Archive for the ‘Nixon’ Category

It was 40 years ago today…

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

…Richard Nixon went away.

Obit watch: May 17, 2014.

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Dr. Clyde Snow, legendary forensic anthropologist.

In Argentina in 1985, Dr. Snow and students he had trained excavated a mass grave where military death squads had buried some of the 13,000 to 30,000 civilians who vanished in a seven-year “dirty war” against dissidents. They found 500 skeletons, many with bullet holes in the skulls, fractured arms and fingers, and abundant signs of torture and murder.

In 1979, Dr. Snow helped identify many of the 33 boys and young men killed by Mr. Gacy, most of them buried in a crawl space under his suburban Chicago home. That year he also helped identify many of the 273 people killed when an American Airlines flight crashed and burned on takeoff from O’Hare Airport in Chicago, then the nation’s worst air disaster.

Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (which is briefly mentioned in the obit) is the book that sparked my interest in forensic anthropology. It appears to be out-of-print, but readily available: I commend it to your attention.

Also among the dead: Watergate figure Jeb Magruder.

Harry Potter and the Pension Plan of Doom.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

How does the Postal Service decide who (or what) gets a stamp?

The somewhat interesting answer to that question is that there’s a group called the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee that considers requests and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General. The Committee has some “guidelines” which are really more like “rules”: for example, nobody gets a stamp until ten years after they die (with the exception of former presidents) is a Committee guideline. (You can find a current list of members here. Here are the current selection guidelines from Wikipedia: it looks like they have abandoned both the “ten years after death” criteria and the “no living person” rule. Here’s an older version of the guidelines that includes both.)

Anyway, the CSAC has been given a considerable amount of deference until recently. With the Post Office bleeding money like there’s no tomorrow (which may very well be the case), there’s pressure to bring in more revenue by upping stamp sales.

This has resulted in the Postal Service bypassing the CSAC and deciding to issue Harry Potter stamps.

“Harry Potter is not American. It’s foreign, and it’s so blatantly commercial it’s off the charts,” said John Hotchner, a stamp collector in Falls Church and former president of the American Philatelic Society, who served on the committee for 12 years until 2010. “The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that’s not what stamps ought to be about. Things that don’t sell so well are part of the American story.”

I’m torn by this. I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, but I know people who are, and I can see using Harry Potter to get kids into stamp collecting. On the other hand, I think Hotchner has a point too; Harry Potter is not American and not historical, and shouldn’t stamps tell stories of America? And is better to suck kids in with pop culture figures, or with bits of real, interesting, American history?

I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’m going to buy any Harry Potter stamps; if I do, they will be gifts for the younger set. (I prefer to mail my letters with stamps depicting dead presidents. Speaking of which, I’d be absolutely delighted if the Postal Service came out with Nixon “forever” stamps. Indeed, if they really wanted to rake in some bucks, why not do new runs of “forever” stamps for every (deceased) president? I bet they’d sell a lot of complete sets and associated commemorative albums/stamp keepers/etc. to stamp collectors and history buffs.)

So, Harry Potter doesn’t rile me up too much. Reasonable people can disagree over the merits and demerits of his stamps. But there are some other things in the WP coverage that get under my skin.

Among those now under consideration are the Beatles

A vastly over-rated group with a few toe-tappers.

Apple founder Steve Jobs

I would buy Steve Jobs stamps, but I think it is too soon. The ten-year guideline is a good one.

basketball player Wilt Chamberlain

Died in 1999. Not a bad choice.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Sure, why not?

and chef Julia Child.

Absolutely, I think Julia is worthy of her own stamp. And we are coming up on ten years since her death.

(Speaking of Julia, on a slightly related note: does everything in the world have to involve f–king cats?)

Manabe objected to the jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, people familiar with the discussions said, on the grounds that Vaughan is not well known among young Americans. Barbie has been on the table, although no decisions have been made on the Mattel doll.

I’d argue that one of the goals of the stamp program should be education. Issuing, say, a Sarah Vaughn stamp should be taken as an opportunity to educate people about Ms. Vaughn and her music. As for Barbie, I think there’s a fine line between commercial promotion and acknowledging icons of American history, but I’d come down on the side of Barbie being a part of history, too.

(Who is “Manabe”?

Members of the advisory committee have complained to [Postmaster General Patrick] Donahoe that they have been brushed aside by agency staff, led by marketing director Nagisa Manabe, a former Coca-Cola executive hired in 2012 to reinvigorate the postal brand. Manabe moved the stamp program into her department and pushed aside veterans in the program, according to postal sources.

)

More:

In September, the committee’s frustration boiled over and all 13 members walked out of their meeting and signed an unprecedented letter to Donahoe demanding that he meet with them.
“Quite simply, as it is run now, this committee no longer represents the collector, both avid and amateur, the child just discovering the wonder of stamps, the bride looking for the perfect wedding stamp or the very citizens it was designed to serve,” said the letter, which was obtained by The Post and first reported by Linn’s Stamp News. The committee wrote that it had responded to the mandate to “think big and think commercial.” But Harry Potter “was developed even though we, as a committee, did not propose it nor discussed how it could be best presented.”

Meanwhile, the Postal Service has hired a “futurist” “to help map out the future of stamps”. But not just any futurist: they’ve hired Faith Popcorn.

This is mildly surprising, though: some members of CSAC are cranky about the Inverted Jenny stamps.

The Postal Service reissued the inverted image in September as well as 100 sheets of the image right side up. Spokesman Roy Betts said the goal was to generate excitement.
But to committee members, as well as many collectors, it has come across as a gimmick and an unfair lottery.

It isn’t clear to me, from the context, if the members are upset over the whole “Inverted Jenny” re-issue, which I see as the Postal Service equivalent of “fan service“, or if they’re just cranky about the right-side up upside-down Jenny stamps. Those do seem kind of gimmicky, but no more unfair than William T. Robey’s original purchase.

Obit watch: September 1, 2013.

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Harris County DA Mike Anderson.

I don’t have any thoughts about how this is going to play out. I’m out of town, WiFi is catch as catch can, and I’m blogging from the Kindle. Check in tomorrow or Tuesday.

David Frost, of Nixon interview fame.

Not Since Nixon.

Friday, May 10th, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday acknowledged that it flagged political groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, an admission that is fueling long-held suspicions among conservatives that the agency has been singling them out for unfair treatment.

Random notes: January 4, 2013.

Friday, January 4th, 2013

It looks like this is going to be a NYT heavy day. I apologize, but I go where the interesting stuff is.

This is a no-snark story. Even though I think the main idea is well known, and gets repeated by the NYT every few years, I still think it is worth noting,

Decades later, the operators say, the images are vivid. The slender fellow in the jacket and tie, bending his knees at the platform’s edge. The reveler stumbling on the tracks at dawn, wobbly in her evening best, unable to stagger away in time. An arm reaching up, hopefully, then disappearing in a flash.
“As cruel as it makes it sound, for the individual it’s over,” said Curtis Tate, a former operator whose train struck and killed a man in 1992. “It’s just beginning for the train operator.”

According to the NYT, operators expect an average of one death per week. (There were 55 in 2012, and the system has already had the first death of 2013.)

“I was always seeing it, you know?” Ms. Moore, 45, from Staten Island, said. “I see him alive and….”

Also in the NYT, an interesting article about the investigation into the Indianapolis gas explosion.

Even before they heard that family photographs were missing, investigators said they sensed something was not right with the scattered remains of Monserrate Shirley’s home.

I’ve heard more than once that family photos being missing, or obviously taken out of the house before the event, is a significant clue to investigators that they might be dealing with arson or some other deliberate act. But as we shift towards digital photos and storage in the cloud, how long is that going to remain a useful clue?

Officials believe the home, in the Richmond Hill subdivision, had been saturated with natural gas for six to nine hours before it erupted at 11:11 p.m. The explosion was seen and felt for miles. It shattered windows and collapsed walls throughout the neighborhood, shoving some homes off their foundations. John D. Longworth and his wife, Jennifer, who lived in the house next door, did not survive.

Conveniently, the people who owned the house were “at a casino 100 miles away”, their daughter was spending the night with friends, and they had boarded their cat.

This came to me by way of the NYT: I’m linking to the AZCentral web site, but both have about the same amount of detail. The jury in the trial of Erick Venola deadlocked on the second-degree murder charges against him. Mr. Venola is expected to be retried in late February; he was pleading self-defense in the shooting of his neighbor, James Patrick O’Neill.

Why is this worth noting? I don’t note every mistrial in Arizona. True that, but: Mr. Venola was a former editor of “Guns and Ammo” magazine, and I’ve seen absolutely no mention of this in the gun blog sphere (or anywhere else) before now. It may be that Mr. Venola is not exactly a sympathetic defendant: the prosecution claims he and Mr. O’Neill were both drunk at the time of the shooting.

Interesting set of stats from the NYT, by way of JimboArthur O. Sulzberger’s obit in the NYT was the fourth longest in the past 30 years. The top five:

  1. Pope John Paul II.
  2. Richard Nixon.
  3. Ronald Reagan.
  4. Arthur O. Sulzberger.
  5. Gerald Ford.

Obit watch: April 22, 2012.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

WCD being what it is, we are compelled to note the passing of Charles “Chuck” Colson, Watergate conspirator and Nixon’s “dirty tricks artist” (as described by the WP), who converted to Christianity and founded a prison ministry.

WP obit. NYT obit.

TMQ watch: March 6, 2012.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

TMQ generally does not publish outside of the NFL regular season (though Easterbrook does do a couple of columns around draft time). But as soon as the Saints scandal broke, we were expecting TMQ to say something, because:

  • Gregg Easterbrook has been out in front about player safety issues in the NFL, especially concussions.
  • The scandal intimately involves the man TMQ refers to as “the tastefully named Gregg Williams”.

We’ve been watching Page 2 for a couple of days now, but oddly, the first notice we had that Easterbrook’s commentary was up came by way of Pope Jim the First on his Twitter feed. We’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s get started with this special edition of TMQ:

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? and other random notes for February 2, 2012.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Obit watch: Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali’s corner man.

Mike Kelley, L.A. based visual artist. There’s also a well-done appreciation of his work at the A/V Club website.

And I’m a little late on this, but wanted to note it anyway: Ian Abercrombie.

In other news, the fun never stops with the Harris County District Attorney’s office. I missed the actual report (I can’t get Houston’s Channel 13 in Austin), but BlogHouston and The Hon. Murray Newman have links. In brief, DA Lykos basically admitted that, yes, she ordered investigators in her office to “research” (as she puts it; other people use the word “investigate”) members of the 185th Grand Jury, as well as the special prosecutors and the judges involved with the grand jury.

I don’t think I am overstating things to suggest that the HCDA’s office is starting to look positively Nixonian.

Whoa, Nellie.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Latest update from the runaway Harris County grand jury:

They’re asking for an extension of their term, and for the district judge who set up the grand jury to appoint a special prosecutor.

They’ve also issued subpoenas to at least some of the assistant DAs in the office. Wonderful thing, a subpoena.

More from the Honorable Murray Newman.

Edited to add: And more from The Hon. Mr. Newman. I do loves me a good Nixon reference.

TMQ watch: August 16, 2011.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Tuesday! Tuesday! Tuesday! Nitro-burning Tuesday Morning Quarterback after the jump!

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Dinner with Dick.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Or “Nixon In China: The Dinner”:

Nearly 40 years later, Mr. Tong will serve the menu again to about 60 invited guests on Jan. 31, after the Metropolitan Opera’s dress rehearsal for its staging of John Adams’s “Nixon in China.” The Zhou dinner figures prominently in the 1987 opera, by John Adams, which makes its Met debut next week.

I’d always thought that Nixon had rather crappy taste in food; his cottage cheese with catsup is notorious. However, at least according to this web site (which provides sources) the catsup thing is a base canard, and the Nixon family was quite fond of seafood. That puts the shrimp dishes in a new light.

Anyone seeking the full Nixon experience will naturally want to down a shot of maotai, which the restaurant will be pouring for $25 for a tiny cup.

I tried searching for maotai online, but couldn’t find any sources. However, I did turn up this Washingtonian article that goes into more detail about the banquet.

At their table, Chou En-lai said proudly to Nixon that mao-tai, with its alcohol level of more than 50 percent, had been famous since the San Francisco World’s Fair of 1915. Chou took a match to his cup, saying, “Mr. Nixon, please take a look. It can indeed catch fire.”