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Reagan Delayed the 1986 State of the Union to Mourn the Challenger Disaster

January 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union,” began President Ronald Reagan in a televised speech from the Oval Office. “But the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering.”

It was January 28, 1986, the day the space shuttle orbiter Challenger exploded in the sky, killing all seven astronauts on board. Out of respect, Reagan and his aides decided to postpone the state of the Union speech he was supposed to give that evening until the next week—marking the first time a president had ever delayed the yearly address.

Challenger Disaster (TV-PG; 0:23)

Reagan was in the Oval Office at 11:44 A.M. that day when Pat Buchanan, then the president’s director of communications, walked in and said: “Sir, the shuttle blew up.” Reagan asked if the Challenger was the one carrying a teacher; though he must have already known the answer, since he was planning to mention her in his state of the Union speech that evening. That particular addition to the crew had been his idea. During his 1984 reelection campaign, Reagan had launched the Teacher in Space Project that selected Christa McAuliffe from among some 10,000 applicants.

“Reagan had a pretty strong populist streak,” says Russell Riley, co-chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Riley specuates the president may have wanted to put a teacher in space to draw positive attention to the space program and make people feel like they, as regular citizens, were connected to it.

McAuliffe was one of two women aboard the Challenger, and she was poised to become the first “ordinary citizen” in space, The New York Times reported. When Reagan heard that her spacecraft had exploded, “His eyes went wide, his mouth opened in total surprise,” recounted Alfred Kingon, Reagan’s Cabinet secretary, to the Times. The president and his aides huddled around a television and watched footage of the explosion in silence for several minutes. Reagan later recalled it as “a very traumatic experience.”

Christa McAuliffe.

“I certainly remember that it was a shocking incident, a stunning incident,” Riley says. “There had grown a sense of complacency about the space program among people who were on the outside; that we had had such great successes and everything had gone really …read more


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See Photos of WWII Naval Cadets Training Like Pro Athletes

January 24, 2019 in History

By Sheila Mulrooney Eldred

George H.W. Bush was among the cadets and Gerald Ford served as a coach in the intense war-time training camp that featured giant wheels, heavy sand bags and oversized balls.

They woke at 5 a.m., ate 5,000 calories a day, ran through chin-deep rivers, strapped sandbags to their backs and marched up and down steps. They even learned how to handle venomous snakes.

They weren’t training for the latest obstacle course race or reality show. These were the thousands of men who enrolled in the Naval Aviation Cadet Training Program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Among them were two future presidents: George H.W. Bush, who enlisted the day after he turned 18 in 1942 and went on to become a pilot and Navy lieutenant and Gerald Ford, who served as a coach of swimming and other sports. Ronald Reagan also once visited as an entertainer.

One of five such ground-training schools in the country, the cadets spent about six hours a day for three months in intense exercise.

Men lined up at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s V-5 Naval Aviation Cadet Training Program in 1942. The program was one of five that trained U.S. aviation cadets for World War II. The cadets typically started their days at 5 a.m.

View the 15 images of this gallery on the original article

“Everyone had to be in supreme physical condition,” says Anne R. Keene, author of The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team that Helped Win World War II.

Some of the cadets were athletic prodigies who lettered in multiple sports, she adds. “On top of that, they had to practice military drill, marksmanship, avionics and other academic classes; as well as keep their individual quarters neat and tidy,” says WWII historian Donald W. Rominger, Jr..

Cadets Trained to Survive and Kill

Indeed, it wasn’t only the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill that had been transformed to host the nation’s newest Navy Pre-Flight school, with dorms serving as barracks and new additions such as a canteen, a new pool, a gymnasium and an obstacle course. The chemistry department ramped up with extra war funding, and courses in Russian and Japanese were added to the language department.

The cadets’ coursework included Morse code, navigation, meteorology, seamanship, physics, gunnery and psychology (if taken captive, they would need psychological skills), in addition to “the …read more


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All the Weird Ways People Have Tried to Avoid Paying Taxes

January 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Nobody likes that corporations can make unlimited political donations under the First Amendment. On the campaign trail the next year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a protester that “corporations are people, my friend.”

In this vein, some sneaky tax filers have tried to argue they aren’t “people” or “individuals” in the eyes of the government and therefore can’t be taxed. The Internal Revenue Code defines a “person” as an “individual, trust, estate, partnership or corporation.” These filers say that “individual” refers to companies, not humans; and therefore, they’re not a “person” who can be taxed.

This has not amused the IRS. The government agency has taken some of these non-people to court, and warns potential tax evaders against the strategy in the “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.”

7. The government has a secret $630,000 account in my name.

Some Americans have forged their taxes or refused to pay them because they believe in a complex conspiracy theory that the government already has a bank account in their names. Known as “sovereign citizens,” these people argue that they’re not subject to U.S. laws or taxes because their tax bill is made out to a legal entity with a well-funded bank account that shares their name but isn’t actually them (if you’re confused, that’s because conspiracy theories don’t usually make sense).

These views can be traced to a conspiracy theory promoted by the anti-semite Roger Elvick in the 1980s. “Elvick espoused the belief that when the federal government grants a birth certificate, they create the strawman associated with the real human at the same moment—and also deposit $630,000 into the strawman’s account,” writes Brea Tremblay, whose father was a “sovereign citizen,” in the Daily Beast.

Elvick believed a “secret Jewish cabal” was behind these accounts, and he filed over $1 million in fake tax returns and sight drafts to try to withdraw the money in his secret account (and then some). He spent most of the ‘90s in prison, but his views remain popular enough that the IRS still explains and disputes his theory in “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.”

…read more


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Today's NATO Mission Is to Preserve Itself

January 24, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Washington is filled with outrage these days, and most of it
surrounds President Donald Trump. But sometimes it arises for the
wrong reasons. Years ago, Trump chastised our feckless allies for
expecting the United States to protect them as part of NATO. As
president, he continued to criticize the alliance and apparently
privately suggested that America withdraw from it. Which, some of
his critics tell us, proves that he is an agent of Russian
President Vladimir Putin.

Actually, the president’s sentiments illustrate his good sense
on this issue. He frequently irritates even his friends. But that
doesn’t mean he’s incorrect.

Forget foreign policy for a moment. Uncle Sam is broke. The
Republicans opened the Treasury’s doors by simultaneously upping
spending and cutting taxes. The deficit soared past $700 billion,
the highest since 2012, as America dealt with the financial crisis.
This year, the annual deficit will hit $1 trillion. Within a
decade, it will run $1.5 trillion.

The alliance is
scrambling for purpose in a changed world. Trump is right to
consider leaving.

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report reads like a
horror movie script, forecasting more debt, rising interest rates,
and skyrocketing interest payments. On top of that are rapidly
rising entitlement outlays. At some point, Washington will have to
stem the red tide.

That will mean hiking taxes, a Republican Party no-no, or
cutting spending. Today, roughly 85 percent of the budget is
accounted for by interest payments (repudiate the debt?), Medicaid
(health care for the poor is already pretty awful), Social
Security, and Medicare (good luck convincing those in assisted
living facilities to accept lower benefits). And military outlays,
which today mostly go to protecting prosperous and populous allies
and remaking failed societies, neither of which does much to
advance America’s security.

So how should a president responsible to the American people
address the tsunami of red ink? He could hike exactions on or cut
benefits to Americans. Or he could reduce subsidies for rich
foreign friends. This really isn’t a tough choice.

There’s also the fairness issue. Americans and Europeans have a
long and important shared history. In the aftermath of World War
II, the U.S. sensibly bore the burden of protecting war-torn
Western European nations from Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. It was
in America’s interest to prevent any country, especially the Soviet
dystopia, from dominating Eurasia. No one else could perform that
service at the time.

However, World War II ended 74 years ago. Joseph Stalin died 66
years ago. The Berlin Wall fell three decades ago. The Soviet Union
dissolved shortly thereafter. Over that period of time, the
Europeans recovered economically—they now possess 10 times
Russia’s GDP—created the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Mr. President, Tweet the State of the Union: Forget About the Useless Pomp of a Speech

January 24, 2019 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

The week-long standoff over the State of the Union address began
Jan. 16, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called on President
Trump to delay the SOTU or deliver it in writing. For a brief period, you had to
wonder whether Trump would force the issue, gate-crashing the
Capitol, with the Secret Service outgunning the House Sergeant-at-Arms.

Luckily, the dispute ended peaceably, after a rare climbdown by
Trump. “I will do the Address when the Shutdown is
over,” the President tweeted Wednesday evening.

Earlier that day, the Trump had griped: “It would be so very sad for our
country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on
schedule, and very importantly, on location!” Actually
it’s no great loss.

Trump describes the prime-time speech from the House chamber as
a “constitutional duty.” But Article II, Section 3, doesn’t designate a
particular place or time, nor even require the message to take the
form of a speech. It just says that the President “shall from
time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the
Union.” Certainly, nothing in the Constitution mandates what
the modern SOTU has become: an imperious sermon befitting an
imperial president, short on “Information,” long on
pomp and circumstance and larded with exorbitant demands on the
public purse.

As Pelosi pointed out in her Jan. 16 letter, a written message is the historical
norm. Of the 221 SOTUs in American history, fewer than half have been delivered in person before
Congress assembled.

True, the “security concerns” Pelosi cited were
bogus. Our third President, Thomas Jefferson,
offered far better reasons for switching to the written SOTU. In
his 1801 letter to the Senate proposing the move,
Jefferson described it as a time-saving measure for “the
convenience of the legislature.” But his principal motivation
was a small-‘r’ republican one: Jefferson thought the
in-person address favored by Washington and Adams “too kingly
for the new republic,” a monarchical “Speech from the

From Jefferson’s first SOTU to William Howard Taft’s
last, the Jeffersonian tradition reigned. It took a
series of imperial Presidents, starting with the norm-busting
Woodrow Wilson, to usher in the modern State of the Union. Harry
Truman gave us hell with the first televised address in 1947. In
1965, Lyndon Johnson moved the speech from mid-afternoon to

Along the way, the President’s annual message became
unmoored from its constitutional purpose.
Information of the State of the Union” is the
key phrase. The early days of the republic featured a part-time
legislature and a full-time chief …read more

Source: OP-EDS