meredith’s price-fixing scheme aims to eliminate the surplus by insuring a balanced production. Said he: “By raising and lowering the prices of these crops from year to year, as the law of supply and demand indicates, and relying upon the law of incentive, a balance can be kept and continuous surpluses avoided.”

Following Rules of War American style: Shoot first, lie about it later.

April 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Posted in Department of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Reality Bites, terrorism, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On July 12, 2007 Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh and nine others, including two children, were killed by a U.S. helicopter strike in Baghdad. The American military authorities claimed they were armed insurgents.

“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.

WikiLeaks, their Freedom of Information Act request stonewalled by the Defense Department, has obtained video from unnamed military sources that clearly shows that the people targeted and killed in cold blood were not carrying, and certainly not firing, AK-47s or RPGs.

I can only hope that the people who committed this atrocity are haunted by their crime because they will certainly never be held accountable.

UPDATE: If you don’t believe your lying eyes and think that this film was edited in some way to make the US military look bad, go here to see the full, unedited video.

UPDATE: Josh Stieber, a former US Army solider, deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008 as a member ofBravo Company 2-16 — the same Company as the infantry ground soldiers involved in the Apache helicopter attack — spoke with Glenn Greenwald about the video and “compellingly explains how the incident depicted there — from the initial killing of the Reuters journalist to the shooting of unarmed rescuers to the language used by the pilots — was anything but rare; it was extremely common.”

Overview of the President’s Health Care Reform Proposal

February 22, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Department of Health & Human Services, health, House of Representatives, politics straight up, senate, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Public Health Service nurse treating patient. Between 1918 and 1925. (Library of Congress)

In advance of Thursday’s bipartisan health care reform summit, the White House has posted specific proposals.

The 11-page “blueprint” is here (PDF).

The HCR bill passed by the House in November 2009, as well as CBO and budget information, can be read here. The HCR bill passed by the Senate in December 2009, as well as related information, is available here.

A Republican plan posted at an unknown date, but perhaps October 2009, is here. Whether they’re sticking to what is in this proposed “substitution” is anybody’s guess. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office has no information.

Read up, then call your Congresscritters and let them know what you think.

UPDATE: The White House has information about Republican ideas included in the President’s proposal and the legislation passed by Congress here.

Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room provides a brief side-by-side comparison between the president’s current proposals and the House and Senate bills here.

TV? I don’t need no stinking TV.

February 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Posted in CIA, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Television antenna on an outhouse. Rural North Carolina. Sept. 1966

I made the decision in late 2004 to cancel my cable TV because I was not only getting little of positive value for the money, watching was negatively impacting my equanimity. It seemed to be against my interests and those of my fellow citizens to subsidize news programs full of misinformation and dishonest discussion, however much I enjoyed Craig Ferguson.

But I still received over-the-air broadcasts. News programs were like scheduled trainwrecks — impossible not to watch. So, in February 2009, when the broadcast plug was pulled with the changeover to HDTV, I decided the wiser course would be to trade my relatively new yet non-HDTV-compatible, 26-inch TV for something actually useful. I found someone with a truck who was willing to take a load of crap from my basement to the dump in exchange for the TV.

I have never made a better deal.

This has been another week that I patted myself on the back for the wise decision I made a year ago, because I don’t run the risk of flipping the channel to listen to a bunch of Villagers breathlessly pass on the latest GOP talking points about the Obama’s administration’s “failure to take terrorism seriously.”

What prompted me to sit down here at blog central and write about this was reading that Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is calling for the resignation of Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan for having the audacity to attempt to set the record straight on what the Obama administration is doing with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and what past practice has been with respect to prosecuting terrorists.

I am thanking my lucky stars I don’t have to listen to the Mouse Circus cluck and burp about the “embattled” Obama administration and ask the important questions like “how can the Obama administration counter these charges” and “aren’t these charges damaging to the Obama administration.”

Let’s look back to another occasion earlier this year when I was also patting my back for having gotten rid of my TV.

On April 23, 2009 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reported having “said congressional leaders were never briefed about the use of an enhanced interrogation practice, rejecting GOP claims that leadership was aware of the controversial tactics by late 2002.

“Flat out, they never briefed us that this was happening,” she said.

Republicans were calling for Pelosi’s head for questioning the integrity of the CIA:

“Republicans demand the facts on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques,” says the GOP memo from conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.). “For years, the speaker said she did not know terror suspects were subject to enhanced interrogation techniques. But now, the speaker says that, in 2003, she learned these techniques were in fact used and accused the CIA of ‘misleading’ Congress.”

The media spent the month of May helping the Republicans paint Nancy Pelosi as a liar.

In July 2009 Pelosi’s statement was proven correct. CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers that the CIA had in fact misled Congress on “significant actions” for a “number of years.”

But that’s not the way you would have heard it reported, say, on ABC, who posted a story on their website titled “CIA Spat: Pelosi Vindicated? Not Quite.” Based on past experiencing watching ABC News, I think I think it safe to assume that their on-air coverage of the follow-up story was identical. ABC went along with the conflation that CIA director Leon Panetta’s statement that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress” is the same as “what Pelosi said isn’t true.”

Fast forward to February 4, 2010.

Appearing on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused the president of treating Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “as if he had robbed a convenience store.” But in a dig at the FBI interrogators overseeing the interrogations, the Kentucky Republican compared their work to that of longtime softball interviewer CNN’s Larry King.

“He was given a 50-minute interrogation,” said McConnell. “Probably Larry King has interrogated people longer and better than that, after which he was assigned a lawyer who told him to shut up. That is not the way to deal with a person in the war on terror.”

Has anyone on any news program asked Mitch McConnell to apologize to the FBI?

Quite the opposite. The television news programs are repeating unchallenged statements by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration is mishandling the underpants bomber.

“Oh, but they’re just reporting what Republicans are saying!”

Exactly.

At no point has a Republican been asked to explain the contradiction between their accusations that the Obama administration, the FBI and the Justice Department has failed to to adequately safeguard the country and the fact they made no complaint in any of the 319 terrorism cases prosecuted in civilian courts during the Bush administration.

Any bets that any of the highly paid TV news journalists or “pundits” will breathlessly express their shock and dismay that Mitch McConnell questioned the competence of the FBI or that Kit Bond is attempting to silence a public employee who contradicts him and his fellow travelers with the facts?

No?

Well, the shock and outrage about Nancy Pelosi pointing out the CIA’s failure to inform Congress about “enhanced interrogation techniques” went on for a little over three months. I predict that the Republicans will ride this pony quite a bit farther.

How’s that airport security working out?

February 8, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, public safety, terrorism | Leave a comment
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A Delta Airlines jet is inspected on the tarmac at Narita international Airport outside Tokyo Sunday after a dead body was discovered in the landing gear bay. Jiji/Getty

(NYDailyNews) Japanese authorities were seeking American help Monday to identify a body found in the landing gear compartment of a plane that arrived in Tokyo from New York.

A mechanic made the grim discovery after Delta Flight 59 landed at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport about 6:05 p.m. local time Sunday, a Chiba prefecture police spokesman said.

(BusinessWeek) Tarmacs are supposed to be protected against intruders, so a man climbing onto the plane would have breached security wherever the incident began. The case highlights a possible weak spot in the safety crackdown ordered after a Nigerian man tried to blow up a Detroit-bound Delta flight on Dec. 25

Ya think?

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