On Staying Grounded

Venkat Rao:

It seems to me that I have no true sense of the sacred in my life, comparable to what my religious or spiritual friends claim to feel. To me, the term is merely convenient shorthand for certain behaviors that anchor my lifestyle, rather than a reference to something ineffable and mystical.

I like to occasionally troll religious people by claiming I am ritualistic rather than religious. It is a particularly good line for annoying those who claim to be spiritual rather than religious. I keep exactly what they discard from religion, and discard exactly what they keep.

The Flight from Dallas

Chris Jones:

President Johnson has never been on Air Force One — which is code-named Angel by the Secret Service — at least not in flight. Whenever he and Kennedy were flying to the same city, he would ask for permission to come aboard, to be allowed to share a little of Kennedy’s spotlight, to wave from the top of the same ramp. Those requests were always refused—Kennedy always citing security concerns, Johnson always believing his exile was for more personal reasons. The Kennedy people dismissively called him Rufus Cornpone, the sort of man capable of ruining a good suit just by wearing it. Evelyn Lincoln says later that Johnson’s repeated demotion to Air Force Two “bothered the vice-president more than anything else.” Now here he is, flying on the first plane, leaving the second in its wake—not due to the favor of a more powerful man but because he is the most powerful man. He looks around the stateroom. Jackie Kennedy had helped decorate it. Soon he will have much of it torn out.

I’m fascinated by these comments—and it is just campaign rhetoric—suggesting that we haven’t done enough for the poor. The truth of the matter is we’ve done a lot more than anybody else has ever done. The average compensation—income—for the bottom 20 percent is higher than in almost every other city. Of course, the average compensation for the top 20 percent is 25 percent higher than the next four cities. But that’s our tax base. If we can find a bunch of billionaires around the world to move here, that would be a godsend, because that’s where the revenue comes to take care of everybody else. Who’s paying our taxes? We pay the highest school costs in the country. It comes from the wealthy! We have an $8.5 billion budget for our Police Department. We’re the safest big city in the country—stop me when you get bored with this! Life expectancy is higher here than in the rest of the country—who’s paying for that? We want these people to come here, and it’s not our job to say that they’re over- or underpaid.
In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg

Welcome to the Green Zone

William Langewiesche:

The Most Honored Photograph

Roger Cicala:

Once they started flying their plane on difficult photoreconnaissance missions, they made some modifications. Even among the men of a combat air station, the Eager Beavers became known as gun nuts. They replaced all of the light 30 caliber machine guns in the plane with heavier 50 caliber weapons. Then the 50 caliber machine guns were replaced with double 50 caliber guns. Zeamer had another pair of machine guns mounted to the front of the plane so he could remotely fire them like a fighter pilot. And the crew kept extra machine guns stored in the plane, just in case one of their other guns jammed or malfunctioned.

As odd as all this sounds, the South Pacific theatre in the early days of World War II was a chaotic area scattered over thousands of miles with very little equipment. Having a plane with an apparently nutty crew who volunteered for every awful mission not surprisingly made the commanding officers look the other way.