Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

Seven U.S. Sailors are missing following a collision off the coast of Japan. NBC News: 7 U.S. Sailors Unaccounted for After Navy Destroyer Collides With Ship Off Japan.

The USS Fitzgerald, a 505-foot destroyer, collided with a Philippine container vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time (1:30 p.m. ET Friday), about 56 nautical miles off Yokosuka, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

The ship, which had experienced some flooding after the collision, was tugged back to Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, early Saturday.

Meanwhile search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and boats were underway in the area where the vessels collided.

The U.S. Navy said damaged areas of the ship will also be searched for the seven unaccounted-for sailors after the ship is safely docked.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

More details from The Washington Post:

The operators of the merchant ship, ACX Crystal, reported all of the 20-member Filipino crew were safe….

The Philippine-flagged Crystal is nearly four times as large as the Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided-missile destroyer. Japanese and U.S. vessels and aircraft fanned out across the scene of the collision, about 12 miles off Japan’s Izu peninsula. The Japanese coast guard led the search teams.

USS Fitzgerald arrives at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. TORU HANAI / Reuters

Three of the Fitzgerald’s crew, including the destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, were evacuated from the damaged vessel and are being treated at the U.S. naval hospital at Yokosuka, the home of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

Benson was reported to be in stable condition, while the other two were still having their injuries assessed. The Seventh Fleet had set up an information center for families of sailors serving on the ship.

The USS Dewey, another Navy destroyer and two naval tugboats were at the scene, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Two Japanese coast guard cutters with helicopters were helping with the search.

The Crystal, which is fully loaded with cargo, is bound for Tokyo, according to a website that tracks maritime traffic. Nippon Yusen K.K., the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship.

The Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned in 1995, is part of the Yokosuka-based group that includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but it was operating independently of the carrier when the collision occurred, Flanders said.

It still is not clear how the vessels collided, but one thing we know is that “President” Trump’s unfilled appointments could be a problem for those trying to find the missing sailors and determine the cause of this tragedy. The Guardian reports: USS Fitzgerald collision: Trump criticised for leaving key posts unfilled.

Donald Trump has been criticised for delays in appointing a navy secretary and ambassador to Japan, leaving a communications vacuum as the countries continued their search for seven missing sailors off the east coast of Japan.

The commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, Bryce Benson, and two other crew were injured after the vessel collided with a Philippine-registered container ship before dawn on Saturday.

The US has been without an ambassador to Japan since Caroline Kennedy left Tokyo in January.

William Hagerty, nominated but not yet confirmed as Ambassador to Japan

Her successor, the Tennessee businessman William Hagerty, has attended a Senate confirmation hearing but has yet to take up his post.

Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official and co-founder of the McPherson Square Group, a strategic communications firm in Washington, pointed to the absence of an ambassador and navy secretary – two officials who would be expected to take a lead in liaising between the US navy, and Japanese and US government officials during the search.

“The USS Fitzgerald might sink off Japan and the US President can’t call our ambassador or our navy secretary because we have neither,” Friedman said.

Trump’s nominee for US navy secretary, Richard Spencer, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The “president” has been too busy tweeting and raking in money from foreign governments to attend to his constitutional duties. According to Max Boot at Foreign Policy, he is also “proving to be too stupid to be president.”

I’m starting to suspect that Donald Trump may not have been right when he said, “You know, I’m like a smart person.” The evidence continues to mount that he is far from smart — so far, in fact, that he may not be capable of carrying out his duties as president.

There is, for example, the story of how Trump met with the pastors of two major Presbyterian churches in New York. “I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” he bragged. When the pastors told Trump they weren’t evangelicals, he demanded to know, “What are you then?” They told him they were mainline Presbyterians. “But you’re all Christians?” he asked. Yes, they had to assure him, Presbyterians are Christians. The kicker: Trump himself is Presbyterian.

Trump claims he originated the saying “priming the pump.”

Or the story of how Trump asked the editors of the Economist whether they had ever heard of the phrase “priming the pump.” Yes, they assured him, they had. “I haven’t heard it,” Trump continued. “I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago, and I thought it was good.” The phrase has been in widespread use since at least the 1930s.

Or the story of how, after arriving in Israel from Saudi Arabia, Trump told his hosts, “We just got back from the Middle East.”

These aren’t examples of stupidity, you may object, but of ignorance. This has become a favorite talking point of Trump’s enablers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, excused Trump’s attempts to pressure FBI Director James Comey into dropping a criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on the grounds that “the president’s new at this” and supposedly didn’t realize that he was doing anything wrong. But Trump has been president for nearly five months now, and he has shown no capacity to learn on the job.

More broadly, Trump has had a lifetime — 71 years — and access to America’s finest educational institutions (he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he never tires of reminding us) to learn things. And yet he doesn’t seem to have acquired even the most basic information that a high school student should possess. Recall that Trump said that Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.” He also claimed that Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.”

Read the rest at Foreign Policy.

Think Progress on all those emoluments: Trump details how he’s profiting off the presidency.

New financial disclosure forms provide insight into where and how Donald Trump has reaped profits since he launched his bid for the presidency.

The 98-page filing with the Office of Government Ethics, released on Friday afternoon, provides an incomplete snapshot of Trump’s financial picture. But since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to release his taxes, it’s the closest look into his investments the public has gotten so far.

The documents provide financial information for the period of time between last January and this spring — encompassing the lead-up to the presidential election and Trump’s transition into the White House.

Trump’s sprawling business empire is difficult to definitively quantify. However, the filings do show that the properties Trump has visited frequently as president have seen significant gains in income, the D.C. hotel at the center of an ethical controversy has generated millions in revenue, and the royalties for Trump’s books have soared.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spent most of his weekendsimmediately after his inauguration, returned millions more in income after his campaign and subsequent election. Trump reported about $16 million in profits for Mar-a-Lago in his report filed in 2015, about $30 million in his report filed in 2016, and about $37 million in his most recent report.

Trump didn’t hide the fact that his presidency made Mar-a-Lago a more profitable venture for him. The initiation fee for the so-called “Winter White House” doubled to $200,000 — a figure that doesn’t include taxes and $14,000 annual dues — immediately after Trump was inaugurated.

Please click on the link and read the rest.

I’m sure you’ve already heard about this story, but it’s important to take note of it. In Trump’s America, police officer can kill unarmed black people on video and still evade punishment. Slate: Philando Castile’s Killer Acquitted Despite Forensics That Contradicted His Case.

Philando Castile’s killer, police officer Jeromino Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on Friday. The case of Castile’s shooting last July in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota had sparked mass protests after his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds posted a dramatic and wrenching video of the shooting’s aftermath. The video, taken with Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter in the car, included footage of Castile lying in a puddle of blood after he was struck five times from seven shots.

Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm, for which he had a permit. Shortly thereafter, Yanez opened fire. In his opening statement, Yanez’s defense attorney claimed that Castile was holding his gun when he was shot.

Philando Cast

“He has his hand on the gun,” Engh reportedly said during opening arguments. “The next command is, ‘Don’t pull it out.’ … [Yanez] can’t retreat … But for Mr. Castile’s continuous grip on the handgun, we would not be here.”

The prosecution argued that the 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor with no violent criminal record was reaching for his driver’s license—as Yanez had instructed—and not his gun when he was shot. The forensic evidence and Reynold’s testimony would both seem to back up the prosecution’s account and rebut the defense’s version. Reynolds testified that he was trying to unbuckle his seatbelt so that he could get out his wallet and driver’s license when he was shot. As the Associated Press reported, this was supported by forensics:

Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy evidence in his closing argument, reminding the jury of a bullet wound to what would have been Castile’s trigger finger — and that there was no corresponding bullet damage nor wounds in the area of Castile’s right shorts pocket, where he carried his gun. He also cited testimony from first responders who saw Castile’s gun in his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Hours after officer Yanez is found not guilty in fatal shooting of Philando Castile, marchers close I-94.

After 27 hours of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women reached a verdict in Philando Castile’s death. Eight hours later, after a march in St. Paul, hundreds went on the freeway, where some faced off with police before 18 were arrested.

A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.

Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.”

“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said at a news conference shortly after the verdict was read in court about 2:45 p.m. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away.”

Castile’s girfriend Diamond Reynolds, who videotaped his murder.

Castile was a cafeteria worker who was very popular with the children he served. Twin Cities Pioneer Press: J.J. Hill school’s grief over Philando Castile’s death continues after verdict.

Philando Castile’s death last year rattled the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School community.

Friday’s verdict acquitting the officer who fired the shots that killed the beloved school cafeteria worker brought no relief to their grief, parents contacted afterward said.

“I’m appalled, unbelievably sickened,” parent Chad Eisen Ramgren said about the verdict.

Castile — called “Mr. Phil” by the students — had worked at J.J. Hill for two years as nutrition services supervisor before he was fatally shot by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on July 6. A vigil and children’s march were held in the days after outside the school where his smile and kindness were recalled….

Families knew Mr. Phil as the man who gave their children high-fives in the lunch line and helped them with their lunch numbers.

More at the link.

I’ll have more links in the comment thread. Please join me in posting your thoughts and links.

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Rick Santorum “Almost Threw Up” after Reading JFK Speech on Separation of Church and State

The quote comes from a speech Santorum gave last October at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, New Hampshire:

“Earlier in my political career I had opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up.”

How nice of him to share. This morning on This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum why JFK’s speech made him feel like throwing up. Here’s his reply:

Because the first line, first substantive line in the speech says, “I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.

This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate. Go on and read the speech. I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith. It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent (ph) at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out.

As most minimally educated Americans know, Kennedy’s speech on his religion is considered one of the great speeches of the 20th Century. On September 12, 1960, in Houston, Texas, Kennedy spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in an effort to calm the fears of Protestants who believed that a Catholic President would take orders from the Vatican or other members of the Church hierarchy.

I remember watching the speech on TV. It was a big deal for Kennedy and for Catholics generally. In 1960, Catholics were considered a little weird, and many people even insisted they weren’t Christians. The speech was a success, and Kennedy went on to become the first Catholic President of the U.S.

But according to Rick Santorum, who apparently didn’t get a very good education at Penn State or Dickinson College Law School, Kennedy was opposing the First Amendment. More from This Week:

…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

Of course Kennedy said no such thing. He was trying to assure Americans that he (Kennedy) would never impose his own religious beliefs on other Americans. Did Santorum actually read the speech? I doubt it. Either he didn’t read past the first line or he’s just mouthing propaganda he heard from someone like James Dobson. On the other hand, I get the feeling that Santorum would very happily impose his religious beliefs on the rest of us–which is a very scary thought.

Let’s take a look at what Kennedy actually said. He began by arguing that the country had much more important problems than the question of his religion:

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers only 90 miles from the coast of Florida — the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barrier.

But Kennedy understood that the religious issue had become a distraction and wanted to deal with it up front, once and for all.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Kennedy then argued that while “the finger of suspicion” was “pointed” at him in 1960, the next time it could be someone of another religion and this kind of questioning of each others’ religious beliefs could lead someday to “the whole fabric of our harmonious society [being] ripped apart at a time of great national peril.” Imagine if he could see what has happened to this country 50 years after that day in Houston!

Kennedy continued:

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it — its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

One wonders how Rick Santorum would react to a presidential candidate who was a Muslim. Kennedy notes that he and his brother fought in WWII to preserve this freedom.

This is the kind of America I believe in — and this is the kind of America I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we might have a divided loyalty, that we did not believe in liberty, or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened — I quote — “the freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

Did Rick Santorum go into battle and risk his life for his country? I think not. His battle is with an invisible enemy: “Satan.”

Rereading Kennedy’s speech calls attention to the fact that the separation of church and state has broken down since his day. Kennedy asked the assembled ministers to

judge me on the basis of 14 years in the Congress, on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools — which I attended myself.

We now have an ambassador to the Vatican, the government provides aid to Catholic schools through voucher programs, and we have a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Parnerships which, under Bush at least, funded religious-based abstinence programs. While Kennedy said he wouldn’t consult from religious leaders, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both done so, most recently when Obama met with Catholic Bishops about his contraception policy. Kennedy:

I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

Kennedy went on to say that if the day ever came

when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.

Those are the sentiments that made Rick Santorum “almost throw up.” What more do you need to know about this man? He is not fit to serve as dogcatcher, let alone hold high public office. Below is video of Kennedy’s speech.


Dumbed Down America

Time to bring back civics classes. Nearly a quarter of Americans don’t know when the Declaration of Independence was signed, or what country we declared independence from. From ABC’s The Note:

A Marist poll released Friday shows that only 58 percent of Americans know when the country declared independence. Nearly a fourth of respondents said they were unsure and sixteen percent said a date other than 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Young people posted the most troubling scores with 41 percent of people ages 18 to 29 saying they were unsure when the Declaration of Independence was signed and 27 percent saying the wrong date.

One in four Americans do not even know which country the U.S. gained independence from. The correct answer, of course, is Great Britain, although 20 percent of respondents were unsure of that fact.

Again, age made a big difference. Middle-aged Americans – ages 30 to 44 – guessed the wrong country more than any other age group, or 10 percent of the time. The younger generation was less likely to be flat-out wrong, but was more likely to be unsure. About one third of Americans age 18 to 29 said they didn’t know for sure which country America won independence from.

That is so sad. I was just thinking this morning that I can remember the days when we were proud to be Americans–when it was important to know our history and be aware of our rights. What happened? That was before American culture became synonymous with corporate culture–before being greedy, selfish, and callous became the American way.

The final changeover happened under Ronald Reagan. That is when so many Americans bought into the notion that money was more important than human relationships, when “religious” people began to embrace “prosperity” rather than the old, outdated notions of “faith, hope, and charity (love).” Under Reagan, young people stopped preparing for careers in which they could help others or the society as a whole and started focusing on whatever job would bring in the most money.

Barack Obama came of age under Reagan, and as far as I can tell, although he calls himself a Democrat, the current occupant of the White House is totally sold on the Reagan philosophy. He doesn’t seem to know much about history or basic economics, even though he has degrees from two elite universities.

Not only is civics missing from high schools, but also Americans don’t get educated by the media anymore. When I was a kid, there were actually serious shows on TV that analyzed politics–not shouting, arguing shows, but real news shows. Today young people are watching TV shows like “Hoarders” and “Jersey Shore.” I’m next generation will learn to be even more greedy, selfish, and narcissistic than previous generations. I hope I’m wrong.

I know I sound like a bitter old woman–sorry about that. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, a time of great social change; but looking back now, it was a much simpler time. My generation has been called every insulting name in the book–selfish, narcissistic, rebellious. Tom Wolfe labeled us “the me generation” for looking within and seeking ways to become more awake and aware–for trying to understand human consciousness and for going into therapy.

Am I just doing what Tom Wolfe did–judging and misunderstanding the generations that came after mine? Please tell me I’m wrong!