Slacker Secret Service Seems Suspicious

Call it paranoia or call it being grounded in the knowledge of the past, but the first thing I felt after Obama won the Democratic nomination was fear. Speaking to a few other friends in the days after, I found it to be something of a common experience. After the November election, even more friends–all of us roughly part of the same generation and each of us a person of color–expressed the same sort of fear about him being President. It cut across gender and educational lines. It even seemed to be a fear felt by people whether or not they supported his candidacy.

All of us were worried he would be shot.

It’s been a week and a half and the first nonwhite President of the United States of American is still alive. Whew! So what do you say we be sure and keep it that way. Sound good? Anyone? Calling US Secret Service??

“Security Around Obama Alarms Some VIP Donors” (Washington Post)

Gen X Nostalgia for January (200th post)

Sometime in the 2011-2012 academic year, I’ll come up for tenure.  Until then, if  you should ever see me posting more than once in a day (or writing any single post of more than 750 words), please feel free to comment and tell me to get back to work.

Aside from a break on inauguration day, I’ve been busy working the past few weeks, primarily finishing an article and continuing revisions on my book-in-progress.  So-called “scholarly work” takes a buttload of time, what with all the footnoting and substantiation of my claims.  Both will someday be published and, if I’m lucky, be read by about the same amount of people who visit this blog in a month.  (In case you are not following, I ain’t bragging about my blog’s traffic.)

Long story longer, that’s why the posts have been a little slim of late.  So to catch up, here’s a “three-fer,” as they say in the world of classic rock radio.  These are three anniversaries I would have written about more substantively had I had the time (is that write?).

Oooo, double grammar joke.

“Happy Days” premieres on television (January 15, 1974)
This month marked the 35th anniversary of the premiere of “Happy Days.”  I’m not sure the show makes many critic’s top ten lists, but it surely stands as one of the more popular shows of the 1970s.  For us genX types, it just might be one of those culturally binding artifacts.  (Who doesn’t remember Fonzie water skiing in his leather jacket and jumping over a shark?)  Growing up, the syndicated reruns were far more significant than the first-run shows, at least for me.  Like “I Love Lucy” and “Gilligan’s Island,” it required no great effort to watch them on Los Angeles pre-cable TV.  More importantly, as a kid I remember thinking “Happy Days” was my window into what white people were like.  Here’s a clip from the first episode (notice the diner is called “Arthur’s” in the pilot).

Hulkamania is born (January 23, 1984)
Last week was the 25th anniversary of Hulk Hogan’s victory over the Iron Shiek, making him WWF heavy-weight champion.  I didn’t start watching wrestling until a few months after this match, so I don’t have any memory of seeing it.  Still, this budding historian had done his research and took notes when dates were mentioned on the weekly WWF telecast or in the monthly WWF magazine (of which I was a subscriber–still have all my issues, too).  Every year, when the calendar showed January 23, it ws the first thing my young mind thought of.  Here’s the match, thanks to the beauty of YouTube, with full color commentary by the great Gorilla Monsoon (“it’s pandemonium”) and Bruno Sammartino.

If you hadn’t seen a Hulk Hogan match before, the above is the script used in almost all of them: HH comes out like a tornado of power; he gets caught by his opponent who tries to end him with a “submission hold” of some kind; HH is miraculously “recharged” by his adoring fans; HH regains, gets the upper hand, goes to the ropes, and with a big leg to the face and some sort of follow-up, gets the pin.  Pure magic.

Freddie Prinze shoots himself (January 28, 1977)
It’s not a particularly momentous anniversary, but 32 years ago the Latino star of the hit television show “Chico and the Man”–Freddie Prinze–shot himself.  He died two days later.  At the time of his death, Prinze was a big deal in Chicano LA.  Though he was half Puerto-Rican and half Hungarian (one of his jokes was that he was a “Hungarican”), the former stand-up phenom endeared himself to many Chicanos via his role as Chico Rodriguez.  While the show enraged Chicano activists (for its lack of Mexican American involvement), it shot up to #1 in the ratings by its second week (beating out “Rhoda”).  It never left the top ten.


Prinze died at 22.  While he may not have been Chicano, the show  took place in East LA and made “politically correct” attempts to represent barrio life and concerns.  While problematic in so many ways, it was the first Latino-themed show in TV history.  It is may also be the first time the word “Chicano” was used in a primetime series.

However trite and superficial, the show brought brown faces into American homes on a weekly basis.  Check out the pilot episode here.

[NOTE: Reflecting the base of its viewership, a week after Prinze died a 13-year-old girl committed suicide out of unconsolable grief.]

Obama continues covert airstrikes

In what seems to be his first approved act of war (though this does not meet the legal definition of it), Obama approved the continuation of the US covert airstrikes in Pakistan.  Yesterday, AP reports some 22 “militants were killed by what are likely US missiles launched by remote drones.

Pakistan: Toll from US missile strikes reaches 22

By ASIF SHAHZAD – 2 hours ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from two suspected U.S. missile attacks on al-Qaida bases in northwest Pakistan has risen to 22, officials and residents said Saturday. Eight suspected foreign militants were among the dead.

A senior security official said Pakistani authorities were trying to determine the seniority of an Egyptian al-Qaida militant believed to have been killed.

Friday’s attacks were the first since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and suggest that he will allow U.S. forces to continue targeting al-Qaida and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.

Pakistani leaders complain that the stepped-up missile strikes — more than 30 since August — violate the country’s sovereignty and undermine the government’s own efforts to tackle rising Islamist violence at home.

However, U.S. officials have defended the tactic and say missiles fired from remotely piloted aircraft have killed a string of militant leaders behind attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.

Three intelligence officials told The Associated Press that funerals were held Saturday for nine Pakistanis killed Friday in Zharki, a village in the North Waziristan region.

The officials, citing reports from field agents and residents, said Taliban fighters had earlier removed the bodies of five suspected foreign militants who also died in the first missile strike Friday. Initial reports put the death toll from that attack at 10.

A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected al-Qaida operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.

The second strike hit a house in the South Waziristan region. Residents and security officials say eight people died in the village of Gangi Khel.

Resident Allah Noor Wazir said he attended funerals for the owner of the targeted house, Din Faraz, his three sons and a guest.

“I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban. They say they belong to foreigners,” Wazir told the AP by telephone.

All of the security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The United States does not acknowledges firing the missiles, which are believed to be mostly fired from drones operated by the CIA and launched from neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s government has little control over the border region, which is considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.

Obama is making the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined al-Qaida fight in Pakistan an immediate foreign policy priority. He has not commented on the missile strike policy, but struck a hawkish tone during his election campaign.

Also Saturday, Pakistan’s government welcomed Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said Obama’s decision was a step toward “upholding the primacy of the rule of law” and would add a “much-needed moral dimension in dealing with terrorism.”

Pakistan helped the United States round up hundreds of militants in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including several al-Qaida leaders still incarcerated at Guantanamo.

Obama is a hero to historians

Check THIS out.

The Big O signed an Executive Order today, wiping out Bushie’s tinkering with the Presidential Records Act.  As I blogged about here, this has effectively kept the records of the Reagan and Bush administrations from becoming public.  That means that historians haven’t had access to records helping to shed light on Reagan’s crimes in Central America, for example.

You might not get excited about this but, trust me, this makes historians kind of tingly all over.

Below is the text of the order:

Executive Order — Presidential Records
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures governing the assertion of executive privilege by incumbent and former Presidents in connection with the release of Presidential records by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Definitions.  For purposes of this order:

(a)  “Archivist” refers to the Archivist of the United States or his designee.

(b)  “NARA” refers to the National Archives and Records Administration.

(c)  “Presidential Records Act” refers to the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207.

(d)  “NARA regulations” refers to the NARA regulations implementing the Presidential Records Act, 36 C.F.R. Part 1270.

(e)  “Presidential records” refers to those documentary materials maintained by NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, including Vice Presidential records.

(f)  “Former President” refers to the former President during whose term or terms of office particular Presidential records were created.

(g)  A “substantial question of executive privilege” exists if NARA’s disclosure of Presidential records might impair national security (including the conduct of foreign relations), law enforcement, or the deliberative processes of the executive branch.

(h)  A “final court order” is a court order from which no appeal may be taken.

Sec. 2.  Notice of Intent to Disclose Presidential Records.

(a)  When the Archivist provides notice to the incumbent and former Presidents of his intent to disclose Presidential records pursuant to section 1270.46 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist, using any guidelines provided by the incumbent and former Presidents, shall identify any specific materials, the disclosure of which he believes may raise a substantial question of executive privilege.  However, nothing in this order is intended to affect the right of the incumbent or former Presidents to invoke executive privilege with respect to materials not identified by the Archivist.  Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel).  The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

(b)  Upon the passage of 30 days after receipt by the incumbent and former Presidents of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Archivist may disclose the records covered by the notice, unless during that time period the Archivist has received a claim of executive privilege by the incumbent or former President or the Archivist has been instructed by the incumbent President or his designee to extend the time period for a time certain and with reason for the extension of time provided in the notice.  If a shorter period of time is required under the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist shall so indicate in the notice.

Sec. 3.  Claim of Executive Privilege by Incumbent President.

(a)  Upon receipt of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Attorney General (directly or through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel) and the Counsel to the President shall review as they deem appropriate the records covered by the notice and consult with each other, the Archivist, and such other executive agencies as they deem appropriate concerning whether invocation of executive privilege is justified.

(b)  The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection (a) of this section, may jointly determine that invocation of executive privilege is not justified.  The Archivist shall be notified promptly of any such determination.

(c)  If either the Attorney General or the Counsel to the President believes that the circumstances justify invocation of executive privilege, the issue shall be presented to the President by the Counsel to the President and the Attorney General.

(d)  If the President decides to invoke executive privilege, the Counsel to the President shall notify the former President, the Archivist, and the Attorney General in writing of the claim of privilege and the specific Presidential records to which it relates.  After receiving such notice, the Archivist shall not disclose the privileged records unless directed to do so by an incumbent President or by a final court order.

Sec. 4.  Claim of Executive Privilege by Former President.

(a)  Upon receipt of a claim of executive privilege by a living former President, the Archivist shall consult with the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel), the Counsel to the President, and such other executive agencies as the Archivist deems appropriate concerning the Archivist’s determination as to whether to honor the former President’s claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege.  Any determination under section 3 of this order that executive privilege shall not be invoked by the incumbent President shall not prejudice the Archivist’s determination with respect to the former President’s claim of privilege.

(b)  In making the determination referred to in subsection (a) of this section, the Archivist shall abide by any instructions given him by the incumbent President or his designee unless otherwise directed by a final court order.  The Archivist shall notify the incumbent and former Presidents of his determination at least 30 days prior to disclosure of the Presidential records, unless a shorter time period is required in the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations.  Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel).  The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

Sec. 5.  General Provisions.

(a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 6.  Revocation.  Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.


January 21, 2009

Obama’s Inaugural Day “Firsts”

Oh, you know the obvious one: Barack H. Obama is the first African-descent President of the United States (POTUS).  But this is but one of many “firsts” we saw on January 20, 2009.

  • Obama is the first POTUS born in Hawaii.
  • He is the first born in the sixties.
  • He is the first POTUS of whom it may be said “he got game.”
  • Obama is the first POTUS to serve as editor of the Harvard Law Review.
  • He is the first to have a wife named Michelle.
  • He is the first to not have ever faced military conscription.
  • Obama is the first POTUS to know how to dance.
  • His inauguration was the first to have been covered via “live blogging.”
  • His swearing in was the first to be attended by a massive, f-ing horde of people.
  • It was the first to feature a song by a woman wearing a flying hat.


See what I mean.

  • He is the first POTUS to have a last name beginning with “O” (really, with any vowel other than “A”–damn you Chester A. Arthur!!)
  • His is the first inauguration of my kids’ lifetimes (I know, but it’s big for me).
  • He is the first to not have a first name based in European culture.
  • He is the first to have a parent who practiced a faith that did not worship Jesus as God.
  • Obama is the first POTUS to have lived in Indonesia.
  • He’s the first to have siblings who are half-Southeast Asian.
  • He is the first POTUS to have worked as a community organizer.
  • His swearing in was the first for Chief Justice John Roberts.
  • It is also the first to have been botched by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • This is the first inauguration where more than 2 nonwhite people spoke/performed (Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, Elizabeth Alexander, and Joseph Lowery).
  • And, finally, Obama is the first President of the United States to be wise in the ways of the force.
  • obamasaber

Obama remembers the old tune with new lyrics

Interesting that the President remembered atheists in his speech today but made no mention of Native Americans.  He even invoked westward expansion as though it were a guiltless pursuit.  In more than one section of his address he rearticulated the national story of itself as a hard-working people whose position in the world is magically disconnected from the imperial projects of expansion and transnational capitalism.

Just saying….

Obama’s first act as President

President Barack Obama issued a Proclamation as his first act as sitting President.  It can be found on the White House website.  The text is below:


– – – – – – –



As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God.

We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright — it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

The Bush Cover-up

Almost immediately after taking office, George W. Bush began issuing a series of Executive Orders keeping a tight lid on Presidential records (and Vice-Presidential records) which had previously been scheduled for release under the post-Watergate Presidential Records Act of 1978.  In so doing, he pissed off a gaggle of historians.

Here’s a quick overview of our complaints with the Bush’s efforts to protect public knowledge about his father, members of his administrations, and their allies, courtesy of the History News Network and historians Robert Dallek and Joseph Palermo.   Even John Dean has something to say about it.  Here’s a more recent update on the efforts of the new Congress to address this.

Today’s news includes a court decision (the first one on these matters lost by historians) dealing with Cheney’s records.

So which way will this go?  Will Obama use the full force of the Executive to overturn this organized and widespread bureacratic cover-up?  Will they protct the status quo and continue the delays?

This Historic Day

Barack H. Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States today.

By nightfall, the most often used adjective in the media will be “historic.”  I don’t disagree. While I have been hesitant to see the election of a Black man to the White House as the “end of racism” or evidence that we’ve entered a “post-racial” America, it does carry with it a powerful symbolism.

In 1975, when noted colonial historian Edmund S. Morgan wrote the “rise of liberty and equality in America had been accompanied by the rise of slavery” he expressed a fact many of us find perplexing still today. How could both be the case?  How could freedom and slavery exist together?  Isn’t one “American” and the other an aberration?  Morgan continued, “That two such seemingly contradictory developments were taking place simultaneously over a long period of time, from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth, is the central paradox of American history.”

Indeed, for most who chose not to ignore it, this has been the primary feature of the U.S. narrative of itself–contradiction.  Freedom and slavery.  Equality and oppression.  We are a nation of competing forces, sometimes harmonizing with one another (to great human tragedy), at other times actively engaged in struggle with themselves.

Today doesn’t erase this.  It doesn’t bring victory to one side over the other.  But, in clear ways, it does close the space between the two.  Time will tell how this is the case, and to what measure it is so, but that the contradictions and tensions have eased ever so slightly seems undeniable today.

This day can mean more than symbolism.  I hope it does.  While I often slip, I have to continually tell myself not to expect it from him more than I would from any other President.  It’s not his job any more than it was their’s, than it was yours, ours.  We all have a burden to bear in that cause.

So, today I celebrate.  Tomorrow, I agitate.