Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Yorker: How Donald Trump Degrades Us All

For many Americans, Trump is the essence of the “whatever it takes to be rich mentality that makes the rich richer but makes the rest of us poorer. Poorer in many other ways as well. Nevertheless, to too many Americans he was considered a good choice for President of the United States. For the rest of us, he engenders scary thoughts.

As predicted during the presidential campaign, we have come to realize Trump’s political vision is that of a totalitarian.

And, no one should trust a man whose modus operandi is to compulsively lie and spread falsehoods.

Moreover, other than many of Trump’s other troubling traits -- like vindictiveness and crudeness -- he, as The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen points out, is a “foul-mouthed” racist.

Gessen writes:

Many second-day analysis stories have focussed on what Trump’s use of the word tells us about the man’s inner essence. Opinions range from “This is nothing new, we have always known that he is a racist” to “Finally, we can definitively say that he is a racist.” This reaction reflects a very American preoccupation with a person’s perceived innate qualities; the assumption is that it’s always important to know who a person is before making judgments about how the person acts. But that is not the story here. Trump’s racism isn’t news, and we are very unlikely to learn anything new about the inner workings of Trump’s mind and soul, which seem remarkably uncomplicated. What is news is his public behavior and the way it is changing the country.

“. . . Once again, the news is not that the President of the United States is a foul-mouthed racist -- we knew that, and we also knew that this was the reason some people voted for him. The news is that he insists on dragging the rest of us down with him.”

Here's the story:

By Masha Gessen

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Son My Massacre

The Day American’s Slaughtered Five Hundred South Vietnamese, Including Children and Babies

One of many photos taken by
Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle
 on March 16, 1968, in the aftermath
of the My Lai massacre 
On a Saturday morning fifty years ago, March 16, 1968, 18-year-old Truong Moi, a fisherman from the hamlet of My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, went out to check the fishnets he had set in a nearby river. Troung was a member of a community of about 700, including the hamlet of My Khe. They lived in thatch-roofed huts and redbrick homes in the village of Son My, located on Vietnam’s South Central Coast. For the most part untouched by the war, My Lai and My Khe were quiet and peaceful hamlets. Villagers generally did not see soldiers.
But all that changed when the brunt of the Vietnam War abruptly entered their lives. On that Saturday morning, around 7:30 A.M., a barrage of American artillery rounds and strafing by attack helicopters bombarded Truong’s village. Following the shelling, a little less than a third of a mile from where Truong was collecting his night’s catch, three platoons from Americal Division’s Charlie Company disembarked from Huey Slick helicopters. Two platoons surrounded and cordoned off My Lai, bottling up the perimeter while infantrymen from the 1st platoon spearheaded an invasion into the village. Led by Second Lieutenant William Calley, they entered My Lai hamlet. On orders from Company Captain Ernest Medina, they went into the hamlet firing at anything that moved, including women and children. They set fire to huts, blew up homes, killed animals, and poisoned drinking wells. 

In Vietnam, those actions were routine in search and destroy missions. As such, My Lai and My Khe were designated as free-fire zones. Civilian populations always get caught up in war’s mayhem. But, what transpired was not routine. It was not an isolated event, either.

When Charlie Company landed, Truong was terrified and took cover. When he returned home, he found the charred remains of his mother and the remaining members of his family. His brother, his sister, and her two children were dead. In all, twenty-four members of his family had been slaughtered. He found bodies along paths and in ditches, including children, with their throats slit and others naked and disemboweled. 

Working in the rice fields, Truong’s father escaped. His brother survived the slaughter because he had hidden under bodies that shielded him from the bullets. 

At about 9 A.M., at the height of the massacre, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, along with his crew, Specialist Glenn Andreotta and Specialist Lawrence Colburn were flying an observation helicopter over My Lai. On an earlier flyover, Thompson had marked the location of several wounded Vietnamese with green smoke, signaling they needed help, but noticed they were now dead. He and his crew saw Captain Medina walk up to a wounded Vietnamese woman whose location Thompson also marked earlier that morning. Medina nudged her with his foot and then killed her. His flyover included a view of an irrigation ditch with dozens of bodies. There was movement in the ditch indicating some were alive. Thompson landed and requested help for the people in the ditch from Squad Leader Sergeant David Mitchell. Second Lieutenant William Calley interceded, telling Thompson to mind his own business and to get back in his helicopter. Thompson returned and took off. His crew chief, Specialist Andreotta, reported that Squad Leader Mitchell was executing people in the ditch.

Thompson and his crew spotted a group of unarmed Vietnamese, including children, running from infantrymen of 2nd Platoon. Thompson landed knowing the soldiers intended to execute them. Thompson commanded his crew to give him cover and to shoot the Americans if they began shooting at the fleeing villagers. He then put himself between the Vietnamese and Americans. 

He confronted 2nd Platoon Leader Lieutenant Stephen Brooks, telling him he was going to evacuate the Vietnamese and requested his help. Thompson persuaded the pilots of his two Huey gunship escorts to evacuate eleven survivors. Later, on his return from refueling, crew member Specialist Andreotta found a boy alive, who Thompson flew to a hospital in Quang Ngai. 

When it was all over, Charlie Company massacred 347 Vietnamese in My Lai and 157 in the hamlet of My Khe.

Warrant Officer Thompson, because of his actions at My Lai, encountered sharp criticism. Congressmen Mendel Rivers said that Thompson should be the only soldier punished, and even attempted to have him court-martialed. It took thirty years for America to recognize the heroic actions of Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn when they were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for bravery. Thompson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and he, Andreotta and Colburn were awarded Bronze Stars. 

Thompson retired from the Army with the rank of Major in 1983 and died in 2006. Specialist Andreotta was killed in action three weeks after My Lai. 

Those events are troubling enough, but what makes them equally troubling is its acceptance. Accepted because it is perceived, no matter how horrific, that unrestrained violence is the norm in war. Many believe that an American soldier would not deliberately commit such acts, and if they did there were mitigating circumstances for their actions. Despite the fact that, at the time, he essentially whitewashed My Lai’s atrocities, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “… in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored.” 

Other than Calley, participants in the massacre were acquitted or never tried for their crimes. Calley was sentenced to life in prison but pardoned by President Richard Nixon in 1974.

To kill an enemy is a soldier’s purpose. But there are laws of war, and soldiers, whether they are Americans or not, must be held accountable for their conduct. We must not excuse America’s war crimes by doing no more than fluff them off and say they are “to be deplored.” And, we should not whitewash the history of any war, particularly the horror of Vietnam.

In a "60 Minutes" interview, Hugh Thompson said, "I mean, I wish I was a big enough man to say I forgive them [soldiers of Charlie Company at Mỹ Lai], but I swear to God, I can't." 

Neither can I. Neither can I forgive the government who put them there.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

CNN: This may be the scariest thing Donald Trump has said as president

Donald J Trump is a danger for our democracy. He has attributes of a dictator. And if anyone has any doubt, why does he have such a great admiration for authoritarian governments, without even a comment on their human rights abuses?

After all, Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egyptian President Abdel ­Fatah al-Sissi, Thailand’s junta chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha, and Philippine’s strongman President Rodrigo Duterte. In some cases, he has called them friends, and have said they are great examples of leadership.

In 2017, Trump even called North Korea’s Kim Jung Un a “smart cookie,” and praised him on his ability to seize power at such a young age. He has said that he would be “honored” to meet him. Vanity Fair 

Now, Trump has praised China’s President Xi Jinping's successful repeal of his country’s term limits.

Trump said, concerning Xi Jinping’s repeal, at a Republican Party fundraiser held at his Mar-a-Lago resort: “He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday."

These traits and his consistent anti-democratic rhetoric should be a concern for every American.

Vanity Fair

By Chris Cillizza

Monday, March 5, 2018

NBC News: Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say

Donald J Trump’s anticipated and ill-advised announcement of his intent to increase trade tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, which has created the stock market to take a tumble, and troubles in his administration, collectively have.stirred up a hornet's nest.

Some reports say that perhaps Trump’s trade announcement was expedited to take the focus off of an Administration that is in crisis mode. But, then again, it is more likely that, as has been widely reported, Trump became “unglued,” as a White House official put it over the recent turmoil created by a series of events affecting his presidency.

There is plenty of things for Trump to get “unglued” about. There is a contentious relationship between Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Hope Hicks, his White House Communications Director, a tenured adviser and confident has resigned. Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, has lost his top-secret security clearance and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have made Kushner a significant person of interest in their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. And then there is Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is under investigation by FBI counterintelligence. There is also a story that Trump has asked chief of staff John Kelly for help in pushing his daughter and son-in-law out of the White House, according to the NY Times

Because of all of this, two White House officials said Trump was angry and gunning for a fight, and chose a trade war, according to NBC News.

By Stephanie Ruhle And Peter Alexander

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In Opposition to Florida’s voters, Lawmakers Vote To Arm Teachers

In the latest poll of Florida voters, released Wednesday, a broad consensus favors stricter gun laws. But voters do want a ban on assault weapons, and they oppose arming teachers.  

Nevertheless, Florida legislators essentially approved on Tuesday what Donald J Trump has been recommending for the country. And it is why guns in Florida, and the United States if Trump has his way, will continue to be a problem.

Despite voter opposition, the legislators created a program to put armed teachers in classrooms. The approved “school marshal” program, provides for arming 10 marshals in every school, which would mean 37,000 new guns added statewide.

The approved bill would raise the age to 21 for anyone buying a gun in Florida. However, also despite statewide support for a ban, they voted down a measure that would have outlawed assault weapons.

The bill now only needs the approval of Florida’s full house and senate and the governor’s signature to become law. It is reasonable to assume the bill will become law.

Here’s the story:

By Steve Bousquet

Only the Law Can Stop Duterte’s Murderous War on Drugs

Donald Trump says he has a “great relationship” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ahead of his East Asia trip in October, Trump congratulated Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

So evidently, Trump would love to model for the United States what Duterte does in the Philippines. Trump has privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under America’s justice system and the Constitution of the United States.

Not that it’s something I wouldn’t expect from Trump. Nevertheless, it’s very troubling to think that the man occupying the President’s seat in the White House would ever think Duterte’s tactic exemplary.

Under Duterte’s leadership, extrajudicial executions of drug dealers and users are commonplace.

Many victims of Duterte’s war on drugs have been innocent of drug users, not dealers, and have only a drug addiction. Human Rights organization say there have been thousands of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s Philippines.

In the 2016 Philippine Presidential Election, Duterte received roughly seven million more votes than his closest competitor. Like Donald Trump, Duterte’s platform focused largely on his hard-line stance on crime. In comments leading up to Election Day, Duterte “promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.” Once elected, Duterte expanded this position even further to encompass drug users, as well as dealers, “encourage[ing] people in slums to kill neighbors they believed were drug addicts” and “offering to award medals to citizens who shoot uncooperative drug dealers,according to the North Carolina Journal of International Law.

The killing of Manny “Buddy” Wagan by a hit squad outside his small shop selling junk metal just outside Manila was just another bloody evening in Manila, a city that has seen a massive spike in drug war-related violence is how journalist Antony Loewenstein begins his story.

By Antony Loewenstein

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Trump privately talks up executing all big drug dealers

As an answer to America’s endemic drug problem, Donald Trump suggests executing drug dealers as they do in the Philippines.

Trump says, “You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.

Trump says he has a “great relationship” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ahead of his East Asia trip in October, Trump congratulated him for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

Extrajudicial killings are frequent in the Philippines. Duterte authorized police to execute drug dealers. He is proud to have personally killed criminal suspects.

Although authoritarian Trump would love to model what Duerte does in the Philippines, he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system and Constitution of the United States.

Trump’s endorsement of Duerte’s tactics should be found troubling by every American.

By Jonathan Swan

Monday, February 26, 2018

Third-graders are Selling AR-15 Raffle Tickets in Missouri

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Why in the world would a school raffle any weapon, never mind continue to raffle an AR-15 rifle like the one that was used to kill 17 teachers and children in Parkland Florida on Valentines Day.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reports:

Third-graders in a Missouri community are continuing to sell raffle tickets for an AR-15 to benefit their traveling baseball team after the same type of rifle was used to slaughter and injure dozens at a Florida school.

Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under baseball team in Neosho, Mo., told The Star the idea was conceived before the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

A father of one of the players -- who co-founded Black Rain Ordnance Inc., a weapons purveyor in Neosho -- offered the weapon for the raffle. 

Patterson said by phone Saturday that he considered finding a different raffle item after Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but ultimately decided to “turn it into a positive thing” after “getting the hate.”

Patterson said donations have increased to the youth raffle since the school shooting and controversy, with the people as far away as Colorado buying tickets, according to the Kansas City Star. 

Moreover, Tyler Tannahill, a Republican congressional candidate from Kansas, also drew criticism this past week for offering an AR-15 giveaway as part of his campaign.

All when I foolishly thought banning the AR-15 was a no-brainer.

Here’s the story:

By Max Londberg Kansas City Star  

WaPo: After testy call with Trump over border wall, Mexican president shelves plan to visit White House

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto planned a state visit to the United States sometime in March.

In preparation for his visit, the Mexican President in a telephone conversation with Donald Trump asked him “to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive.”

Of course, Trump would not, and as a result of their impasse Peña Nieto called off his planned visit.

According to the Washington Post, “One Mexican official said Trump ‘lost his temper.’ But U.S. officials described him instead as being frustrated and exasperated, saying Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.”

Unreasonable? Really! It’s unreasonable for Trump to believe he would get Mexico to pay for his “big, fat, beautiful wall” in the first place. 

Officials “confirm it was Peña Nieto’s desire to avoid public embarrassment -- and Trump’s unwillingness to provide that assurance -- that proved to be the dealbreaker.”

When announcing his candidacy for President, Trump promised, "I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words." 

And Trump is insistent: Speaking Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Trump told his fans, “Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall,” adding that whenever he hears someone suggest that he does not really want to build a wall, “the wall gets 10 feet higher.” 

At the end of the day, if Trump gets his wall, it’s the American taxpayer who will pay for it.

Here’s the story:

By Philip Rucker, Josh Partlow, Nick Miroff

Sunday, February 25, 2018

NPR: NRA Leader Warns Conservatives of 'Socialist Wave' in Wake of Shooting (Video)

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, accused Democrats of making gun control a political issue in order to achieve their ultimate goal to "eradicate all individual freedoms." Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), LaPierre warned that the intention of the Democrat’s “social agenda” is to confiscate America’s guns.

Although there are Democrats who would like to get rid of guns altogether, the majority of Democrats do not advocate taking away America’s guns.

No one has answered the notion of gun confiscation any better than former President Barack Obama. On June 1, 2016, then President Obama spoke at a town hall in Elkhart, Indiana, for PBS NewsHour.

Doug Rhude, a gun shop owner, challenged President Obama's record on gun control. Arguing that irresponsible people in our society are accountable for actions such as drinking and driving without having cars taken away from ‘the good guys,’ "why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?"

Here’s what Obama had to say:

On the issue of socialism:

The nature of capitalism is predatory. It exploits in order to profit. That’s exactly what LaPierre’s NRA does. His fear is that profits will decline for the NRA and the manufacturers he represents under stricter gun control laws. However, the real purpose of socialism is precisely the opposite. It’s to overcome the exploitation and predatory nature of capitalism.

On the issue of freedom:

When LaPierre talks about individual freedoms, he’s really talking about the freedom of Americans to choose to buy a gun. The only people, however, who have the freedom to buy a gun are those who can afford to buy a gun. If you don’t have the money, your freedom is denied. Moreover, people who live in high crime gang infected areas and who are in the greatest need to protect themselves, most likely cannot afford to buy a gun.

In all things, your economic freedoms are subject to how much money you have in your wallet. In capitalism, there are only winners -- those with wealth --  and losers -- those who do not have wealth.

Here's the story:

By Jessica Taylor