From Divided States, A ‘united’ Nation — Thanks To These Men

A longtime journalist with The Guardian, Simon Winchester is also the author of The Professor and the Madman.

Winchester talks to NPR’s Scott Simon about the uniting influence of canals, roads and (our favorite) radio. Interview Highlights On how his perspective as an Englishman allows him to appreciate the United States’ unity I think our experience in Europe shows how very difficult it is for a polyglot peoples to be welded into one. … It is, to me, quite remarkable that a nation full of as many peoples and ethnic varieties and languages and religious affiliations can nonetheless call itself united. On the Chicago Sanitary District Canal, a unifying solution to a very messy problem Chicago is beguilingly close to the Mississippi River, so why not link the two? And there was an additional problem … all Chicago’s sewage and I don’t want to put people off their breakfasts here but all the sewage would sweep through central Chicago out into the lake. And of course, on a hot day, the effluent, it was a ghastly smell. And so there were numerous pleas from the citizens of Chicago, saying, “Let’s get the sewage out and send it to the West and to where people don’t care about it.” So, they did build first of all the Illinois and Michigan Canal … and then finally they took it upon themselves this engineer called Isham Randolph to build an almighty canal to serve the dual purpose of sending the sewage out to the West, but also to allow ocean-going ships. A longtime journalist with The Guardian, Simon Winchester is also the author of The Professor and the Madman. Setsuko Winchester/Courtesy of Harper A longtime journalist with The Guardian, Simon Winchester is also the author of The Professor and the Madman. Setsuko Winchester/Courtesy of Harper On the “wire rope express,” a name for the early telegraph That was the name given by Native Americans to this peculiar phenomenon of a copper or metal wire suspended between poles. …

United States of America: Political myths and realities

United States of America

Staff Writer The United States will reduce delivery of some military and cash assistance to Egypt pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government with free and fair elections, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says. As a result of the review directed by President Obama, we have decided to maintain our relationship with the Egyptian government, while recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests, Psaki said in a prepared statement. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the change in military assistance while traveling in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 10. Kerry told journalists that the United States has been having constant conversations regarding the way forward in Egypt and that the interim government fully understands the U.S. commitment to the success of the Egyptian government. And by no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or severing of our serious commitment to helping the government meet those goals, Kerry added. In addition, were going to continue to support areas that directly benefit the Egyptian people education, private sector development, he added. We want to make sure that the road map results in a constitution that recognizes universal human rights, that respects minorities, that brings people to the table in an inclusive way, and ultimately results in free and fair elections, Kerry said. In his discussions with the interim government, Kerry said, the Egyptian leaders have insisted that is exactly the road map they are on and intend to achieve. He added that the United States is holding back a certain amount of assistance that is not relevant to the immediate needs of the government or for security. The reduction in some assistance follows the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy in July and a crackdown on several political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States is withholding delivery of four F-16 fighter jet aircraft, tank kits for the M1A1 main battle tank, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 10 Apache attack helicopters, a senior U.S. administration official said at an October 9 background briefing in Washington. The United States also is postponing the joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercise Bright Star.

United States Reduces Some Military Assistance to Egypt

Americans revolted in 1776 in large part to establish Home Rule. If the Crown, in the 18th century, had been like the Crown of the 21st century, it would probably have been the first country in the Commonwealth. Instead, an activist King led to the perception that a complete break was needed. Since then, American Presidents have been seen as some sort of substitute for that King of old and since the Second World War, have been treated as King-Emperors. The thing is, the American Constitution doesnt support that. Presidents are symbols, rallying points, and administrators. Theyre not supposed to rule by divine right, as did the King they rebelled against. Much is made these past few days, for instance, of how Obama won the 2012 election, so stop fighting over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). But constitutionally, all Obama can do is work with what Congress votes for. Right now theyre not voting funds for that Act (or many other things). He can try the bully pulpit approach, but the reality is that if Congress approves 50 cents and hes got a dollars worth of plans, he spends 50 cents, in accordance with whatever restrictions were put on it in the enabling legislation. (American money bills tend to direct the spending, rather than created broad-based spending envelopes or an overall budget that allows for reallocation as we use.) Likewise, he may want to borrow a few trillion dollars more, to do all the things hes got planned, but if Congress doesnt vote to allow that borrowing, then as President he is constitutionally obligated to cut program spending to fit within whats available. A failure to do so could well be considered grounds for impeachment: it would, at the very least, be a potentially-treasonous violation of his oath of office (to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States). The myth is that the President is all powerful.