My wife and I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” over the weekend, and the best part was discovering that one of the three main characters, Katherine Johnson, is a West Virginia native.
Here’s what WVU Magazine had to say in a story about Johnson and other “Barrier Breakers“:
I love learning the stories of famous West Virginians, especially those whose successes shatter the stereotypes of the great Mountain State as the land of hillbillies, rednecks and rubes. You can learn more about Johnson via NASA, which ended its story about her by saying, “Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia.”
Here’s what President Obama had to say about Johnson when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the text of the award citation:
Filed under: Government and History and Movies and People and Technology and Video and West Virginia
If you ever need an anecdote to illustrate the opposite of the Golden Rule in action, this story from Virginia should do the trick nicely:
The story even comes with a quote that is the antithesis of the Golden Rule: “If they were going to inconvenience me, then I was going to inconvenience them.”
Stafford was legally in the right and the Virginia DMV officials were in the wrong, but talk about biting off your nose to spite your face! Stafford went to great trouble and expense all so he could say, “I think I proved my point here.”
Sure, I chuckled at the thought of bureaucrats being forced to count 300,000 pennies as the consequence for having denied a taxpayer basic information he was entitled to get. Many of us are tempted to seek revenge after such aggravating experiences — and sometimes we do, though probably to a far lesser degree.
But what struck me about this story was the depth of Stafford’s bitterness. He undoubtedly had many nights to examine his own attitude and reconsider his course of vindictiveness, yet Stafford woke up every morning determined to be a bigger jerk than the DMV officials.
Filing a freedom-of-information request to get the one telephone number he needed was a reasonable response to bureaucratic stonewalling. Picking a court over phone numbers he didn’t need was petty. Hiring people to bash open rolls of pennies, buying wheelbarrows to haul those pennies into a government office, and watching gleefully for hours as public servants satisfied his spiteful demand was downright cruel.
The man who thinks he is the hero of this story actually is the villain.
Filed under: Culture and Government and Human Interest and News & Politics and People and Religion
Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium.
A few eventful minutes at work on Jan. 15, 2009, left an indelible mark in New York air traffic controller Patrick Harten’s mind. He constantly replayed those terrifying moments in his head in the weeks that followed, and although they ultimately ended with the inspiring tale known as “The Miracle on the Hudson,” Harten kept imagining the tragedy that might have been.
Now he is reliving those remarkable moments all over again — on the big screen via actor Patch Darragh, who plays Harten in the movie “Sully.” “I thought they did a great job capturing what it felt like to be there that day,” Harten said. “I’ve heard from some of the passengers, and they thought so, too. … Parts of it were tough to watch.”
The movie is based on the actual events surrounding the forced emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. It happened on a cold winter afternoon a few minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York. A flock of Canada geese flew into the Airbus A320, taking out both engines at a low altitude.
Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger chose to land on the water after concluding that he didn’t have enough time to return to LaGuardia or to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Harten is the air traffic controller who talked to Sullenberger that day from the terminal radar approach control facility for several airports in the New York area. The Federal Aviation Administration’s TRACONs manage the airspace near airports, and New York TRACON is one of the busiest.
Harten, who first publicly shared his account of the incident in dramatic testimony to Congress, started his shift in the LaGuardia sector of the TRACON minutes before Flight 1549 took off. But soon after he issued a routine heading for the flight, Sullenberger reported the bird strike and double-engine loss. He headed back toward LaGuardia for an emergency landing.
Harten quickly arranged runway access there and communicated the details to Sullenberger. But 35 seconds after first reporting the emergency, the pilot uttered these ominous words: “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.“
Sullenberger predicted that fate more definitively about a minute later, after Harten suggested a runway at Teterboro instead. “We can’t do it. … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
“I’m sorry, say again,” Harten responded. He then lost radar contact with Flight 1549.
“I thought I was part of one of the worst aviation incidents in modern history at the time,” Harten recounted. He imagined the plane clipping a wing on the water, cartwheeling and breaking into pieces. Even if it landed smoothly, he figured most people on board would drown or succumb to hypothermia. “I was expecting there to maybe be a handful of survivors.”
Read the rest of the story at Medium.
Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Movies and News & Politics and People and Video
To hear many Americans tell it today, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been a cherished anthem of national pride almost since the day Francis Scott Key penned it in 1814. But the government-sanctioned reverence the song enjoys in the 21st century actually didn’t take root until the start of the 20th century — and not everyone thought it was a good idea then.
The song gained plenty of attention, particularly in the military, after Scott wrote it to celebrate the American victory over the British at Fort McHenry in Maryland. But even the military didn’t start incorporating “The Star-Spangled Banner” into its flag-raising ceremonies until 1889. It took another 27 years for Woodrow Wilson to give the tune the stamp of presidential approval in an executive order.
The song’s evolution from battle hymn to national anthem still wasn’t complete, though, and the final hurdle on Capitol Hill wasn’t easy to clear. As the National Park Service noted in its history of the national anthem, 11 lawmakers tried to push 15 different bills and resolutions through Congress between 1910 and 1917, and all of them stalled.
Even after a determined Rep. J. Charles Linthicum, D-Md., adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his personal cause in 1918, he had a years-long fight ahead of him. Congress didn’t clear the bill to President Herbert Hoover until March 3, 1931, a day before adjournment would have killed the idea yet again.
That brings us to a surprising editorial that the Baltimore Evening Sun published the day after Hoover signed the bill. With the amateur poet Key being a favorite son of the city, the newspaper had good reason to celebrate the patriotic development. But it saw cause for concern instead:
Eighty-five years later, the paper’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The new country that repelled the British in the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 is now embroiled in a tense debate about police shootings of black Americans, and the anthem that united us then divides us now.
It’s not enough that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at memorial holidays, military ceremonies and athletic contests across the country, or that the vast majority of the nation’s 324 million people (including me) solemnly stand for it, sing it and revere the symbolism behind it. Every single American must embrace that norm or be reviled as an un-American outcast who should shut up or leave the country.
This, indeed, is an unfortunate fate for a fine song written in a Free State, for a free country.
Filed under: Government and History and Holidays and Media and Military and News & Politics and People
Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
Piecing together history can be as difficult as solving a complex jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes you never can fill all the slots. So it is with determining the exact role the FAA played in naming the president’s airplane — but the agency definitely was part of the discussion back in 1954.
The origin of the call sign Air Force One became newsworthy this past March when a restored Lockheed Constellation took flight for the first time in more than a decade. The aircraft’s given name is Columbine II, but it was also the first presidential aircraft to be called Air Force One. Now the plane’s new owner, Karl Stoltzfus of Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Va., wants everyone to know the true story behind the name, not the myths floating around the Internet.
“I’m not interested in a ‘better’ story,” said Stoltzfus, who has contacted presidential and Air Force historians and the former personal secretary of Air Force One pilot William Draper. “I’m interested in accurate history.”
The history of Columbine II began at a Lockheed factory in Burbank, Calif., in 1948. It left the plant with the tail number 48–610, a designation that would become important six years later. Lockheed Air Service used the plane for shuttle flights between New York and Iceland for a few months in 1949, but it was converted from military transport to a VIP aircraft in 1950.
This particular Constellation served the U.S. Air Force secretary until Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in November 1952. The plane’s first mission for the president-elect fulfilled his campaign promise to personally visit Korea in an effort to end the Korean War. Weeks later the plane officially became Eisenhower’s aircraft, and he named it Columbine II after the flower of wife Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted home state, Colorado.
The transfer of the plane to presidential service set the stage for a momentous air traffic control encounter involving Columbine II and a commercial flight with a similar call sign. But nailing down the details of that incident is a herculean research task.
“There are about six different urban legends out there on the Internet,” said Air Force historian Robert Spiers, who started the legwork in 2007 after numerous queries about how Air Force One got its name. Some stories, like the fanciful tale of a mid-air collision that damaged the undercarriage of Columbine II with Eisenhower on board, are far-fetched.
“If that had actually happened,” Spiers said, “it would have been all over the media.”
Read the rest of the story at Medium.
Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Human Interest and Military and People
As of today, I’m officially a registered drone owner! That means I’ve agreed to fly by these rules:
These rules already existed, and they are reasonable precautions to ensure safe skies. I’m not sure what the big deal is, so I readily registered before Jan. 21 to get a credit for the $5 fee.
(Full disclosure: I’m a writer at the FAA, but I’m speaking only for me.)
Filed under: Aviation and Government and Technology
Comments: 1 Comment
Back in the spring, I took a media flight aboard a B-25 bomber the day before the Arsenal Of Democracy flyover of the nation’s capital. The official footage of the actual flyover was released a couple of days ago, and it is amazing!
This was taped in some of the most restricted airspace in the country and took months of planning with multiple federal agencies. You’ll probably never see air-to-air video like this again, so take a few minutes to watch it.
If you’re in a hurry, the best clip runs from 2:22 in the video until the shot of the breakaway plane in the missing man formation ends at 3:07. I flew aboard Betty’s Dream. She gets a two-second cameo at the 2:37 mark.
Filed under: Aviation and History and Military and Video
Comments: 1 Comment
Joel Pett, the editorial cartoonist at the Lexington Herald-Leader, chose to celebrate National Adoption Month this week by using the children of Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin as “mere props” to mock Bevin’s stance on Syrian refugees.
Bevin has said that when he takes office, he will work to keep Syrian refugees out of the Bluegrass State. That stance, one echoed by dozens of governors, didn’t please Pett so he attacked by drawing pictures of Bevin’s Ethiopian children into a cartoon. The strip depicts Bevin hiding under his desk, with an aide holding a family photo and saying: “Sir they’re not terrorists. … They’re your own adopted kids.”
As a journalist and vocal proponent of free speech, I give editorial cartoonists wide latitude for using mockery to make a point. But as an adoptive parent, I can’t let this tasteless jab go without engaging in some free speech of my own: The cartoon is despicable; Pett is obnoxious for drawing it; and the newspaper is tone deaf for publishing it as the country celebrates adoption.
Pett sounds petty when he says Bevin started it by using his children in campaign commercials first. He sounds arrogant when he says he has endured “little controversies” like the outcry over the cartoon for 30 years and scolds Bevin for rising to the bait. And Pett plays the hypocrite when he accuses the critics of Syrian refugee policy of demagoguery even as he engages in it himself.
The Herald-Leader is equally hypocritical for publishing a cartoon that uses a politician’s children as pawns. Journalists rightly raise questions when the children of Democrats are the targets of such attacks. Remember, this time last year an obscure Republican aide was driven from her job on Capitol Hill after mocking Sasha and Malia Obama. But let a Republican win a key race like Bevin did two weeks ago and suddenly his children are no longer off limits.
Bevin missed the mark in his reaction to the cartoon. Without any supporting evidence, he accused Pett of holding to a “deplorably racist ideology” and the newspaper of allowing “overt racism” into its pages. (It’s worth noting that editorial-page editor Vanessa Gallman, who approved the cartoon and said she “did not see in it the issue of race that Bevin has raised,” is black.)
But Pett and the newspaper crossed a line they shouldn’t have. Shame on them.
P.S. I have no reason to believe that Pett actually hates adopted kids, but he’s clearly a big fan of distorting people’s true opinions. I figured he would appreciate the headline.
Full disclosure: Several years ago I interviewed for a job as an editorial columnist at the Herald-Leader. I don’t recall whether I met Pett, but I did interview with Gallman. The paper offered the columnist’s job to one of its editorial writers.
Filed under: Adoption and Government and Media and News & Politics and People
Comments: 1 Comment
Accepting or rejecting Syrian refugees is a policy issue, not a spiritual one, and some politicians and religious figures are taking Christians on guilt trips in order to convince them otherwise. This is both discouraging and devious.
The current appeals to Christian conscience as a way to advocate an open-door policy typically go something like this: God demands that His followers show compassion to those who are less fortunate, especially widows and orphans. He also tells us not to worry in general or to fear those who can kill our bodies. This means Christians should support Syrian immigration and reject irrational fears about terrorists who might use immigration policy to sneak into the country.
While the teachings behind that rationale are true, they are not particularly relevant to the ongoing policy debate. Here’s why:
If it is immoral to keep 10,000 Syrians at arm’s length for security reasons, what about the millions of others still stuck in that country? Aren’t we compelled as a “Christian nation” not only to welcome them but to use all of our resources to rescue them? Shouldn’t we have done something long ago, initially to prevent this tragedy and later to put an end to it?
And what about the rest of the world’s refugees? Do Christians sin if they do not advocate opening our borders to all of them immediately? If not, where are we supposed to draw the line, and what factors are righteous to consider when drawing that line? And if it’s OK to draw lines, how can anyone possibly argue that it is sinful to draw them now to ensure the safety of the hundreds of millions of people who already call America home?
The phrase “while we have opportunity” in Gal. 6:10 keeps coming to my mind: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
Maybe Syrian refugees are such an opportunity for the United States, and maybe Christians should be the loudest voice for such compassion. But these decisions are not as simple as politicians and religious leaders like to pretend in their spiritually manipulative platitudes.
Filed under: Government and News & Politics and Religion
Comments: 1 Comment
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