Tag Archives: FDR

Yes, the government works for us

My wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — are preparing for a two-week-plus journey out west where we’re going to enjoy the sights associated with two massive federal government projects.

Yes, the federal government has lured us to take in these projects’ splendor and to marvel at the genius that created them.

Our first stop will be the nation’s first national park: Yellowstone. We’ll be parked outside the west gate of Yellowstone in an RV camp in Montana.

The federal government established Yellowstone National Park in 1872. It would the first in a long line of gorgeous exhibits of natural splendor.

And yet we get rumblings from Washington that the government wants to scale back its national park land, specifically its national monuments, which also are run by the National Park Service, an arm of the Department of Interior.

I am of the view that we need to set aside more land for Americans to enjoy, not less of it.

We intend to see Yellowstone again and thank those far-sighted individuals who saw fit to create a national park system that would stand the test of time … and I hope it’s forever!

From there we’ll venture to the Columbia River in eastern Washington, where we’ll take a gander at a project that came into being during the Great Depression.

President Franklin Roosevelt inherited an economy in free fall in 1933. He then set about creating the mother of government economic stimulus packages. It included the Bureau of Reclamation, which began construction on Grand Coulee Dam in July 1933.

This is a product of what I would call “good government.” It’s a quaint saying these days. We don’t hear much about the good that government does on behalf of Americans. Grand Coulee produces electricity and also irrigates some fertile farm land where growers produce food to feed millions of Americans.

How can that ever be a bad thing?

So we’ll cast our gaze on these two governmental masterpieces. They’ll make me even prouder of the things my government has done for all of us.

Nagasaki: That bomb ended it!

The United States Army Air Force dropped a second big bomb 73 years ago today.

That one exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. The first big blast, at Hiroshima, didn’t bring Japan to the surrender table. The second one did.

The atomic age had entered the world of warfare. It was called the Manhattan Project, where some of the world’s most brilliant nuclear physicists worked to perfect the atomic bomb.

They did. It worked.

The United States had been at war with Germany, Italy and Japan for nearly four years. Germany surrendered in May 1945; Italy called it quits in 1943.

Japan was left as the remaining Axis power. President Truman, new to the office he inherited when President Roosevelt died in April 1945, had the most difficult of decisions to make: whether to use this terrible new weapon.

He went with his gut. Yes, drop the bomb and hope to save many more lives than will be lost. That calculation proved accurate, too.

Nagasaki was devastated on Aug. 9, 1945 by an even bigger bomb than the one that leveled Hiroshima three days earlier. Less than a week after Nagasaki was incinerated, the Japanese surrendered.

World War II came to an end.

President Truman said he didn’t regret deploying the bomb. Many of the great men who developed it had second thoughts. The likes of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein eventually expressed some form of regret for their roles in developing this monstrous weapon.

We all hope never to use them again. Twice was more than enough.

I can recall a quote attributed to Einstein, who once was asked how he thought a third world war would be fought. He said, in effect, that he didn’t know with absolute certainty, but was certain that the fourth world war would be fought “with sticks and stones.”

Yes, we’ve seen ‘fire and fury,’ Mr. President

You no doubt remember when Donald John Trump threatened North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Kim had issued some threats to the United States. The president was having none of it. Well, the president isn’t exactly a student of history, as we know.

Seventy-three years ago today, one of Trump’s predecessors, President Harry Truman, issued the order to release a new kind of “fire and fury” on a nation with which we were at war.

A U.S. Army Air Force B-29 bomber took off on Aug. 6, 1945, from Tinian Island and headed for Hiroshima, Japan. It dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima. It killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens in an instant. It was the first time the world saw a nuclear weapon deployed in a hostile act. It wouldn’t be the final time.

Three days later, another bomber flew over Nagasaki, Japan, and repeated the destruction.

The Japanese surrendered five days later, ending the world’s greatest, bloodiest and costliest conflict.

President Truman took office in April 1945 upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. The new president knew only a tiny bit of information about the Manhattan Project, where scientists were working on this terrible new weapon way out yonder in Los Alamos, N.M.

President Truman was briefed fully not long after he took office. The military brass told him, in effect, “Mr. President, we have this weapon under development that we believe will bring a quick end to the war.” The president agreed.

He would say many years later that he harbored no regret over using the atomic bomb. I have saluted President Truman many times over the years for the decision he made, based on the evidence he had at the time — and the lives he saved by persuading the enemy to surrender and allowing us to forgo an invasion of Japan by sea, air and land forces.

Fire and fury? There it was.

Still missing this great American

Forty years ago, on the Fourth of July, 1978, I walked into my house and got the news from my wife.

My grandmother had just passed away. She is the one on the right in the picture above. My reaction kind of surprised me then: She was in her 80s and I knew she had been sick; still, I put my arms on the fireplace mantle and sobbed, cried like a baby.

The picture, by the way, is of three of my grandparents. There was Diamontula Filipu and her husband, George, my mom’s parents; the lady on the left is my dad’s mother, Katina Kanelis.

This is a poignant remembrance. For starters, I always remember Yiayia’s death, as she did die on the anniversary of the birth of her adopted home country. My wife reminded me a few days after learning of Yiayia’s death that she picked the Fourth of July just to be sure I’d remember.

We called her Yiayia, because that’s Greek for “grandmother.” Indeed, her southeast Portland, Ore., neighbors called her Yiayia; the store clerks did, too. The mailman, the milkman called her Yiayia.

I have referred to Yiayia in previous blogs as a “great American.” She was a diminutive patriot who stood taller than anyone around her when she talked about her country.

She emigrated here from Turkey in the early 20th century. Her husband, my Papou George, already had relocated to Portland to await Yiayia’s arrival. She got off the boat at Ellis Island in New York City, processed through immigration, then asked someone how long it would take her to get to  Portland. The person she asked presumed she meant Portland, Maine, and told her it would take about four hours.

Four days later, she ambled off the train on the other side of a vast nation. Intrepid? Yeah, she embodied the meaning of the term.

She shares this date of Earthly departure with two other great Americans: Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom died on the same day, July 4, 1826 — precisely 50 years after the nation they helped create came into being.

I hold up Yiayia’s American greatness to any who have lived in this country. Whether they were born here or came here of their own volition, Yiayia stood tall among them.

She never returned to her native Turkey. She always said she was “home” and had no desire to return to where she entered this world as an ethnic Greek in what the current president of the United States might call a “sh**hole” country.

She might not have been allowed into this country that seeks a “merit-based” immigration system. She lacked formal education. She didn’t have any professional skills that I can recall. She merely was a loving wife, mother and grandmother. My sisters and I spent much time with her, playing silly games and laughing at stories she would tell about her beloved husband, George, who died when I was a baby.

Yiayia also was a patriot. She adored FDR and JFK.

I miss her to this day. So should the country she loved with all her heart.

USS Arizona to add to War Memorial

AMARILLO, Texas — I guess it can be stated clearly: A piece of one of the darkest days in U.S. history is going to adorn the Texas Panhandle War Memorial in south Amarillo.

It’s the product of some wheeling and dealing by Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell, who has been working with federal and state of Hawaii officials to bring a piece of the USS Arizona to the Texas Panhandle.

They’re going to add the piece to the War Memorial on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7. It will arrive around 11 a.m. Saturday at the Randall County Event Center, where they’ll have a welcoming ceremony.

This is an extremely poignant addition to the War Memorial, which already includes — in addition to the stone tablets chronicling the conflicts this nation has engaged in and those who died in them — an F-100 Super Sabre jet and a UH-1 Huey helicopter.

The Arizona was one of several big ships sunk in Pearl Harbor more than seven decades ago in the event that brought the United States into World War II. President Roosevelt called it a “date which will live in infamy.”

It’s a date we cannot forget. We must always remember it.

Judge Houdashell told me some months ago about the Arizona memento coming here. He was thrilled beyond belief to get it done.

I am proud of my friend for scoring this magnificent addition to the War Memorial.

Hiroshima debate will rage until the end of time

Seventy-two years ago today a single U.S. Army Air Force bomber dropped a single bomb on a Japanese city and ushered the nuclear age into modern warfare.

The plane was called the Enola Gay, named after the mother of the bomber’s commanding officer, Col. Paul Tibbetts. The place was Hiroshima. The atomic bomb killed many thousands of Japanese civilians — quite literally in a flash of light, heat and unimaginable concussive force.

Aug. 6, 1945 has gone down in history as arguably the most compelling moment of the 20th century. American air power would drop another atomic bomb three days later on Nagasaki, Japan. The Japanese would surrender a few days after that and World War II would come to an end.

The debate has raged for seven decades: Should we have dropped the bomb? Did we have to kill so many Japanese civilians? Would the Japanese have surrendered without having to suffer such horrific destruction?

I have some proverbial skin in that argument. A young man was stationed in The Philippines when the bombs fell on Japan. He was serving in the U.S. Navy and well could have taken part in the invasion of Japan had it occurred. We also well might have died in the effort, denying him the chance to return home and start a family that resulted in, well, yours truly being born.

Dad made it home from that terrible war, got married and produced his family. I wrote four years ago about how the Hiroshima decision remains quite personal:

Hiroshima gets personal with me

President Harry Truman had been in office only since April 1945; he assumed the power of the presidency upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. He only learned about the A-bomb development after he had taken the oath.

The newly minted commander in chief was handed some information that could have shortened the war by weeks, maybe months. Yes, the option before him would cost a lot of Japanese lives and he knew that at the top. He had to make a stern choice: Do I deploy this weapon knowing the destruction it will bring to the enemy’s homeland or do I risk sending our young men into battle at the cost of many thousands of American lives?

The president knew the consequences of the choice he had to make.

In my mind — and in my heart and gut — the president made the correct call. I cannot be objective or analytical about this. It’s personal, man.

God bless President Truman.

Memorial recalls memory of favorite veteran

WASHINGTON — The atmosphere in the nation’s capital has become overheated, overblown and overstated. It’s not a happy place if you are a politician who wants to do the right thing, but you get caught up in the daily — if not hourly — struggles between the two major political parties.

They all ought to come to this place perhaps once a week. They should cast their eyes on the World War II Memorial, which reminds us of just how titanic our struggles can get.

I came here with my wife, our niece and her husband. It was hot that day. During our entire walk along The Mall, I managed to put contemporary politics aside. I thought instead of my favorite veteran. I’ve written before about my father, the late Pete Kanelis. He served during this struggle, the one that enveloped the globe from 1939 until 1945.

The picture above honors those who served in the European Theater of World War II, as Dad did. He saw combat as a sailor in the Med.

Yes, I have heard about critics of this particular memorial, one of the newer exhibits along The Mall. It’s too gaudy, too grand, too big, they say. It really isn’t, at least in my view. It honors a massive military engagement. By the end of the global war, more than 16 million Americans suited up to enter the fight; whether it was at home or abroad, they answered the call and performed magnificently.

They were, as the author/journalist Tom Brokaw has written, The Greatest Generation.

At the other end of the WWII Memorial pool is a section devoted to the Pacific Theater of Operations.

There, too, Americans and their allies fought across the vast ocean to take back land conquered by Japan. They endured sacrifice most of only can imagine. My favorite veteran happened to be in The Philippines when President Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs in August 1945. The enemy surrendered. Thus, I remain convinced that the president likely saved Dad’s life. I am eternally grateful for the president.

We walked along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. They all reminded us of the nation’s greatness and they allowed me to set aside the ongoing anger and anxiety I am feeling about the present day.

Later in the day, we saw Marine One fly overhead on its way back to the White House, carrying the president of the United States back from wherever he had spent the weekend.

I had been filled with awe at what we had seen. In that context, seeing the presidential aircraft made me appreciate the struggles that accompanied the building and the development of the world’s greatest nation.

Dad would have been proud, too.

Nation’s capital still stirs the emotions

WASHINGTON — This is the most political city in America, if not the world and politics being what it has become in recent decades, this city is full of a lot of hard feelings and recrimination.

You know my own feelings about the current president of the United States. But this blog post isn’t about that — and it damn sure isn’t about him. It’s about the myriad monuments, memorials and assorted structures throughout the city that pay testament to the nation’s greatness.

We came to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s like an outdoor church. Visitors lower their voices. They speak in solemn tones. They look at the 58,000-plus names etched into the stone, seeking to recall memories of the individuals who gave their last full measure.

I found a name I had spotted the first time my family and I came here in 1990. He was a young man with whom I served briefly in Vietnam. He was set to go home in a few days, but fate intervened at a landing zone where he and his Huey helicopter unit was ambushed in June 1969 by enemy fighters.

We toured much of the Washington Mall, walked through the World War II, read the inscriptions from the likes of Chester Nimitz, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, George C. Marshall that paid tribute to the brave Americans who — along with soldiers from many other nations — saved the world from tyranny. My all-time favorite veteran, my father, was one of the 16 million Americans who answered the call to duty. I thought of Dad while marveling at the grandeur of the WWII memorial.

Not far from that is the Korean War Memorial, which pays tribute to the “forgotten war.” It, too, cost tens of thousands of American lives. I prayed for the souls of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We cast our eyes on the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and toured the FDR Memorial.

For several precious hours while taking all that in, I was able to set aside the events of the moment. I didn’t think a single time about the confusion, controversy and contentiousness of the present day. I thought instead of the great Americans who built the country and created a nation that remains — despite rhetoric to the contrary — the greatest nation in human history.

We had to see these things to remind us of who we are.

Trump’s big mouth threatens to swallow him

That dreaded 100-day “deadline” looms for Donald John Trump. We’re about one week away from it.

Will it produce a winning report card for the president? Will those of us in the peanut gallery be able to call the new president’s start a rousing success, which Trump himself has done already?

I do not believe so.

Does the 100-day mark matter? Perhaps it shouldn’t count as much as it does. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set up this artificial barrier when he took office in 1933 and it’s been held as sort of the benchmark for early presidential success ever since.

But it’s early in any new president’s term. Donald Trump is no different.

Except for one little thing.

All along the way en route to his winning the election, the Republican candidate for president kept telling us about all the things he would accomplish in those first 100 days.

* Affordable Care Act? Repealed and replaced.

* Tax reform? Enacted.

* Draining the swamp of corruption? He’d institute a new government ethic.

What’s happened? The ACA remains. Tax reform hasn’t even been introduced. The swamp is still full.

The president can count precious few legislative triumphs. In fact, I can’t think of any. Can you? He’s signed a lot of executive orders. I particularly like the one that banned government officials from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving public service.

Sure, he launched that missile strike against Syria after that horrendous chemical weapons attack. I give the president kudos for that action. But he’s got North Korea sounding more threatening than ever; Trump said he dispatched the “great armada” led by the USS Carl Vinson, but the carrier-led strike group to date is nowhere near the Korean Peninsula.

Donald Trump’s very own big mouth has victimized him.

Just maybe once the president gets past this 100-day hurdle, he will decide to tone down his constant boastfulness and learn finally — finally! — that governance requires much more than shooting off one’s big mouth.

Trump’s first 100-day report card coming due

Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the bar for measuring the progress of a new president’s administration. He put it at 100 days.

Presidents had that amount of time to establish the pace and the tone of how they intend to govern, FDR determined. It’s been the benchmark ever since.

How has the 45th president done as his 100th day in office approaches? Not well at all.

That’s the view of almost every observer who gets paid to analyze such things. Donald J. Trump, though, sees it differently. Imagine that, if you can. He’s done a “fantastic” job, he’ll tell you. He’s assembled the “best” team ever created, he will insist. Why, he got a Supreme Court justice nominated and confirmed all within the first 100 days, he has said.

Trump has signed a lot of executive orders, too. He has rolled back many of the policies enacted by President Barack H. Obama. He’s repealed, for instance, regulations that sought to ensure clean air and water; Trump wants to bring more jobs back and he says those job-killing regulations just had to go.

Oh, but legislatively? What has the president done?

Umm. Not much, folks.

The effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act went down in flames. That would be his “first priority.” He got nothin’, man.

Absent a victory there, he then turned his sights on reforming the federal tax code. Now that effort appears stalled. Why? Because a few of his allies in Congress want to restart the ACA repeal/replace effort.

The president has failed to fill most of the key deputy Cabinet posts that need filling. Key Cabinet secretaries are lacking go-to men and women who serve as backstops for them.

The 100th day is less than two weeks out. Will the president be able to proclaim any significant legislative victory? I do not think so.

As one point of comparison, I believe I’ll look back eight years ago to the then-new presidency of Barack Obama. All he managed to do in the first 100 days was shepherd through Congress a $787 billion economic stimulus package that managed to rescue the nation’s collapsing financial system.

How would I grade the current president?

I’ll give him a D-minus. The only thing — in my view — that keeps him from failing outright is that missile strike on the Syrian government.