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Monday, October 23, 2017

Condolence to Mrs. Myeshia Johnson - transcript with George Stephanopoulos

Thank you George Stephanopoulos for posting this transcript of the Good Morning America interview with the grieving Myeshia Johnson. She is the widow of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, who was killed in an ambush with three other Special Forces soldiers, in the African nation of Niger.

Sgt. LaDavid Johnson died in the African nation of Niger

In a wide-ranging interview, Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, spoke out on "Good Morning America" about her husband's death during a mission in Niger and the controversy that has surrounded it.

Very sad interview.

Myeshia Johnson told ABC News' chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos, that she was upset about remarks President Trump made during a condolence call and said she has many unanswered questions.

"He died as a hero," she said.

George Stephanopoulos: We’re joined now by the widow of Sgt. Johnson, Myeshia Johnson. Myeshia thank you for coming in this morning. I hope you’re feeling the prayers the thoughts of all of us. 

Myeshia Johnson: Yes.

GS: You know it was so clear watching the funeral how loved and respected La David was by his family, his friends, his community, his fellow soldiers. What do you want people to know about him? MJ: Well, I want the world to know how great of a soldier my husband was and a loving and caring father and husband he was to our family.

GS: You knew him since you were six, huh? MJ: Yes sir.

GS: And I also know you have a lot of questions about what happened. MJ: Yes.

GS: In Niger, What’s at the top of your mind? 

MJ: The questions that I have that I need answered is I want to know why it took them 48-hours to find my husband; why couldn’t I see my husband? Every time I asked to see my husband they wouldn’t let me.

GS: What did they tell you? 

MJ: They told me that he’s in a severe, a severe wrap like I won’t be able to see him. I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband. I don't know nothing they won’t show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband’s body from head to toe. And they won’t let me see anything. I don’t know what’s in that box, it could be empty for all I know. But I need, I need to see my husband. I haven’t seen him since he came home.

GS: And what have they told you about what happened in Africa? 

MJ: I really don’t know the answers to that one neither because when they came to my house they just told me that, um, it was a massive gunfire and my husband as of October 4th was missing, they didn't his whereabouts. They didn't know where he was or where to find him and a couple days later is when they told me that he went from missing to killed in action. I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything. I don’t know that part they never told me and that’s what I’ve been trying to find out since day one, since October 4th.

GS: Are you confident you’re going to get the answers you need? 

MJ: If I keep pushing for them I will.

GS: And they say they don't know? MJ: They wont tell me. They won’t tell me anything. I don't know anything.

GS: There are also a lot of questions about the phone call you received from President Trump. I know you were in a car to the airport. Tell us what happened next. 

MJ: Me and my family was in the limo to receive my husband from I think it was Denver, Dover, we went to...

GS: Dover. 

MJ: Dover, and we was literally on the airport strip gettin' ready to get out and he called Master Sergeant Neil’s phone. I asked Master Sergeant Neil to put his phone on speaker so my aunt and uncle could hear as well. And he goes on to saying his statement as what he said was...

GS: The president... 

MJ: Yes the President, said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway. And it made me cry cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name. The only way he remembered my husband's name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David. I heard him stumblin' on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name. And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier. He did what it take other people like five years to do in three years. So imagine if my husband was here now. It took my husband three years to make E-5 -- it takes other soldiers five to six years just to make E-5. So if he was here now he woulda been on his way to bein' the E-6 or E-7. My husband had high hopes in the military career.

GS: What did you say to the President? 

MJ: I didn’t say anything I just listened

GS: But you were upset when you got off the phone? 

MJ: Oh very, very upset and hurt. Very it made me cry even worse.

GS: Congresswoman Wilson reported that and you explained she was in the car with you. MJ: Yes.

GS: She’s been close with your family for a long time? MJ: Yes. Ms. Wilson, my uncle-in-law was Ms. Wilson’s elementary school principal and my husband was in her 5,000 role model program that’s why she’s well connected with us because she’s been in our family since we were little kids.

GS: The President said that the congresswoman was lying about the phone call. 

MJ: Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was 100 percent correct. It was Master Sgt. Neil, me, my aunt, my uncle and the driver and Ms. Wilson in the car, the phone was on speaker phone. Why would we fabricate something like that?

GS: Is there anything you’d like to say to the President now? MJ: No. I don’t have nothing to say to him.

GS: Your little girl’s going to be born in January. MJ: Yes January 29th. GS: What are you gonna tell her about her dad? MJ: I’m gonna tell her how awesome her dad was and how a great father he was and how he died as a hero.

GS: Words she’s gonna love to hear Myeshia thank you for sharing your story this morning. MJ: Thank you.


Myeshia Johnson: Widow of dead soldier hits out at Trump- BBC encore

Mike Pacheco is overcome with emotion as he attends the viewing for U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson at the Christ the Rock Community Church on October 20, 2017 in Cooper City, Florida.~ Miami Herald
Funeral of Sgt.LaDavid Johnson

It's absolutely pathetic and stupid of #realDonaldTrump to make an international incident out of the tragic death of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, who was killed with three of his Special Forces comrades during operations in the African nation of Niger.

BBCNews- The widow of a dead US soldier says Donald Trump could not remember her husband's name when he phoned to offer condolences, said Meyeshia Johnson.

Myeshia Johnson is the widow of Sgt La David Johnson, killed in the African nation of Niger. She told ABC News the president's "stumbling" had "hurt her the most".

But President Trump said that he had used Sgt Johnson's name "without hesitation" and described the conversation as "very respectful". (#realDonaldTrump should have apologized because his defensiveness is increasing the grief this family is experiencing.)

Sgt Johnson was killed in Niger by Islamist militants this month.

Myeshia Johnson confirmed the statement by Rep. Frederica Wilson's account, that Mr Trump had told her, her husband had known "what he had signed up for" when joining the military.

"The president said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways... It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it," she said.

"He had my husband's report in front of him, and that's when he actually said La David. I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name."

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Donald Trump will soon have US Military "taking a knee" - he must apologize

Thank you Myesha Johnson for standing up for all military families by responding to the terrible response by #DonaldTrump when he used inappropriate language in his bereavement call about your brave husband.

Donald Trump began his cowardly assault on the American military when he somehow received a draft deferment when he was elibible to be called to service in Vietnam. He had a bone spur. Okay, there were lots of "bone spur" deferments when it was time to go to Vietnam, perhaps the condition was epidemic. Nevertheless, rather than acknowledge this cowardly deferment, Donald Trump continues to show disrespect for the military.

Even worse, Donald Trump went on to criticize Senator John McCain, unnecessarily, during the 2016 election, for being captured during his Vietnam service. In fact, Senator McCain was captured when the jet he piloted was shot down by the North Vietnamese, who kept him in prison for 7 years. As a result, Senator McCain continues to suffer physical disabilities, related to his injuries. 

Unfortunately, there's even more to report. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump even denied the dignity due to the Gold Star family of US Army officer, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq.  Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan was a United States Army officer. who was born in the United Arab Emirates to Pakistani parents. He moved to the U.S. with his family as a young boy. He was killed on June 6, 2004, in Baghdad, Iraq.

This unfortunate litany has reached another depth of degradation.  For some unbelievable reason, Donald Trump has created a feud with the widow of the US Army Sargent LaDavd Johnson, killed in the nation of Niger, because, during an ill planned bereavement call, he botched the condolence communications and caused even more grief.

If this serial disrespect doesn't stop (and must include an apology to Mrs. LaDavid Johnson), it's possible the US Military will begin to "take a knee", in opposition to Donald Trump's lack of character and incompetent leadership.

Widow Of U.S. Soldier Killed In Niger: Trump’s Call ‘Made Me Cry Even Worse’ Myeshia Johnson confirmed the president told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”~ from the Huffington Post by William Frej

Myeshia Johnson at the casket of her husband Sgt. LaDavid Johnson killed in Niger
This information was also reported in BBCNews

Myeshia Johnson: Widow of dead soldier hits out at Trump

The widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger said she was “hurt” when President Donald Trump told her in a phone call last week that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

“He couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” Myeshia Johnson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, referring to the presidential condolence call that ignited a weeklong controversy. “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name.”

She said Trump told her that her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, “knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone in his voice and how he said it.”
The president’s call made her “very upset and hurt,” she said. “It made me cry even worse.”

Trump quickly shot back on Twitter, saying that his conversation with Johnson was “very respectful” and that he did say the fallen soldier’s name.

I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!
Johnson’s death has been front and center in a controversy Trump himself created when he drew attention to the fact that he hadn’t phoned the immediate families of all service members who had been killed during his presidency and made the erroneous claim that his predecessors didn’t make such calls.

Trump did phone Johnson last week. Rep. Federica Wilson (D-Fla.), who was in the car with Johnson when Trump made the condolence call on Tuesday, was the first to speak out about the conversation:

“Sarcastically he said: ‘But you know he must have known what he signed up for,’” Wilson told NBC6. “How could you say that to a grieving widow? I couldn’t believe ... and he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”

Johnson’s aunt, who was also in the car, backed Wilson up last week. Trump on Wednesday accused Wilson of fabricating what he said, claiming he had proof.

“Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated,” Johnson’s widow, who is pregnant, confirmed on Monday. “What she said was 100-percent correct. The phone was on speakerphone. Why would we fabricate something like that?”

She said she has nothing further to say to Trump.

#Myeshia_strong I totally believe her and Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Donald Trump owes the entire US Military an apology.

Rest in peace and my sincere condolences to the families of:

Staff Sargent Bryan Black
Staff Sargent Dustin Wright
Staff Sargent Jeremiah Johnson
Sargent LaDavid Johnson

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

John Kelly - a good liar for a beginner says Borowitz

Obviously, the endemic "lie culture" from inside the White House is getting worse

White House Says It Is Unpatriotic to Offer Irrefutable Video Evidence That a General Lied- Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a stirring defense of Donald Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Friday that it was “unpatriotic in the extreme” to offer irrefutable video proof that a four-star general lied.

“It is unpatriotic enough to accuse a four-star general of lying,” Sanders told the White House press corps. “But to make available a video that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that that general lied is unpatriotic bordering on treasonous.”

Warming to her subject, Sanders said that any American who sees undeniable video evidence that a general lied and chooses to believe the video “shows disrespect for our country and hatred for our flag.”

“General Kelly has served our country with courage and valor,” she said. “He has earned the right to lie without fear of being contradicted by the facts.”

Minutes after Sanders concluded her remarks, Kelly also received a vote of confidence from Trump, who called his chief of staff “a good liar, for a beginner.”

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Chief of Staff John Kelly caught in Trumpism lie

John Kelly owes the congresswoman an apology

Sgt. Dustin Wright remains returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware

Obviously, something is endemically wrong in the White House.  Just a few days following a press meeting between Chief of Staff John Kelly and reporters, whereby the conversation seemed to be perfectly sane (following months of dysfunctional discourse between press secretaries Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders), the same man reappeared, but the encore was riddled with lies. For some unknown reason, Kelly decided to take political sides with Donald Trump, but he did so by contributing to the stream of lies now an epidemic signature of this failed administration. A Washington Post editorial encore (re-blogged):

WHITE HOUSE Chief of Staff John F. Kelly owes Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) an apology. 

That is the only conclusion that can be drawn after watching a video of the representative’s remarks at the dedication of an FBI building in Miramar, Fla., in 2015.

Mr. Kelly took to the lectern in the White House briefing room Thursday to defend President Trump’s handling of a condolence call to a widow of one of the soldiers killed in Niger and to attack Ms. Wilson as selfish and politically motivated for her criticism. To bolster that characterization, he offered up his remembrance of the dedication of the FBI building in memory of two FBI agents who had been killed in the line of duty. He claimed Ms. Wilson used the occasion to take unseemly credit for securing federal funding for the building. “We were stunned,” he said, “stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”

But, as a video by the Florida Sun Sentinel of Ms. Wilson’s remarks that day shows, Mr. Kelly got it all wrong. She did not say she got money for the building. She was generous and graceful in sharing credit for how legislation naming the building was fast-tracked. And she spent most of her nine-minute speech praising the FBI agents killed in a gunfight with drug dealers: “Today it is our patriotic duty to lift up Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove from the streets of South Florida and place their names and pictures high, where the world will know that we are proud of their sacrifice, sacrifice for our nation.”

It is unfortunate that the sacrifice of brave people such as these two FBI agents or the four soldiers killed in Niger can get overwhelmed by the petty name-calling of politics. That is a point Mr. Kelly was trying to make Thursday, and that he undercut with his misrepresentation of Ms. Wilson. 

Kelly must and needs to set the record straight.

MaineWriter, my sincere condolences to the families, colleagues and those who loved the fallen four Special Forces who were killed in an ambush in the African nation of Niger:

Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, of Lyons, Georgia
Staff Sergeant Bryan Black
Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson
Sergeant La David Johnson

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Transcript of George W. Bush - alert to the nation

Full text: George W. Bush speech on Trumpism- (In my opinion, this text by the former president is the moral equivalent of the Martin Luther King clarion calls for freedom.)

"We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy."~ George W. Bush
George W. Bush
Below is a transcript of George W. Bush's speech delivered Oct. 19, 2017 at the at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World" event in New York.

Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here.

And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries.

I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny.

Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie [Tom Bernstein], I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.)

It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and Applause.) Thank you.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.
And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. 

We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. 

At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.

Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions. 

And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. 

Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. 

We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust.

For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

Thank you.

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Memorize To Kill a Mockingbird - Fahrenheit 451

It “makes some people uncomfortable.”~ To Kill A Mockingbird

(It's time people start memorizing books like the clairvoyant plot described in the Ray Bradbury novel "Fahrenheit 451".) 

"Uncomfortable"- That was the explanation Kenny Holloway, a school board official in Biloxi, Miss., gave the Sun Herald newspaper last week, for the board’s decision to remove from its eighth-grade curriculum a Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable,” said Holloway. He said this like it was a bad thing.

In a nation where some educational institutions now deem it their duty to offer “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” to protect their students from vexatious language or behavior like cartons protect eggs and bubble wrap protects china, maybe it is. So I beg your pardon for the heresy that follows.

Because, with pure hearts and noble intentions, these educators are doing nothing less than presiding over what I will call the stupidification and wimpification of this country. Having liberated the American mind from the tyranny of facts, we now seek to liberate it from the bother of contending with difficult words or ideas.

It “makes some people uncomfortable,” he says.

By which he means the word “n----r.” And yes, it is offensive. Indeed, if you are not African American, you may have trouble appreciating just how obnoxious the word is.

But it is also wholly appropriate to Lee’s moralistic tale, set during the Great Depression, of a 6-year-old white girl in the deep South, watching her attorney father defend a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. When one of the locals tries without success to goad her father into a brawl, should the dialogue read: “Too proud to fight, you African-American-lovin’ b----d?”

Let’s be serious.

I am reminded of recent email exchanges with readers angry over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial oppression. These readers argued that protest should not make anyone -- here’s that word again -- uncomfortable. One man said protest should “unify” and “educate.”

Maybe that makes sense in a color-coordinated Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner, but it has nothing to do with reality. Did the civil-rights marchers seek to “unify” with Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham? Did the colonists seek to “educate” when they committed the anti-government vandalism called the Boston Tea Party?

No, they were raising their voices, poking a stick in the eye of their oppressors. They were making them … uncomfortable. We should be grateful they did.

And we should ask those uncomfortable people in Biloxi and elsewhere: Where did you get the idea you should be sheltered from history? What made you think you had an expectation of being shielded from truth? 

Who told you you had a right never to be made ill at ease?

Yes, I recognize the possibility -- in fact, the probability -- that some of those discomfited by Lee’s book are African American. It makes no difference.

In literature, as in protest, the audience’s discomfort is often a sign the message is being received. 

As a matter of fact, it can offer an invaluable opportunity to consider, reconsider, debate, teach, learn, reflect and grow.

Or it can be an excuse to run and hide. In a nation where ignorance masquerades as authenticity, and the ability to think deeply and critically on difficult subjects has been mollycoddled into near oblivion, it is too often the latter. So I have no sympathy for those delicate folks in Biloxi.

Mockingbird” is a seminal text of the American experience. 

Yes, it “makes some people uncomfortable.”

That’s the whole point.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may contact him via e-mail at

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian (i.e. imaginary) novel by American writer Ray Bradbury, published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. But, a group of people memorize the books and pass the narratives along to future generations.

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Russia could not have interfered alone

Former CIA Director John Brennan says Russian hackers had American help in rigging the election

There’s a reason why Brennan is now making a much more damning assertion...Brennan now appears to believe that it’ll all come out in the end one way or the other.

John Brennan was former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
~In my opinion, John Brennan would not make these revealing statements without having inside information.~
Russian government hackers and propagandists displayed a remarkable familiarity with the delicate intricacies of American politics and social issues during the course of the 2016 election – particularly when it came to their successful efforts to rig the swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan in Donald Trump’s favor. 

If you’ve come to believe the Russians couldn’t have pulled it off without American help, it turns out you’re in good company.

John Brennan, who was the Director of the CIA during the 2016 election, was interviewed by NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell at a public function on Wednesday. 

Mitchell asked Brennan if he thought it was possible that Russia could have pulled off such a sophisticated and knowledgeable operation in these swing states. Brennan flatly stated “I find it implausible.” He didn’t specifically say it, but he didn’t need to: the obvious implication is that the Donald Trump campaign helped Russia to hack the election.

Although Brennan is recently retired, he was running the CIA during the election – thus making him the first high ranking government official to outright assert that Americans were helping the Russians to influence the outcome of the election. 

Brennan didn’t step down until January, meaning that he saw classified evidence on the way out the door that he still can’t talk about. Someone in his position wouldn’t be making these remarks at this time, unless he’s seen the evidence confirming it, and he now believes that evidence will become public.

John Brennan has been much more cautious with his words in the past when it’s come to discussing the topic of election collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia. There’s a reason why he’s now making a much more damning assertion about it. Brennan now appears to believe that it’ll all come out in the end one way or the other.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

White House bereavement communications

Mrs. Myeshia Johnson at the casket of her husband Sgt. LaDavid Johnson at Miami International Airport

American military deaths cannot become the subject of political discourse. Donald Trump has now lowered the ethics bar by the mere suggestion that communications about military deaths were not appropriately responded to in the past. This degradation of our military, as though each death is a political nugget, is disgusting.

Moreover, the inept White House response to four tragic deaths caused by a gun battle in the African nation of Niger has created yet another avoidable communications problem.

Rather than respond to the four battle deaths in real time, with appropriately prepared bereavement messages, the situation was prolonged until media pressure brought attention to the issue. 

If Donald Trump had just responded to the four deaths in real time, this problem would never have become yet another glitch in White House communications.

Here are the names of the four Special Forces who were killed in Niger during a surprise attack: U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina - Green Berets Staff Sergeant (SSG) Bryan Black and SSG Dustin Wright along with SSG Jeremiah Johnson were confirmed by the DoD as being killed in action on Wednesday after a large terrorist force from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) ambushed the Green Beret team and its Nigerien counterparts in southwestern Niger. A fourth death was confirmed - Sgt. LaDavid Johnson.

Obviously, White House communications needs extensive training about how to communicate with the bereaved families who are mourning the military deaths of their loved ones.  

Here is an example of how to respond to the military families who have lost loved ones:

"My condolences to you and your grieving family as a result of the supreme sacrifice given by (name) to America. My heart is broken for you at his time of loss, and our nation mourns with you and your family at this sad time."

@realDonaldTrump needs a teleprompter when he is required to make timely bereavement calls.  

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Children urgent health insurance - Mississippi calls for action

Lawmakers cannot buy into the Trump "let it fail" mentality about the Affordable Care Act. This "echo" blog from an opinion published in the Jackson Free Press in Mississippi.

Sadly, the Republicans Congress have not made a priority for funding the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Congress let the Children's Health Insurance Program, which insures kids who come from low-income families but are not eligible for Medicaid, expire last week. Now lawmakers are scrambling to renew the program, established in 1997 with bi-partisan support.

CHIP funds in Mississippi will run dry by April, so the countdown has begun.~ Editorial Board 

Hopefully, Mississippi will provide leadership to bring this important health issue to the forefront.  

Mississippi calls for leadership to restore CHIP funding.

Congress let the Children's Health Insurance Program, which insures kids who come from low-income families but are not eligible for Medicaid, expire last week. Now lawmakers are scrambling to renew the program, established in 1997 with bi-partisan support.

CHIP funds in Mississippi will run dry by April, so the countdown has begun.

What is most noteworthy is the support from Mississippi's Republican senators to renew CHIP, despite their continued calls and votes to repeal and replace Obamacare since Donald Trump moved into the White House. (MaineWriter: Obviously, this contradiction makes no sense but apparently the two issues are mutually exclusive?)

It is no secret that Mississippi has the most to gain and the most to lose when it comes to more health-care support from the federal government. Mississippi is one of the poorest and unhealthiest states in the union, meaning health outcomes follow those trends to their obvious problems, ailments and consequences.

More than 78,000 Mississippi children benefit from CHIP, with federal dollars funding 100 percent. That number grew from the initial 48,000 enrolled in CHIP only after the Affordable Care Act changed limits and regulations, enabling more low-income children to benefit from health insurance without costing the state of Mississippi a cent.

The state's Medicaid rolls are also predominantly made up of children and the disabled and blind, arguably the most vulnerable populations in Mississippi. Most of the proposals to end the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a hodge-podge of other policy options would have meant thousands of people losing health insurance, even in Mississippi, where Republicans adamantly opposed expanding Medicaid due to partisan politics.

If U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran can both openly support funding CHIP, why did they vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act multiple times in a move that would leave other vulnerable Mississippians without coverage?

It is time to ditch the partisanship of the stalled health-care conversation and start working across the aisle for reforms going forward. We need Mississippi representatives and senators in Congress to understand how vital financial health-care assistance is to the well-being of Mississippians, and recent moves in the Senate seem to show they do. Wicker and Cochran's suggestions to ensure more seniors can benefit from cost-effective telehealth were a part of the Senate CHRONIC Care Act of 2017.

Recent failed votes have shown that Congress Republicans will likely need to work across the aisle to make necessary changes to the ACA, and it is vital that Mississippi lawmakers are fighting for every ounce of federal support that the state can get.

With one of the slowest-growing economies in the nation, Mississippi needs the federal support to keep its citizens healthy, enabling the next generation in particular to stay healthy as they work to get an education and change the narrative of this state.

We (and the others) need Mississippi lawmakers to not buy into Trump's "let it fail" narrative because allowing our health-care system to fail is letting down thousands of vulnerable Mississippi children.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Puerto Rico desperation - SOS reflection on Donald Trump

What was the purpose of President Trump’s recent visit to Puerto Rico?- An opinion echo from the Boston Herald.

Flooding caused by back to back storms has devastated Puerto Rico- it will take months or longer to recover.
Donald Trump received justifiable negative feedback for the insensitive visit he made to the desperate Puerto Rico people, following the devastation caused by hurricane Maria's direct hit to the island.  Hurricane Maria was the second storm to hit the island, in less than a few days apart.

Nevertheless, I have point of view about the failed attempt by 
Donald Trump to bring humanitarian focus to the fundamental needs of clean water and electricity, to Puerto Rico. 

In my opinion, Donald Trump's failed visit to Puerto Rico underscored the desperation experienced on the island. If Donald Trump had been compassionate, rather than stupidly tossing paper towels to an audience, it's likely the desperation would not have turned into anger. As a result of Donald Trump's botched visit, the world is fixated on Puerto Rico, because the territory's recovery will be a reflection on Donald Trump's failed leadership.

An echo opinion from The Boston Herald:

Puerto Rico bungled

I am left wondering: What was the purpose of President Trump’s recent visit to Puerto Rico (“Trump touts ‘miracle’ U.S. recovery efforts,” Oct. 4)? Was it to promote himself even more or to humiliate the millions of American citizens living on the island even more, adding to their suffering?

Trump had the lack of sensitivity to compare Hurricane Maria with the hundreds and hundreds of people killed in “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina.

In addition, what type of president makes such comments as, “Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.” It’s as if he was saying to American citizens that they are costing the U.S. too much money. This with millions of Americans in the midst of the aftermath of the worst natural phenomenon in their lives.
— Edwin Carrasquillo Sr., Roslindale

What was the purpose of Donald Trump's visit to Puerto Rico? Well, frankly, I doubt there was any meaningful purpose; but, in fact, Trump's paper towel volleyball debacle caused the entire population to oppose his leadership. Thousand or people in Puerto Rico are leaving the island and they will wind up in places where their votes, as American citizens, in the next election will be counted.

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Opioid deaths- 175 a day epidemic: Montana echo

This echo blog is reposted from Montana's newspaper The Helena Register- an opinion by Dana Milbank, a columnist for The Washington Post:
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post

Trump does nothing to stop 175 American deaths a day

WASHINGTON, DC  -- Americans are dying at the rate of 175 a day from opioid overdoses, but President Trump has yet to deliver his promised strategy to end the crisis.

And so the people's representatives, in the absence of presidential leadership, did about the only thing they could do. They had a day of opioid karaoke.

There wasn't actual music. But it was open-mic day Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The panel invited members of Congress to take the witness seat and, in three minutes or less, sing a sad song about how the opioid crisis is ruining the lives of their constituents.

"In Oregon alone more people died last year from drug overdoses than from car accidents," said Rep. Greg Walden (R).

"The opioid epidemic is having devastating consequences in my home state" of New Jersey, said Rep. Frank Pallone (D).

"There are enough bottles of painkillers in circulation for nearly every Hoosier to have their own," said Rep. Susan Brooks (R) of Indiana.

"Five-hundred and one New Mexicans died of drug overdose deaths," said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D).

"Drug overdoses cause nearly four times as many deaths compared to traffic accidents" in Ohio, said Rep. Bob Latta (R).

"I can give you some statistics from Vermont," offered Rep. Peter Welch (D). And he did.

On and on it went, in bipartisan harmony. After 90 minutes of these elegies, I checked with staff to see how many performers remained; we weren't even half way through the set.

Every one of them had an idea, many of the ideas were good, and a few might even become law. But it's all of little use as long as the Trump administration is doing nothing. The president seems to be singing a different tune: "When You Say Nothing at All." This is what it's like when there's no functioning president.

Trump promised endlessly during his presidential campaign to solve the opioid crisis, and by his own estimate he won the New Hampshire primary (and, from there, the Republican nomination) "because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den." Now it turns out that, as with most everything else he promised, he had no plan.

He dumped the task on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is ill-equipped to handle it. He named an opioid commission and then ignored or dithered on its most important recommendations. Just this week, the commission chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), scolded Trump for failing to officially declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. 

Worse, Trump is doing his best to roll back what little is being done to fight the epidemic, proposing or backing cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Medicaid program and eliminating the help provided to addicts under Obamacare.

That Trump has no plan is unsurprising. 

In fact, Trump had no plan to replace Obamacare, no infrastructure plan, no tax plan, no foreign policy. But inaction on opioids is particularly ruinous, as the overdoses kill more people than car accidents and more than AIDS killed at its peak. In lieu of a plan, Trump has threatened to arrest more people, suggested kids say no to drugs, and sent the first lady to West Virginia on Tuesday to tour an opioid addiction center for infants.

No wonder lawmakers are singing the blues. "Calamity," "Epidemic" and "Emergency" were their tunes Wednesday. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), making a rare appearance before a committee, spoke of the "savage daily toll on the American people."

There is much they could do if they had a cooperative administration: restrictions on prescription quantities, training for prescribers, better treatments for addiction, alternative painkillers, reduced waiting times for treatment. Instead, with GOP threats to Medicaid and the like, things are headed in the other direction.

With this grim outlook, the members of Congress from both parties chose to reprise some of their greatest hits from the past -- congratulating themselves on legislation such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted during the Obama administration. This was good policy but insufficient: All of $1 billion has been granted to the states under the Cures Act -- or 0.0003 percent of annual federal spending.

The money the lawmakers boasted of -- $6 million for this state, $125,000 for that program -- sounded like off-notes after the desperate (and true) dirges they sang for their constituents. The opioid epidemic is a tragedy. This response is a farce.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gun violence - when is regulation too "early"?

Kansas City Star:
"My husband was murdered in 1987. The police didn't hold off questioning me because it was too early"~ Sue Thompson. Mission, Missouri

Preventing gun violence

Gun violece: too early?

Republican members of Congress interviewed on television say it is “too early” to talk about gun control after the horrific ambush in Las Vegas.

It was “too early” after Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot. It was “too early” after Columbine. It was “too early” after Sandy Hook. It was “too early” after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.

When exactly is a good time to discuss common-sense gun-control practices, like outlawing the bump stock or preventing those with mental illness from buying weapons?

If a bridge collapses, we don’t say it is “too early” to investigate to prevent other collapses. When an airplane goes down, National Transportation Safety Board employees immediately investigate in hopes of preventing other airline disasters.

My husband was murdered in 1987. The police didn’t hold off questioning me because it was “too early.” 

Moreover, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation didn’t hold off investigating how a gun that was legally limited to use by law enforcement was used to shoot him six times.

Let’s do this before more people are killed.

Sue Thompson, Mission 
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