Entry for July 05, 2006

The photo is is by Allen Conant, a software engineer who lives in Ladera Ranch in Orange County, California.

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At the age of 87, Mom still loves fireworks.  When I called, she was watching the Macy’s display from NYC on NBC.  I remember seeing this display from Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom window on W. 72nd Street.

As I signed off, she was going channel surfing in search of the fireworks from Boston.

Conant posts his work on morguefile.org, a free of charge photo archive for the public and the creative community.  It is the project of brothers Michael and Kevin Connors, in memory of their parents Dorothy and Dennis  and their sister  Jean Marie..

Dennis and Dorothy Connors were special education teachers who devoted their lives to educating children with special needs and behavioral disorders. In utilizing this web site, you help us honor the memory of our parents and sister.

Michael Connors is a multi-media artist at Grey Interactive in NYC. Kevin Connors is a special education teacher and part time photographer living in Clifton, NJ. 

The site also features a nifty blog with news of the world of images including links to a huge online archive of Polaroids and to the Etch-A-Sketch Art of George Vlosich III.

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My quote of the day is from Harold Zinn’s July 3 essay, “Put Away the Flags” from  the Progressive Magazine’s  website.

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

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July 4 is the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act.  The Associated Press’s Ted Bridis writes about newly disclosed records in his July 3 article that “40 Years Ago, FOIA Vexed President Johnson:  President Worried About Giving Up State Secrets – 40 Years Ago When He Signed FOIA Into Law.”

The National Security Archive at George Washington University, whose  researchers make more than 1,500 requests for government records under the Freedom of Information Act every year, discoveredd 1966 papers in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas which reveal that

When he signed the law on July 4, 1966, Johnson was so uneasy about the new legislation he refused to conduct a public signing ceremony that would draw attention to it. He also submitted a signing statement that some researchers believe was intended to undercut the bill’s purpose of forcing government to disclose records except in narrow cases.

Draft language from Johnson’s statement arguing that “democracy works best when the people know what their government is doing,” was changed with a handwritten scrawl to read: “Democracy works best when the people have all the info that the security of the nation will permit.”

This sentence was eliminated entirely with the same handwritten markings: “Government officials should not be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.” Another scratched sentence said the decisions, policies and mistakes of public officials “are always subjected to the scrutiny and judgment of the people.”

You can read a copy of the statement released by Johnson here.  That Johnson had reservations is no new story.  In fact, Johnson’s press secretary, Bill Moyers, revealed in a April 20o2commentary  on his PBS program NOW that Johnson :

signed it with language that was almost lyrical; signed it, he said, “With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.”

Well, yes, but what few people knew at the time is that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all, and that was after a twelve-year battle against his elders in Congress who blinked every time the sun shined in the dark corridors of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted. And even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of newspaper editors overcame the President’s reluctance; he signed “the damned thing,” as he called it (only I’m paraphrasing, out of respect for PBS standards); he signed it, and then went out to claim credit for it.

Moyers continues about Bush’s handling of the FOIA:

It’s always a fight, to find out what the government doesn’t want us to know. It’s a fight we’re once again losing. Not only has George W. Bush eviscerated the Presidential Records Act and FOIA, he has clamped a lid on public access across the board. It’s not just historians and journalists he wants locked out; it’s Congress… and it’s you, the public and your representatives.

We’re told it’s all about national security, but that’s not so. Keeping us from finding out about the possibility of accidents at chemical plants is not about national security; it’s about covering up an industry’s indiscretions. Locking up the secrets of those meetings with energy executives is not about national security; it’s about hiding the confidential memorandum sent to the White House by Exxon Mobil showing the influence of oil companies on the administration’s policy on global warming. We only learned about that memo this week, by the way, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. May it rest in peace.

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A Democrat first elected in to the California assembly in 1948, Moss served in Congress from 1953 until his retirement in 1978.  He lived until shortly after midnight on December 5, 1997.   Mosss spoke  on behalf of the bill in Congress in June of 1966.  Ironically, given his role in the current adminsitration, Donald Rumsfeld also spoke in favor of the bill.

Former staffers Michael Lemov  and Kathleen Benson  estabished a  foundation in Moss’s name in 1998 which makes various Congressional papers available online.  It also gives what was supposed to be an annual  public service award to

to honor integrity, courage, independence and dedication to the public interest – the greatest good for the greatest number – in the Congress of the United States.

Criteria include

  • Integrity
  • Courage in advocating and maintaining difficult positions
  • Commitment to representing the broadest public interest
  • Accomplishment in promoting effective, open and compassionate government
  • Demonstrated concern for improving opportunities for the disadvantaged
  • Independence of judgment
  • Promotion of government accountability

It appears from looking at the site, that there have only been two recepients, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 2000 and Congressman Dave Obey (D-WI) in 2001.  I guess I’ll have to write Kassy Benson and ask her what’s up. 

 

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