On Wednesday, Daltrey, lead singer of legendary English rock band The Who, will perform at a ceremony honoring Winston Churchill. Secretary of State John Kerry and congressional leaders are expected to attend the event, where a bust of the former British prime minister will be unveiled.
"I am pleased to be part of the celebration of Winston Churchill and the longstanding relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States," Daltrey said in a statement. "I am honoured to be able to show my appreciation to this great man who, as our Prime Minister, fought for and secured freedom for Britain, America, and the citizens of the world."
"What better way to celebrate Winston Churchill's friendship to the United States than to have one of Britain's most legendary recording artists perform in the halls of the Capitol," Boehner said in a statement. "Roger's performance is sure to guarantee that the Churchill bust receives the first-class welcome it deserves." The Speaker's office also posted this "teaser" video to YouTube last week, praising Churchill as the "best friend America ever had."
The dedication ceremony—and Daltrey's latest gig—is the culmination of Boehner's nearly two-year effort to place a bust of Churchill in the US Capitol. In December 2011, the House passed a resolution that tasked the Architect of the Capitol with finding an "appropriate statue or bust" of Churchill. This was the fourth piece of legislation sponsored by Boehner after he became House Speaker in January 2011. Here is the resolution that Boehner submitted:
Republicans have a track record of really caring about busts of Winston Churchill. In 2009, President Obama returned to the British Embassy a Churchill bust that graced the Oval Office in the Bush era. The British press freaked out over this, and it became a conservative meme stateside that was revived in an extraordinarily dumb pseudo-controversy during the 2012 election. "This man, Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office, and if I'm president of the United States, it'll be there again," Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said to a cheering audience at a GOP debate in September 2011.
But the bust being offered a home in Statuary Hall is refreshingly controversy-free. The Chicago-based Churchill Centre, which donated the bust, came up with the idea several weeks ago to invite Daltrey, and contacted Universal Music about bringing the rock star to the US Capitol. "He is an iconic figure in the world of British music of the past 40 years, and he responded very enthusiastically to coming over from the UK," says Lee Pollock, the Centre's executive director. "I don't want to sound flippant, but [Churchill] contributed so many good things in his time, as did the British musicians of the '60s and '70s. They are similarly iconic, in their own rights."
According to Pollock, Daltrey is playing the gig pro bono. He is expected to perform two songs, and to be accompanied by an acoustic guitar player, a pianist, and a local choir during the hour-long ceremony. Separately, the US Army Chorus will perform "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which was reportedly one of Churchill's favorite pieces of music.
This mini-concert isn't Daltrey's first encounter with Washington politicians. Here is President George W. Bush honoring Daltrey and Who guitarist Pete Townshend in December 2008:
UPDATE: Here is footage of Wednesday's event. Daltrey sang "Stand by Me" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." Boehner referred to Daltrey as "rock royalty."
Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Chris Matthews and the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman this week about how Ted Cruz's conservative posturing is part of a 2016 presidential bid. Watch here:
David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.
Capt. Lou Cascino, commander of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pulls security while Staff Sgt. Eric Stephens and 1st Lt. James Kromhout verify their position during a partnered patrol in Madi Khel, Khowst Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. The Soldiers conducted a partnered operation with the newly formed Khowst Provincial Response Company. The operation was used to validate the training that the Khowst PRC recently received and ensure that illegal weapons were not being stored in historical weapons cache points. The U.S. Army/Flickr
Kassela is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge two-term Republican Joe Heck, who is best known for blasting GOP Congressional leadership on their lack of movement on immigration reform. So far, one other Democratic challenger, non-profit executive Erin Bilbray, is also seeking the nomination. The district, which the Cook Political Report identifies as leaning Republican, encompasses parts of Las Vegas and the rural area to the south.
If scientists were to discover, later this week, that an asteroid large enough to destroy the Earth will smash into the planet in a years' time, humanity would have only one course of action, says former astronaut Russell Schweickart: "Make yourself a nice cocktail and go out and watch."
That's why the United Nations is forming an "International Asteroid Warning Group," on the advice of an association of former astronauts, to share data about threatening asteroids. In a set of forthcoming recommendations, the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) will loosely outline the emergency steps that the UN's longstanding Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space must take if the asteroid warning group identifies an extinction-level space rock on a collision course with Earth. (The best option, according to ASE, would be to crash a spacecraft into the asteroid to knock it off course.)
U.S. Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a deck shoot on the flight deck aboard USS New Orleans (LPD 18) Oct. 20, 2013. The 13th MEU is deployed with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ammon W. Carter/Released.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has quietly returned campaign contributions from an ex-con who lured investors for one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in US history—and on whose behalf the tea party lawmaker sought a presidential pardon. According to campaign finance reports, last quarter Bachmann's campaign committee paid $14,000 to a bankruptcy trustee for Frank Vennes, a former North Dakota pawnshop owner who was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison for aiding and abetting fraud.
Vennes has a long history of run-ins with the law. In 1986, federal agents investigating a drug ring in Bismarck came to suspect he was laundering drug money. Posing as Chicago businessmen, investigators began giving Vennes large sums of cash to smuggle out of the country. In one case, according to court documents, Vennes hand-delivered $100,000 to Geneva, where his associates either lost or stole it.
The following year, Vennes was convicted of money laundering—along with cocaine distribution and illegal firearm sales—and sentenced to five years in Minnesota's Sandstone penitentiary. He later sued the federal government for more than $10 million, claiming the federal agents had forced him to peddle drugs and guns to recoup the missing $100,000 and threatened to kill and "dismember" his children if he refused. (Vennes lost; the case was thrown out on appeal.)
On Thursday, the California attorney general and the state's top election watchdog named the "Koch brothers network" of donors and dark-money nonprofits as the true source of $15 million in secret donations made last year to influence two bitterly fought ballot propositions in California. State officials unmasked the Kochs' network as part of a settlement deal that ends a nearly year-long investigation into the source of the secret donations that flowed in California last fall.
As part of the deal, two Arizona-based nonprofits, the Koch-linked Center to Protect Patients Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership, admitted violating state election law. The settlement mandates that the two nonprofits pay a $1 million fine to California's general fund, and the committees who received the secret donations at the heart of the case must also cut a check to the state for the amount of those donations, which totaled $15.08 million.
"There is a sense of increased stress and reduced morale among LLNL technical employees in the weapons program, stemming from a (perceived, at least) combination of reduced resources and increased work requirements," notes the August 2013 assessment of the lab. "We recommend attention to the potential danger that activities that are important for long-term stockpile stewardship may be dropped in favor of seemingly urgent near-term requirements."
There's always the chance that nuclear scientists might be sitting on warheads reading "The Hollow Men" and listening to Josh Ritter (below), depressed that they're babysitting aging weapons that could destroy humankind. But it's more likely that America's "great speedup" has managed to make its way to US nuclear labs. As Mother Jones reported back in 2011, while overall American productivity has skyrocketed since the 1970s, only the top one percent of earners are seeing the gains. For everyone else, wages have remained frustratingly stagnant. Naturally, the potential consequences of an administrative assistant at McDonalds feeling overworked are not quite the same as a guy in charge of the US nuclear stockpile.
"This reminded me of the time after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there was some danger that engineers might be tempted to shop their expertise around and take it to other governments, which posed a proliferation hazard," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. He adds that "I wouldn't overstate its significance, but it's out of the ordinary and I don't recall seeing these concerns about morale before."
While this is only a brief evaluation of one nuclear site, it's hard to imagine that things have gotten much better since August. During the government shutdown, 6,000 employees at LLNL were forced to suspend their research and several other nuclear labs shut down. There has also been a series of cost overruns and a high-profile, embarrassing security breach at a different nuclear site last year, which involved an 82-year-old nun. LLNL did not respond to a request for comment.
"All the sites are having trouble," Aftergood adds. "This is a small window into a world that we don't normally see."
"You pick up your cell phone, and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, 'OK, let it go,'" he said to a group of Yeshiva University students. "So there's an atomic weapon, goes over, ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. And then you say, 'See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran.'"
If this strikes you as a catastrophically stupid idea, you've got company. "The unprovoked use of nuclear weapons for the first time in 60 years against another country would utterly destroy the legitimacy of U.S.-led efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program," Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, writes in an email.
But let's play Sheldon's Advocate—if the US were to bomb the Iranian desert, would anyone be hurt, save for some very unlucky scorpions?