A White House Mystery

When my friend and former Orlando Sentinel DC Bureau colleague Sean Holton told me in 1994 the White House is fake I thought he was nuts. Sure enough, he was right. See the story below, a revelation I’ve never seen elsewhere (and certainly something White House tourists are never told). A longtime Trail Mix pal whose birthday is today, Sean (aka Lardass Liberal, native of Independence, Missouri) continues a 2-year struggle with brain cancer but hasn’t lost the irreverent attention to detail this story vividly demonstrates:

WHITE HOUSE IS IN WASHINGTON, RIGHT? OR IS IT?

Sean Holton
The Orlando Sentinel
Author: Sean Holton, Sentinel Washington Bureau
Date: Mar 26, 1994

Put your ear to the ground. Listen carefully. The footsteps of dead presidents still echo here. The echoes rise from an unmarked grave on a small Army post, beneath an open field now used as a baseball diamond.

This is where they buried the White House. There! Can you hear? The old second floor, still creaking under the weight of William Howard Taft. And listen: The private curses of Abraham Lincoln, witnessed only by the plaster walls of a long-lost hallway.

And that? Whispered prayers rising to the ceiling of the East Room, where Franklin Delano Roosevelt lay in a flag-draped casket.

In 1950 and 1951, the dump trucks came across the Potomac River to Fort Myer, laden with rubble from the demolition of the White House interior. The wrecking job, which spared only the sandstone facade of the White House, was the first stage of President Harry Truman’s reconstruction of the building.

More than four decades later, memories of the Truman demolition have faded. For many, it has taken its place in a long succession of much less significant “redecorations” and other cosmetic changes.

Earliest known photo of the White House (1846)
Relatively few Americans are aware that the reconstruction left the most famous building in Washington – the ultimate symbol of power in America – a gutted shell of the house begun by George Washington in 1792. That shell aside, the real structure is a mere 42 years old.

Fewer still are aware – or have even considered – what became of the bulk of the old building torn down by Truman.

And almost no one, including the post historian at Fort Myer, realizes that the forgotten dump under the ball field at the Army post is the likeliest final resting place of most of the old White House.

“Every now and then somebody comes by looking for where they buried the White House,” said John Parker, 69, facilities and maintenance chief at Fort Myer who came to the post in 1955 and is the senior employee. “I’m afraid the only people who could tell you about this now are in the cemetery.”

That’s exactly the way the government wanted it. The commissioners who oversaw the White House renovation reused a fraction of the old interior materials, gave some articles to museums and sold some bricks and fragments as souvenirs.


But the great majority of the White House – tons of surplus material and rubble – was disposed of quietly. It was either parceled out for use by other government agencies, burned or buried in the Fort Myer dump.

The records of the commission, preserved at the National Archives, show that the board was adamant about making sure the salvaged materials and the debris lost their association with the White House as quickly as possible.

“They were rather mysterious at the time,” White House architectural historian William Seale said of the renovation commission. “You can imagine how that would have been turned in a story – about the original White House going to the dogs.”

On one level, the story of what happened to the White House is just a story about trash. Nobody keeps track of trash, and nobody cares about it much once it is thrown out, especially if it was thrown out four decades ago.

But, as archaeologists say, much about a civilization can be learned by studying its trash. So consider, for a moment, the rubble of the White House. Listen to what it teaches.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was upstairs at the White House last June, leading NBC News reporter Katie Couric and a nationwide television audience on a tour.

“There is a wonderful feeling to this house,” the First Lady said. “Because when you think that this is the corridor that, you know, Thomas Jefferson walked up and down and that Abraham Lincoln walked up and down . . .”

It is the same corridor only in a metaphysical sense. Physically speaking, Clinton and Couric were standing in an entirely different corridor, at the heart of a modern building that Jefferson would barely recognize from the inside.

Harry S. Truman
Thanks to Harry Truman, the White House of today is an 800-ton structural steel skeleton fleshed out by nearly 8,000 cubic yards of concrete, 110 tons of reinforcing steel and 257,500 square feet of wire mesh. At least a third of the building’s 1.5 million cubic feet lie below ground, in sub-basements and subterranean mechanical areas that extend out beneath its lawns.

The halls that Lincoln walked, supported by huge timbers anchored in load-bearing, masonry walls, no longer exist. The interiors that Hillary Clinton surveys today are a facsimile.

Truman had to do what he did because the old building was falling down. Walls were cracking. Floor beams were splitting. Ceilings were pulling away from their moorings.

In 1949, he pushed Congress to set up a commission to study the options and oversee the project. Commissioners decided to keep the outer walls of the White House intact, tear down everything else and construct a completely new building within.

Only the hollow facade of history would be preserved.

The White House had been renovated before. After the British burned the building in 1814, it took three years to make the gutted structure habitable for President James Monroe.

Theodore Roosevelt had ordered a substantial renovation of the mansion in 1902 and built the West Wing, where the Oval Office is located. In 1927, Calvin Coolidge had raised the White House roof to convert the attic into a roomy third floor.

But what Truman did was unprecedented.

Before demolishing the interior, the renovators had removed furniture and major ornamental objects such as mantelpieces. They carefully cataloged, dismantled and stored wood paneling, trim and doors, and plaster cornices on the assumption that they would be used in reassembly.

Then the wrecking of floors and walls began. The tons of bricks, plaster and timber that had been the backbone, ribs and muscle of the old house were reduced to rubble. The debris was shoveled through windows, down wooden chutes and into waiting dump trucks.

Gutted White House (National Archives)
Photographs of the gutted White House taken in early 1950 are shocking to view today. The cavernous interior, stripped of all partitions, looked like the inside of a huge gymnasium.

“The shell made an enthralling sight, much in demand among those who could get clearance to go and see it,” Seale writes in The White House: The History of an American Idea. “President Truman delighted in showing the spectacle.”

The wide-open space stretched 168 feet by 86 feet from outer wall to outer wall and some 80 feet from the roof to the excavated, dirt floors of two new sub-basements.

Truman, in keeping the original sandstone walls intact, had preserved what he thought was the soul of the building.

But many of the workers had a less than sacred view of the site. Preserved at the Archives are penciled notes from weekly contractors’ meetings, recording the problem of “too much urinating in corners upstairs” and, in one instance, “in door to state dining room.”

The building that emerged from Truman’s renovation – the White House of today – is architectural taxidermy, American history stuffed and mounted.

The historic skin, the sandstone exterior walls, once supported the entire building. Now they are responsible only for holding up their own weight, and masking the mid-20th century structure inside.

The new, steel-spined White House would prove an apt metaphor for a renewed, post-World War II nation with a powerful, new executive branch.

Viewed more cynically, it would become a symbol of an American penchant for coating the harsh realities of its new role with a sentimental, historic veneer. And today it stands as the true centerpiece in a city of masks, where the truth lies hidden behind the public scenery of news conferences, committee meetings, talk shows and photo opportunities.

But Harry Truman left much more than a sparkling new building to the ages. He left something else in a dump across the river. That something, the newer building’s silent, older counterpart, is a monument to a buried past.

Is the carved, marble mantelpiece that John Quincy Adams leaned against in 1828 a more historic object than, say, the galvanized metal pipe through which Calvin Coolidge drew a glass of water in 1928?

Once you start investing any physical object – let alone an entire structure such as the White House – with an abstract notion like ‘historic value,’ you’re headed down a slippery slope. If the fireplace must be saved, why not the plumbing? If the wooden door frame, why not the wooden lath? If the woven rug, why not the rubber floor runner?

“Where do you put your values?” White House historian Seale asked. “And we usually put it on ornamental things.”

That was the stance taken by the White House renovation commission when deciding which materials to use in the rebuilt structure and which to discard.

Some ornamental objects, such as mantels and the paneling in the State Dining Room, were reinstalled.

Other material was reused in a different form, such as old floor timbers that were remilled as basement paneling.

The remainder, the overwhelming bulk of the old White House, was deemed “surplus material” and divided into four categories defined by the commission.

White House Renovation (National Archives)
“Class I” included identifiable objects “which have intrinsic as well as historical value” but for which there was no room to reuse. This category was small, including mainly the surplus mantelpieces – 20 in all – distributed to the Smithsonian Institution and other museums across the country.

“Class II” included “usable building materials of considerable practical value . . . with little or no sentimental value.” Thus, 95,000 bricks were sent to Mount Vernon for use in restoration work at George Washington’s home. Another 10,000 bricks went to Fort Myer to build a dance patio at the enlisted men’s club.

The Washington, D.C., prison at Lorton, Va. got 12 crates of White House window trim, three crates of door frames, 22 crates of used doors, one truckload of assorted trim and three truckloads of tile, according to commission records.

The prisoners also got some of Calvin Coolidge’s plumbing.

The commanding officer at Fort Belvoir, Va., happily received 12,000 square feet of White House wood flooring. He used it for a roller rink.

Surplus materials in “Class III” got the most publicity. These were small pieces of stone, brick and wood that were of no practical value but were parceled out in “souvenir kits” to the public in 1951.

The commission compiled nearly 24 shelf-feet of paperwork tracking individual souvenir sales, but those records were thrown out by the Archives in 1962. Tracing those bits of the White House now is like tracking ashes scattered over the ocean.

Even after all that distribution, commission records indicate, the bulk of the old White House remained to be dealt with.

So there was a final category of surplus materials known as “Class IV.’ This was defined as “material either of no value, or which has disintegrated into what is normally classified as trash,” according to an early draft.

This included the tons of broken plaster, crumbled bricks, splintered boards and shattered flooring that came from the main demolition. By definition, such material had no identifiable value so very little was written about exactly what it was.

But somewhere amid this unrecognizable heap was the ceiling of the State Dining Room, wrecked on Feb. 3, 1950, according to weekly demolition reports. Then, on March 1, the East Room ceiling came down. Then, March 17, the brick walls on the famous first floor were cut to bits.

In his research a decade ago, Seale interviewed commission officials who described a caravan of trucks rolling “from the White House to Fort Myer and back for 22 days, hauling building debris to be used as landfill. This was done in some secrecy, to avoid bad publicity . . . ”

Seale reports that as workmen rushed to complete the renovation, crates of the old White House woodwork and other relics that had been carefully cataloged and stored for reuse “were being thrown on the trucks and removed to landfill.”

There simply was no time to restore those pieces fully. The new White House would be trimmed with new, machine-pressed woodwork.

Rex Scouten, a Secret Service agent for Truman and now the White House curator, said from time to time an old plaster ornament from the building turns up in the hands of a private collector.

The commission did not record the precise location of the landfill on the Fort Myer grounds. Today Army officials at the post are stumped, claiming they have no record of it or any other landfill from that era.

John Parker, the maintenance and public works chief who goes back further than anyone else at Fort Myer, arrived in 1955. That was three years after the White House renovation was completed, so he has no firsthand knowledge of the project.

But Parker does know that the large landfill under the baseball field was the base’s main dump from 1939 to about 1960.

Ft. Myer Army Base, VA
A lengthy Army history of Fort Myer from 1951 mentions completion of an “earthfill” that year on the other end of the base, near the generals’ quarters, but Parker said that area was an unlikely site for a trash dump.

The post “history” records such minutiae as the 185 teeth pulled that year by the post dentist, the vaccinations of “sixty-six (66) pets” and the results of Ping-Pong tournaments.

But not a word about where they buried the White House.

Was Truman right? Did the soul of the White House reside in its skin? Or did it go to the dump?

“It’s very interesting,” Seale said. “Because it’s interesting from the point of view of what is real and what is not, and what do you believe and what you do not.”

What does Seale believe is real?

“You know, the rubble served its time,” he said. “I don’t think it’s sacred.”

First of all, he said, the current White House has absorbed the history of 42 years and nine presidencies since its renovation. That counts for a lot.

But more importantly, he said, the real power, or soul, of the White House lies not in its physical reality but in its role as a symbol.

“I, myself, as well as I know it . . . cannot stand in the Blue Room and not think those are the same floors Dolley Madison stood on holding her telescope looking for the British to come,” he said. “It’s a magical sort of thing.”

The historian compares its enduring value to that of a Shinto shrine in Japan that has been ritually torn down and rebuilt – in exact replica – every 20 years for the past 1,000 years.

“The White House has been pulled apart, rearranged, gutted by fire and renovation, reassembled; yet it is always the same,” he writes. “Its idea has become its essence.”

But what about the forgotten rubble here at Fort Myer, just over the hill from Arlington National Cemetery? If the soul of a thing is truly all that matters, why do people visit graves?

No matter how long you listen, the answer to that question does not rise from this ground.

Here, there are only echoes.

85 thoughts on “A White House Mystery”

  1. “If the soul of a thing is truly all that matters, why do people visit graves?”

    Indeed!

  2. Happy Birthday, Sean!

    Craig thanks for sharing this ‘birthday cake’ of a post…it is delicious and rich.

  3. Hmm, usually the ballfields and golf courses at military installations are/were reserved for the rapid internment of mass casualties from some horrific attack from afar.

    But really, Lard, you’re playing with us. Everything is symbolism from Lincoln’s face on the used-to-be copper penny to the Statue of Liberty. (Isn’t now a good time to take a peek up her gown to see what’s keeping that venerable lady on her feet?)

    The other sidebar on the renovation was during the Trumans’ stay at Blair House, there was the foiled assassination of the president by Puerto Rican nationalists. I don’t recall him scurrying for an undisclosed location. :smile:

  4. Sean… Happy, Happy Birthday!

    What a great article. Although, actually… I’m glad they don’t tell you this on the tour. Sometimes it’s better to have our myths than to know the nitty gritty truth.

    Especially in this day and age when there are no more political heroes…

  5. Happy Birthday LardAss Liberal-- such a great screen name!

    Many many more…

  6. Last night I heard Michele Bachmann say Obama is responsible for our Iraq policy and the failure.

    For that alone (and there is plenty more)..every media outlet in the country should be taking her to task for such a blatant
    misrepresentation of the facts. I realize that goopers are not required to speak the truth but really?

    The Tea Party is right to now reject her. She is indeed batsh-t crazy

  7. KGC,
    Even those who are bat shit crazy have the occasional lucid moment. Not Bachmann. ;-)

  8. a most merry and festive birthday, lard!

    craig, thanks for serving up sean’s tasty morsel of mystery, surely a portent of halloween with ghosts of presidents-past wondering the ballfields and officer’s qtrs of ft meyer looking for the john.

    “the ultimate symbol of power in America – a gutted shell…”

    a fake house befits the sometime fakes who inhabit it. be it a country or an executive mansion.

  9. It must be especially galling for team Obama to see HRC’s approval ratings and her poll numbers.

    Wonder which of them will draw the duty of asking her to go out on the campaign trail and help save his presidency?

    Would sure like to be there for that conversation. :twisted:

  10. A wonderful piece of history and such a great example of Sean’s abilities. Thank you for this gift to all of us on your birthday. Have a great one Sean.

  11. Looney liars like Bachmann should not stand a chance in public forums because the media should do its job and expose her craptastic nonsense. Unfortunately for the rest of us the media in all forms is nothing but a bunch of editorial junk
    and has no credibility. Even the few journalists who do exist have no credibility because of the rest of their profession.

  12. Talk about symbolism, one of the names bestowed on the Rayburn House Office building was Rayburn’s last erection.

  13. A most Happy Birthday Sean…enjoyed this White House
    history, a great example of your wonderful way of telling a story….Thanks to you & Craig for sharing it with us…

  14. Jace, since ’65!

    And, here’s one for Michele Bachmann. From an eBay check I just made:
    “Indonesian Bat Guano 11 lbs Sunleave Organic Fertilizer”

    It’s priced at $30.90 delivered.

    Note the Indonesian connection that it will afford with our President!

  15. So Michelle Bachmann thinks that President Obama is responsible for the Iraq fiasco?

    Damn, he must have been some kind of community organizer! ;-)

  16. Wonderful, wonderful piece of writing! Thank you, Lard! And happy birthday to you!

  17. Happy Birthday to you !
    Happy Birthday to you !
    Happy Birthday dear Sean !
    Happy Birthday to you !

    May this day be the best birthday yet !

  18. Last night Sweetie & I celebrated our anniversary by going way the hell&gone to dinner with friends. Afterward we attended a fabulous jazz-y performance in a mintish condition 1889 Romanesque Revival Auditorium.

    First, we ate at the Zanzibar Restaurant* in Menominie, WI, and then went across the street to the historic Mabel Tainter Auditorium and witnessed The Sue Orfield Band erupt. They played Classical Jazz to R&B to Bebop to Rockabilly to Cool Jazz to Soul Jazz, to Psychodelia to Country Rock to Fusion, and the playing was as good as music gets. Sue Orfield belongs in the top rank of Saxophonists -- with Junior Walker, Cannonball Adderly, Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, and Kenny G. I give the Sue Orfield Band 5 Stars.

    * 4.6 Stars out of a possible 5. Menu items from $12 to $23. I had the smoked duck over wilted cabbage with diced red and yellow bell pepper for garnish, all on top of a Liberal enhancement of demi-glace. I asked for their Sebastiani Pinot Noir $8.50 per carefully metered glass, and probably should have asked for something round and sprawling in a shiraz, old red zin, or a plavac. Oh well. I give .2 deduction for the restaurant temperature. It could have been a few degrees warmer. But, I suppose that is why they make cognac. I took off .2 points for the delivery of metered wine. To me the mini carafe, while not an insubstantial amount of wine, is a presentation that confronts the customer with a (tacit) “this is all you get” attitude. If the same amount were brought in a goblet, glass, tin can, or dixie cup, I wouldn’t get the feeling that my drinking poses a threat to the owner’s balance sheet. A restaurant should radiate a family feeling rather than a crass commercial feeling, and the metered carafe speaks of crass commerce. The swift delivery of food and drink by warm & friendly staff, the fabulous duck, and the pleasant surroundings made the Zanzibar a place I want to visit again, despite the 65 mile drive.

    Who knew little rural Menomonie could support such fine dining ?

  19. I now need a year to scrape enough pennies together to celebrate another anniversary.

  20. XR,
    Sounds like a fine time. Good food and good music.Don’t need much else.

    Happy anniversary to you and the Sweetie. ;-)

  21. Thanks, Jace.

    We hit 28 years of wedded bliss (and rare the blister). It is bliss for me, anyway.

    I hope that you are enjoying similar conubial well-being and merriment.

  22. XR,

    Good on you.

    34 and counting.That lovely lady in the picture with me is the best thing that ever happened to me.

  23. Robert Davi has lots of videos on You Tube from the last Republican Convention and on Hannity. Here’s one

  24. For the last 10 years, since 9/11, the police have been almost universally popular folk heroes.

    Now that OWS is around, they’ve reverted to their usual role as anti-democratic thugs.

    Odd that the police never attacked the Tea Party.

    Oh, wait.

    The Tea Party are anti-democratic thugs, also.

  25. No one if more afraid of OWS than Obama. They see right through his phoney progressive act. No one has been a better friend to the criminal bankers.

    OWS is a greater threat to Obama’s re-election than anything the GOP/Tea Party could do. OWS could take away swing voters and a large portion of the Dem base.

    When OWS comes to DC next spring, several hundred thousand strong, what will Obama do? Mobilize the 101st Airborne Division and flee to Europe?

  26. All this talk of snow, birthdays, and anniversaries has given me chills and palpitations.

    Fortunately, I’ve remembered where the brandy is.

    Joyous felicitations to all!

  27. sorry about the faulty link at 11:04. maybe this one will work

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/microbes-may-play-crucial-role-in-human-health-researchers-discovering/2011/09/24/gIQA5AembL_story.html

    solar, i bet you’ll like this from that stein story

    The average person’s body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 is human.

    only a shell of oneself. we host a whole world of other critters and think we’re in control. ha!
    our 90% of microbes might take umbrage at that ows “we are the 99%” slogan.

  28. XR
    You should really start toting a small battery powered blender with you when you go restauraunting. Simply dump the contents of the carafe into the blender and zap for a few seconds. Both the wine and the wine service will dramatically improve.

  29. Flatus, I put that helpful hint up awhile back for a way to make cheap wine taste expensive for entertaining guests.

  30. Mr. Cracker is a big-time party-er and Halloween his favorite holiday. So we are going out --wrapped in bubble wrap --

    We are modeling the latest in Occupy Wear -- i

  31. Gov Christie just declared a state of emergency
    Little Cesar’s can’t deliver

  32. Jamie..I really liked Margin Call. I saw it at Cinema 21, an independent theater in Portland this past week. Wonderful acting..not overstated…Everyone should see it.

    Happy Birthday Sean Holton..I enjoyed the White House piece.

  33. KGC…. it’s snowing like a banshee here. We’ve already got about 8 inches and it’s suppose to snow all night. Luckily it’s light and fluffy because of our higher elevation. But if it’s wet and heavy… which it might be in New Jersey… that’s really bad news. That will mean power outages. The biggest problem is that the leaves are still on the trees and the ground isn’t frozen yet.

    But let’s face it…. your post…. ROFL!

    Xrep…. Happy, Happy, Anniversary!

  34. XR

    Happy Anniversary what a wonderful celebration.

    RR
    Just could not resist

  35. Jamie, if I recall, CR said it improved all the wines they tried it on. They had a check-marked boxed Shiraz that they spun-up and they didn’t want to go home (my words). Wine Woot has some really good prices on delivered wines. Might be worth experimenting. But, I didn’t realize that you had tried a battery operated blender. Phooey--there goes my patent.

  36. V.P. Joe Biden Gives a Stemwinder After Blasting ‘Zero Credibility’ Republicans
    by Taylor Marsh

    Remember who we are…

    From a whisper to a rallying cry, V.P. Joe Biden reveals how it’s done. Not because of just the words, but because you believe the man who’s saying it. He’s the exact vice president Barack Obama needs, providing the perfect emotional connection to issues, not just professorial meanderings on a theme.

    GOP getting in way of change, Biden tells Democrats, teachers union

    Paraphrasing President Franklin Roosevelt’s attacks on his Republican critics in the 1930s, Biden belittled House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate President Mitch McConnell as “a beautiful rhythm of obstructionists, Boehner, Cantor and Mitch.”

    Biden accused Republicans of creating the very budget deficits that they campaign against, and of not understanding that their tax-cuts proposals and vow to kill health-care reform would make the budget situation worse.

    “That’s what I find absolutely bizarre: Republicans moralizing about deficits. That’s like an arsonist moralizing about fire safety,” he said. “These guys have zero credibility.”

    [...] Biden said Republicans had sold the public the message that teachers and their union are responsible for bad schools.

    “Folks, this is one of the biggest scams in modern American history,” he said. “They’re using you to launch the most direct assault on labor, not just in my lifetime, but since the ’20s.”

    Go get ‘em, Joe

    .

  37. The Court and the Next Presidenthttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/the-supreme-court-and-the-next-president.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha211

    The Republican presidential hopefuls have been saying alarming things about the federal courts.

    Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which Mr. Gingrich says is “consistently radical” — meaning it upholds civil rights and civil liberties and other things he doesn’t like. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul say they would forbid the Supreme Court from ruling on same-sex marriage, forgetting perhaps that presidents don’t actually get to do that. Rick Perry has called for term limits for Supreme Court judges, although he hasn’t said whether he meant all of them, or just the liberal ones.

  38. The cops across America are getting paid overtime to ‘police’ the OWS movement. In my day, we called them ‘pigs’ when they violently acted upon fellow citizens. Perhaps, it is time to bring back the historic name.

  39. What gets me is that the OWS people are opposed to police and fire being laid off in order to balance budgets and give tax breaks to corporations.

    There is a call for a General Strike on November 2. I wonder what the police and fire unions will do?

  40. Guy Fawkes day is still with us over four hundred years later….and Halloween, Samhain and every autumn ritual is upon us. Plus, we have 11-11-11 to look forward to…numerology is upon us. Makes for a interesting time and the energy is here.

  41. Xrep ,28 years ! That should qualify the little lady for sainthood or something ,putting up with you for that long ,
    Happy anniversary

  42. On Friday I was watching the Dylan Ratigan Show segment Eli Roth, host of Discovery Channel’s Curiosity “How evil are you?” The show Airs Sunday, Oct. 30 at 9PM E/P. In the segment they talked about Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment from 1961. I have posted numerous times “The Republican Party including the TEA Party is nothing more … Bible thumbing, mindless sheep, social conservative, evangelical fundamentalists that take their ‘orders’ or direction from their pastors, radio and/or TV talk shows and never ask WHY.” In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum and possibility fatal shocks. So 65% of us will obey a “person in a position of authority” to do unthinkable things. It does explain a lot about us.

    The Milgram Obedience Experiment
    The Perils of Obedience
    By Kendra Cherry

    “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” –Stanley Milgram, 1974

    If a person in a position of authority ordered you to deliver a 400-volt electrical shock to another person, would you follow orders? Most people would answer this question with an adamant no, but Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments during the 1960s that demonstrated surprising results. These experiments offer a powerful and disturbing look into the power of authority and obedience.

    Replicating Milgram: Researcher Finds Most Will Administer Shocks to Others When Prodded by ‘Authority Figure’
    Obedience rates essentially unchanged in more than 40 years; no differences between men and women
    December 19, 2008

    WASHINGTON – Nearly 50 years after one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a social psychologist has found that people are still just as willing to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks to others when urged on by an authority figure.

  43. Great Sean Holton piece. Belated Happy Birthday to Sean.

    XR a belated Happy Anniversary to you and the Sweetie. May there be many more. Go for the GOLD!

  44. Sunday Sublime.

    A little Southern harmony courtesy of Anonymous 4 and the Sacred Harp. Enjoy.

  45. Great shot of Hillary on the cover of TIME!
    Hillary’s Closeup
    by Taylor Marsh

    The issue above is slated to hit newsstands on November 7, the day before my book, The Hillary Effect – Politics, Sexism and the Destiny of Loss comes out. I urge you to read this article, which is behind a subscriber wall. It will cost you $2.99 to get access for one week. Do it, if you possibly can. The media establishment needs to see evidence that Hillary Rodham Clinton, whether you love her or hate her, is a woman worthy of coverage and that people will pay to read candid articles and books about her, because of what she has accomplished. It’s how Sarah Palin happened, even after her vice presidential candidacy collapse. Sarah became bankable because of her fans. No one deserves to become monetized in media terms, that people will pay to read about her, more than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    They say timing is everything and I certainly hope so. Because Hillary has earned it, that’s why I wrote my book. This woman, this dynamo, this fighting female made history and her story matters to American politics, but now even the world.

    Secy. Clinton has made U.S. history in putting women and girls at the forefront of U.S. diplomacy. Her impact in Afghanistan, Africa, but also in the world at large is undeniable. Across the globe backward countries like Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan still abuse and marginalize women, as will no doubt happen in Libya if sharia law is implemented. But Clinton gave women a voice, a megaphone and a platform, and though there will be brutal battles ahead to drag religious fundamentalist Arab and Muslim countries and the citizenry into modernity, it has begun.

  46. In watching the Sunday talking head shows from network to cable, everyone seems to think the OWS and Tea Party are similar! I wish one pundit would state the difference between OWS and the Tea party IS the role of government. And that difference defines the movement. OWS wants effective government to fight against private abuses, theft and greed and the Tea party wants no government and a free for all private system where the wealthy rule in place of government.

    I am sick of hearing the movements are similar.

  47. U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq
    By THOM SHANKER and STEVEN LEE MYERS

    MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

    Despite Difficult Talks, U.S. and Iraq Had Expected
    The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

  48. Michele Bachmann Wouldn’t Do ‘Anything’ To Help Children Of Undocumented Immigrants

    Michelle Bachmann said Saturday she would not help children of immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally.

    At a campaign stop in Iowa, a Latino college student asked the presidential hopeful what she would do to the children of undocumented immigrants. Bachmann reiterated her hard-line stance that the federal government should not grant them citizenship and said she “would not do anything” for them.

    “Their parents are the ones who brought them here … they did not have the legal right to come to the United States,” she said. “We do not owe people who broke our laws to come into the country. We don’t owe them anything.”

    Ha and if she would have said this at a Republican(hate show)debate the audience would have cheered!!

  49. Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?
    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

    CITIGROUP is lucky that Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed when he was. The Libyan leader’s death diverted attention from a lethal article involving Citigroup that deserved more attention because it helps to explain why many average Americans have expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The news was that Citigroup had to pay a $285 million fine to settle a case in which, with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.

  50. Flat tax a flat-out fraud
    Robert Reich

    The so-called flat tax is all the rage among Republican presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain was the first. Now, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich have come up with their own flat-tax proposals.

    The flat tax is a fraud. It raises taxes on the poor and lowers them on the rich.

    The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that Cain’s flat-tax plan (the only one that’s been set out in any detail) would lower the after-tax incomes of poor households (incomes below $30,000) by 16 to 20 percent.

    Meanwhile, 95 percent of households with more than $1 million of income would get an average tax cut of $487,300. And capital gains (a major source of income for the very rich) would be tax-free.

  51. Why does Bill Daley still have a job?
    Just as the president gets his political footing, his arrogant chief of staff trips him up
    BY JOAN WALSH

    My favorite part comes when Simon asks Daley how the White House keeps politics and policy separate. “They can be separate, yeah,” Daley says. “You can say, ‘Look, this may be good policy, but the politics of it may be shitty.” Simon asks which Obama will go for, and Daley’s answer may well find its way into a 2012 GOP ad. “He’ll try to find that middle ground,” Daley says. “How close can we get to it being really shitty policy or really shitty politics but getting something accomplished?’” (For the record, Politico used dashes to denote the dirty words, but I think the quote is most honest if rendered the way Daley said it.)

    That’s a deeply stupid remark, but Simon plays it straight; in fact, the profile comes off as worshipful. The Politico veteran relates that Daley used to keep an old “Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply” sign in his Chicago law office, as a typical Daley reminder, in Simon’s words, “of where they came from and how far they have gotten.” Oh please. Sure, generations back Daley is said to be descended from famine Irish, but where Bill Daley came from is a place of privilege: He is the son of perhaps the most powerful mayor in America

    .

  52. Just finished watching Dick Armey on This week. I don’t think the man is stupid which means that he is one of the greediest and mean bastards on the planet.

  53. It looks like the Europeans are going to fix their financial problems, and due to populist uprisings on the right (Tea Party) and left (OWS), the USA will probably do that also.

    Politicians of both parties are learning that they have to regulate the financial system, and change the tax system, in order to protect the middle class if they want to keep their jobs. Next, they have to fully support quality education, research & development, universal health insurance, and develop a policy to stop the outsourcing of manufacturing.

    This isn’t rocket science. If we don’t build a sustainable economy, we’ll all be working for the Chinese in 10 years.

  54. GPS is easily the best of the Sunday programs now. FZ is so intelligent and informed, and he presents information that informs rather than insults. Meet the Press is almost unwatchable now, and Amanpour is okay, but disappoints as host of This Week. I miss George Stephanopoulous (or however you spell it!)…. :o

  55. In 1919, daley’s dad was treasurer of the Hanover Club that started the murderous race riot of that year, when a black male was alleged to have swum across the invisible line that separated the Black and White sections of Lake Michigan. While the daleys may have bridled at “no Irish need appy” signs, they practiced “we kill ni**ers who swim here”.

  56. While discussing Boomerang, his new book about the financial crisis, Michael Lewis, described the situations of the major players in European debacle.

    The Irish were shouldering the burden of their debts in penitence for borrowing to create a real estate bubble.

    The Icelanders had felt that as the descendants of Vikings they had a right to borrow to colonize other countries. When they hit the wall they chose bankruptcy and ensuing depression for the next generation -- relapsing into the state from which they’d arisen.

    The Greeks borrowed to pay people to not work -- especially to pay their tax collectors to not work -- and failed to invest in anything that would grow their miniscule economy. Now they are angry that they have to repay the loans. Their attitude is that everything was invented by Greeks, 2,500 years ago, and now we all owe them a handsome living in perpetuity, Lewis said that Greece is a moral sewer.

  57. XR@1435
    What many outsiders don’t realize is that EU is composed of two groups--the original treaty group in which nations such as the UK joined the political/defense organization but declined to toss their currency into the Euro Stew. The remaining members are trying to stomach the vetch that the Euro Stew has become while the British toss stones at them.

    We, quite wisely, have been trying to keep our public mouth shut.

    Germany and France, at least a couple of times a day, tell the Brits to shuddup already--because they didn’t embrace the Euro, they don’t have a voice in the current crisis.

  58. If I were counsellor to the German Chancellor and French President, I would advise selling Greece to the Turks. The
    Ottomans ran the joint for 500 without defaulting once. In 150 years, the Greeks have screwed their creditors 3 times, and are ‘restructuring’ their present debt. Restructuring = preparing to screw again.

  59. XR,

    You could no doubt get the listing for Greece, you could sell it right along with Wyoming and Texas. ;-)

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