Saturday, January 06, 2018


This is a portion of the speech that President John F. Kennedy gave at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on April 27, 1961. "The President and the Press" before the American Newspaper Publishers Association. (h/t Louis Maistros)

The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings.

We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.

And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

(...)For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. No President should fear public scrutinity of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed. I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers-- I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them. Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-- and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First (emphasized) Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution-- not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news-- for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security...

(...)And so it is to the printing press--to the recorder of mans deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news-- that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

RIP John Young

Astronaut John Young, Who Walked on the Moon and Led 1st Shuttle Mission, Dies at 87

John Watts Young was the only person to have piloted, and been commander of four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.

In March 1965, Young flew on the first manned Gemini mission (Gemini-3), and commanded the Gemini-10 mission in July 1966,

He was the first to orbit the Moon alone in May 1969 as Command Module Pilot of Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for the first Moon landing. In April 1972 Young became and the ninth person to walk on the Moon. He also drove the Lunar Rover on the surface of the moon,

Young also commanded STS-1 Space Shuttle Columbia in April 1981, the first Space Shuttle flight. Young’s final mission was STS-9 in January 1985,. STS-9, also referred to as STS-41A and Spacelab 1, was the ninth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Young flew a total of 34 days 19 hours and 39 minutes in space.

In 1974 he was chosen to be Chief of the Astronaut Office, in doing so he oversaw the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project--the first joint American-Russian mission.

The Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test Program, and 25 Space Shuttle missions were all during his tenure. From 1987 to 1996 he served as Special Assistant to the Director of JSC for Engineering, Operations, and Safety. In February 1996 Young was assigned as Associate Director (Technical), responsible for technical, operational and safety oversight of all Agency Programs and activities assigned to the Johnson Space Center. On December 31, 2004.

The space agency said Young died Friday night at home in Houston following complications from pneumonia.

John Watts Young (September 24, 1930 – January 5, 2018)
  Information from NASA History

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Monday Morning Smile - Part Three

Meanwhile back on Earth, in ...

(Illustration by Ben Kirchner)
... international tension continues to mount as President Trump, speaking to the United Nations, calls Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and says the North Korean leader is “on a suicide mission.” In response, Kim calls Trump “a frightened dog” and “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” At this point Trump and Kim have no honorable choice but to meet in person, strip to their waists and settle their dispute by flailing at each other with their pudgy fists until oily rivers of sweat mixed with hair product run down the quivering mounds of flab that constitute their bodies.
We are kidding, of course: That would be childish and irresponsible. Instead the two leaders will continue to call each other names from a safe distance as the world inches closer to nuclear war.
On Capitol Hill, Republican congressional leaders, after months of frustration, finally execute their plan to repeal Obamacare, only to discover that, because of a procedural error, they have instead accidentally repealed a congressional act establishing June as Nasal Polyp Awareness Month. “Close enough,” declares “Mojo” McConnell, and the GOP brain trust moves on to tax reform.
In business news, Equifax (“The Fidget Spinner of Credit-Reporting Agencies”) reveals that it had a massive data breach in which the personal information of approximately 143 million consumers was obtained by cybercriminals who were able to guess the Equifax password, which was “PASSWORD.” Equifax officials promise they have taken “extreme precautions” to prevent further breaches, including changing to a new password (“NEW PASSWORD”).
Apple announces three new iPhones, including the iPhone X, the iPhone Y and the iPhone Zero Sugar.
Speaking of excitement, Hillary Clinton, responding to the insatiable public appetite for reliving the 2016 election over and over and over, comes out with her new tell-all book titled “You Idiots,” in which she candidly reveals that she was in fact a superb candidate and charming human who totally would have won the presidency had it not been for — among many other unfair obstacles that were unfairly placed in her path — James Comey, the Russians, the so-called electoral college, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic National Committee, Anthony Weiner, sexism, Barack Obama, the media, her incompetent campaign staff and the frankly unacceptable stupidity of the American public. Next stop: 2020!
Fortunately the month is not completely consumed by political divisiveness. In a festive fall sports tradition, millions of Americans set aside their differences and join together in rooting for or against professional football playersdepending on what they do or do not do during the national anthem.
But politics again takes center stage in ...

(Illustration by Ben Kirchner)
... when former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are indicted in connection with special counsel Mueller’s Russia probe, sending CNN into a panel-gasm so intense that the camera lens becomes smeared with political-insider fluids. Trump responds by tweeting that the charges involve events from “years ago,” and there was “NO COLLUSION!” This is proof enough for Fox News, which resumes its regularly scheduled programming on “Fudge Recipes of Country Music Stars.”
In a related development, Facebook executives, testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirm that at least 60 percent of the people you friended because you thought they went to high school with you are in fact Russians.
Meanwhile a major scandal engulfs the entertainment world when the New York Times reveals that powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein, despite being a prominent supporter of all the correct causes, basically spent the past several decades lumbering around in an open bathrobe forcing himself on unreceptive women. This news comes as a big shock to members of the Hollywood community, especially coming on the heels of their recent discovery that the pope is Catholic.
Emboldened by public revulsion over the Weinstein story, more women in the entertainment industry come forward with accounts of being harassed or assaulted by a steadily growing list of men that will eventually include pretty much every prominent male entertainment figure except the Geico Gecko. The story quickly spreads beyond show business as thousands of women, using the hashtag #MeToo, take to the Internet to recount their experiences of being sexually harassed, reinforcing the growing national consensus that men, as a gender, are basically pond scum with hands.
Abroad, in a controversial referendum, the citizens of Catalonia vote overwhelmingly in favor of declaring their region’s independence from Spain so it can be converted into an Amazon fulfillment center.
Speaking of foreign countries, in ...

(Illustration by Ben Kirchner)
... President Trump goes on a 12-day trip to Asia, which is a very, very important continent containing a tremendous number of Asians. The trip is a huge success featuring many tremendous meals. The highlight takes place in Beijing, a very important city in China, where the president signs a very, very major trade deal worth $250 billion, under which the United States will receive, among other things, a shipping container filled with four tons of Gucci purses that according to Chinese President Xi Jinping — an absolutely terrific guy — are “100 percent legit.”
But there is also alarming news from Asia in the form of yet another North Korean missile test, this one of a Hwasong-15 missile that Defense Department experts say is capable of reaching Washington, D.C., based on the fact that it landed on the Lincoln Memorial.
Meanwhile the list of prominent men accused of being sex pigs continues to grow as the scandal spreads beyond the entertainment industry to ensnare journalists and politicians. In the Senate race in Alabama, Republican Roy Moore is accused of pursuing teenage girls and sexually touching one — who was 14 — when Moore was in his 30s. Despite calls for him to step down, a defiant Moore remains in the race, campaigning under the inspirational slogan “Yes, he’s a pervert creep, but he’s OUR pervert creep.”
In other political news, Republican congressional leaders suffer a legislative setback when a Senate Budget Committee staffer notices that the GOP “tax-reform bill” is actually the owner’s manual for a Weber Genesis II SE-410 gas grill. The Republicans decide to continue pushing it anyway, because, in the words of “Mojo” McConnell, it contains “important safety information that will benefit the middle class.”
In sports, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya wins the New York City Marathon in a time of 2:10:53, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he ran the final four miles with a panhandler clinging to his leg. Speaking of impressive, in ...
... congressional Republicans finally manage to pass tax legislation, which in its final form is expected to be approximately the same length as “War and Peace” in the original Russian but less intelligible to the average American taxpayer. The consensus of expert media commentators is that the legislation will reduce taxes for the middle class, increase taxes for the middle class, stimulate the economy, destroy the economy, make America great again and LITERALLY KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.
Expert media commentators are the reason that much of the American public has decided to get its information on current events from memes.
In federal groping news, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken announces that he will resign from the Senate on the grounds that, according to him, he didn’t do anything. Harassment allegations also end the careers of two members of the House, Republican Trent Franks of Arizona and Democrat John Conyers Jr. of Michigan. With new scandals surfacing in Washington almost daily, there is talk that the nation may need to reinstitute the draft so that there will be a reserve supply of men available to run the government.
In Alabama, voters send Roy Moore creeping back to the mall.
Meanwhile, in a move that sparks outrage in the Middle East, President Trump announces plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Trump Tower, which the president says offers “a much more favorable lease.”
In financial news, Venezuelan President Nicol├ís Maduro, seeking to prop up his nation’s collapsing economy, announces the creation of a new digital currency called the “petro,” which will be backed by a combination of oil reserves and a magic feather. The Illinois legislature quickly follows suit, announcing that from now on the financially troubled state will pay its debts with the “porko,” a digital currency backed by bratwurst.
Also something called bitcoin apparently is a big deal that is making people rich even though nobody has the faintest idea what the hell it is.
Amazon purchases the Pacific Ocean but pledges that it will remain open to the public “for the time being.”
On the Russian front, Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI and agrees to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. In response, six New York City fire companies are dispatched to a midtown Manhattan studio to hose down CNN’s expert panel. For its part, Fox News launches a six-part Special Report on winter lawn maintenance. Expert media commentators agree that the Flynn story is an overhyped nothingburger as well as the smoking gun that will lead to IMPEACHMENT ANY DAY NOW.
Finally this hellish year, which by any standard of decency should have been canceled months ago, draws to a close. The American people, wearied by the endless scandals and the relentless toxic spew of partisan political viciousness, turn away from 2017 in disgust and look hopefully toward the new year, which by all indications will be calmer and saner.
We are of course joking. By all indications the nation is going to spend 2018 the same way it spent 2017, namely obsessing spitefully over 2016. So the best we can do is enjoy the brief reprieve offered by the holidays. In the spirit of the season, let’s try, as a nation, to forget about our differences, at least for a few days. Let’s remember that we’re all Americans, and let’s give our friends and loved ones, whatever their political views, a big old holiday hug.
No, scratch that. No hugging! Give your friends and loved ones a formal holiday handshake, then back away slowly with your hands raised in plain view.
Then have a happy new year. Or at least try.
Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author.