Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

‘Button’ It, Mr. President

January 5, 2018

JFK and Reagan had the good sense not to speak flippantly about nuclear weapons.

President Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis. PHOTO: © CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

From the Oval Office address by President John F. Kennedy informing Americans of the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Oct. 22, 1962: “Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful nation which leads a world-wide alliance. We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics. But now further action is required, and it is under way; and these actions may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of world-wide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”

From his commencement address at American University, June 10, 1963: “What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children. Not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women; not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.”

From the address by President Ronald Reagan after the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Oct. 13, 1986: “I told him I had pledged to the American people that I would not trade away SDI”—the Strategic Defense Initiative. “There was no way I could tell our people that their government would not protect them against nuclear destruction. I went to Reykjavik determined that everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future. I am still optimistic that a way will be found. The door is open, and the opportunity to begin eliminating the nuclear threat is within reach.”

From Reagan’s remarks at the signing, with Mr. Gorbachev, of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, at the White House, Dec. 8, 1987: “The numbers alone demonstrate the value of this agreement. On the Soviet side, over 1,500 deployed warheads will be removed, and all ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, including the SS-20s, will be destroyed. On our side, our entire complement of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles, with some 400 deployed warheads, will all be destroyed. Additional backup missiles on both sides will also be destroyed. But the importance of this treaty transcends numbers. We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim. And I’m sure you’re familiar with it, Mr. General Secretary, though my pronunciation may give you difficulty. The maxim is: Dovorey no provorey—trust, but verify.”

Mr. Gorbachev: “You repeat that at every meeting. [Laughter]”

Reagan: “I like it. [Laughter]”

This is how American presidents have always talked about nuclear weapons and the nuclear age—blunt, direct, factual and clear: We never want these weapons used again.

Until now. President Donald Trump’s tweet, 7:49 p.m., Jan. 2, 2018: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

We’re not going in the right direction, are we?

Here are the reasons Mr. Trump’s tweet is destructive and dangerous.

Because it is cavalier about a subject that could not be graver. Because the language and venue reflect an immature mind, the grammar and usage a cluttered and undisciplined one. By raising the possibility of nuclear exchange on social media, the president diminishes the taboo against nuclear use. Anything you can joke about on Twitter has lost its negative mystique. Destigmatizing the idea of nuclear use makes it more acceptable, more possible—more likely. Bragging about your arsenal makes it sound as if nuclear weapons are like other weapons, when they’re not.

Using a taunting public tone toward an adversary such as Mr. Kim, who may be mad, heightens the chance of nuclear miscalculation. The president’s tweet is an attempt to get under the skin of a sociopath. Is it a good idea to get under the skin of a sociopath who enjoys shooting missiles?

Blithe carelessness on an issue with such high stakes lowers world respect for American leadership. It undermines our standing as a serious and moral player, which is the only kind of player you would trust, and follow, in a crisis.

The sober and respected Sam Nunn represented Georgia as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate from 1972 to 1997, and is co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit trying to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction. “The danger of nuclear use is greater now than during the Cold War,” he said. The impact of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric? “It increases the risk of blunder.”

There are more nuclear nations, more independent actors, including terrorist groups. “Nuclear material is not fully secured, scientific knowledge of how to make a bomb is increased.” And there is the cyber threat—hacking into weapons systems, supplying false data. “Want a war between India and Pakistan?” Mr. Nunn says. “Simulate a missile attack.” Make it appear missiles are incoming when they’re not.

The risky world becomes riskier. “Add to that the heated rhetoric and name calling, and that increases risk and lays the foundation for a catastrophic blunder.”

You always fear miscalculation and misinterpretations, he says. But the chance of a blundering into disaster is probably greater than the chance of deliberate use.

Mr. Nunn notes we have been lucky that 73 years into the nuclear age there have been no accidental launches, no catastrophic decisions. The nuclear nations have been careful, professional, restrained. But yes, we’ve been lucky.

And should do nothing to press that luck.

Bragging about nuclear arms increases the likelihood of proliferation. “If we’re trying to get countries around the world not to go nuke, then we shouldn’t talk in a way that enhances their importance,” Mr. Nunn says. “There’s a lot of countries out there looking to take their small button and make it into a big button.”

By the way, Reagan’s INF Treaty, that turning point in the history of arms control, remains in force but could unravel due to charges of violations and bad faith. Keeping it up and operating will require work but be heartening for the world.

Focus there. And don’t tweet about it.


The decline and fall of Jared and Don Jr.: Nepotism often ends badly

July 17, 2017

By Jonathan Turley

The perils of nepotism have been captured in President Trump’s responses to his son and son-in-law eagerly attending a meeting that they believed was a Russian government lawyer bringing dirt on Hillary Clinton directly from the Russian government. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and short-lived campaign manager Paul Manafort were shown the door over far less scandal — yet Trump declared of his relatives that “I think many people would have held that meeting.”

He called Donald Trump Jr. a “high quality person” who did nothing wrong, or even unwise. He added in his Paris press conference, “Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard.” Now NBC News reports that a former Soviet counterintelligence officer was also in the meeting. Does the president have any choice but to continue to defend his relatives?

With his comments to date, Trump has assumed the costs directly for their actions. And that is the real cost of nepotism. It reduces the range of motion in dealing with scandals. There is no option for political triage when family is on the line.

Jared Kushner came into the government as a senior adviser and “secretary of everything” through an act of nepotism. With his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, he was given a high-ranking position based first and foremost on his familial relationship with the president. Federal bans on nepotism do not extend to the White House staff. Accordingly, Kushner’s appointment is perfectly legal. It is not however ethical or beneficial for the administration.

The term nepotism comes from the Latin root for nephew. Its origins are traced to the Middle Ages practice of Catholic popes giving high-ranking religious positions to their nephews. Nepotism became not the exception but the rule in religious appointments. It was eventually denounced as unethical and unwise. Nepotism elevates loyalty over capability. The “nephews” not only tended to do poor jobs, their scandals had a greater impact on their sponsors.

Trump does not stand out in his embrace of nepotism in the White House. John Adams, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and others appointed relatives to high positions. Their failures often heightened the vulnerability of these presidents. Consider Ulysses S. Grant. Grant’s administration reportedly employed dozens of his relatives. He then used his pardon power to benefit family members. One brother-in-law, James F. Casey, stole property from the New Orleans Customs Office but was still reappointed by Grant as collector of customs. Another brother-in-law, Abel Rathbone Corbin, was accused of involvement in a bribery scheme. Yet another brother-in-law, Frederick Dent, made money by selling insider information as an usher. Grant’s reliance on ethically challenged relatives resulted in a scandal-plagued administration that forever tarnished his legacy. Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner described Grant’s administration as exhibiting “a dropsical nepotism swollen to elephantiasis.”

By Grant’s standard, Kushner’s appointment and performance in office are stellar. However, everything in nepotism is … well … relative. Kushner’s effort to use Russian diplomatic resources to create a “back channel” for communications with Moscow was as stunning as it was stupid. His meeting with with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, was equally radioactive. The bank was the subject of U.S. sanctions and Gorkov’s resume includes a degree from the Academy of the Federal Security Service, the Russian spy school.

His failure to recall the meeting with the Russian lawyer is legitimately suspect, particularly when he was copied on emails that promised damaging information directly from the Russian government to help Trump win the election.

The Russian scandal shows that the real danger is not any imminent threat of criminal charges, but the familiar grind of nepotism on an administration. When Donald Jr. got into trouble as part of his position in the Trump campaign, Trump had to give his absolute support to his “high-quality” son. At best, his son had fallen for a bait-and-switch that made his team look like colossal chumps. However, you cannot distance yourself from your own blood.

Similarly, Kushner is not some aide, like Flynn, who can be simply sent home after a short but dismal performance in office. That would make Thanksgiving dinner a tad awkward. So the president must keep him — and his failures — close.

Trump only had to look to his campaign nemesis to understand the perils of nepotism. Bill Clinton (over the advice of many) appointed his wife to head his Health Care Task Force. A federal appeals court in Association of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Clinton found that Hillary Clinton was a “de facto” officer of the White House and suggested that, if nepotism laws applied to the White House, her position would be a violation.

However, the biggest problem was that Bill Clinton gave opponents a major advantage. The failure of the First Lady would be his failure — adding to the incentive to run the project into the ground. On top of that strategic blunder, Hillary Clinton by 1994 had become highly unpopular among Republicans. Had  the president selected a neutral leader to bridge the parties, he might have had a chance to secure real reforms.

While there is no compelling basis for prosecution on the current facts, Kushner could well be in legal jeopardy over the course of the unfolding federal and congressional investigations. Nepotism can have an impact on the legal defense strategy for the White House. Counsel cannot control or confine the damage if they cannot separate the president from a targeted official. You cannot cut off a target who is bound to the president by blood or marriage. That means the administration has limited options and has to double down when called out on the relationship — as the president did in Paris. That is the cost of nepotism, and those costs are only likely to grow with time.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. 

Not Accepting the Election of President Elect Trump, and Protesting What He Said He Might Do, Is Keeping American Students and Their Teachers From Looking Honestly At America — And What Went Wrong In The Obama/Clinton Years

November 17, 2016

Peace and Freedom Commentary

By John Francis Carey

We’ve been interested in politics and foreign policy since at least the John F. Kennedy administration.

“Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Who can forget those lofty words?

Perhaps all the students currently supposed to be in classrooms — and their teachers.

The wonderful “time out” between national elections and the inauguration for the new team used to be a time to clear the air, stop the campaigning, look forward with hopeful anticipation, and start to assess who got thrown out and why.

Well, its clear enough who got thrown out by the American voters. Hillary Clinton. And Barack Obama.

Unfortunately for thinking people, but fortunately for The New York Times and tons of young people who wanted free college tuition, this has become a time to heap criticism upon every single word ever spoken by Donald Trump.

And to stir up fear.

Which does no good for any American. Or anyone. Anywhere.

And may well help people that would love to see America fail.

Maybe the young people in America are being used? This can happen when we stop thinking.

This seems like some form of unsportsmanlike conduct in a democracy that believes in the will of the people. And hope. The the electorate.

This is the time we traditionally give the newcomers a kind of fair shot. A “honeymoon.” A fair chance.

We don’t condemn before we see what happens. Do we?

My Dad used to say, “Anyone as bad as you think will screw up soon enough.”

He also used to say, “The Republic will survive.”

A well-schooled brain would allow anyone to know that.

But mob violence would prevent most people from thinking that.

In our democracy, if the will of the people turns out to have been a huge mistake — if we give it a little time — the truth will come out, the pendulum will swing, and the guys that are “in” will get sent home when new folks are elected.

We should be thinking about what went so terribly wrong with the Obama administration. Why did the man holding the Nobel Peace Prize end up as the longest-serving U.S. President in war-time — a record once held by Franklin Roosevelt for his service during World War II.

He won the prize before he lost it.

And after eight years in the White House, is the world better? Is the world safer? Is the world at peace? Is anyone thanking Barack Obama for saving… ANYTHING?

Many European are not happy with the American election. But they are not happy with the current American president either. We ought to be wondering why. We should be assessing where we have been and what just happened — before we decide to condemn half the American voters and the guys they voted for.

Why are we suffering through the largest global migration since World War II? How did THAT happen?

Why does disorder seem to be all around us in America — and in much of the world? Where’s the assessment?  Where’s the accountability?

Some of the accountability was packaged within the election. The people held Hillary and Barack accountable. I could be wrong. But my first assessment of national politics was published in 1972 and I’ve been assessing ever since — because good teachers showed me the way.

They told me to be useful.

We should — all of us — be wondering where did we forget about all our lofty ideals about transparency, and fairness, and preventing problems in the world — instead of making all the little ones into big ones.

We should be looking at the mistakes of the last eight years so we don’t continue to make them. So we don’t make them ever again.

We should be thanking WikiLeaks for showing us (again) that we need a lot more cyber security and we should be able to expect our public servants to obey the law and protect U.S. national security.

I think it is just Grand that students in Rockville, Maryland beat up a suspected Trump supporter yesterday, and kicked him in the head while he was down. Wonderful. Thank you for your opinion as expressed in criminal violence while you should have been at work in the classroom.

In America we believe in one man, one vote. Without any threat of a kick in the head.

All future leaders of the American Democracy, Our American Democracy should be ashamed of themselves if a kick in the head is acceptable.

“Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

That’s the kick in the head you should be listening to.

This might take some thinking.


Three things at Peace and Freedom we know the American people will soon learn the truth about.

  1. How and by whom was the currently ongoing migration of people into Europe kicked off?
  2. What was the reason for the private email server in the home of the U.S. Secretary or State?
  3. Why were the Islamic State (and others) not deterred by President Obama’s “red line” on Chemical weapons?


Great American Harry Reid Says “Trump’s Election Does Not Feel Like America” — Where’s Hillary?

November 12, 2016

America has a long tradition of the leaders of all sides encouraging unity after elections….

Senator Harry Reid Statement on the Election of Donald Trump

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement about the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States: 

“I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America.

“White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.

“I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.

“I have a large family. I have one daughter and twelve granddaughters. The texts, emails and phone calls I have received from them have been filled with fear – fear for themselves, fear for their Hispanic and African American friends, for their Muslim and Jewish friends, for their LBGT friends, for their Asian friends. I’ve felt their tears and I’ve felt their fear.

“We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

“If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”


From The Guardian:

Harry Reid issues blistering statement decrying president-elect’s ‘forces of hate and bigotry’ as Elizabeth Warren urges voters to put in the work to resist Trump

Read it all:


“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

— John F. Kennedy

Wild Language Of Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Gets Tiresome — But so does the politically correct alternative

August 11, 2016

I must admit I admire both Donald Trump and Philippine President Duterte as “men of action” in an otherwise often placid to the point of banal world. We seem too quick to embrace mediocrity often — and by doing so we fail to make progress and stay stuck in a place without progress. Which is where we seem to be now.

Trump drives me crazy because he hasn’t seemed to learn anything despite months on the campaign trail. He still often looks like an over-bearing bully.

On the other hand, the other candidate has been in public life since she lived in Little Rock and she hasn’t seemed to learn any honesty or integrity. Anyone who makes $100 million in shady deals while in “public service” should be much more humble and polite, one would think.

There is a way to articulate our thoughts without becoming a verbal flame-thrower or a puppy dog. And we can all learn from Trump and Duterte and the lady from Little Rock that we have to make progress in public discourse and integrity if we are to be heard and helpful over the long haul.

This reminds us of one of our essays from several years ago that almost everyone ignored — which isn’t why we aren’t making progress. We aren’t making progress more quickly because we are human beings and we seem to like the dark side of our leaders as  well as the light.

Some say we cannot just blurt out whatever crosses our mind. Politicians have to often measure their words more than others. But on the other hand, a constant flow of carefully chosen, politically correct pablum from Little Rock or Washington DC or anyplace else is tiresome too. If you want to make us good little socialists just say so! We can all work maybe four hours a day like the French and be poor and dependent upon the corruption of the state.

For great entertainment: these three are among the best! But we have to think hard about where we are going….


Restore Civility in Debate, Politics and Government


By John E. Carey
September 25, 2006

There seems a lack of civility, good manners, decorum and protocol in Washington these days.

One side frequently calls the other side names instead of making organized, logical arguments. Or sometimes, even while making good arguments, the “tone” of the discussion is so harsh that the message gets damaged or lost.

We entered the world of the “blogosphere” on July 4, 2006. In this internet land of people discussing world events, the language often is particularly harsh, polarizing and nasty.

Former President Bill Clinton entered (or re-entered depending upon your point of view) the fray on Sunday, September 24, 2006, during an interview with Chris Wallace on the TV show “Fox News Sunday.”

Associated Press writer Karen Matthews, reporting on the exchange, called it “combative.” The Washington Times’ Eric Pfeiffer used words like “angry,” “blame,” “agitated,” “contentious,” and “heated exchange.”

Former President Bill Clinton, an experienced and calculating politician, one has to think, threw this tantrum intentionally. Either that or he just lost his cool during a TV interview and then failed to ask for a re-taping to set the record straight. Which do you think?

According to Pfeiffer, “Mr. Clinton became so agitated that he could be seen wagging his right index finger at moderator Chris Wallace.”

“You’ve got that little smirk on your face, and you think you’re so clever,” Mr. Clinton said. “You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.”

Mr. Wallace said after the interview, “As he leaned forward — wagging his finger in my face and then poking the notes I was holding — I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me.”

Mr. Wallace said more on Fox on Monday afternoon September 25: “He just blew,” said an incredulous Wallace about the former president. “What set him off,” continued Wallace, “was one of my questions. But it was clear President Clinton had been boiling about ABC and their recent show (“The Path to 9/11″) and I just hit a raw nerve.”

Wallace said he did not think President Clinton’s reaction was scripted or planned and that “he was still fuming as he left the studio.”

Wallace also said his producer tried to cut off the president to save embarassment, saying off camera, “End this interview right away,” but that the former president continued speaking.

This is conduct for a former president? To make a point? I can hear George Washington, Abe Lincoln and a bunch of the other former “Bubbas” rolling over in their graves.

Those are not words usually associated with a president sitting for a media interview. Or speaking anywhere on anything. I can’t think of those words ever applied to an ex-president during a media exchange. This may just qualify Mr. Clinton for another description: “not presidential.”

Mr. Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a “conservative hit job.” Not presidential at all.

Did president Clinton miss a memo about letting others mix it up in public with the opposition and their media? Even my Vietnamese-born wife observed: “Good thing Clinton didn’t interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox. It might have ended up with Bill and Bill on the floor slugging each other.”

Not presidential.

And as the leader of the Democratic party, the former president used his leadership by example to tell his followers that a nearly enraged response to criticism is all right. Completely acceptable. Even appropriate.

We have a problem with this.

It is bad enough we have to hear the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “talking smack” as they say, at the United Nations; now we have to hear it from a former President of the United States?

Makes one wonder what side is Bill Clinton on? And why does he see a need to lower himself to the level of Chavez and Ahmadinejad? Are we missing something?

An exchange between President Bush and the Today show’s Matt Lauer on the anniversary of 9/11 caused a flurry of discussion on some web sites. Lauer seemed to have an aggressive, even badgering tone with the president as the two stood in the Oval Office discussing 9/11 and other issues of the day. Lauer repeatedly gestured in an aggressive way, almost sticking his finger in the president’s chest.On Sunday, September 10, 2006, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean if he would now apologize to Karl Rove.

It seems, despite Dean’s accusations that Rove was the leaker in the Valery Plame escapade, that Richard Armitage was the unfortunate and inadvertent leaker.Gov. Dean answered, “Absolutely not. I still think he should be fired.”

Armitage apologized in public. Dean could not.

Does it matter? Sure it does.Thoughtful, courteous national discourse has managed to get us and our democracy through a revolution against the most powerful nation on the Earth, a War Between the States, two World Wars and other tragedies and trying times.

If we can get along, maybe we can discuss the problems and get the best answers. Maybe a more civil and etiquette-driven discussion of the issues can help us get through the War on Terror.

Instead, we have become a nation led by name-callers, insult-slingers and generally rude, angry and impolite representatives.And sometimes, the media, maybe unintentionally, magnify the animosity.

This is what many conservatives saw during Matt Lauer’s questioning of President Bush on September 11, 2006.

What does this uncivil discourse teach our children? And does it do us any good?

Our American history is full of great men who teach us the importance of good conduct for the common good. Some say George Washington actually authored “The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour [sic] in Company and Conversation.”

Though not the author, Washington embraced good manners so famously that the “Rules” could easily have been his own creation.The good manners of John Adams also echo to us through history.

With Thomas Paine, Adams watched a young American officer conduct himself less than diplomatically and courteously before the King of France.

Adams wrote to his wife, describing the “Man of Choleric Temper.” Adams said the man “like so many Gentlemen from his State, is abrupt and undiplomatic. Last evening, at a Royal Reception, he confronted His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI with Words both ardent and impatient, whilst Mr. Paine wrung his Hands at the other man’s lack of Tact. Never did I think that I would see our impetuous Paine so pain’d by another’s want of Courtesy and Civility. To our amazement, however, the King took [the man’s] Enthusiasm in good Part.”

When told one of his generals, John C. Fremont, had been nominated by a group of 400 anti-Lincoln loyalists to run for president, Lincoln opened a Bible and read aloud from I Samuel:22, “And everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them; and there were with him about four hundred men.”

Modern statesmen pulled the country together, not by tearing others apart or barking at the media, but more often by thoughtful discourse and conduct.

“Both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt operated beautifully on the reporters who surrounded them,” wrote David Keirsey and Ray Choiniere in “Presidential Temperament.”

“Both used the press as if it were their own publicity machine.”

This was largely achieved in a civil, diplomatic style.

A modern day solon of wisdom and truth might be former Indiana Congressman and Democrat Lee Hamilton. Hamilton volunteered some stern remarks about the importance of truth. “Facts are not Republican and they’re not Democrat,” he said. “They’re not ideological. Facts are facts.”

I cannot ever recall seeing John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush look petulant, angry or rude. Or terribly distort the facts.

Other great national leaders also reflect respect, even admiration, for the importance of good protocol and decorum. Winston Churchill described a 1941 university ceremony this way: “The blitz was running hard at that time, and the night before, the raid … had been heavy. Several hundreds had been killed and wounded. Many houses were destroyed. Buildings next to the university were still burning, and many of the university authorities who conducted the ceremony had pulled on their robes over uniforms begrimed and drenched; but all was presented with faultless ritual and appropriate decorum, and I sustained a very strong and invigorating impression of the superiority of man over the forces that can destroy him.”

Let’s hope our leaders become enlightened enough to avoid the forces that can destroy them. For our sake and the sake of our children.

I regret the times that bad conduct, anger and a disregard for etiquette got the best of me.

I hope our present day political leaders see the light too.

To get through the war against terror and to achieve victory, a united, clear-thinking leadership just might be important.

Angry rhetoric and arson with clever words serves no good purpose. It just diminishes our dialogue and our democracy.


The Truth Got Lost in The Obama Administration

June 29, 2016

President Obama’s First Inauguration, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peace and Freedom Commentary
By John Francis Carey

Inauguration Day is about the happiest day in the political calendar here in the United States.

It’s always a time of hope and promise and joy that our political system, our cherished democracy, works.

Often times, after a few years, we become less hopeful. Maybe even jaded.

Barack Obama’s first inauguration was a time of particular joy and hope because America had, yet again, changed the world by doing something that had never been done before. People on the Mall in Washington DC that day were filled with honest-to-goodness joy for Mr. Obama, the American system, and our fellow man.

For me, it was a moment of patriotic pride like the one when the first man walked on the moon. The fist man on the moon was one of us. An American.

And in every great endeavor, the people invest their trust in the leader, and the leader pays us back with the truth.

That’s the compact between the leaders and the people.

Every great accomplishment in America is the culmination of the bond between the people and the belief that our top leaders are even more patriotic and truthful and good than the rest of us.

President John F. Kennedy said at his Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Sadly, nobody talks that way in  American anymore. It seems like everyone, even our political class, our elites, is saying, “Get what you can and never mind the truth,” or “The end justifies the means.”

The truth, sadly, has gotten lost in the Obama Administration.

You couldn’t keep your doctor or your plan. But look how well it all turned out! Many more that were uninsured are now insured!

The end justifies the means. Sorry some of you lost your doctor and your plan and your savings to pay the new premiums.

There are no “radical Islamic terrorists.” That would be an offensive remark to all Muslims.


And “what difference at this point does it make?”

Human lives and the truth ALWAYS MATTER.

“What difference at this point does it make?” are the words spoken by then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the lawmakers charged in our American democracy to find the truth and to keep the executive branch of government “in check.”  Hillary Clinton’s poor choice of words indicates a wrongful disdain for the truth, and a lack of respect for the lives and the families entrusted to her safekeeping to carry out the mission of the United States government.

These four dead Americans, who believed so  whole-heatedly in America that they volunteered to serve the the most troubled hot spot of all our diplomatic posts, became pawns in the great political infighting that now threatens to ruin our democracy. Their stories were never truly told because it was easier to lie during the election season.

The hero Chris Stevens along with Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith were not respected enough to get the truth.

Their blood was just another wrong-headed conservative newspaper editorial to be spun, lied about and defamed.

The leaders in America, at least some of them, lost the truth because they are not serving the people in the way John Kennedy had hoped. They are too busy covering up their own behind. They are consciously upon a covert mission to change America into their own version of the politically correct society.

There’s a lot of talk about tolerance and there’s a very high tolerance for lying.

The end justifies the means. Conservative lawmakers are the enemy. And conservative groups are denied their rights by the IRS while the President of the United States says, “there is not a smidgen of evidence of wrong doing.”

That was not true.

There’s a high tolerance for death, as long as there’s no mention of Islam.

Our American democracy has built-in accountability. Every one of us, every American gets to have her or his say in all of this.

Its often difficult on election day because, upon reading the ballot, some of us know they are all liars — on both sides.

So for myself, the current state of American democracy is this: I’ve decided not to vote for anyone who stepped over dead Americans to get to their lofty perch. Because in every dead American serving her or his country, like Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith — there is a part of me. They were there representing me and my family and my flag and the kind of America and Americans I want us all to be.

I will not dishonor them by voting for anyone that stepped over their blood and lied about it.

We should not shame them with more lies.

As Hillary Clinton said after the report by Trey Gowdy and his committee was released, “It’s time to move on.”

It might be time to move ahead to Donald Trump. Hillary had her chance to defend America.

And she failed.


Updated on July 26, 2016


Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before a congressional committee investigating the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. This appears to be her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 23, 2013. She said during Congressional testimony, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” She seemed to attack the lawmakers entrusted with the task of getting to the truth. Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS


Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Ji on September 5, 2012. He got promoted, she’s running for president and China pretty much owns the South China Sea.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” US-Russian relations in March 2009. Photo: AP — Russia got Crimea, Syria, and half of Ukraine. NATO had to be reinforced by U.S. troops

 (From Sunday, June 26, 2016)

Susan Rice September 16, 2012, just a few days after the attack on the U.S. at Benghazi. She told and re-told the lie that blamed the attack on a video seen as offensive to Muslims on all five major U.S. TV Sunday news talk shows. President Obama promoted her from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to the post of U.S. National Security Adviser.

The number of migrants and refugees during the Obama Administration has exceeded the total number from World War II.

Because the threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism was not addressed more forcefully from the start with a concerted campaign to eliminate them,  the number of killed, wounded and displaced has continued to rise. The citizens of Syria and other places gave up waiting for Barack Obama to end the war and, at great peril to their own lives, and the lives of their family members, they became refugees and migrants.  How much longer must the world stay in this state of upheaval?

President Obama now has the distinction of being the longest serving American president during war in the history of the United States. That’s his legacy.

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Read more:

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid — Loss of Social Tranquility and Political Cohesion Need Our Attention Too

May 23, 2016

Social disarray or cohesion are not always driven by economic ups and downs, as the 1960s attest

By Greg Ip
The Wall Street Journal
May 23, 2016 8:38 am ET

Those of us who do economics for a living turn to it to answer all the big social questions. To explain the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, we reflexively blame stagnant incomes that have left voters angry and frustrated.

Lately, though, I’ve come to question this approach. A recent Pew survey found 46% of Americans think life is worse today than in the 1960s; only 34% think it’s better. Of course, standards of living are higher today and life spans are longer.

But optimism is about where things are going, not where they are, and in the 1960s, things got better faster: real wages grew 2.4% per year compared to 0.6% for the past decade. The richest 1% of households then controlled just 10% of income, compared to 20% now.

So this confirms the connection between voter discontent, standards of living and inequality, right? Well, no.

For all the shared prosperity, the 1960s was not a period of social tranquility or political cohesion. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. A year later the Republican Party nominated its most conservative presidential candidate ever, Barry Goldwater. From 1965 to 1968, race riots hit Los Angeles and major northeastern cities. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson declined to run for re-election, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Vietnam war protests disrupted the Democratic National Convention, and Richard Nixon became president by prying white southerners from the Democratic Party.

For many Americans, economic prosperity could not change the feeling that the world was coming apart. In her 1967 essay “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” Joan Didion writes: “The market was steady and the G.N.P. high…and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, and more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not.”

Economics cannot really explain why rapid growth in living standards coincided with so much political upheaval, just as it cannot explain why long periods of stagnation, as Japan has endured since the 1990s, are met with relative equanimity. Economics can’t explain why Britons may leave the European Union when the preponderance of evidence is that membership has made them richer. It can’t explain why Republican voters backed insiderMitt Romney in 2012 when unemployment was 8% and an outsider, Mr. Trump, this year when unemployment is 5%. Why have Republicans warmed to Mr. Trump’s hard line against illegal immigration when the number of illegal immigrants has been dropping since 2007? Why have Democrats cheered Mr. Sanders’ promise of government-run universal health care when the number of uninsured is at an all-time low?

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Clearly, explaining political upheaval must go beyond economic factors to questions of identity, security, race and culture. In the 1960s, the baby boomers came of age, African-Americans made important civil rights gains, and oral contraceptives touched off the sexual revolution. The equivalent in this period might be the retirement of those boomers, the growth in the non-white share of the electorate, and the legalization of gay marriage. None is an economic phenomenon, but all disrupt existing social and demographic norms.

Then there’s the influence of technology and media. By the 1960s almost every American household had television, which brought traumatic events, from JFK’s assassination to the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive, into people’s homes. Today, the Internet, social media and smartphones have done the same for Islamic States’s killing sprees in Paris, San Bernardino, Calif., and Brussels, and police killings of black suspects.

There is no way to predict the effect of so many different forces on the political choices that voters make. And even if there were, you would probably still not predict the rise of Mr. Trump, who got where he is by breaking every rule of conventional political and economic wisdom. Ultimately, the best explanation may be that he isn’t the product of larger economic forces: he’s the product of Donald Trump.


That GOP Aversion to Debt? It’s Gone for Now

To Manage National Debt, Will Donald Trump Lean on the Fed?

For ‘Brexit,’ Like ‘Grexit,’ It’s Not About Economics


If it cares about its global standing, China should speak the truth about the kidnapped booksellers

March 14, 2016

Tom Plate says Beijing should be guided by common sense, rather than principles, in its response to international criticism of its handling of the case

By Tom Plate
South China Morning Post

The Xi Jinping government might well consider offering a full and unredacted report on how this bizarre bookseller case came about.There is a way one can be wrong even when technically one is right. This happens upon approaching (what I call) the famous “twilight zone” of common sense. When you find yourself entering this zone of cosmic uncertainty, the recommendation here is to, as quickly as possible, “rise above principle” (see John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage) and notch down to a less elevated posture. This is the best way to avoid severe political turbulence.

READ MORE: United Nations showdown over missing booksellers escalates into slanging match

Consider the “twilight zone” experience of a senior diplomat from China at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva who flipped out when Security Council members, ginned by the US, tried to make political hay out of the unresolved case of the “Five Missing Booksellers”.

Taking the view that this matter is under the authority of the People’s Republic of China – and, thus, no one else’s darn business – Fu Cong (傅聪), the Chinese deputy permanent representative in Geneva, pulled few punches in countering the American diplomat who raised the issue. That was US ambassador Keith Harper, for whom the “unexplained recent disappearances and apparent coerced returns of Chinese and foreign citizens from outside mainland China” raised doubts about the commitment to its “one country, two systems” principle for Hong Kong.

READ MORE: Rampant hypocrisy from China and US on human rights

Pro-democracy protesters hold a banner featuring an image of bookseller Lee Po during a protest in Hong Kong. Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong remains a premier global city. Normal sovereignty standards do not apply here; but the reality of “one country, two systems” does. Photo: APF

Fu went ballistic: “The US is notorious for prison abuse at Guantanamo prison, its gun violence is rampant, racism is its deep-rooted malaise,” he declaimed. “The US conducts large-scale extraterritorial eavesdropping, uses drones to attack other countries’ innocent civilians, its troops on foreign soil commit rape and murder of local people. It conducts kidnapping overseas and uses black prisons.”

Fu’s bombast has some basis in fact, of course. Truth be told, many Americans also wish we’d invest more energy and enthusiasm cleaning up our own backyard instead of complaining about others’ maintenance of theirs. But little ever seems to cause us a moment’s lecturing pause.

Fu’s fulmination was also completely consistent with his government’s proclaimed policy of official non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. However, the reality of Hong Kong is that it hovers in a global “twilight zone” – not in a normal political realm. Since the 1997 handover, its astonishing high profile has not gone away; even two decades later, it remains a premier global city. Normal sovereignty standards do not apply; but the reality of “one country, two systems” does. Hong Kong is not, after all, Wuhan (武漢), much less Macau. Fu, it seems, was splashing around in the bumpy international political twilight zone and didn’t realise it.

READ MORE: Debate about Hong Kong’s missing booksellers will not be welcomed during Beijing meetings

A boy in Causeway Bay writes a message expressing good wishes to bookseller Lee Bo and the others. Photo: Dickson Lee

A grounded position on the Missing Booksellers Case came recently from the Press Freedom Committee of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong. It urged the Chinese government “to engage in good-faith dialogue when legitimate concerns are raised over possible breaches of international legal norms and human rights, such as in the case of the five Hong Kong residents”. Its statement called for the immediate release of the five detained to “prevent further weakening of damaged confidence among the local, international and business communities in the robustness of Hong Kong’s rule of law and protection of free speech guaranteed by the Basic Law”.

In principle, Hong Kong is now an integral part of China. There is no quarrel with that. But the issue here isn’t the sovereignty principle; it’s common sense, especially when you’re in the political twilight zone. Yes, we offer Fu the courtesy of acknowledging that he was speaking from principle, as he saw it. And I cannot say that his outburst seemed insincere or out of line; the US provoked him. But what to think? Principle or common sense?

In this context, the rumination of hard-charging Chinese author Yang Jisheng (楊繼繩), in acknowledging an award from the Neiman Foundation of Harvard University recently, acceded to the need for modesty when entering the twilight zone of issues impossible: “[Ours] is an unfathomable profession; while journalists are not scholars, they’re required to study and gain a comprehensive grasp of society. Any journalist, no matter how erudite and insightful, will feel unequal to the task of decoding this complex and ever-changing society.”

READ MORE: Hong Kong is no longer important: Missing booksellers case proves we have become insignificant in Beijing’s eyes

A newspaper clipping showing a photo of Lee Bo is taped at the entrance of the Causeway Bay bookstore in Hong Kong. There remains a special brilliance and deep cosmopolitan validity to the policy of “one country, two systems” that is vital to maintain – not just for Hong Kong but perhaps as much for Beijing. Photo: EPA

READ MORE: Banned books: Hong Kong publication industry collapsing, says chief editor of New York-based publishing house

But Yang would also be the first to reject a journalism of hedging that reflects intimidation by hard issues of significance. The constant worry that history may reverse the view we have today for a deeper, more rounded one in the future cannot handcuff us from trying to decode the present.

So, to me, there remains a special brilliance and deep cosmopolitan validity to the policy of “one country, two systems” originally recommended by Deng Xiaoping ( 鄧小平 ) that is vital to maintain – not just for Hong Kong but perhaps as much for Beijing. Thus, the Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) government might well consider offering a full and unredacted report on how this bizarre bookseller case came about; why it is not good for Mother China; and what measures will be implemented to insure against its like happening again. Only due diligence of this high level can bring this unnerving affair to a proper end.

The political wisdom and maturation thus displayed would increase China’s soft power around the world more than any number of Olympic-size edifices. As for diplomat Fu, he was not wrong; he was just caught in the twilight zone. It’s a tricky place for anyone.

Columnist Tom Plate, Loyola Marymount University’s Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies, is the author of the “Giants of Asia” book series


Mighty Current publishing house disappearances


1. Lui Bo, general manager, goes missing in Shenzhen, 15 October

2. Cheung Jiping, business manager, 32, goes missing in Dongguan, 15 October

3. Gui Minhai, co-owner, 51, goes missing in Thailand, 17 October

4. Lam Wingkei, manager, 60, last seen in Hong Kong, 23 October

5. Lee Bo, shareholder, 65, goes missing in Hong Kong, 30 December


Mr Cheung and Mr Lui returned to Hong Kong separately last week. Hong Kong police say the men asked for the missing person cases filed on their behalf to be dropped.

See also:

China’s Most Controversial Artist Documents 81-Day Imprisonment With Graphic New Work


China has turned Xinjiang into a sort of occupied zone. The Muslim Uighur minority is surrounded by Chinese military with automatic weapons. Many have accused China of a “slow genocide” of the Uighur population.

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, January 10, 2016 — “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” — Is The Holy Spirit In Us? If Not, Why Not?

January 9, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord
Lectionary: 21

Jesus shares in our  humanity — in our weak human-ness

Art: John The Baptist Baptizing Jesus

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Or IS 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by a strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Or PS 104:1B-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30

R. (1) O bless the Lord, my soul.
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
you are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
You have spread out the heavens like a tent-cloth;
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
You have constructed your palace upon the waters.
You make the clouds your chariot;
you travel on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers,
and flaming fire your ministers.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
the sea also, great and wide,
in which are schools without number
of living things both small and great.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
They look to you to give them food in due time.
When you give it to them, they gather it;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
If you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.

Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Or TI 2:11-14; 3:4-7

The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alleluia CF. MK 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Or CF. LK 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
John said: One mightier than I is coming;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
Commentary on Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Titus 2:11-14;3:2-7; Luke 3:15-16,21-22 from Living Space


THE BAPTISM OF JESUS is the third of three great manifestations or revelations which characterise the Christmas season. Today is a kind of transition. We have come to the end of the Christmas season. Yesterday was “Twelfth Night”, the last of the twelve days of Christmas and now we are entering the first week of the Ordinary Season. (Today is also the First Sunday in Ordinary Time, although it is never celebrated. However, the prayers of its Mass will be said during the week.)

The three great revelations we have been celebrating are:

a. Christmas: when God comes among us with the Good News for the poor, the outcast and the sinner. This is Luke’s version, where Jesus is born in poverty and the first to come to pay him homage are poor and marginalised shepherds.

b. Epiphany: when God comes among us with a message of salvation for everyone, for all the people of the world, and not just for one select group. This is Matthew’s version and the description of the strange visitors from the East.

c. Baptism of Jesus: God is seen as specially present in Jesus and working in him and through him.


Why baptise Jesus?

We might ask ourselves: Why did Jesus need to be baptised? Most of those coming to John the Baptist were repentant sinners. Our baptism, too, is partly to rescue us from the power of sin by being bathed in the redemptive love of Christ.

How does Jesus himself fit into this? We always say that he is like us in all things, except sin. Moreover, John clearly states that he himself is not the Messiah but only the fore-runner, the herald of his coming. He is not even worthy to undo the sandals of the One who is coming. Undoing sandals was something only slaves did. John felt that, in Jesus’ case, he was not even worthy to do that. And yet – Jesus is to be baptised by John.
There are two answers we can give to this question:

a. By being baptised in the River Jordan with all those self-proclaimed sinners, Jesus shows his total solidarity with us. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us,” says John’s gospel. He does not say that the Word was made a human person but that ‘he was made flesh’. In biblical language, ‘flesh’ has all the connotations of our human weaknesses. In becoming a human person, Jesus identified with us not just in our humanity but in our weak human-ness. Jesus had the same feelings and reactions that we have; only he never did sin or do anything wrong. This solidarity was indicated by the criticism of the Pharisees that Jesus spent so much time eating and drinking with sinners and outcasts.

Despite his dignity and rank as Son of God, as Messiah, Jesus never did require any external signs of privilege. Most of the time, he looked just the same as everyone else. And, when he got up in the synagogue of his home town and began to amaze people with his insight, his neighbours could not understand it. They had lived for years with him and had no idea of this side of his person.

b. Secondly, something different is happening here beyond an ordinary baptism. Luke says significantly that Jesus was at prayer when his baptism took place. At all the significant moments in his public life, Luke represents Jesus as praying. It was at this moment that the Spirit of God in the visible form of a dove comes down on Jesus.

A voice, clearly that of the Father, says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.” It is clearly a form of “missioning” for Jesus. We could call it is his ‘Pentecost’ experience. It is a clear endorsement from his Father for the work that Jesus is about to begin. (Another important endorsement will come at the Transfiguration.)

So, through his baptism, Jesus is being officially commissioned to begin his public work of teaching, healing and liberating enslaved souls up to the climactic moment of his passion, death and resurrection.

What is Jesus’ mission?

And what is that work that Jesus is to accomplish through his teaching, preaching and healing? That is described in the First Reading from Isaiah and the Second Reading from the Letter to Titus.

Isaiah promises that valleys will be filled and mountains and hills made low as all obstacles will be removed and the glory of God will be revealed and made accessible to all. The Lord is coming in the person of Jesus: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom and gently lead the mother sheep.” He is the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd.

In the Second Reading the Lord comes to bring salvation and wholeness to all and to help us leave behind all “worldly passions”, all those appetites and longings which are ultimately destructive and harmful to our proper destiny. And our baptism is linked with that of Jesus:
“For when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared,
he saved us,
not because of any works of righteousness that we had done,
but according to his mercy
through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

The Word became flesh so that we could be liberated from the sinful inclinations of the flesh.

His baptism also for us

At his baptism, that Spirit came down on Jesus. It was not for him alone but so that he might bring “true justice” to all. A just society is one where everyone has what they need to have, where their dignity is respected and affirmed and where people live in right relationships with each other.

So, later in his gospel Matthew applies the words of the prophet Isaiah to Jesus:

He will not argue or shout,
or make loud speeches in the streets.
He will not break off a bent reed,
Or put out a flickering lamp.
He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
And in him all peoples will put their hope (Matthew 12:19-20a).

Here expressed in truly poetic images is a picture of the compassionate Jesus who welcomed sinners and sat down to eat with them; the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine “good” ones to go and find just one which had gone astray to bring it back.

Continuing to quote from Isaiah, Matthew applies these words explicitly to Jesus:

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth (Matthew 12:20b-21.

Jesus, in spite of hostility, rejection and efforts to destroy him, will persevere to the end. In fact, it will be in his apparent destruction, his degrading death as a public criminal that he will galvanise millions to follow him for centuries to come. Jesus’ work is above all to liberate us and set us free. For all of this, Jesus was baptised and commissioned by his Father.

Reflecting on our own baptism

Today is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our own baptism. It is not something which happened a long time and which “made” us Catholics. It is not just a ceremony lasting a few minutes which produces magical effects; it is the beginning of a lifelong journey. It is the beginning of a process of growing into the Body of Christ as its members.

Our baptism is essentially a community experience; it is not just a private or a family event although in the way it was “celebrated” it may have looked like that. It involves active participation in the life of the Church and not just passive membership.

Perhaps we could paraphrase the words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address: “Ask not what the Church can do for you but what you can do for the Church.”

Each one of us is called to be a living witness to the Gospel: to be the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, a lamp radiating light for all. Our baptism is a never-ending call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Every word of Isaiah can also be applied to each one of us who has been baptised. So let us today renew our faith in and our commitment to follow Jesus. Let us re-affirm our readiness to carry on his work.

For it is a sobering fact that without our co-operation, much of God’s work will never get done.


He reaches out to us. Do we reach back? Art: Blessed Art Thou among Women, by Walter Rane



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
10 JANUARY 2016, Sunday, Baptism of the Lord
SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISA 42:1-4, 6-7; ACTS 10:34-38; LK 13:15-16, 21-22

The world, in spite of its technological progress, is still empty and life seems to be meaningless.  Like the Israelites in the first reading who were in exile, we too seek for justice in the face of sufferings and evil, for light in our dungeon of meaningless living; and for liberation from our own sinfulness.  Like the Jews during the time of Jesus, we too have this “feeling of expectancy” that the Messiah or the Saviour would come to lead us out of our captivity.  We are looking for light, for hope.

But why is it that man finds life empty and meaningless?  The scripture readings tell us it is because we have “fallen into the power of the devil.”  We have lost our relationship with God and lost our self-identity as well.  This was the situation of the Israelites in the first reading.  They forgot about God and who they were and thus, they were exiled.  They forgot that God is their Father and that they are the sons and daughters of God.  Indeed, St Paul tells us in the second reading “God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.”  Yes, all of us are called to be His sons.  But we have forgotten our sonship because we have forgotten about God due to our sins which have brought about this alienation and self-forgetfulness.

Today at His baptism, we see Jesus as one who was very much in contact with God.  We are told He was at prayer after His baptism.  Through His openness to God in prayer, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him and a voice came from heaven revealed to Jesus who He was.  “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.”  Jesus was conscious that God was His Father and He was the Beloved Son of the Father.  It was His Abba experience that was the reason for His wanting to proclaim His Father’s unconditional love to all.

The corollary of His Sonship was to reveal God through His life and being.  We are told that “Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”  Through His life, words and especially in His good works, Jesus revealed God in His life as love and compassion.  Yes, if Jesus were truly the Son of God that is the expression of who God is, necessarily, this reality must be manifested in His life.  So in all that He said and did, Jesus manifested the presence of God.  This explains why on hindsight the gospels could write about Jesus as the incarnation of God.  Hence, His work manifested His sonship as much as His sonship is the reason for His reason for doing good, since only God is good.

But not only did Jesus reveal God as His Father through His Sonship, He also revealed the Holy Spirit as well.  This was because without the Holy Spirit, He would not have been able to do His work and mission.  Hence, we are also told explicitly that “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power.”  It was at His baptism that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus.  Throughout His life and work, the Holy Spirit was visibly at work in Him.  People could see that His work was the work of God; not the work of man nor even the work for God.

If this was the baptism of Jesus, which was God revealing Himself in the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit, then in the same way by virtue of our baptism, God also wants to reveal His presence in us.  This is our mission as well.  Just as Christ revealed God through His humanity, we too are called to reveal God by our humanity.  People will not be able to see God unless they see God in us.

We can reveal God’s presence by living out the Sonship of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We too are called to do the same so that God’s love is real in this world.  We are called upon to live a life of justice.  We are called to live enlightened and liberated lives.  We are called to be the hope of the people and the light of nations.  For unless they see God, they will not know who they are to God, His children.

What must we do for the presence of God to be in us so that we will be endowed with the Spirit of God?

Firstly, we are called to be baptized with water.  Water is a symbol of purification.  Water is a symbol of dying to our sinfulness and our lack of fidelity to our real calling.  To be baptized with the water of John the Baptist, is to be baptized with repentance.  We must turn away from the kind of life we are living.

Secondly, we must be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  John’s baptism of water is not sufficient.  That is why we must be baptized with the Holy and with fire, which is the Christian sacrament of baptism and confirmation.  In other words, we must be purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit which is the love of God.  This we receive at baptism and at confirmation.  Through the love of God, we become sanctified in Him.  Only when we experience the love of the Holy Spirit, the fire of God, can we find the empowerment to live out the life of Christ.  Through the fire of love, we too find the zeal to spread His kingdom in the world.

But most of all, we need always to renew this Spirit in us through prayer.  We are told specifically in the gospel that after His baptism, Jesus was at prayer.  Only then did the revelation take place.  We must spend our time in prayer so that we come to know God more personally and ourselves more and more.  Only through prayer, which is our union with God in the Spirit, can we be empowered to live out the sonship of God.  Without prayer, our mission would be defective and powerless.  Yes, the mission of every Christian must be like that of Jesus, immersed in the love of the Father and empowered by the love and zeal of the Holy Spirit.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh



Book “Holy Spirit” by Edward Leen. Father Leen was a teacher who encouraged everyone to “invite the Holy Spirit into ourselves and our lives.” He encouraged all to seek “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit”

The “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” if we seek — will reward us with a good conscience — an inner feeling or voice that drives us always toward, love, the good and the right. If we work to develop this indwelling we will be rewarded.
Unfortunately, in today’s secular society, we seem to have fewer who are seeking. So how can they possibly find?
The Gospels tell us to pray, meditate and consume Christ — make him a part of us and us in him.
This is intertwined with the mystery of the Eucharist….
We don’t have to “get it.” But we’ll be a lot happier if we do it!

Man’s Spiritual Dimension Governs All Human Rights

We seem to live today in a world of upheaval.

The Islamic State proclaims a caliphate, and promises heavenly rewards for the killing of those who reject Islam.

Christians are being slaughtered in great numbers.

All around the globe, people argue over human rights.

But where do our “human rights” come from?

China’s Communist government says only the Communist Party can bestow human rights. In the Muslim world, there seems to be a belief that only adherent to the Quran merit human rights. Apparently, murder and beheading of non-Muslims is acceptable to the Profit.

Yet Christians believe that human rights are bestowed by God. Christianity is rooted in the belief that man has an undeniable spiritual dimension. Many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within each and every human being — and this spirituality can be increased or minimized by the way each of us lives the Gospel.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Related here on Peace and Freedom:
God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!

Hong Kong Democracy Advocate Says More Political Reform Will Come In Time — “We should look at the long term”

September 13, 2015

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai says campaigners must be patient and build support among the public until time is ripe for another push

By Joyce Ng
South China Morning Post

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting.Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting says he wants to “slow down” the pace of Hong Kong’s push for democracy and pull different democratic forces together to work towards the “tipping point” at which political reform can move forward.

Until then, he says, it is more important to defend Hong Kong’s existing core values from erosion rather than mount pro-democracy offensives.

Ahead of the first anniversary of the mass sit-ins he and fellow activists launched on September 28 last year, Tai shared reflections with the Post on the experience.

He said pro-democracy campaigners needed to return to the work they put in prior to the civil disobedience movement, that of deliberation and dialogue.

“Our movement was rushed because of the 2017 deadline,” Tai said, referring to the year when Hong Kong was supposed to elect its next leader by universal suffrage. A two-year reform exercise led by the government with this goal in mind ended in failure in June.

“Now there’s no hope for 2017, we should look at the long term, to as far as 2047. We need to do this more slowly.”

The year 2047 is when the 50-year lifespan of the “one country, two systems” formula is due to end, with negotiations on Hong Kong’s future after that time expected in coming decades.

Hong Kong artist Perry Dino paints the pro-democracy protest area in Tamar. Hong Kong plunged into its most intense political crisis since the 1997 handover. Pro-democracy activists took over the streets following Beijing’s refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage. Photo: AFP

The University of Hong Kong associate law professor said he felt he was not fit to lead another mass movement like Occupy, and instead would prefer to act as a “bridge builder”.

Tai said any future social movements should not depend on a single group of leaders as was the case with Occupy, but should be made up of a unified network of different groups.

Tai, along with Occupy co-founders Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and Chinese University associate professor of sociology Dr Chan Kin-man, found themselves unable to bring last year’s diverse crowd of protesters under a single command.

Such groups would need time to grow until they had the support of more than half the public, which would constitute a “tipping point” at which Hongkongers would again be able to demand reform from Beijing.

“Occupy failed because less than half of society supported us,” he said. “The polls showed we started off with 25 per cent support, and by the time the government reform proposal was put to a vote, democratic forces got 40 per cent and still it wasn’t enough. Until we reach the tipping point, we must stand guard and defend our core values.”

In recent weeks, Tai has been meeting student leaders and groups founded during Occupy. They have been brainstorming the way forward, with ideas ranging from running in the district council elections in November to organising a mock “people’s election” for the chief executive.

Tai said he was hopeful a tipping point would come, and cited the recent backlash from alumni over fears the government was interfering in the autonomy of HKU as reason for hope.

“The alumni are the social elite,” he said. “When they speak up, the force is overwhelming. I see huge potential in this group.”