Friday, August 18, 2017

Translation: President Trump Is A Raving Lunatic

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is a courtly Southern gentleman of the old school. He speaks clearly, but with constraint. So when he says something, it sometimes needs to be translated.

Today in Chattanooga, Senator Corker observed of Trump: "The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful," Later in the day he observed: "We should hope that (Trump) aspires that he does some self-reflection, that he does what is necessary to demonstrate stability, to demonstrate competence, to demonstrate that he understands the character of our nation and works daily to bring out the best of the people in our nation."

I grew up in the South and am fairly good at translation. What he says means: "Donald J. Trump is a raving lunatic."

For what it's worth.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Let's Be Clear: We Don't Need Statues Glorifying Traitors

Charlottesville's decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee was not because he owned slaves - it was because he committed treason against the United States.

Moreover, he knew he was committing treason. As did Jefferson Davis, General Beauregard, J.E.B. Stewart and many others memorialized by statuary.

Remember: we have no statue of Benedict Arnold.

By the way, some of my ancestors owned slaves and some fought for the Confederacy. There are no statues to them nor would I want any.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Just a reminder:

Article 3 - The Judicial Branch
Section 3 - Treason

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Points to remember:

Robert E. Lee committed treason.

Jefferson Davis committed treason.

Many others committed treason, including some of my ancestors.

The elected officials and commissioned officers knew at the time they were committing treason.

Soldiers drafted by the Confederacy had no choice. Their leaders did have a choice.

It is time to remove statues glorifying traitors.

Our best known traitor of the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold, has no statue in his honor despite his important victory at Saratoga. General Arnold was wounded in the foot in the battle. 
There is a statue at Saratoga of Benedict Arnold's boot, though it does not identify him.

Maybe that's a good precedent. We can put up statues to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in Mexico.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Locked And Loaded - Give Me a Break!

Donald J Trump's latest bluster was the boastful phrase: Lock and Load!

It turns out that is a phrase used by actor John Wayne (born Marion Robert Morrison) in the movie Sands of Iwo Jima.

No wonder Donald Trump borrows phrases from John Wayne. Neither of them ever wore their country's uniform for real. They use bluster to conceal that reality.

Like Wayne, Trump is playing a role. He isn't as good at it, and unlike Wayne, Trump can really cause people to die. Americans can die. Unnecessarily.

John Wayne was a chicken hawk. So is Donald Trump.

Trump is also a man without honor.

Now he wants us to go to war with Venezuela? What is that about?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

United States And Korea

In 1949 a classmate in a country grade school in Oklahoma told us he had joined the National Guard.

He was big for his age - he had just turned fifteen, and could easily pass for eighteen. Like many farm boys, he was a good rifle shot and was at home around firearms. The big attraction was that they paid him for going to drills. It was a really good deal - good enough to lie about his age.

The down side came the following summer when the North Korean army attacked across the 38th parallel into South Korea. Oklahoma's "Fighting Forty-Fifth" was the first National Guard unit called up to be sent to Korea.

The young man's parents lost no time letting the National Guard know he was under age.

Like others of my generation, I spent my high school years in the shadow of Korea. Graduates were drafted right away and sent off to war. Even after the armistice of 1953, we knew if war was not to be in Korea, it would likely be in some other place.

It would be war or rumors of war for the foreseeable future.

I prepared for war by entering the Naval ROTC.

America's first conflict in Korea took place in 1871. Korea did not welcome foreign merchant ships and treated shipwrecked sailors harshly. Their treatment of American sailors led to a punitive expedition.

We sent a naval force and put marines ashore. A force commanded by Commander Winfield Scott Schley, later a hero in  the Spanish American War.

We have missed many opportunities to negotiate a permanent settlement to Korea, but it always takes longer than we have before another election.

A key misstep in my view was the decision in 1956 to introduce nuclear weapons into the Korean peninsula. We are reaping the results of that decision now. North Korea's response was a combination of belligerence and passive countermeasures. Most significantly, they dug reinforced caves which eventually served as protected sites for their nuclear development programs.

The Honest John nuclear missiles and the nuclear howitzers that we installed in Korea had very limited capabilities and were obsolete very soon. They were removed by President Bush long after they ceased to be of any use.

But the hardened enclosures remain an enormous obstacle to preemptive attack.

Another case of "be careful what you wish for, lest you get it."

Now we need some thinking adults in charge of strategy, including diplomatic strategy.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

John McCain - Man Of Courage

I never met John McCain. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958; I graduated from NROTC in 1958, which puts us in the same year group, with the same date of rank.

He flew airplanes; I drove ships (destroyers and cruisers). In the 1980's I served in the Pentagon in Plans and Policy - he served in Congressional Relations.

So our paths never crossed.

I often disagreed with him.

But I never doubted his courage or his integrity.

He has more strength and courage in his little toe than Donald J. Trump has in his whole body.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Democracy And Rule Of Law

Democracy is more than just elections.

The Soviet Union had elections.

Joseph Stalin usually received 98 or 99% of the vote.

The Soviet Union didn't have rule of law. The fictonal Ivan Denisovich was sentenced to ten years in a labor camp for suspicion of an offence. Actual Soviet citizens were sentenced for making jokes about Stalin.

Soviet citizens, like those of Tsarist Russia before them, lived in mortal fear of even minor bureaucrats.

One of my favorite stories by Anton Chekhov is titled "Death Of A Bureaucrat." It describes the terror faced by a minor official who accidentally sneezes on a senior civil service official, keeps apologizing obsequiously and fears the senior official does not excuse him. He goes home to bed, turns his face to the wall and dies of mortification.

When our soldiers came home from World War II, they were determined to prevent our country from going down that path. We might not have been a perfect democracy in 1941 or yet in 1945, but we aspired to be as perfect as we could be and to continue perfecting that state.

What defends us from autocracy is democracy and the rule of law. Not just a casual regard for laws, but a deep respect for law.

Five years ago, our elected officials in the Town of Oriental turned away from rule of law and toward arbitrary exercise of authority in favor of the wishes of the wealthy and the powerful.

When elected officials in a democracy abandon rule of law in favor of influence or some other value, that is a betrayal of democracy and of its citizens.

Last Friday's meeting of the Oriental Planning Board was an attempt to address the consequences of a five year old betrayal.

More to follow.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Navy At Fault in Fitzgerald Collision

According to YAHOO News, preliminary investigation shows the Navy is at fault in the collision of USS Fitzgerald with a Philippine Container Ship.

Here is one published report:

"What caused the bizarre June 17 collision between a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer and a Philippines cargo ship that killed seven U.S. sailors off the coast of Japan?
It looks like some answers may finally be forthcoming.
An initial investigation has found that the USS Fitzgerald’s crew did not respond adequately to signals, did not understand that the other ship was drawing near, and may have failed even to summon the commanding officer, according to CNN.
“They did nothing until the last second,” said one defense official.
“There were many people who should have spoken up,” another official told Fox News.
The far larger cargo ship hit the Fitzgerald on its starboard side at 1:30 am after veering sharply in a failed attempt to avoid it, gouging out a deep gash that left the Navy destroyer listing to one side. After the deadly collision, the Fitzgerald was towed to the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka. Three Navy sailors, including the commanding officer, were evacuated to medical facilities in Japan. Divers salvaged the bodies of seven American sailors.
It was the deadliest U.S. naval event since the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Multiple investigations have been launched to figure out how a radar-equipped, sophisticated vessel like the Fitzgerald was apparently unable to avoid a much larger ship.
International navigation guidelines state that “the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way.”
A Navy spokeswoman warned that no conclusions should yet be drawn from the initial probe.
“We are in the early stages of the investigation process to develop a comprehensive picture of what caused the collision and do not have any definitive information to release at this time,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, U.S. Navy Chief of Information, said in a statement.
“It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues,” said Cutler. “Once we have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances, we will share those findings with the Fitzgerald families, our Congressional oversight committees and the general public.”
This is not a surprise.
I still want to know exactly how it came about. I now have enough information from this news report to make a guess. 
My guess is that the Officer of The Deck that night may not have been looking out the window. He should have been. USS Fitzgerald was equipped with the latest, most automated radar, the AN/SPY-1D radar. It should have automatically established radar tracks for ships and aircraft in the ship's vicinity. But the scale of the display may not have been right for nearby surface ships. 
In any event, no matter how automated the ship's sensors may be, the Mark I Mod 0 eyeball (otherwise known as seaman's eye) is still necessary for safe operation of ships at sea.
That's why I want to know more about what happened that night.
In any event, one thing is certain: one person is responsible for the safe operation of the ship - the Captain. Others may also be responsible, but there is no doubt about the Captain.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

More News About USS Fitzgerald Collision

Last week the navy moved the damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald into dry dock 4 at the Naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, in order to more carefully inspect the damage from the ship's collision with a container ship. The main question is whether the ship can make it back to a shipyard in the states or whether she must be towed or otherwise transported.

So far, it looks like the damage is more extensive than originally thought. The hull was twisted in the collision, much like you twist a wet rag to get the water out. Torsional damage of that kind can make repairs more difficult.

A good CNN article spells out how the navy will investigate and what the probable consequences will be. In a word - there will be responsibility and accountability. This is the way government should work.

And here's another article worth reading:

I have long believed the world could be improved by being more like the navy. At least in the matter of people in responsible positions taking responsibility.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Collision (Or Grounding) At Sea Can Ruin Your Whole Day

Last month, after the USS Fitzgerald collision with a container ship and resulting loss of life, US Navy spokesmen pointed out that such collisions are extremely rare.

I promised to explain the collision based on my own knowledge and experience, but only after the Navy investigation completes its work. Until then, any analysis would be just guesswork.

I am rethinking those assurances. I still think it best to wait until the investigation is over, but it has occurred to me that we can learn a lot from some of the prior rare examples from the 20th century. I know a bit about some of these earlier incidents.

Here are some cases:

NH 66721 Honda Point.gif

September 8, 1923 Honda Point, California

The fourteen ships of destroyer squadron 11 were steaming from San Francisco to San Diego simulating wartime operations. All fourteen ships were Clemson class destroyers less than five years old. The squadron was commanded by Captain Edward Howe Watson, an 1895 graduate of the US Naval Academy, embarked in the flagship USS Delphy. 

The flagship was responsible for navigation, the other ships of the squadron followed in Delphy's wake in a column formation at a speed of twenty knots. The flagship was fitted with a new electronic navigation device, a radio direction finder (RDF), which detected a signal from Point Arguello at the entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel. The ship's officers had no experience with RDF and distrusted its bearings.

As a result, the ship was navigating by "dead reckoning," - calculating the ship's progress along its track using rpm to estimate speed. A week earlier, Japan was hit with the Great Kanto earthquake, which devastated Tokyo and generated unusual swells and currents all across the Pacific. These swells and currents may have retarded the squadron's progress down the coast.

Shortly after 9:00 p.m., in dark and foggy weather, the navigator calculated it was time to turn to enter the Santa Barbara Channel. Delphy was actually several miles northeast of the calculated position and ran aground on the rocky shore at 20 knots. The following ships attempted to turn away, some turning to port and others turning to starboard, but seven destroyers were lost. This was the largest peacetime loss of US Navy ships. 

Captain Watson accepted full responsibility and argued against any court-martial of other officers.

1950 USS Missouri Grounding, Chesapeake Bay

On January 17, 1950, USS Missouri (BB063), the last of the Iowa class battleships to be commissioned, ran hard aground in Chesapeake Bay near Thimble Shoals light in plain view of senior Army and Navy officers quartered near Old Point Comfort. The ship ran aground during an unusually high tide, making salvage difficult. She was refloated 1 February and towed back into drydock for repairs. The incident greatly amused the press, because of President Truman's personal interest in the ship, and greatly amused Army and Air Force officers because of Navy discomfort.

The ship's commanding officer, Captain William D. Brown, had taken command on December 10th as the ship's three month period of repairs was drawing to a close. Brown, a veteran of thirty years of naval service, had a distinguished career commanding submarines and destroyers, but had never commanded such a large ship.

The investigation uncovered a number of shortcomings in shipboard organization as stipulated in U.S. Navy Regulations. The principal organizational shortcoming was the subordinate position of the ship's navigator, who lacked direct access to the ship's captain.

After the Missouri grounding, Navy Regulations were changed to stipulate that the ship's navigator, no matter how junior, would be designated as a department head.

On a personal note, in 1955 I went aboard my first naval ship on a training cruise out of Norfolk. The ship was USS Iowa (BB-61), a sister ship of Missouri.

Another personal note: when I was about to be commissioned, I was asked what job I wanted. I indicated I wanted to be navigator. In 1958, I became navigator and department head at the age of 21. After that time, I was always at least a department head at sea.

More To Come

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Amelia Earhart Update

In May 1937, a month after I was born, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off in Amelia's Lockheed Electra, headed Eastward on a projected circumnavigation. On June 28, after flying over Africa,Southeast Asia and Western New Guinea, they crossed the towering Owen Stanley mountan range of Papua New Guinea, landing at the airfield at Lae, on the north coast. They spent the next four days preparing for the most critical phase of the Pacific crossing, the flight from Lae to a refueling stop on Howland Island. She took off from Lae July 2 1937 and was last heard from July 3. She never reached Howland and no trace of her flight was discovered, despite a vast air/sea search.

From the outset of the disappearance, events stimulated speculation that Japan was somehow involved. It was already clear that Japan was readying her Trust Territories in the Pacific to be used as bases in a planned war with the United States.

Five months later, in December, 1937, Japanese army aircraft involved in military operations in Nanking attacked and sank the USS Panay, a Yangtze River gunboat, with loss of American lives. Japan apologized and paid an indemnity, which the US accepted. Nevertheless, it appeared to be a deliberate attack.

Meanwhile, back to Lae.

Recently a photograph discovered in the classified section of the National Archives seems to show Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Jaluit Island and Earhart's airplane on a barge being towed by a Japanese ship. The ship's name is the same as the ship reported by natives to have salvaged the Earhart aircraft. Native reports also claimed that Earhart was imprisoned on Saipan and later executed. These details have not been verified.

The Japanese Army in 1937 may already have been planning an invasion of the North Coast of New Guinea to establish bases from which to march over the Owen Stanley Range and capture Port Moresby. This would allow them to attack Northern Australia by air.

Five years later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on March 8, 1942, Japanese marines waded ashore at Lae and the nearby village of Salamaua. A joint naval task force of Australian and US vessels raced to counter the Japanese invasion. The force included US aircraft carriers Lexington and Yorktown, who launched 52 aircraft from each carrier at dawn March 10. The aircraft flew over the mountain range and caught Japanese ships by surprise as they were unloading.

The final score was four transport ships sunk, one cruiser out of action, requiring repairs in Japan, two Japanese destroyers out of action. The US carriers lost only one aircraft.

So Lae, the airfield that Earhart left from on her next leg, proved important to Japanese plans.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I used to read Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News) in Russian. Not to learn either truth or news directly, but to uncover clues as to what the truth or the news might be, or at least what the rulers of the Soviet Union wanted their readers to think was the truth or the news.

It was a more complex task than it might seem.

In October, 1962, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, announced that the Soviet Union had placed offensive nuclear missiles on Cuba, a mere 90 miles from military targets in the United States. The Soviet Union denied it.

The world chose to believe the United States even before Ambassador Stevenson displayed aerial photos of the missiles.

The world believed the United States because in the past our official statements had been true, even when lies might have seemed advantageous.

In most cases, the truth turned out to be stronger than lies.

In May 1960, President Eisenhower admitted that he had known about and approved of U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, correcting an earlier CIA cover story.

So the world often gave us the benefit of the doubt and a great deal of credence.

But what will happen when the world comes to believe our president and the people around him never tell the truth?

This last weekend the New York Times compiled and printed a comprehensive list of lies - at least one a day - that President Trump has told since he was inaugurated.

This matters.

I have many anecdotes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Forty-Five Years Ago: Committee To Reelect The President And Undo Rule Of Law

Forty five years ago, a band of burglars perpetrated what was later referred to as a "third rate burglary."

The target: Democratic Party Headquarters. The customer: Committee to Reelect The President (AKA "CREEP). The purpose: to collect information on the Democrats. The goal: reelect President Richard Nixon.

What exactly did Nixon hope to find? It still isn't clear. What is now clear in the aftermath of Russian cyber attacks on the democrats is that even innocuous information can be manipulated to seem ominous.

What is even more clear is that the burglary was an attack on democratic norms. It was also a attack on the rule of law.

This wasn't Nixon's first burglary. There was an earlier burglary on the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. That didn't glean much useful information, either.

I learned several things from the incident:
1. Richard Nixon was dishonest;
2. Richard Nixon was unscrupulous;
3. Richard Nixon did not trust democracy;
4. In 1972 the attack on rule of law did not succeed because:
5. There remained a degree of integrity in the Republican Party;
6. Professional Civil Servants continued to do their jobs in service to the country.

In 1972 as a nation, we still believed in democracy and endeavored to make it better.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

USS Fitzgerald - What Happened?

Earlier today I was asked several times if I could explain what happened to bring about the collision between USS Fitzgerald and a large container ship three times her size.

The truth is, I don't know. It should never have happened.

Neither should the sinking of the Titanic.

At 2:00 a.m. I imagine Commander Bryce Benson, who had taken command of Fitzgerald about a month earlier, had no idea that his ship was in peril. Sailors sleeping below decks on the starboard side forward had no idea that they were in peril.

The ship was operating only about 56 nautical miles from their home port of Yokosuka, Japan, an easy two hour steam. The sea was calm, the night was clear.

We don't yet know who had the conn. We don't know whether Captain Benson was on the bridge or in his sea cabin.

Some of these details won't come out until after the navy completes the investigation.

We only know that something went badly wrong.

Fitzgerald bristles with lethal weapons, with sensors probing the air, sea and ocean depths surrounding the ship. Everything moving in the ship's vicinity is detected, tracked and recorded by her many digital computers. Everything said over the interior telephone systems, every radar or sonar contact, every radio transmission or received signal is digitally recorded to be played back and analyzed.

I can speculate as to the cause, but even though I helped design the ship's equipment and have operated similar ships at sea very near the site of the collision, it would only be a guess.

Rather than engage in guesswork, I would rather remind us of what is certain - USS Fitzgerald is a mighty warship, whose crew willingly encounters the hazards of operating at sea. This is well expressed in the first verse of the Navy Hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
      For those in peril on the sea!

For the rest of it, I'll wait for the investigation report.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Catastrophe At Sea: USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62)

About 0230 the morning of June 16, 2017, USS Fitzgerald, a 20 year old guided missile destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class, operating near the volcanic island of O Shima, about fifty miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship on the way from the port of Nagoya, to the port of Tokyo  in a calm sea on a clear night.

Damage to Fitzgerald was extensive both topside and below decks, she took on a lot of water, a number of sailors were injured, and seven sailors are missing. Two crew members were evacuated by helicopter to a hospital ashore, including CDR Bryce Benson, her commanding officer, who took command last month. The ship's executive officer has assumed command.

There is no information as to what caused the collision, but one report indicates that the Philipine vessel reversed course in a u-turn about 25 minutes before the collision. Fitzgerald has returned to her base at Yokosuka under her own power, flooding is under control, and the ship is in no danger of sinking. Commander Seventh Fleet has promised updates as soon as more information is available.

USS Fitzgerald is one of fifteen guided missile destroyers and three guided missile cruisers designated as anti-ballistic missile ships.

Admiral Arleigh Burke was the most distinguished destroyer squadron commander of World War II, who went on to become Chief of Naval Operations. He brought about many improvements in the capabilities of the navy and was an inspiration to my generation of officers.

I had the great pleasure of meeting him and working with him at annual Naval Academy foreign affairs symposiums. A great man.

I also had the honor to work on the design of USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) at RCA after I retired from the navy.

Very sad to learn of USS Fitzgerald's collision.

The sea is a demanding task master.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Quisling And Fifth Columnists

It was clear when Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy for president that he thought he was running for the office of dictator. It was equally clear that many of his supporters wanted a dictator.

For those of us with long memories, this is reminiscent of an earlier time when, especially in Europe but also in this country ("America First"), authoritarian dictatorships were seen as the wave of the future. Dictators (e.g. Mussolini), it was said, could make the trains run on time.

Dictators turned out not to be the wave of the future. Democracies prevailed in World War II. When our troops came home in 1945, we recognized the victories in Europe and Asia as victories for democracy and we built a post war world around democracy. But recent surveys suggest that millennials no longer believe it important to live in a democracy. I hope they don't learn their error the hard way.

In the meantime, the 1930's and 1940's enriched many languages with words for people of an authoritarian bent.

In Norway, following the 1940 Nazi invasion, Vidkun Quisling, a former army officer and defense minister,became prime minister. He was a collaborator during German occupation. He was executed in 1945, and his name became synonymous with Nazi collaboration.

Before the German invasion, the way was prepared by Norwegians sympathetic to fascism, sometimes referred to as the "fifth column," a term arising out of the Spanish Civil War.

Both "Quisling" and "fifth column" became terms of opprobrium for persons disloyal to their own people and to democracy.

Now we live in a time when our own president seems to venerate the authoritarian tyrant who leads Russia. Not good. How did we get here? What can we do?

What if we don't want a dictator?

One of the most telling facts from the senate hearings last week and yesterday is the deep lack of Republican curiosity about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Let's be clear. The Russian effort to affect the outcome of our election was an intelligence operation by a hostile power to damage our democracy.

It appeared to succeed, though we can't yet know how many votes were affected. Apparently none were hacked in any voting machines, though some 39 state boards of elections had their voter registration records hacked.

What we do know is that this was a big deal,  using well developed Russian techniques of propaganda, disinformation, false news, cyber warfare and other approaches,

I am not a professional intelligence officer, but I know a bit about it. I had not kept up with recent developments in cyber warfare. So I consulted a recent book, The Plot To Hack America, by Malcolm Nance. Very informative.

Can we protect ourselves? Somewhat, but not completely.

Watch out for Cyber Bears.

The senate seems to be getting on the case. Today they voted 97 - 2 to take away the president's power to lift sanctions on Russia.

This may be a big deal, depending on what the House does.

As they used to say in radio: "don't touch that dial!"

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Cabinet Of Billionaire Sycophants

Yesterday's scene in the cabinet room of all the cabinet members declaring their personal loyalty to Donald Trump was disgusting. It showed what Trump had wanted of James Comey but didn't get. It was not an example of serious people doing the country's business.

In my eighty years, I have never seen or read of such a scene in America.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Comey Testimony - Some Thoughts

I've been reading, watching TV and listening to commentary for the past few days. Conclusions: America's democracy is under serious attack.

The attackers are Russia and the American GOP.

Russia has been attacking our democracy since about 2008.

The GOP has been attacking our democracy since at least 2,000 but in some areas since about 1948.

Only we can protect democracy.


Don't wait for the Lone Ranger.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comey Hearing

I'm getting ready to watch the Comey hearing.

I have some preliminary conclusions and am waiting for the hearing to either confirm my thinking or call it into question.

I'll have more to say later.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Russian Election Interference

My Russian is a bit rusty, but I still speak it. It has been a few years - maybe a couple of decades since I followed Russian politics in detail, but I have studied Russian and Soviet history, politics, national security policy, etc. since about 1956. So I know a thing or two about Russia.

I have been deeply involved in American elections and related legal and regulatory matters for the past decade. I have spent my adult life in defense of democracy both here and in allied countries.

I'm not an expert, but I know a thing or two.

I spent the Watergate years in Washington DC. I had friends and colleagues in the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department, the Congress and the press. I was interviewed for a job on the National Security Council Staff, but the incumbent decided to stay, so I went to the Pentagon instead..

I know more about international than domestic affairs, but I know a bit about that, too.

I mention these things to make a point - I know much of what I know not from reading books, but because I was there. And I paid attention. I've been paying attention for more than seven decades.

I read books not necessarily to learn things from scratch, but often to refresh my memory or sometimes to fill in some blanks.

Today I'm reading The Plot To Hack America by Malcolm Nance. What a terrific book.

Nance speaks Russian and Arabic and has been in the intelligence business for more than three decades.

I find him immensely credible.

Plainly Russia tried to steal the 2016 US election for Trump.

Did they actually pull it off?  They got the outcome they hoped for, but did they cause it?

I think they did, but I can't prove it. One must avoid the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Other possible factors? Jim Comey's intervention, which may have been triggered by deceptive active measures by the Russians. Hard to prove.

There has been heavy criticism the past few days of Hillary Clinton's explanations.

I say baloney.

After every airplane crash, the site is inundated with investigators. Many participants have conflicting interests at risk.  The airlines hope to show that a pilot or some other crew member was at fault. They would be equally pleased at a finding of some structural or design fault in the aircraft. Pilot error lets the manufacturer off the hook.

You get the idea.

But the airline industry as a whole wants to know what caused the mishap so the problem can be fixed.

Someone needs to do that kind of autopsy with failed campaigns. Not to assign blame, but to know what happened. And to fix it.

We all need to know in case the outcome was the result of an attack on democracy.

That's where I would look first.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

D-Day Anniversary Allied Landing In Normandy

Morning Joe this morning on MSNBC called attention to this being the anniversary of the June 6, 1944 allied landing at Normandy. It was the largest amphibious landing in history. Remarkable.

Joe called attention to participating allies, mentioning the UK and Canada.

There were, in fact, nine allied nations whose forces took part in the landing. The main Allied forces came from the United StatesUnited Kingdom, and Canada, but another nine nations sent units, the rest being AustraliaBelgiumCzech Republic, FranceGreecethe NetherlandsNew ZealandNorway and Poland. 

We should not forget the others.

Someone should tell the White House.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Thoughts On Russia

I am a bit puzzled by how anxious Donald Trump and the people around him are to make nice with Russia.

Let's put Russia in perspective.

The per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Russia is about the same as Mexico. So why isn't Trump and Co. making nice with Mexico?

Russia doesn't make anything the rest of the world wants to buy. What they sell is oil and gas.

There isn't much of an international market for matryoshka dolls.

Russia's GDP is declining.

We will not become prosperous by deals with Russia.

Today's Russia is a kleptocracy. Vladimir Putin is the chief kleptocrat.

Russia is a closed society.

Her most talented young people seek futures elsewhere.

Reminds me of Mississippi.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Russia - Long History Of Autocracy - And Fake News

I am not an expert on Russia, but I know a thing or two.

I started studying Russian history, government and culture in 1956. I speak the language. I worked for years in the Pentagon on Soviet policy issues, studied Soviet economics, Soviet naval affairs, foreign policy, etc. Still, I am no expert.

I am appalled at the ignorance in the White House concerning Russia.

I was taught Russian by former Tsarist naval officers, former Soviet generals, Russian scholars, doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, etc.  I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

I can neither confirm nor deny that I ever knew any secrets.

I am a certified expert in national security policy and in naval warfare.

And I served in Washington during Watergate.

In time, I'll have more to say.

Remember, democracy is under attack.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Covfefe - I don't know what it means, either

Trump tweeted a new word last night - "covfefe."

No one seems to know what it means.

I won't even hazard a guess.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Donald J. Trump Disrespects Veterans; Disrespects Europe; Disrespects Democracy

Watching TV coverage of President Trump's first foreign trip, I was reminded of Casey Stengel's question during his first season with the newly-formed NY Mets: "Can't anyone here play this game?"

Apparently the answer is "no."

If we were dealing with simple incompetence, that would be alarming enough. But we seem to be dealing with something worse - actual malice toward Europe and toward democracy.

But there is also incompetence of a particular kind. An astonishing unwillingness to recognize reality.

What is said at official international meetings is important. There is both the substantive importance - the content of the statements; and there is a kind of ritual importance that may count for more.

Trump's refusal to reiterate the continued commitment of the United States to Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty - at a meeting that unveiled a monument to 9/11, which is the first and only time NATO ever invoked Article Five - was a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to our allies.

Coming on the eve of Memorial Day, it was also a statement of disrespect to the brave Americans and Allies who invaded at Normandy, at Italy and in the South of France in 1944, fought their way across Europe, reestablished democracy. It reflected disrespect for the sustained defense of democracy in Europe.

What the president said (and didn't say) and the way he said it reflected not only disdain for NATO, disdain for democracy, but also immense ignorance of how international security is managed on a day to day basis.

Oh, by the way, he also doesn't understand the first thing about international trade. I'll offer a hint - we have flexible exchange rates and flexible markets. One result is that bilateral trade balances are meaningless. He doesn't understand that.

He doesn't understand a lot of things.

Why doesn't someone on his staff explain these things?

I wondered about that. Especially since the National Security appointments are universally viewed as an order of magnitude more knowledgeable than the civilian appointees. So I looked up the bios of the generals appointed to these positions.

What I learned is that none of Trump's "brilliant" generals has any substantive knowledge about Europe, about Russia, about China, about East Asia, about Latin America, or about Africa. All they know is Central Asia. I don't even see evidence that they have any particular knowledge about Iran.

This is not good.

It means that it is almost impossible for anyone to brief the president on issues in the rest of the world.

On top of that, our journalists have very limited access to the government leaders in those parts of the world, because many foreign bureaus have been closed. As a result, Americans find themselves largely cut off from information about the outside world.

Last week Germany took the hint and decided to lead Europe in its own direction. France had already repudiated Russian attempts to interfere with her elections.

Last year's House of Cards included an episode where a character said, "the president IS the people around him."

We are just beginning to learn who some of the people around Trump are. Not promising.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump And NATO - Making The World Safe For Democracy

A century ago last month, President Woodrow Wilson announced the entry of the United States into World War I "to make the world safe for democracy."

Wilson might have made the announcement as early as January of 1917, except for one thing - the world's most oppressive autocrat - the Tsar of Russia - was a key member of the alliance against Germany and Austria. But then on March 8, 1917  the Russian people overthrew the Tsar and established a parliamentary government.

After that, Wilson wasted little time entering the war against Germany, whose submarines were destroying unarmed and neutral American merchant ships on the high seas.

Wilson declared a number of aspirational goals, spelling some out in his famous Fourteen Points. Among them: "Open covenants openly arrived at;" (no more secret treaties); "National self determination,"

The commitments to democracy and to national self determination proved to have a powerful positive influence on allied efforts against the Central Powers. That effect may well have been more powerful than the vast influx of arms and men to the Western Front.

Thus, Democracy was one of the most effective weapons for the allies and continued to be effective in negotiating the peace. We should never forget that.

What did Wilson mean by democracy? Holding elections was not enough. He meant countries that governed themselves.

Wilson's biggest disappointment was his failure to persuade Republicans to support the League of Nations. That failure to involve the United States in the proposed collective security measure at least contributed to the outbreak of World War II.

Seeing that war on the horizon, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill tried again with the North Atlantic Charter in 1941. That charter became the foundation of the United Nations. The centerpiece: commitment to democracy and to national self determination.

At the time of the Charter, many observers of the international scene thought that authoritarian dictatorships were the wave of the future. Among those observers was Charles Lindbergh and his fellow members of the America First Movement. The Atlantic Charter declared otherwise:

The eight principal points of the Charter were:
  1. no territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
  2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned;
  3. all people had a right to self-determination;
  4. trade barriers were to be lowered;
  5. there was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
  6. the participants would work for a world free of want and fear;
  7. the participants would work for freedom of the seas;
  8. there was to be disarmament of aggressor nations, and a post-war common disarmament.

Four years later, when our soldiers, sailors and airmen returned from the war, we all recognized the outcome reflected the triumph of democracy over authoritarian dictatorships. Over the following decades, we did our best (and largely succeeded) to extend the reach of democracy in the world.

This week in Brussels, President Donald J. Trump abandoned that effort.

This is a tragedy and an outcome up with which we should not put (to borrow from Churchill's observation about dangling prepositions.)

As we approach Memorial Day, please remember that many Americans have dedicated their adult lives to the defense of democracy. They have never sworn personal loyalty to any president (thanks to the foresight of our founders), but have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, to which our loyalty belongs.

This is our oath to democracy.

Let's renew our global effort to defend democracy.

Friday, May 19, 2017

How To Keep Up With Trump News? - There's Just No Way

I've been trying to follow the daily, hourly, and by the minute bombshells out of the White House - just can't keep up.

I do remember Watergate, though, so maybe I can guess what's coming. As the Farmer's ad says: "I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two.

Here's what we can look forward to:

1. Government paralysis: hundreds of senior government positions are vacant because Trump has not yet nominated them - appointments won't get easier;

2. International paralysis: we often forget how many international crises happened during Watergate  - what I remember is how hard it was to get the attention of the White House:
  • 1972 -
— June - Watergate break in'
— October 8 Kissinger meets with the North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho in Paris for peace talks to end the Vietnam War, and initially the talks go well.
— October 18 President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam rejects the proposed Paris peace agreement, complaining that Kissinger had not consulted him.
— December 17 Paris peace talks break down.
— December 18 Nixon orders "Christmas Bombings" against North Vietnam following the breakdown in the Paris peace talks.
  • 1973 -
— 27 January Paris Peace Accords ends the American war in Vietnam; POW's returned in March.
— October 6 October War begins with a surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria. The U.S. supports Israel while the Soviet Union supports Egypt and Syria.
— October 12 Nixon orders Operation Nickel Grass, a major American effort to supply Israel with weapons to make good the IDF's heavy initial losses.
— October 20 Arab oil embargo led by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia against the U.S and other Western nations begins as punishment for support of Israel. The oil embargo sparks major inflation in the United States.
— October 24 The Soviet Union announces that it sent will troops to Egypt, which in turn leads Kissinger to warn that the United States will sent troops to fight the Soviet forces deployed to Egypt. Nixon places the United States military on DEFCON 3, one of the highest states of alert. The Soviets back down.
— October 25 A ceasefire brokered by the U.S and the Soviet Union ends the October War.
— January 18 Under an American disengagement plan negotiated by Kissinger, Israeli forces pull back from the Suez Canal.
— March 17 Arab oil embargo against the West ends.
__ August 8 Nixon resigns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Memo To Voters: Don't Elect A Person Who Declares "I Alone Can Fix It"

So how many classified documents were found on Hillary Clinton's e-mail server? Actually, none were found. At least none that were marked classified.

About three documents were found that certain agencies contended after the fact contained classified information. Assuming for a minute that the judgment was correct, whose fault was that?

The rules for handling classified material aren't necessarily cut and dried, but one thing is perfectly clear: classification of any document  is the responsibility of the originator, not the recipient. In other words, if an improperly classified document was found in Hillary Clinton's possession, and she did not originate the document, she would not have been guilty of any infraction.

Congressional investigators have completely obfuscated that issue. I believe Jim Comey did so as well.

Just saying.

Are there any Patriots in the Republican Party?

Gobsmacked. There's no other word to describe my reaction to Trump's latest assertion of the power to disclose intelligence information from other countries to the Russians. And to do it from the hip.

This is just one more example of Trump's apparent belief that he was elected emperor or dictator. No wonder he likes the Russians so much. Before the 1917 revolution, Russian Tsars ruled by issuing decrees (Ukase) on any subject they wanted to. Putin follows similar procedures, even to the point of having his opponents assassinated.

So when Donald J. Trump tweets that he has the "absolute right" to declassify anything he wants to, that sounds an awful lot like the assertion of an absolute monarch. He apparently is under the impression that there are no limits to his power.

That isn't in keeping with our patriotic traditions.

There is a reason that officers of the United States swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," rather than an oath of loyalty to the president.

We also had an early dispute over how to address the president. An early candidate phrase was "Your Highness." That didn't fly. Quite rightly.

Every day in every way we learn yet again that when other candidates declared Donald J. Trump unfit to serve as president, they were absolutely correct.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Some Thoughts On Firing Comey

Sources of confusion. Press reports are that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein threatened to resign unless Trump backed off on the assertion that he fired Comey based on recommendations by Rosenstein and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to fire the FBI director. So what is that about, since all of the TV commentators read the Rosenstein memorandum as making such a recommendation?

According to the Washington Post, Trump had decided to fire Comey ahead of time and then called Sessions and Rosenstein to the White House on Monday May 8th and directed them to put in writing the reasons for firing Comey. They complied.

But Rosenstein, an experienced Justice Department official, DID NOT INCLUDE IN HIS MEMO A RECOMMENDATION TO FIRE COMEY!

So Rosenstein had every right to object when Trump claimed in writing that he was only following Rosenstein's recommendation. He had carefully followed the president's direction and put in writing some reasons to fire Comey but he did not make the recommendation to do so.

My reading is that Trump, unfamiliar and contemptuous of the ways of career government officials, totally missed the subtlety of Rosenstein's memo. Apparently Trump was in such a big hurry that he did not ask anyone familiar with government to review Rosenstein's memo.

Anyone with experience in government would have spotted what Rosenstein did. More evidence that Trump is not competent to govern. But we already knew that.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Deja Vu All Over Again

I'm not a great admirer of FBI Director Comey. I think he acted wrongly on the Clinton e-mail matter. But I don't think those actions had anything to do with his firing.

I also don't think Sally Yates' decision about Trump's first immigration order had anything to do with her firing.

This is about Russia.

Let's get this straight! Our democracy is under attack.

It is under attack by the Republican Party, whose leaders demonstrate contempt for democracy.

It is under attack by Russia, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, despises democracy..

I have seen some such attacks before.

My wife and I were in Washington DC during Watergate.

I knew some of the players in the White House, in the Congress, in the Department of State and in the Pentagon.

But it was a different time.

I have learned some things recently about ties between the Brexit campaign, Russian hacking, Steve Bannon, Bannon's billionaire sponsors in the Mercer family and extraordinary computer technology to target specific voters with particular false news reports.

These same techniques were used to get the UK out of the European Union, satisfying a major goal of Vladimir Putin. The same techniques were used in our 2016 presidential election, and succeeded in electing Donald Trump. I suspect the same techniques have been used in US elections to state and congressional offices over the past eight years.

The same techniques were used last Sunday in France, but it didn't work. They will probably be used in this summer's elections in Germany.

Now the deputy White House spokeswoman urges that the Russia investigation be ended.

A hundred years ago last month, President Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany "To make the world safe for democracy."

Our democracy in 1917 was flawed. Women could not yet vote. Blacks could not yet vote in most of the country. Unions had few rights. We still had child labor. And on and on. But over the next 80 years we worked hard to make our democracy better. And we spread democracy across the industrial world.

This plainly did not impress our billionaire class. Like the bandits in "Treasure Of The Sierra Madre," they don't need no stinkin' investigations.

Since the presidential campaign of 2000 and the case of Bush v. Gore, our democracy has been subjected to one attack after another.

It is time to fight back.

Follow the bodies.

Only we ourselves can defend democracy from its enemies.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Vive La France!

I certainly breathed a sigh of relief at the outcome of the French election for president.

I only regret that I don't have a tricolor to fly from our front porch in recognition of France's dedication to Democracy and to Europe. The UK has abandoned the cause of Europe and has largely abandoned politics to the Tories.

France still stands as a champion of democracy in Europe.

Some years ago I posted other celebrations of the actions of French citizens in the face of tragedy. For example, after Charlie Hebdo: and

Now we have a subsequent election in the aftermath of several episodes of terrorism in France - a clear choice between a candidate dedicated to improving Europe against a candidate committed to erecting barriers and withdrawing from the EU and from NATO.

But French voters stood up for freedom and for Europe.

Vive la France!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.  25
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.  30
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!"

Robert Frost

White Privilege - Explained By Jefferson Davis

In case any reader doubts that there was white privilege in the slaveholding states and that this privilege applied to poor whites, here is an essay by Jefferson Davis (later to be Confederate President) explaining it all:

Jefferson Davis on Slavery and White Equality, 1851

[Reviewing the debates in Congress on the Compromise of 1850, Jefferson Davis expressed regret that the border states,] after we of the planting states had labored to give them the law by which they might perchance recover their slaves, had refused to co-operate with us, to enable our people to obtain an outlet for the black population of the country; joining in the cry of the "glorious Union," sustaining the odious so-called adjustment measures, and thus aiding in the attempt of the free-soilers to encircle us about with a cordon of free States, the direct tendency of which is to crowd upon our soil an overgrown black population, until there will not be room in the country for the whites and the blacks to subsist in; and in this way destroy the institution and reduce the whites to the degraded position of the African race. He, therefore, was in favor of excluding the slaves of the border states from the planting states, and he hoped that this policy would he adopted.
Col. Davis said that he had heard it said that the poor men, who own no negroes themselves, would all be against the institution, and would, consequently, array themselves on the side of the so called Union men- that the submissionists claimed them. But that he could not believe, that the poor men of the country, were so blind to their own interests, as to be thus cheated out of their privileges, which they now enjoy. That now they stand upon the broad level of equality with the rich man. Equal to him in every thing, save that they did not own so much property; and that, even in this particular, the road to wealth was open to them, and the poor man might attain it; and, even if he did not succeed, the failure did not degrade him. That no white man, in a slaveholding community, was the menial servant of any one. That whenever the poor white man labored for the rich, he did so upon terms of distinction between him and the negro. It was to the interest of the master to keep up a distinction between the white man in his employment, and his negroes. And that this very distinction elevated, and kept the white laborer on a level with the employer; because the distinction between the classes throughout the slaveholding states, is a distinction of color. Between the classes there is no such thing, here, as a distinction of property; and he who thinks there is, and prides himself upon it, is grossly mistaken. Free the negroes, however, and it would soon be here, as it is in the countries of Europe, and in the North, and everywhere else, where negro slavery does not exist. The poor white man would become a menial for the rich, and be, by him, reduced to an equality with the free blacks, into a degraded position; and the distinction, at once, would be made that of-Property-of Wealth-between the classes, between the Rich and the Poor. The rich man, with his lands, and his other property, and his money, would be a rich man still. The poor would be poor still, and with much less chance than he now has of acquiring property, because of the numbers of mean and worthless free negroes, in competition with whose labor his own would have to come. And yet the tendency of the doctrines of submissionists, is directly to invite further aggression from the North, and by this invitation, to bring about this very state of things. The non-slaveholder can see this, as well as the slaveholder. And seeing, and knowing his rights, he will defend and maintain them, as soon, if not sooner, than the rich man will. Then, he did not believe that the submission party had the exclusive right, which they claimed, or expect that the middle and poorer classes would co-operate with them upon this important question, affecting, as it does, their interests-their standing in the community- more than all others.
Col. Davis said that he had always thought, and sincerely believed, that the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists among us, is necessary to the equality of the white race. Distinctions between classes have always existed, everywhere, and in every country, where civilization has been established among men. Destroy them today, and they will spring up tomorrow; and we have no right to expect, or even to hope, that this Southern climate of ours, would be exempt from the operation of this Universal law.
Menial services have to be performed, by some one; and every where the world over, within the range of civilization, those persons, by whom the menial services have been performed, as a class, have been looked upon, as occupying, and are reduced to a state of inferiority. Wherever a distinction in color has not existed to draw the line, and mark the boundary, the line has been drawn, by property, between the rich and poor. Wealth and poverty have marked the boundary. The poor man stands in need of all his rights, and all his privileges, and therefore, this question is of the greatest, and the gravest importance to him; much more so than it is to the rich. The rich by siding with the party in power-the authorities that be, may always be safe. Not so with the poor. Their all is suspended upon their superiority to the blacks-their all of equality, in a political and social point of view-the social equality of their wives, daughters, and sons, are all suspended upon, and involved in this question. It will not do to say that this is a fancy sketch, or that these things are too far in the distance, to be seriously contemplated. The tendencies are all in that direction, and if they are not met, and met promptly, and rolled back, or stayed forever in their progress, the wheel of revolution will roll on until the institution is crushed, the great object of the freesoilers accomplished, and the negroes freed.
But they have, if possible, still higher grounds than these. The constitution, the palladium of the liberties of the people, in more respects than one, has been violated, and that violation is to be continued, under the implied invitation of the submissionists, if they succeed in the present contest. And when once it becomes an established principle, that repeated violations of that instrument will be tolerated by the people-that they will submit-the poor man's liberties are all gone, and gone forever.

Excerpts from

Jefferson Davis' reply in the Senate
to William H. Seward

Senate Chamber, U.S. Capitol, February 29, 1860

There is nothing, Mr. President [ Senator Benjamin Fitzgerald], which has led men to greater confusion of ideas than this term of "free States" and "slave States;" and I trusted that the Senator, with his discriminating and logical mind, was going to give us something tangible, instead of dealing in a phrase never applicable. He applied another; but what was his phrase? "Capital States" and "labor States." And where is the State in which nobody labors? The fallacy upon which the Senator hung adjective after adjective was, that all the labor of the southern States was performed by negroes. Did he not know that the negroes formed but a small part of the people of the southern States? Did he suppose nobody labored but a negro, there? If so, he was less informed than I had previously believe him to be Negro slavery exists in the South, and by the existence of negro slavery, the white man is raised to the dignity of a freeman and an equal. Nowhere else will you find every white man superior to menial service. Nowhere else will you find every white man recognized so far as an equal as never to be excluded from any man's haouse or any man's table. Your own menial who blacks your boots, drives your carriage, who wears your livery, and is your own in every sense of the word, is not your equal; and such is society wherever negro slavery is not the substratum on which the white race is elevated to its true dignity. We, however, have no theory to press upon you; we leave you to such institutions as you may prefer; but when you assail ours, we come to the vindication of our institutions by showing you that all your phrases are false; that we are the freemen. With us, and with us alone, as I believe, the white man attains to his true dignity in the Government. So much for the great fallacy on which the Senator's argument hangs, that the labor of the South is all negro labor, and that the white man must there be degraded if he labors; or that we have no laboring white men. I do not know which is his opinion; one of the two. The Senator has himself resided in a southern State, and therefore I say I believed him to be better informed before he spoke. I must suppose him to be as ignorant as him speech would indicate. No man, however, who has seen any portion of southern society, can entertain any such opinion as that which he presents; and it is in order that the statement he has made may not go out to deceive those less informed than himself, that I offer at this time the correction….
We have heard time and again this session the same point made against the Democratic party, that they were hedging themselves behind the decision of the Supreme Court [the 1857 Dred Scott decision]. If this had been presented in the beginning, it might have had some fairness; but, after years of conflict, and after we had found it utterly impossible ever to reach a conclusion satisfactory to both sides--in other words, to enact a law which would answer the purpose--we then agreed to postpone a question judicial in its character, and thus agreed to be bound, legislatively and politically, by the decision which that judicial question should receive. Now, the Senator pleads to the jurisdiction, as though we had ever asserted that the Supreme Court could decide a political question; but he was bound in honor, and so were all who acted with him, to abide by the decision of an umpire to which they had themselves referred the case. We are willing to abide by it. We but claim from them that to which we pledged ourselves, and that to which they were mutually pledged when his position was taken by the two Houses of Congress.
But the Senator in his zeal depicts the negro slave of the South as a human being reduced to the condition of a mere chattel. Is it possible that the Senator did not know that the negro slave in every southern State was still a person, protected by all the laws which punish crime in other persons? Could the Senator have failed to know that no master could take the life of or maim his slave without being held responsible under the criminal laws of any southern State, and held to a responsibility as rigid as though that negro had been a white man? How, then, is it asserted that these are not persons in the eye of the law, not protected by the law as persons. The venerable Senator from Kentucky [John J. Crittenden] knows very well that this is not law in any State of the Union where slaves are held, but that everywhere they are protected; that the criminal law covers them as perfectly as it covers the white men….
Several southern Senators around have spoken to me to the effect that in each of their States the protection is secured, and a suit may be instituted at common law for assault and battery, to protect a negro as well as a white man. The condition of slavery with us is, in a word, Mr. President, nothing but the form of civil government instituted for a class of people not fit to govern themselves. It is exactly what in every State exists in some form or other. It is just that kind of control which is extended in every northern State over its convicts, its lunatics, its minors, its apprentices. It is but a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves. We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority. In their subject and dependent state, they are not the objects of cruelty as they would be if left to the commission of crime, for which they should be incarcerated in penitentiaries and work-houses, and put under hired overseers, having no interest in them and no relation to them, no affiliation, growing out of the associations of childhood and the tender care of age. Is there nothing of the balm needed in the Senator's own State, that he must needs go abroad to seek objects for his charity and philanthropy? What will be say of those masses in New York now memorializing for something very like an agrarian law? What will he say to the throngs of beggars who crowd the streets of his great commercial emporium? What will he say to the multitudes collected in the penitentiaries and prisons of his own State? I seek not, sir, to inquire into the policy and propriety of the institutions of other States; I assume not to judge of their fitness; it belongs to the community to judge, and I know not under what difficulties they may have been driven to what I cannot approve; but never, sir, in all my life, have I seen anything that so appealed to every feeling of humanity and manliness, as the suffering of the poor children imprisoned in your juvenile penitentiaries--imprisoned before they were old enough to know the nature of crime--there held to such punishment as we never inflict save upon those of mature years. I arraign you not for this: I know not what your crowded population and increasing wants may demand; I know not how far it may be the necessary result of crime which follows in the footsteps of misery; I know not how far the parents have become degraded, and how far the children have become outcast, and how far it may have devolved on the State to take charge of them; but, I thank my God, that in the state of society where I reside, we have no scenes so revolting as these.
Why then not address yourselves to the evils which you have at home? Why not confine your inquiries to the remedial measures which will relieve the suffering of and stop the progress of crime among your own people? Very intent in looking into the distance for the mote in your brother's eye, is it to be wondered that we turn back and point to the beam in your own?